The Emmy-winning cinematographer behind such projects as Batman, The Great Santini, The New Centurions and The Iceman Cometh, Ralph Woolsey passed away on March 23, 2018. He was 104 years old. The American Society of Cinematographers, of which Woolsey served as president from 1983 to 1984, announced his passing.
Born on January 1, 1914, Woolsey got his start producing wildlife and conservation films for the state of Minnesota before shooting training films on plane maintenance for Bell Aircraft. Some of these training films were later used to train U.S. Air Force during World War II. During the late 1950s, while teaching cinematography at the University of Southern California, Woolsey was asked to replace an ill cameraman on Warner Bros.’s new series, Maverick. This launched a five-year contract with the studio, during which time Woolsey assisted with 77 Sunset Strip, Cheyenne, Bourbon Street Beat, Mister Roberts, and Hawaiian Eye.
He received Emmy nominations for his work on Maverick and 77 Sunset Strip, before winning in 1969 for shooting the pilot It Takes a Thief, starring Robert Wagner. As his career flourished, Woolsey still continued to teach when his schedule permitted. Serving as the original director of photography on Batman, Woolsey shot first season episodes featuring the Penguin, the Joker, Mr. Freeze, Zelda the Great, and the Riddler. Additional feature credits for the cinematographer include The Culpepper Cattle Co., The New Centurions, Mother, Jugs & Speed, The Mack, The Last Married Couple in America, Oh God! Book II, and the memorable drama The Great Santini.
Woolsey joined the American Society of Cinematographers in 1956 with endorsements from Arthur C. Miller (How Green Was My Valley) and George Folsey (Animal Crackers). He was later honored with the American Society of Cinematographers Presidents Award in 2003 for his “unique and enduring contributions to advancing the art of cinematography.”
Woolsey is survived by his sons James, Richard, and Robert.