Great Cinematographers, Part 9: John F. Seitz

John F. Seitz (1892-1979) photographed films from a wide variety of genres: comedy, drama, film noir.

Sullivan’s Travels (1941, dir. Preston Sturges) – Listening to a sermon and watching cartoons in the darkness, Joel McCrea finds a reason to believe in the human spirit again. The photography is subtle but well-done.

Double Indemnity (1944, dir. Billy Wilder) – Barbara Stanwyck literally casts her shadow over Fred MacMurray in this film noir classic. When MacMurray is back in his apartment, he wants to stay on the good side (symbolized by standing at the moonlit window) but he ends up being lured to the bad side by Stanwyck’s femme fatale when she rings the bell at his literally darkened doorstep.

Sunset Blvd. (1950, dir. Billy Wilder) – This noir-esque classic about the delusional dark side of outliving your usefulness in Hollywood conveys all the seediness of the area and its inhabitants. The upwards shot of William Holden being photographed as he floats in the pool is rightfully famous. When the film transitions to telling Holden’s backstory, the camera slowly enters through the window because we, the audience, are peering in, voyeuristically peeking at another person’s life.


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