In Memoriam: Bobby Byrne, ASC (1932-2017)

We’re sorry to report that ASC member died on March 9, 2017 at the age of 85. His credits included such hits as Smokey and the Bandit, Sixteen Candles and Bull Durham.

David E. Williams

Bobby Byrne, ASC. Photo by Owen Roizman, ASC

We’re sorry to report that ASC member Robert “Bobby” Byrne died on March 9, 2017 at the age of 85.

Byrne was born in 1932 in Jamaica, Queens, New York, and got his start in the motion picture industry as an animation cameraman. After becoming a 1st AC, he worked for Conrad Hall, ASC on the epic western The Professionals and William A. Fraker, ASC the musical Paint Your Wagon. He went on to work as an assistant on 10 more feature projects before Fraker promoted Byrne to become his camera operator on his directorial debut, Monte Walsh, in 1970, after which he served behind the camera on 22 more projects, including Alex in Wonderland, The King of Marvin Gardens, What’s Up Doc, For Pete’s Sake, Day of the Dolphin, Paper Moon, The Yakuza, Nickelodeon, At Long Last Love, Baby Blue Marine and New York, New York.

From the back are William A. Fraker, ASC, operator David M. Walsh and 1st AC Bobby Byrne on location in Oregon in 1968, shooting the musical Paint Your Wagon.

Byrne became a director of photography in 1976, shooting features with such directors as Paul Schrader, Hal Needham, John Hughes, Burt Reynolds and Ron Shelton. A few of his credits include Smokey and the Bandit, Blue Collar, The End, Sixteen Candles, Paternity, Going Berserk, The Lemon Sisters, This is My Life, Bull Durham and Stealing Home.

Smokey and the Bandit (1977), directed by Hal Needham.

His extensive television credits include such series as A.U.S.A., Titus, The Fighting Fitzgeralds and Happy Family, but he is perhaps best known for his tenure on the hit comedy Mad About You, shooting 92 episodes of the long-running show.

Byrne also had additional photography credits on more than a dozen other features, including Inside Moves, The Last Waltz, Howard the Duck, Breathless, The Rose, The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas, Pennies From Heaven and The Legend of the Lone Ranger. He also photographed more than 150 commercials and some 40 music videos for such top artists as Donna Summer, Lionel Ritchie, Billy Idol and Neil Young.

Sixteen Candles (1984), directed by John Hughes.

Byrne was invited to join the ASC in 1994, after more than 30 years of working experience. He was sponsored for membership by Society members Richard C. Glouner, Don Birnkrant and Robert M. Stevens.

In his letter of recommendation to the ASC Membership Committee, Stevens wrote about Byrne: I don’t know how we could have overlooked this man for so many years. Surely he is well overdue to be invited into this esteemed organization. Unlike many prospective members in the past, he didn’t ask any of us to sponsor him. I actually asked him if he would like to be a member. Knowing the man for as long as I have in this business, it’s hard to believe that he hadn’t been invited long ago.

Bull Durham (1996), directed by Ron Shelton.

After retiring in 2006, Byrne was able to spend more time being involved in ASC events, and was very active as the co-chair of the Golf Committee.

Gathered at the Clubhouse in Hollywood was the all-star camera crew from action-packed western The Professionals (1966): 1st AC Bobby Byrne, operator William A. Fraker, cinematographer Conrad L. Hall and operator Charles Rosher Jr. All became ASC members, as did the other AC on the show, Jordan Cronenweth.

In addition to his fine work as a cinematographer, Byrne is survived by his wife Dorothy, his daughters Julie and Diane and three grandchildren.

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