We were extremely shocked and saddened to hear that we had lost Tony this morning. Having enjoyed conversations with him, long after the celebration of his 90th birthday last October, he had seemed on wonderful form. But unfortunately he was taken poorly last Thursday and rushed to hospital where he was diagnosed with Pneumonia and sadly nothing could be done.
Our thoughts are with his wife Diana, and children Gary, James and Fiona at this distressing time.
Tony served 26 years on the Board of Governors of the BSC taking on the Presidency of the Society between 1988 to 1990. He will be sadly missed by the BSC and by all his long term industry friends and fellow cinematographers.
Tributes in his fond memory will be loaded as received.
Tony, pictured far right with (L to R) Peter Hannan BSC, wife Diana Spratling,
Terry Lewis and Derek Suter BSC at Pinewood enjoying a BSC Summer Lunch.
Harvey Harrison BSC writes in tribute below, followed by a resume of Tony's life and career kindly provided by Phil Meheux BSC.
A Tribute from Harvey Harrison BSC
Tony sadly passed away in the early morning of Wednesday 10th March. He had been admitted to hospital a week earlier suffering from pneumonia. Over the last ten or so years he had been suffering with ill health, but somehow he always bounced back, as strong as an ox and with great humour, chirpy and wanting to put the world to rights, I only spoke to him about three weeks ago and he still sounded as though he was in his sixties - he was 90!
A wonderful and generous friend to many, Alex Thomson, Colin Corby, Mike Fox, Roy Ford and others would gather together and play poker once a week over a few whiskies, for matchsticks or pennies, Tony was always up for a laugh and a challenge.
Tony was a focus puller in the 50’s and early 60’s, on pictures based at Boreham Wood (Borehamstiff) as they used to call it, including ‘633 Squadron’ with DoP Ted Scaife; this was when I first worked for Tony as a clapper boy in 1964. He soon became an accomplished Operator working with Alex Thomson on ‘Best House in London’ and ‘Alfred the Great’; I was his focus-puller and we all became great friends for the rest of our lives.
Tony then went on to greater things as a DoP shooting hundreds of commercials, ‘The Persuaders’ with Roger Moore and Tony Curtis, 2nd Unit Director/DP on ‘The Saint’ with Phil Meheux as DoP and ‘Black Beauty’ with Alex, to mention but a few.
He became well known throughout the industry for his dress sense, always immaculate, perfectly cut suits and trousers and beautiful shirts and pullovers, never the same from one day to another.
Unsurprisingly he became known as ‘Shoot ‘em Cuffs’!
I’m very happy to say his son Gary is following in the old man’s footsteps in both wardrobe and cars!
He was a keen member of the BSC striving to uphold it’s standing within the film industry, he was the President of the Society from 1988-1990.
One subject dear to his heart was the quality of food and drink at the BSC lunches, dinners and Operators night, Frances suffered many an irate call! The BSC had to keep the standards up - quite right! Poor Frances just had to find the money!
Having retired, Tony was often found in the bar at Pinewood with his old friend Alan Lowne (founder of The British Cinematographer Magazine) and various other scoundrels and reprobates at lunchtime putting the industry to rights over a few ales and Scotches, sadly many of his mates passed away over the years and with the new politically correct rules the historic Pinewood Bar is disintegrating. How sad, the stories and experiences told by the likes of Tony and others will never be heard again, they were legendary.
Tony had three children, Gary and Fiona by his first marriage and James by Diana his second wife.
My love goes to all of them, who are truly exceptional people, they will miss him terribly.
With huge respect and admiration.
Harvey Harrison BSC
by Phil Meheux BSC
Born in 1930 in Sussex, like many young children of his era, Tony went to the cinema twice a week and hoped to work in film one day.His father, who was in film distribution, got him a job sweeping the floor at Knightsbridge Films in Wardour Street, where he stayed for three months. He then got a job with Gainsborough Pictures in Shepherd’s Bush, as a third assistant director. ‘I knew George Hill, who was head of the camera department, and I asked about working with cameras and he said, “start Monday as a clapper boy”.’
After serving in the RAF as an aircrew photographer, Tony moved on to Gate Studios at Elstree, where he worked with Alex ThomsonBSC, who became a great friend and showed him how to light films.
He became a focus puller on The Savage Innocents (1960 d. Nicholas Ray, ph. Peter Hennessy, Aldo Tonti AIC) and by 1967 was operating on The Dirty Dozen (1967 d. Robert Aldrich, ph. Edward Scaife BSC) as well as films such as Alfred The Great (1969 d. Clive Donner) and The Best House in London (1969 d. Philip Saville), both photographed by Alex Thomson BSC.
Tony’s first feature film as a cinematographer was The Man Who Haunted Himself (1970 d. Basil Dearden) starring Roger Moore. ‘For the first week Dearden didn’t speak. After a week Dearden called me and James Devis, the operator, into his office and we thought we were going to be fired. It turned out Dearden was pleased and offered us glasses of champagne.’ Tony became a member of the BSC shortly after, in 1971.
On Roger Moore’s recommendation, Tony went on to shoot every episode of The Persuaders with Moore and Tony Curtis at Pinewood. ‘It was very hard work and we never sat down. It took around eight days to shoot an episode and we did a lot of day-for-night shooting.’ The series ran for twenty-four episodes, with Roger Moore sometimes directing.
Tony moved into second unit photography on big budget pictures such as Alien 3 (1992 d. David Fincher) under main unit cinematographer Alex Thomson BSC, and The Krays (1990 d. Peter Medak) again with Thomson as DP. He worked twice for Phil Méheux BSC, first on The Saint (1997 d. Philip Noyce) and then Entrapment (1999 d. Jon Amiel), which was his last credited feature.
Tony served on the BSC board of governors from 1982 to 1990 and was President from 1988 to 1990..
He is survived by his wife of 59 years, Diana and children Fiona and James and his eldest son Gary Spratling, Assoc BSC, who is a highly respected camera operator in the feature film industry.
OTHER CREDITS: Up the Front, Fanny Hill, Edge of Sanity, Space Precinct
As second unit DP: The Rachel Papers, Swing Kids, Black Beauty, Muppet Treasure Island