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In Memoriam of Cinematographer Michael Reed BSC 1929-2022

By: FSWL team
Published:
2022-12-19
Michael Reed, Cinematographer, 1929-2022
The FSWL team are very saddened to report the passing of British cinematographer Michael Reed, BSC who left us on 15th December 2022 at the age of 93. Above pictured by FSWL contributor Ajay Chowdhury at Pinewood Studios in 2004.

Among Michael Reed’s many credits are Director of Photography for On Her Majesty's Secret Service (1969) starring George Lazenby as Ian Fleming's James Bond 007. By many, considered to be the best Bond film, partly because of the beautiful cinematography.

Michael Reed, On Her Majesty's Secret Service, cinematographer
Michael Reed (far left) and his camera crew on top of Schilthorn for the filming of On Her Majesty's Secret Service. Copyright © 1969 Danjaq S.A. & United Artists Corporation. All rights reserved.

In 2019, for a 50th Anniversary tour of On Her Majesty's Secret Service to Portugal and Switzerland organised by Martijn Mulder, the man behind On the Tracks of 007, Michael provided the following recollection of his work on the film:

“I was thrilled when offered the role of Director of Photography on OHMSS, as I knew Freddie Young had been the DOP on a number of other Bond Films. Strangely enough my friend and Operator Alec Mills had kept on telling me that I would do the next Bond as Peter Hunt was Directing. Peter and I had worked together on Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, shooting the opening sequence.

Michael Reed, George Lazenby, Schilthorn, On Her Majesty's Secret Service
Michael Reed preparing a scene with George Lazenby on top of Schilthorn in Switzerland. Copyright © 1969 Danjaq S.A. & United Artists Corporation. All rights reserved.

Looking back on the memories of shooting the film, there are a couple of incidents that I recall where things didn’t go quite to plan. The first was when we were shooting the ice rink sequence where Bond meets Tracy for the first time after an avalanche where he thinks she was killed. We arrived at our hotel late afternoon and normally had the evening to unwind in preparation for shooting the next day. This was not to be the case as the temperature had changed and the rink that had been set-up in the hotel carpark was beginning to thaw. The scene was shot that night, which was just as well because by morning the ice rink was no more than a flooded carpark! The change in temperature also meant that we had to transport snow in Lorries to the lower ground level in order to film the ski chase. Fortunately, we had a good team in Props.

The second was in Portugal when shooting the scene with Bond and Tracy at the Bull Ring. The “Sparks” were having difficulty lowering four heavy Arc lights into the ring. I noticed one of them standing well back from the others, not helping/working but having a nose around the ring. He inquisitively opened one of the doors that opened into the ring, not realizing there was a Bull behind it. Suddenly there was a loud crash as the Bull flew into the ring with nostrils flaring and front hoof scraping the ground! The Sparks realizing the danger they were in, made a dash to get out by climbing the wall of the Bull Ring at “sixteen frames per second”. Meanwhile the spark who had caused this trouble, made his escape by running into the bull’s stable and closing the door behind him. Fortunately for him, there was only one bull being housed there that day!!

On Her Majesty's Secret Service was one of the best pictures I have ever worked on, and one of the most challenging!


I am sorry that I can’t be with you to share the 50 Year Celebration but wish you all an enjoyable re-union.”

James Bond actor George Lazenby left the following comment about Michael via his Twitter account:


“Sad to hear that Michael Reed has passed away. He literally made me - and everyone else in On Her Majesty's Secret Service - look good. I remember his calm presence on set. His work will endure. Condolences to his family. Love George xxx”

Dame Joanna Lumley, the English girl in On Her Majesty's Secret Service, shared the following recollection of Michael for our readers:


“Michael Reed was a hero to me: glamorous, pretty suave and unbelievably talented, he made Blofeld’s lair for the Angels of Death (I was one) into a place of beauty and light and fun. He patiently explained to me which lenses he used, how to pull focus and how tracking shots worked and whether one had crossed the line, and I thought the world of him. Lighting cameramen can be unapproachable and quite grand, but not Michael: I can see his handsome smiling face now, and remember with such pleasure and gratitude how kind he was to a bevy of Bond girls high up on a mountain-top in Switzerland. He was a legend and I am so proud to have known him and worked with him. OHMSS is always listed as one of the very best Bond films, due in no small way to his brilliance and skill (he will be making Heaven itself look fabulous even as I write these words). As long as there are motion pictures his name will be remembered with respect and admiration.
All my fondest love and sympathy to Johanna and the family.”

Joanna Lumley, George Lazenby, Schilthorn, On Her Majesty's Secret Service
Joanna Lumley and George Lazenby during the filming of On Her Majesty's Secret Service in Switzerland. Copyright © 1969 Danjaq S.A. & United Artists Corporation. All rights reserved.

FSWL founder Anders Frejdh, who reached out to Michael Reed in 2019, comment the news of his passing:

“Michael was a wonderful person and gentleman. It was a real privilege to meet him a few times over the years. His work on On Her Majesty's Secret Service speaks for itself. My sincere condolences to his daughter Johanna and the rest of his family. Rest in peace, Sir.”


Anders Frejdh, Michael Reed, Pinewood Studios
Anders Frejdh with Michael Reed at Pinewood Studios in 2005. Photo by Ajay Chowdhury.

For more information about Michael Reed’s career, visit his IMDB page. For more information about the work on On Her Majesty's Secret Service, visit the website of The American Society of Cinematographers and search for his name.

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