Osmond Hudson Borradaile - The Man Who Found SabuMonday, March 06, 2006
I photographed Osmond Hudson Borradaile twice. In 1979 and in 1989. The second time around he told me he expected to live to be one hundred so he could receive a special letter of congratulations from the Queen. He was correct as when he died in March of 1999 he was 100. Tonight is Oscar night and I remembered that Bordie (as he was affectionately called by all who knew him) shared an Oscar with Georges Perinal for Four Feathers. In 1934 Borradaile had done the exterior shooting of The Scarlet Pimpernel Furthermore when I think of him I think of an obituary that Paul Theroux wrote for the New York Times when Graham Greene died. It was titled An Edwardian on the Concorde . Born in Winnipeg in 1898 Borradaile worked in the film industry from the silent era to well into his 60's. Not mentioned in any of his bios is that he was freelance cameraman in Vancouver in his late 70s. He worked with Rudolph Valentino and Gloria Swanson and shot the aerial footage of Howard Hughes' 1930 Hell's Angels. It has yet to be determined who really directed the 1937 Elephant Boy. Was it Robert Flaherty, Zoltan or Alexander Korda? What is known is that Borradaile spotted a nine-year-old boy in the stables of the Maharajah of Mysore. This boy became Sabu. And of course Borradaile did all the exterior work in the Sudan for Alexander Korda's Technicolor 1939 The Four Feathers.
But what I remember best about Bordie are his exquisite and technically perfect 1930s photographs (taken with a Leica) of India and the story he told me on how he came to photograph Ethiopia's Emperor Haile Sellasie triumphantly entering a liberated Addis Ababa with Brigadier (Chindit) Wingate in 1941. Borradaile was shocked to see the state of the emperor's clothes. He told him he could not enter the city in that state. So Borradaile borrowed a uniform from Wingate. In the photograph here you can spot the picture of the proud Emperor in his brigadier's uniform.