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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Gordon McCallum
(sound engineer)
26/5/1919 - 10/9/1989

Biography

Gordon McCallum entered the British film industry in 1935 as a loading boy for Herbert Wilcox at British and Dominions. He soon moved into the sound department and worked as a boom swinger on many films of the late 1930s at Denham, Pinewood and Elstree. During the Second World War he worked with both Michael Powell and David Lean on some of their most celebrated films. Between 1945 and 1984 as a resident sound mixer at Pinewood Studios, he made a contribution to over 300 films, including the majority of the output of the Rank Organisation, as well as later major international productions such as The Day of the Jackal (1973), Superman (1978), Blade Runner (1982) and the ‘James Bond' series. In 1972 he won an OSCAR for his work on Fiddler on the Roof (1971).

Summary

In this interview McCallum discusses many of the personalities and productions he has encountered during his long career, as well as reflecting on developments in sound technology, and the qualities needed to make a good dubbing mixer.

 

Ella Mallett
(music accompanist)
15/4/1894

Biography

Ella Mallet was employed at the New Gallery Cinema, Regent Street as part of the orchestra from May 1914 until the advent of sound. From 1930 she worked at the head office of Bloom's Cinema Circuit, until her retirement. She is interviewed at the Cinematograph Trades' Benevolent Fund rest home, ‘Glebelands'.

Summary

In this interview, Mallett talks to Roy Fowler, primarily about her memories of working at the New Gallery, accompanying silent features. She recalls specific films such as The Battle of the Somme (1916) and My Lady's Dress (1917), and the musical effects used for these films. She talks generally of her memories of the New Gallery staff and of cinema-going in the silent period. She also discusses the history of the CTBF and the atmosphere of ‘Glebelands' where she spent her retirement. While it is brief and a little sketchy (Mallett was 94 when the interview was conducted) this interview gives a remarkable insight into the life of a cinema musician.

 

Erica Masters
(Production Manager/Assistant Director)
1917 -

Biography

Erica Masters was born in Guatemala in 1917, and educated variously in Jamaica, France and Germany. Originally she hoped to be a dancer and actress, and she enrolled in the Max Reinhardt school in Vienna, but decided not to attend in the light of the Anschluss. Coming to England she studied film under William Hunter at Dartington College in Devon, before going into documentary production. She worked for Paul Rotha for a brief period, and later for Greenpark and various other documentary producers during the late 1940s. In 1953, Masters was employed by Harry Kratz to work on The Titfield Thunderbolt (1953) at Ealing Studios. She worked on the surprise success Genevieve (1953) with Henry Cornelius, and was involved in all of Cornelius's later films, including I Am A Camera (1955), and Next To No Time (1959). Masters worked on a variety of film and television productions in the 1950s, including the Robin Hood (1955) series with Richard Greene, The Man Who Never Was (1956), with Clifton Webb, and Bonjour Tristesse (1958) for Otto Preminger. Later in her career she worked with Ronnie Spencer, producing documentary films at Shepperton under the title Littleton Park Film Productions.

Summary

In this interview, conducted in 1995, Erica Masters discusses her career with Sydney Samuelson. She gives an interesting account of her early years, and of her experience travelling to Vienna. She discusses the atmosphere at Ealing Studios during the 1950s in some detail, observing its peculiarly rigid class structure. Masters gives detailed accounts of the production of both Genevieve and Bonjour Tristesse. She remembers particularly the economic difficulties of Genevieve and its precarious position as an independent production at Pinewood. She discusses many of the difficulties of Anglo-French co-production she experienced while working on Bonjour Tristesse. Masters also touches on the problems of being a woman in control of a largely male dominated crew. Masters was unlucky enough to be one of the foreign nationals stranded in Kuwait when it was invaded by Iraq in 1990. The final part of this interview is devoted to her detailed account of this experience.

 

Anthony Mendleson
(costume designer)
Feb 1915 – Oct 1996

Biography

Initially a painter and designer for the stage, Anthony Mendleson joined the staff of Ealing Studios as costume designer and wardrobe supervisor in 1947. He remained at Ealing until the studio closed, designing for many of the studio's classic films including Kind Hearts and Coronets (1949) and The Man in the White Suit (1951). During the 1960s and 1970s he worked at Pinewood, on a wide variety of films, including The Yellow Rolls Royce (1964), and Oh! What a Lovely War (1969), for which he was awarded a BAFTA.

Summary

In this interview Mendelson talks in detail to Linda Wood about his work at Ealing, the working atmosphere of the studio, and the specific demands of designing for black and ehite and for Technicolor. He discusses the role of the costume designer and wardrobe supervisor – the demands of working for realist as well as flamboyant productions - and the relationship between the studio designer and the couturier who might costume a leading actress. There is some material on the difference between Ealing and Pinewood, and Mendleson recalls many of the directors and actors who he has worked with, including Richard Attenborough, Rex Harrison, Ingrid Bergman, and Alexander Korda. The interview is a particularly successful mix of anecdotes and technical information on the work of the costume designer, containing some fascinating insights.

 

Ivor Montagu
(film director/critic)
23/4/04 – 5/11/84

Biography

Ivor Montagu is best known for his involvement in the Film Society in the 1920s, and his activities as a critic, producer and writer.

Summary

In this brief interview, which appears to pre-date the BECTU History Project, he talks (to Ralph Bond?) primarily about the production and reception of his documentary film Free Thaelmann (1935). He touches on various issues, including censorship, funding for radical film making, the newsreels and library footage, and a comparison with the political documentary of the 1930s with modern television documentaries.

 

Cyril Page
(newsreel and television cameraman)
15/11/1920
Biography to follow

 

Tom Peacock
(studio plasterer)
1908 - ??

Biography

Tom Peacock was born in 1908 the son of a plasterer's labourer in Hammersmith. After initial work in a brier pipe factory, he entered the building trade as a plasterer and having trained to do fibrous plaster work at night school, he entered the film industry as a plasterer in the late 1930s.

Summary

In this interview conducted at ‘Glebelands' (the CTBF retirement home) Peacock talks to Roy Fowler about his career as a studio plasterer in various studios including Denham, Riverside, Pinewood and Shepperton. A particularly interesting section discusses the typical day of the plasterer and the kind of work they were required to do, and how the plasterers shop tended to be organised. A member of NATKE, Tom discusses the role of Trade Unions within the industry, remembering several trade disputes arising out of issues of division of labour and Bank holiday rights - particularly the long-running dispute at Riverside during the filming of The Years Between (1946). He discusses the system of allocating location work. Among the films touched on are The Seventh Veil (1946), Fire Over England (1937), Some Girls Do (1969), The Long Duel (1967), and In Which We Serve (1942). Colleagues mentioned include Art Director Carmen Dillon and NATKE officials Tom O'Brien and Frank Kelly. Peacock also discusses the film made by the Trade Unions in support of Russia's involvement in the war, Our Film (1942) and the involvement of plasterers from the Crown Film Unit in creating WWII camouflage items at the ‘Thatched Barn' at Elstree.

 

Cyril Pennington-Richards
(cameraman)
17/12/1917
Biography to follow

 

David Prosser
(newsreel cameraman)
2/2/1917-
Biography to follow

 

David Robson
(projectionist, television engineer)
1921-

Biography to follow

 

Jack Rockett
(Exhibitor, Gaumont-British/Odeon circuits)
1908-??

Biography

Jack Rockett was born in Walthamstow in July 1908. He began as an office boy with the Gaumont company in Denham Street. By 1934 he was working from the West End Cinema Birmingham (in Edmund Street) as a regional stock-taker and occasional mobile manager for the Gaumont-British circuit. He had become an ‘internal auditor' around the time of the merger with Odeon, and after a period of war service in engineering factories, he spent most of the 1950s and 60s as a regional area manager for Rank, based variously in Birmingham, Newcastle and Edinburgh.

Summary

In this fascinating interview with Sid Cole and Roy Fowler at Rockett's home in Glebelands (the CTBF rest home), Rockett gives a rare insight into the trade from the exhibitors' point of view. He discusses the life of the Area manager, detailing particularly the gala opening of South Pacific (1958) at the Manchester Gaumont, and incidents surrounding the 1956 screening of Rock Around the Clock (1956) at Whitley Bay (in which he had to deal with a local press eager to manufacture a ‘teenage' reaction which could have threatened the films' local certification). Rockett talks about the importance of publicity and ‘showmanship' and the crucial relationships between the local cinema manager, the press, the local community and the local authorities (the Watch Committees). He recalls some of the anomalies of the local licensing system (particularly in Sale, near Manchester). He gives a good description of the levels of staffing at a ‘typical' cinema in the 1930s, and the changes that occurred in exhibition during the post war era. His assessment of John Davis (Managing Director of Rank), and of the Quota system, make particularly refreshing reading, underlining the differences in outlook between the production and exhibition sectors.


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