Famed Hollywood cinematographer and one-time racing enthusiast Haskell Wexler has died at the age of 93. Wexler is best known for a long list of movies that benefited from his talent, with perhaps the best known being One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, In the Heat of the Night, Medium Cool, The Conversation, Bound for Glory and Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? — the latter two earning him Oscars from the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. He was also presented with the International Cinematographer’s Guild’s Lifetime Achievement Award in 1993.
After discovering — during a stint at Carroll Shelby’s Racing School — that he did not possess the necessary talent to become a racing driver himself, Wexler satisfied his urge for speed by forming a racing company to field cars for other drivers. His stable included, at various points, a Lola T70, a Ferrari 275 LM and a trio of Max Balchowsky-built Old Yellers, with drivers such as Ronnie Bucknum, Bob Drake, Bill Krause and Davey Jordan in their cockpits. The exercise was short-lived, however, as the enterprise soon fell afoul of the Internal Revenue Service.
Although his cinematography career tended to focus on big-budget work for major studios, Wexler was a lifelong liberal activist who devoted much of his energy to documenting wars, politics and the lives of the unfortunate among us, with Medium Cool being one such film. Upon receiving his first Oscar, for his work on Virginia Woolf, his acceptance speech comprised just a dozen words: “I hope we can use our art for peace and for love. Thanks.”
To his family and many friends in both industries, Vintage Racecar extends its sincerest condolences.