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The Academy Releases Statement on the Passing of Former Academy President, Cinematographer John Bailey

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John Bailey (photo by Matt Petit AMPAS)

Former Academy President John Bailey passed away Friday, November 10, in Los Angeles. He was 81.

”It is with deep sadness I share with you that my best friend and husband, John Bailey, passed away peacefully in his sleep early this morning. During John’s illness, we reminisced how we met 60 years ago and were married for 51 of those years. We shared a wonderful life of adventure in film and made many long-lasting friendships along the way. John will forever live in my heart,” said his wife, Carol Littleton.

“All of us at the Academy are deeply saddened to learn of John’s passing,” said Academy CEO Bill Kramer and Academy President Janet Yang. “John was a passionately engaged member of the Academy and the film community. He served as our President and as an Academy governor for many years and played a leadership role on the Cinematographers Branch. His impact and contributions to the film community will forever be remembered. Our thoughts and support are with Carol at this time.”

Bailey’s career spanned nearly five decades. He worked on films such as Ordinary People, The Big Chill, Silverado, The Accidental Tourist, Groundhog Day, In the Line of Fire, As Good as It Gets, How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days, The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants, and Must Love Dogs.

He was a member of the Cinematographers Branch of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences since 1981, serving 15 years as an Academy governor and two terms as Academy President from 2017-2019, making him the first cinematographer to hold the position of president.

During his tenure as governor, he was vice president and chair of the Preservation and History Committee. He also served on the Academy Museum Board of Trustees and on several Academy committees, including the Nicholl Fellowships in Screenwriting, Film Scholar and Grants, International Outreach, the Science and Technology Council, Membership Screenings and In Memoriam committees, as well as the former Foreign Language Film Award Executive Committee. He also served as the Academy’s representative on the Library of Congress’s National Film Preservation Board.

Bailey was a member of the American Society of Cinematographers, serving as secretary and vice president on its board of governors. He served on the juries of the Venice Film Festival, Aspen Shortsfest and Poland’s EnergaCAMERIMAGE Film Festival. In November 2014, he received the Ojai Film Festival Lifetime Achievement Award, and was honored by the American Society of Cinematographers with its Lifetime Achievement Award in February 2015. In 2019, he was honored with the Lifetime Achievement Award at the EnergaCAMERIMAGE Film Festival.

A cinematographer since 1978, Bailey began his career as an assistant cameraman on the 1971 film Two Lane Blacktop.

He is survived by his wife Carol Littleton, an Oscar-nominated film editor and former Academy governor.

A memorial service will be held at a future date. The family requests in lieu of flowers, donations be made to the Academy Foundation in memory of John Bailey.

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