Member of the American Society of Cinematographers (ASC).
Brother-in-law of Colbert Clark.
In the closing credits to Kill Bill: Vol. 1 (2003), Quentin Tarantino pays tribute to several movie-making people, including Witney.
Acted as uncredited second unit director for the fox hunt sequence in Alfred Hitchcock's Marnie (1964).
When work on Republic Pictures' The Painted Stallion (1937) fell far behind schedule because of incessant rainfall and director Ray Taylor's alcoholism, Republic fired Taylor and the youthful Witney was given his first directing job.
Began the practice of filming fight scenes in segments rather than continuously from start to finish. By changing methodology, the stunt men and actors were able to maintain a high energy level throughout the fight as opposed to the older method in which they showed obvious exhaustion by the end of the sequence.
While a teenager he began his film career at Mascot Pictures as an office boy, a janitor, prop boy, guide and electrician. After two years he moved to the newly formed Republic Pictures as script clerk and film editor, the job that eventually earned him his first screen credits.
During World War II he served as a lieutenant in charge of a Marine combat photography unit. When he left the service four years later, he had acquired an aversion to violence. He delayed returning to Republic Pictures until the last day of the window that allowed him to reclaim his old job under the GI Bill.
Late into his career he conducted two-week summer courses for aspiring young filmmakers at the University of Portland.
After the death of his first wife from throat cancer, he married a Mexican woman and temporarily moved to Mexico.
Shares an Emmy with others for the TV series Stories of the Century (1954).
Father of (John) Jay Dee Witney.