Stanley Cortez, a cinematographer noted for his work with such directors as Orson Welles, Fritz Lang, Sam Fuller and Charles Laughton, died of a heart attack Dec. 23 at Hollywood Presbyterian Hospital. He was 92.
Born Stanislaus Kranz in New York’s lower East Side, the son of Austrian immigrants, he worked at Edward Steichen’s portrait studio in New York. He decided upon a motion picture career while watching his older brother, Ricardo Cortez, being directed by D.W. Griffith in “The Sorrows of Satan” (1926) at Paramount’s Long Island studio.
During the last years of silent films the brothers came to Hollywood, where Stanley worked first as an assistant, then as an operator at various studios. He was a member of the American Society of Cinematographers for 63 years, serving two terms as president and several as vice president, and served on the board of governors of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences.
He became a director of photography at Universal with “Four Day Wonder” (1936). He remained with that studio for years, photographing everything from slick mystery programmers to such large-scale productions as “Flesh and Fantasy,” “Smash-Up,” “Eagle Squadron,” “The Secret Beyond the Door” and “Badlands of Dakota.”
Welles, fascinated by the elegant pictorial style Cortez achieved in several B thrillers such as “The Last Express” and “The Black Cat,” borrowed him for “The Magnificent Ambersons.” He was filming David O. Selznick’s “Since You Went Away” when he entered the Army Signal Corps. As World War II ground to a close, he was put in charge of photographing the Yalta and Quebec conferences.
Cortez returned to photograph many pictures in the U.S. and Europe. “The Man on the Eiffel Tower” (1948), made in Paris, won him a French academy award. “The Three Faces of Eve” was notable for its changing moods, which matched Joanne Woodward’s Academy Award-winning performance as a woman who has three distinct personalities.
Other titles include “Blue, Black Tuesday,” “Top Secret Affair,” “Man From Del Rio,” “Thunder in the Sun,” “Back Street,” “Shock Corridor,” “The Candidate” and “The Bridge at Remagen.”
He received Academy Award nominations for “The Magnificent Ambersons” and “Since You Went Away,” but 1955’s “The Night of the Hunter,” starring Robert Mitchum and directed by Charles Laughton, is often cited as his finest work.
Cortez is survived by a cousin, sister-in-law and two nephews.
The family has requested that donations in his memory should be made to the charity of their choice.