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Subject: Cinematographer Robert F. Liu


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Dies at 94
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Date Posted: Wednesday, January 13, 11:10:25am

In Memoriam: Robert F. Liu, ASC (1926-2021)
January 12, 2021 ASC Staff

A two-time Emmy nominee, the Chinese immigrant excelled in a difficult profession, due to diligence and inspiration from mentors, including James Wong Howe, ASC and Robert Wise.

Director of photography Robert F. Liu, ASC forged a cross-cultural career at a time when such international experiences were rare.

He died at the age of 94 on January 11, 2021.

When Liu was a young man, his talent was recognized by Chinese film pioneer Chuang Kuo Chuen, and he found Stateside mentors in director Robert Wise and cinematographer James Wong Howe, ASC. Liu went on to earn Emmy nominations for his work on the hit series Lou Grant and Family Ties.

Liu was born in Shanghai on May 1, 1926. He had six brothers and one sister. His father, who had been educated in the United States on a YMCA scholarship, worked as senior clerk at Anderson Clayton, an American firm with offices in Shanghai. Young Bobby and one of his brothers shared an early interest in chemistry, and together they turned the family home into a veritable laboratory, making everything from batteries and soap to enlarging paper.

As a child, Liu enjoyed the exploits of Tom Mix and other legends of the silent cinema. By the time he reached high school, he had begun experimenting with his brother’s 8mm Kodak camera. “I was fascinated with moving pictures, but I never thought I would end up in the business,” he told AC contributor David Heuring in 2009 when he was honored with the ASC Career Achievement in Television Award. “I was very fortunate.”

Inspired by Walter Pidgeon’s portrayal of a U.S. ambassador to Mexico in Holiday in Mexico (1946), Liu set his sights on a career in diplomacy, and he earned a bachelor’s degree in political science. Upon graduating, however, he realized that such a career did not align with his principles. “The saying was, ‘An ambassador is an honest man sent abroad to tell lies,’” he noted. “When I heard that, I decided it wasn’t for me.”

In 1949, Liu made his way to Hong Kong and took his first steps toward a career in filmmaking. A friend brought him to Great Wall Studio, where he found work as a boom operator in the sound department. Great Wall was also home to Chuang Kuo Chuen, who financed, wrote, directed and shot features, and in 1951, when Chuang was offered a chance to be the director of photography on a film in Taiwan, Liu worked as his assistant. The two remained close, and in 1957, Liu married Chuang’s daughter, Ivy.

Read more at: https://theasc.com/news/in-memoriam-robert-f-liu-asc?fbclid=IwAR3spC3bXrcxDLt1ts7uK0xQTZqu6asdM3nnatB5PjWUTJZNKp0EIN8fGrk

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