Some very sad news from late last week: Gary Graver, the cinematographer who virtually made the last third of Orson Welles’s filmography possible, died Thursday night of throat cancer. He’d been in the hospital since June, after shooting his last film, a short, in the south of France—work he characteristically insisted on doing, in spite of his poor health, out of friendship. For anyone who knew Gary, he was just about as selfless, as generous, and as unpretentious as it’s possible for someone to be. I think it’ll be years before many people realize just how much he did for Welles—which means how much he did for all of us, even though much of this work, such as The Other Side of the Wind, will remain unseeable until someone is willing to pay for its completion. (Among the better known films he shot were F for Fake.) When I was editing This Is Orson Welles, he was endlessly helpful, in every way imaginable.
His association with Welles started around 1969, when he basically turned up on Welles’s doorstep, offering not only to shoot whatever he wanted but to help him acquire the equipment he needed for doing so. A prolific director as well as cinematographer—his directorial credits alone on the Internet Movie Database number 131 titles, while the (incomplete) list of the films he shot comes to 183—Gary worked on all kinds of productions, though exploitation items tended to be his specialty. (According to film historian Joseph McBride, he worked for everyone from Edward D. Wood Jr. to Billy Wilder.) His widow, Jillian, who phoned me with the news, says that a memorial of some kind for Gary is being planned for early next year in Los Angeles. Surely the best kind of tribute anyone could pay him would be to allow the public to see more of the work he did for Welles over the last decade and a half of Welles’s life, including The Other Side of the Wind. Showtime has been dickering over a deal for its completion for the last several years, and it’s galling to think that Gary never got to see this dream realized, even after decades of struggle.
He’ll be deeply missed.