In Memoriam: Roland “Ozzie” Smith (1938­–2019)

The son of Harkness Smith, ASC, the Emmy and ASC Award-winning cinematographer was 81.

David E. Williams

The son of Harkness Smith, ASC, the Emmy and ASC Award-winning cinematographer was 81.
At top, Smith is visited on the set by his son Martin, who followed his father into the business.

Born on March 3, 1938, Roland “Ozzie” Smith, ASC had a career behind the camera that spanned more than three decades and earned him numerous honors, including an ASC Award and Emmy Award. 

As the son of ASC member Harkness Smith (Dr. Kildare, The Twilight Zone), Ozzie began his career in the camera department at MGM. There, he gained a number of top-notch mentors, including ASC greats George Folsey, Karl Freund, James Wong Howe and Robert Surtees. Leveraging the knowledge and experience they shared, Smith worked his way up to director of photography. 

Smith on the set of the series Dr. Quinn, Medicine Woman — of which he shot almost every episode.

Throughout his illustrious career, Smith photographed features, TV movies, documentaries and shorts, but the bulk of his camerawork was in television. His television credits include the series Flaming Road, Cover Up, Masquerade, Wildside, Hunter, Alien Nation and Little Men, as well as the TV movies Side by Side: The True Story of the Osmond Family, Mom’s on Strike, Submerged, Blackout, Murder in the Mirror, The Dream Teamand The Absolute Truth, among many others. 

His feature work includes Savage Land, Street Justice, The New Adventures of Pippi Longstocking and Keaton’s Cop.

Perhaps Smith’s best-known work was the television series Dr. Quinn, Medicine Woman (1993-’98), of which he photographed nearly all of its 149 episodes. The series was a period drama and Western set the 1860s, and it was shot on 16mm film. The cinematographer noted that the series’ look of warm tones, rich blacks and color saturation was inspired by the naturalistic look of McCabe and Mrs. Miller, shot by Vilmos Zsigmond, ASC, HSC. 

Smith checks his light while shooting Dr. Quinn, starring Jane Seymour (center).

For his work on the series, Smith was awarded the 1994 ASC Award for Outstanding Achievement in Cinematography in a Regular Series as well as the Emmy for Outstanding Individual Achievement in Cinematography for a Series. His work on Dr. Quinn was also recognized in 1995 with an additional Emmy nomination, and he received another nomination in 1999 — this time in the Miniseries or Movie category — for his work on the telefilm Dr. Quinn, Medicine Woman: The Movie.

Smith accepts his 1994 ASC Award nomination certificate from Victor J. Kemper, ASC at the Clubhouse. At center is Awards committee co-chair Bud Stone. He would go on to win the award.

Of his work on the series and shooting 16mm, Smith said, “It’s the biggest challenge I’ve faced as a cinematographer — getting the saturation, the depth, and the sharpness I require all the way to the edges of the 16mm frame. In shooting 16mm, I’m putting so much information on a tiny negative that whatever happens in front of the negative makes a huge difference.” 

Smith takes the Emmy gold in 1994.

Smith was invited to join the ASC in 1999. He was recommended for membership by Society members Kenneth Peach, William Spencer and Bradley Six. 

He is survived by his wife, Marilyn, and sons Martin, who is a specialty director of photography and camera operator, and James. 

Suspended, Smith operates a complex handheld shot.

The ASC thanks Smith’s niece, Stephanie Lundquist, for helping to maintain this story’s accuracy.

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