Burnett Guffey, A.S.C.
Guffey behind the camera
George Burnett Guffey

(1905-05-26)May 26, 1905
DiedMay 30, 1983(1983-05-30) (aged 78)
Other namesBurney
Board member ofA.S.C. President (1957–1958)
SpouseLucille A. Lyon Guffey (m.1927)
ChildrenBetty Jane Guffey Wickstrom
ParentDr George Washington Guffey Josephine Loubelle “Josie” Fleming Guffey
RelativesRoy Fleming Guffey

Pvt James Guffey Annie Guffey Ferguson Ollie May Guffey Duckett

Ernest William Guffey
AwardsBest Black-and-White Cinematography
1954 From Here to Eternity
Best Cinematography
1968 Bonnie and Clyde

Burnett Guffey, A.S.C. (May 26, 1905 – May 30, 1983) was an American cinematographer.[1]

He won two Academy Awards: From Here to Eternity (1953) and Bonnie and Clyde (1967).

Burnett Guffey, who was born on May 26, 1905 in Del Rio, Tennessee, went to school in Etowah, Tennessee. He began working as a messenger boy at a bank, then transitioned to a camera assistant at Fox in 1923. In the same year, he released his debut film "The Courtship of Myles Standish". John Ford chose him for the second unit cinematography of the epic film "The Iron Horse" the next year. He spent the decade working for Famous Players-Lasky, Fox, and various other studios.

Between 1935 and 1944, Guffey worked as a cinematographer on various well-known movies such as "Clive of India," "The Informer," "You Only Live Once," "Foreign Correspondent," "Seven Sinners," "That Hamilton Woman," and "Cover Girl."

Guffey first worked as a cinematographer in 1944 on the film "Sailor's Holiday." He became well-known for his clear visual style and excellent arrangement of shots, especially in film noir, having contributed to twenty of these films throughout his professional life.

During the span of 1944 to 1953, Guffey captured important movies like "My Name Is Julia Ross," "Framed," "Knock on Any Door," "The Reckless Moment," "All the King’s Men," "In a Lonely Place," "The Sniper," and "From Here to Eternity," earning his initial Oscar in his three decades career.

After winning an Oscar, Guffey went on to work on well-known movies such as Lang’s "Human Desire," Don Siegel’s "Private Hell 36," Lewis Seiler’s "The Bamboo Prison," Rudolph Maté’s "The Violent Men," Phil Karlson’s "Tight Spot," George Sherman’s "Count Three."

Between 1957 and 1962, Guffey worked on movies like Jack Garfein’s "The Strange One," Karlson’s "The Brothers Rico," Gerd Oswald’s "Screaming Mimi," Peter Glenville’s "Me and the Colonel," Paul Wendkos’ "Gidget," Rossen’s "They Came to Cordura," Karlson’s "Hell to Eternity," and John Frankenheimer’s "Birdman of Alcatraz," resulting in a third Oscar nomination for him.

He received his fourth Oscar nomination for his work on Bryan Forbes' 1965 film "King Rat" and his fifth nomination, along with his second Oscar, for Arthur Penn's 1967 film "Bonnie and Clyde."

Guffey's final notable movie was the 1970 film "The Great White Hope," directed by Martin Ritt. The next year, "The Steagle" was his last movie.

Burnett Guffey died on May 30, 1983, at the age of 78.


While still a teenager, the future Academy Award-winning cinematographer began as a camera assistant in 1923 on John Ford's 1924 western saga The Iron Horse. He was then hired by the Famous Players–Lasky studios in 1927, became a camera operator in 1928 and worked there until 1943. Guffey was hired as a Director of Photography by Columbia Pictures in 1944.[2][3] After that, he worked as freelance. [4]

In 1957–58, he served as president of the American Society of Cinematographers (A.S.C.) for a year, and had been a long-standing member.

According to film critic Spencer Selby, Guffey was a prolific film noir cinematographer, shooting 20 of them, including In a Lonely Place (1950).[5][6]


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Throughout his career, Burnett Guffey's cinematographic style experienced a notable transformation, demonstrating his versatility and expertise in various genres and techniques. At first, Guffey was praised for his contributions to film noir, a style recognized for its intense visual depth, dark imagery, and artistic flair. Movies like "My Name is Julia Ross," "In a Lonely Place," and "The Sniper" showcase his early style, in which he used shadows and lighting to craft suspenseful, atmospheric moods that complemented the story. Guffey strongly believes in the importance of "keeping the lighting simple", and this approach is best demonstrated in his photographs of the "Birdman of Alcatraz". Throughout his career, Guffey showed his ability to think creatively outside of the boundaries of noir's strong visual style. His later projects, often described as having a "flat style" of cinematography, represented a shift from his previous methods. This aesthetic was characterized by its simple, realistic cinematography, emphasizing simplicity and minimalism to capture the scene's core without elaborate shadows and lighting. This change showcases not only his technical expertise but also his artistic responsiveness to the storytelling requirements of each movie.

The focus during the filming of Bonnie and Clyde was on achieving "realism," and to achieve that visual effect in color on screen, veteran cinematographer Burnett Guffey, ASC, was chosen as Director of Photography. He successfully achieved a gritty semi-documentary style in his impressive black-and-white cinematography of the Academy-nominated King Rat last year, but now he is venturing into creating a similar effect in color for the first time, which presents a commendable challenge. "Guffey noted that Arthur Penn, the director, aimed for his film to have a genuine and non-theatrical feel." Warren Beatty, the star of the film, who was also the producer, expressed his perspective. They aimed to capture stark realism on film. Nothing was supposed to be attractive. All aspects of the situation could be described as severe, and that was consistent throughout the entire scenario. This partnership among Guffey, Penn, and Beatty produced a visually stunning movie that truly captured the essence of its subject matter.

Guffey's skill in mastering both highly stylized and simple cinematographic styles showcases why he is considered a huge figure in the field of cinematography. His ability to excel in two areas enabled him to create films that were visually engaging and emotionally impactful, ensuring that the visuals enhanced the story.

Guffey's long-lasting success in Hollywood cinematography includes his ability to adapt his style to various genres. It highlights his significant influence on the evolution of film as an artistic medium, showing that successful cinematography involves more than just following genre conventions but also includes innovating and adjusting to improve cinematic narrative.







Articles written by Guffey

"The Photography of King Rat," in American Cinematographer (Hollywood), December 1965.

Articles written on Guffey

Gavin, Arthur, on They Came to Cordura in American Cinematographer (Hollywood), March 1959.

Mitchell, George J., on Hell to Eternity, in American Cinematographer (Hollywood), July 1960.

Lightman, Herb A., on Birdman of Alcatraz, in American Cinematographer (Hollywood), June 1962.

On Bonnie and Clyde, in American Cinematographer (Hollywood), April 1967.

Monthly Film Bulletin (London), April 1971; August 1971; March 1972; April 1972.

Film Comment (New York), Summer 1972.

Focus on Film (London), no. 13, 1973.

Obituary in Variety (New York), 8 June 1983.

Screen International (London), 13–20 August 1983.

Obituary in American Cinematographer (Hollywood), November 1983.


  1. ^ Burnett Guffey at IMDb.
  2. ^ Burnett Guffey at AllMovie.
  3. ^ * Steeman, Albert. Internet Encyclopedia of Cinematographers, "Burnett Guffey page," Rotterdam, The Netherlands, 2007. Last accessed: January 2, 2008.
  4. ^ "Guffey, Burnett". encyclopedia.com. Retrieved 2024-04-24.
  5. ^ Selby, Spencer. Dark City: The Film Noir, page 239, 1984. Jefferson, NC: McFarland & Company, Inc., Publishers.
  6. ^ American Society of Cinematographers Archived July 15, 2007, at the Wayback Machine. "Lonely America: The Noir Cinematography of Burnett Guffey ASC," 2007. Last accessed: January 2, 2007.
  7. ^ "Guffey, Burnett". encyclopedia.com. Retrieved 2024-04-24.