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6 May 1908|
|Died||1 October 1988
Rancho Mirage, California
Ballard began working on films at Paramount Studios in 1929. He later joked in an interview that it was a three-day party at the home of actress Clara Bow that convinced him "this is the business for me". He began his career loading trucks at Paramount, and became a camera assistant, often working for director Josef von Sternberg. Von Sternberg allowed him credit for his work on The Devil is a Woman (1935), and the two shared a Venice Film Festival award for "Best Cinematography" in 1935. He also worked with him on The King Steps Out (1936), based on the life of Empress Elisabeth of Austria.
On the set of The Lodger (1944), Ballard met and then married actress Merle Oberon; they remained married from 1945 until 1949. After she was involved in a near fatal car crash in London, he invented a light which was mounted by the side of the camera, to provide direct light onto a subject's face, with the aim of reducing blemishes and wrinkles. Named the "Obie", the device benefited Oberon who had sustained facial scarring in the car accident. The Obie would become widely used in the film industry.
One film of note is 1941's controversial Howard Hughes film The Outlaw. Hughes cast Jane Russell in the lead, and had numerous camera shots of her ample cleavage. This would get the attention of the Hollywood censors. The film was shot in 1940 and 1941 but would take five years to get to selected theaters. Ballard was the camera man for the screen tests and did some of the second unit work with both director Howard Hawks and assisted cinematographer Gregg Toland on the first unit crew.
In one of his first films, Morocco (1930), directed by von Sternberg, Ballard would work with assistant director Henry Hathaway. This relationship with Hathaway would come back to benefit Ballard when Hathaway himself became a noted director. They would work together on several films, including: Diplomatic Courier (1952), O. Henry's Full House (1952), Prince Valiant (1954), The Sons of Katie Elder (1965), Nevada Smith (1966), and True Grit (1969). The last, because of the natural beauty of southwestern Colorado, would also garner Ballard acclaim among his peers.
After working with Budd Boetticher on The Magnificent Matador (1955), they would go on to work together several times, including: The Killer Is Loose (1956), the television show Maverick (1957), Buchanan Rides Alone (1958),The Rise and Fall of Legs Diamond (1960), A Time for Dying (1969), Arruza (1972), and My Kingdom For... (1985).
Another relationship of importance is with Sam Peckinpah, they worked together on the following motion pictures: The Westerner (1960 television series), Ride the High Country (1962), The Wild Bunch (1969), The Ballad of Cable Hogue (1970), The Getaway (1972), and Junior Bonner (1972).
Ballard was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Cinematography for The Caretakers (1963), and won the National Society of Film Critics award for "Best Cinematography" for The Wild Bunch. He worked on more than 130 films during his 50-year career.
Lucien Ballard died in a car accident at the age of eighty in 1988.
- The King Steps Out, 1936
- Racketeers in Exile (1937)
- Penitentiary (1938)
- The Lone Wolf in Paris, 1938
- The Lodger, 1944
- Temptation, 1946
- Fixed Bayonets!, 1951
- The Desert Rats, 1953
- The Killing, 1956
- A Kiss Before Dying, 1956
- The Rise and Fall of Legs Diamond, 1960
- Ride the High Country, 1962
- Hour of the Gun, 1967
- The Wild Bunch, 1969
- True Grit, 1969
- The Ballad of Cable Hogue, 1970
- The Hawaiians, 1970
- The Getaway, 1972