Emmy-award winning director of photography James Glennon, ASC, known for being director Alexander Payne‘s cinematographer on three films and for his work over four decades on more than 30 television series, died on Oct. 19. He was 64. The cause of death, according to his family, was prostate cancer. Glennon won an Emmy in 2005 for outstanding cinematography on a single camera series for Deadwood. He had been principal cinematographer on the award-winning skein, and worked on other HBO series such as Carnivale and Big Love and on NBC’s The West Wing. A highlight in his film career was cult classic El Norte, a 1983 film—his first as a cinematographer—about the plight of Latino immigrants fleeing to Los Angeles, that he shot under arduous conditions in Central America, with no electricity. His films with director Payne included Citizen Ruth, Election and About Schmidt.
Earlier in his career he was a camera operator on noteworthy films including Breaking Away, Ordinary People, The Electric Horseman, Altered States and Fast Times Times at Ridgemont High.
“He was an active union member for 39 years and enjoyed great respect from his peers in the entertainment industry,” said Steven Poster, ASC, president of the International Cinematographers Guild. “He was a passionate man.”
Glennon was known for his bonhomie on the set. “Above and beyond his remarkable talent as a cinematographer, he was so full of positive energy,” director Payne told The Los Angeles Times. “He was the master of the art of the possible and one of the funniest men I have ever met.”
“Cinematography is like putting a message in a bottle,” Glennon said in a Kodak publication interview. “You cast it on the waters and years later you meet somebody who says those shots of the bicycle scene in Breaking Away have real energy.”
Born into a show business family, Glennon’s mother Mary was a script supervisor and his father Bert was a legendary cinematographer who worked with directors Cecil B. DeMille, Josef von Sternberg and Glenn Ford. James Glennon spent his early years on studio lots watching his father at work. Glennon is survived by Charmaine, his wife of 29 years; his children Meghan, Allison, Andrew and Juliet; and three brothers. His family has suggested that memorial contributions may be made to the UCLA School of Theater, Film and Television, Box 951622, Los Angeles, CA 90095; or the Cedars-Sinai Prostate Cancer Research Institute, P.O. Box 48750, Room 2416, Los Angeles, CA 90048.