John A. Alonzo , ASC (June 12, 1934 – March 13, 2001) was an American cinematographer, television director, and actor    known for his incredibly diverse body of work in both film and television.
Alonzo pioneered handheld work, lighting techniques and HD video development during his career. He will probably be remembered mainly for Chinatown (1974) and Scarface (1983), the former for which he was nominated for both a BAFTA and an Academy Award. In addition, he was the recipient of a Primetime Emmy for his work on the 2000 CBS television adaptation of Fail Safe.
Alonzo was the first American cinematographer of Mexican-American and Latino heritage to become a member of the Cinematographer's Union in Los Angeles, as well as the first to be inducted into the ASC.
Alonzo's career began as part of the clean-up crew at television station WFAA in Dallas. However, within a short time he had made himself indispensable, not only building sets, hanging lights and moving cameras, but also directing cooking and children's shows. Eventually he and actor Hank Williamson created a popular comedy duo: Alonzo became the voice and puppeteer of the irreverent “Señor Turtle,” who with Williamson as his sidekick, introduced movies and cartoons. In 1956, the show was picked up by station KHJ in Hollywood, where it lasted only 26 weeks. So Alonzo worked for a time as a still photographer, and as an actor, with appearances in several well-known shows such as Twilight Zone (Season 2 – Episode 12 in Dust as Luis Gallegos, Combat , 77 Sunset Strip and The Alfred Hitchcock Hour."
A seminal moment came during the shooting of The Magnificent Seven , in which Alonzo had a small role, when he met the cinematographer Charles Lang. This inspiring encounter, as well as the chance to briefly collaborate with James Wong Howe a few years later, finally gave Alonzo the impetus to devote his life to cinematography. By the mid-'60s, he was photographing many documentaries for National Geographic and the David L. Wolper Company, and greatly influencing the innovative "Look" of the New Hollywood that became so powerful in the late '60s and early '70s.
His uncomplicated and minimalistic style, combined with his first-hand knowledge of acting, made him one of the most in-demand directors of photography in Hollywood. In addition, he was not only one of the best "hand-held cameramen in Hollywood, but also a pioneer of high-def digital cinematography. In 1993/94 he shot (for NBC) the first HD movie in the history of American television, World War II: When Lions Roared .
John A. Alonzo died in 2001 after a long illness, at home in Brentwood, California. Perhaps his best known student is two-time Oscar winner John Toll, who began his career as Alonzo's assistant on films like Black Sunday , Norma Rae , Tom Horn and Scarface .
In 2007, director Axel Schill helmed a feature documentary about Alonzo, The Man Who Shot Chinatown - The Life & Work of John A. Alonzo.
|Harold and Maude|
|1972||Get to Know Your Rabbit|
|Lady Sings the Blues|
|Pete 'n' Tillie|
|The Naked Ape|
|1974||Chinatown|| Replaced Stanley Cortez |
Nominated for Academy Award for Best Cinematography
Nominated for BAFTA Award for Best Cinematography
|1975||Once Is Not Enough|
|Farewell, My Lovely|
|1976||I Will, I Will... for Now|
|The Bad News Bears|
|Which Way Is Up?|
|Close Encounters of the Third Kind|| Additional Photography |
With Vilmos Zsigmond
|The Cheap Detective|
|Zorro, The Gay Blade|
|1984||Terror in the Aisles||Documentary|
|1985||Out of Control|
|1986||Nothing in Common|
|Jo Jo Dancer, Your Life Is Calling|
|1993||The Meteor Man|
|Star Trek Generations|
|1995||The Grass Harp|
|1998||Letters from a Killer|
|2001||The Prime Gig|
|2002||Deuces Wild||Final film before death in 2001|
|1967-1969||National Geographic Specials||4 episodes|
|1968||The Undersea World of Jacques Cousteau||1 episode|
|1973||Guess Who's Sleeping in My Bed?||Television film|
|1976||Look What's Happened to Rosemary's Baby||Television film|
|1979||Champions: A Love Story||Television film|
|1979||Portrait of a Stripper||Television film|
|1980||Blinded by the Light||Television film|
|1982||The Kid From Nowhere||Television film|
|1988||Roots: The Gift||Television film|
|1994||World War II: When Lions Roared|| Miniseries; |
|2000||Fail Safe||Television film|
- The Man Who Shot Chinatown - The Life & Work of John A. Alonzo (2007)
- Guns For Hire: The Making of the Magnificent Seven (2000)
- The Making of Scarface (1998)
- Visions of Light (1992)
Awards and nominations
Primetime Emmy Awards
- Won: Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Light Direction ; Fail Safe (2000)
- Nominated: Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Cinematography for a Limited Series or Movie ; World War: When Lions Roared (1994)
- Nominated Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Cinematography for a Limited Series or Movie ; Lansky (1999)
- Nominated: Academy Award for Best Live Action Short Film ; The Legend of Jimmy Blue Eyes (1964)
- Nominated: Academy Award for Best Cinematography ; Chinatown (1975)