Gary Graver, a cinematographer who worked on more than 300 films and collaborated on all of Orson Welles’ projects during the last 15 years of the late director’s life, died Thursday of cancer at his home in Rancho Mirage, Calif. He was 68.
Having learned his craft with the Navy Combat Camera Group in Vietnam, Japan and the Philippines during the early ’60s, Graver called Welles out of the blue at the Beverly Hills Hotel in 1970 to offer his services. Welles was intrigued because the only other cameraman who had ever asked to work with him was Gregg Toland on “Citizen Kane,” so he brought Graver on to shoot his maverick Hollywood picture “The Other Side of the Wind.”
Welles never finished editing the film, but since Welles’ death in 1985, Graver, Welles’ longtime companion Oja Kodar and Peter Bogdanovich worked to disentangle rights issues in an attempt to complete it.
Graver shot two documentaries for Welles, “F for Fake” and “Filming ‘Othello.'” He also manned the camera on all of Welles’ uncompleted projects during this period, including “The Dreamers,” “King Lear,” “The Magic Show” and “Moby-Dick,” as he did on the docu “It’s All True: Based on an Unfinished Film by Orson Welles.” He also shot a feature directed by Kodar, “Jaded.”
Born in Portland, Ore., Graver came to Hollywood hoping to become an actor and long worked to support himself as assistant manager at the Beverly Theater in Beverly Hills. In 1963, he made his first of several films as a director, “The Great Dream,” and over more than 40 years he sometimes directed but more often shot dozens of low-budget indie films, including “Sandra — The Making of a Woman,” “Satan’s Sadists,” “Dracula vs. Frankenstein,” “Invasion of the Bee Girls,” “The Toolbox Murders,” “The Student Body” and, without credit, Ed Wood’s “One Million AC/DC.”
In 1977, he lensed “Grand Theft Auto,” Ron Howard’s first directorial effort, for Roger Corman, for whom he shot numerous other features, including “Moonshine County Express” and “Deathsport.”
He lensed several TV movies, including the 1986 remake of “Stagecoach,” and helmed numerous erotic films under the pseudonym Robert McCallum to support his other endeavors.
While continuing his professional work, Graver in recent years toured the world with programs of Welles’ unfinished work for presentation at Welles retrospectives, museums and archives.
Graver’s wife, Jillian Kesner, said her husband had first become impassioned about films and Welles in particular upon seeing “Touch of Evil,” and that he watched it the evening he passed away.
In addition to his widow, he is survived by two sons, two granddaughters and a nephew.
A memorial service will be held at a date to be announced at the Egyptian Theater in Hollywood.