HP Voices is a collective 'online journal' consisting of all our members' blogs. (As part of full membership of the History Project, every member has the opportunity exclusive use of their own blog to write articles, essays, notes on research, or other content they may wish to share.) Please note that all opinions expressed are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of the British Entertainment History Project.
Interviews digitised January / February 2019
Ossie Morris # 9 9 sides of tape
Oswald ('Ossie') Morris (1915-2014 ), cinematographer, OBE, BSC, was born on 22 November in Middlesex. One of the most significant cameramen of the post-war era, Ossie began his career working as a projectionist during his school holidays. In 1932, he left school to become an apprentice in the film industry, with his first job as a clapperboy on After Dark(1932) at Associated Sound Film Industries, Wembley. During WWII, Morris served as a bomber pilot for the Royal Air Force, and returned to the film industry when the war ended. After some experience as an operator at Pinewood in 1946, he was given his first film to light in 1950.
In a recent interview with cinematographer, Philip Bonham-Carter, he reveals his passion for capturing situations when they happen. It doesn’t matter if the lighting isn’t good or even if there is no light at all –the importance of capturing these moments, that can never be repeated, governs his approach. This is how the ground-breaking BBC documentary series, ‘The Family’ was filmed in 1974. An approach that bought him quite a lot of criticism, at the time, from his fellow cameramen at the BBC who felt he was ‘letting the side down’, by not carefully lighting the interiors. This technique was very different from that used by Richard Cawston when he produced the documentary, ‘This is the BBC’ in 1959. While you are meant to be watching events as they happen over a 24 hour period at the BBC, every scene is obviously clearly crafted with probably two or three takes for each scene.
In an interview conducted by Mike Dick, Philip Gilbert, Head of BBC Events Department in 1997, explains the difficult decisions that had to be taken the week after the sad news that Diana , Princess of Wales, had died in a car crash on 31stAugust in 1997. Philip was also the BBC person who liaised with Buckingham Palace but no information, for a number of days after her death, was forthcoming about the funeral arrangements – Philip and his team had to second guess what arrangements were being made or would be made for Diana’s funeral. You can find out what happened behind the scenes that week and the whole of Philip Gilbert's career by listening to the full interview with him on the BEHP website.
Interview number. 733
Edna Owen as she was always known by when at ITN. Virtually employee number one Edna Owen was there from the very first night of ITN when ITV started in September 1955. An interesting insight into those very early days. She recounts the day when the training days were over and the group of employees would be split in to two shifts. Potentially to not meet anymore. A formidable manager who made sure all were doing their best.
David Hamilton was a continuity announcer for ITV . I remember him most when he played football for the ITV team. Turning up at Brockwell Park council football pitches with his boots in a bag. Unlike most of us he arrived in his Rolls Royce! Very likeable fellow footballer on the day. Mostly know as "diddy" no doubt for his size although I never remember him being very small.Worked with many other famous people at ITV like Eamon Andrews.
Fifty-five years ago Ralph Bond, documentary filmmaker and Vice-President of the ACTT film and television union, sat down in the union’s offices in Soho Square to interview Alf (“A.A.”) Tunwell, doyen of Britain’s cinema newsreel camera operators. The audio interview is now part of the History Project collection, has recently been digitised and uploaded, and is a sheer delight.
On Saturday 29 September 2018, a very exciting film screening is taking place at the No.6 Cinema
in Portsmouth - a rare showing of Maurice Elvey's 1918 film biography of Nelson. The screening is taking place on an auspicious date: the 260th anniversary of the birth of Admiral Lord Nelson; and is being shown in an appropriate venue: just around the corner from HMS Victory
This month (April 2018) the BFI is running a retrospective on Woodfall Films, the company which in the late 1950s and 1960s pioneered a new sort of cinema in Britain. This was, of course, also the time of Truffaut, Godard and the New Wave in France, but it is a disservice to both movements to yoke them too closely together. Each was struggling with social, economic and aesthetic challenges rooted in its own national circumstances.
The BEHP’s audio interview with Bill Girdlestone – conducted in 1987, and now digitised and available on the website at https://historyproject.org.uk/interview/bill-girdlestone – offers fascinating insights into the world of the film lab, and in particular Bill’s own craft of grading (For an invaluable historical overview of Britain’s film labs, go to http://www.brianpritchard.com/British%20Labs.htm). His career spanned much of the twentieth century, from the First World War to the 1970s, taking in the advent of sound and the coming of colour. And his changing fortunes also shine a light on the power-play and cut-throat competition which characterised the British film industry in these decades.
I have been volunteering for the BEHP (British Entertainment History Project – www.historyproject.org.uk - a hugely valuable collection of interviews with people who have worked in the Film, TV, Theatre and Radio industries) since April 2017. I am pursuing a career change from digital marketing to archives management because I am passionate about collecting and cataloguing elements of history that tell fascinating stories about society.
I am working on a project to audit the archive by filing and cataloguing copies of audiocassettes, minidisks, CDs and DVDs for each of the 700+ interviews to help volunteers find them for digitising and adding to the website.