'Indiana Jones' cinematographer Slocombe dies at 103

'Indiana Jones' cinematographer Slocombe dies at 103

London (AFP) - British cinematographer Douglas Slocombe, who filmed the Nazi invasion of Poland and went on to work with Steven Spielberg on the "Indiana Jones" films, has died at the age of 103, his daughter told AFP.

He died Monday morning in a hospital in London, Georgina Slocombe said. He had celebrated his 103rd birthday on February 10.

Slocombe, originally a magazine photographer, broke into film when he travelled to Poland in 1939 as Nazi forces were sweeping eastwards. A magazine photographer by trade, he set off with a 35mm Bell and Howell Eyemo newsreel camera to film the invasion.

Arriving in Danzig, modern-day Gdansk, he found himself "right in the middle of an absolute hotbed of Nazi intrigue," he later told the BBC. "All the Jewish shops had 'Jude' daubed over the windows and the Jews themselves were attacked."

He recalled filming Nazi propaganda minister Joseph Goebbels giving a speech to a crowd of Brownshirts.

"The Eyemo was heavy and could be noisy. Once I was in an auditorium filming a speech made by Goebbels when suddenly it decided to emit a huge snarling sound.

"Goebbels froze and hundreds of uniformed Brownshirts turned and glared at me in anger. It was not a comfortable moment," he told the BBC in a 2014 interview.

Later, he witnessed the burning of a synagogue in the city which set the sky red.

He realised he was being followed everywhere, and he was finally arrested by the Gestapo. After a night in a cell he decided it was time to leave.

- German invasion -

Slocombe headed to Warsaw in time to witness Germany's invasion of the Polish capital on 1 September. By this time he had been joined by his colleague Herbert Kline, an American film-maker. Embedded with a Polish machine-gun crew under heavy aerial bombardment, they soon realised the Poles would be outgunned.

The pair headed across the Polish countryside. Fortunately they had silver coins with them and managed to buy a horse and cart to escape to Latvia.

"The farmer's wife was unwilling to sell until she saw the coins. If we'd only had paper currency, I don't know if we'd have made it out," he told the BBC.

After their escape via Stockholm, their material was used in the short 1940 documentary "Lights Out in Europe" about the run-up to World War II.

After the war Slocombe worked on a series of classic British films in the 1940s and 1950s known as the Ealing comedies, produced at the Ealing Studios in London, including "Kind Hearts and Coronets" (1949) starring Alec Guinness.

He was director of photography on the original "The Italian Job" (1967) and won a BAFTA award for "The Great Gatsby" (1974).

When he was nearly 70, Steven Spielberg chose Slocombe to be head of cinematography on "Raiders of the Lost Ark" (1981) and two more "Indiana Jones" films.

He also worked on the James Bond film "Never Say Never Again" starring Sean Connery.

His daughter Georgina said it was a sad day.

"I was his only child. My mother died several years ago. We were very close as a family," she said.