Ronald Berkeley, a longtime personal make-up artist for Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton, died May 9, 2017. Per imdb.com, he was 86 years old. The obituary below is posted with permission from Make-up Artists & Hair Stylists Guild Local 706.
A third-generation filmmaker with a strong fine arts background, Ron Berkeley began as an apprentice at MGM studios in 1954, under the direction of William Tuttle and Charles Schram and became a full journeyman make-up artist in 1958. He was under contract with MGM for 14 years working in the department’s lab and keyed films both overseas and in the U.S.
Berkeley lived in Europe for many years as the personal make-up artist for Richard Burton and Elizabeth Taylor; doing 30 films with Taylor, and 37 with Burton. He traveled the world on films such as The Manchurian Candidate, The Taming of the Shrew, Anne of the Thousand Days, Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? and If It’s Tuesday, This Must Be Belgium.
In 1967, he wrote a letter to Local 706 from Paris, saying: “I can’t tell you all how much I miss you, working here is really a hassle. I leave tomorrow for six weeks in Greece with Michael Redgrave and Chris Plummer on Oedipus the King, and then return to Paris for two months on a Rex Harrison film. After that, the Burtons go again for one year on three films—so I won’t be home for a while—I really wish there was something that could be done about ‘runaway production.’”
When he finally returned to America (still working with the Burtons), Berkeley worked from feature films to episodic television and back again. In the mid-1990s, he garnered three Emmy nominations and won in 1997 for the HBO cable series Tracy Takes On… for the wonderful characters that were created along with Tom and Bari Burman and his wife Kathleen Berkeley.
Ron and Kathleen settled in Texas, though he kept on working on distant locations: Flight of the Phoenix took him to Namibia. Other locations kept him closer to home and didn’t require a passport. JFK, Chaplin, The Doors, Dave, Maverick and The Truman Show kept him in the U.S., as did The Alamo, Rain and The Wendell Baker Story. Berkeley was also the make-up artist for Dennis Quaid—and of course, their last film was in Canada.
He was one of the most respected make-up artists in our industry. He had the ability to create characters and make his own prosthetic as well as work with the most beautiful women in film history. Berkeley was presented his Make-up Artists & Hair Stylists Guild 50-year membership pin in 2008 and became a resident of the Motion Picture Television Fund retirement campus where he was residing when he passed. Berkeley is survived by his wife, Kathleen Berkeley and three children; daughter Ronda and two sons, Rex and Richard. At this time, no services have been announced.