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The Encyclopedia of Oklahoma History and Culture


Hollywood cinematographer Lucien Keith Ballard was born on May 6, 1904, to Edward and Ada Ballard in Miami, Oklahoma. Ada Ballard was Cherokee, and Lucien Ballard is listed in the Dawes Rolls as Cherokee by blood. His birth year, often listed as 1908, is in fact 1904 according to Social Security, federal, and state records. He attended the Miami schools and then briefly the University of Oklahoma and the University of Pennsylvania before moving to China and then to California.

While working in the lumber industry, he became involved with people in Hollywood and got a job at Paramount Studios. First as a lighting assistant and then as a film cutter and an assistant cameraman for Josef von Sternberg, he learned the craft of photographing motion pictures. Within a decade he had moved to Twentieth Century–Fox as its chief cameraman. Among Ballard's credits from 1935 to 1978 are a variety of movies genres, from Three Stooge comedies to Western epics to film noir. He worked for important directors/producers, including Howard Hughes (The Outlaw, 1943), Stanley Kubrick (The Killing, 1956), Walt Disney (The Parent Trap, 1961), Sam Peckinpah (Ride the High Country, 1962, The Wild Bunch, 1969, and The Getaway, 1972, from the James Thompson novel), Henry Hathaway (True Grit,1969), and Blake Edwards (The Party, 1968). For Edwards's The Caretakers (1963), the industry acknowledged Ballard's pioneering work in developing the wide-screen medium by nominating him for an Academy Award for Best Cinematography.

Filming The Lodger (1943–44), he met actor Merle Oberon; they married in 1945. When an automobile accident scarred her face, he designed a special key light, the Obie, a side-lighting effect still in use. She was his second wife; after their 1949 divorce he married world traveler and photographer Inez Pokorny, the first woman to explore the Amazon River from the Atlantic to the Pacific.

Lucien Ballard shot his final film in 1985. On October 1, 1988, he died after a car wreck in Rancho Mirage, California.

Dianna Everett


"Lucien Ballard," Vertical File, Research Division, Oklahoma Historical Society, Oklahoma City.

Miami (Oklahoma) Daily News Record, 1 October 1953.

Leonard Maltin, Spencer Green, and Luke Sader, Leonard Maltin's Movie Encyclopedia (New York: Penguin Books, 1994).

Larry O'Dell, "The Men and Women Behind the Scenes," in Oklahoma @ the Movies, comp. Larry O'Dell (Oklahoma City: Oklahoma Historical Society, 2012).


The following (as per The Chicago Manual of Style, 17th edition) is the preferred citation for articles:
Dianna Everett, “Ballard, Lucien Keith,” The Encyclopedia of Oklahoma History and Culture, https://www.okhistory.org/publications/enc/entry?entry=BA043.

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