1897 – 23.4.1965
GEORGES PÉRINAL BSC
Georges Périnal once said that he would have taken more pleasure in repairing good motorcars than in photographing movies. Mechanical devices were his passion which led him in 1913 to get interested, among all sorts of wheels and springs, in the mechanics of projectors, which the brothers Lumière had named “cinematograph” and becoming chief mechanic at Pathé Frères in Paris.
But scarcely had Georges become 'projectionist', when he wanted to know how the machines worked which actually took the pictures. And his incorrigible curiosity prompted him to turn a few small films. And in turning these small films he met Jean Grémillon, with whom he produced documentaries; later he went on to the making of more important films, winning acclaim for the films he shot for René Clair from the later 1920s, including Sous les Toits de Paris (France, 1930), until the day when, with Jean Cocteau's Blood of a Poet (1930), “the mechanic he thought he was became, without himself knowing it, a poet of light”.
In 1933 Georges Périnal was called by Alexander Korda, who was preparing The Private Life of Henry VIII (1933). Georges went to England and settled there. He followed that with The Rise of Catherine the Great (1934) directed by Paul Czinner, Alexander Korda’s The Private Life of Don Juan (1934), Zoltan Kord’as Saunders of the River (1935) and Alexander Korda’s Rembrandt (1936). He is responsible for the black-and-white sheen of such important London Films productions as Things to Come (d. William Cameron Menzies (1936), as well of its Technicolor adventures, The Drum (d. Zoltan Korda, 1938) and The Four Feathers (d. Zoltan Korda, 1939 – Oscar nomination with Osmoind Borrdaille BSC), and the fantasy The Thief of Bagdad (d. Michael Powell, Ludwig Berger, Tim Whelan, 1940) for which he won the Oscar for colour cinematography.
He was a major contributor to the prestige arm of prewar British cinema, not to speak of the wartime glory of The Life and Death of Colonel Blimp (d. Powell & Pressburger, 1943) and the postwar peak of The Fallen Idol (1948), Périnal's camera colluding with Carol Reed's vision of a child's world in alarming disarray.
If his 1950s work is generally less distinguished, that is the fault of the films rather than his.