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Young, Freddie (1902-1998)


Main image of Young, Freddie (1902-1998)

Cinematographer Frederick A. (Freddie) Young was born in London in 1902, entered films in the silent era, and the primacy of the visual image stayed with him.

In 1917 he was taken on at Shepherd's Bush, his first credit as assistant cameraman on Rob Roy (d. W.P.Kellino, 1922). By 1928 he was chief cameraman, and in 1929 Herbert Wilcox, largely ignorant of the technical aspects of film craft, placed Young under contract to his company British and Dominions, leading to his first solo credit in 1930. Any visual flair in Wilcox's films of the 1930s was largely due to Young's inventiveness and technical skill; his first use of Technicolor was in one reel of Wilcox's Victoria the Great (1937).

During World War II, he was chief cameraman in the Army Film Unit, working on army training films. From 1948, he was under contract to MGM-British, receiving his first Oscar nomination for the Technicolored Ivanhoe (d. Richard Thorpe, 1952) and revealing his mastery of black-and-white in the night train sequences in Time Bomb (d. Ted Tetzlaff, 1953). In 1958, he made Solomon and Sheba (US, d. King Vidor), his first 70mm film, becoming a master of the new format.

Aged 60, Young won his first Oscar (and other awards) for the majestic desert landscapes of Lawrence of Arabia (d. David Lean, 1962), which features one of the greatest shots in cinema, the three-minute mirage sequence in which a figure slowly emerges from the desert haze. He had further British Academy Award nominations for The 7th Dawn (d. Lewis Gilbert, 1964), and Lord Jim (d. Richard Brooks, 1964), and won another Oscar for Doctor Zhivago (UK/US, d. David Lean, 1965), in which he created the illusion of a Russian winter in Spanish locations.

In The Deadly Affair (d. Sidney Lumet, 1966), he devised the technical innovation of pre-exposing colour film (pre-fogging) to mute the colours, altering the look of colour photography to suit the subject. The spectacular Irish sea storm (taking months to film in arduous conditions) was a standout sequence in Ryan's Daughter (d. David Lean, 1970), bringing him another Oscar and British Academy Award nomination, and his final Oscar nomination was for capturing the opulence of Nicholas and Alexandra (UK/US, d. Franklin J.Schaffner, 1971).

Combining a painstaking perfectionism with practicality, he was particularly useful to directors less knowledgeable about what the camera and lenses could do. He was awarded the OBE (1970), a BAFTA Fellowship (1972) and the American Society of Cinematographers' International Award (1993).

Autobiography: Seventy Light Years by Freddie Young (with Peter Busby)

Roger Phillip Mellor, Encyclopedia of British Cinema

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David Lean's epic version of Boris Pasternak's novel

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Spectacular David Lean epic about the desert adventurer

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Early role for Anna Neagle as Charles II's famous mistress

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