An Interview with Jack Cardiff

Image credits to Cardiff Family via Wikipedia.

“Hello Miss Burnstock. 

By some ironic fate you have chosen a subject, the film I directed: 

“Scent of Mystery”, which is the one film I want to erase from my memory. 

The reason for this is that, through no fault of my own, the film was a complete disaster….”

The words my hero, the great cinematographer and director Jack Cardiff, sent to me on a cassette tape in 1986. In response to questions I sent him via snail mail while I was studying at the Australian Film, TV and Radio School (AFTRS).

This miracle, planted the seed for a dream, now realised: Fifty-five years after its original scented release, the film lived to smell another day!  At the National Science and Media Museum in the UK, for the Danish Film Institute in Copenhagen and smelling up the original Cinerama Dome for the TCM Classic Film Festival in Hollywood!

Jack Cardiff’s take on the original ‘Stinker’, the first and last film to be presented in Smell-O-Vision! is that the smells were bad. But this is only one perspective, part of a detective story now told in the documentary In Glorious Smell-O-Vision! the true story of the Godfather of Smell-O-Vision! 

For those unlucky enough to not be familiar with his work, Jack Cardiff had an incredible career spanning ninety years and over a hundred films, both as director and Oscar-winning cinematographer. Including one of my favourite films, Black Narcissus (1947), the title referring to the perfume Narcisse noir and its effects on others in the film.

Jack Cardiff was cinematographer on two other Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger’s films, A Matter of Life and Death (1946), and The Red Shoes (1948). He shot panoramic scenes for Albert Lewin’s Pandora and the Flying Dutchman (1951) in Spain, The African Queen (1951) in the Belgian Congo and The Barefoot Contessa (1954). Another notable film, which Cardiff both directed and photographed, The Girl on a Motorcycle (1968), starred Marianne Faithfull.

Known as “the man who makes women look beautiful” Cardiff worked with Ava Gardner, Audrey Hepburn and Anita Ekberg (War and Peace) and Marilyn Monroe (The Prince and the Showgirl), as well as Elizabeth Taylor in Scent of Mystery.

Despite his reservations about his experience with Scent of Mystery, Jack Cardiff had experienced the power of scent for himself:

“I think one of the reasons I was interested in smells in films was that I had been to a show, a theatre show in London and they had had a kind of Turkish scene or Eastern scene with a Harem or something like that, and over the stage effects they’d released a lot of incense, and it had a powerful effect on me…”

Despite the commercial failure of Scent of Mystery and Smell-O-Vision!, Cardiff  expressed his ongoing belief in the potential of cinema with scent:

Frankly I think it has a future today.  I think sooner or later someone will get around to doing it properly…

When it will come I don’t know. 

I hope it will come soon because I would be interested in doing it again”

Jack Cardiff

Film Director & Cinematographer

(1914 – 2009)

You can listen to the complete audio interview here.

14 thoughts on “An Interview With Jack Cardiff”

  1. You actually make it seem so easy with your presentation but I
    find this topic to be really something which I think I
    would never understand. It seems too complex and very broad for me.
    I’m looking forward for your next post,
    I will try to get the hang of it!

  2. Can I simply say what a relief to find somebody who genuinely understands what
    they are discussing over the internet. You actually know how to bring a problem to light and make it important.
    More and more people ought to read this and understand this side of your story.
    I can’t believe you are not more popular since you most certainly
    have the gift.

  3. Pretty section of content. I just stumbled upon your weblog and in accession capital
    to assert that I acquire actually enjoyed account your blog posts.
    Any way I will be subscribing to your feeds and even I achievement you access consistently

  4. Hey there! I realize this is kind of off-topic however I needed to ask.
    Does running a well-established website such as yours require a large amount
    of work? I am completely new to operating a blog however I do
    write in my diary on a daily basis. I’d like to start a blog so I will
    be able to share my own experience and views online.
    Please let me know if you have any kind of suggestions or tips for brand
    new aspiring blog owners. Appreciate it!

  5. What i do not understood is in reality how you’re not actually a
    lot more smartly-favored than you may be now. You are so intelligent.
    You realize thus considerably in the case of this matter,
    made me in my view consider it from so many numerous angles.
    Its like men and women are not fascinated except it’s one thing to accomplish with Woman gaga!
    Your own stuffs great. Always maintain it up!

  6. Excellent blog here! Additionally your site so much up very fast!
    What host are you the use of? Can I am getting your affiliate hyperlink for
    your host? I want my web site loaded up as fast as
    yours lol

  7. I’m not sure exactly why but this site is loading extremely slow for me.
    Is anyone else having this problem or is it a issue on my end?
    I’ll check back later on and see if the problem still exists.

  8. Hi would you mind letting me know which webhost you’re utilizing?
    I’ve loaded your blog in 3 different web browsers and I must say this blog loads
    a lot quicker then most. Can you suggest a good internet
    hosting provider at a reasonable price? Thanks a lot, I appreciate it!

  9. Interesting blog! Is your theme custom made or did
    you download it from somewhere? A design like yours with a few simple adjustements
    would really make my blog jump out. Please let me know where you got your design. Bless

  10. Hello There. I found your blog using msn. This is a really well
    written article. I’ll be sure to bookmark it and return to read
    more of your useful information. Thanks for the post.
    I will certainly comeback.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *