Motion Picture Cinematographer. Considered a consummate Hollywood artisan, he was at his most successful shooting lush Technicolor epics. He won Academy Awards for "King Solomon's Mines" (1950), "The Bad and the Beautiful" (1952), and "Ben-Hur" (1959), and received 13 Oscar nominations. His other credits include "Thirty Seconds Over Tokyo" (1944), "Quo Vadis?" (1951), "Oklahoma!" (1955), "Mutiny on the Bounty" (1962), "Doctor Dolittle" (1967), "The Graduate" (1967), "The Last Picture Show" (1971), "Summer of '42" (1971), "The Sting" (1973), "A Star Is Born" (1976), and "The Turning Point" (1977). Surtees was born in Covington, Kentucky, and raised in Cincinnati. In films from 1927, he became an assistant to Gregg Toland, worked his way up to camera operator at Fox and Warner Bros., and was promoted to director of photography on MGM shorts. He lensed his first feature in 1943. For all the accolades he garnered during his lifetime, Surtees is suprisingly unsung today. Schooled in the old Hollywood studio system (particularly at MGM, where he worked for nearly 20 years), he made films in every genre, in monochrome and color, and never developed a consistent personal style. But his versatility enabled him to adapt his formidable technique to new trends and he was still in demand when he retired in 1978. And the images he crafted for the chariot race in "Ben-Hur" and the seduction scene in "The Graduate" are among the American Cinema's most celebrated moments. He was the father of Bruce Surtees, who was Clint Eastwood's frequent cameraman of the 1970s and 1980s.
Bio by: Bobb Edwards