Interviewee biographies and summaries Interviewee biographies and summaries

Interviews available (or about to be available) online are detailed below. To access the interviews select the link at the bottom of the page.

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Larry Allen

(animator and inventor)
(copyright retained by interviewee)

Biography

Born in Merthyr Tydfil, Larry Allen first began producing animations as a boy by drawing directly onto pieces of film salvaged from nearby cinemas. He later relocated to Coventry where he worked as an engineer at the Hillman Humber car factory. He continued work on animations in his spare time, building his own rostrum camera and establishing the company Challenge Film Productions, which made animated publicity films. The studio was bombed during WWII, but Allen continued to produce films into the 1950s, particularly to promote ‘Fleur De Lys' Pies, as well as working as a stills photographer and an inventor.

Summary

Allen discusses his childhood in Wales, his experiences during WWII and his career as an animator. His recollections are rather unfocussed, however, and few details relating to filmmaking practice are provided.

This interview has been edited.

Maurice Askew
(sound recordist/dubbing mixer)
12/05/1916 - 11/12/0986

Biography

Born in India in 1916, Maurice Askew entered the film industry in 1938, working for The Religious Film Society. During the war Askew joined the RAF, but he came back to (what was then) Religious Films Limited as a dubbing mixer at the Gate Studios, and remained there until his retirement.

Summary

In this interview with Jim Shields made at the Gate in 1972, Askew talks extensively about his post war career in film. He recalls early work for Herbert Wilcox on Spring in Park Lane (1948), the management of Religious Films Ltd (which later became GHW). He recalls various films he has been involved in dubbing sound and producing sound effects for, particularly The Chalk Garden (1964), The Ipcress File (1965), The Mechanic (1972), Scorpio (1973), Romeo and Juliet (1968), as well as various Gerry Anderson television programmes. He, Jim Shields and Lionel Strutt discuss the advantages of the dubbing theatre in the Gate Studios, and various technical aspects of Askew's work. Unfortunately the sound quality on this interview is not perfect, and some passages are indecipherable.

 

Joy Batchelor
(animator)
12/5/1914 - 14/5/1991

Biography

Born in Watford, Joy Batchelor worked as a freelance graphic artist and designer on various newspapers and magazines before meeting John Halas through a press advertisement for an animator. They married and together they formed Halas and Batchelor Cartoon Films, making a variety of short animation films both for commercial advertising (particularly campaigns for J. Walter Thompson) and for the Ministry of Information throughout the Second World War. In the post war period Halas and Batchelor made a variety of films, including a feature length version of Animal Farm (1954). They also became involved in ASIFA (Association Internationale Du Film d'Animation).

Summary

In this interview, Batchelor talks to Kay Mander about her career, commenting other animators and their influence on her, from the early period up to the 1980s, and on the difficulties of running a small business and training animators. She discusses various techniques and aesthetics of animation, and touches on her interactions with the documentary movement and with the ACTT.

 

Charles Bennett
(scriptwriter)
25/8/1899 - 15/6/1995

Biography

Charles Bennett was a British writer, director and sometime actor. Originally involved in the theatre, he wrote the play Blackmail which Alfred Hitchcock later made into the first British feature film with synchronized sound. After a fruitful period as a screenwriter working with Hitchcock Bennett moved to Hollywood, where he also diversified into directing. His Hollywood filmography is extensive, and he also wrote for television in the 1950s and 1960s.

Summary

To follow.

 

Peter Birch [A.F. Birch]
(sound engineer)
10/10/1900 - ?

Biography

Born in Lewes, Sussex, Birch served in the Royal Army Flying Corps during the first world war, and then in the Merchant Navy until 1925. He worked briefly for the JL Baird television company, and then for Marconi before entering the film industry as a sound engineer at British Instructional Films in Welwyn, working on early sound films such as Asquith's Tell England (1931). During the 1930s he worked as a sound engineer mainly at Shepherds Bush, under directors such as Alfred Hitchcock, Victor Saville and Walter Forde, and on several of Michael Powell's early films. When Shepherds Bush closed down Birch moved to Gaumont British News as a dubbing mixer. He served in the RNVR during the war. During the latter part of his career he was a dubbing mixer at GB Instructional at Elstree and later for the BBC on a freelance basis.

Summary

In this brief interview with Alan Lawson, Birch talks mainly about the early part of his career. He gives some vivid anecdotes about the working culture at Shepherd's Bush during it's heyday and brief thumbnail sketches of the various directors he worked under. He also discusses various different early sound technologies.

 

Muriel Box
(film director)
22/9/1905 - 18/5/1991

Biography

One of Britain's few female film directors, Muriel Box entered the British film industry working on continuity and scriptwriting. During the war she worked for Verity Films – a documentary company set up by her husband, Sydney Box, and later became the scenario editor at Gainsborough Studios. She directed her first feature film, The Happy Family in 1952, and worked consistently in a variety of genres until 1964.

Summary

In this interview she talks to Sid Cole, chiefly about her directing career, particularly her work on The Happy Family (1952), The Beachcomber (1954), To Dorothy a Son (1954), Simon and Laura (1955), and The Truth About Women (1958). She discusses the difficulties she encountered as a female film director in a male dominated industry, and remembers several of her stars, including Robert Newton and Kay Kendall.

 

Ted Candy
(newsreel cameraman)
2/1/1920 -

1940s - Gaumont British News - War correspondence - Malta Convoys, D-Day
1950s - General discussion of newsreel work, filming royalty, test match - rivalry between newsreel companies.
1960s - Look at Life. Movietone News General Manager

 

Jill Craigie
(film director)
7/3/1914 – 13/12/1999
(copyright retained by interviewee)

Biography

Best remembered for her landmark documentary, The Way We Live (1946) about the rebuilding of Plymouth, Jill Craigie was a committed documentary film-maker and socialist throughout her career. Having worked as a journalist through the 1930s, she entered the British film industry as a documentary scriptwriter early in the War, her first film was Out of Chaos (1944) profiling British artists in wartime. During the 1950s she worked on scripts for a number of Rank feature films, including Trouble in Store (which she refused a credit for) and The Million Pound Note (both 1953).

Summary

This document contains two interviews – one made by the Imperial War Museum and a second made by Rodney Geisler for the BECTU History Project. In both, Craigie recounts her writing and directing career, concentrating on the War and immediate post-war years. She discusses her passionate interest in art, architecture and town planning, citing the writers and philosophers who influenced her thinking, and the effect the experience of wartime had on her Socialist politics. She also discusses her film work, particularly on Out of Chaos and The Way We Live, she gives lively impressions of many of the people she worked with, including Henry Moore and John Davis, and provides some interesting comments on the relationship between documentaries and the popular audience.

 

Charles Cooper
(exhibitor/distributor)
5/6/1910 -

Biography

Charles Cooper was born in London in 1910, the son of Russian Jewish emigrants who ran a Kosher butcher business in Stoke Newington. His interest in film began with the gift of a 9.5mm camera and projector. He became a regular filmgoer, although increasingly he felt dissatisfied by the films commercially exhibited. By the early 1930s he was involved in the left wing film-club movement, particularly in the Kino group which distributed 16mm versions of Soviet classics such as Battleship Potemkin (1925). He was involved in Kino's 1934 production Bread, a short film protesting against the injustice of the Means Test, which includes worker newsreel footage of a hunger march shot by Cooper. Cooper was also an eye witness of the early weeks of the Spanish Civil War, assisting Otto Katz to retrieve material for his book The Nazi Conspiracy in Spain. In the late 1930s Cooper went on a trip to Mexico, and on the outbreak of war in 1939 found himself stranded in America. Through the war he worked in New York in the Film Department of the ‘International Workers Order', a left wing group concerned with maintaining cultural links between immigrants to America and their native countries. The Film Department distributed films and filmstrips for non theatrical exhibition throughout the United States. When the IWO's position became untenable due to activities of McCarthy and the House Un-American Activities Committee, Cooper bought the assets of the Film Department and continued privately for a few years. However, not holding American citizenship, he was forced to return to Britain where in 1950 he set up Contemporary Films, distributing political and art house films, initially in conjunction with George Hoellering at the Academy Cinema. In the 1960s he opened the Paris Pullman in South Kensington and the Phoenix cinemas in Finchley.

Summary

In this rich and detailed interview (conducted by Sid Cole in 1989), Cooper discusses his family history, his early work with Kino and his interest in social and political film-making. He recounts Kino's problems with the censor distributing Soviet films during the 1930s. He recounts his experiences with the ‘International Workers Order' in America, particularly his interest in showing films representing black communities. Cooper provides a fascinating insight into the working practices of Contemporary Films in its early days, the technical problems of dealing with foreign films, the relationship with the BBFC (particularly with John Trevelyan and the relaxing of censorship in the 1960s) and the negotiations with the BBC and Channel 4 over television and theatrical rights. He details his exhibition philosophy, arguing that cinemas should be centres of entertainment and the arts, providing more than simply a viewing space, and he discusses the exhibition situation as at 1989, with particular reference to arts cinemas and the BFI regional exhibition network.

 

Tilly Day
(continuity)

1903-19941917 - Starts at Walthamstow Studios
1920s - Various Studios, including Stoll at Cricklewood
1930s - Numerous George King Productions
1939 - Arsenal Stadium Mystery
1940s - Joint ATS during the War
1950s-60s Numerous productions for Rank, Hammer, etc.
1975 - Last film, One of Our Dinosaurs is Missing

During her career, Tilly Day worked on over 300 British films.

Summary

This interview, conducted by Alan Lawson and Sid Cole, extends over two sessions - in the first session she speaks more qualitatively about her life and work, in the second session she is looking through photographs identifying various cast and crew members on different productions. Many of the stories told in the second session repeat material from the first session. Day is 84 years old at the time of this interview, and although she is alert and lively, she is liable to repetition.

 

Carmen Dillon
(Art director)
25/10/1908 - 12/04/2000

Biography

Carmen Dillon was born in Cricklewood in 1908. After training at the Architectural Association, she entered the film industry as an assistant designer at the Wembley Studios, working on ‘Quota Quickies' for Fox British. Early in the war she moved to Denham and was the art director or production designer on numerous films for Two Cities, Rank and others until her retirement in 1979.

Summary

In this interview with Sidney Cole, Dillon discusses her work on major films such as Henry V (1944), Hamlet (1948) and Accident (1967), and recalls the different colleagues she worked with, including Paul Sheriff, Desmond Dickinson, Laurence Olivier, David Lean, and Joseph Losey. She compares the various studios she worked in, and recounts the story of her sister's role in founding Dillons bookshop in Gower Street. She briefly touches on her experience as a woman in a male dominated industry (recalling that after an initial incident she encountered very little prejudice). While Dillon's failing memory makes this a disappointingly brief and sketchy interview, it nevertheless contains some intriguing material.

 

Eddie Dryhurst
(Screenwriter)
28/12/1904 - 7/3/1989

Biography to follow. NB, This is Part One of a two-part interview

 

Maurice Elvey
(film director)
11/11/1887 – 28/8/1967

Biography

Maurice Elvey is one of the most prolific directors in British cinema.

Summary

In this brief interview he talks to Ralph Bond about his early life working in London, his early career as a stage director with the Adelphi Play Society, and his conversion to film on a trip to America in 1912. Elvey talks about some of the high points of his career as a silent film director, particularly the making of The Flag Lieutenant (1926) and High Treason (1929). He talks about working conditions within the ‘quota quickie' section of the industry, offering memories of figures like Julius Hagen. Elvey muses interestingly on the changes in working conditions which he has observed during his extraordinarily long career in British film.

 

A. A. "Tubby" Englander
(cameraman)
15/7/1915 - 29/1/2004

1930s - Stoll, Gaumont, Teddington
1940s - Army Kinematograph Service
1950s-1970s - BBC Television (including Kenneth Clark's Civilisation)

 

George Elvin
(ACTT General Secretary)

Biography

To follow

Summary

This is not a BECTU History Project interview, but appears to be a recording of a talk Elvin gave in the early 1960s to ACTT members working in Television. It is duplicated from a 7-inch reel-to-reel master tape, and fades in and out abruptly. Elvin recalls his very earliest days as an ACT official in the mid 1930s, collecting subscriptions and trying to build up the membership. He gives a vivid account of the difficulties of building up the Union membership enough to gain recognition from the employers, and discusses early successes such as the ruling forbidding members to work for a producer who already owed them money. He discusses the early agreement drawn up with the Ostrers, the formation of the ACT employment bureau and activities around getting employment rights written into the 1938 Cinematograph Act. He discusses the growth in strength of the Union during the war, the dispute with Movietone over Alf Tunwell's insurance (he discusses the usefulness of Cameramen at War [1943] in following up the gains made in this case). Elvin also talks about various union methods - particularly that of owning shares in order to get a voice in shareholder's meetings, of demarcation arrangements with NATKE, and of the formation of ACT Films in 1951 (he specifically discusses The Final Test [1953] in this regard). Finally he discusses issues specifically related to union members working in television. He recalls gaining recognition for ACT from Captain Brownrigg of Associated Rediffusion, and discusses the particular problems that television (and particularly the increase in international TV and the possibility of the third network) present. Finally he takes questions from his audience on matters such as local union offices, bonus pay and the structure ACT Films. This is a rich and detailed account of ACTT's beginnings and work up to the early 1960s, presented by an extremely charismatic speaker who was central to the organisation's activities. NB. Another rich source for this material is the ACT[T] journal, the ‘Cine Technician'.

 

William Fielder
(distributor)
1893 - ??

Biography

Born in 1893, Fielder was a clerk with the Baltic and Mercantile Shipping Exchange before joining up in the First World War. He served during the war, operating the searchlights at Dover, and in 1919, through a contact he'd made in the army, he joined Wardour Films as a log-book clerk. He stayed at Wardour Films, and had worked his way up to be General Manager by the time it was taken over by Pathe. Fielder retained his post at Pathe until his retirement in 1957.

Summary

In this extremely brief interview conducted by Sid Cole and Roy Fowler at Glebelands (the CTBF retirement home), Fielder talks about his early experiences and how he entered the industry. He briefly touches on the reason why he retired early, and on his contact with George Elvin. He is very lucid and his memory is good. It is a real disappointment that the interview is for some reason cut short.

 

Norman Fisher
(newsreel cameraman)
18/7/1917 - 20/11/2001

Biography

1930s - Night Mail (1936) sound recordist, memories of GPO Film Unit. Joins British Movietone News - descriptions of routine newsreel work.
1940s - War correspondent - Far East and Mediterranean.
1950s - Twentieth Century Fox - Short films and documentaries. Films for the Conservative Party. A Queen is Crowned (1953). Film for Princess Ashraf of Iran
1960 - 70s Decline of Newsreel - freelance work

Summary

To follow

 


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