Cyril Howard

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Interview Date(s): 
25 Aug 1988
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Notes on audiocassette: 
Side 1 - Started Denham 1941 (Independent Producers Ltd)
Side 2 - Now Man. Director Pinewood Studios


Please note this interview transcripted  was converted from a PDF file into a Word document. It will require proof reading and editing.  

Interview with Cyril Howard at Pinewood Studios on 25th August



RF:  When and where were you born.

CH:  I was born in Barnet Hertfordshire . 1926.  I joined the r11m industry November of 1941 and I  joined it                         at Denham studios, because Pinewood Studio, having opened in 1936 closed in 38, not because of  the war, so many people say that, it's quite untrue,  it closed because of the usual monetary  reasons,  political reasons ,  and it moved a  small  force to Denham which was swallowed up  in the studio complex there and it     didn't really mean anything, just a few people who used to work here went over there. So I joined as a lad in November 41 as the inevitable runner, in fact I was engaged as a trainee and whilst I worked as a trainee I did many things, I worked in the cutting rooms with  Sid Hay, if I remember, Sid had been invallided out     of the airforce, a much decorated airman, and I was  the  join and we'd sit there and join film and it bored me to death. I also did a little bit in the sound department, that also bored me to death, and in the camera department and a little bit on the floo r , 1n fact I ran on Colonel Blimp in 1943 which was a great expereince.   l went into the army in February of  1945, anxious to get  in before 1t  was all over,  and I didn 't take  long,  because  it fin ished in May of 45 and I came out in May of 48 and came to, not return to, because I never started there, I came to Pinewood in 1948 and Pinewood had reopened 18 months beforehand in 1946, and you might say I haven risen from the ranks since I came back, because coming back in 1948 I  joined the Secretarial  Department as assistant to the company secretary,  a rnan  called  Bill  Able, and our ultimate boss was Tim White , he was chief production manager, and he controlled the making of the films being made by Independent Producers, Independent  Producers was an arm of the Rank Organisation and I worked for Independent Producers and we made among other films The Red Shoes, London Belongs to Me and films like that and I suppose I've been lucky because here I am 1988, 47 years later stil l with the Rank Organisation.    But the

47 itself might not be a record but working for one company might just qualify. It's been my pleasure to work fo r them and I think I've been a very lucky man to have done so.

If you wanted me to continue on a conceited note, it       took wg  a mere 35 years to become managing director so with that in mine there's hope for everybody in our industry.

RF:  The one film we must pray for is that studios such as Pinewood remainin this country because they are a threatened species.

CH:  I'm pointing to the wall at a picture of the Gong Man and I fancy theGong man has been the best man in this industry in this country since it   started. The Rank Organisation was incorporated in 1937 and has stayed faithful to the Britis h film industry since then, I assure you and I can tell you personally at least since 4L

r:  Can we go back to the early days.  Since Denham was a fascinating Studios at the time, what can                                                       you remember.

CH:  Well when I went to Denham Studios it     was 1941 and if I remember it correctly they were making a film called Jacqueline with Hugh Williams.   A little while later they started to make The First of the Few, the Leslie Howard vehicle and it            was about Mitchell and the creation of the Spitfire engine, a little while on from that they made They Flew Alone which was thestory of the Mollisons, and I remember Jim Newton was Jim Mollison and Anna Neagle was Amy Johnson as it                        were, she married Jim Mollison. But I suppose the thing which sticks in my life more than anything else and I was still running, somebody said there's been an explosion on stage 5,                      it          would have been 4 but I think it was 5, I ran there, we were shooting In Which we Serve and there was a big battle in which a cruiser passed or whatever, and these huge

8 inch guns were simulating firing and to create this simulation you put on for want of a better word, gunpoweder. it obviously wasn't, you then pushed the plates in, ignited the powder and created gunfire.      Unfortunately theplates got hot and it blew up and it killed Jock Dymcre who was tbe chiefelectrician at Denham and it injured 4 or 5 electricians, and I was on that set a few minutes after it happened and it  was bloody mayhem I can tell you.           And a great shock for a young boy of 16.

RF: It's one of are occasionally maybe could have technicians seem

the sad business about the industry that there these accidents which occasionally happen which been avoided but they do seem to happen and the to be the ones who get it.

CH:  These were sparks and it     created a great impression, I feel I shook for days and days and days, fortunately or unfortunately we only lost one man andI knew the sparks they had their sort of wounds but eventually they healed up.

RF:  What were a runner's duties, were  you assigned to a picture.

CH:  I ran on Colonel Blimp, the whole of Colonel Blimp, that wasn't till 43. I also ran on a Canterbury Tale which was shot basically in Canterbury withSheila Sims, Mickey Powell and Emeric Pressburger. But one film which I loved was made with Robert Newton at Denham, there was one called The Way Ahead, wrong again, it was David Niven, the film I was trying to remember was This Happy Breed, that was made in 44 and I was terribly impressed because part of the action anticipated a tram of I think it was marines and they drilled on the green outside the old house, and this was 44 and I watched these drills, and a snotty little corporal was drilling these guys all of whom were 6 ft tall, and I thought when I get called up I'm going into the marines, they were so smart, I didn't in fact.

RF:  In Which we Serve was a landmark film in the British film industry  because suddenly this film came along whic h by                           any standard was of international stature     and was a worldwide success, do you have any special of it.

CH:  No, I was far too young.

R ·  I wondered if David Lean impressed you or Noel Coward.

CH:  I think they impressed me to the extent that looking back to it     now they all seemed to wear collar and ties and jackets and trousers, today you might still wear trousers but that's all.

These were people who were so far above me that you almost dare no  look.     It's not like today, they'd come in and you'd say good morning sir and you'd go on past.

RF:  Did you have a goal in mind at that point.

CH:  When you're working during a wartime era I assure you that you're really waitingto get called up, to go and die for your country.           It might sound stupid, Ithought I'll get my call up papers tomorrow.    I  did                                have a goal in mind,I wanted to work in the film industry, but I knew in my heart of heart that I'd never bea technician.          I didn't have that sort of brain and I knew if I had any sort ofbrain it was an administrative brain.  I was just good at business.      I was justgood at being an administra- tor, it's 35 years and I've proved it.      At my age at that time every body said I'm never going to work in an office, well I thought I've got to say that but I always thought I would work in an office, because I thought I was better at working in an office, not very glamorous but that waswhat I thought I was best at.

RF:  Who was running Denham then.

CH:  Denham was a film studio which housed a number of production companies, the two principle ones in my time was Two Cities Films and IndependentProducers now Jimmy Sloan was the general manager of Independent Producers and I believe that Herbert Smith was running Two Cities but as I was saying these men were up in the clouds as far as I'm concerned.                        But all the films were made by independent companies within that company so Powell and Pressbur­ger with the Archers or Launder and Gilliat were individual and

so you go on.   Anyone working for Two Cities were working for Two Cities.

RF:  But the ownership of Denham was then Rank, it was D & P Studios.

CH:  Denham and Pinewood Studios, that is what it was called and they had their little trademark was D & Pandit wasa picture of Pinewood and a picture ofDenham.   But Pinewood was with the Royal Mint.

RF:  As a runner were you on the studio's payroll or were you independent.

CH:  I was on Independent Producers Ltd payroll which was the Rank production company along with Two Cities.

RF:  So then you could be assigned to any of the Independent Producers productions on any of their units.





I'd love to hear about Colonel

It was  a   lovely film for me, a


little b:Lt

nostalgia ,


came to pass in 44 or 43 Deborah Kerr became 21 and the runner no less was deputed the task of arranging a cake and presenting it

to her on the set where all the technicians were and what have you, why I should remember that but I do, i t 1 s a very strong memory, I think she even kissed me.

RF:  A very long schedule.

CH:  It was a long schedule, perhaps 12 weeks which was a Iona schedule at that time. Next door to it we were making a film, again for Independent Producers called On Approval, Sidney Box was making it,         a smashing film, just before that another film was made, The Silver Fleet.  But Independent Producers made a lot of good films, it wasn 't limited to               came over here and made Green for Danger which was an excellent film, Great Expectations, Oliver Twist, London Belongs to Me.   You got Cinguild, Indivi­ dua l, The Archers, they were part, that's why the company was called Independent Producers , that laterly was changed to Pine­ wood Films Ltd when we moved over here.

RF:  Are you on nodding terms with some of the bosses now. CH:  I know Sir David Lean quite well.

RF:  What are your recollections of those people.

CH:  They were all sirs except Tom White, one in those days were extremely deferential, that was the way to be, people were more deferential than today,I'm not seeking they should defer to me, that was just the way I was broughtup,

RF:  What were a young lad's memory of David Lean.

CH:  I said that they were so far above me that you barely dare look at them but that was only half true because I can remember very very clearly getting off the train at Denham and crossing the fields in company.with Laurence Olivier with Penelope Dudley Ward both of whom were working in a film calledDemi Paradise for Two Cities and I walked with them the way I might walk with my father or mother.   And it            was good morning and off we go, and I regularly used to walk across the fields with Robert Newton, and Robert Newton was in They Flew Alone, people were very much down to earth.

Del Giudice and Anatole de Grunwald were joint managing directors of Two Cities Films and there was a company secretary, his name was Guido Coen, and GuidoCoen used to write always in green ink, and not too long ago I was at a function, we're level now, how are you Guido, how are you Cyril, while wetalked I said have you run out of green ink, he looked at me and he just didn't know what to make of it,           and I reminded him he always used to use green ink, I know I did but how do you know, it   doesn't matter but Idid.             Mr Del Giudice was joint managing director of a company withwhich I didn ' t work, so I really had no knowledge, I was an Independent man.

RF:  How about Michael Powe ll and Emeric Press burger.

CH:  Michael Powell was a very happy guy, very forthright gentleman, never had any hair, whereas his partner Emeric

Pressburger was always, seemed to me a very withdrawn gentleman as mid Europeans sometimes are, but I remember getting on extremely well with Mr Powell and he knows me from the past, he was in my office a year ago, I got on very well with him, he was a supreme director and young runners like myself didn't spend hours together, we knew each other.

RF:  Presumably you were on the set      a great deal.

CH:  My memory of Michael Powell is that he was an extremely tough and forthright director, and everybody seemed to be frightened of him even Roger Livesey who was a big built chap. And Anton Walbrook, he was a very strongman, I don't think he's changed at all but ever since I've known him, he's, Iwou ldn ' t say he's domineering, more dominating.

RF: How about Pressburger, you say he was quiet and withdrawn.

CH:  That's an impression I drew.  I don't know if you know Alexander Salkind,they're a pair.                              Extremely withdrawn, I don' knowif I spoke or was spoken two words to by                                 him.

RF:  Did Presshurger contribute much to the actual direction .

CH:  Absolutely not.  I've seen Mr Pressburger on the set, they were together, if you see any of their films they always say written produced and directed by  Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger.

RF:  But I think the respective contributions were that Pressbur­ger was very strong on the script and Powell maybe more on a cinematic presentation of the script and then the actual direc­tion.

CH:  I think you 1 re absolutely right. but not as dominating .as Powell.

A clever man, Pressburger

RF:  Canterbury Tale was a very curious film.

CH: I didn't like Canterbury Tale very much. It wasn't my sort offilm. I didn't see much too it, it bored me a little bit, but what was I, it was made in 44, it was made by Independent

Producers and that there was no doubt but the idea of John Sweet as anAmerican sergeant and Dennis Price a British sergeant and a young   girl, it           didn't    me I'm afraid.

RF:  You were aware of that while it was being made.

CH:  Yes, whereas Colonel Blimp was a lot of daring do in it and

i like that, and This Happy Breed, just not my sort of film.

RF:  This Happy Breed is almost a forgotten film

CH:    Brought a little bit back with Boorman's recent film, his war. They weren't too dissimilar, but I remember a lovely performance of Newton, I liked him a great deal, he made several films at Denham.

RF:  How about Celia Johnson .

CH:  She was a lovely lady .  A bird like lady, she was very good indeed and was in Brief Encounter.

RF:  That was his first r11m as a solo director. CH:  David Lean hasn't directed many films.

RF:  Back to This Happy Breed.

CH:  I thought it was a brilliant movie .   It was on the box not too long ago.  It was a lovely film, and Boorman 's Hope and Glory was not dissimilar, it  was a wartime study, things happen in wartime, and one film is rather similar to thenext.

RF:  You're going to hate me it goes from the end of the First World War to1938.

CH:  I'm not going to hate you at all, but it's funny I saw this platoon of Royal Marines drilling for This Happy Breed in 1944 uniforms.    Now why would they be doing that.

R -  I think it was the Victory Parade of the First World War.

I was wondering if you remember David Lean as being as   tough a director as he subsequently became.                 As meticulous.

CH:  I would never say tough  in relation to watching Sir David at work but certainly firm, he cajoled people, if ever you saw people like Gabriel Pascal, I know Brian Desmond Hurst directed Caesar and Cleopatra, but he'snot a     Pascal sort of man, David Lean is a very firm correct man who'd just as soon put his arm round an actor's shoulder and say this old chap isthe way we'll do it, Powell I don't think I ever saw him do that.     I don't think David Lean's changed, he's a gentleman. A firm gentleman.

RF:  He knows what he wants.

CH:  I took over the costing department of Independent Producers and one of thebigger films I costed was Caesar and Cleopatra and before I went into the army I'd brought it up to £100,000, I think it                                                          in fact cost over 1 million pounds.   That's a lot of money for a huge epic, I know it's 40 yeasr ago, but I doubt after it's various projections on television it's lost any money, I think you suggested it did badly, I don 't think it did.

RF:  It did at the time, only because then it     was the most expensive film ever made in the country.

CH:  Films just didn't cost tnat sort of money, that certainly cost a millionspounds, I thought it was a splendid film, did you like it.


RP· I thought it was not well directed. One' mouth was agog at the costumes and setting. I ·,-vas on  the  set quite a bit and saw i t being- made.

CH:  I wonder if you were there one Saturday when we were doodle bugged.

RF:       I'rio





CH:  Everybody collapsed on the floor and it went off miles away,

but it     came over.

RF:  Someone you remember, Harry Miller, anything you remember of

Caesar and Cleopatra.

CH:  No, it was a jay doing the cost statements  because it used to roar up, and at that time to be doubling in hundreds of thousands of pounds was exciting even to a young clost clerk like myself.                         I'd never seen anything like it     before.

RF:  Sitting in    the accounting office did you have any idea what was going on on the set, why it was taking so lon g.

CH:  If you are a cost clerk it's your bounden duty to be on the set every day at least twice a day so you can virtually come back and tell to the hundred pounds what the film had cost up to that day.          That's the beauty of being a cost clerk.

RF:  What were the problems on the film. CH:Perfection I guess.

RF:  Ego.

CH:  Oh yes, egoism is always there.   But Pascal had a desire to make a film better than any film of that pageantry before.

RF:  It's true you    prefer to see the good side of people rather than the badside.

CH:  You've got me absolutely see the down side of anybody,

RF·  Even Gabby.

in one, I see no merit life is too short.

in trying to

CH:  You looked on  him as a bloody foreigner, and it      was to be expected, what else did you expect a foreigner to be. But you wouldn't get that sort of pantomime from an englishman, it's sheer pomposity.                      I'm just a rabid Englis hman .

RF:  He was a bit of a charlatan.

CH:  But it was a joy to watch them.   And I fell in love with Jean Simmons, and things like that, and Stewart Granger was a magnificent man to behold.It's just wonderful to be amongst them and have a right to be amongst them because you were there not just looking at people making films but in a formalcapacity .

RF:  Doing a useful job.

CH:  Absolutely.  I'd go in there with my dirty bit of paper and note who was on there, I didn't have to wait for my progress report, I knew who was on chere, how many artists, how much it was going to cost.         As I say that's the art of being a cost clerk.

RF:  Do you remember the details of that production such as how many extras would be on call.

CH:  Yes, of course I do, we had signs at Denham, just posts with signs, Egyptians this way, and so on and so forth.                         I don't know where they got them all from, the war was on andit                                                               was 1944, everybody was in the army except me and I was waiting to go, but we had a lot of peo ple I assure you. I don't know wherethey got them from but they were there.

RF:  As big a crowd as ever made in this country.

CH:  As long as you say this country I think you're right, I can 1 t thinkunless you go back to before the war to something like the Drum.

RF:  l met one of them the other day at Glebelands.   Paul Wright. CH:     Are you a strict contemporary of mine.

RF:  I was born in 27.  One year after.  I was more fortunate than youbecause I didn 1 t have to go in during the war.

CH:  I only just made it by    a few months.   I had a 40th wedding anniversary last sunday week and Barbara and I exchanged gifts and she gave me a Parker pen which she bought me many years ago and which had broken, and she got it mended, and she also gave me a medal, I said what's this Barbara, she said you never did get your medal, I don't think I did, you get out of the army and you can't get out quick enough, and she'd gone to War Office AG medals and got my only war medal. I thought that was excellent.

RF:  Have we missed out any films.

CH:  No, as I was going into the army  they were preparing films which we used to shorten by name one was IKWIG and the other AMOLAD, I Know Where I'm Going and A Matter of Life and Death, but I'd virtually gone by         then and it was only a preparatory state.

RF:  Do you have any memories of Wilcox-Neagle.

CH:  No,    not really, I remember going onto  I think it was one of the smaller stages, very likely 3, and seeing their plane in a clearing with turbs around it and being very impressed, but on reflection thinking that was a bloody awful set dressing.    It was just as mean then to get on the sets as it is now, people just don't like people on there.

RF:  You next go into service, you were what a straight forward soldier.

CH:  I was a sergeant in the RAFC in various parts of the UK and eventually I came to Pinewood on February 15th 1948.

RF:  You didn 't go to Denham. CH:      No, we 1 d moved over nere. RF:     Denham had closed.

CH:  No Denham didn't close till 1952 or 3.  And I think, a

million people are going to point a finger. but I think the last film made there was the House in  the Square.                      I think it was a Foxfilm.   People will say you've forgotten Hornblower. I'm not sure.   It closed as a film studio in 1952 or 3. If we can just dwell on Denham because it was a favourite place of mine. It was then let variously let to the United States Airforce, the Rank Organisation owned it and we eventually  sold it                to British Land. It's now been demolished, even then there were screams about how dare you tear it down, I said look they haven't made a film there for 30years, it's a bit difficult, but now Denha m' s gone, and it's very nicely appointed over there, not exactly factories but

light engineering offices, it looks very smar,t the labs as you would know.

RF:  You came back to Independent Producers.

it's adjacent to

CH:  When I came back I remember distinctly London Belongs to Me was being made. That almost certainly was Individual Pictures , Launder and Gilliat.Before that when I was in the army Green for Danger was made here, I think it was the first film made here after they had returned here.         In 1946 when we started this, we made Green for Danger, Take my Life, Black Narcissus, Captain Boycott and part of Great Expectations. We followed that up in 1947 with End of the River, Women in the Hall, Blanche Fury, the incomparable Red Shoes, Oliver Twist and Esther Waters, Then I returned and it was not only London Belongs to Me it                was also the Passionate Friends.    It was a picture with Claude Rains, Trevor Howard and Ann Todd and David Lean and thenhe married her. In 1948 The Passionate Friends was being made, The Blue Lagoon, now the Blue Lagoon featured Donald Huston and Jean Simmons and was recently, in this decade was remade, then we had Once a Jolly Swagman with Dirk Bogard, a film called Rover the Town, Once Upon a Dream, Dear Mr Prohackwith lovely Cecil Parker, and then I see a foreigner gets in and we made a film called Obsession.

RF:  Eddie was here a long time. CH:   No, not a long time.

RF:  It was Independent Sovereign.

CH:  That shows it's a foreigner amongst all these Rank films.   I also see in 1948 we're listed as making Kind Hearts and Coronets here, that's not totally true, we shot part of it            here and claimed the credit.


RF:  That's a bit borderline.

CH:  But when you're working in a studio they just cough and you put that down as one of us.

RF:  Why did they come here.

CH:  Probably a space problem.   Almost certai n ly . how many stages there were atEaling.

RF:  Probably 3 and only one was a respectable size.

Do you know

CH:  We always talk about bottom lines and stings in the tail, that was the most marvellous bottom line.                     I can see him walking

out of gaol and looking for his book.

RF:  What was the condition of the studio after it      was handed back.

CH:  Of course it     was camouflaged during the war.  Painted this awful red andgreen, which you'll still find if you chip away at the new paint, so it looked a little army unit if    you like. And a little bit dowdy and it stayed in that dowdy way for quite a while.  We were more engaged in making films getting a stock of films rather than touting the place up, not that we had any money.

r,L  .•                  Well these were very difficult years for every industry.

CH:  I have to tell you that coming back , or restarting as I did in 48 and then in 49 there was a crash, I don't know where you were but I have to tell you that the Rank Orgainsation had several units like      Two Cities, Independent Producers, Gainsbor­ ough, certainly there 5 film making companies within the organi­ sation including my own, all of a sudden there was going to be one and it was going to be based at Pinewood and 4 5ths of the principles justwent.        And I always thought it a terr ible sadness, how dare they, we gotover the war. the film industry 's hack on it's feet and there's acrisis.           I don't think I really understood this,  this can't be, and I think people all of a sudden had got over the idea of watching anything and became more selective.

RF:  There is a long history to the collapse and at this stage John Davis took control.

CH:  No, Sir John Davis was in control almost before the war, he was on the board of Independent  Producers and certainly Two Cities.          during the war. They call him an accountant, in fact he was a chartered secretary,  I happen to know that.   He ruled with a   rod of iron and but for his foresight and not a little bit of good fortune in going  into the Zerox world we would have gone over.             Because at one time we owed a substantial  amount of money to the banks.               But he brought us through. Not that he ever liked film production, he distrusted it because he thought  he'd  been let down by   the likes of, well we won't  mention names,               but he distrusted it,     I think he liked the charisma and coming here and talking to Dirk and walking round with Lord Rank  but  I don't know, he just didn't have a feeling of brotherhood for producers and directors.        He thought films should be made if you like like cardboard boxes, you and I know they don't make films like that. Films are inspirational and I'm very proud that in some small way I've been in the film industry, I always say to myself, Cyril you might be good at admin but     you couldn't make a film to save your life and I've tremendous admiration for those people who can, people like Lean and Neame and Coward and  Pascal,  whether you like him or not, Launder and Gilliat, i  thought they were marvellous people.  I couldn't do it. I couldn'tmake a film.

RF:  I think it's the most difficult think in the world to get a film off theground.

CH:  Absolutely, to get it     off the ground is a miracle, and then

to make it     is another miracle.

RF:  You mentioned J. Arthur Rank, you must have personal memories of   him.

CH:  J.     Arthur Rank was one o! tne nicest men I have ever met in m_y life, an absolutely charming man.                       I now think that we have to go backwards a bit more. It was J. Arthur with his  partner Charles Boot bought Heatherton Hall  in 34, and    the idea being that they would consider the idea of building a film studio to  back onto Heatherton Hall which is still with us.

RF: This is not part of the old house. CH: No. This was built on afterwards. SIDE 2. TAPE 1

CH:  Heatherton Hall was a manor house for want of a better expression, which was built well over a years ago and variously tenanted and if         you 1 re anything of a cricketer like I am you'd like to know that K. S. Ranjit Sinji who was a Crown Prince, cu, Indian prince, he played for Sussex and England, he lived here, and obviously an extremely rich gentleman.      I've like to pick up the history from 1916, on 1916 or thereabout a wealthy gentleman, a Canadian called Granton Morton bought the place and lived here in splendid excellence and became MP for Brentford and Chiswick when there was an airport calledHeston when you ground anticipa­ ted some hunting shooting and fishing, and our colonel was well thought of in government circles, so much so that when the Irish Free State treaty was signed it was here that it was signed, in fact in the library which is now one of the bars. And other things happened here which related to the man and his position, this was the place to come.            Alas having lived here for about 13 years, 1929 came along, the Wall St crash and our colonel friend went from riches to rags, he had to leave us and became a pauper and it wasn't until 1934 it      was sold to a consortium and it was

J .   Arthur Rank, Charles Boot, and a lady, Lady Yuill, and they decided they would like Pinewood Studios.

RF:  Was Boot a member of the Boots Chemist family.

CH:  No.  He was builder.  But he was a film buff and J. Arthur was into the religious film business, it                           was his hobby, he liked doing it, he didn't want to be in flour or race horses, so yes it might be a good ide a. CharlesBoot was deputed to go to Holywood and find out all the secret information about how the film studio should be made, a la 1935, he did that and duly came back, he said I've got all the information we require , we ought to go aheadforth with, and they did, and the first brick was laid late in 35, and we opened in 36, round about October, and the story goes, what should we call it , well we've got Hollywood, what about Pinewood. I don't believe it           for a moment but it sounds good,                        anyway we opened in 1936, and the first film to come here, it wasn't in fact started here it was started elsewhere. it was a film called London Melody, it was directed by    Herbert Wilcox and it    starred Anna Neagle, and if we walk along the picture gallery it 1 s thefirst large photo we will see. And so here we were in 1936 and some 50 or so films later in 1938 we closed, we if you

11Ke moved to Denham. But if you  look at some of these films, perhaps the best known is Pygrnalion, I suggest the second best known film is the Mikado, with Kenny Baker, directed by                                                                            Victor Scherzinger. Hatherton Hall is sti ll here, the area comprising the studios is 91 and a half acres, the area used to be 156 but part of it was sold off to the East, sohere we are sitting on 91 acres and a splendid manor house and a very busy filmstudio.

RF:  Did you come back into the same job for Inc1ependent Producers.

CH:  No, I came back, one had to come back, one was given a year's guarantee of employment, it was one of the rules of coming out of the forces, with my demob suit which was a disaster I remember.        I came back and I went into the secretarial depart­ ment, I worked as an assistant to Bill Able. but Torn White was teh chief production manager and Jimmy Sloan the production manager.  Jimmy Sloan was to leave and Tom Whi.te become the general manager, Independent Producers was to virtually dissolve in late 1949 when there was a collapse, a universal collapse in our industry, and we all congregated, those who remained, at Pinewood, and we went from there.

RF: Is this when the Earl took over.

CH:  Earl St John took over a little later than that.  Earl Sheffield St John was a charming gentleman, an American who started out in life I believe as an agent and then a cinema manager or as a cinema manager and then as an agent butcame here as Sir John's delegate to be in charge of production. Sidney Box was also around at the time, he was in charge of production at Gainsborough, then we had Herbert Smith at Denham, who was in charge of production there but it all contracted and Earl took


RF:  They were on a level to start with.

CH:  They were on a level in that they were at different studios but when theycame here they went and only Earl remained.                           Sidney came here for a while and made The Astonished Heart with Coward and a couple of other years, but the wasn 't going to stay, you could see although SidneyBox           made famous by one film I fancy with Ann Todd but not to come here to continue his executiveship.

RF:  Was there a fight for supremacy between them and Earl St John won.

CH:  I think it was determined by Sir John Davis, I don't think there was any infighting between the various protagonists, I don't think it           was likethat.      It was Sir John was saying Earl, you out.     That was it,        it was the only way to rule at that time. we were in a perilous state, and so quickly after the war, after the war people would look at   anything.

RF:  It was a matter if you recall the labour government put an ad valorem tax on American pictures coming into the country and the Americans refused to payit,      so the British film industry was encouraged to film the gap which they did, so Rank expanded and then quite suddenly they settled with the Americans and Rank was left holding the can and the baby.       And that was the reason for the bad debt.  But as you said before the British film industry has been one long succession of precarious states and financial


RF:  Did you survive the proble ms.

G L.

 CH:  I've been here for 47 years with no breaks ., ....


RF:  Did the studio close down at all.

CH:  N,o  the only time it     ever went dark was in 1938 and that was

for political economic and fianancial reasons.  We've struggled on.  If you see our little book you'll see there was a contraction of films, in 46 wemade 5, in 47 we made 6 , in 48 we made about 12, 49 we drifted back to 9, thenwe drifted into the 50s.

RF:  There were many studios at that time, Pinewood was one of the best, wasit   also a very expensive to work in.

CH:  I don't think one studio is any more expensive  than another, 1 just don't believe it.         People say god it's dear at Pinewood, that's when they're at Pinewood, but when they're at Shepperton they say it's dear atShepperton, they play one off against   the   other.·   it happened so                                much in my career.

RF:  The key to it is that the big budget pictures any way come to a studiolike Pinewood.                   They don't go to Worton Hall.

CH:  That's why we, Shepperton and EMI were laughing when the Americans cameto us in force and they most certainly did, at one stage of the game my turnover was 90% of the American dollar. it hasn't always been like that but we had a period   at Pinewood when it was just one          after the other.

RF: This was what , in the 60s.

CH:  Yes.  And don't forget we had our rn,m  oig     programme in the 50s, if youlook at 1957, 1 think every film except for a couple of 22 or 23 was a Rank film so we were very busy in those days, so whether or not we wanted American films we couldn't take them because we were making our own.

RF:  Were films scheduled back to back.

CH: Almost, and don't forget in 1957, unlike now we only had a dozen stagesand there we are making 23 films in a year, that's going some.

RF:  What was your role at this period.

CH:  I was the assistant secretary of tlle company in 1957. RF: You became that when.

CH:    1955.

RF: Out of the production office.

CH:  Out of the secretary and legal department.  My appointment was assistant secretary and eventually became the secretary and then the assistant general manager, then the general manager with

a directorship, and then when Kip Heron died I became the managing director.

RF:  In those days of the fully equipped and fully staffed studio how many would you have on the payroll.

CH:  AT one time and I remember this distinctly, 1959-60, we were working 24 hours a day, it was 24 shift system, we had over 1000 people on the payroll, but don't forget that at that time we were building, for instance, Clepatra and the City of Alexandra was on our back lot and so many people working it wasuntrue.

RF:  This was contruction crew.

CH:  The whole payroll was about 1200 of which about 1,000 were manual i;.rades.

RF:  What sort of    deal would you take them on.

CH:  They were weekly paid but were "permanent" staff, they were, we fluctuated over the years and it's been my bad luck to have a couple of redundancies but basically we were a fully serviced studio and we had a lot of permanent staff.A lot of people have done a lot of time here right up to May 1987 when we went 4 wall. Even up to then we had well over 400 people here with a wealth of service. They talk about this industry of ours being full of up and down, but so many people have so much service and so much of it consecutive, especially with the Rank Organisation that it confounds that thought.

RF:  Was there fat, would you have preferred to have carried fewer people on the payroll.

CH:  Oh yes. but always the producers moaned that if you asked for 20 carpenters you found you had 22, simply because we pushed then on, and we have over the years had a heavier management team than was necessary.        But today we haven't, we're extremely thin in the management field, simply becauseI don't see a lot of need for a huge team. I must say over the years we have been associated with the unions we have never had a hard time with them, a really hard time,  I think the idea was you keep the men happy and you keep the unions happy, and to do that you've got to have a happy studio which we alwayshad.  We tried to keep up with a reasonably rate of pay, there's always been an incidence of overtime which keeps men happy, they know that they have to work and when the Americans are here anything goes.     I think the unions never really pressed us. And I can tell you that since I've been her I've only known of two strikes, certainly since I've been out of the forces which is 40years ago, and one lasted a whole afternoon, and I don't say that flippantly it happened to be absolutely true.          Unions never have bothered us.

RF:  Do you remember what that one strike was about.

CH:  Tea break or something ridiculous.    Something which was put to bed at astroke.    I can tell you what the second one was, very very clearly I rememberit,  we were locked in battle, the management and the union and the trade association, because it was wage round time and we were trying to get away with 5 quid a week and they wanted 6 quid sort of thing and             so it went on, and

on, and all a sudden the men called a general meeting and voted to strike. And wepleaded, listen, you'll let the producers down, it's not our fault, it's not yourbloody fault, it's the union, let's  teach   them  a  lesson ..    and            that was  Thursday and   they   came back on, it                             was settled on the Monday afternoon, and that wasthe only 2 times in 40 years there has been a strike at Pinewoo d .

RF:  It's interesting because the film unions have this reputa­ tion of being extraordinary avariciaus and grasping, troublesome, always involved in    demarcation disputes and jurisdiction prob­ lems, yet the actuallity seems to be quitedifferent.

CH:  It would be very easy for me to say bloody unions but it would be false, I've had alot to do with the unions, especially with the manual unions which was the old NATKEand I recognised straightaway that the union officials had a job to do as I have a jobto do and their job was to look after the men and my job was to look after thecustomers, one went with the other and I took a view very early on if you wanted to bean extreme boss you'd have a very unhappy studio , you'd lose custom and all in all Ithought one just has to be reasonable, and I spelt it out at an early stage, listenyou play your game well and I'll play my game well and we'll get on very well andthat's exactly what we've done over the years I assure you.  There's nothing magical about me I just see it that way. Now I'm going to say this, this applies more to the ACTT than the men, the ACTT technician sees the situation if he earns £50 on thisfilm on the next film it's got to be 55, the next film has to be 60 and so on and soforth. The world isn't like that but that 's what they tried to insist on and some ofthem got bad names, I assure you which I thought was a pity because we've got some ofthe best technicians in the world.

RF:  Would you not have the national agreement or would it be a localagreement.

CH:  National agreement.  we relied on the national agreement, I wouldn't do without the book, the book is there and nobody can argue.

RF:  I wonder if    you had local agreements.

CH:  When you run a studio and there are 700 or 800 people there are alwaysthose people who say the freelance guys do much better than us, and you've got to look at these things.     And what we did is that we gave subsidised meals, we gave little bits of overtime, we bent the rules when we didn't have to to make it a sweater place for blokes to work in, I see nothing wrong in that, but that's the extent of our local arrangements.

RF:  There is a saying about the film industry that the stock in trade drives off the lot each night.

Denham for a period was a very political studio, there were a handful of communist party members.

CH:  When I went to Denham, it was November 1941 and I wandered down to the carpenters shop where there was a meeting, and I was a lad of 15, and there was a guy, Bert Bachelor, a little spark standing on a bench telling the blokes that unless they came out the producers would ride roughshod over them and they were

castigating the Boultings who were making a picture called thunder Rock, Ithought god almighty what's happening, this is n't allowed this sort of thing and there's a war on and people are saying they're going to stop work, it     al lcame to nothing in the end but that was my introduction to it.

RF:  What do you remember about Bert Bachelor.

CH:  Bert Bachelor was a very very intelligent but pontificating little guy who saw his aim in life as he against the management. He saw him as the manopposed to management, because if he didn't figh t for them nobody else would .

RF:  Do you remember a thing he was instrumental in getting going, Our Film.

CH:  Yes. I think it was all everybody who worked there was in it,          I wouldn't have said it was 41, I would have said it                                                      was 42 or 43 even.    Perhaps I'm wrong again. because I think I was in i t,                               just a gaggle of people.

RF:  It was to express solidarity with the people after the invasion of Russia which was mid 41.                             Between mid 41 and42.

CH:  I do remember Bert Bachelor because his brother worked at the Studiocalled Harold Bachelor and he was chief contruction manager of independent Producers, well up the social tree, he didn't want anything to do withBert.

RF:  I suppose a very general question over the years you've been at Pinewood it would be interesting to hear of the great successor and the great disasters if any.

CH:  I suppose patronising  but one of  the joys of the place was to have 31 Carry on films here,                       ok a lot of lavatory wit, but  we had a series of films, and whatever they were they brought a  lot of employment  from 58 to 78 we made 31 Carry on films, it                                              has to be a hell of a record.       But better than that we got this funny old secret agent fellow come here in 1962 and made this little adventure film and just another film, and here we are 15 Bonds later and working on the 16th.  Not here unfortunately  but that's one of the joys.

RF:  Why Mexico.

CH:  I've been told it 's going to save a good deal on the budget, a figure was told to me and if they didn't get down to this particular figure the filmcouldn't be made, so Cubby reluctantly took the decision, better to make it abroad than not make it at all, and as always Cubby is an extremely courteousman, very sad, because he's a very loyal man, particular ly to places like

Pinewood which have patronised him, it was with great sadness they disappeared down there, no whether it                                                          will prove to be cheaper down there than up here I don't known, it must be otherwise they wouldn't have gone there.

RF:  Not necessarily, if you remember a picture called Dune.

CH:  I don't think one must judge, they went down there because they thought they had to go down there, I wish them every

success, they'll do their post production work here and they're based here andsince their departure we've got another hero named Batman.   It was a sadness I must admit, but as a generalisation. over the years, and we've made a lot, that have caused us too much trouble, most of them have gone well.        Cleopatra was a sadness, that packed up before we started, but these things happen.

RF:  That wasn't the studio's fault.

CH:  No, Liz Taylor was very ill, she was sick unto death.

RF:  It was a lso the madness of trying to shoot some of the exteriors here in October.

CH:  Did you see the city of    Alexandria, a magnificent set by any standards.   Wasted.

RF:  It was sad to see it decay.

CH:  And it did decay, it sank into the earth.  Similarly we built Baker St., a fine set for the Private Life of Sherlock Holmes, we'll keep i t ,                we'llkeep it, eventually it            will get bogged down, I've know sets in the States be up since 1930, but you don't get the rain and sure enough it                    justdisappeared.      You can't build outside sets, you've got to cover them, that's not worth the money.

E     The fact Peter Rogers.

that the bar's closed must be an awful blow to What' s he doing at the moment.

CH;  He's disappeared every day at 1 o'clock.

RF:  I was going to ask you about a Night to Remember.

CH:  A superb film, absolutely superb film.   William McQuitty and Kenneth More, I think it 's the best of the 3, 4.

RF:  Legend has it     that some of the very spectacular material from A Night to Remember is from the German version of the Titanic story made duringthe war as anti British propaganda.

CH:  That was the time, 57 or 58 we were making about 20 films a year.    But the trouble was we were knocking out films just for the sake of knockin g outfilms, we weren't perhaps laying enough stress on their quality or whether the box office was going to look after them, it didn't.

RF;  Coming up to the present day, what is it      like operating a studio which isso totally from the kind of studio operating when you came into the business,four walls, making pictures other than technical changes is very similar, but operating a studio such as this.

CH:  I said and have been proved totally wrong that Pinewood was too big a studio to go 4 walled and when someone says why do you say that I think the answer is simple, when you have a big operation like this you have to continually sweep the place up, paint it    and generally house keep it. You do that if you've got a labour force because they not only work on films they workfor

you, so the thing turns itself over.  Dropping off a labour force, I thought with 90 acres to look after would, the place would become shallow and not looked after well, because if                 you didn' t have any labour you wouldn't have any income and you couldn't really cary a force because you couldn't affordone. But it hasn't worked out like that I'm delighted to say, we've been constantly full with a wealth of tv commercials, right I know they're not James Bond but they are a regular customer of ours, we've had quite a lot of the smallish British films, the 2 and half million, and we have managed toretain a studio labour force which has managed to keep the place clean and tidy, and the earnings are such that we've been able to plough back into the studio quite a bit more money than I would ever have anticipated and that's reflected if you go outside and look at the buildings and the road and see that the ambiance is there and anyone driving in the park will be impressed by   that.  I didn't think we could ever afford it once we got rid of the labourforce it would not be too long before I had to go to my masters and say I'mvery sorry I don't think we can carry on, it has not proved to be the case.         People have come here since we've lost our labour force and have been delighted to do so. I think one of the reasons is that perhaps a lot of them were frightened of coming to Pinewood with the big labour force and the big management and obviously they were going to be ripped off, this was all intheir minds but it just wasn 't so, but with the labour force going and aslirrmish management and the desire to film at a place where Chaplin and people like that have worked fill them with a great desire , even t:hough it'sonly going to be a runner bean commerc ial .           Not too long ago a producer came in, it was literally a baked bean commercial with Ian Botham, 1 thought fine, what do you want, I'll have the big stage, I said our big stages are nearly 19.000 sq ft,          what does that look like, I told him, no no, what's the next one, the next one's medium, how big's that, I said 9,000 ft, yeah, I'll havea medium.  I thought no more about it, I didn't even go onto the set which is unusual because I prowl around, anyway it eventually came out on the box with Ian Botham who I did go to meet and he sits here. the woman stands there, and the woman serves him some baked beans and they have a two way dialogue blow, I thought they had a medium stage for a week to shoot that, it's ridiculous.

RF:  Looking into the future how do you see the future.

CH:  Well I've got good news for the future because although this may sound boastful, I'm happy to say Pinewood is full and it looks like continuing to be full, I can even predict we're full to the end of the year and you cannot oftendo that in August but I can. There are plans afoot to transfer Denham Laboratories to Pinewood STudios, and build it on a space to the east of the complex, and if that goes through and I have no reason to suppose we won't winthe day.  we're locked in with the council with this but I think we;ll win, it will go to appeal, it occurs to me if we're going to build a laboratory on a studio site, we're not doing it to close down in the future.   And I think that's a very good thing.   I think we'll eventually finish up with Pinewood, Rank Laboratories and perhaps a video centre and everything else which goes with modern filmmaking, we're 52 years old so we have a good start.

RF:  Ii     Elstree goes, how do you think that will affect you.

CH:  People are saying to me ad nauseurn it will be alright for you at Pinewood when Elstree shuts down, but I think that's totally wrong, that: s amad point of view, if I fill this studio up as is my bounden view and along comes Cubby Broccoli, I'm sorry I can't fix you up, he's going to say to me, look I've made

20 films here and you're telling me you can't fix me up, can you imagine what would flow from that.                           I say to this that if the studios at Elstree are contracted and they may well be you've got to keep someof the stages so that producers have at least the option of saying if Cyril is full up I'll go and see Andy and so on and so forth, with 10 stages gone that is a big hole in the space availability and it won't do Pinewood or the industryany


RF: I think it      will mean inevitably that pictures will go abroad.

CH:  They will go to the European countries, they love it of course, but eventually Hungary will become like Spain, they will become greedy, Spain was the place to go and suddenly it cost more.                I think to contract our stage availability is not a good move but inevitably it will happen. I can 1 t really think it will be saved. I think one of the worst things that has happened is to hear the news of the Lee Brothers.      I do not understand this, alright they've been a bit flashy, they've overbought and now they'lloverborrow.   But they seem just to have gone, and I think it's the problem of trying to be too great in our world and somebody's pricked the balloon.

RF:  The balloon which got pricked was the stock market high and then the subsequent crash last year and now what is the foolish buy     of Panavis ion .

CH:  You've got to remember they're a private firm, not a public company. They went public in 86 because I bought some stock for old time sake.     They bought Panavision at such an inflated price and gearing it up to such andextent, they would have lost their stock market quotation so one doubled one investment, but then came the stock market crash and they're in debt to CityCorp for

£100 million and City Corp, with the writer's strike in the States and the fall generally in production and the high pound, they've been having troubles with the debt and City Corp is refinancing it  some way, so it                                    means the Lees have to take               a back seat, but they were intending to go to the US market,

CH:  That was their intention most certainly.  I believe if your figures are right or what I've been told is that the borrowing was 300 million dollars,and    they defaulted on the interest payments of 30 million dollars and that is when the bank called in their note, is that the expression. Isn't that thesadness.

RF·  Whatever John and Benny are they worked bloody hard for the film industry as much for themselves.

cµ-    They've done alright for themselves,  that's what the games all about, but I think they've created their own little miracles. If one was a jealous person you could be bloody jealous.

RF:  Did you have any direct dealings with Chaplin.

CH:  I spoke to him one day, I said good morning sir, and he said get out the way or something.                      Charming actually, it was marvellous to have him here, one immediately thinks about the glamour pusses who've been' here like Marilyn Monroe and the French siren, we've had a wealth of young artists the Rank organisation brought along, I mentioned Bogard and Anthony Steele, and Donald Sindon, all of whom came from Rank and became stars in their own right because they were Rank starlets to begin with.      but we've had a wealth of talent here, aside from producers and directors, you've mentioned cubby, i'd like to mention Peter Rogers and Ralph Thomas, Connery ofcourse, Gregory Peck, John Wayne, Gina Lollobrigida, Sophia Loren, it's a veritable catalogue of glamour.         Claudette Colbert in the Plan­ ters Wife, 1952-3 with Jack Hawkins, it's like being 1n                   another world.              And I remember James Mason watching the Derby with me and he said we're in Rank territory aren't we.  Peter Finch was always        a bit of a lad, he used to come here and he used to pinch the lions at the front of the door, you'd come in, where's the lion, Peter Finch had pinched it            and he'd hidden it            somewhere or other.

RF:  Was there much hell raising.

CH:  Not really.   A lot of it was in the mind.  You had the characters likePeter Finch and Trevor Howard to a lesser degree, the Carry on Crew were alwaysin good shape, the Intelligence Men as I like to call them, Eric and Ernie were here, they did three films here all of which were very good but didn't do anything at the box office, the Great Gatsby was here with Redford and we built a park, a building off Hatherton Hall and we've still got it and it's called the Gatsby Suite, and we use it for catering. Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, a lot of it was made in the gardens, we've made some nice little televisionshows here.        We made Master of the Game, which was repeated a littlewhile ago, a very good show indeed.

RF:  Do you approach the television series differently from a motionpicture.

CH:  No, it's just the same, they've never got as much money so they say .Everybody comes in here saying Cyril I haven't got any money, the second thing is how much discount are you going to give me, before they've even given me afarthing, but it 's all a game you have to go along with it.                             Everybody today has got the smallest budget in the world, I don't know how we're possibly going to make it but we're going to have a go aren't we, which is a sop for saying I'll give you a good deal.  But it's all tremendous fun. The personalities abound and have abounded over the years and I'm delighted that I'm at least here to see them.

RF:  If I can risk your discretion, who is some one you would have preferred not to have in the studio.

CH:  Norman Rosemont is an American, a very rich man and he has made      a number of films here, television films, one of which was the Hunchback of Notre Dame, another was Ivanhoe, Little Lord Fauntleroy, a little bit of the Secret Garden, and latterly Master of the Game. now Norman Rosemont is          a veritable Jekyll and Hyde, he just is, his worse problem ishimself                     and the man is

a bully, and I fell out with him recently because I'm as tall as he is and hecan't bully me, but he does bully people and it is a great shame and he is at times a pain in the arse.                                                 At the moment we're not talking simply because he's a bore.

RF:  Did you ever have Sam Spiegel in this studio. reputation for double dealing.

He had this

CH:  Let's get this right before there's a libel claim, Rose­ mont's not like that at all. He's very keen to be upright, just at times he's obnoxious, but by        and large everybody is pretty good in our game given it is the most difficult thing in the world to make a movie, there's nothing more difficult.

I was hoping you would ask me what was my favourite film and I would have to reply it was Gunga Din and it was made in 1939 in Hollywood which is a shame. There was a talk that the Cannon Group were going to remake Gunga Din and they had a huge poster advertising it   and to my sadness it has never been made.


Cyril Howard was born in 1926 in Barnet, North London. He entered the industry at Denham in 1941.  He was a runner on Powell and Pressburger's " The :Life and Death of Colonel Blimp" (1943) and "A Canterbury Tale" ( 1944)  He became the  Managing Director at Pinewood Studios.