Leonard J. South, the camera operator on such classic Alfred Hitchcock films as "The Birds" and "North by Northwest," has died. He was 92. South died Jan. 6 of pneumonia in a Northridge nursing home, said his son, film editor Leonard South II. The elder South had Alzheimer's disease. South was the camera operator on nearly a dozen Hitchcock films over a 30-year span. He was behind the lens for famous Hitchcock scenes including Cary Grant's flight from a menacing crop-duster in "North by Northwest" and the grisly crow attack on Tippi Hedren in "The Birds."
"Hitch was always trying to push the limits on techniques and to be different," South said in 1987. "The crew and actors went along, but I tell you, those (crop-duster and bird) scenes were some of the hardest I've ever been involved in. They called for absolutely perfect timing in situations that were really rather scary." During filming of "The Birds," Hedren and some of the cast got pecked and scratched by the trained crows, which handlers threw at the actress as she stood screaming against a wall, he recalled.
Hitchcock's demand for perfection, South said, intimidated some people, as did his insistence that some of the crew wear suits and ties even while shooting in sweltering North African heat. "Hitch spoiled me for other directors," South once said. "I look for part of him in other people and it's not there. It's not possible. There is only one him."
South worked as a camera operator on numerous other pictures including "Hondo," "Houseboat," "Teacher's Pet," and "The Cincinnati Kid." He was promoted to cinematographer in the 1960s and served as director of photography on films including the 1968 Clint Eastwood western "Hang 'Em High" and the 1977 comedy "Herbie Goes to Monte Carlo."
He also worked as a cinematographer on TV series including "That Girl," "The Rockford Files," "9 to 5," "Designing Women" and "Coach." He was a former member of the board of governors of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, and a longtime board member of the American Society of Cinematographers, serving as president in 1989-90.
An avid sailor, South competed in the Trans-Pacific Yacht Race and in races to Mazatlan, Puerto Vallarta and Acapulco, Mexico. In addition to his son, the twice-divorced South is survived by his daughters, Linda South and Anne Marie Giansen; three grandchildren; and six great-grandchildren, reports the AP. N.U.