Brianne Murphy
Geraldine Brianne Murphy

(1933-04-01)1 April 1933
Died20 August 2003(2003-08-20) (aged 70)

Geraldine Brianne Murphy (1 April 1933 – 20 August 2003) was a British cinematographer. She was the first female director of photography for a major studio film[1] and the first female who became a member of the American Society of Cinematographers Guild.[2] Murphy is often referred to as a pioneer for women in the film industry.[3]


Murphy was born in London, England where her father was working on the railroad in Britain. While her whole family was living in the UK due to her father's career, her parents were both middle class Americans. With the threat of the war in England coming, the family made the decision to move back to America. At a young age, Murphy's’ parents divorced.[4] She created her own opportunities by taking advantage of small positions in the film industry and made her way in a “man’s world” of cinematography[5] Once she moved to Hollywood she fell in love with B-movie film director Jerry Warren who she went on to marry. They eventually divorced before having any children.


In the 1950s, Brianne Murphy started her career in the film industry in New York.[6] Murphy was educated in English and American schools before she set her sights on an acting career and attended the Neighborhood Playhouse in New York City and Pembroke College.[7] During the filming of a movie called “On the Waterfront” in New York, she made an effort to hang around the set and eventually was asked to run errands for the production manager. After doing this, the director agreed to let Murphy watch the rest of the filming process. This allowed her to gain more insight into what went into making the film while teaching her how to use the equipment properly.[4] She took this as a learning experience and started to search for more jobs in the industry. In order to become "more American", she worked as a trick rider with a rodeo for a season. In 1954, she crashed the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus at Madison Square Garden on opening night and performed as a clown for the entire evening.[1] The resulting publicity helped Murphy land a job as a still photographer with the traveling circus and eventually led her to Hollywood. She soon began working with low-budget filmmakers Jerry Warren and Ralph Brooke, both of whom she married. While working on these low-budget films, Murphy was promoted to production manager due to her strategic decisions to save money by using the same crew and actors and shooting movies back-to-back. While working in production management, she would often use herself as a second cameraman on set,[4] once again getting more experience.

Murphy's career began to take off in 1975 when Richard Glouner, a member of the American Society of Cinematographers, who had worked with Murphy as a script supervisor in the past, had to leave a show, Columbo, that he was working on and suggested Murphy take over for him.[4] In 1980, she was the first female director of photography on a major studio picture, Fatso. In 1982, Murphy won an Academy Award for Scientific and Engineering Achievement.[8] She was also nominated for four Emmys for cinematography, winning for outstanding cinematography for the series Highway to Heaven in 1985.

Murphy struggled to get jobs at times due to the fact that she was a female attempting to make a place in a male dominated industry. She attempted to join her local union branch in 1973 where she was told by a union officer that she would be accepted “over his dead body”.[9] When he died, she went back to the Union and told the new Union Officer what had happened before. Upon hearing this, he did allow Brianne to join. This only encouraged Murphy to work harder. She eventually made it into this union, being the first female executive board member to join. Murphy was recognized as the woman who brought women's rights into the film industry.[3] In order to avoid discrimination, she would at times use an abbreviated version of her name “Brian” and would talk with a deep voice on the phone as a way to improve her chances of getting a job.[9] She would also use her initials G.B. to avoid revealing that she was a woman.[5]


Cinematographer credits:

Film Role in film Year of Film
Wonder Woman Cinematography 1974
Five Finger Discount Cinematography 1975
Fatso Cinematography 1980
Breaking Away Cinematography 1980
Highway to Heaven Director of photography 1985
There Were Times, Dear Cinematography 1987
Mulligan Stew Cinematography 1972-1981
ABC Afterschool Special Cinematography 1972-1997
Little House on the Prairie Cinematography 1974-1983
Trapper John, MD Cinematography 1979-1986
Father Murphy Cinematography 1981-1984
In the Heat of the Night Cinematography 1988-1994


On 20 August 2003, Brianne Murphy died suffering from a combination of lung cancer and a brain tumor, both of which she had been struggling with since April.[4] At the age of 70, in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico she died.[1]


Daytime Emmy Awards

Emmy Awards

Academy Award

Women in Film Crystal + Lucy Awards


  1. ^ a b c Brianne Murphy biography
  2. ^ North, Gary (22 August 2003). "Brianne "Bri" Murphy". Variety.
  3. ^ a b Wheeler, Winston Dixon. "Women Behind the Camera: Conversations with Camerawomen". ProQuest 223099679. Cite journal requires |journal= (help)
  4. ^ a b c d e "In memoriam". 2003. Missing or empty |url= (help)
  5. ^ a b Knight, Judson (1999). "Murphy, Brianne".
  6. ^ Nora, Lee (1986). "Voigtlander & Murphy on Highway to Heaven".
  7. ^ Dennis McLellan (27 August 2003). "Brianne Murphy, 70; Pioneering Woman Behind the Camera". Los Angeles Times.
  8. ^ AMPAS - Index of Motion Picture Credits Archived August 21, 2007, at the Wayback Machine
  9. ^ a b Reed, Christopher (2003). "Brianne Murphy".
  10. ^ a b "Archived Document". Archived from the original on 20 August 2011. Retrieved 9 May 2011.