John Bailey has passed away at the age of 81. His family confirmed the news to the Academy. 

"It is with deep sadness I share with you that my best friend and husband, John Bailey, passed away peacefully in his sleep early this morning. During John’s illness, we reminisced how we met 60 years ago and were married for 51 of those years. We shared a wonderful life of adventure in film and made many long-lasting friendships along the way. John will forever live in my heart," said his wife Carol Littleton, an Oscar-nominated film editor and former Academy governor. 

"All of us at the Academy are deeply saddened to learn of John’s passing," said Academy CEO Bill Kramer and Academy President Janet Yang. "John was a passionately engaged member of the Academy and the film community. He served as our President and as an Academy governor for many years and played a leadership role on the Cinematographers Branch. His impact and contributions to the film community will forever be remembered. Our thoughts and support are with Carol at this time."

Bailey was elected President of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences in 2017, at which time he became the first cinematographer to hold the position. He was succeeded by casting director David Rubin in 2019. 

Carol Littleton and John Bailey at the 90th Oscars. Photo: Getty Images/Frazer Harrison

Bailey was born on Aug. 10, 1942 in Moberly, Missouri, and raised in California. He earned a bachelor's degree from Loyola University in Los Angeles in 1964, and four years later, he earned a graduate degree from USC School of Cinematic Arts. 

In the 1970s, Bailey worked as a camera operator, including on Terrence Malick's drama Days of Heaven (1978), which won an Oscar for Best Cinematography.

Bailey was the cinematographer for Robert Redford's Best Picture winner, Ordinary People (1980), as well as Paul Schrader's neo-noir American Gigolo (1980), Lawrence Kasdan's dramedy The Big Chill (1983), Harold Ramis' romantic comedy Groundhog Day (1993), Wolfgang Petersen's thriller In the Line of Fire (1993), and James L. Brooks' dramedy As Good as It Gets (1997), among many others.  

Bailey was the recipient of the Lifetime Achievement Award by the American Society of Cinematographers in 2015. He also received a Lifetime Achievement Award at the 27th edition of the EnergaCAMERIMAGE Film Festival in Poland. He was a member of the American Society of Cinematographers since 1985.

Bailey is survived by his wife.


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