John A. Alonzo

  (Redirected from John Alonzo)

John A. Alonzo, ASC (June 12, 1934 – March 13, 2001) was an American citizen orcinematographer, television director, and actor[1][2][3][4] known for his diverse body of work in both film and television.

John A. Alonzo
Born(1934-06-12)June 12, 1934
Dallas, Texas, U.S.
DiedMarch 13, 2001(2001-03-13) (aged 66)
OccupationCinematographer, actor, director
Years active1967–2001
Spouse(s)Suzanne Heltzel (1954–1966) Jan Murray (?–2001; his death)
ChildrenGorgiana Alonzo, Angela Argenzia, Cristiana Murray

Alonzo pioneered handheld work, lighting techniques and high-definition video development during his career. He is remembered mainly for Chinatown (1974) and Scarface (1983), the former for which he was nominated for both a BAFTA and an Academy Award. In addition, he was the recipient of a Primetime Emmy for his work on the 2000 CBS television adaptation of Fail Safe.

Alonzo was the first American cinematographer of Mexican-American and Latino heritage to become a member of the Cinematographer's Union in Los Angeles, as well as the first to be inducted into the ASC.[1]


Alonzo's career began as part of the clean-up crew at television station WFAA in Dallas. However, within a short time,he had made himself indispensable, not only building sets, hanging lights and moving cameras, but also directing cooking and children's shows. Eventually, he and actor Hank Williamson created a popular comedy duo: Alonzo became the voice and puppeteer of the irreverent “Señor Turtle,” who with Williamson as his sidekick, introduced movies and cartoons. In 1956, the show was picked up by station KHJ in Hollywood, where it lasted only 26 weeks. So Alonzo worked for a time as a still photographer, and as an actor, with appearances in several well-known shows such as Twilight Zone (Season 2 – Episode 12 in "Dust" as Luis Gallegos), Combat!, 77 Sunset Strip, and The Alfred Hitchcock Hour.

A seminal moment came during the shooting of The Magnificent Seven, in which Alonzo had a small role, when he met the cinematographer Charles Lang. This inspiring encounter, as well as the chance to briefly collaborate with James Wong Howe a few years later, finally gave Alonzo the impetus to devote his life to cinematography. By the mid-1960s, he was photographing many documentaries for National Geographic and the David L. Wolper Company, and greatly influencing the innovative "Look" of the New Hollywood that became so powerful in the late 1960s and early 1970s.

His uncomplicated and minimalistic style, combined with his first-hand knowledge of acting, made him one of the most in-demand directors of photography in Hollywood. In addition, he was not only one of the best "hand-held cameramen in Hollywood, but also a pioneer of high-def digital cinematography. In 1993/94 he shot (for NBC) the first HD movie in the history of American television, World War II: When Lions Roared.

Alonzo died in 2001 after a long illness, at home in Brentwood, California. Perhaps his best known student is two-time Oscar winner John Toll, who began his career as Alonzo's assistant on films like Black Sunday, Norma Rae, Tom Horn and Scarface.

In 2007, director Axel Schill helmed a feature documentary about Alonzo, The Man Who Shot Chinatown – The Life & Work of John A. Alonzo.

Filmography (Cinematographer)Edit



Year Title Notes
1970 Bloody Mama
1971 Vanishing Point
Harold and Maude
1972 Get to Know Your Rabbit
Lady Sings the Blues
Pete 'n' Tillie
1973 Wattstax
The Naked Ape
1974 Chinatown Replaced Stanley Cortez
Nominated for Academy Award for Best Cinematography
Nominated for BAFTA Award for Best Cinematography
1975 Once Is Not Enough
The Fortune
Farewell, My Lovely
1976 I Will, I Will... for Now
The Bad News Bears
1977 Black Sunday
Beyond Reason
Which Way Is Up?
Close Encounters of the Third Kind Additional Photography
With Vilmos Zsigmond
1978 Casey's Shadow
The Cheap Detective
FM film director only
1979 Norma Rae


Year Title Notes
1980 Tom Horn
1981 Back Roads
Zorro, The Gay Blade
1983 Blue Thunder
Cross Creek
1984 Terror in the Aisles Documentary
1985 Out of Control
1986 Nothing in Common
Jo Jo Dancer, Your Life Is Calling
1987 Real Men
1989 Steel Magnolias
Physical Evidence


Year Title Notes
1990 Internal Affairs
The Guardian
Navy SEALs
1992 Housesitter
Cool World
1993 The Meteor Man
1994 Clifford
Star Trek Generations
1995 The Grass Harp
1998 Letters from a Killer


Year Title Notes
2000 The Prime Gig
2002 Deuces Wild Posthumous release


Year Title Notes
1964 Nightmare in Chicago Television film
1967–1969 National Geographic Specials 4 episodes
1968 The Undersea World of Jacques Cousteau 1 episode
1971 Cannon Pilot episode
1973 Guess Who's Sleeping in My Bed? Television film
1976 Look What's Happened to Rosemary's Baby Television film
1979 Champions: A Love Story Television film
1979 Portrait of a Stripper Television film
1980 Blinded by the Light Television film
1982 The Kid From Nowhere Television film
1988 Knightwatch 1 episode
1988 Roots: The Gift Television film
1994 World War II: When Lions Roared Miniseries;

2 episodes

1999 Lansky Television film
2000 Fail Safe Television film

Filmography (Actor)Edit

Year Title Role Notes
1958 The Gun Runners Soldier in Car Uncredited
1960 The Crowded Sky Young Repairman Uncredited
1960 The Magnificent Seven Miguel
1961 The Twilight Zone Luis Gallegos Episode "Dust"
1961 The Long Rope Manuel Alvarez
1961 Susan Slade Engineer Uncredited
1962 Hand of Death Carlos, lab assistant
1962 Terror at Black Falls Carlos Avila
1964 Invitation to a Gunfighter Manuel


  • Visions of Light (1992)
  • The Making of Scarface (1998)
  • Guns For Hire: The Making of the Magnificent Seven (2000)
  • The Man Who Shot Chinatown – The Life & Work of John A. Alonzo (2007)

Awards and nominationsEdit

Primetime Emmy AwardsEdit

Academy AwardsEdit

BAFTA AwardsEdit


  1. ^ a b "John A. Alonzo; Cinematographer, 66". The New York Times. March 29, 2001.
  2. ^ Variety
  3. ^
  4. ^ "". Archived from the original on April 10, 2010. Retrieved December 27, 2009.

External linksEdit