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Obituary: Bill Carty 1908-2006

Bill Carty was one of Australia's first cinematographers.  He worked as a cameraman on The Term Of His Natural Life, spent many years with Cinesound and even spent time with Warners Bros in the US where he worked on prints of The Jazz Singer.  His real love and his most significant contribution to Australian cinema were documentaries and newsreels.  He started hs career working on newsreels and worked as a combat cameraman for Australia and America during WWII.

Anyway, it says it all in his obituary printed in The Sydney Morning Herald today.

May 25, 2006
Bill Carty, 1908-2006

WHEN Bill Carty was five years old, he was drawn to a light coming from the oval at the end of the street in which he lived in Paddington.

"I had just brushed my teeth and was ready for bed," he wrote in his book Flickers of History. "I waited for Mum to call me in. Suddenly a flickering light overflowed onto the road down the hill. It was irresistible to a five-year-old boy."

Young Bill ran to the end of the street to discover a silver screen showing a silent movie. "Most of the audience was in love with the stars," he said of that night. "I was in love with the medium." His life became inseparably linked to cinematography from that moment.

William Montague Carty was born in Paddington to Patrick and Daisy Carty. He made his first important career contact when he was six, sitting on the front step of the family's house and asking passers-by for cigarette cards - each packet carried a picture card of a sports star. Walter Sully, a newsreel cameraman, saved his cards for Bill.

Carty left school at 15 and, with Sully, chief cameraman for the Australasian Gazette, as his mentor, began his career by sweeping floors, burning waste film and delivering messages by tram. He shot his first newsreel in 1924, of a cricket match at Hampden Oval, now called Trumper Park after the great cricketer Victor Trumper. In 1927, he hand-cranked camera three on the silent film For the Term of his Natural Life.

Carty sought fame and fortune in New York the same year, returning four years later out of work and broke, but better for the experience. He had worked with Warner Bros, where one task was to print copies of the first sound film, The Jazz Singer, featuring Al Jolson. Back home, he rejoined Australasian Film Studios, which had become Cinesound Productions.

In 1935 he was distracted in church by an attractive young woman. The next time he saw her was at a dance, where he fell both down the stairs and for her. Bill Carty and Mary Margaret Murphy were married in 1935. They remained so for more than 70 years until his death.

Carty joined the Department of Information as a combat cameraman in 1941, covering some of the most dangerous battles in New Guinea, including Buna-Sanananda, Lae, Ramu Valley and the capture of Roosevelt Ridge. When the photographer Damian Parer was killed, Carty replaced him to cover the war for the Americans as representative of a newsreel pool, with clients such as Paramount News's which called itself "The Eyes and Ears of the World".

He covered campaigns in Borneo and the Phillippines and forged relationships with generals Douglas MacArthur and Robert Eichelberger. He recorded MacArthur's arrival in Japan and officially witnessed the signing of the peace document on the deck of USS Missouri.

Carty also loved shooting documentaries. Smith's Weekly said one documentary, Jungle Patrol, about eight Australian soldiers in New Guinea, ranked "with anything that the war has produced". The British Ministry of Information included it in a series of propaganda films shown in liberated European countries after the war.

Carty thought three things made a good cameraman: having a story in mind, trying to anticipate what the subject would do, and never relaxing on the job. Adhering to these rules brought him remarkable footage, such as when a co-defendant slapped General Hideki Tojo, the Japanese prime minister, on his shaven head during a recess at their war crimes trial in Tokyo.

At the end of the war, Paramount offered Carty the position of US bureau chief in Japan for the five major newsreel companies in the US. His wife and three children joined him in 1947. A fourth child was born there.

When the family returned to Australia in 1950 he worked for newspapers. One of his photographs was of Evdokia Petrov, the Russian envoy who defected to Australia with her husband - one shoe missing, being forced onto a plane by two KGB operatives.

Carty became chief cameraman for Channel Seven when television was introduced in 1956, but two years later returned to Cinesound and to what he liked best: making documentaries.

As editor-in-chief, he produced two colour newsreels on Queen Elizabeth's visit to Australia in 1963, with two prints presented to her. Carty also produced the last Cinesound newsreel. The Eighth Wonder of the World, about the Sydney Opera House, was probably his best.

Most of his war newsreels are preserved in the Australian War Memorial and National Film and Sound Archive in Canberra, and in war archives in Washington DC.

Carty was generous with his time, his talent and donations, particularly to struggling religious orders and schools, for which he took photos. A founding member and a president of the War Correspondents Association, he marched on Anzac Day until he could no longer make the distance.

He retired from the industry in 1973 after 50 years, before driving a taxi for 15 years until he was 80. He wrote his memoir, Flickers of History, in 1999.

He is survived by Mary, three children, nine grandchildren and one great-granddaughter.

Jim Carty and Madeleine Gallagher


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