Gilbert Taylor, an influential cinematographer who worked on “Star Wars” and several other films alongside some of the world’s most famous directors, died Aug. 23 at his home on the Isle of Wight, England. He was 99.
Dee Taylor, his wife, confirmed the death to BBC News. The cause was not disclosed.
Mr. Taylor entered the British film industry as a teenager against the wishes of his father, who warned him that the movie business was full of ne’er-do-wells, according to a 2006 biographical sketch posted to the American Society of Cinematographers’ Web site.
He joined the movie industry at the tail end of the silent-film era, running errands and occasionally acting. Within a year, Mr. Taylor said he was hooked, “captivated by the magic smells of film stock, acetone and makeup.”
He spent the next few years doing stints behind the camera before joining the war effort, putting his skills to use by capturing footage of nighttime bombing raids over Germany, films that he said were sent directly to then-Prime Minister Winston Churchill’s office.
After the allies invaded France, Mr. Taylor followed with a camera unit, filming the liberation of Nazi concentration camps and the signing of the armistice.
“You may ask how these experiences helped to prepare me for my film career,” he said. “Well, they certainly made me tougher.”
Mr. Taylor caught his break while working for brothers John and Roy Boulting, who were a powerful force in postwar British cinema. He went on to make several features for the pair, including “Seven Hours to Noon,” a thriller whose atomic-age paranoia would prefigure his work on Stanley Kubrick’s “Dr. Strangelove.”
Mr. Taylor was the director of photography on several distinctive black-and-white classics, including Richard Lester’s Beatlemania chronicle “A Hard Day’s Night.” Among the other directors he worked with were George Lucas, Alfred Hitchcock and Roman Polanski. He also worked on television series, including “The Avengers.”
Mr. Taylor said he was “most happy to be remembered as the man who set the look for Star Wars.” He apparently clashed with Lucas and a black-and-white set design that left little room for lighting of any kind. He solved the problem by punching quartz lights through the set.
“I wanted to give it a unique visual style that would distinguish it from other films in the science-fiction genre,” he was quoted as saying. “I wanted ‘Star Wars’ to have clarity because I don’t think space is out of focus.”
— Associated Press