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End Credits #19: Cinema's 2014 Lost Treasures Gordon Willis

Gordon Willis (May 28, 1931 – May 18, 2014) an inspired and influential American cinematographer has died at age 82.

Guest contributor Bob DiMucci has provided this tribute to his motion picture accomplishments:





The Films of Gordon Willis

Willis' first theatrical feature as a cinematographer was for 1970's X-rated END OF THE ROAD.

That same year, Willis shot Irvin Kershner's LOVING. Bernardo Segall (CUSTER OF THE WEST) scored the film.

Willis' third film of 1970 was Hal Ashby's THE LANDLORD.

Willis's final film of 1970 was David Greene's drama THE PEOPLE NEXT DOOR. Greene didn't like the final cut of the film and tried unsuccessfully to have his name removed from the credits.

In 1971, Willis shot Alan Arkin's LITTLE MURDERS. A resort sequence, in which Elliott Gould and Marcia Rodd vacation and play sports, was filmed on location at The Concord Hotel in Kiamesha Lake, New York. The rest of the film was shot entirely on location in New York City, with a courtroom sequence being filmed in Brooklyn’s Boro Hall Court. Many of the interiors were shot at CBS Studios on W. 26th St.

Willis' first film for Alan J. Pakula was 1971's KLUTE. The picture was filmed entirely on location in New York City. Location shooting was done in Harlem and Wall Street, and a disco scene was shot in an old Lutheran church.

Willis' first film of 1972 was Francis Ford Coppola's THE GODFATHER. This was the first picture that took Willis to locations away from the East Coast. Most of the film's interior scenes were shot in the Filmways Studios in the Bronx, NY and on the Paramount Pictures lot in Los Angeles, which also served as the fictional movie studio run by "Jack Woltz" (John Marley). Ninety percent of the picture was shot in real settings, with Bronx and Manhattan, NY locations including the exterior of Radio City Music Hall, Jack Dempsey's restaurant, Bellevue Hospital, Fordham Hospital, the New York Eye and Ear Clinic, Christopher Street and Mulberry Street.

Mott Street was the setting for Don Vito’s ambush, and the Corleone compound, or “Mall” as it was sometimes called in the book and film, was shot on a quiet side street in a residential area on Staten Island. The Woltz estate was the former Marion Davies-William Randolph Hearst estate in Beverly Hills, CA. All of the Sicilian scenes were shot over a period of ten days in and around a small village on the island, and several scenes were shot on location in Las Vegas, NV.

Although THE GODFATHER was nominated for 11 Oscars, Willis did not receive a nomination.

Willis' second film of 1972 was Robert Benton's directorial debut, BAD COMPANY. Location filming was done in the Flint Hills region near Emporia, KS.

Willis' final film of 1972 was his second film for Irvin Kershner--UP THE SANDBOX. Many of the film's interiors were shot in Los Angeles, with extensive location shooting in New York City and Nairobi, Kenya. Interiors for the sequence in which "Margaret" (Barbra Streisand) visits her husband's office were shot in the Edward L. Doheny Memorial Library at USC, with exteriors for the same sequence shot at Columbia University in New York.

A negative roll of footage from a party scene was lost at Technicolor. But because the lost footage did not involve Streisand or other principals, the scenes did not have to be reshot, and were edited together from outtakes for the film.

In 1973, Willis shot THE PAPER CHASE for James Bridges. There were difficulties filming at Harvard University, despite the fact that the book's author, John Jay Osborne, Jr., was a Harvard alumnus who had written the novel while a law student there. The university had allowed the 1970 Paramount production LOVE STORY to be shot on the campus but were unhappy with the finished film. Subsequently, the university approved only three days of filming for THE PAPER CHASE, forcing the producers to find a matching location, which they did at the University of Toronto.

Willis' second film for Alan J. Pakula was 1974's THE PARALLAX VIEW. Location scenes were shot in Washington State and Los Angeles. Willis received his first-ever credit on a movie poster for the film.

The end of 1974 saw the release of THE GODFATHER PART II, which Willis shot for Francis Ford Coppola. Principal photography on the film began on 1 October 1973 in Lake Tahoe, CA and NV. The lakeside Corleone compound depicted in the film was "Fleur du Lac," built in 1934 for industrialist Henry T. Kaiser and restored and augmented by the production crew. The First Communion sequence was filmed at a Lake Tahoe church. The company was then sent to Las Vegas, where they filmed scenes in the Tropicana Hotel (although the only Las Vegas hotel identified within the released film was The Desert Inn).

Another principal location was Santa Domingo in the Dominican Republic, where filming began on 2 January 1974. The Caribbean city stood in for Havana, Cuba, and additionally was used for some of the Miami settings, though Miami itself briefly was used as a location. The Presidential Palace in Santo Domingo was the site of the New Year's Eve party and other scenes. Additional locations used in the city included the Biblioteca Nacional and the Hotel El Embajar. Bad weather conditions, including significant rain, caused problems during the Santa Domingo shooting.

Exteriors for the Little Italy sequences, set in 1917--1918, 1923 and 1927, were shot in New York City. Production designer Dean Tavoularis selected East 6th Street, between Avenues A and B for a significant reconstruction to make the modern streets appear as they were in the first part of the Twentieth Century. The street was used as the setting of key scenes in the historical portions of the story, including the Fiesta of San Rocco.

Because filming at New York's Ellis Island, where immigrants were processed prior to entry into the U.S., proved impossible (the historic site was yet to be restored), the research and art direction team suggested Trieste, in Northern Italy. The city's dockside fish market, Il Grande Mercato Ittico all'Ingrosso, was transformed into Ellis Island for the 1901 sequence in which young Vita arrives in America.

For the lengthy Sicilian sequences, the company was based in Taormina, but shooting of the "Corleone" scenes took place in Sparagogna, a small town situated between the cities of Catania and Enna. The train station sequence, in which the now prosperous Vito returns with his wife and children to his hometown, was shot in the Sparagogna train station after arrangements were made with the Ferrovie dello Stato, the Italian state railroad, to close off a portion of the tracks between Catania and Palermo. The company had to return to Sicily more than once to enable them to shoot the film's opening sequence, which required the weather to be dry and the sun to shine brightly.

Some of the film's interiors were shot on the Paramount Studios lot in Los Angeles. Studio settings included the old Long Beach, NY Corleone family home, Vito's apartment in Little Italy and the U.S. Senate Caucus room. Other Southern California locations included the Sheraton West Hotel on Wilshire Blvd. in Los Angeles, which was utilized for the Washington, D.C. hotel in the film; the Chino Correctional Facility, which stood in for the Army post in which Pentangeli is held by the FBI. Location shooting also took place at a private house in Bradbury, CA, which was supposed to be the home of Kay's parents, but that scene did not appear in the released film.

n 1975 Willis shot THE DROWNING POOL for Stuart Rosenberg. On 18 October 1974, the film began a planned four week production schedule on location in Louisiana. "Iris’s" (Joanne Woodward's) estate was filmed at Oaklawn Manor, a famous historical plantation built in the early 1800’s located near Franklin, LA. Other Louisiana locations included Lafayette, Lake Charles, Franklin, Henderson Swamp, and New Orleans. In November 1974, filming moved to The Burbank Studios. Ultimately, the production lasted nearly ten weeks, with six weeks on location in Louisiana.

Willis's third film for Alan J. Pakula was 1976's ALL THE PRESIDENT'S MEN. The end credits of the film include the following written statements: "The producers wish to acknowledge the cooperation of The Washington Post" ; "Filmed in Washington, D. C. and at The Burbank Studios, Burbank, California"; and "Various locations courtesy of the National Park Service."

Among the film’s Washington, D.C., locations were the Kennedy Center, the Library of Congress, the Sans Souci Restaurant, and Bob Woodward’s former apartment in the DuPont Circle district. An incident occurred during filming at the Sans Souci Restaurant. A scene that involved Jason Robards,Dustin Hoffman and Robert Redford was interrupted when an overhead light fell onto the table at which they were seated; the fixture glanced off Redford’s head and right shoulder, but he was uninjured. Pakula was upset to the point of nausea and retired to his trailer for an hour. Carl Bernstein commented, “Movies sure are dramatic. Nothing like that ever happened to us.” Producer Walter Coblenz rented the Sans Souci for $5,000 and flew the maitre d’ in from a European vacation for the day’s filming.

Willis' first film for Woody Allen was 1977's ANNIE HALL. The film was shot in late spring/early summer of 1976 in New York City, New Jersey, and Los Angeles.

Late 1977 saw the release of Willis' second film for director James Bridges--SEPTEMBER 30, 1955. Early in the film, the protagonist, “Jimmy J.” (Richard Thomas), wears a sweatshirt with the letters “ASTC.” The University of Central Arkansas, where the film was shot, was known as Arkansas State Teachers College (ASTC), from 1925 to 1966, which encompassed the time in which the film is set.

Willis' second film for Woody Allen was 1978's INTERIORS. Willis received his second credit on a movie poster for the film, the only technical person so credited, other than Allen himself.

The film opened in New York on 2 August 1978. A 30 August 1978 Variety article reported that the film would not branch out into a wider-15-house New York run September 6 as planned. A reason proposed for the delay was that the film was shot on an Eastman Kodak stock not available for mass prints. But according to United Artists' worldwide advertising and publicity vice president Hy Smith, this was not the case. Smith contended that the run was stopped due to a newspaper strike taking place in New York at the time. Producer Charles H. Joffe, however, said that the stock issue was a factor. A 1 September 1978 Daily Variety article explained that Allen had “nixed” some prints which failed to meet his standards, and that more were being produced.

Willis' fourth film for Alan J. Pakula was 1978's COMES A HORSEMAN. Location shooting was done near Canon City, CO and in the Coconino National Forest.

Willis' third film for Woody Allen, and his first feature filmed in black and white, was 1979's MANHATTAN. In addition to New York City locations, portions of the film were shot in Englewood, NJ.

Willis directed his one and only film, and acted as his own cinematographer, with 1980's WINDOWS. Although the film looked good, and Willis made good use of New York locations, it suffered from a muddled plot and sluggish pacing.

Willis' fourth film for Woody Allen, and his second shot in black and white, was 1980's STARDUST MEMORIES. Portions of the film were shot in Ocean Grove, Asbury Park and Bradley Beach, New Jersey. The interiors were shot in a vacant Sears Roebuck store near Ocean Grove, and the train scenes were shot at Filmways Studio in Harlem, New York City.

In 1981, Willis shot Herbert Ross' PENNIES FROM HEAVEN. This was Willis' only experience in filming large-scale musical and dance numbers. Most of the filming was done on the M-G-M lot.

Willis' fifth film for Woody Allen was 1982's A MIDSUMMER NIGHT'S SEX COMEDY. The crew filmed for four months at a Victorian-Edwardian house built for the film in Tarrytown, NY, on an estate owned by the Rockefeller family. Some filming was also done in upper New York State in the Catskills.

Willis shot his sixth film for Woody Allen with 1983's ZELIG. Much of the film was shot at Kaufman Astoria Studio, Astoria, New York.

Willis' seventh film for Woody Allen, and his third completely in black and white, was 1984's BROADWAY DANNY ROSE. The film was primarily shot in New York City. A portion of the film was shot on location at a New Jersey garbage dump. Pickup shooting occurred in early August 1983 in Studio 5 at Silvercup Studios in Long Island, NY, where Allen directed a scene with himself and Mia Farrow on a closed set. BROADWAY DANNY ROSE was the first feature film to use Silvercup's new stage.

Willis' eighth and final Woody Allen film was 1985's THE PURPLE ROSE OF CAIRO.

Willis shot his third film for James Bridges with 1985's PERFECT.

Willis' sole film for 1985 was Richard Benjamin's THE MONEY PIT.

In 1987, Willis shot THE PICK-UP ARTIST for writer-director James Toback.

Willis' fourth film for director James Bridges was 1988's BRIGHT LIGHTS, BIG CITY.

Willis shot his fifth film with Alan J. Pakula with 1990's PRESUMED INNOCENT.

In 1990, Willis completed Francis Ford Coppola's trilogy with THE GODFATHER PART III.

In 1993, Willis shot MALICE for director Harold Becker.

Gordon Willis' final film was his sixth for Alan J. Pakula, 1997's THE DEVIL'S OWN.


The Godfather (1972)

The Godfather (1972)

The Parallax View (1974)

The Parallax View (1974)

The Godfather Part II (1974)

The Godfather Part II (1974)

Manhattan (1979)

Manhattan (1979)