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    John Bailey: Cinematographer and Former Academy President, Passes Away at 81

    John Bailey, a highly skilled cinematographer who served as the president of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences from 2017 to 2019, passed away on Friday at the age of 81. The Academy announced his death, providing no details regarding the location or cause.

    Throughout his career as a cinematographer, Mr. Bailey collaborated with renowned directors such as Paul Schrader, contributing to well-known films like “Groundhog Day” (1993) and “The Big Chill” (1983).

    Before leading the academy, Mr. Bailey had not occupied a prominent public role and never received an Oscar nomination himself, despite his contributions to award-winning projects. In a 2020 interview with American Cinematographer, he mentioned his inclination to make his work “invisible.”

    When he was announced as the academy president in August 2017, the industry expressed surprise, but Mr. Bailey quickly found himself in the spotlight. Following investigations by The New York Times and The New Yorker revealing allegations of sexual harassment against Harvey Weinstein, the academy voted to expel him, marking only the second known expulsion in its history.

    In response to criticisms, Mr. Bailey emphasized the academy’s need for transformation and expressed support for the decision. However, he soon became the subject of a sexual harassment accusation himself, reported by Variety. The academy, after initially receiving three complaints, later confirmed only one accusation, ultimately finding no merit.

    Mr. Bailey’s tenure saw further challenges, including a decline in ratings for the 2018 Oscars telecast and controversy surrounding the 2019 ceremony’s host, Kevin Hart. Mr. Bailey proposed changes to maintain viewer interest, such as a “popular film” category and shorter award announcements during commercial breaks, but these were met with strong opposition and were abandoned.

    Despite the challenges, Mr. Bailey’s unexpected involvement in cultural conflicts and power struggles marked a unique chapter in his career. Born on August 10, 1942, in Moberly, Mo., he pursued a career in cinematography, influenced by Néstor Almendros’s work on “Days of Heaven.” He collaborated with directors like Paul Schrader, Robert Redford, Michael Apted, and Ken Kwapis.

    Mr. Bailey, surviving his wife Carol Littleton, made significant contributions to the academy, including expanding international membership and supporting the success of “Parasite” in the 2020 Oscars. His legacy, despite the challenges during his term, remains an integral part of the academy’s history.

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