Great Cinematographers, Part 12: Ted Tetzlaff

One of the more underrated cinematographers of Hollywood’s golden age was Ted Tetzlaff (1903-1995). He spent twenty years as a DP, then moving on to directorial work on such films as Johnny Allegro (1949), The Window (1949) and The White Tower (1950). He’s not as widely recognized as some of his contemporaries, but he contributed his keen eye for visuals to many films that I love.

Easy Living (1937, dir. Mitchell Leisen) – My favorite scene in this screwball comedy is from 4:55 to 8:00 in the clip, a lovely little moment between Jean Arthur and Ray Milland. All of the surfaces stand out, from the glittery sparkle of Arthur’s fairy-princess gown and shoes to the gleaming glasses on the table.

The More the Merrier (1943, dir. George Stevens) – Ah, the glorious date when Jean Arthur and Joel McCrea share some passionate kisses. It is a beautifully lit scene, helped out by its terrific actors and that great dress that Arthur is wearing.

Notorious (1946, dir. Alfred Hitchcock) – The camerawork is as dizzying as the story, perhaps best exemplified by Tetzlaff’s crucial crane shot of Ingrid Bergman during this party scene, a perfect example of moving from the general to the specific. In one take we move from a sweeping overview of the setting and the many people populating it to one particular hand holding one special item. It’s too bad that this was Tetzlaff’s final work as a cinematographer, but he certainly went out on a high note.


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