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Hall wins ASC top honors

In what was considered somewhat of a surprise, noted cinematographer Conrad Hall received the American Society of Cinematographers’ Outstanding Achievement Award for his work on “Searching for Bobby Fischer,” beating out Oscar frontrunners “Schindler’s List” and “The Piano,” in addition to “The Fugitive” and “Heaven and Earth.”

Hall, who won an ASC1award in 1988 for “Tequila Sunrise,” also received the ASC’s Lifetime Achievement Award at the society’s eighth annual awards dinner Sunday at the Beverly Hilton Hotel. The event, which marked the 75th anniversary of the ASC, also paid tribute to Steven Spielberg, who received the Board of Governors Award, and to legendary cinematographer Jack Cardiff, who received the Intl. Achievement Award.

Television awards went to Roland Ozzie Smith in the regular series category for “Dr. Quinn, Medicine Woman” (“Where the Heart Is” episode), Donald M. Morgan in the movie of the week/pilot category for “Geronimo” and Kees Van Oostrum in the miniseries category for “Return to Lonesome Dove.”

The evening’s festivities began with ASC prexy Victor Kemper telling the crowd of more than 1,000, which included such industry heavyweights as Sidney Sheinberg, Arnold Kopelson, Arthur Hiller and Fay Kanin, that the evening would “become the making of a memory that we will always cherish.”

Kemper then introduced L.A. Mayor Richard Riordan, who told the audience: “The motion picture industry is the most important industry to Los Angeles. For the city to succeed, you must succeed.”

After Technicolor president Burton (Bud) Stone received his ASC honorary membership in the organization, MCA president Sheinberg took the stage to introduce Spielberg.

“Guided by him, the camera becomes more of a tool,” Sheinberg said. “It becomes a paintbrush. The camera and film are a language that speaks to him. Cinematographers have been his indispensable collaborators.”

Some of those collaborators,including Bill Butler, Vilmos Szigmond, Allen Daviau, William Fraker, Dean Cundey and Janusz Kaminsky, appeared in videotaped sequences praising Spielberg. After reading a telegram from President Clinton congratulating Spielberg, Sheinberg introduced the director, who took the stage to thunderous applause and a standing ovation.

“I’m here to honor you,” Spielberg said. “You make us all look like heroes. I am indebted to all of you. I’m honored to say this award means more to me than I can ever express.”

Hall felt similarly: “Collecting prizes is good,” Hall said, “but it’s not like doing the work. I’m overwhelmed by this tonight.”

The Intl. Award was presented by Roddy MacDowall to Jack Cardiff, whose films include “The Red Shoes” and “The African Queen.”

Hall returned for the ASC Lifetime Achievement Award. The cinematographer on “Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid,””Cool Hand Luke,””Marathon Man” and “In Cold Blood” was introduced by his son, Conrad Hall Jr.

Academy president Arthur Hiller also presented the ASC with a plaque from the Academy’s board of governors.

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