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He worked on edgy films

PASSINGS : Baird Bryant

November 16, 2008|From Times Staff and Wire Reports

Baird Bryant, 80, a documentary filmmaker and cinematographer who made his name on edgy films such as "Easy Rider" and the Rolling Stones' "Gimme Shelter," died Thursday from complications after surgery at Hemet Valley Medical Center in Hemet, his family announced.

During the Stones' performance of "Under My Thumb," Baird turned his camera toward a scuffle at the foot of the stage at Altamont Speedway in Livermore, Calif. Only later did the filmmakers realize that he had captured a stabbing on film, and the inclusion of the violent scene in the 1970 documentary was controversial.

The filming of 1969's "Easy Rider" was chaotic, and many crew members had quit by the time the scene showing the Dennis Hopper and Peter Fonda characters on an acid trip was filmed in a New Orleans graveyard, Bryant later recalled.

"I showed up with my camera, and nobody else was there," Bryant told the New York Post in 1998.

"The whole crew had just had it," he said.

Bryant made more than 20 other movies, including "The Cool World," a 1964 movie that grittily portrayed juvenile delinquency in Harlem, and "Broken Rainbow," a 1985 Oscar-winning documentary about the Navajo.

He also worked on "Heart of Tibet," a 1991 documentary on the Dalai Lama.

He was born Wenzell Baird Bryant on Dec. 12, 1927, in Columbus, Ind., and was a graduate of Deep Springs College in Inyo County, and Harvard University.

Since 1991, he had lived in Idyllwild.

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