What this website is about


Robert Krasker, BSC, was the first Australian cinematographer to be awarded an Oscar by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, in 1951.

His uncontested Oscar was for Best Cinematography (Black and White) for his work as Director of Photography on The Third Man.

The Third Man has often been regarded as one of the best, if not the best, feature films of the twentieth century.

It wasn’t the only great classic feature film upon which Robert Krasker worked.

After The Third Man Robert Krasker was Director of Photography on Brief Encounter and he photographed the brilliant opening sequence for Great Expectations.

Robert Krasker also worked on many of the most significant and highly regarded feature films of the twentieth century including Things to Come, The Four Feathers, Henry V, Odd Man Out, Cry the Beloved Country, Romeo and Juliet, Senso, The Quiet American, The Criminal, El Cid, Billy Budd, The Running Man, The Fall of the Roman Empire, The Heroes of Telemark and The Trap.

Many of the greatest movie directors of the twentieth century chose Robert Krasker to direct the photography of their projects.

Alexander Korda, Anthony Asquith, Anthony Mann, Carol Reed, Emeric Pressburger, John Ford, Josef von Sternberg, Joseph L. Mankieweicz, Laurence Olivier, Leslie Howard, Luchino Visconti, Michael Powell, Peter Ustinov, William Wyler and Zoltan Korda are just some of the movie greats with whom he worked.

This website, The Robert Krasker Project, is a repository for information and images that I have been collecting during the course of my research about Robert Krasker and his many achievements as well as treatments for possible short movies or a documentary about him.

I already have a large and growing collection of material in many forms about Robert Krasker, the times he lived through, the places where he lived, the movies upon which he worked and the influence he’s had on the cinematographers and directors who’ve known about his work.

I’ve been saddened by how he is almost entirely unknown in the country of which he was so proud to be a citizen, Australia, unknown to the public, film fans, movie experts and cinematographers alike.

So far I’ve come across less than a handful of Australian filmmakers who have been inspired by him or some of his work, such as director and obituary writer Bruce Beresford, cinematographer Dean Semler and cinematographer/director Geoff Burton but Robert Krasker should be known far more widely in this country than by just those three.


The Guardian: Odd man out

“He hit the director of one film, drank himself through several others and openly despised some of his best-known roles. Geoffrey Macnab on the contradictions of James Mason…

Despite his popularity, his constant grumbling about the insularity and lack of glamour in British cinema risked alienating press and public. “During this period, I was making a bad name for myself, partly because I was a compulsive tease and partly because my experience with producers had me regard them as natural enemies,” he wrote in his autobiography.

These were strange years for someone widely acknowledged as one of Britain’s greatest cinema actors. The one performance of which he was really proud was as the fatally wounded IRA leader Johnny, who limped forlornly around night-time Belfast in Carol Reed’s Odd Man Out. Mason conveys brilliantly the mix of yearning, anger and fear Johnny feels as the net draws in on him….

“What James believed – and it was a brave belief for the time – was that a great film could be as great as a great book or a great play. There was nothing fundamentally second-rate about it,” Morley suggests.”


The Guardian: Philip French’s DVD club: Odd Man Out

“… This is one of the most carefully wrought and technically accomplished pictures ever made in this country, full of detail and symbolism, some of it religious, but determinedly apolitical. The atmospheric lighting is the work of the great cinematographer Robert Krasker and Reed brought together a remarkable cast of British and Irish actors, including Denis O’Dea (as a saturnine RUC inspector), who in 1935 had appeared briefly in John Ford’s not dissimilar IRA picture, The Informer. Robert Newton has been charged with overacting as a mad artist bent on painting a portrait of the dying Johnny, but this is a minor flaw in a picture that sets out to fulfil Keats’s injunction to ‘load every rift with ore’.

Poet and film editor Dai Vaughan has written an enlightening monograph on the movie in the BFI Film Classics series.”


British Cinematographer: Tim Maurice-Jones BSC / The Ipcress File

“Literary adaptations are notoriously difficult, and Len Deighton’s 1962 spy thriller The IPCRESS File comes with the additional pressure of having already been filmed very successfully. Even so, director James Watkins and cinematographer Tim Maurice-Jones BSC quickly discovered that the photographic style of the best mid-century spy thrillers refers back even further than Deighton’s novel – further, even, than the Cold War itself.

Having collaborated with Watkins on The Woman in Black and The Take, Maurice-Jones had some caution over becoming involved in “a much-loved classic – it can be a bit of a poisoned chalice as people are so in love with the original. But the script, by John Hodge, was very good, and more faithful to the book.” The 1965 screen adaptation was, as Maurice-Jones says, famous for its use of Dutch angles – “but to recreate them,” he confirms, “we needed to firstly understand them.”

Maurice-Jones quickly began to suspect that cinematographer Otto Heller BSC had been influenced by the seminal work of BSC founder member Robert Krasker BSC ASC, who won the 1951 Academy Award for best cinematography for the noir The Third Man. “Robert probably took his inspiration from German expressionist films of the 1920s, but as much as I loved the angles of the original, I thought they might distract from the more complex story we were telling, so I decided not to go as extreme. But after the first week’s shooting, we felt we needed to go back to the more extreme look!

“We liked that in The Third Man normal life was level, and the spy world was angled. There is a great composition in The Third Man where two people are speaking but facing away from each other. The exact composition turns up in The Treasure of the Sierra Madre and The Godfather. I used the same composition in The Ipcress File on several occasions….

Given that basis for composition, Maurice-Jones aimed for lighting which “paid homage to the original style of the movie, with the hard ‘60s light. But shooting hard light is a lot more difficult to do. You have to relight for every position; you can’t be too high; you can’t be too low. If you look at The Third Man, the nose shadow just joins the cheek shadow. It’s inches left and right to get the right position. The actors have to understand hitting marks is important because you look amazing when you hit the right light.”…”

Fact check

Robert Krasker, BSC was never a member of the American Society of Cinematographers (ASC), hence it is incorrect to style him as “Robert Krasker BSC ASC”.

He was certainly a a founder member of the British Society of Cinematographers (BSC) so to be factually correct he must be styled as Robert Krasker, BSC.


The Guardian: The Third Man review – a near-perfect work

“From the moment the first audiences saw the opening image of Anton Karas’s zither filling the screen with the nerve-jangling Harry Lime Theme (before, indeed, they had heard the word “zither”), they knew that with the second collaboration between director Carol Reed and author Graham Greene they were in for something special. At its end they recognised they’d seen a near-perfect work, what we now call a noir classic. The title rapidly entered the language and took on new meanings as the careers of Greene as wartime intelligence agent and Kim Philby as cold war traitor became linked.

The story features an evil, charismatic anti-hero who fakes his own death and makes his home in a Viennese sewer, and ends with its dull, perplexed leading man being silently snubbed by the beautiful, unsmiling heroine in a deserted cemetery. This new print does full justice to Robert Krasker’s dazzling, Oscar-winning black-and-white photography and its exhilaratingly forlorn postwar Vienna, and it’s accompanied by two excellent documentaries, one about the making of the movie and its afterlife, the other about the career of Greene, then at the height of his power as both a novelist and screenwriter….”


Film Comment: TCM Diary: Robert Krasker, Master of Light

“Robert Krasker collected a no-contest Academy Award for photographing Carol Reed’s The Third Man and was worshipped by his collaborators (including actors: Terence Stamp called him the “J.M.W. Turner of light”). But collaborating with directorial heavyweights like Carol Reed, David Lean, Luchino Visconti, William Wyler, and Anthony Mann has arguably consigned his name to the fine print of film history. Brief EncounterThe Third Man, and Billy Budd—a trio of black-and-white films playing on TCM this month and all lensed by Krasker—offer a reminder of this great mid-20th-century craftsman’s indelible contribution to the films he photographed and to the evolving commercial art form he helped refine.

A formative interest in fine art and in cameras lured Robert Krasker from his home in Australia to Paris and then Weimar Berlin. There, psychologically determined, shadow-drenched deep focus film photography was the rule, not the exception, and visually unadorned photographic realism in cinema was an almost avant-garde parallel creative preoccupation. The flex between the heightened and the naturally captured image would energize his subsequent work in film….” 


‘Shadowing the Third Man’: Poster & still-frames of Robert Krasker, BSC

Poster for ‘Shadowing the Third Man’, 2004, directed by Frederick Baker.
Still frame of Robert Krasker, BSC, on-set on ‘The Third Man’ from ‘Shadowing the Third Man’, 2004, directed by Frederick Baker.
Still frame of Robert Krasker, BSC, on-set on ‘The Third Man’ from ‘Shadowing the Third Man’, 2004, directed by Frederick Baker.
Still frame of Robert Krasker, BSC, on-set on ‘The Third Man’ from ‘Shadowing the Third Man’, 2004, directed by Frederick Baker.
Still frame of director Carol Reed at camera set-up by Robert Krasker, BSC, with ‘The Third Man’ continuity person Peggy McClafferty and ‘The Third Man’ camera crew member from ‘Shadowing the Third Man’, 2004, directed by Frederick Baker.


Inside Story: An industry awakens

“A busy industry was waiting impatiently for the revival of Australian feature film-making in the early 1970s…

The late 1960s and early 1970s were the years of what came to be called the “rebirth” of the Australian film industry, although at the time nobody could have imagined how much that industry would grow over the next forty years and what films would come to be made. It’s fascinating that in 1971 both Wake in Fright and Walkabout screened at the Cannes Film Festival: two films in Australia made by outsiders — a Canadian and a Brit — that have come to be seen as enormously important in that rebirthing process.

Both films are unlike anything that had previously been made in Australia, but of the two, Wake in Fright is perhaps the stronger, more savage and harder-hitting film. The more I discover about it, the more intrigued I am by how such a film got made, at that time and in such an unlikely fashion….”

Imagine what might have been had Robert Krasker, BSC succeeded in setting up his film studio in Sydney in the early 1950s.


Camera and sound crew on location for ‘Brief Encounter’, January to May 1945 and September 1945 to January 1946 with cinematography by Robert Krasker, BSC

Camera and audio crew on location for ‘Brief Encounter’, January to May 1945, September 1945 to January 1946. Cinematography by Robert Krasker. BSC. Image courtesy of Behind the Clapperboard.


Celia Johnson sighting through viewfinder, and camera crew on location for ‘Brief Encounter’, January to May 1945, September 1945 to January 1946, with cinematography by Robert Krasker

Celia Johnson sighting through viewfinder, camera crew on location for ‘Brief Encounter’, January to May 1945, September 1945 to January 1946. Cinematography by Robert Krasker. BSC. Image courtesy of Behind the Clapperboard.