Bill Butler, Jaws And Grease Cinematographer, Dies At 101

Bill Butler, the Oscar-nominated cinematographer whose career in Hollywood spanned five decades, has passed away. The news comes to us via The Hollywood Reporter, with the American Society of Cinematographers confirming his death. Butler was 101 years old, and mere days away from 102. The celebrated filmmaker leaves behind a body of work that is sure to outlive us all.

Born in 1921, Butler got his start in the early '60s serving as the director of photography on TV movies such as "The People vs. Paul Crump" and "The Bold Men." But it wasn't long before he was making a name for himself, shooting Francis Ford Coppola's first feature "The Rain People" in 1969. Butler was also behind the camera working with Coppola again for one of cinema's all-time classics a handful of years later with 1974's "The Conversation."

It was, however, the following year when Butler would arguably make his biggest contribution to the canon of American cinema, working with Steven Spielberg on the legendary blockbuster "Jaws." To this day, it remains one of the most successful and adored studio films ever made. He also lent his talents to one of the most beloved musicals of all time with "Grease" in 1978, which came out the same year he shot "Damian: Omen II." The man had not only a long list of credits but a diverse one at that.

A staggering career

What is perhaps most remarkable about the career of Bill Butler is not just the numerous classics, with "Rocky II," "Rocky III," and "Rocky IV" also on his resume, for example, but how varied and enduring it was. Butler was working steadily up until 2009 when he was 87 years old, with credits on films such as "Evil Angel" and "Limousine." Some of his later work such as "Red Line" or Chevy Chase's "Funny Money" may not be as well regarded as many of his other films, but the man amassed more than 90 credits during a 50-year career. That's remarkable in a business that can frequently chew people up and spit them out.

It's also stunning to look at the scope of his work, in terms of the types of films he shot. For every "Deliverance" to his credit, there is a "Demon Seed." He can do a comedy like Ivan Reitman's "Stripes," while also doing a creature feature like "Anaconda." Not to mention a classic slasher like "Child's Play." It would be all too easy to read down every one of his feature credits because one could gloss over gems like "Hot Shots!" or "Frailty." Few people in the history of filmmaking can say they've touched so many movies that will live on for decades to come.

Butler was nominated for an Oscar for his work on "One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest," and won two Emmys. First in 1977 for "Raid on Entebbe" and later in 1984 for "A Streetcar Named Desire." In 2003, Butler was honored with the American Society of Cinematographers' Lifetime Achievement Award.

He is survived by his wife, Iris, as well as his five daughters. May he rest in peace.