Douglas Slocombe OBE BSC

I only got to know Douglas Slocombe during the last – but highly significant – years of his career.

My first “proper” operating job was the B camera on the 2nd. unit of “Raiders of the Lost Ark” in Tunisia –  through Paul Beeson BSC – and after we had completed our work on the lorry chase sequence, for some reason that I don`t remember, I was dispatched to the main unit for the last few days of shooting.

So there I was – needless to say, very nervous – operating a B camera with Steven Spielberg and Dougie and alongside Chic Waterson who had, by then, been Dougie`s operator for the best part of thirty years! And Dougie, of course, was charming, reassuring and gentlemanly, bringing a balancing calmness to the hyper activity of Steven.

Three years later, I was B camera on “Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom” with the same team of Dougie, Chic and Robin Vidgeon and, five years after that, on “Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade”. On that film – which was to be Dougie`s last – Mike Roberts was A camera, having been with Spielberg on “Empire of the Sun”, and Chic having retired, and I stood in for Mike for the first week of shooting in Spain as he was still on “Mississippi Burning”.

As I was walking to the set in Almeria with Dougie on the first morning, I noticed that he was carrying what looked suspiciously like a meter case. I remarked that I`d never seen him use a meter and he replied that he thought that THEY liked to see him use one now and again!

There was an underground sewer set at Elstree, complete with hundreds of rats, and very soon after we`d had an official warning to be careful not to step or fall in the water, there was an inevitable loud splash and it was Dougie who had stepped backwards and, needless to say, fallen in. Far from being careless, his whole concentration was on lighting from first thing in the morning to last thing at night.

The years rolled on and I would see Dougie at BSC functions and often have a chat but I`ll always remember fondly the splendid BAFTA tribute to him in 2010 when so many from in front of and behind the camera paid their respects to his artistry.

I count myself as very fortunate to have known – and worked with – the legend that was Douglas Slocombe.

David Worley
March 2016