Great Cinematographers, Part 3: George Barnes

George Barnes (1892-1953)

Gold Diggers of 1935 (1935, dir. Busby Berkeley) – The “Lullaby of Broadway” sequence, the title track of which won an Oscar for Best Original Song, is fascinating because of the way it’s photographed. The slow pull in toward Wini Shaw’s face is unlike any other musical number of the era, even by Busby Berkeley’s standards.

Rebecca (1940, dir. Alfred Hitchcock) – The scene between Mrs. de Winter and Mrs. Danvers in Rebecca’s bedroom is made all the more disturbing by the eerie lighting and shadows. For another wonderful Joan Fontaine film shot in luminous black-and-white by Barnes, check out Jane Eyre (1943).

Spellbound (1945, dir. Alfred Hitchcock) – The first three and a quarter minutes make up one of my favorite romance scenes in all of cinema. By having Gregory Peck’s character speak to the camera, we (the audience) are implicated as though we are all Ingrid Bergman’s character. Of course, the Miklós Rózsa score helps, but I do love the close-ups on the actors and the transition from Bergman’s closing eyes to the symbolic imagery of the doors of her mind opening. Powerful stuff.


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