The Cinematography of Harry Stradling

         Harry Stradling, born September 1, 1901, shot over 130 films during his career as a cinematographer. He shot many famous films, including My Fair Lady, Pygmalion, Hello Dolly, Funny Girl, and A Streetcar Named Desire. He won two Oscars for Best Cinematography, one for The Picture of Dorian Gray and the other for My Fair Lady.

         It is interesting looking at his career as it progressed from his early career with Anthony Asquith and Leslie Howard’s 1938 Pygmalion, based on George Bernard Shaw’s 1913 play, to the middle with Elia Kazan’s 1951 A Streetcar Named Desire, based on Tennessee Williams’ 1947 play, and to the end of his career with George Cukor’s 1964 My Fair Lady, also based on Shaw’s play. In his photography of Pygmalion, Stradling shot a very standard black and white movie, which worked fantastically for the story. He was able to be creative and unique during the montage of Eliza (Wendy Hiller) learning phonetics where he used odd shots in odd positions to show the struggle Eliza went through. Pygmalion was a great and solid shot black and white film.

         In 1951, in his photography of A Streetcar Named Desire, Stradling had perfected black and white cinematography. His use of shadows and close ups added so much the feeling of claustrophobia towards the end of the film. He was nominated for an Academy Award in 1951 for Streetcar but lost to William Mellor for George Stevens’ A Place in the Sun. As his career progressed, so did technology and color films began to become commonplace.

         His photography of My Fair Lady was landmark. Having been one of the few cinematographers to shoot two different adaptations of the same story, he found that his history of shooting Pygmalion came in handy for My Fair Lady, though they are completely visually different. His use of colors and perspectives in My Fair Lady was astounding and had an impact all across the industry.

         Stradling’s impact on the film industry was large but somewhat overlooked. His art will always be remembered through not only these three films, but through his many other great films.

Justin Wylie

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