Though we were aware that Ronnie had suffered a stroke some months ago in Ibiza, we were very sad to hear from his daughter Tracey, that he had passed away last Friday on 3rd August 2018. We take heart from the fact that his passing was a peaceful one with Tracey by side. A delightful man he will be much missed by his fellow cinematographers and friends in the Society. Our thoughts are with his family at this difficult time.
RONALD CHARLES TAYLOR “RONNIE” 1924-2018
At age 18, looking for a career, Ronnie decided to study for a radio operator’s certificate with Marconi with the plan to go to sea. He was successful but in the meantime, one of his parents’ neighbours, Jack Swinburne, who happened to be studio manager at Gainsborough Studios in Shepherd’s Bush, took young Ronnie into the studio and showed him how films were made. He was hooked and shortly after joined the studio as a clapper boy on the film THE YOUNG MR. PITT (1942) photographed by Freddie Young OBE BSC. Because by then World War II was in full swing and young men were being called up, Ronnie found himself promoted to focus puller quite soon after on the film THE MAN IN GREY (1942) photographed by Arthur Crabtree.
Ronnie was himself called up shortly after and his Marconi certificate gained him a position as radio operator in the Merchant Navy mostly on convoys across the North Atlantic, which he described as “pretty nasty”. Returning to civilian life, Ronnie found himself operating on BOYS IN BROWN (1949) at Pinewood where he first met the lead actor, Richard Attenborough who would have a defining influence on Ronnie’s later career.
In 1952, operating on SECRET PEOPLE, directed by Thorold Dickinson and shot at Ealing Studios, Ronnie met his future wife Mary Devetta and was quickly married shortly after, as Ronnie had been offered a 2-year contract to work in Brazil by his friend, cinematographer, Chick Fowle BSC and past BSC president, Bob Huke BSC. He and Mary spent the next 2 years living in Brazil and working for the VERA CRUZ COMPANY until unfortunately, the company over-extended itself and was forced to close.
Back in Britain in 1955, Ronnie established himself as a note-worthy operator on a number of pictures before working with Freddie Francis BSC on VIRGIN ISLAND (1958 directed by Pat Jackson), forming a relationship which produced three of the most iconic films of the 1960’s: ROOM AT THE TOP (1959), SATURDAY NIGHT AND SUNDAY MORNING (1960) and the classic THE INNOCENTS (1961), directed by Jack Clayton, one of the earliest films to be made in England in CinemaScope and black and white, which garnered critical praise for its camerawork.
1958 saw the beginning of his interest in Spain as he was thinking of living there. En route to Madrid, he met with Robert Krasker BSC and John Harris BSC who were shooting THE FALL OF THE ROMAN EMPIRE (1958) and offered Ronnie the second unit to photograph. At the end of that Ronnie managed to spend 17 weeks on holiday in Marbella with his wife in a German built caravan.
In 1969 Ronnie was reunited with his old friend, Richard Attenborough, who was about to direct his first feature, OH! WHAT A LOVELY WAR, along with cinematographer Gerry Turpin BSC, and this was to cement their friendship.
Ronnie operated on three films for director Ken Russell, THE DEVILS (1971) photographed by David Watkin BSC, SAVAGE MESSIAH (1972) photographed by Dick Bush BSC and TOMMY (1975) also photographed by Dick Bush BSC. When Dick left TOMMY after a disagreement, Ronnie took over and this was the genesis of him moving into lighting himself. But before that, Ronnie operated on a number of films including the legendary STAR WARS (1977) photographed by Gil Taylor BSC. At the time, Ronnie said, “most of the crew thought it was a load of rubbish but it turned out quite differently!”
His friendship with Richard Attenborough took an interesting turn when he was asked to take over the cinematography of GHANDI (1982) as the original cinematographer, Billy Williams OBE BSC, had become incapacitated. The end result was an Oscar for both Billy Williams and Ronnie Taylor and the BSC Best Cinematography award.
Ronnie continued as cinematographer occasionally shooting commercials and working again with director, Richard Attenborough, on A CHORUS LINE (1985) and CRY FREEDOM (1987) for which he garnered a BAFTA nomination followed by SEA OF LOVE (1989) for director Harold Becker, which he considered some of his best work.
He was elected as President of the BSC from 1990 to 1992.
Shooting a commercial in Australia, Ronnie teamed up with Dario Argento a young up and coming Italian director who was noted for successful horror films. Ronnie shot three films with Dario, the last of which, SLEEPLESS (2001), became Ronnie’s last film before he retired. He purchased a property with swimming pool in Ibiza one of the Balearic Islands of Spain and moved there permanently.
Ronnie is survived by his two daughters: Tracey Taylor and Nikki Watson and two grandchildren.
Phil Méheux BSC
'Gandhi' 1982 - Ronnie Taylor BSC dop with director Richard Attenborough
'Gandhi' 1982 - Chic Anstiss Op, Ted Deason Focus, Richard Attenborough director and Ronnie Taylor cinematographer right of frame.
'The Devils' 1971 - Ronnie Taylor operator with Ken Russell director.