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Hollywood honour for Eye-based film man

PUBLISHED: 17:07 23 January 2008 | UPDATED: 10:22 12 July 2010

Walter Lassally has worked with some of the giants of film and more than 40 years ago won an Oscar for his camera work on Zorba the Greek.

Now the 80-year-old Eye-based cinematographer is to be presented with a lifetime achievement award by Hollywood.

Walter Lassally has worked with some of the giants of film and more than 40 years ago won an Oscar for his camera work on Zorba the Greek.

Now the 80-year-old Eye-based cinematographer is to be presented with a lifetime achievement award by Hollywood.

Walter started at the bottom of the industry as a clapper boy and rose to become one of its best technicians. In a career spanning nearly 60 years he worked with such stars as Anthony Quinn, Christopher Plummer, Katharine Hepburn and Orson Welles.

And half a century ago he moved in with film industry agent Kate Campbell and her artist husband Peter at The Abbey, a large, ancient house they had restored on the outskirts of the town.

Walter, who also spends several months of each year living in a rented cottage on the Greek island of Crete, has been behind a camera since his youth.

His Jewish parents arrived in England from Germany two months before the outbreak of the second world war. Those family members who remained there and in Poland did not survive.

His engineer father was one of the first people to use film as an aid to studying industrial processes and occasionally let the young lad help. In time, Walter found his way into the film industry, first by gaining work with a stills studio.

He soon gained work with a small company making documentaries and then became a clapper boy at Riverside Studios in London.

The first film in which he was involved was Dancing with Crime, starring Richard Attenborough, and Walter quickly worked his way up the ladder, eventually getting the chance to show his prowess behind the camera.

It was in Greece with director Michael Cacoyannis that he blossomed as a cinematographer, working on films such as Electra and Zorba the Greek, the one for which he is best known and for which he won an Oscar for best cinematography.

Kate Campbell, who acted as his agent for most of the 85 feature films and 150 documentaries he made, said she and Walter had been in Athens after filming Electra. “Michael Cacoyannis did not know what to film next and I came up with the idea of doing Zorba. He hadn't read the book, so I went across the road and bought a copy for him,” she recalled.

Kate, whose husband died 19 years ago, said Walter was honoured to be receiving the lifetime achievement award from the American Society of Cinematographers. He was due to fly to Los Angeles via Athens this week.

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