Gilbert Taylor, Star Wars cinematographer, dies aged 99

Gilbert Taylor on BBC Two's Paul Merton Looks At Alfred Hitchcock Gilbert Taylor, pictured here in 2009, said he would most like to be remembered for his work on Dr Strangelove

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Gilbert Taylor, the veteran British cinematographer of Star Wars, The Omen and Dr Strangelove, has died aged 99.

According to his wife Dee, he died on Friday with his family at his bedside at his home on the Isle of Wight.

Born in Bushey Heath, Hertfordshire in 1914, Taylor entered the film industry in 1929 as a camera assistant, working at Gainsborough Studios in London.

His many credits include Ice Cold in Alex, the Beatles' film A Hard Day's Night and Alfred Hitchcock's Frenzy.

He also worked with Roman Polanski on such films as Repulsion and Cul-de-Sac, for which he received back-to-back Bafta nominations in consecutive years.

Harrison Ford, Carrie Fisher and Mark Hamill in Star Wars The cinematographer said he wanted Star Wars to have a "unique visual style"

According to his wife, Taylor "turned down a Bond picture" to work with Polanski, "because he thought Roman was a very interesting guy".

"The three of us became very firm friends, and we've been friends until this day."

'Sheer magic'

Taylor had a hand in the special effects for 1955 classic The Dam Busters and was director of photography on the 1980 fantasy Flash Gordon.

To many, though, he will be best remembered for his contribution to the first Star Wars film, on which he worked under the auspices of director George Lucas.

"George avoided all meetings and contact with me from day one," Taylor would later tell American Cinematographer magazine.

"So I read the extra-long script many times and made my own decisions as to how I would shoot the picture."

Taylor would have happier memories of his time photographing Ken Adam's famous War Room set for Doctor Strangelove, Stanley Kubrick's 1964 Cold War satire.

"Lighting that set was sheer magic," he later recalled. "I don't quite know how I got away with it all."

Peter Sellers (r) in a scene from Dr Strangelove Taylor was hired by Roman Polanski on the basis of his work on Dr Strangelove

Taylor's distinguished career included six years with the Royal Air Force during World War II, shooting the results of night-time raids over Germany at the request of Winston Churchill.

He went on to become a founder member of the British Society of Cinematographers, which presented him with a lifetime achievement award in 2001.

Taylor also worked on television, shooting episodes for such 1960s series as The Avengers and The Baron.

Start Quote

There was nothing he couldn't do”

End Quote Dee Taylor

He stopped making feature films in 1994 but continued to shoot commercials while turning his hand to painting.

Speaking to the BBC News website on Friday, Gilbert's widow said their life together had been "a Technicolor dream".

Dee, a script supervisor, was 23 years his junior. They met on the set of the 1963 Tony Hancock film The Punch and Judy Man and married four years later.

They continued to work together for the rest of their lives. When the British film industry went through hard times in the mid-1970s, they set up a dairy farm with 250 cattle.

Mrs Taylor remembered her late husband as "wonderful, kind, funny, amusing [and] terribly talented in every aspect".

"There was nothing he couldn't do," she told the BBC.

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