12.4.1914 - 23.8.2013
We were saddened to hear that Cinematographer Gilbert Taylor had died on 23rd August - though pleased to learn from his wife Dee that it was a very peaceful passing, at home in his own bed on the Isle of Wight, at the grand age of 99.
A Founder member of the BSC he served on the board between 1981 and 1982 and in 2001 received the British Society of Cinematographers Lifetime Achievement Award in recognition of the exceptional body of work he had photographed during his career.
He photographed over 60 feature films during his career working alongside many notable directors: Ice Cold in Alex (1958) for J. Lee Thomson, A Hard Day’s Night (1964) for Richard Lester, Dr. Strangelove (1964) for Stanley Kubrick, Frenzy (1972) for Alfred Hitchcock and the first in the Star Wars series for George Lucas.
Among other accolades, he also received an American Society of Cinematographers International Achievement Award in 2006 and the BSC Best Cinematography Award for The Omen (1976) along with nominations from BAFTA for Repulsion (1965) and Cul-de-Sac (1966) and BSC nominations for Star Wars (1977) and Flash Gordon (1980).
Gil leaves behind a wife Dee and their children Charlotte and Jonathan and from his first marriage, Monica and Camera Operator Peter Taylor, who is an Associate Member of the BSC.
Gil is pictured below with Alfred Hitchcock on Frenzy (1972)
Members of the British Society of Cinematographers and Gil’s family and friends, joined together for a very convivial gathering to pay tribute to this great master of light, at the BSC North Lodge at Pinewood Studios on Friday 27th September. The company were entertained to a charming live musical performance and many tales and anecdotes were exchanged over a few glasses of wine and canapés.
Joe Dunton who was in Wilmington, North Carolina had written the poignant words below which were read out at the event.
Sad not to be able to attend in person he resorted to modern technology and joined the company on Skype!
GILBERT TAYLOR Tribute by Joe Dunton MBE BSC
What can I say about GILBERT TAYLOR. B.S.C.
A black belt of cinematography.
I first worked with Gil in the late 60’s on a film in Ireland, called Quackser Fortune Has a Cousin In the Bronx (there’s a title for you).
I put the television picture in a prop television - this was before video playback - and I had modified a Moviola editing machine without the optical viewer, replacing it with a Television Camera looking at the film.
Even, at this point, I realised Gilbert had so much respect from his crew, he shone as a leader of the camera department.
After that we met in Elstree Studios, when he was one of the first cameramen to work with the then new Adda Vision on
The Avengers. At this time, Peter was 1st AC, and Gilbert was truly impressed by the electronic light measuring system, showing no fear of this new technology, onwards through Macbeth, Frenzy, The Omen, Etc.
Gil then found himself on what was to be, Star Wars.
You must remember Gilbert had just worked with Hitchcock and Kubrick and Roman Polanski. This group had vision, Gil knew how to convert vision.
Cut to George Lucas. New kid on the block with a vision. Gilbert saw Lucas’s vision and interpreted it into a great vision, bringing back blue screen because the front projection plates were not ready and inventing the now famous, light sabres. Just a note, my new camera cases were copied and made into the cases the storm troopers carry.
The success of Star Wars was built on a splendid team; of art department, camera, wardrobe, construction, special effects, visual effects and sound, which had been put together for George by Robert Watts.
Gilbert told me that 20th Century Fox wanted to let George go.
In the end Gilbert said he would make it work with George.
I am sure George tells another side of the story.
I went to visit him in Afghanistan when he was filming ‘Meetings with Remarkable Men’ for Peter Brook. On the night of my arrival, we were all sitting round a big dining table about to tuck in, when he stalled - to say Grace. The whole table stood up, yes, he was winding me up!
Gil soon realized that his light meter did not register in the bright sun, so he did not use a meter, just his eye.
I went on working with Gilbert through the Dino de Laurentiis years.
There was some great innovaton on ‘Flash Gordon’. Gilbert pushing the blue screen, Ron Tabera, Billy Chitty and the Lee Team building the first Dino Light and Peter designing the flying polystyrene cup with eye lashes, for the flying drone. These were great times for me and the development of my anamorphic lenses. I owe my understanding of lenses to Gilbert, which in his way has been passed on.
Peter Taylor has gone from strength to strength as a great apprentice and I hope now he will push forward to keep his dad’s imagination alive. Peter you can do it. You have a great imagination, sense of humour, and a big heart. Robert Altman said the first and I added the big heart.
I was involved with Gil on Dino’s The Bedroom Window in North Carolina and many more.
He once said to me he had found a wonderful 50mm lens on a Polanski picture which made me realise that 50mm lenses can make different looking pictures, all be it seeing the same field of view.
He was one of the great leaders of the camera department. He also had a wonderful eye and imagination and I could say a lot more of our 40 years of working together.
Gilbert rest in peace, there is a lot of people that will not forget you, including George Lucas!