Charles Wilder

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Interview Date(s): 
15 Oct 1990
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Interview notes

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. (Lawrence Napper, BCHRP)


BECTU History Project - Interview No. 160

[Copyright BECTU]

Transcription Date: 2003-08-29
Interview Date: 1990-10-15

Interviewer: Margaret Thomson and John Taylor
Interviewee: Charles Wilder

Tape 1, Side 1

Margaret Thomson: ACT History Project number 160, Side one. We're interviewing Charles Wilder whose category is 5Q. The date today is 15.10.90. This is Margaret Thomson and John Taylor interviewing. So Charles let's start from the beginning...

Charles Wilder: Well I first went to Shepherd's Bush in 1924.

Margaret Thomson: Yes.

Charles Wilder: That was the Gaumont Company. And um...

Margaret Thomson: How old would you be then?

Charles Wilder: Fourteen.

Margaret Thomson: Good heavens, really?

Charles Wilder: Yes.

Margaret Thomson: What were you doing?

Charles Wilder: The boy in the office. I got the job from the Labour Exchange in Shepherd's Bush.

Margaret Thomson: Did you live near Shepherd's Bush?

Charles Wilder: East Acton.

John Taylor: Just let him talk - I don't think you have to feed him you know, I should just talk.

Charles Wilder: Pardon?

Margaret Thomson: Sorry, I'm interrupting you too much, so you carry on.

Charles Wilder: Yes East Acton was near Shepherd's Bush and the bosses then were A.C. and R.C. Bromhead and the studio manager was Bernard Bromhead, and it was all in the family kind of thing, you know? And the film that was in production when I arrived there was Jack Buchanan and Betty Balfour, and I can't remember the name of the film but they were the two stars of the day. And from 1924 until 1927 we did a film at Stag Lane aerodrome with Sir Alan Cobham [NB The Flight Commander] and the er...

John Taylor: What was your work as an office boy?

Charles Wilder: What was my work as an office boy? Well I used to do the post and anything that I was told to do, you know. I was only fourteen and er...

Margaret Thomson: How much would you be earning then?

Charles Wilder: Twelve and sixpence a week. Well the wages then, like carpenters and all that, was one and ten pence ha'penny an hour, it was really very, very low. And I used to run the Tobacco Club at Shepherd's Bush.

Margaret Thomson: What's a Tobacco Club?

Charles Wilder: Well it's people who wanted cigarettes or tobacco and I used to get them sort of wholesale and then dish them out according to what they'd ordered and get them and take the money in you know. And I remember one of the big smokers was Bill Shenton who I think you know!

John Taylor: The cameraman...

Charles Wilder: Yes. And there was Cyril Bristow, did you know him? Cyril Bristow and Jack Cox and Percy Strong, they were all there in those days you know. And the production controller if you like, as they would call him now, Bunny, Bunny Roscoe. I don't know what happened to them at all you know.

John Taylor: This was Lime Grove.

Charles Wilder: In Lime Grove, yes.

John Taylor: Was it newly opened then, or...?

Charles Wilder: No it was a glass studio.

John Taylor: In those days?

Charles Wilder: In those days, and it was all painted green and that's where they used to do the films, in this glass studio, there were no others there at all except for the others which was the office block. And um - and it went on like that, in that glass studio until 1927, and I think A Man of Aran came into the glass studio to do some model shots or something. And then in 1927 - oh before 1927 I went up to Blackpool with Lupino Lane and we made a film up there.

John Taylor: But this was later on, keep to the early days.

Charles Wilder: Oh the early days.

John Taylor: Who were you - keep to the early days.

Charles Wilder: Well as things progressed, with the rebuilding of the studio and that sort of thing, one got a rise, more money and it gradually worked up that way and still...

John Taylor: After an office boy, what was your first job?

Charles Wilder: Oh, the first film that I...

John Taylor: No, the first job after an office boy.

Charles Wilder: Well it was all in the cashier's office.

John Taylor: Hmm, dealing with money and um...?

Charles Wilder: Dealing with money, um...

Margaret Thomson: Did you have a training for that at all?

Charles Wilder: No, no.

Margaret Thomson: You just picked it up as you went along?

Charles Wilder: Well I had a good Standard X7 when I left school so it wasn't strange to me you know. And of course I met all the then contract artists and that sort of thing at that time, and then gradually um...

John Taylor: Did you pay the wages to the crowd artists and so on?

Charles Wilder: Yes, yes.

John Taylor: Well tell us about that.

Charles Wilder: A guinea a day, the crowd artists were in those days.

Margaret Thomson: Not bad money was it?

Charles Wilder: No, no. And as I say the craft labour and that sort of thing, about three pounds forty a week, one and five pence ha'penny an hour or one and ten pence ha'penny an hour.

John Taylor: Not a guaranteed week, I mean some of them were just paid by the hour, were they?

Charles Wilder: That's right, they were all paid by the hour, and electricians, the electricians used to belong to two unions I remember, ETU and NATKE. And I remember there was a strike by ETU and they brought in all the NATKE electricians. But it gradually developed you see from a very, very small operation.

John Taylor: It was really small?

Charles Wilder: Oh yes, oh yes.

Margaret Thomson: How many people would be employed there do you think?

Charles Wilder: Oh I don't know.

Margaret Thomson: Forty or fifty sort of thing, or less?

Charles Wilder: Not a terrible lot, it's very difficult to remember now how many.

Margaret Thomson: Would you work long hours?

Charles Wilder: Not in the beginning, but later on in the period after 1927, when Alfred Hitchcock arrived, that's when we started working long hours, until two in the morning, Sunday mornings, any morning you know. But going back, it was a question of sort of moving with the development of the industry and of the studio, you know. The laboratory of course was always over the back of the studio when the glass studio was there, but that was all knocked down and rebuilt, dressing rooms and that sort of thing. It was a redevelopment really. And they knocked down two or three houses in Lime Grove and extended the building plot and so on and so on. You know, there's nothing which you can sort of put your finger on definitely, except that it was a development.

John Taylor: Was this when the Ostrers got there?

Charles Wilder: No the Ostrers didn't come until 1931 I think, that's when the first film in the new studios was made, which was on the television the other night, Rome Express. And after that they made um, Jessie Matthews' Evergreen. And at one time in the new building we had five films going at one time.

Margaret Thomson: Sound came in in '28 didn't it?

Charles Wilder: Pardon?

Margaret Thomson: Sound came in...?

Charles Wilder: Sound came in about 1927 and I can remember they'd just finished building the new studios. And they put up like another wall inside the big studio, made of Essex board or something to try and keep the sound in and there were quilts over the cameras to stop the whirring of the cameras.

Margaret Thomson: Hmm, hmm.

Charles Wilder: And I can't remember the name of the film but I know there was an actor named Jameson Thomas and he was in that film. And then as I say in 19... things sort of drifted off a bit until the studios were fully operational and then they started with Rome Express which was directed by Walter Forde, or so it said on the television, [chuckles] I couldn't remember that one! And then they did a film called Die Fledermaus [? Possibly Waltz Time], with Evelyn Laye and then the next one was Evergreen with Jessie Matthews. And you know, I've lost the sequence of films now but there were so many of them, with Walter Housten, Conrad Veidt, oh a whole crowd of people. And then we had an influx of American artists and technicians, Richard Dix, Richard Arlon, Madge Evans, oh a whole crowd. And the two cameramen were Glen MacWilliams and Charles Van Enger, and also we had two German makeup men. And at this time we had the starlet school which was all the young girls like Jean Kent and Glennis Lorimer, and they also had a make-up apprentice school where they taught them the make-up business you know. And gradually it developed again with, as I say, five films going all at once in studios that were on top of one another, there wasn't one that was on ground level at all. So that had all the trouble of getting the stuff, the sets up there and you know, so it was quite an operation really. And then it gradually went on very busy all the time until 1938 I think it was or 1939 when the war came and um...

John Taylor: Go back a bit, what about Hitchcock and people like that?

Charles Wilder: Well Alfred Hitchcock, he came in as I say and he worked everybody 'til all the hours that God made. And several of the films had Peter Lorre in...

Margaret Thomson: What was his first film, Hitchcock's first film, do you remember?

Charles Wilder: Ah that was at Elstree wasn't it - Blackmail. [NB in fact his first sound film]

Margaret Thomson: Ah, yes...

Charles Wilder: That was at Elstree yes. I can't remember which was the first one at Shepherd's Bush, but it was a different kettle of fish with him because as I say he used to work all the hours that there were. And I remember on one of Hitchcock's pictures we used a building on Western Avenue which is now the Renault factory I think, and they used that as a studio. And then um...

John Taylor: Did you come into contact with Hitchcock?

Charles Wilder: Yes.

John Taylor: How did you get on with him?

Charles Wilder: Oh I didn't - not very close you know. I knew him and that was all, but he was a bit um - you know, sort of above you kind of thing, you know. And the one thing I forgot to tell you was that in the period up to 1927, because they were building we went to Stoll's Studio at Cricklewood and we made a film there. Again I can't remember the title, but Sinclair Hill was the director and he also made one at Shepherd's Bush later on with a girl named Sari Maritza which was called Greek Street.

John Taylor: What about the other people who you came into contact with at that time, like Jessie Matthews and all the...?

Charles Wilder: Well it's you know - I can't remember quite honestly.

Margaret Thomson: Were you working in the central accounting or were you accountant for a film, for a production?

Charles Wilder: No not in those days no, it was central accounting. Going back again to the old days, I mentioned Lupino Lane. Hindle Wakes was another film that was made with John Stuart and Estelle Brody. And John Stuart then was one of the romantic leads at that time you know. And that was one film they made and then um, the contract artists were John Stuart, Cyril McLaglen, Alf Goddard and Humberston Wright, they were the original contract stars. But they were all dispensed with when the new regime came in, which was Michael Balcon, Harold Boxall, and I don't really know what happened to all those you know.

John Taylor: Which year did Balcon come, can you remember?

Charles Wilder: 1931. That's when the new studios opened...

John Taylor: And Ostrers took over?

Charles Wilder: Oh the Ostrers, they were sort of in the background, um - there was Maurice Ostrer and Ted Black, he was another one. I can't remember the exact dates that they came into being but um - going on a bit, when the war started, Gainsborough Pictures came over from Islington into Shepherd's Bush and that's really when Maurice Ostrer became in charge of production.

John Taylor: What about Balcon, do you remember anything about Balcon?

Charles Wilder: No, no, they were very aloof, John, very aloof. Harold Boxall was all right but you didn't see much of Michael Balcon at all.

John Taylor: Didn't the studio close down for a bit in the thirties?

Charles Wilder: Yeah, 1927 it - it didn't actually shut down but there was no filming going on because of the building.

Margaret Thomson: But later on, I thought I could remember, I was at G-BI in '36, I thought I could remember there was a period when all the studios, all the floors were closed, only the newsreel was there, this would be '39 I suppose.

Charles Wilder: Yes well things started to drift off in about 1938.

Margaret Thomson: Oh did it? Yes.

Charles Wilder: Yes, about 1938 and then of course as I say, the war came and Gainsborough Pictures came into being in Shepherd's Bush Studios. And, I'm just trying to...

John Taylor: Who were the people you were friendly with during that period, that early period?

Charles Wilder: I was friendly with David Lean, just that we were - he was two years older than I was.

John Taylor: What was he doing?

Charles Wilder: Well he was a kind of general production runner at that time and then he seemed to disappear to me and er...

John Taylor: Didn't you say he was in wardrobe at one time? Did you say he was in wardrobe?

Charles Wilder: No, no. No he was a general runner for production you know, and obviously while he was doing that he was picking up all the tips and things you know.

Margaret Thomson: Hints, yes, yes.

Charles Wilder: And then he - as far as I can remember he disappeared and the next I know of him - because I knew him as Douglas Lean.

John Taylor: Hmm.

Charles Wilder: When I came back out of the army I read in the paper that David Lean was a film director, and I never connected the two at all until I saw a photograph of him in the paper and of course I knew immediately that was one and the same chap you, know. Because he became an editor first of all didn't he?

John Taylor: Yes.

Charles Wilder: Yeah.

John Taylor: But what about the other people there who you were friendly with?

Charles Wilder: Er... You know I knew so many, John, you know that um. Geoff Unsworth, he wasn't a friend but I knew him you know.

John Taylor: Yes, and he was beginning...

Charles Wilder: Pardon?

John Taylor: He was beginning as well...

Charles Wilder: Yes, and he was the colour expert in those days.

John Taylor: Was he?

Charles Wilder: Oh yeah, yeah. And there was Sid Bonnett, do you remember Sid Bonnett? [S. R. Bonnett]

John Taylor: Hmm.

Charles Wilder: He was on the staff.

John Taylor: He was the cameraman who photographed climbing Mount Everest, yeah...

Charles Wilder: He went over Everest didn't he?

John Taylor: Yes.

Charles Wilder: Oh there were so many people there that you can't really say that they were friends, they were acquaintances, you know. And um - it's very difficult...

Margaret Thomson: Who was the comedian?

Charles Wilder: Pardon?

Margaret Thomson: Who was the comedian that made all those films? Those were made at Shepherd's Bush, at um...

John Taylor: Will Hay?

Margaret Thomson: Will Hay!

Charles Wilder: Oh no, most of those were made at Islington.

John Taylor: Islington, Gainsborough, yes.

Charles Wilder: Yes, for Gainsborough.

Margaret Thomson: Will Hay, were they?

Charles Wilder: Yes. But we did have The Crazy Gang there, they made a couple of films, and er...Tommy Handley, he made a film, Tommy Handley. And we used to have to work Sundays then because he had a matinee or something during the week, so we used to work Sundays and not Wednesdays, or something like that you know.

John Taylor: There was no overtime I suppose?

Charles Wilder: No, no. No overtime, not for production staff or office staff, but the craft grades used to get it because they had a union, you know. The ACT, as you probably know, came into being just about 1939.

John Taylor: It was '36.

Charles Wilder: Pardon?

John Taylor: 1936.

Charles Wilder: Oh, I thought it was '39. And er...

John Taylor: Do you remember ACT starting down there at all, at The Bush?

Charles Wilder: I can remember one or two people that joined the union. There was a makeup man named Claff [NB probably George Claff], and he was suddenly an ACT member, you know. But I've got a very vague recollection of that, except that the union did come into being.

John Taylor: Well Gwen joined in about 1936, '37...

Charles Wilder: Did she?

John Taylor: Yeah...

Charles Wilder: Yes, yeah.

John Taylor: Charlie Wheeler?

Charles Wilder: Oh I remember Charlie Wheeler, yes, yes. We always looked upon him as a Red! [Chuckles] [break in recording] ....used to come into the cashiers office to use the phone, that was the only contact you know, and if you got a, "Good evening" out of him, well you were lucky! [Chuckles]

John Taylor: You must have had problems on films with money and so on, did you?

Charles Wilder: Well not in those days, not in those days, because the money was flowing you see, with five films going and er, I don't know where the finance came from because that was all up in London. But um...I was just trying to think now...

Margaret Thomson: Do you remember at all the amount of money that a feature film or a first-feature film would be getting, or a second-feature film?

Charles Wilder: Well I can tell you, in 1940, '39, they were costing about eighty thousand. That was The Man in Grey because that was the last picture that was made before I went in the forces and I was in the forces for four years, and then of course everything was different, you know. I feel I'm not doing very good John, I...

John Taylor: No you're doing fine...

Charles Wilder: [Chuckling] I am?

Margaret Thomson: Yes, yes.

John Taylor: You know, we're working our way into it. Can you remember the costs on any of the earlier films at all?

Charles Wilder: No I didn't have anything to do with those at all, not until...

John Taylor: What actually did you do on a film in those days? You paid the crowd artists and things like that...

Charles Wilder: Paid the crowd artists, dealt with all the er - it wasn't just me, there were two other people in the office.

John Taylor: The office had a staff of three did it?

Charles Wilder: Yes.

John Taylor: And that coped with the whole studio?

Charles Wilder: Well that was it, yes.

Margaret Thomson: And would you be keeping the books yourself?

Charles Wilder: No, no um.

Margaret Thomson: That would come later would it?

Charles Wilder: A lot of the bookwork was done in London, we used to have to send it and returns to Denman Street, I think it was. The main accounts were kept up there. But that was in the early days, up to 1927. 1931 they had a studio accountant come in who was a registrar for the Ostrers and he organised an accounting system and that's when things started to grow and grow until there were literally hundreds of people about, including plenty on the accounts staff. But that was all upstairs. Where we were was purely cash, cash wages, we used to do the analysis of what they were working on, from timesheets you know, and paying the crowd artists' wages, all that sort of thing, all to do with cash.

John Taylor: Yes.

Charles Wilder: The accounting was done upstairs in one of the houses they had. And then as I say - I'm just trying to think what to say John!

Margaret Thomson: We'll have a pause.

John Taylor: You're doing fine you know, have a pause! [break in recording]

Margaret Thomson: I understood then that the finance behind the whole lot was the Bradford and Metropolitan Trust, we used to hear about them, does that ring a bell with you at all?

Charles Wilder: No, no.

Margaret Thomson: No, oh well forget it, it was just a...

John Taylor: No well I think it was a - I mean it was.

Charles Wilder: Yes, I think that was all dealt with, as I say, in London.

Margaret Thomson: Yes, they may have been behind the Ostrers, they may have been the moneybags behind the whole thing really, mightn't they?

Charles Wilder: Yes, but um - I know we used to have representatives come down from General Film Distributors. One particular one I remember was Leslie Thompson and they must have had some financial interest because they used to go through everything, all the vouchers, invoices, everything, and they used to come down every week. And then I think Eagle Star and Dominion, that was an insurance company, they were involved, so you see the financial thing was a conglomerate really.

Margaret Thomson: As usual! [Chuckles] As we realise nowadays.

Charles Wilder: Yes. It wasn't until later on when I went out on my own as a production accountant that you got to know where the finance was coming from! But I stayed - I went back to Pinewood after I was de-mobbed and I stayed there for a short time and then I left and worked with the Ostrers, they started their own production company, but it was a bit of a failure. We did one film at Elstree with an actress named Beryl Baxter, and um...

John Taylor: What were you by this time? Were you a production accountant now?

Charles Wilder: Yes. And then I left the Ostrers and went freelance, that was in 1954.

John Taylor: What is the work of a production accountant?

Charles Wilder: Well a production accountant first of all has to work on the budget, in conjunction with the producer and um...

John Taylor: Which is the first one you did as a production accountant?

Charles Wilder: I think it was called 'The Gray Scarf' [NB Probably The Green Scarf].

John Taylor: Was this with the Ostrers?

Charles Wilder: Um, yes that was the Ostrers. And The March Hare that was another one, that was the Ostrers but...

John Taylor: You'd start with the budget?

Charles Wilder: Start with the budget and then you've got to arrange for the bank accounts.

John Taylor: What's involved with that?

Charles Wilder: Well all you - once you know where the money's coming from [chuckles] you arrange with the bank to open an account and it's a normal bank mandate where you have to get signatures, particular signatures on the cheques and then you deal with all the costs, production. You have to forecast what you think the costs are going to be. For instance if you see, first of all, you do the budget and that's got 'x' number of personnel in it at certain rates. Well if they're taken on at higher rates or lower rates, then you've got to reflect that in the costs, straightaway, because that's going to be the position right through the picture. And then you have to watch all the items that go to making up a film, film stock, crowd artists, sound, everything.

Margaret Thomson: Locations..

John Taylor: Staff - do you have a staff, I mean do any...?

Charles Wilder: Oh yes.

John Taylor: How many people?

Charles Wilder: You'd probably have an assistant and a secretary.

John Taylor: Ah hmm.

Charles Wilder: Nowadays it's a little bit different to that.

John Taylor: Yeah, but keep to the early days...

Charles Wilder: But that's what we used to do. And you had to reflect the costs, we used to do set costs, that's the cost of building the sets and also once a week - that was a daily thing, set costs - once a week we had to do a production cost statement which gave the total cost to date, including estimates. Because you wouldn't get the charges, say, for generators until probably six or seven weeks later, so you had to find out an estimate, or get an estimate of what it was going to cost and then put that in the cost. And in the same way, if they were going over schedule, which so often happened, you had to allow for that in the estimate to complete.

John Taylor: A pretty skilled job.

Margaret Thomson: Hmm, yes.

Charles Wilder: Yeah, oh it was - the production accountant was really a specialist job I always think. Because you could always get somebody to do the books and pass invoices, etcetera, etcetera. But the art, if you like, was forecasting.

John Taylor: Hmm.

Charles Wilder: Forecasting the costs and if they were going over schedule.

John Taylor: You worked closely with the producer on everything?

Charles Wilder: Yes that's right, yeah. I did five films with Hal Wallis and that was the most wonderful experience that I ever had. Because he was right there all the time you know. And we used to...

John Taylor: Which were the five films?

Charles Wilder: The first one was Becket.

John Taylor: Lion in Winter?...

Charles Wilder: Mary, Queen of Scots, Bequest to the Nation, Anne of the Thousand Days...and one other one which was a fill-in that he did for Universal with Mia Farrow.

John Taylor: Hmm.

Charles Wilder: But the experience of working with him was absolutely wonderful, it really was. He used to have a fine cut within two days and to my knowledge, on Becket he completely cut out building a set because he could see how it was going, and he'd say, "Right, well we'll play that scene on the set that we've got on the stage."

Margaret Thomson: Ah hmm.

Charles Wilder: And he'd saved thirty thousand pounds, just like that, you know. No, that was a good experience, that was.

John Taylor: What were the kind of costs of those films?

Charles Wilder: Um. I think that Becket was almost a million pounds, but then of course eventually Burton used to get that for a film, and he was in Anne of the Thousand Days so costs sort of went right up, you know. I've torn up all my - I did keep them all, budgets, costs, everything.

Margaret Thomson: Oh what a shame!

Charles Wilder: ...and I tore them all up. I had them all at the studio and they were getting so cumbersome. And I also had a book here about the opening of the new studios at Shepherd's Bush, but I can't find it. I've been up in the loft, everywhere. And I had autographed photographs of John Stuart and Estelle Brody and Jessie Matthews - can't find any of them! But um...

John Taylor: Tell us more about Wallis.

Charles Wilder: Well he didn't used to stay here, he used to come over for the film and then go back, and he always had an American associate with him. And he was a very aloof man, but once he could see that you knew what you were doing then he was a little bit more sociable you know. But they used to call him 'The Big Indian'. The Americans that came over used to call him 'The Big Indian'. Because he looked like a Red Indian, he was sort of swarthy and, you know. But he was all right in the end when he got to know you and that sort of thing. And his wife came over, who was Martha Hyer - she was an actress...

John Taylor: Yeah, hmm.

Charles Wilder: And he was quite pleasant in the end, in fact we had a big party at the end of Becket. Liz Taylor was, shall we say, 'courting' Burton at that time and they put on a show at The Dorchester, and we had a wonderful time. And it was at that time that she had this little girl who couldn't move her legs. She was um... and she adopted her.

Margaret Thomson: Oh did she? Spastic or something?

Charles Wilder: Yes that's right. And um, but he was a man that - Wallis - would go on the floor and he'd say to the first assistant, "What time did you get the first shot in the can? How many set-ups have you done?" How many this, how many that? [Chuckles] The chap didn't know what had hit him you see, but this is what he used to do. And he'd get on the back of the director as well if he thought that he wasn't going fast enough, then he would get onto the director as well. He was a real film producer you know, absolutely.

John Taylor: Yes. Did they all come in within the budget?

Charles Wilder: Oh yes. On five films that I did, we never went over budget and on one film we were half a day over schedule, and that was on Anne of the Thousand Days where she gets beheaded. And he wanted the scene done again and that was half a day and that was it. But they were all well under budget.

John Taylor: And they were good films too.

Charles Wilder: Yes, oh absolutely marvellous. And they were, except for Becket, they were all for Universal. I think Becket was Paramount, I think that's right. Um...if you only knew at that time, you'd make all sorts of notes, wouldn't you? [Chuckles]

Margaret Thomson: [Chuckling] Yes! How long would the span be that you would work on a film, how many months? About a year I suppose?

Charles Wilder: Well usually the film shooting was about - well, anything from eight to twelve weeks, and then there would be another three to four months editing. That's sixteen, so that's about...

Margaret Thomson: But then you'd be working ahead of the film for a month or two would you?

Charles Wilder: Oh yes, probably three or four weeks, you know. The worst one that I ever worked on was Those Magnificent Men in Their Flying Machines...

Margaret Thomson: Yes?

Charles Wilder: And that drove me into the ground that did. And I was on that for two and-a-half years.

John Taylor: No!

Charles Wilder: Yes I was, yeah, because they...

John Taylor: Tell us more! [Chuckles]

Margaret Thomson: Who was the producer for that?

Charles Wilder: He was an American. The director was Ken Annakin, of course.

Margaret Thomson: Oh yes, yeah.

Charles Wilder: Um - Margulies, Stan Margulies was the producer and as I say I was on that for two-and-a-half years altogether and we...

John Taylor: What went wrong? I mean why two-and-a-half years?

Charles Wilder: Well, first of all they decided to do a lot of retakes, and they brought back all the artists from Japan and Italy and wherever they came from to do these retakes, so that was a big extra time. And then there was a very, very long editing period because it was in 70 mm, which takes a bit longer apparently, and the - well as I say, two-and-a-half years, that was it.

John Taylor: But this is just inefficient production really is it or...?

Charles Wilder: It was a very difficult production because they had all these old aircraft and if the wind was less than twelve miles an hour they wouldn't fly. And they brought them all down from the museums and they had these French helicopters for shooting that reversed as well as went forward, and they were all down at Booker Aerodrome near High Wycombe. And it was a very difficult picture, we had a thousand crowd every day for goodness knows how long, and they all had to be paid.

John Taylor: On the original budget? I mean the original budget...

Charles Wilder: Oh we were well over on it. It used to go over about thirty thousand pounds a week and that was mainly because the pilots were all on standby and nobody knew this, you know! They thought they would only get paid when they worked, but they were all called and they were on standby and they used to get paid. And of course it took longer and longer and the costs went up. But I always thought personally that the film could have been much more funny than it was, because they had a lot of stuff with Benny Hill which was terrific, but they cut a lot of it out you know. But - that was about the worst one I think.

Margaret Thomson: Do you think that might have been Ken Annakin's first big feature film?

Charles Wilder: Oh no I don't think so.

Margaret Thomson: Because I knew him at the Guild...

Charles Wilder: I didn't know him very well but I can't imagine that was his first film.

John Taylor: No it wasn't, no.

Margaret Thomson: It wasn't?

John Taylor: He was a well-established director. He started with Box and made a lot of films with.

Margaret Thomson: Well he started with Gaumont [?] actually.

Charles Wilder: Oh did he? Yes.

John Taylor: Well no, but in features.

Margaret Thomson: Features yes, yes.

John Taylor: He was one of Box's and he made a whole...

Charles Wilder: I worked with Sydney Box and Peter Rogers on one film, A Passionate Stranger with Ralph Richardson. That was quite a good film, and Muriel Box directed. And Peter has never forgotten it, Peter Rogers. The other day we had a - on my actual birthday we had a lunch in the restaurant at Pinewood, and on the way in Peter Rogers saw me and he came and put his arms around me like this you know, and I said, "You'd better be careful, I'm eighty today." "What?!" And immediately a bottle of champagne came up on the table, you know! But I went to Spain on a film for Foxwell, Manuela - that was an experience of a sort. And then of course my wife fell ill and I couldn't go any more. I used to love to go on location, I've been up to Scotland and um... But...

John Taylor: Tell us about some of the locations.

Charles Wilder: Well location in Spain was really, it was eleven nights on a boat, so that um, I didn't really get involved too much in that. It was all night shooting and um...

John Taylor: But you were production accountant on that?

Charles Wilder: Yes, well I was one of two. Foxwell had a firm of accountants called Baker Todman and they demanded that one of Baker Todman's staff come onto the film. And he didn't know anything much about film production and we were out there for five weeks and er... And the only other location I went on was the one to Scotland in Oban, and that was for Foxwell Film again, with James Mason and George Sanders and people like that and we were up there for a couple of weeks [NB film [probably is A Touch of Larceny]. But other than that they were only local locations. But I had lots of offers to go. They wanted me to go to Kenya but I couldn't go because of my wife you see. And several other places I could have. I almost went on Our Man in Havana which was actually shot in Havana, but again I had to pull out when...

John Taylor: What did you do when you'd go on location? You'd set up an office would you?

Charles Wilder: Set up an office, you'd got to arrange a bank account.

John Taylor: Locally, ah hmm.

Charles Wilder: Yes. Arrange for the money to come from London and you had to pay out all the expenditure, mostly in cash to the unit and by cheques, if they'd accept them, to the suppliers. You know, some of the suppliers wouldn't accept cheques, they wanted the money.

John Taylor: They didn't trust film people.

Charles Wilder: No that's right, yeah.

John Taylor: Very sensibly! [All laughs]

Charles Wilder: I had a wonderful photograph too, and I just can't find them, when we were doing Rhodes of Africa at Shepherd's Bush. And they brought over this African Chief and his cook and staff and all that sort of thing, and he wouldn't accept a cheque. And I had a photograph of me handing over the moneybag over the counter like this you know - and I can't find the blessed thing!

John Taylor: How much was in the moneybag?

Charles Wilder: Oh I don't know, it was all silver.

John Taylor: Was it?

Charles Wilder: Oh yes it was all silver, yeah. They wouldn't accept anything that was paper at all, but I can't remember now how much it was. But I tried to find those photographs to show you but I can't think of anywhere else to look, I've been up in the loft, everywhere.

John Taylor: What kind of problems did you run into on locations like that? There must have been problems on it, did you...?

Charles Wilder: Well the biggest danger was if you hadn't drawn enough money out of the bank that day. You probably know, all sorts of things crop up on film production that they don't tell you about. We never had many problems, not on the ones that - on those two that I went. But as I say, I had to cut it all out because of my wife, you know I couldn't go away at all.

John Taylor: What kind of problems did you run into on other films that weren't on location?

Charles Wilder: Um, no I don't think we did, not on the pictures I was on!

John Taylor: I suppose if they were well organised you didn't run into problems?

Charles Wilder: That's right, that's right. Because you have to do a cash flow, in addition to the budget you have to do a cash flow...

John Taylor: Yes.

Charles Wilder: weeks, and under all the headings in the budget. And er - they keep you to that; if you said that week ending so-and-so you wanted a hundred thousand pounds, well then they'd see that you got a hundred thousand. If it was fifty thousand you'd get fifty thousand, so that if there was anything unexpected you had to leave that over until the next week and gradually work it out you know.

John Taylor: Right. [break in recording]

Margaret Thomson: Charles Wilder, Cassette One, Side two. So...

John Taylor: The better managed a film, the less troubles you had?

Charles Wilder: Yes if it was well prepared. And as I say that was one of the things that Wallis's pictures were - well prepared! There was one thing I forgot to tell you, that was at Shepherd's Bush we did a film called King of the Damned with Conrad Veidt. And at that time we had a lot out at Northolt, which is now a council housing estate I think. And we had a thousand extras a day for about three weeks. It was a convict film, you know. And we had to take the money out to Northolt every night, we used to go out about half-past twelve and we had a police escort at the front and the back and we used to go along what was then the Western Avenue, there was no traffic or anything. And we used to go out to Northolt and wait until they'd finished shooting and then pay out all this money. And most of the crowd were the rough and ready from Shepherd's Bush Labour Exchange...

John Taylor: Yeah...

Charles Wilder: ...and I think a lot of them were ex-convicts! [Chuckles]

Margaret Thomson: [Chuckling] Do you really? [Laughs]

Charles Wilder: I shall never forget that, and that was a lot of money, I can't remember, but there was a lot of money handled. And then we used to go back to the studio, balance the cash and then go to sleep in the dressing rooms and wait until the next day.

Margaret Thomson: Did you really?

Charles Wilder: Yes, oh yes, I didn't used to go home for about three or four days, you know.

John Taylor: You must have run into problems with crowds, did you?

Charles Wilder: Well we never ran out of money, never ran out of money - that was one good thing, I mean because there would have been hell to pay!

Margaret Thomson: There would have been a riot I should think, a real riot! [Chuckles]

Charles Wilder: Ohhhh! But I think there probably were problems on costs at Shepherd's Bush, I don't know because I wasn't dealing with it. But I have a list in my pocket really of all the films that I've worked on, but not the ones at Shepherd's Bush. There's about thirty odd films I think that I've worked on since I came out as a freelance, you know. And I've never been out of work - I've been very near it once or twice but I just managed to keep going somehow or other. In fact one year I was involved in three films in the year, one overlapped the other you know. But I've enjoyed it.

John Taylor: Well it sounds wonderful!

Charles Wilder: Yes, I've enjoyed it, it's been hard work, until the later years, now you know. But it's really hard work. And on The [Magnificent men in their] Flying Machines as I say it was seven days a week, every week, it really was, it really was rough. But of course in these recent years since the last Wallis picture I haven't done so many films. And I joined Elliott Kastner and anything that he's done abroad I've looked after the London end and um, otherwise the last film I worked on was North Sea Hijack which was 1979.

Margaret Thomson: Ah hmm.

John Taylor: Who produced that?

Charles Wilder: Elliott Kastner.

John Taylor: Oh it was one of his?

Charles Wilder: Yes, yeah. And he did Where Eagles Dare but I - he wanted me to go out to Austria, but I couldn't go because of my wife. And it was only about a month after I finished North Sea Hijack that she died so I was rather pleased that I'd stayed at home, you know. But I'm just trying to think of anything else I can tell you...

John Taylor: What about other producers who weren't as good as Wallis?

Charles Wilder: Er...Foxwell was a nice chap, Ivan Foxwell, very understanding you know. And Colin Lesslie, you remember him? Of course, he died. He - I did Tunes of Glory, which was a wonderful film I thought. Did you see it?

John Taylor: I can't...

Charles Wilder: John Mills and Alec Guinness...

John Taylor: Yes, oh yes, yes!

Charles Wilder: Oh it was a wonderful film!

John Taylor: Oh yes, yes. Yes wonderful, oh yes I remember.

Charles Wilder: Yes. I did that one, that was at Shepperton. I did most of the films at Shepperton. Because I was partly under an agreement to work for British Lion at one time but Maurice Ostrer wouldn't - I was still working for the Ostrers and he wouldn't sign the agreement so I just carried on without any contract and then eventually I left and came out on my own. As I say that was about 1956 I think - '54 - somewhere, I have a job to remember you know.

John Taylor: Oh your memory is very good.

Charles Wilder: When I went to Spain it was the only time I've ever flown! [Laughs]

John Taylor: Well maybe that's why your memory is very good!

Charles Wilder: I thoroughly enjoyed it as a matter of fact, but that's the only time I've ever flown. And of course Elliott Kastner now, who gets on and off planes like buses, he ribs me every time he sees me about not flying you know. And I say to him, "Well I'm sorry but I enjoy life just as it is and I don't want to fly." But he can't understand it because he's on and off them, he goes from America to the Cannes Film Festival, Cannes Film Festival to London, back to Hamburg or somewhere like that and then back to America, all within a few days you know. But I was going to get that list to show you but I'm pinned up!

John Taylor: Well we'd like it because we can put it in with the tapes you know, we can copy it and...

Charles Wilder: Yes. I haven't got a copy but er...

John Taylor: Well, we can always get a copy.

Charles Wilder: I can get one for you or send it to you. And I'll have one final look for these other documents because they must - I wouldn't have torn them up you know, because I knew they were old and, you know. But I just don't know where else to look, I've turned the cupboards out, been up in the loft. There's one case in the loft that I haven't looked at yet, but I don't think it's in there, but I will have a look. There's a whole thick book, like that, of the new studios at Shepherd's Bush.

John Taylor: Is there?

Charles Wilder: Yeah, with some photographs of all the big-shots and you know, that sort of thing.

Margaret Thomson: Hmm, it must be very valuable I'm sure.

Charles Wilder: Yeah, but I don't know what's happened to them at all.

John Taylor: Tell us some more about the individual films. When I was here with Graham, you were reeling off stories about people coming down from Blackpool to have a row with...

Charles Wilder: Oh that sort of thing! Oh well that was Harry Saltzman!

John Taylor: Hmm.

Charles Wilder: That is when I worked for the National Film Finance Corporation, for three months. That was at the end of a film for Foxwell and I did three months there and I couldn't stand it so I came out and worked on Tunes of Glory. And my job at the NFFC was to sign cheques and this particular accountant came down from Blackpool, where they were doing The Entertainer with Laurence Olivier, with a batch of cheques. And one of them was a telephone bill from Harry Saltzman's own phone number, and it had got on the top of the bill, "Balance brought forward" somewhere between seven hundred and a thousand pounds. And I refused to sign it until there were details of that - whatever it was, seven hundred and fifty. And the next I knew, Harry Saltzman was on the phone, "So-and-so and so-and-so and so-and sign that bloody cheque!" I said, "I'm sorry but I'm not going to sign it until you do what we want." And he gets on the next train and comes down from Blackpool - we had a hell of a row in Soho Square there! [Laughs] I never signed it and I left soon after so I don't really know the outcome. But I've had - you know I had an argument with one of the production buyers; that was on North Sea Hijack. He used to write out the orders - you see the system with orders was that they should write out the details of all the props that were being hired and then a rate per cent so that you could cost what it was going to cost. And this chap said, "Details on list supplied by supplier." And I wouldn't accept it, and he went crying up to the producer and the producer didn't give him any change and one thing and another. But I made an enemy there, a real enemy, he didn't like me at all for that! [Chuckling] And that's the way they do it in television apparently, they just put it "as per list supplied," you know. But of course it's most important because a lot of the stuff goes back before the rest of it, so that you've got to work out the dates and apply the cost accordingly, you see. And it's not easy, you've got to er - you have all these return notes that you've got to mark off. I don't say that I always did it personally, but on North Sea Hijack I did, and I had a terrible row with him. Of course my youngest son, who was with me on the film, he went to Ireland on the location and er - I had a terrible time with that buyer. But otherwise I think I've been pretty amenable, you know!

John Taylor: It must be one of the most difficult jobs in the film industry.

Charles Wilder: It is because you've got to cover every angle of the film. It's not like a - say a cameraman who's, he's doing all the photography and that's it, half-past five - finish! Do you know Chris er...

John Taylor: Menges?

Charles Wilder: No - Chris Challis?

John Taylor: I don't, but I know of him of course.

Charles Wilder: Well he was a top cameraman - half-past five he'd gone!

Margaret Thomson: Had he?

Charles Wilder: Oh absolutely! And Hal Wallis hauled him over the coals, because he wanted to discuss something with him for the next day and he'd gone, he couldn't do it. He gave him a terrible dressing down. But I think all in all I was quite amenable and I enjoyed it you know. Sometimes I got a bit fed-up with the hours that one had to work you know. I mean if there were a local location, you had to go out and pay the crowd out and that sort of thing. An interesting point about that is that now myself and about six other production accountants - this was in about 1977 - we suggested that all the crowds should be paid by central casting. Because you had to fill in lists every day of how much they got and everything, and our idea was that they should pay, we would supply the money and they should pay the crowds once a week.

John Taylor: Yeah.

Charles Wilder: This was in 1977. Now the Accountants' Guild are on the same tack again, so whether they'll have any more luck than we did, but the BFPA didn't like it a bit because we'd thought of it first, and they rather kiboshed it you know. Together with the crowd artist's union they rather turned it down, they didn't want to be paid once a week, they wanted to be paid every day.

John Taylor: Yes, yes.

Charles Wilder: Well that adds problems with National Insurance, because you can only go up so far with the amounts to be deducted you see. Anyway it looks as if they might be luckier now. They do it in Canada and in America as well - they don't carry all this money about on locations like we've done in the past. You know sometimes it's ten thousand pounds that you've got to cart away, you know. I remember on a Judy Garland film that I worked on, Ronnie Neame was the director and we were shooting at the Palladium in London [NB I Could Go On Singing]. And I said to the production manager, "Where are we going to pay out?" "Oh" he said, "it's all right, we're setting up tables in the alleyways inside the Palladium." So we set all the tables up and the crowd started - because there were about eight or nine hundred crowd, and they started coming along, being paid, and then all of a sudden, "Hold it! You can't stay here, the next performance is at six o'clock and you've got to get out!"

Margaret Thomson: Oh dear! [Chuckling]

Charles Wilder: And we were literally turned out onto the cobbles at the back of the Palladium. And we had to pay out from there - the money was blowing about, and there were all sorts of pimps and prostitutes and goodness knows what walking up and down, trying to get in the line to get paid! [MT chuckles] So that was a bad one, I complained very bitterly about that! And the next day they found a place underneath Marshall Street Baths and we got in there and they just filed in one door and out the other and it was gorgeous, you know. But there were little problems like that but er...

Margaret Thomson: I would think you'd have to keep your wits about you with crowds anyhow, wouldn't you?

Charles Wilder: Oh yes, yes. Well that was always a danger, carrying all that money. I mean as I say sometimes it was ten, fifteen thousand pounds in cash.

John Taylor: Did you have security men with you?

Charles Wilder: The only time I can remember security was at Booker Airfield when we were on Magnificent Men in Their Flying Machines. And we had ten police, they used to come to the bank at High Wycombe and line up outside while the chap got the money and then go in police cars and follow it onto the airfield and then stay there until they'd finished shooting. Because at Booker Airfield we paid out in tents, these great big marquees and things. And one night the lights failed so we had to have candles! [Laughs]

Margaret Thomson: Golly!

John Taylor: Did you make it up beforehand?

Charles Wilder: Oh no because you didn't know how much they were going to get, you see. It depended on what their rate was, I mean some of the crowd get a little bit more than the others, and doubles and stand-ins and that sort of thing, and accordingly their rates of overtime are more. So you couldn't say, "Right well they're all five hundred fifteen pounds." Because - and then there was insurance to come off, you see that all had to be done, so there was no way of making it up into packets at all.

Margaret Thomson: If they spoke a line I think they got paid?

Charles Wilder: Pardon?

Margaret Thomson: If they spoke a line suddenly, they got paid extra?

Charles Wilder: Yes, or if they had special action they'd get a bit more, you know. But you never knew until the last minute when they were - when they'd finished shooting, and the hoards would come in with all different kinds of um... And then of course you got disagreements, one man said, "I did so-and-so and I should have another fifteen bob" or something. And, "Right, go back and see the assistant director," you know. But there was all the commotion, you know. But all in all I've enjoyed it you know.

John Taylor: Did they have chits when they er?

Charles Wilder: Oh yes, yes they were issued with a chit as they came in, in the morning, with their name on and their basic rate and the date and the name of the film, and then you took it from there you see. Well then of course when this new thing came in about National Insurance, that was a problem because at one time they were exempt from National Insurance and there were no problems at all. But with that coming in and, as I say, because you could - there was a limit to what you could deduct. You had to somehow reconcile it with the previous day's work as to how much National Insurance was taken off there, you see. And this was in our idea of getting central casting to pay. I think the idea now is to stop having to send so much money out, because the fees they get now, I don't know what they are but they're much more than they used to be, so there is a problem there and there always will be. I can't understand it because for years and years they've done it in America and Canada, and in Canada there are all sorts of deductions - government tax, federal tax, etcetera, etcetera, you know. But it looks as if they might be working that way over here, which is a good thing I think.

John Taylor: Were there any other cash-paid, that you paid in cash?

Charles Wilder: If you had daily staff like make-up men, second unit camera, hairdressers, they were all paid in cash every day, and it just added to the amount of money that you'd got to provide for you know. I remember on The...Flying Machines the first - no call-sheet had come round at all, not to us anyway. Suddenly we got a call at Pinewood from Bedfordshire, "Isn't anybody coming out to pay the crowd?" And I said, "What crowd?" "Well we're shooting up here, we've got the railway train, etcetera, etcetera, etcetera. We've got fifty people here and they're all waiting to be paid." So I said, "Well I'm sorry but we weren't advised that you were shooting even." Well now that was bad management on the production side and we had to send somebody out with the money to pay them. And of course if you kept them more than an hour, you had to pay extra overtime! [All chuckle] So it's little niggling things like that you know, but er...

John Taylor: What about VAT?

Charles Wilder: VAT?

John Taylor: Did that add to...?

Charles Wilder: Oh VAT well that's a...we get it all back. You see what happens is that the suppliers invoice with VAT and we claim it back.

John Taylor: It must have added to your work...

Charles Wilder: Oh it's enormous what you have to do. You have to keep special ledger sheets - they did agree, the VAT people that you didn't have to write the name of the supplier, you could just put the voucher number or the invoice number and they were happy with that. But there were sheets and sheets of it you know, and it doesn't mean anything in the end. You get it back and that's it and the final VAT is on the cinema ticket you see, so it's just an exercise that you've got to do. And one or two of the accountant's have been taken to court because they haven't dealt with certain items properly, I think they've been fined too, some of them. But I don't know, you know, its hearsay, whether it's true or not but um - it is a lot of extra work.

John Taylor: Have you ever been on a film which ran out of money?

Charles Wilder: No! There's been a lot of them! [JT and MT laugh] Oh yes I have, yes. After the end of Hal Wallis's last picture here, Bequest to the Nation I was asked to do the accounting on a film, a video film for Time-Life America, and it was Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde and it had Kirk Douglas, Susan Hampshire, a whole crowd of them. And in the end we ran out of money and we never got paid. There was my son and the secretary, Brenda, and myself and David Orton and his secretary. They must have owed us about seven or eight thousand pounds - we never got paid at all.

John Taylor: What happened? I mean did you just have to stop shooting or what?

Charles Wilder: No that was right on the last day of shooting, that was when we ran out of money. So they'd finished the thing, they'd got the tapes and they flew back to America the next morning, with the tapes. And everybody was - it was everybody, all the suppliers, car hire drivers, thousands of pounds that were owed, not just our little lot. And we never got a penny, absolutely.

John Taylor: Well what did you do? I mean did you stay in the office and explain to people that there was no money?

Charles Wilder: Well we just had to, you know. And it was taken up by Equity and I think Equity got money from America to pay the artists, otherwise I suppose they've got a copyright infringement or something, if they hadn't got paid. But all the suppliers, including props and lamps and everything like that never got a penny.

John Taylor: Did it go over budget?

Charles Wilder: Oh yes, yeah.

John Taylor: And that was why?

Charles Wilder: Yeah. But they never got a penny and in the end, this was a company called 'Winter's Rosen' and they went into liquidation, so I never got paid for that. But that's the only one from my - but there have been a lot that have um... In actual fact the production secretary who was on that and didn't get her money, she'd been on a previous film abroad where she didn't get paid, so it happened quite a lot. And in the end I think what they used to do is they used to - what do you call it? There's a certain word for it, you have to deposit money...

John Taylor: Equity?

Charles Wilder: No not equity, it's something like that, um - oh it's gone. But you have to deposit this money, it might be twenty thousand, which I think covers, is supposed to cover two week's money for the whole of the unit. That had to be set aside so that if anything like that happened at least with a two week's notice they would get, that you know. But of course they would loose out on the rest of the picture you know, and that happened once or twice. And also on Becket we had a strike!

John Taylor: Yeah, why was that?

Charles Wilder: Oh it was something to do with the ACT I think...

John Taylor: Yeah, ah hmm. They have been known to go on strike! [Chuckles]

Charles Wilder: Yeah. Luckily for us it was rescinded after a week, it was rescinded and we just carried on.

John Taylor: But that would throw all your calculations out I suppose, would it?

Charles Wilder: Oh yes of course, yeah. And then you have to re-do it right the way through, you know. It's a difficult job but if you get well organised then it should be all right. I know I went to a meeting of the Guild of Production Accountants once at Shepperton and one of the new accountants stood up and said, "Well of course the difficulty is, particularly with hire of generators, that we don't get the bills for seven or eight weeks."

Margaret Thomson: Ah hmm.

Charles Wilder: And of course, the simple answer is that that is part of his job, to find out what they're going to cost and put an estimate in, you see. But he was a new boy and er - but that's the sort of thing you know. And then of course the other problem is that if they've hired something and there's been no order issued then no one knows about it at all, so there's nothing in the cost, and then suddenly you get a bill for some particular equipment. Like it happened on North Sea Hijack for equipment for boats and things like that, there was no order. And the bill came to about seven thousand pounds in the end, well that was not in the costs at all, and of course it suddenly jumps you see, which it shouldn't do. So um, there are little problems like that but you know, you get over them. But I can't think of any other...

John Taylor: Shall we have a short break? [Break in recording]

Charles Wilder: engineer's assistant, nothing very much...

Margaret Thomson: He wasn't in the financial line at all then?

Charles Wilder: Knot's Road powerhouse, in Chelsea.

Margaret Thomson: Oh really? Yes, yes.

Charles Wilder: No there's nothing er...

Margaret Thomson: Well don't tell us! [Chuckles]

John Taylor: Right we're running okay?

Charles Wilder: Are we? That must have been warming up then!

John Taylor: It's all yours.

Margaret Thomson: Well what we were talking about was to go back a little bit, to go back to the beginning and see how actually...

Charles Wilder: How I go the job!

Margaret Thomson: actually - what made you think about having a job in the films? Was there sort of a lure there or what?

Charles Wilder: Oh it was something different. I was only fourteen and to work with film-stars and that sort of thing was something glamorous.

Margaret Thomson: Yes. And it was advertised in the Labour Exchange was it?

Charles Wilder: Pardon?

Margaret Thomson: It was in the Labour Exchange?

Charles Wilder: Yes, I got the job from the Labour Exchange in Sulgrave Road, Shepherd's Bush.

Margaret Thomson: And were there many competitors for it?

Charles Wilder: Not that I know of, not that I know of.

Margaret Thomson: You just got it, great! [Chuckles]

Charles Wilder: I got the job anyway, and as I say I was the office boy and the general toe-rag if you like for a while...

Margaret Thomson: And you'd been good at maths at school?

Charles Wilder: Yes very good at maths at school, and I could read and, well writing wasn't bad except that it was more script than anything, because in those days they didn't teach you to write in school, it was all script.

Margaret Thomson: Like in separate letters, not all together?

Charles Wilder: That's right, not joined up.

Margaret Thomson: That sort of thing, yes, hmm.

Charles Wilder: I found that a bit difficult at first when I had to join it all up. But my job was to do what I was told. I used to keep the post book, stamp the letters and run the tobacco club! [Chuckles] And at that age I got into a bit of a state with the money once or twice, but that was understandable.

John Taylor: What kind of a state?

Charles Wilder: Well I was short in the box somewhere or other, whether I'd charged them enough or what, I don't know, I can't remember now. But it all worked out all right in the end you know.

Margaret Thomson: And do you know anyone that was contemporary to you? Is there anyone alive that you know of?

Charles Wilder: Well I know a chap named Archie Holly, he lives down at Brighton and I think he'd been in the industry some time. I know he belongs to the er - what's that society?

Margaret Thomson: Veteran's?

Charles Wilder: Yes, he belongs to that, because he's tried to get me to join it several times.

Margaret Thomson: Ah ha, yes.

Charles Wilder: But he lives at Brighton. But most of his work was with, I think, London Films.

Margaret Thomson: Well he'd be a pretty good age then?

Charles Wilder: Yes, he's still alive.

Margaret Thomson: Is he?

Charles Wilder: Yes he's still alive and I think he's a bit older than I am but er...

Margaret Thomson: And what was his job, what job did he do?

Charles Wilder: Similar, similar. Although I don't know as he was ever a fully-fledged production accountant, I'm not sure about that, but he worked in the accounts.

Margaret Thomson: Oh did he?

Charles Wilder: Yes. And I met him at Shepperton some time after...

Margaret Thomson: Oh he kept in the industry then?

Charles Wilder: Yes, oh yes. He's retired now but he still lives at Brighton. I can give you his addressed if you want it.

John Taylor: You married into the film industry did you? Your wife was...

Charles Wilder: When I married, yes my wife worked at Olympic. Howard, that's Marjories's nephew, that's the - you know, not Howard Brum, Howard Baillie, he was in it. Harold Johnson who was my wife's brother...

Margaret Thomson: Baillie...oh, Johnson?

Charles Wilder: Johnson, he was a projectionist at Olympic after several years at er - oh he used to tell me he used to work for Walterdaw, was it?

John Taylor: Yes, yes.

Charles Wilder: Years ago in London, and then he eventually landed up at Olympic. My wife's sister, Gladys...

Margaret Thomson: Baillie?

Charles Wilder: Gladys Baillie, she was a - I think she was in editing as well wasn't she?

Margaret Thomson: I don't know, I only know of her.

Charles Wilder: I know she used to work at Beaconsfield.

John Taylor: Oh Gwyn's mother?

Margaret Thomson: Yes.

Charles Wilder: Hmm.

John Taylor: Yes she was a negative cutter, yes.

Charles Wilder: Oh negative cutter, hmm. I knew she was in the film industry. So it really and truly...

Margaret Thomson: And then Gwyn, our mutual friend, Gwyn...

Charles Wilder: And Gwyn of course, we mustn't forget dear Gwyn.

John Taylor: Gwyn Baillie?

Margaret Thomson: Yes, who worked [???], first as a neg cutter and then...

Charles Wilder: Or Barnhill, as she is now isn't she?

Margaret Thomson: ...then as an editor.

Charles Wilder: Yes, yes, she got on very well didn't she.

Margaret Thomson: And then she eventually came into the Canadian Film Board as an editor didn't she?

John Taylor: Hmm.

Charles Wilder: She what?

Margaret Thomson: She went to the Canadian Film Board as an editor, so she's had a long career.

Charles Wilder: Yes, yes, you know, according to what...

Margaret Thomson: One of the first ACT members we understand.

Charles Wilder: Was she?

Margaret Thomson: Well we think so don't we?

John Taylor: Yes she was.

Charles Wilder: Yes I don't know that because I did lose track of her for a while, so I don't - you know it's really since Marjorie died and she's been coming over every year that I've got her back kind of thing. But I did loose track, we used to see them occasionally but not too often.

Margaret Thomson: And Howard was - Howard had a very interesting career didn't he?

John Taylor: Yes Howard Baillie, he started off...

Charles Wilder: He started off in the office at um... yes, at Olympic.

Margaret Thomson: Olympic, did he?

Charles Wilder: Yeah I think that was the only job that he's had as far as I know. And then I think during the war there was an American came in named Ojerholm[?], have you ever heard the name? Howard got on well with him and he kind of promoted Howard, you see...

John Taylor: Really? Yeah, hmm.

Margaret Thomson: At Olympic this was?

Charles Wilder: At Olympic, all Olympic, until he eventually went to Humphries.

Margaret Thomson: As the head of...

John Taylor: But he was manager of Olympic wasn't he, Howard Baillie?

Charles Wilder: He was manager of Olympic, I don't know exactly what he was at Humphries, was he a managing director or...?

John Taylor: He was managing director I think at Humphries, yes.

Margaret Thomson: Very distinguished really, wasn't he?

Charles Wilder: Yes. And then of course he had trouble with his lungs or something and he went into hospital and he seemed to go down from that. But he had some connection with something in Canada but I'm not sure what that was, but he used to go over there fairly often. But he seemed to drop out then after Humphries. Well he became ill and er...

John Taylor: He was ill and had to retire, yeah.

Charles Wilder: Yeah so um...but er...

John Taylor: Go on, you were talking about Maurice Elvey.

Charles Wilder: I was going to tell you - this is going back now to 1924 when Maurice Elvey was the big noise at Shepherd's Bush, a very small company. And he was a director, as you know, director of films. And then later on he was joined by Victor Saville, whom no one liked...scrub that bit! [Laughs]

John Taylor: Everyone has said the same thing, so...

Charles Wilder: And somebody named Gareth Gundry who was um...

John Taylor: I've heard the name.

Charles Wilder: I always remember, he'd only got one leg. And they were a kind of committee who ran the studio. And after a while, Victor Saville and Gareth Gundry directed films at Shepherd's Bush, in addition to Maurice Elvey. But that all came to an end when the new studios were built and er... Well they started off with Rome Express which I think I've mentioned before. But it was quite a happy place to work always, Shepherd's Bush.

John Taylor: Was it called Gaumont-British in those days?

Charles Wilder: No Gaumont Company Limited. And I remember at one time Leon Gaumont came over from France to visit the studio. But I don't know if he was a producer or what, or whether it was just distribution - it may well have been.

John Taylor: I think Gaumont in France would be producers and distributors.

Margaret Thomson: I think so. And they went back a long time didn't they?

Charles Wilder: Yes.

John Taylor: Oh yes.

Margaret Thomson: What, say twenty years before that or something?

Charles Wilder: I wouldn't like to say but I think they were a well-established company, you know. But when you're only fourteen you don't really know what it's all about, do you?

Margaret Thomson: No of course you wouldn't, no.

Charles Wilder: And it only just, sort of sitting down and really thinking about it, that I can put down certain things that did happen, you know.

John Taylor: Yes. But you obviously went around and got signed autographs, photographs from the stars?

Charles Wilder: I did do, yes, yes - I wish I could find them, I just don't know where they are. But I remember that I'd got one of John Stuart, who was a leading romantic actor in those days and I saw him on television - oh several years back now. He'd got so old and white-haired, and yet he was such a handsome chap you know, oh he really was. And Estelle Brody, she was Canadian. She was in Hindle Wakes which was a story about Blackpool.

John Taylor: You must have been there during the period when they were making The Wicked Lady and all those films.

Charles Wilder: Oh yes, yes.

John Taylor: Tell us something about The Wicked Lady and all those.

Charles Wilder: Well you see they were all - they weren't separate films to us, we were dealing with them all, it wasn't like being a production accountant then.

John Taylor: No, hmm.

Charles Wilder: I was in the cashier's office and as I explained we used to do the wages and all the petty cash. But The Wicked Lady, certainly... The Man in Grey with Phyllis Calvert...

John Taylor: Hmm...

Charles Wilder: ...and Margaret Lockwood come to that. I'm just trying to remember some of the other titles. We did a submarine picture, We Dive at

John Taylor: Anthony Asquith, We Dive at Dawn...?

Charles Wilder: Pardon?

John Taylor: Anthony Asquith directed?

Charles Wilder: Yes I think it was, yes.

John Taylor: Yes, hmm.

Charles Wilder: He did one or two films there but the titles...

John Taylor: Cottage on Dartmoor?

Charles Wilder: No, there was a film called Cottage to Let but I don't think that was er - that had John Longden in it, Cottage to Let [? He doesn't appear in the cast list] And as I say then the influx of Americans started to come in then, with Richard Dix he was one of the er - one that came over, Boris Karloff, Madge Evans. There was a whole crowd of them came over. Lillian Bond...

John Taylor: Were there any English technicians there at that time or had they all got the sack or what?

Charles Wilder: No they were there, but there were American writers, cameramen and German make-up people that came over - really to teach the young chaps what to do about make-up and stuff you know.

Margaret Thomson: And when sound came were they English technicians or would they have to be imported?

Charles Wilder: When sound came, well...

Margaret Thomson: Was there a state of chaos then? Somebody told me that the whole industry was in a state of chaos when sound came in.

Charles Wilder: Oh I think it was because it came in quite suddenly.

Margaret Thomson: Yeah.

Charles Wilder: I mean here we are, we had these new studios built and there was no soundproofing.

Margaret Thomson: Not even anticipating sound?

Charles Wilder: No! No soundproofing, and they put up these great big walls of er - not Essex board but that kind of thing, to try and keep the sound in and also the - they had eiderdowns over the cameras to stop the whirring of the motor you know. And then they started to put the soundproofing in then. It was a kind of a wire netting behind which had a sort of material and er...

Margaret Thomson: Like asbestos wall almost wasn't it? That sort of stuff, it looked like it anyway.

Charles Wilder: ...all stacked in behind it. And then of course it developed from there really. But it did take them all by surprise.

Margaret Thomson: Yeah.

Charles Wilder: Because I think the first talkie was Blackmail, wasn't it? One of Hitchcock's at Elstree.

John Taylor: Yes, hmm.

Charles Wilder: But I think it took a little while too, because it all had to be wired up and er you know...

Margaret Thomson: Hmm and you wouldn't even [break in recording].... even would you? I mean they wouldn't be trained.

Charles Wilder: No, no.

Margaret Thomson: Would they come from abroad, from America?

Charles Wilder: I don't know where they came from at all, I just don't know. We had a man named Jolly. Arthur Jolly, I think he was the first one I remember as a sound cameraman [NB Stan Jolly?]. But like everything else it grew and grew in every department. We had one or two Italians in the art department...

John Taylor: Guidobaldi

Charles Wilder: Oh Guidobaldi yes he was models, the model-maker.

John Taylor: Yeah.

Charles Wilder: He was a fantastic character, and he was interned during the war, um... [Break in recording]

Margaret Thomson: Charles Wilder, Cassette Two, Side One.

John Taylor: This is Othello with Olivier.

Charles Wilder: Yes and Anthony Havelock-Allan, he was involved in it.

Margaret Thomson: Was it made from a stage-play?

Charles Wilder: Yes.

Margaret Thomson: It was?

Charles Wilder: Yes.

Margaret Thomson: I thought so, I think I have seen it, yes.

Charles Wilder: Because we had to break off after - it was only a short, about four weeks in all, but we had to break off after three weeks because the whole company went to Russia.

Margaret Thomson: Oh yes, hmm.

Charles Wilder: And we had to wait until they came back to finish it. So that was Othello, and a man named Richard Goodwin[?] he was kind of associate producer. I've previously mentioned The Green Scarf haven't I? And The March Hare. Park Plaza 605 that was a very small film that was done under Maurice Ostrer at Walton with Tom Conway in it. He's the brother, or was the brother of George Sanders. The Green Scarf and The March Hare... Passionate Stranger was the one - Sydney Box.

John Taylor: Do you remember anything particular about any of them?

Charles Wilder: No, they were very ordinary films really. Manuela is the one that I went to Spain on, that was eleven nights shooting. Now, The Birthday Present... Next to No Time with Kenneth More, that was quite a good film to work on, I remember at the end of the film he gave everybody on the unit a bottle of whiskey.

Margaret Thomson: That's pretty good of him! [Chuckles]

Charles Wilder: Yes that's about the only time an artist has done that, to my knowledge.

John Taylor: Is it really?

Charles Wilder: Yes, yes.

John Taylor: Yeah, hmm.

Charles Wilder: Behind the Mask, that was, that was an ordinary - that was on television not so long ago, about a hospital. The Horse's Mouth, that was Alec Guinness and they had John Bratby who is quite a well-known artist, he did all the paintings for the film, marvellous.

Margaret Thomson: Yes, yes. Because it was a story of an artist wasn't it?

Charles Wilder: Yes that's right.

John Taylor: Who directed it, it wasn't Phil...?

Charles Wilder: Er...Ronald Neame!

John Taylor: Ronnie Neame?

Charles Wilder: Yes.

John Taylor: Hmm.

Charles Wilder: And then we did a film on Chobham Common, The Danger Within, which was a prisoner-of-war story, with Richard Attenborough, Michael Wilding, he was in it. And that was produced by Colin Lesslie who - soon after, he died. Touch of Larceny, that was Foxwell again. There's nothing very special about these things until you come to Tunes of Glory which again was Ronald Neame and that turned out to be a really good film.

Margaret Thomson: Which one was that?

Charles Wilder: Tunes of Glory.

Margaret Thomson: Ah yes, hmm.

Charles Wilder: With Alec Guinness and John Mills. And originally they offered the film to Alec Guinness to play the part that John Mills played, but Alec Guinness didn't like it, he turned it down. Directly they switched it round he accepted it like that, and it was a jolly fine film I always thought, that one.

John Taylor: Do you remember anything about the making of it?

Charles Wilder: Not really it er - it was a studio film, except for exteriors on the lot. It was just, you know, you can't get anything out of that really, not er... [pause] that's all I can say really, on - Most of these were straightforward films, The Innocents was Deborah Kerr, and Jack Clayton, he directed that.

John Taylor: That was the Woolf brothers, yes?

Charles Wilder: No I don't know anything about those, no. No that was all - these are all mainly, they're studio films you see. We had quite a bit of trouble on I Could Go on Singing which was Judy Garland, because she was really something. She'd go on the stage and tell the crowd of nine hundred that we had not to take any notice of the director - who was Ronnie Neame - but to do what she said. And she would turn up late in the morning and all this crowd on for the day, nine hundred crowd you know - and eventually of course she committed suicide didn't she?

John Taylor: Hmm. Did you go over budget on it?

Charles Wilder: Yes, yeah. Well those are the sorts of things that cause it you see, and as I said before, we had problems up at the Palladium, paying out the crowd.

John Taylor: Did you have trouble with any of the other actresses or actors?

Charles Wilder: What?

John Taylor: Well like you had with Judy Garland?

Charles Wilder: No, um... Summer Flight [aka Stolen Hours] now that was a film that followed I Could Go on Singing more-or-less back-to-back, and that Archie Holley, he did that one, Summer Flight and that was Susan Hayward. She was all there as an - she knew what she was about but I don't think many people cared for her, she was too business-like. But it didn't affect us in any way you know. Becket, now that was a great film that was, there were some beautiful sets in that one. And John Bryan, he was the art director, he died out in Africa somewhere. [Pause] The Magnificent Men in Their Flying Machines, some of those old aircraft that they got from museums, some of them they flew down from up north!

Margaret Thomson: Did they really? [Chuckles]

Charles Wilder: Oh yeah, they were absolutely fantastic those things. It's a wonder they ever got off the ground, but they did you know. And there may have been problems out there at Booker, but it didn't affect us, I didn't hear about them. Because we were based at Pinewood and just used to go out there in the afternoon, you see. So er...

John Taylor: It must be very difficult for a director on a film like that, to go on when things are not working out correctly.

Charles Wilder: Oh it must have been horrendous for him really, you know, because it was all out in the open, you were subject to the weather, and all these crowds to control and things like that you know. I don't think that was an easy film for anyone really.

John Taylor: Hmm.

Charles Wilder: Now 'Kaleidoscope' was the first picture that Elliott Kastner produced over here and that had Warren Beatty in it and Susannah York. I didn't go, but they went to Monte Carlo for locations and I think they had one or two problems on that but - out on the location, it was all right in the studio. Assassination Bureau, well that was a dead-beat film that one with er - I can't remember the name of the producers now. Now Anne of the Thousand Days, that had oh...

Margaret Thomson: Was that the story of Nell Gwyn?.... Not Nell Gwyn, I'm trying to...

Charles Wilder: Anne Boleyn.

Margaret Thomson: Anne Boleyn, yes.

Charles Wilder: Yes, yes, that was a nice picture to work on because the sets were beautiful and the girl in it was the Canadian... [taps table trying to remember] er - I'm subject to go like this I'm afraid!

Margaret Thomson: Yes, aren't we all! [Chuckles]

John Taylor: Aren't we all!

Margaret Thomson: Was she - oh I think I know who you mean.

John Taylor: Yes I know who you mean.

Charles Wilder: She was a charming girl, she was really. Er - it'll come. [NB Genevieve Bujold]

John Taylor: Who directed it?

Charles Wilder: Charles...Charles Jarrott, he's in Hollywood now I think. Do you know that's completely gone.

Margaret Thomson: I keep thinking of Anna... [Break in recording]

Charles Wilder: American - God that's gone again now.

John Taylor: Which film was it?

Charles Wilder: That was in of Foxwell's films... [Break in recording]

John Taylor: Start again with Sylvia Miles.

Charles Wilder: Sylvia Miles [NB. Vera Miles] , she was absolutely charming, she was in Foxwell's picture, A Touch of Larceny. And you couldn't have had a nicer lady, she was really - you know. Genevieve and er - going back to Anne of the Thousand Days, Genevieve Bujold!

Margaret Thomson: Yeah that's what I thought, I've got BJ written down.

[*** Possible Libel***]

Charles Wilder: Another one of the same type, but according to what Gwen told me when she was over here just recently, she's really changed, Genevieve Bujold. She's got a very big opinion of herself and not so well liked as she used to be, you know. But that's what Gwen told me you know.[***/Possible Libel***]

John Taylor: What about the ones who weren't nice?

Charles Wilder: Weren't nice. George Sanders was one.

John Taylor: What was wrong with him?

Charles Wilder: Oh absolutely snobbish, arrogant.

John Taylor: Was he?

Charles Wilder: Yeah.

John Taylor: What to everyone on the floor?

Charles Wilder: What?

John Taylor: To everyone, or was this...?

Charles Wilder: Well I don't know, I found him so you know.

John Taylor: What kind of dealings did you have with him?

Charles Wilder: Just over pay and things like that, and expense allowance of course, they all get expense allowances when they come over, and a car, they live like lords. But he's so different to his brother, Tom Conway who was in Park Plaza 605, he was a fantastic gentleman, he was. When we went to Spain on er [pause] - I'm sorry about this being disjointed...

John Taylor: Oh forget it, you know, because it doesn't matter.

Charles Wilder: When we went to Spain on Manuela, Trevor Howard was in it, and they carried him onto the plane at Heathrow [chuckling]. But he was one for the boys, he went out with the boys in the evening, you know no aloofness or anything like that, really let his hair down, he was a lovely character he was.

Margaret Thomson: Hmm, good actor.

Charles Wilder: Oh yes, and he was a lovely character too, as I say he was one of us you know, kind of thing. And er... Zee and Co., that was Elizabeth Taylor, that was.

John Taylor: How did you get along with Miss Taylor?

Charles Wilder: Never had anything to do with her at all. She was made such a fuss of and at the end of the film she wanted all the jewellery that they had hired for the film, and it was given to her, and this is what she was like. She wanted everything that she saw and um - and I know that there was a bath scene where she was in the bath and everybody went on the stage that day! [All chuckle]

John Taylor: Did she throw them out?

Charles Wilder: Yes, more-or-less! [Laughs] Now then, Mary, Queen of Scots that was um...

John Taylor: Vanessa Redgrave was it?

Charles Wilder: Yeah, Vanessa Redgrave and er - I always call her cold lady, I can't think...

John Taylor: I know who you mean - turn it off... [Break in Recording]

Charles Wilder: ...with Peter Finch, that was his last film , Peter Finch. He was a very nice chap but he used to get terribly, terribly drunk. Ohhh! He used to go into the bar at Shepperton and stay there until about ten or eleven at night then was carried out to the car - but he was such a nice chap. Brief Encounter, well that was a television film that we did with Burton and Sophia Loren, and then all these others were done abroad.

John Taylor: Was it...

Charles Wilder: ...except The Medusa Touch, that was Burton and Lee Remick, she's nice.

Margaret Thomson: Oh I love her as an actress, she's lovely.

Charles Wilder: She's married to an English assistant director, Kip Gowans, but she's very nice.

Margaret Thomson: Lovely actress too isn't she?

Charles Wilder: Yes, yeah.

Margaret Thomson: Very good.

Charles Wilder: But they've moved to America now. I still can't remember that blessed name!

John Taylor: Oh well leave it, we might get back to it.

Margaret Thomson: Could we ask, Charles... [Break in Recording]

Charles Wilder: Well...

Margaret Thomson: We know you were in the army.

Charles Wilder: Well I was called-up and I thought that was bad enough but er...

John Taylor: Shepherd's Bush closed down, did it?

Charles Wilder: No because um...

John Taylor: You went on?

Charles Wilder: Islington - Gainsborough went over there with Maurice Ostrer.

John Taylor: I see. Were you still working when you were called-up?

Charles Wilder: Yes, 1943 I was called-up, and I thought that was bad enough but when we got er - I had to go to Carlisle. I can always remember because my mother came up to Euston, and she must have been...oh seventy-odd then. She came up to Euston to see me off on the train, and we got to Carlisle and they told us we were going to Northern Ireland! [Laughs] So that's where I finished up, at Ballykinler.

John Taylor: What were you in?

Charles Wilder: The artillery and we were trained for driver-operators, Signals. And I did six months over there, came back to a place called Congleton in Cheshire, and more training, drill, marching, signals, Morse Code, all that lot you know. And from there we were transferred up to Whitby in Yorkshire and more training and more of the same thing you see. And eventually we came back down to Hornchurch in Essex to a regiment there and we did more training but also we went down to Brighton and we were waterproofed and we were "D-Day plus three", which was not a day that anybody would want.

Margaret Thomson: No. What do you mean by waterproofed?

Charles Wilder: Well we had to waterproof all the engines with this like plasticine so that it would be all right if they got into the water, as they would have to, to get onto the boats, you see.

Margaret Thomson: Yes, yes.

Charles Wilder: And at the last moment we were pulled out of the line to combat the Doodlebugs. And eventually I went over on D-78.

John Taylor: What happened with the Doodlebugs?

Charles Wilder: Well we used to shoot them down!

John Taylor: Where were you?

Charles Wilder: Bexhill, Brighton, Crowbrough, all sorts, because we were mobile, mobile.

John Taylor: What kind of guns would you...?

Charles Wilder: Bofers, a light anti-aircraft gun. And I remember once we had to bring up a truck from Brighton to Staines and we had to go back that night, so we had to make our own way back to Victoria and get on the train and get to Brighton about midnight. And we were stationed at Rottingdean, which is further along the coast, and to get there, we decided, there were five or six of us, to go up onto Lewis Racecourse. And the Doodlebugs were coming in hell for leather as we were going across there! [Laughs] But eventually we got there, got there safe, and that was the end of that little episode. And then, as I say, we went overseas on D-78 and I can remember standing in the English channel because there were submarines about and everything went deathly hush and all the engines on the ships turned off you know, and then we got the clearance, and on we went. And we landed on the um, on those - the Arromanches Beach, you know where they built those...

John Taylor: Mulberry Harbour?

Charles Wilder: Mulberry Harbour, we landed on that and went up into France, Belgium, Holland. And I remember in - we were lucky all the way really because I remember we put into some field, as I thought it was, and we got the tarpaulins off the top of the lorries and got underneath and that was our bed for the night you see. And it turned out that it was a convent this place, and there'd been a battle there the day before and there were bits of bodies lying around and all the machine guns with blood all over them, terrible state it was. That was very unexpected, you know. And then - oh before we went overseas, we were at Saltdean, which is near Brighton...

John Taylor: Yes...

Charles Wilder: ...and we were in a corner shop. There was like a window there, a door there, across the corner, a window and then a brick wall here, and we were having a tank mine demonstration. An officer out the front with a table and all the sergeants and NCO's in the front and all the rough and tumble at the back, which was where I was! [Laughs] And somebody said to this officer, "Would it go off with a man's weight on it?" And he said, "Oh I don't think so." And then he put it on the floor and put his foot on it and it went off, and his foot finished up in the ceiling. And we were all bowled over at the back, taken to hospital at Brighton and there were five of us I think that were let out. I was like this for about five weeks - terrible. That was before we went over, you know! Other than that, abroad, I found it was er - we had to do long hours, guard duties and things like that and I found it rather a doddle, until we got to Holland. And we had a command post there in the village and the code name was 'milk' which meant that the Germans were parachute-landing in Antwerp all the way round the villages. And we were outside on duty that night and this word came over and we could hear this swishing noise [CW makes swishing noise], and immediately we thought it was parachutes coming down. But it turned out to be that round the corner there'd been a house hit by a shell and there was a piece of lino hanging down from the rafters and this was going like this in the wind you see! [Chuckles] So you can imagine what we felt like, you know!

John Taylor: It was anti-aircraft you were on a Bofers gun was it?

Charles Wilder: Yes, yeah.

John Taylor: I mean did you shoot at aeroplanes at all or...?

Charles Wilder: Oh yes, yeah! We had a New Year's Day, 1944 that would be, they dive-bombed us in the village and we all had to scramble under the lorries and everywhere. And they shot one down, um. I remember that because we had to go and stand guard over it! [Chuckles] And he was only a young chap, a young German pilot. They captured him and took him away. And that was about the worst episode, really. Then I got - what happened next? The next thing was we moved into Germany and I hadn't been in there about half-an-hour and somebody said, "oh so-and-so wants you." And I had to go round with this officer, grabbing food for the displaced persons. And we used to go at gunpoint and hold-up the farmers, the German farmers and say, "Well we want so many sacks of potatoes and cabbage and what-not," and we'd just take it away with us at gunpoint, you know. Because we were administering about seventy displaced persons camps, thousands of people, terrible conditions you know. And after that - that went on for some weeks, that's all that I did, with this officer, we used to go round in a Jeep, commandeering stuff. And then after that I was sent for again and I had to teach book-keeping to the troops! [Chuckles]

John Taylor: What rank were you by now?

Charles Wilder: I was still a private.

John Taylor: Ah.

Charles Wilder: Yeah, and I had to teach this book-keeping. And I'd never done anything like that before, I mean when you stand up in front of two-hundred people and start to say, you know, you've got to know how to do it. And of course you had to do things on the blackboard as well, you know diagrams of ledgers and things. And half of them weren't interested in it you know. There were just a few of them that were talking about running their own business when they came out. Anyway that went on for a while and then I got sent out to Rhine Army HQ in a place called Badenhausen[?], and that was administering fifty or sixty officers' messes. And that's how I finished the war up, I got er - they tried to get me to stay on but I wouldn't and eventually I came home via Hamburg across to Hull, down to Guilford and back home you know. [Chuckles]

John Taylor: Which year was that?

Charles Wilder: Er... 1947. I was in the army for four years and I was there when it was all over. Although it was far better to be in the army overseas than in England because the discipline was not the same, you know, it was a freer life really. So um...but, with this officers' mess I was working with a Major and he did his best to stop me from coming home but I beat him to it! [All chuckle] And that was 1947 as I say.

John Taylor: What was your first job when you got back to into civvies?

Charles Wilder: I went down to - I took six weeks off, I hadn't got any money [chuckles] and I went back to Pinewood.

John Taylor: As what?

Charles Wilder: Well as an assistant to somebody that had been in the industry about five minutes, that's what happened you see.

MT Yes, hmm.

Charles Wilder: And it was the cash control office or something or other. And then I left there because I couldn't stand that, and I went with the Ostrers, with Albert Fennell. Do you know Albert Fennell, or did you know him?

John Taylor: I can remember him...

Charles Wilder: Albert Fennell and Bertie Ostrer. And I worked with them until about 1950 - '52.

John Taylor: And this was on production cost control?

Charles Wilder: Yes but there were only two pictures that they made, which was Idol of Paris and The Green Scarf - oh and The March Hare, that's three they made, in '47, for five or six years. And then a chap at The National Film Finance Corporation said, "You're wasting your time up there, why don't you come out on freelance or get sub-let?" So that's what I did and I worked on this film for Peter Rogers and Sydney Box, and from that eventually I withdrew altogether from the Ostrers, because they weren't going to do anything, you know. They didn't mind if they spent sixty thousand a year, it didn't matter to them and they didn't want to make the films, you know. So that's what I did, I left and started on - now what was the film that I started on? Oh after - oh I went to Spain then, the second film was Spain and so on and so on. So I dodged about a bit you know, but for six, seven years I was at Shepperton and never moved. And then things got very dicey, that was 1970 as far as I can remember, when all the Americans went back and took their money with them you know. And I went and joined Dennis Holt with Elliott Kastner who was going to do a film for Twentieth Century Fox, which was called 11 Harrowhouse - complete flop, absolute. And that had Charles Grodin and Candice Bergen, and she was a - ohhh! Ohhh!

John Taylor: A difficult lady!

Charles Wilder: Yes a difficult lady, yeah! [Chuckles] And then he started making pictures abroad and I couldn't go - like Where Eagles Dare - he wanted me to go but I couldn't leave my wife, you know there was no answer to it other than that. So I just looked over the London end of the pictures you know, and the last film I worked on was North Sea Hijack which was 1979. I've watched over one of Michael Winner's recent ones, A Chorus of Disapproval but I didn't do any work on it you know. That's about it. So now I go in and I do the wages for eleven people belonging to Elliott Kastner, and the general accounting you know, I don't do any production work at all now, no. I made that a point that I didn't want to do it, I wanted to do three days, and he tried several times to involve me in budgets but I said, "No I'm sorry, I thought you understood."

Margaret Thomson: Yeah well...

Charles Wilder: So that's how it's been...

Margaret Thomson:'ve had a terrific...

Charles Wilder: If he'd wanted to do budgets and make a film, he had to get somebody else to do it. One of them he did was a thing called Oxford Blues. It was a mediocre film but er - but I wouldn't do it at all, I put my foot down. And that's about - that brings it right up to date really, that's what I'm doing now, I'm going in for three days, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, and then I get four days off at the weekend.

John Taylor: You must be almost the oldest man working in the film industry...

Charles Wilder: Yeah. Archie Holley, he's not working now but I think he was two years older than I was and his wife is still alive and they moved from Hanger Hill down to Brighton, so er...

John Taylor: Hmm. Looking back at it all, does anything stand out particularly to you?

Charles Wilder: No, I don't think so. I think there's no other business like it, I will say that.

Margaret Thomson: [Chuckling] I think we all agree, don't we?

Charles Wilder: Yes. It's glamorous, or it was for me anyway, right the way through. Because you meet these different people that you wouldn't do otherwise, and well, it's just different to being in any other business. I mean I can't imagine the freedom being in, say an insurance office or something like that, where they call everybody 'Mr', you know.

Margaret Thomson: No it's always friendly, always been friendly hasn't it?

Charles Wilder: Yes. I used to be known as Charlie-Boy! [Laughs] In earlier days! No, I've enjoyed it really, but of course nowadays the money is absolutely - I mean accountants, one accountant I know of, he gets two and-a-half thousand a week!

John Taylor: No!

Charles Wilder: Two and-a-half thousand a week. And it's common for a thousand a week, fifteen hundred a week. And I used to work...the highest pay I ever got was four hundred and that was - oh way back, 1970 something.

Margaret Thomson: That would be good money though, you know.

Charles Wilder: Oh it was good money then, but then when I went to Spain it was thirty-five pounds a week you see, that was 1950 something... 1954 or '55. But then all salaries have gone up, I mean the production associates and that, they're two thousand a week!

John Taylor: Are they really?

Charles Wilder: Yeah! I don't know what the cameramen are, they're probably about four or five.

John Taylor: Well they must be.

Charles Wilder: An editor's on - the last time I knew about editors, they were two thousand a week, one particular one.

Margaret Thomson: But I don't suppose any of them are permanently employed nowadays are they?

Charles Wilder: No, no, no. No-one.

Margaret Thomson: Nobody at all.

Charles Wilder: Not even a production accountant, not as such. So there is that about it, but only up until last year or the year before, no one was out of work, it's now that they're out of work.

Margaret Thomson: Yeah, hmm.

Charles Wilder: There's plenty of editors and that, standing around, and accountants now. But there are more films made abroad now. I mean I go now by what my son David tells me about their interest in films and most of them are abroad, you know.

Margaret Thomson: Hmm, but using British technicians, some of them?

Charles Wilder: Oh yes, yeah.

Margaret Thomson: Yes, yes, hmm.

Charles Wilder: Although this one that's coming up in Poland, I don't think there'll be many technicians, many British technicians on that one - a British producer and a British associate producer. But they have a studio out there in - I forget the name of the place, but they have a studio out there and that's what they're going to use for the film. It's a war film about Nazi and Gestapo and all that sort of thing. And I still can't remember the name of that woman! [Laughs]

John Taylor: Of course the price of the pound must stop people with dollars coming in?

Charles Wilder: Oh yes, yes, I mean that happened - when was it? 1970. I'd just finished on Anne of the Thousand Days and all the Americans withdrew back to America, because of the high rate of the pound. Now of course it's that plus this thirty per cent tax that they put on American artists' earnings over here that's deterred any of the artists coming over here.

John Taylor: That's what the tax - there's a basic tax of thirty per cent on actors' and actresses' salaries, is there?

Charles Wilder: Yeah, yeah. Any foreign actors or entertainers of any sort. And that's just stopped them coming, they don't want to come, you know. I mean I know we did a film Equus, now that was 1977, and that was Burton I think, and he wouldn't come, so they made the film in Ireland. But he wouldn't come here because of his tax situation.

Margaret Thomson: Because he was now not British any more, was he American or something?

Charles Wilder: No he's British but they...

Margaret Thomson: But he still had to pay the tax?

Charles Wilder: Yeah, yeah, and he wouldn't come. And the first thing that happened when they got to - oh no wait a minute - they went to Ireland, that's right, to do a reccie and the art director was Julie Andrews' husband - Walton, somebody Walton [NB Tony Walton]. And the first thing that happened when they got there, there was a bomb in the hotel, so that pushed them out to Canada then. They made the film in Canada in the end. Oh there's all sorts of things like that but you know, I've enjoyed it, as I say it's um - there is no other business that I can think of - I don't know about television, but no other ordinary business like it. There's not the freedom, there's not the chance of going away or anything like that, if you can you know. And um, but it's been very hard work on production.

John Taylor: It sounds a most difficult job to me, you know.

Charles Wilder: Yes. But if you get organised, it can be done, I've said this before. I know I told you about that chap getting up and saying that the trouble was that the bills didn't come in for seven weeks, and I got up and said, "Well that's supposed to be your job to find out!" You see, and that is the answer. It's not there on a plate for you.

John Taylor: There are various elements you know, if you get a director who's difficult and is going to go on whether you like it or not...

Charles Wilder: Oh yeah, yeah...

John Taylor: ...these things must...

Charles Wilder: ...I mean one, I can't remember who it was now, but there was one director that er - he was so slow it wasn't true. Well that puts all the schedule out, obviously and er...

John Taylor: Hmm, or if you get a temperamental actor or actress.

Charles Wilder: Yeah that's right, yeah, it's um - all those things contribute to a film going over schedule and therefore over budget.

John Taylor: I mean you've got weather, temperament...

Charles Wilder: And if there are locations then the weather defeats them - unless they can arrange for something on the location so that they can shoot inside if necessary, that often happens. But there are so many factors really. But I've never yet been on a film that fell down anywhere.

John Taylor: Yeah.

Charles Wilder: I mean there's so many of them they don't even get to the shooting stage at all and they fall out. And there was one film that this Elliott Kastner. I wasn't involved in it, but it was going to Czechoslovakia and they spent about four hundred thousand pounds and then he couldn't get the finance and it all fell through. But I wasn't involved on that one so I don't quite know what happened, you know. But it does happen now and again, and that cost him four hundred thousand.

John Taylor: And in talking to you is a revelation, this side of the industry, I knew nothing about at all.

Charles Wilder: Yeah, yeah.

John Taylor: You know, that there was someone like you sitting there, working it all out.

Charles Wilder: Yes, oh yes it's um...

Margaret Thomson: Very skilled, very specialised.

Charles Wilder: Oh I think so. If you said that to certain producers they wouldn't think so you know! I always remember the period that I was at NFFC and Peter Rogers was going to do a film, and I was working up at NFFC with a chap named Douglas Gosling who used to work at Pinewood. And Peter sent the script to him and the budget, and he put in the letter, "Script, the hard part. Budget, the easy part." I can always remember that [chuckles] because I'd known him from working on that film, you know, and we had a good laugh about it really! [Laughs] But I mean when I was younger it was fantastic to work in a film studio, it really was you know. People used to come along, even as a young lad, and say, "What's it like, working with all the film-stars?" It was - it was something different. I suppose it's the same now if you're working in television or something.

John Taylor: I suppose so, but not quite the same.

Charles Wilder: No, no.

Margaret Thomson: No, people are more laid-back now aren't they. Tell me, did the director come into your calculation? Did you talk to the director on the budgets at all?

Charles Wilder: No, no. Well...

Margaret Thomson: Because in the documentary films the director always talked to the accountants.

Charles Wilder: The associate producer may well have done, but I worked with the associate producer or the producer.

Margaret Thomson: Yes, I see.

Charles Wilder: So one presumes that they'd spoken to the director to see how...

Margaret Thomson: They'd done their homework, yes...

Charles Wilder: he was going to shoot this or how he was going to shoot that you know.

Margaret Thomson: Yes, yes.

Charles Wilder: And I remember once when I was working for Foxwell, and the production manager was Sydney Streeter, I don't know whether you've ever heard of him?

John Taylor: Yes.

Charles Wilder: And Foxwell offered - he was going to be the big noise in Yorkshire - was it Yorkshire? Or Scottish television. And he wanted Syd and myself to go up there - leave the film industry and go up there to the television industry because he was going to be the big boss. And of course it all fell through, nothing happened! [Laughs]

Margaret Thomson: [Chuckles] Just as well!

Charles Wilder: But he was all for it, really excited about it. But I've met a lot of interesting people during the time that I wouldn't have met if I'd gone into an insurance office or even an office with a big firm. You meet your fellow work-mates but there's no one else to meet, not like there are artists and things like that. I mean artists are a breed I think, I've always said this! [All chuckle] [Break in Recording] No, I always think they're a breed, some of them are very, very nice and some of them are not very nice. Now Michael Caine, Sean Connery, "Hi there!" And they don't know you from Adam, but they're always friendly you know. Others - Roger Moore is not bad, we had him on North Sea Hijack and he wasn't bad. He came into me one day at Pinewood after they'd been to Ireland and he said, "I wonder if you can do me a favour?" I said, "Well, what is it?" He said, "I want twenty thousand pounds in notes."

[MT laughs]

Charles Wilder: So I went over - because at the studio they've got a bank, or a cashier's department over there, and I went over to them and I said, "Can you cash me a cheque for twenty thousand?" Because we owed Roger some money. So I got this money, I said to Roger Moore, "I'll have it for you by Thursday." "Oh lovely!" So on Thursday he walked in with a little shoulder bag under here like this you see, and I gave him the twenty thousand and he stuffed it all into this bag and then goes off. Now why he wanted it I didn't dare ask!...[chuckles]. Still haven't remembered that woman's name! [Chuckles]

John Taylor: Well we will. What about the people on the floor and so on, the producers and directors? I mean they were good people to work with mostly were they?

Charles Wilder: Oh yes, yes. You got certain people - now Walter Forde, going back, he was a bit of a - he wasn't nasty but he was a bit 'elevated' if you like, you know. And Hitchcock was another one like that. The worst thing about Hitchcock was the hours that he worked, terrible. Saturday... Because the thing I forgot to mention too was that in those early days it was a five and-a-half day week, forty-seven hours, but that didn't mean a thing to Hitchcock, he'd go on until two, three Sunday morning to get what he wanted, you know.

John Taylor: What work right through Saturday night?

Charles Wilder: Yes, yeah! And no overtime for the crew and that, only for the standby people. That was the worst thing about er...

John Taylor: Without consultation? You just did as you were told did you?

Charles Wilder: Yeah that's right, yeah. But generally speaking I didn't come into contact with the directors an awful lot because it was the producer that I was involved with. But you get a lot of producers that - I know one particular one, a chap, an accountant, and they asked him to do a budget, which he did, and then the producer called him in and said, "What's all this? We don't want all this! So-and-so and so-and so..." So the accountant said, "Well do you want the truth or not?" And they didn't give him the film when they made it because he'd spoken out like that.

Margaret Thomson: Hmm.

Charles Wilder: What they wanted him to do was to cut thousands out of the budget to get past like Film Finances or somebody like that, and he wouldn't do it you see, so he didn't get the film. The film was made but he didn't get it. And that's wrong, I think it's wrong because er - but it happens so much, when they try to cut the budget down...

John Taylor: Did it happen to you at all?

Charles Wilder: No, no, no, never, but it has happened to quite a few people. I wouldn't want to do a film, or I wouldn't have wanted to do a film if that was the circumstances under which you'd got to work. Because right from the word go it's going to show itself up you see.

John Taylor: Quite a few of the people in the film industry - producers - were fairly shady characters, weren't they?

Charles Wilder: Yeah, I could name one or two [chuckles] but I mustn't! But I used to go up to the meetings too with the producer and the associate producer to Film Finances and they go through it with a fine toothcomb. They go through the schedule, "Well now, how do you propose to shoot that in a day? To our mind it should be at least two days." They really go through it, and then from that they go to the budget and say, "Where's all the transportation to the locations?" And it's amazing what people leave out. David is finding that with what he's doing now - they leave these things out you see, or they don't put enough in. If they're going to Spain and then from Spain they're going to Portugal or somewhere, and they forget the intermediate air fares and things and the hotels and all that sort of thing you see.

Margaret Thomson: Hmm. But do I remember rightly that you always had a contingency?

Charles Wilder: Yes.

Margaret Thomson: Something like ten per cent?

Charles Wilder: I think it is - I don't know what it is now, but...

Margaret Thomson: No, nor me, but it was something like that.

Charles Wilder: Yes you always have a contingency and also...

Margaret Thomson: Which would cushion you for omissions, yes.

Charles Wilder: Yes. And also in the old days they used to - Film Finances used to take the budget and they would charge ten per cent on the location costs, because on the front summary it was all detailed down into pre-production, studio shooting, location, music, effects, etcetera, etcetera...editing. They would charge ten per cent on the location total plus five per cent on the rest of the budget, and that was their fee. Now if you didn't claim on them you got a rebate. Now whether that's the same now I don't know. I think the rebate situation is the same but what they charge now I don't know. I could easily find out from David.

John Taylor: You went to the Film Finance Corporation for quite a number of films?

Charles Wilder: Oh yes, yeah, oh yeah.

John Taylor: Yes. It was a very good organisation really.

Charles Wilder: Yes well you see what really happens, I mean supposing you were going with United Artists, perhaps it was one of their films. Well they would want you to go to the bank and borrow a certain percentage of the money and United Artists would put up the rest. Again, before the bank would put up any money you had to get a completion guarantee. And it's the same now, absolutely!

John Taylor: And you got that from the National Film Finance Corporation?

Charles Wilder: Well you used to...

John Taylor: The completion guarantee?

Charles Wilder: The Film Finances.

John Taylor: Yes.

Charles Wilder: Not National Film - Film Finances, they were the people that did the completion guarantees.

John Taylor: Yes but didn't you have to do the same thing with er...

Charles Wilder: Some of the films, most of the British Lion Films...

John Taylor: Yeah...

Charles Wilder: ...NFFC would put up a percentage of the cost, or estimated cost. But generally speaking, if you were making a film with say United Artists or Paramount, you wouldn't have to go to National Film Finance Corporation at all. We did one, I did one with Paramount, I'm not sure what one that was now, I think that was A Touch of Larceny one of the Foxwell films.

John Taylor: Hmm.

Charles Wilder: And the Americans wanted it so that we paid out ten per cent, they paid out ten per cent. The next part of the costs, say twenty per cent, twenty per cent. And it was virtually unworkable, because the artists were all paid by the Americans, and I mean they take the best part of the budget anyway, so it was very, very difficult to keep to this ratio between them, it took a long time to sort it out. And then in the end on that particular film it was discovered that [James] Mason had to be paid extra money if he worked on a Sunday, and nobody knew because they hadn't seen the contract! [Laughs] And it was quite a sizeable amount too. Now he was a very aloof character, Mason...

John Taylor: Hmm.

Charles Wilder: He brought a minder over with him and he looked like an ex-American cop, great big fellow! And he used to be his valet and look after him, if Mason wanted to go to a club this chap would have to go first and see what the club was like, then come back and tell him and he would either go or he wouldn't go.

John Taylor: He was very difficult, when he was at Gaumont anyway, wasn't he?

Charles Wilder: Yes, yeah, he's always been - I don't say he was a rebel but he was always aloof and not sociable, you know. I mean I know one night in Scotland, we were all sitting round in the hotel having a drink, and he came in, he wouldn't join us, he went to sit somewhere else.

John Taylor: I remember when he went to America after the Gaumont period, he left in a cloud of anger and so on, saying that British filmmakers were a useless bunch of so-and-so's...

Charles Wilder: Yeah, oh yes, he's a...

John Taylor: ...created and it's quite unnecessary for him to say this when he was going away. But it created a lot of bad feeling over here.

Margaret Thomson: Yes, hmm.

Charles Wilder: I tell you one of the - you remember previously I said they had a star - starlets system at Shepherd's Bush, well one of the starlets was Pamela Ostrer.

John Taylor: Was she? Hmm...

Charles Wilder: ...and the other one was another Ostrer's daughter, but she was called Glennis Lorimer, she was a nice girl that one. Pamela was a bit er - she was the daughter of Isidore, and that was it you know, what she said 'went'.

Margaret Thomson: Were the Ostrers English?

Charles Wilder: No I think originally they were Polish.

Margaret Thomson: Oh were they? Yes.

Charles Wilder: I'm not sure but um, but they certainly, well Isidore was a wizard...

John Taylor: Was he?

Charles Wilder: Oh a wizard with money.

Margaret Thomson: Yes.

Charles Wilder: He wrote a book on the Gold Standard and all that kind of thing you know, oh yeah. He was a very clever man, tiny little man, very - if you were coming in and he was coming out, he'd bow to you as you! [chuckles]

Margaret Thomson: [Chuckles] Yes. So Rank came into that empire didn't he?

Charles Wilder: Yes, um...

Margaret Thomson: Was that when you were there?

Charles Wilder: I don't know quite the in's and out's of that part of it, but he certainly came into it. Because - another thing that I've got to tell you, that when Shepherd's Bush shut down in 1937 I think it was, we went to Pinewood - that was the first time I'd ever been to Pinewood - to finish off, or finish out contracts with Jessie Matthews and Nova Pilbeam. I think there were two films involved, one was called Gangway, which was Jessie Matthews...

John Taylor: Yes...

Charles Wilder: ...and the other one was A Shilling for Candles [NB AKA Young and Innocent] I think with, Nova Pilbeam. And that's when I first went to Pinewood and then after they were over we went back to Shepherd's Bush.

John Taylor: Well Rank at about that point started taking over the whole of the film industry didn't he?

Charles Wilder: Yes, yeah.

Margaret Thomson: Starting with his religious films wasn't it?

John Taylor: Yeah, hmm.

Charles Wilder: The what?

Margaret Thomson: The religious films he made.

Charles Wilder: Yes that's right, yes.

Margaret Thomson: Yes, hmm.

Charles Wilder: He used to go down to the studio, I think I saw him once when I happened to be down there, he used to go down now and again. But I don't know as he - it was really financial for him. And the bakery that he used to run, Hovis or whatever it was called...

John Taylor: Rank Distillery...

Charles Wilder: Rank, [chuckles] Rank-Hovis wasn't it?

John Taylor: Yes, Rank-Hovis. Where were you when the Rank Empire collapsed?

Charles Wilder: What year was that?

John Taylor: About 1952, '53.

Charles Wilder: '52, I was at Shepperton.

John Taylor: Was Korda still there then?

Charles Wilder: No I don't think so. No, no.

John Taylor: But there was a terrible...

Charles Wilder: No I think in 1952 I was still on the payroll of the Ostrer's but sublet out to British Lion, 1952, '53. No I had nothing to do with the Korda time at all.

John Taylor: You were lucky!

Charles Wilder: Yeah. [laughs] And of course, first of all when I came back from the army I went to Denham - I forgot that again you see.

John Taylor: Hmm.

Charles Wilder: And I worked for 'Piffle', which was PFF Limited [NB. Production Facilities (Films) Limited], which was a central accounting company for all the Rank companies, like Two Cities Films, um, what's the other one? Oh there were about three or four, and I worked down in the old house there for a couple of years.

John Taylor: What, doing production accounting?

Charles Wilder: Well it was general accounting for all the companies and all the films, and I left there to go to the Ostrers.

John Taylor: There was a big collapse about 1952, do you remember?

Charles Wilder: Yeah I vaguely remember it but I...

John Taylor: I mean he was in debt to seventeen million quid at that time.

Margaret Thomson: Rank was?

John Taylor: Yes.

Margaret Thomson: John Davis was involved wasn't he?

John Taylor: Yes he was running it.

Margaret Thomson: He was the chief, he was running it, yes.

Charles Wilder: No I didn't know a lot about that.

John Taylor: But a lot of the industry was out of work at the time, I can remember that.

Charles Wilder: Yeah, yeah. I remember, too, before I went in the forces, going down to Denham on a film called Neutral Port, and Johnny Mills was in it and he was only a boy in those days, and it was out on the Loch in a tank you know, I can remember that. But he was always one for the crew and that.

Margaret Thomson: Was he?

Charles Wilder: Hmm. But er...I can't think of anything else really! [Break in Recording] But I think that was a film record as well and I said, no, I didn't want to bother. Now that could have been that Archie Holley who came to me and said was I interested in doing it because they'd approached him or something, something like that - I vaguely remember it.

Margaret Thomson: Oh I see, yes. Well any talk of video and that nowadays is only waffle at the moment as far as I can gather, there's no real intention or money perhaps to do it yet.

Charles Wilder: No, it's a good idea.

Margaret Thomson: ...but they may come round to it, yes, why not? I mean might as well really, I don't suppose it's that much more expensive than the er...

John Taylor: No, just the initial equipment.

Margaret Thomson: Initial equipment, yes once you've got the equipment.

John Taylor: But I mean... [Break in Recording]

Charles Wilder: But accountants and their like are an 'unnecessary evil', I must say that - that is true.

John Taylor: Well you can see the reason why, can't you? [Chuckling]

Charles Wilder: Yes 'cause it cuts their um...

John Taylor: The facts are the facts!

Charles Wilder: Yes, yeah. [Break in Recording]...have gone up because the production associate's money has gone up and that sort of thing you know. I finished too early for that! [Chuckles]

Margaret Thomson: But they're back to long hours again apparently.

Charles Wilder: Yes, yes.

Margaret Thomson: There are no agreements, am I right?

John Taylor: Yes.

Charles Wilder: No there's no agreements now are there?

John Taylor: No.

Charles Wilder: I was surprised at that, I...

John Taylor: There's nothing - I mean this government has taken away the power of the unions, there's nothing that anyone can do, you know.

Charles Wilder: Yeah, I was quite surprised when I heard that.

John Taylor: Well it seems impractical in some ways you know. I mean if you've got an agreement, you know, it's something solid you can work through. You know that if it says we finish at six then you finish at six, but for both sides of it.

Charles Wilder: But I found too that individuals, while they'd got an agreement, if they could see some way that they would benefit a bit more money, they wouldn't worry about the agreement, they wanted it nonetheless you know.

Margaret Thomson: Yeah, yeah.

Charles Wilder: That was both for ACT and NATKE or whatever it's called now.

Margaret Thomson: But I'll tell you what my experience was, coming from a documentary world where we didn't mind what we did, but it was easy going, there's no doubt it was easy going. When I had this time, suddenly, at Pinewood I thought the discipline on the floor was superb, I thought it was just like a ballet, it was so beautifully co-ordinated. You know, there was a sort of ritual wasn't there?

Charles Wilder: Yeah!

Margaret Thomson: Every shot has a ritual and I thought it was wonderful.

Charles Wilder: I was reading in the paper this morning about Jean Kent who was one of the starlets and er - they went to the memorial service for Margaret Lockwood and Chile Bouchier.

John Taylor: Yes.

Charles Wilder: Well now Chile Bouchier, she used to come into the office at Shepherd's Bush and, she was no higher than that, and always with her mother, her mother never left her side. She was a curly-haired - you know, very attractive girl she was. But I read something about her in the paper the other week, where she was eighty or something. Would you like another cup of tea?

[End of interview]


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 Horses 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).

A pdf of a partial list of credits is located beneath the tab below.