"John Scully's" comic strip that has a farewell every day (drawn and written by Ruben Bolling)

"John Scully's" comic strip that has a farewell every day (drawn and written by Ruben Bolling)
"John Scully's" comic strip that has a farewell every day (drawn and written by Ruben Bolling)
September 19 is the last post for this blog. Thanks to all my readers!

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Never to be forgotten: Gilbert Taylor 1914-2013

Gilbert Taylor, the cinematographer for the first Star Wars film, has died at the age of 99. You can read the New York Times obituary here.

If you accept the auteur theory of filmmaking, a cinematographer should just be an extension of the director. Why should we care about these underlings at all?

Hypothetical Question Asker, so nice to hear from you! You might notice that the word "auteur" is French, as is the theory. This is a perfectly good reason to ignore it.

All kidding aside, sometimes the underlings are giants upon whose shoulders the auteurs stand.

According to Taylor, George Lucas avoided all meetings with him, so he made all the decisions about camera angles and lenses and such. To do so, Taylor slogged through the remarkably long script and made some key decisions which still stand out to this day.

In a simple sentence, the look can be described as this:"Outer space should be in focus."

That might seem a very simple concept, but the cinematographer's art is nothing like simple.


Case in point: Taylor was considered a genius of black and white. Besides Star Wars, which he did when he was in his sixties, he did Dr. Strangelove when he was 49, which in Oakland we call "a grown-ass man". Kubrick decided to make this in black and white when color was a no-brainer decision for any director who couldn't make demands. It was Taylor who decided on the look, which often resembles hand held documentary footage, most notably in the battles scenes and on board the plane. But we also get the great low angles in the war room, which symbolize events larger than men in some scenes, the unstoppable craziness of Sterling Hayden in several scenes, and the delicious va-va-voominess of General Buck Turgidson's personal secretary in Delores Reed's single scene.

Here is to Gilbert Taylor, a god among cinematographers who is remembered here because of his indispensable contribution to science fiction film making, also remembered for other great work outside the genre.

Best wishes to his family and friends,from a fan. He will never be forgotten.

2 comments:

  1. Being able to turn a film directed by George Lucas into something watchable is Art of the highest level. Especially when Himself was also involved with the script.

    The difference between Star Wars and the nearly*-unwatchable-despite-better-actors THX 1138 is proof enough of Taylor's brilliance.

    Not to mention his other work, which includes something called A Hard Day's Night (whatever happened to those guys; rumour is one of them married a Bond Girl) and the tone-setting first episode of a series I was rewatching--happily--just last week, My Partner the Ghost (a.k.a. Randall and Hopkirk, Deceased).

    *I'm being nice.

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    1. He also works on some late post-Diana Rigg Avengers, which is kinda sorta genre, and the definitely genre Flash Gordon and Dracula, the one with Frank Langella where I finally totally got the whole "Oh yeah, he likes biting girls and girls like being bit" thang.

      That might have had something to do with Taylor's cinematography, but I think it has more to do with how damn pretty Frank Langella was then.

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