Haskell Wexler, the director of the cult classic Medium Cool and one of Hollywood’s most revered cinematographers, passed away Sunday at the age of 93. The director of photographer’s son Jeff Wexler confirmed his father’s death, writing on his official website, “It is with great sadness that I have to report that my father, Haskell Wexler, has died. Pop died peacefully in his sleep, Sunday, December 27th, 2015. Accepting the Academy Award in 1967, Pop said: ‘I hope we can use our art for peace and for love.’ An amazing life has ended but his lifelong commitment to fight the good fight, for peace, for all humanity, will carry on.”
Wexler began his career behind the camera helming documentaries before breaking into feature films as a cinematographer. In 1969, he served as writer, director and director of photography on Medium Cool, an influential, Cinéma vérité-style film set around the violence at the 1968 Democratic convention in Chicago. The film featured music by Frank Zappa, Love and a score by Paul Butterfield Blues Band guitarist Mike Bloomfield, who was Wexler’s cousin. In 2003, the Library of Congress added Medium Cool to its national film registry.
Wexler’s cinematography work also featured 1967’s In the Heat of the Night, 1968’s The Thomas Crown Affair, 1973’s One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, 1978’s Days of Heaven (a split credit with Néstor Almendros) and 1988’s Colors. Wexler served as cinematographer on the all-star No Nukes concert at New York’s Madison Square Garden in September 1979; Bruce Springsteen’s performance at the show as captured by Wexler’s camera resulted in a pair of music videos, “Thunder Road” and “The River,” the latter of which debuted at the No Nukes concerts.
Over his career, Wexler was nominated for five Oscars in the cinematography category and won a pair, first for 1967’s Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? (the last ever recipient of the Best Cinematography, Black-and-White category) and then 1976’s Woody Guthrie biopic Bound for Glory. He also received a nomination for his work on One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest. In 1996, Wexler was given a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, a first for a cinematographer.
In March, a 93-year-old Wexler documented Neil Young’s recording sessions for what would eventually become the rocker’s The Monsanto Years: