Ronnie Taylor, the British cinematographer who shared an Oscar for Richard Attenborough’s Gandhi and whose collaborations with that director and Ken Russell produced some of the most memorable films of their eras, died August 3 in Ibiza. He was 93 and had suffered a stroke months earlier.
His death was announced by The British Society of Cinematographers, where Taylor served as president from 1990-1992.
In addition to Gandhi, Taylor’s work with Attenborough includes 1985’s A Chorus Line and 1987’s Cry Freedom. Earlier, Taylor had served as camera operator on Attenborough’s Oh! What a Lovely War in 1969 and the 1972 Churchill biopic Young Winston starring Simon Ward in the title role.
As cinematographer, Taylor’s trio of Russell collaborations are The Devils (1971), Savage Messiah (1972) and Tommy (1975).
According to the BSC, Taylor began his film career as a clapper boy on 1942’s The Young Mr. Pitt, and by the early 1960s his work as camera operator included three of the era’s iconic British films: 1959’s Room at the Top, 1960’s kitchen sink drama classic Saturday Night and Sunday Morning, and 1961’s gorgeous The Innocents.
Taylor was a camera operator on the original Star Wars. In an interview quoted in the BSC tribute, Taylor once said of the 1977 ground-breaker, “Most of the crew thought it was a load of rubbish but it turned out quite differently!”
Taylor’s work on Gandhi came after Billy Williams, the original director of photography, suffered a slipped disc and had to be replaced. Williams himself recommended Taylor, and each of them ended up working about 10 weeks on the film. They shared the Oscar win.
His later credits included 1989’s Sea of Love and 2001’s Sleepless, his final film before he retired to Ibiza off the coast of Spain. He is survived by two daughters and two grandchildren.