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.

A-F G-L M-R S-Z

 

Vernon Sewell
(film director)
4/7/1903-21/6/2001
1930s - Sound Engineer, Nettlefold Studios. Work with Michael Powell and various independents - The Edge of the World (1937).
1940s - Korda - The Silver Fleet (1943) - British National
1950s - Hammer. Various ‘B' productions and Horror films

 

E. M. Smedley Aston
(production manager)
1912 - ??

Biography

E. M. Smedley Aston entered the film industry as a runner at British International Pictures in 1932. Throughout the 1930s he worked as Production Assistant, and Assistant Director at a variety of studios, including Gaumont British, MGM British, and for more cut-price producers such as George King. During the war he joined the RAF Film Unit, and worked in Canada. After the war he worked as Production Manager for the Independent Producers group at Rank on films such as Great Expectations (1946) and The Blue Lagoon (1949). He maintained a particularly strong working relationship with Launder and Gilliat. He became a producer through Group 3 in the 1950s, and his later productions include Two Way Stretch (1960).

Summary

In this particularly entertaining and detailed interview, Smedley Aston talks to Roy Fowler about his career, and his memories of many colleagues. There is particularly rich material on BIP Elstree in the early 1930s, with discussions of Robert Maxwell, Joe Grossmann, Walter Mycroft, Fred Zelnick and a host of other 1930s personalities. He recalls his relationship with Launder and Gilliat, and the working practices of independent producers in the mid 1940s, and also discusses his experience of working with American directors, Raoul Walsh and Sam Wood. A jolly good read.

Hugh Stewart
(Film Editor/Film Producer)
14/12/1910 - ??

Biography

Hugh Stewart was born in Falmouth on 14th December 1910. Educated at Claysmore and then at Cambridge under F.R. Leavis, he entered the film industry in the early 1930s at Gaumont-British under the apprenticeship scheme run by Ian Dalrymple. He trained as a film editor, initially cutting together out-takes from Marry Me (1932). He was assembly cutter on Basil Dean's 1932 adaptation of The Constant Nymph, and his first film as Editor was Forbidden Territory (1934). He cut several important films for Gaumont, including Saville's Evergreen (1934) and Hitchcock's The Man Who Knew Too Much (1934) before moving to Beaconsfield to work on quota productions. He also gained experience with John Dighton writing comedy scripts for Naughton and Gold shorts. During the late 1930s he edited a series of films for Korda and Saville including Dark Journey (1937), Action for Slander (1937), and South Riding (1938), and for Eric Pommer in St Martin's Lane (1938). Having worked for Michael Powell on The Spy in Black (1939) he was engaged for 49th Parallel (1941) but was unable get a discharge from the Army before the unit sailed. Keen to go oversees, Stewart joined the Army film Unit, filming in Algeria and Tunisia and he helped Roy Boulting edit this footage into Africa Freed. After this film was shelved due to difficulties with the Americans he worked on Tunisian Victory (1944). After the War, Stewart became a film producer, beginning with Trottie True (1949) the novel of which he'd read while ill. Generally under Rank at Pinewood, he made a series of commercially successful films, most notably taking over from Maurice Cowan as the producer of the long running Norman Wisdom series, starting with Man of the Moment (1955). Stewart also produced films starring Leslie Phillips and Morecambe and Wise. By the late 1960s, he was in semi-retirement, teaching English but also finding time to produce several films for the Children's Film Foundation, notably All At Sea (1970) and Mr Horatio Knibbles (1971).

Summary

In this excellent interview with John Legard, Stewart discusses his apprenticeship at Gaumont and the influence a film editor can exert on the quality of a film, and on a particular actor's performance. He talks in detail about the difficulties of his time at the Army Film Unit, particularly the tension between British and American film-makers over Africa Freed and Tunisian Victory. He remembers colleagues, including Alfred Hitchcock, Ian Dalrymple, Roy Boulting, Frank Capra, Conrad Veidt, Victor Saville, Maurice Cowan, John Paddy Carstairs, Robert Asher, Anthony Newley, and of course, Norman Wisdom. There is a fascinating account of Wisdom's working practice and his desire to gain increasing control over his material throughout the 1960s.

Peter Stroud
(Projectionist)

??

Biography

Peter Stroud was born in Kilburn. His first job was as a projection box boy at the Prince of Wales Cinema (ABC), Harrow Road when he was fourteen. He went on to the Odeon, Kensal Rise where he returned in 1949 after National Service. Having become frustrated with the lack of promotion opportunities at Rank Theatres, in 1951 he went to Pinewood where he became Chief Projectionist at Theatre Three, and later for many years was the Chief of Theatre Seven.

Summary

In this interview, conducted by Jim Shields shortly before Stroud's retirement in 1993, he talks in detail about his early days in the projection box. He remembers the Wartime newsreel-crossover system which meant that newsreels had to be shared between Gaumont and Odeon cinemas, he discusses the fraught relationship between operators and managers, the average personnel in the projection box during the 1940s and 50s and the atmosphere in the box. He discusses different boxes in cinemas in London, and also in the theatres at Pinewood. He talks about the difficulty of projecting rough-cuts with separate sound-tracks for directors at Pinewood, and about his rare encounters with directors (particularly Kubrick). The interview is a fascinating insight into an aspect of the industry which is rarely discussed.

Reg Sutton

(sound engineer, newsreels)
24/10/1916 -1930s - Sound engineer for BBC local service at Newcastle. Memories of wartime Newcastle & personnel such as
1946 - 50s Joins British Movietone News. Detailed recollection of the company, and of the sound technology. 1953 Royal Commonwealth tour. General material on newsreel rivalry, various foreign trips etc.
1960 Work for Samuelson's Film Service

Fred Tomlin 

(boom operator)
1908 - ??

Biography

Fred Tomlin was born in 1908 in Hoxton, London, just around the corner from what became the Gainsborough Film Studios (Islington) in Poole Street. He first visited the studio as a child during the filming of Woman to Woman (1923). He entered the film industry as an electrician, working in a variety of studios including Wembley, Cricklewood and Islington. At Shepherd's Bush Studio he got his first experience as a boom operator, on I Was A Spy (1933). Tomlin claims that from that point until his retirement he was never out of work, but also that he was never under permanent contract to any studio, working instead on a freelance basis. During the 1930s he worked largely for Gaumont and Gainsborough on films such as The Constant Nymph (1933), Jew Suss (1934), My Old Dutch (1934), and on the Will Hay comedies, including Oh, Mr Porter! (1937) and Windbag the Sailor (1936). During the war, Tomlin served in the army, and on his return continued to work as a boom operator on films and television (often alongside Leslie Hammond) until the mid 1970s. His credits include several films for Joseph Losey (on Boom [1968] and Secret Ceremony [1968]) and The Sea Gull (1968)for Sidney Lumet, as well as TV series such as Robin Hood and The Buccaneers and a documentary made in Cuba for Granada TV.

Summary

In this interview from 1990, Tomlin talks to Bob Allen about his career, concentrating mainly on the pre-war period. He tells some very entertaining and illuminating stories, particularly about working for Basil Dean on The Constant Nymph, with Will Hay on Windbag the Sailor and for Paul Stein on Poison Pen (1940). He discusses various technological issues affecting the boom operator, particularly difficulties to do with movement during the mid 1930s. Tomlin was active as a Union Shop Steward, and he remembers details of the early relationship between ETU and NATKE, as well as of working practices and disputes over overtime. Tomlin has vivid memories of various colleagues in the industry, including Paul Stein, Conrad Veidt, Will Hay, Basil Dean, Bob (Hugh) Attwooll, Ted Black, Bill Slater, H.C. ‘Pip' Pearson and Leslie Hammond. A natural raconteur, Tomlin's interview is spiced with several amusing anecdotes, as well as being rich in informative detail.

John Turner

(newsreel cameraman)
1915 -
1930s - Gaumont British newsreel cameraman
1940s - War correspondent - Naval correspondent, HMS Valient, HMAS Australia. Sinking of HMS Barham (filmed by Turner). In India with Mountbatten around period of independence and Punjab riots.
1950s - 1951 Royal Tour of Canada. Royal rota cameraman, filming the Royal Family, and the Coronation.
1960s - Production manager Pathe, then documentary producer

Alf Tunwell 

(newsreel cameraman)
1910s - Barker's Film Studios, Worton Hall Studios
1929-1940s - Movietone News
1943 - Dispute with Sir Gordon Craig over insurance for newsreel cameramen
1940s - Training Army Cameramen. MGM News

Bernard Vorhaus

(film director)
25/12/1904 – 23/11/2000

Biography

Bernard Vorhaus was born in New York city on Christmas Day 1904. He got interested in film through his sister who used to sell stories to the early studios in New Jersey. After graduating from college, he got work writing scripts for Harry Cohn at Columbia. He worked as a writer for various production companies during the 1920s, and began to direct films of his own. With the arrival of sound he moved to England, working initially for Phonofilm/British Talking Pictures. When they folded he bought their library and made a living selling stock shots, until he had raised enough to make his first feature film, Money for Speed (1933), starring Ida Lupino. During the early 1930s Vorhaus worked consistently in Britain, directing low budget films for ‘quota quickie' producers such as Julius Hagen, the best remembered of which are The Ghost Camera (1933), Dusty Ermine (1936) and The Last Journey (1936). When the British film finance boom ended in 1937-8, Vorhaus returned to America, to work for Republic Pictures, again on low budget features. During the war, Vorhaus volunteered for the Air Force Motion Picture Unit, and made training documentaries on technical matters, as well as public information films on subjects such as venereal disease. During this period he worked with Ronald Reagan, who he remembers sympathetically. One of Vorhaus' documentaries – about the Yalta Conference – was suppressed before release in the face of the onset of the cold war. In the late 40s he continued to make ‘B' features, for Republic and independently, some, such as The Amazing Mr X (1948) and So Young So Bad (1950) are still memorable today. Active in left-wing politics, Vorhaus found himself working under increasingly difficult circumstances during the McCarthy era, and eventually he was blacklisted, having been named by Edward Dmytryk before the House Un-American Activities Committee. Although he attempted to continue making films in Europe, he was hounded by the American authorities, and eventually he gave up film-making, and settled in London as a property developer.

Summary

In this interview, conducted in 1991, Vorhaus talks extensively to Sid Cole and Alan Lawson about his film career. He gives a vivid and engaging account of the British Quota industry in the 1930s (and of Julius Hagen), maintaining that despite the pressure on time and budgets, the sector gave directors more creative freedom than more ‘respectable' production contexts. His recollections of the cold war era and the experience of being blacklisted are detailed and fascinating. Among the colleagues he remembers, are Ida Lupino, Julius Hagen, Harry Cohn, Harry Rapft, Ronald Reagan, Louis Weitzenkorn, Ring Lardner, Ian Hunter, Sol Lesser.

Bill Welsh 

(Sound Effects, props)

??

Biography

Bill Welsh worked from the mid 1950s to the mid 1970s as the props man at the Gate Sound recording studios.

Summary

In this interview with Jim Shields he talks about his career creating sound effects for films such as Lawrence of Arabia (1962), Bridge on the River Kwai (1957) and Thunderball (1965). Welsh discusses working with Maurice Askew (dubbing mixer) and discusses the difficulties of working with directors, and the importance of not letting them see how the sounds are produced! Welsh compares the production of sound effects at the Gate Studios involving improvisation with what he calls "my rubbish" with more cumbersome techniques in studios with large props departments, using the actual object displayed on the screen - a method which Welsh suggests often results in a less convincing sound fit.

Charles Wilder

(Production Accountant)

??

Biography

Charles Wilder joined the studios at Shepherd's Bush in 1924 as an office boy. He stayed at Shepherd's Bush until he was called up in 1943, just after the completion of The Man In Grey (1943). Wilder worked in the cash office, responsible for day-to-day production finance tasks such as the paying of crowd artists, and casual labour. After his period of active service, he returned to production accounting, working freelance throughout the postwar period until his retirement in the early 1980s. Among the post-war film he was involved with are The Green Scarf (1954), and The March Hare (1955) for the Ostrers, Mary Queen of Scots (1971), Becket (1964) and Anne of a Thousand Days (1969) for Hal Wallis, I Could Go On Singing (1963) and The Horse's Mouth (1958) for Ronald Neame. Wilder gives a detailed account of working on Those Magnificent Men in their Flying Machines (1965). Later in his career he worked on several films for Michael Winner and Eliott Kastner, including North Sea Hijack (1980).

Summary

In this interview, conducted in 1990, Charles Wilder talks to Margaret Thompson and John Taylor about his career in production accountancy. He has some vivid memories of the atmosphere at Shepherd's Bush in the late 1920s and after the studios were re-built in the early 1930s, when they were at their busiest. He discusses personalities such as Michael Balcon, Hitchcock and the Ostrers. Wilder talks in detail throughout this interview about the particular skills needed to keep financial control of a film, and the various pitfalls that can occur if his job is not properly done. He uses examples from throughout his career, notably from particularly problematic films such as Those Magnificent Men in their Flying Machines and I Could Go on Singing. He offers some brief memories of the development of ACT at Shepherd's Bush. Wilder also discusses the process of raising finance for a film, particularly in the post war period, highlighting the role of organisations such as the NFFC and the Film Finances Company. Among the producers Wilder remembers are Michael Balcon, Hal Wallis, Ivan Foxwell and Elliot Kastner. Finally, he gives a brief account of his war service training as a driver-operator Signals, operating anti-aircraft guns against Doodlebugs, and going over to Normandy on D-78. This is a fascinating interview, rich in practical detail about the day-to-day operation of film finance both in a large studio in the 1930s and on independent productions during the 1960-70s.

L. P. Williams 

(art director)
10/8/1905 - 8/10/1996

Biography

After an early career as an architect, L. P. Williams began as an Art Director working for Herbert Wilcox at the Stoll Studios, Cricklewood in 1928. He remained with Wilcox, moving to British and Dominions at Elstree and working on films such as Victoria the Great (1937) and Sixty Glorious Years (1938), later going with Wilcox to Hollywood where he worked on Mr & Mrs Smith (1941) with Alfred Hitchcock. He returned during the war as a member of the RAF and saw active service in Egypt. After the war he worked most famously on Brief Encounter (1945) and later became technical director at Denham and Pinewood Studios.

Summary

In this interview Williams talks to Rodney Giesler in detail about his career. There are extended discussions of the technical difficulties which the introduction of sound and colour (particularly Technicolor) presented to the art director. Williams recalls his involvement with David Rawnsley and the Independent Frame process, and discusses his memories of various colleagues, including Freddie Young, Tom Walls, Maurice Elvey and Herbert Wilcox. He gives accounts of the production of Victoria the Great and Brief Encounter and recalls his early involvement in the Association of Cinematograph Technicians (ACT) – the fore-runner of BECTU.

Kitty Wood 

(editor/continuity)
25/4/22 -

Biography

Kitty Wood worked at the Hulton Press on magazines such as Picture Post before entering the film industry in 1941 as an assistant to Donald Carter at Gaumont-British Instructional in Shepherd's Bush. She quickly graduated to film editing, although she also sometimes worked as a continuity girl. After the war she worked on a freelance basis until joining the Coal Board film department in 1958. She also worked for a period during the 1960s on commercials at World Wide Pictures Limited. She describes some of the films she was involved in making as being ‘on the very bottom rung of the feature world,' - short films, second features and children's films.

Summary

In this interview she talks to Jim Connock about the working culture at Gaumont-British Instructional under figures like Bruce Woolfe and Mary Field, she discusses the important relationship between the work of the continuity girl and the film editor, her memories of working with Lewis Gilbert, and she mentions some of the difficulties of working as a woman in the industry.

Adrian (Andy) D. Worker

(producer/studio manager)
1916 - ??

Biography

Adrian (always known as Andy) Worker began the film industry as a cost accountant for Gainsborough at Shepherds Bush Studios in the mid 1940s. He briefly discusses the budgeting (or lack of budgeting) for films such as The Man In Grey (1943) and some of the production personalities at Gainsborough. With Rank's takeover of the company he moved to the accounting office of Production Facilities at Denham. Always keen to get into production, Worker became production supervisor at Rank's Highbury Studios and then worked as a freelance production supervisor for Daniel Angel. In 1959 Worker became the Studio Manager at Shepperton, a post which he retained throughout the 1960s.

Summary

Worker comments briefly on films such as London Town (1946) and Caesar and Cleopatra (1945) from an accounting point of view. He has more to say about working with Bette Davis on Another Man's Poison (1952), and later working with Cubby Broccoli at Warwick Pictures on films such as The Red Beret (1953), Safari (1956) and The Black Knight (1954). He talks particularly of his memories of productions such as Anne of the Thousand Days (1969), Oliver! (1968), and Casino Royale (1967), and more generally about the process and finances of running a film studio, and the influence of the trade unions on working practices. Not naturally talkative, Worker nevertheless gives some interesting insights into production from a management point of view.

Manny Yospa

(focus puller)
??

 

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