Interviewers: Paul Frith (PF) & Carolyn Rickards (CR) [EH’s husband, John Ralph [JR], also sits in on the interview]
Total Length: 01:41:49
CR: Thank you very much firstly for inviting us to your home today to do this interview. We’re gonna’ start with a couple of initial questions and I just thought if you could reminisce for us and talk about your background, your education, your training, where did that early spark and interest in costume design come from?
EH: My first interest I suppose was my mother, who always wanted to be an actress and sent me to a dancing school, and actually, rather sadly, at the end of the first period session, they told me I couldn’t do point work which was what I was obsessed by because my, back wasn’t strong enough it was, caught me up now. So I sort of forgot it. I was always drawing in my notebooks at school and having to buy new ones because I ruined them you know. And my favourite thing was these little pointy feet like that with lacings up you know, The Red Shoes. I was hopeless at school, I was dyslexic, I mean It’s only because I was a paying student I was even kept. And at the end I had to go and see the headmistress to say if you were going into the sixth form or not and she said, as I went into her study, “I presume, Evangeline that you are not coming into the sixth form. In other words, they didn’t want me to and I said no and she said “Well, have you got any plans?”, and I said yes. This was in Ealing, Notting Hill in Ealing High School, I said “I’m going to Ealing Art School” and she said “Oh, I wasn’t aware there was one” which was pretty good. Anyway, I went to Ealing Arts School, and loved it and it was the best thing I ever did and I learnt more at Ealing than anywhere else really. And in the holidays, I got this wonderful job with the theatre in Hampstead in a hut who eventually ended up The Mermaid, on Embankment but this was The Mermaid in its early days, and we actually had Kirsten Flagstad in the cast, she bought her own headdress it was wonderful it was Macbeth and I made papier mâché cauldrons and worked for a fabulous person called Deborah Jones. Don’t know what happened to her but she was magic. And I went to the Central and she was teaching me all these things I knew already as I’d been doing them all summer which was a bit frustrating but I stuck it for two years. I didn’t seem to be getting anywhere really, and I didn’t have any money, my father gave me a pound a week to travel from Ealing to Holborn and that didn’t cover much, I used to cheat every morning and every evening. So I worked in the evenings at Terence Conran’s first coffee house The Soup Kitchen. And, that’s right, I did get a holiday job through the Central at Stratford, Stratford-Upon-Avon, and very good days, unfortunately when sir and madam were there but the year after and that was lovely actually it was really fun. What did I do next? Well, I think I had a baby I think, that’s right first one of my kids. And I went back…oh I was at Stratford when I was pregnant, that’s right, I was up there for weeks. And then, I went to Glyndebourne and worked there for quite a while and again had another baby, I was there till’ I was about eight months’ pregnant I think at Glyndebourne. Zeffirelli was there and it was really fascinating and wonderful, working in the wardrobe with the [unintelligible] with all the singing and rehearsals going on, it was really magic. And then what did I do? I can’t remember, oh I started doing commercials, that’s right, everybody, all the blokes, that had been at ABC as it was then which is now Thames, which doesn’t exist anymore does it? Thames Television? anyway, my husband worked there so I knew all these blokes that were doing commercials so I did lots of commercials, must have done thousands. And then my ex-husband was doing If…, was it If…? No not If…, A Suitable Case for Treatment.
EH: Morgan, yeah that’s right. And at the end of film party, Jocelyn Rickards was there and I’d heard about Jocelyn and I thought she sounded wonderful, and I had for a bit worked as Art Director on Morgan as my husband’s father died in America and he went off for a month. Nobody seemed to even notice me so I just carried on! I’d spotted Jocelyn so I… she was talking to Tony Richardson and all these smart, smart people and I sidled over to her and I told her who I was and I said I’d love to work for you and she was really rude and almost said “Fuck off” and I was very disappointed. Anyway, one of the other people who worked at Thames with my husband, Ashton Gorton, I was talking to him, he said “Oh, Jocelyn was still doing the Antonioni thing” Blow Up and she had an assistant, Ruth Myers, who she never liked and, for some reason, I don’t know how I got it, but I somehow managed to be Jocelyn’s assistant in the last weeks, and we’re fitting the ceremony and things, and that was it, we really got on like a house on fire. And I worked for Jocelyn for a long time and then I got offered a film. We did several films together but she was a bit lazy actually, she hated going to the studio as a really interesting person…she loved Shirley what’s-her-name… got the sexy brother. American actress Shirley… any clues anybody? MacLaine, yes! She loved Shirley MacLaine. They sat and did chats all day. But I was left to look after her when we started filming. She was a tricky one Shirley. Anyway, then Wonderwall came along and Jocelyn agreed to do it and then she wasn’t up to it really. She did one thing, she did a green velvet suit for an actor, can’t remember any on their names, but Jane Birkin was in it, who was absolutely beautiful and lovely. It was a dreadful, dreadful film… Joe Masser… it was really awful! Anyway… oh Joe McGrath sent me around for The Blessed Mrs Blossom and I did manage to get on that, probably through Jocelyn’s influence. No, we did it together that one, but the next one Magic Christian I got a credit and from then on, I mean I had trouble as I couldn’t get a Union ticket that was the usual thing. The Bed-Sitting Room was what I got a ticket on, that was right. They advertised in the magazine, that’s what they’re meant to do and after three advertisings, they give it to you. But interestingly enough, I’d applied for it that ticket, ACCT that’s right, as it was in those days. And I got all of the smart people like the lighting cameraman to sign my form and I got rejected immediately of course. The second time I got all the lower people… who was the one union bloke that used to be in control of everything? You had to do it once, you were hopeless [to JR]. Well anyway, I got all the people, props and everything, to sign it and I got it, which was good. Made things a little bit easier then as they did really make such fuss about it, they’d take a card, if they found out somebody didn’t have a ticket, back in the Union office, and they found out they’d hire a car and go to the studio and take them off the set you know a ridiculous farce like that. But that’s all gone now it doesn’t exist anymore.
CR: I was gonna’ say I’ve not come across this system before. How did it work? You had to…
EH: You had to have a Union ticket. ACCT were the higher echelons and [NACCE?] were the premiere ones. And I did try for ages for a [NACCE?] one when I was doing the wardrobe from the commercials and actually ended up sitting on the lap of one of them. We used to have meetings in pubs, there were no women in [NACCE?], or hardly. These absolutely vile wardrobe mistresses, god they were awful, the two of them were so evil, well they were all evil actually. But they used to meet in a pub and it was horrendous and I had to sit on the lap of this one. I remember it quite well and it was quite horrendous. Didn’t get my ticket! Anyway, fortunately now that’s a thing of the past, there are all sorts of other reasons now why you don’t get jobs. And from then on, it just seemed like one film after another, I did a dreadful thing in Germany which could have been good because it was started off by a really lovely director who did that… it’s worse than I thought my memory… that thing with the English soldiers being surrounded by Zulus. Zulu it was called, Zulu! Anyway, he was the director of Zulu so he was on a wave. It was about Marquis de Sade and how the Marquis de Sade had been misunderstood and he was really an intellectual and good thinker and you know, he wasn’t a pervert at all! But unfortunately, he got so over-excited that he gave himself a heart attack and had to be taken off, and some German director took over. It was all in Berlin with Lily…lovely old German star…can’t remember her name, it was quite a sweet story. I can’t remember it! Anyway, I shouldn’t probably say this but I left my Jewish assistant, my best friend actually, to look after it as I got the offer of something else and, as I hadn’t signed up for more than a length of time, I was perfectly in my rights to leave. And there was this horrendous German, like he was straight out of the army, SS production manager, and we were in the basement of the gas factory, next to, where they had Speer locked up, it was this disused gas factory, we were standing next to these huge iron doors and I told him that I was leaving and Helen was taking over and he wasn’t very pleased and clicked his heels and disappeared, and Helen said, “Do you think he knows I’m Jewish?” Absolutely petrified. There’s a reason why this gas factory that had been bought by this bloke called Herr Bruner, who was a little tiny German, was because it was next to [Rudolph] Hess and he had a window knocked in the wall of his office and a great big picture window put in, looking at Hess’ little window he had in cell on the opposite side of the road it was only about as far away as this. He spent hours watching and he filled his office with all the latest most expensive equipment, hoping that Hess would be jealous of all this… it was extraordinary. Anyway, I came back and it was to do the most famous film I’ve ever done, Get Carter, which was, you know, hard work, and interesting and was a huge success and nobody expected it to be a huge success and sort of met Mike Hodges but we were busy and didn’t really know each other.
CR: Sorry, I understand from the filming of that, that Mike was quite keen to let you just get on and do your own work on the look of the costumes...
EH: Yeah, I didn’t even speak to Mike as far as I know. It looks easy but it was actually backdated. It was set… it was fun actually the two people I actually did costumes for that showed the period well. And Michael Caine’s easy you know, he insisted on wearing swimming trunks and trousers… that scene where he goes to the door with his gun, he’s got his trousers on!
CR: That’s given the game away
EH: Yes. He was very careful about that, very modest, he obviously had an eye to the future! Everybody liked him! And I left that slightly early, to do The Pied Piper. Oh, and somewhere along the line I fitted in Macbeth, that’s right, with Polanski and he was a monster really. I remember him, cos’ Sharon Tate had been murdered just before, and it had nothing to do with Sharon Tate’s murder but he was shouting the whole time “More blood- I vant more blood!” He was awful. I took over because the designer was too frightened to talk to him and the designer had done all the principals and wouldn’t go on the set, wouldn’t go near him, sat in the wardrobe sticking gold [unintelligible] out of cigarette packets onto crowns. I think he was having a nervous breakdown actually, so I had to cope with all the other people. And he was tricky and that’s when I first spotted John [Ralph]. I don’t think he spotted me but I spotted him, and they were sitting doing a film of the film, for a couple of weeks and the next film was The Pied Piper, that’s right. And John was in the crew, which was nice. And The Pied Piper was fascinating as Ashton was the designer and he was brilliant you know, and he… I don’t think he interfered too much with the clothes but he did go on about one thing, the enormous headdresses, so I did overdo the headdresses. And we survived and it was a flop. I mean have you ever seen it?
CR: I haven’t. I know my colleague Paul has managed to get hold of an old copy of the film. I’ve seen clips, but I haven’t seen the whole film.
EH: It was fun actually.
CR: Because it had… Donovan was in the film and Jack Wilde as well
EH: Well Donovan was quite an interesting case as he bought… Desmond Guinness was buying up old mansions that the English had lived in the eighteenth and early nineteenth century in Ireland and Donovan had bought one, or was renting it, I don’t know. And there was in the middle of absolutely nowhere and all the lawns had grown grass up to here really. And I travelled to Ireland and got a taxi there, and on arriving, just before, in the middle of the lane between these tall grasses there was this child’s car, you know a little toy drive-it-yourself car. So we got up and moved it and got back in and it was this huge empty house with and they had a sofa, I think that was all the furniture they have that they were living in and he was living with the ex-wife of Brian… the Rolling Stones, Brian Jones was it? Drowned himself in the pool? Anyway, it was his child, and there’s definitely something wrong with it. The car belonged to another child who was there and he put it there on purpose because he knew there was a car coming, hoping that they’d run over it and smash it. He was on all these diets and things. Couldn’t eat this and couldn’t drink that. Anyway, it was very sweet and it was a fascinating film to make. It was fun. Pity it was a flop.
CR: Was it filmed in Ireland or was it out in Germany?
EH: No that was just a one-off trip to see him you know. No, it was filmed at Lee studios which was very cool because it wasn’t a studio at all, was it? The studio as such had a very low ceiling, which is all you don’t need as a studio you know, and pillars. And Ashton designed this… oh no, it was… was it Peter Su[schitzky]? Who was lighting?
PF: Peter Suschitzky.
[Break to fix microphone]
EH: …had designed this railway track for the camera to go round this pillar, and we were all standing there waving as they all went past. It was like a fairground.
JR: He was attempting to shoot whole scenes in one take, wide shots, close-ups, and all that. Travelling around what became quite a complicated system of tracks. But most a lot of it was shot in Germany, you remember? Rothenberg.
EH: Oh that’s right we shot most of it in Germany, yes on location in this medieval village where there wasn’t a restaurant open after seven at night as we didn’t finish until seven so arrangements had to be made! But yes, it was very interesting and there were lots of nice actors in it.
JR: Originally is was meant to be a very fashionable Czech director
EH: Yes, he was married to Agnes Varda and… oh Jacques Demy, he was brought in at the last minute… was it Dick Lester… was it Dick Lester who was meant to do it?
JR: No. One of the Czech directors of the moment that were very well thought of and it was a great disappointment that it ended up being Jacques who had a completely different taste.
EH: He did The Umbrellas of Cherbourg and he was sort of faintly in fashion then. But he used to go home every weekend and Agnes. Ashton would have talked him through what was going to happen in the next week and what colours and things, and Agnes would disagree with everything and so he’d come back with all these different things, which was very, very frustrating.
[JR discusses Ashton Gorton’s involvement in the film]
CR: So that must have been quite challenging, to change?
EH: Yes, well I just plodded on but, yes. I remember John and I went out to see some rushes and it was Roy Kinnear doing his speech, he was the head of the peasants or the middle classes. And I went, “Oh my God!” and John said “Yes, wasn’t that awful?” I said yes, it was awful and afterwards I said oh that bloody buckle. The wardrobe had gone in and Roy had quite a big tummy and this belt wouldn’t stay up right, so the wardrobe had gone in and put a safety pin in it and he’s ended up with about six safety pins, and it had all slipped down and you could see these safety pins you know, I said to John, “Oh those safety pins”, “What safety pins?!”, “On the tummy”, “Oh I didn’t see anything like that.” So he’d seen something, completely, because he was doing sound, done something completely different. But, what did we do next?
CR: Can I just ask, with that, when you’re designing costumes for historical costume dramas, for films like The Pied Piper, where did you do your main research for that?
EH: Oh it’s different everywhere and that would be entirely dependent on what people had thought, you just have to be very selective about... I mean you look at period pictures and paintings and, I mean mostly paintings, there’s nothing else to look at really. I can tell you everything if you want to. People see it, I mean what’s so interesting it’s like seeing the safety pins and knots, different designers see different things in the same picture, you know. It’s weird, I mean, I can’t believe what I’m seeing at the moment, I just have to switch off most of the time. There’s a few that’s alright but most of them are so wrong, I mean that Pride and Prejudice that came up. John turned it on and I heard him say something like “Oh my goodness” and I looked and this actress had an off-the-shoulder dress in 1815, I mean, it was off one shoulder, not both…
JR: Are you sure it wasn’t War and Peace?
EH: War and Peace. War and Peace?
CR: Joe Wright did the more recent version of War and Peace, yeah
EH: I couldn’t watch it after that. And the men’s uniforms were all bulky because they were all made in Bulgaria and the wool was too thick. You can’t do it like that. The thing was, when I first left for Central was people were still doing costumes that had square padded shoulders for periods you know which was never, ever heard of. At the costumiers you would go and Dave Walker who was at Central with me and one of my great friends had done Up the Mountain and Back Again…what is it?
JR: Charge of the Light Brigade?
EH: Charge of the Light Brigade. He’d done Charge of the Light Brigade uniforms and he’d gone to the tailor at Nathans and Mr Davis, also called Davis funnily enough, taught him what a proper soldier’s shoulders should be which as was cut right down there you know. Whenever you were doing a period costume you wanted everything made, Mr Davis would say “David Walker sleeves, or shoulders?” you know, “Yes please.” As it was unheard of you know. He had to look it up and do it Mr Davis he was very good, and found out how to cut it. But the square shoulders seem to be creeping back a little bit now.
CR: Is it harder to source materials for older style costumes, can it be a challenge sometimes?
EH: Yes, it can be, yes, you’re very limited, but there’s ways round it. It doesn’t actually stop you. I mean I couldn’t do films now as its all completely different, I mean, you used to be able to drive into Soho, leave your car there all day, on the pavement outside...and I went all the time. Anyway, it was in Shaftesbury Avenue. It was lovely, and all the shops were there, the buttons, the belts, the fabrics everything was there, the feathers, the whole lot, the pleaters and now they’re all scattered all the way around the world. But now of course people in the wardrobe have an organiser, you know, somebody sitting a desk with the computer all the time ordering stuff. It’s not the same though, I think you have to go and feel it and touch it and know what it’s for. I wouldn’t want to work now at all. All my ex-assistants are miserable beyond belief. They hate it, you know.
CR: I was going to ask, how did that collaborative process work? Think back to the late 60s, as you were an assistant, how did that relationship with the main designer or the production design team work? Can you talk a bit about that?
EH: Yes, in my day… it’s changed, but in my day you used to have the wardrobe mistress who stayed in the wardrobe and organised what was going on there, if anything needed washing, mending, cleaning, and anything like that… and also did fittings. Then there was the costume designer and their assistant and that was it, and then we got in extra help for crowd work and we managed perfectly well. I think it’s much bigger now. The assistant was either somebody that you loved, or somebody that was useless, you had to find out. But if you found an assistant, you hung on to them and I’ve still got two that come here quite regularly at supper parties, in fact the only supper parties we have isn’t it? They come and moan about how awful it all is, but now they’ve got, like I say, someone sitting at a desk, keeping an eye on it all which is good, I mean you could have done with that person. You had to fight for every extra hand you know. “We’ve got a hundred people coming next week”, “Oh, could we have one person please!” And my two assistants are so good at period because they worked with me for so long that they are totally in charge of fittings now they spend all their time in Italy or Belgravia… Belgrade, all round the world getting costumes and sending them back for fittings. It was quite simple really. The trouble was that in the beginning you got lumbered with these awful people, you know, I mean they were so vicious and unpleasant. There’s a whole gang of them and they used to gather round like witches.
JR: These are wardrobe people?
EH: This is wardrobe mistresses. And they always hated the designer. If she said anything, if she co-operated, they were nice to her but if she wasn’t, she didn’t. They were absolutely loathsome. I remember I was doing A Girl in My Soup for which I didn’t get a credit which was unbelievable really. I had this ghastly wardrobe mistress, and it had all started with Jocelyn actually on The Bliss of Mrs Blossom, she had this ghastly wardrobe mistress and she was very good at coping with her. I didn’t have a ticket, and I, according to her shouldn’t be allowed onto the set, but Jocelyn of course wasn’t there so I had to go onto the set. And once, Shirley MacLaine, we were in the middle of Hounslow on the sort of open down there, and she’s had to get on this very tame horse, as a sort of princess fairy, and she had her costume on okay, but it was pouring down we were miserable, it was cold, shivering, and she took her coat off her and put her on the horse and did everything, and I suddenly noticed that she’d got wellingtons on she’s supposed to have ballet shoes on, you know! They were just about to turn over and I said “Oh, Joe”, this was the director Joe McGrath, “you can’t shoot she’s got the wrong shoes on.” And Bridget [Sellers] was absolutely furious as she’d given her own wellingtons to wear. She didn’t seem to think it was the wrong thing to do. Anyway, she screamed at me, “Get off the set you bitch!” and we were in the middle of this sort of moorland! Anyway, she had to put the ballet shoes on. No, we didn’t get on. And another time on the Peter Sellers thing I just mentioned, A Girl in My Soup, we had this row because I’d taken Goldie’s dressing gown off, cos’ Bridget wasn’t there. And when she arrived, she discovered I’d got this dressing gown and she threw a pink fit. And then she hid something on the set, that I was meant to have and there was this big thing and the crew shouted “It’s behind the radiator” and she’d hidden it there. Isn’t it unbelievable? And she was blaming me for not bringing it, you know.
CR: Goodness me!
[JR comments on the production]
EH: [background] Oh yes, that’s why I didn’t get a credit she got to the production office and poisoned them so much that I didn’t get a credit.
CR: You’ve described, I’ve got a quote from you, in which you’ve described the costume designer’s role as a cross between a psychiatrist and a donkey.
CR: Would you stand by that, based on what you’ve just described?
EH: Absolutely. Yes, that was an interview I did once, and I never heard it, but apparently, it was when we were doing Bramwell? And Tim, the director said “Oh, you’re quite verbal, aren’t you?” and I never heard it, I don’t know what it sounds like.
CR: It’s on the DVD for The Offence from 1972. Sydney Lumet film.
EH: No. No, it was Bramwell, seen it all before. I think I did…
CR: It’s on the DVD extras for The Offence.
EH: I don’t know much about The Offence. Again, it wasn’t a big success was it? Somebody was trying to revive it, weren’t they recently but I don’t think it did very well.
CR: I think the film stands for its character-driven narrative,
CR: Sean Connery I thought was great in it.
EH: Well, yes. I think in that interview I went on about this scene we had to do, it had to be dark and it had to be in the street, and it was a flashback, and the flashback put Sean Connery in one of those old-fashioned costumes, you know, whatever they were. Not bobbies…
JR: Police costumes?
EH: Yeah, but it had a name. Peeler? Peeler’s that’s right. And he put it on, he was alright about it. A whole load of kids discovered it was going to be Sean Connery because we were there so long, they’d all bunked off tea…and they were all standing behind this rope, and it was a wide shot of him running, and they were all very excited and he ran across the set in this Peeler’s uniform and he looked like something out of one of those old-fashioned films of policemen. And they all just absolutely screamed with laughter, and he was so upset he wouldn’t do it again, we had to clear all the kids away before he’d do it, but other than that I don’t remember very much about it. The acting was very interesting, but Jack Gold…no it wasn’t Jack Gold was it? Married to Lena Horne? Anyway, someone once asked him what it was like being married to Lena Horne, and he said “Oh, of course it’s wonderful.” He said “The only problem is, when you get home at night and you open the fridge because you’re starving, there’s a bloody orchid in there, and nothing else!” which I thought was quite poetic. I don’t know why he came and did this one, maybe he just wanted to come to England? Juggernaut was another joke. We were all on this boat right out in Greenland, and Richard Harris was meant to be flying in, because he was at the height of his success in that Camelot thing. And he kept putting it off and putting it off, and Dick Lester was getting really ratty about it and suddenly he was flown in. I’m surprised he did it as he was so frightened of aeroplanes. And he had this lovely head of hair, it was lovely, and he went straight to the bar and Juggernaut was on this huge liner that had been German and sold to the English, but it was going to be sold to the Russians, at that moment was being sold to the Russians. That’s right, there was a whole Russian crew on board, and waitresses in little cut costumes. But anyway, he arrived and went straight to the bar and got very, very drunk, and the next morning, nobody could get him out of his room at all. They were banging and banging and in the end, Lester was brought in to get him out of his room and Dick got in there, and discovered the reason he wasn’t getting out of his room was because he’d ripped his newly woven-in head of hair out in the night, as he’d decided he didn’t like it. And we’d shot on him, we’d done one shot of him opening this bomb, or whatever it was, diffusing it, and he wouldn’t come out so it was decided he could wear a hat, but of course it was out of continuity. My daughter watched it the other day and said yes, it is. One minute he’s got his hat on and the next minute he hasn’t. But he was horrendous. He was only there for about three days thank goodness, because he was such a nightmare, but it was a funny old film.
CR: And you worked with Richard Lester a couple of times?
EH: Quite often, yes. I did The Bed Sitting Room and that was way back in the beginning.
CR: What was that like as a film to work on?
EH: We called him Dick in those days but now he would completely ignore you called him Dick… Richard. He’s fine before you start, he’s perfectly normal, you can talk to him, he’s sweet. I like him, he’s a funny creature but I like him, but once he’s started filming, forget it. You don’t get anything out of him at all, it’s hopeless. You’re supposed to keep well out of his way! And he’s fine, absolutely fine. I don’t think I had any crossed swords with him at all, I think.
CR: The Bed Sitting Room in particular is a very colourful film and the design is…
EH: I did so much there that I didn’t get credit for because I wasn’t in the union and I had a row with Ashton about it. Ashton did contribute one costume design which I did copy which was a motorcycle thing with all the mirrors on it, which I got made, but all the rest, I did. Yes, it was extraordinary.
CR: And very odd to work in from a design point of view, I guess? With characters changing into different objects
EH: Yes, fortunately we didn’t see her turning into a wardrobe but I did line it with the same materials as her blouse.
EH: No-one noticed that, though did they? Yes, we shot in every horrendous location he could possibly find. And Marty Feldman, who was an absolutely lovely bloke, a nurse you know in the thing, fell into the. We were on a pit in the potteries, and there were these septic ponds of water, that were absolutely poisonous apparently, and he fell in, and had to be rushed to hospital and have his stomach pumped and everything. But he didn’t seem to mind, he was sweet you know, he ran over the cars and everything. No, everybody was good actually, they all behaved themselves…Ralph Richardson, who was adorable, could not remember, the word that I can’t remember… The Bed Sitting Room! He couldn’t remember the word bed-sitting room, because obviously Ralph just wasn’t used to using that word a lot- he’d do long, long speeches and forget bed sitting room at the end, which upset Dick, but the worst person of all of course was…
CR: It’s a big cast!
EH: No, no, I should know this one. He who…it’s the two of them…
CR: Dudley Moore and Peter Cook?
EH: Peter Cook, yes! Dudley was divine. Peter Cook was awful. I thought he was a horrible person, and he couldn’t remember his lines. He never learnt them, he couldn’t be bothered to. And they had to be hoisted up on a hoist, supposedly in the sky, and he just couldn’t remember his lines. It was horrendous. We must have shot it ten times before he actually got it right, and I don’t think he apologised to anybody. But he was really beastly, not nice at all. I had several encounters with him and never liked him. He was funny, but not nice.
CR: What was Rita Tushingham like as she was the only girl on set wasn’t, she?
EH: She was fine. She’s a good girl. Yes, she should have done more. I don’t know why she didn’t. She did something after that, but not much. It’s not much fun really.
CR: Can I ask, as that was your first feature film, you said you worked on… so with a background in TV commercials, which were obviously in black and white, was it different changing to work on a colour feature film, as a designer, do you have to think differently when you’re doing design for colour films?
EH: Not really, there are certain things that are a bit like taboos. As John mentioned, whites. Some directors, some lighting cameramen are touchy and say they can’t do it, but it’s never been a problem, only once, and it was at London Weekend and it was the guy who did…Jeremy Irons and teddy bear and all that. What was it?
CR: Brideshead Revisited?
EH: Brideshead. It was the guy, the director Charles Sturridge, who hadn’t got any work really, so he’d sunk to television and he’d got this script of which was meant to be a very great series. And he got into trouble by- he worked there before and he’d insisted on his own lighting man, and this time they wouldn’t have it they wanted a London Weekend Television lighting cameraman. There’d been some sort of compromise and they’d brought one in that nobody knew much about. Anyway…and again it had all these nurses’ bloody aprons, which was a pain, and they were all white and gorgeous and real a lot of them, and they were about to shoot on them and suddenly the word came back that they wanted them all dipped. So that’s the only time it’s ever happened and it’s… so we dipped all these bloody aprons and Charles Sturridge got the sack! As I don’t think he liked the lighting cameraman he got so they said it’s either you or him, so Sturridge went and the project went back to Ireland, as it was an Irish production company, where they wanted to do it in the first place, and it wasn’t very good in the end, but that’s the only time it’s ever been a bother. Red is tricky…
[00:53:15 End of Part One start of Part Two]
PF: Okay Vangie, you were just about to talk about colour?
EH: Well red’s the only one that’s a bit tricky and it always steals the scene if you get the right red, otherwise it can go black, which is a bit boring. And in Love for Lydia there was a scene where she had to be the star of the party, and obviously a red dress was needed, a chiffon thing, and I was working at ABC, London Weekend, and I bought this John Lewis Chiffon, which wasn’t pure silk, and put it under the camera and it was just horrible… the whole dress. And we did little camera shoot and it was beastly. It didn’t look like red or anything. So I had to buy real silk from Liberty’s, silk tulle, and made it again, and it was fabulous, absolutely fabulous. So you just have to experiment to find out about these things, but on the whole, almost anything’s acceptable. The white thing we’ve covered. A decent cameraman, in my opinion, can light white with no problem at all. It’s only a poncey cameraman that couldn’t. I’m sure none of them would dare now. It changes of course, the film stock change. I mean, I don’t know what digital does to white!
PF: Well, could you talk about that a little bit perhaps, the changes in film stock? So, if we think back to ‘67, ‘68 to moving forwards to something like Love for Lydia which was shot for TV wasn’t it? So, do you remember much about those changes when they happened?
EH: No, I’m sorry. No, I just accepted them and got on with it. I mean a lot of the commercials I did were colour, but I wasn’t really aware of any changeover. There were points along the line where the actual stock did change and we were a bit wary, but it always seemed to work out the same. There never seemed to be that much of a problem. I mean obviously, as a designer, you control the colour anyway, you’re not throwing it away all the time.
JR: You never had to shoot with Technicolor?
EH: No, no Technicolor.
PF: What about those relationships then with people like Ashton Gorton and the discussions you perhaps had with them and clashing with scenery and the costumes?
EH: Well on the whole, I steered well clear of the art department because anything they told you was completely wrong and you should never do what they say. But with Ashton it was different, because Ashton encompassed everything. He took into account the costumes and made them part of his design. And if Ashton said he wanted something, which he didn’t, I mean he didn’t interfere, but you would do it because you knew that he liked it, wanted it, and that was it, you please him for doing it. But he didn’t do that very often. I mean I always went to meetings with them and all that and listened to what they said but they didn’t make me alter much.
JR: The producer’s wives were a problem.
EH: Yes, well when you talk about producer’s wives who were a pain in the arse! They were very rarely involved in the set but when they were dreadful. I mean on commercials, this producer would say “Well I’d like”, whoever it is, “wear a dress like my wife’s got.” “Well where did your wife get it from?”, and he’s say, “Somewhere in Bond Street.” It was going to cost a fortune and I’d say can “You afford that…well, perhaps we can borrow your wife’s?”
PF: So, talking about commercials then, what kind of influence did producers, the sponsors, have compared to the features obviously… that they wanted a certain look? Was that a domineering sort of presence?
EH: Only occasionally, I mean they were always sitting in on the shoot you know, because it was a day out, it was fun, and the props always used to get a little row of chairs out for them on the set. And I went out to Donovan, we were doing a commercial, I think it was Marks & Spencer’s actually or Hollingsworth’s, one of big, big stores, and the prop men were putting these chairs out and Terry said, “Oh no, put them behind the sight.” And so we did. These people had to sit behind the sight where they couldn’t see anything. But you know, they just, they only came out for the day out. They didn’t really come to [unintelligible]. Occasionally they would jump up but it was never to do with the costumes. I don’t ever remember having to rush around changing anything. I mean the worst commercial for that I ever did was for that fat, beastly QI presenter. He’s lost weight, he’s married, he’s the Bafta bloke or he was. What’s he called?
PF: Stephen Fry?
EH: Stephen Fry! I wasn’t that familiar with him but I did know he was big, and a painkiller commercial, headache pills or something, and he was meant to be in a tweed suit. And I rang him up and he said “Oh don’t worry. They’ve got it with my name on it at Angels… Bourbons, Bourbons. Just ring them up. That’s alright. I don’t need to come.” So, it was a little bit too late, I should have done it sooner, I never trust actors. And when I got to Bourbons and asked them, they said “What?! No! what’s he talking about?” So, I rang him up and I said “They don’t seem to have your suit on a hanger. Can you come and have a fitting? “Oh no I’m much too busy”. I said well you’re quite big, it’s not going to be easy. “Oh, that’s your problem.” So, I didn’t manage to get a suit, I got trousers and another waistcoat and jacket which was quite [unintelligible] really, but it looked alright. He never fitted them on until about a minute before he was meant to be on the set. Fortunately, by bloody good luck, it fitted. But he never thanked me, he never spoke to me, he didn’t say “Oh, you did well” or anything like that. I thought he was really horrible and rude, but most of them behaved themselves really.
PF: I was going to say actually, because There’s a Girl in my Soup, with Goldie Hawn, she goes through numerous costume changes throughout the film and a multitude of colours. Does it ever happen that the actor or actress has an influence on which colour they’re going to wear? Do they like to be seen in particular colours?
EH: No, not really. Working over a long period like I did on Bramwell with Jemma Redgrave…no…I don’t think I changed the colour ever actually. I made her a ball gown, in one of the last things…and I don’t think…no she never interfered she just put them on. Most actors are quite good, they just put things on, you know. No, the trick was, with young, insecure actresses…oh yes…Ken Russell’s wife, oh god. They would put on a costume and you’d come to the wardrobe and they’d say “What do you think of this?” and you’d say “It’s lovely, it’s fine, it’s perfect” and they’d go on the set and find the director, interrupt him and say “What do you think of this? Do you think it’s alright?” And always, when it’s put to them that way, the director says “Oh, you mean you’re not happy with it? Oh, get the wardrobe to change it”. So, they’d come back and say the director doesn’t like it, and you’d have to change it, and it’s perfectly alright, you just, you know. No, the worst one of all was Ken Russell’s third wife, Hetty Baynes. I’m reluctant to even name her. I got about six dresses lined up for the whole first episodes at Cosprops and she made Ken come to the fittings, which is unheard of anyway. And she did that “Do you think this is alright?”, and these beautiful dresses that she would have looked absolutely beautiful in, all discarded. That was unforgivable but that’s a very rare situation. You don’t usually get the director and his latest girlfriend. They might cast them but they don’t come to fittings! He wrote himself into Lady Chatterley and Hetty as Lady Chatterley’s father, and her sister, and as Jemma Redgrave is a little bit tall, and Hetty Baynes is a little bit short. They didn’t really look like sisters but it culminated in a scene where they were in a little open topped car near a service station and suddenly it was all quiet and ready to shoot and they both leapt out of the car screaming and ran off in different directions to their Winnebago’s and nobody ever found out what the row was about but it took all day to settle. Both their agents had to come down and all sorts of things happened, and we never found out what it was all about but it was the funniest thing we’d ever seen.
JR: That was Joely, not the other…
EH: Oh yes that’s right that was Joely. I’m sorry that was Joely Richardson who was very, very sweet. They were both nice girls. Joely was nicer than Jemma.
PF: Could we now go back to the start again and let’s talk about those early films like Wonderwall, and from that period, the use of colour in that particular film is very much of 1967/68. If you remember about the sort of choices you were making for that particular film?
EH: Which one?
PF: For Wonderwall. Obviously the party scene that’s going on, the other side of the house, it’s full of colour, very vibrant, and of the time. What were the kind of decisions you were making for that particular film?
EH: You know, I watched it, not long ago and I couldn’t remember anything about it, except one dress that I designed for Jane. I honestly couldn’t remember anything about it, no. Obviously I got a whole load of clothes down, and they just put them on. I don’t think there was any particular colour control. I’m sorry about that one.
PF: No, no that’s fine. I guess they were colours of the period anyway weren’t they really, they were very of the time. You can imagine going to the costumiers and pulling those off the racks I guess would you say?
EH: Say that again.
PF: There’s a few of the designs like the green velvet suit
EH: Yes, Jocelyn did that one
PF: That was particular to that film but I guess a lot of the other costumes, I’m guessing, could have come off the rack in any of the High Street stores at the time
EH: They probably wore their own. I think they probably did, because I honestly don’t remember choosing anything for that. There was a party, which you hardly saw, I did get the clothes for, there was a transvestite there who was quite famous at the time, who I dressed, I can’t remember what in. And they were all on drugs and in fact somebody slipped… it was that blonde bloke, who was later in the vampire thing Polanski did, who was very good looking and very unpleasant. A big druggie bloke, and somebody slipped something into Jane Birkin’s Coca Cola and she went on a compete number and she was married to that composer, famous composer at the time…who found out and was furious and came and shouted at everybody. Quite right too! Had it stopped filming for the day. But I don’t remember anything about that party thing at all, I’m sorry.
PF: No that’s fine. Okay, so talk about The Bliss of Mrs Blossom. You were talking a bit earlier about fantasy sequences and some of that was period costume, but again with a lot of colour from that period, what was that experience like, working on that particular film?
EH: I don’t think there were any colour sequences at all I think it was just doing the fantasy. And apart from the wellington boots, it all went quite smoothly. No, I’m sorry I’m going to be useless on colour because it never was a problem
PF: Okay well you talked a little bit about period costumes. You worked on Macbeth, The Pied Piper… you worked on several during that period. What was that like compared to contemporary…
EH: Oh, I love costumes, I’m bored to death with… that’s the irony. The most famous film being Get Carter. But that was period too, but obviously not so obvious. Much more difficult, because people remember, and the fact that nobody noticed is brilliant. I think having period costume is the only reason why I do it really. Unfortunately, I haven’t done any particularly famous period costumes. I spent my last years… and I was so lucky working on the same productions for Bramwell which nobody appears to have heard of now, but it was extremely good with Jemma Redgrave and a rather nasty actor, whose name I’ve forgotten, and a very nice producer, who also wanted to be a director, and I did it for something like three years, which was wonderful.
PF: So, looking at that later period, when you’re working in television, there was also The Red Monarch…
EH: Yes, that was fun
PF: Yes, again period, but another period.
PF: What was that like as I believe that was a Film Four production, one of the first…
EH: Yes, I did two with Jack Gold. The other was Sakharov. It was just was as it was you know. The only thing I remember costume wise, and I think it was that one, we were in the Horticultural Hall in Victoria which has got a wooden floor that splinters. And it was meant to be… he who played Poirot for years…
JR: Stalin and Beria were meant to be there as characters…
EH: Yes Beria was the character but I’m trying to think of the actor. Anyway, he was Minister of Sports, and they were watching an exhibition of physical fitness in this hall, and they were up on the little balcony looking down at all these girls who were meant to be lying on their backs, kicking their legs in the air and I think there was something like sixty girls and they all had to wear leotards. So, my makers said, “Oh, I’ll give them to this factory, they’ll do them”. So this bloke did these costumes and we fitted them all in the morning and they, some of the girls had long torso’s so we had to split the crotch to make them a bit longer, and to our horror, apart from the splinters of the floor that were going in their bottoms, they were having to kick their legs up in the air like that and all these crotches were coming undone! It was an absolute nightmare. But they managed to shoot it so that you couldn’t see this, all these were crotches coming undone. There were always horrors like that around.
PF: Are there any other memories of that film, or working in that period? Or, primarily in television, was there much of a difference between television work and…
PF: Same approach.
EH: Yes. No difference really at all.
PF: Around this time you’d just worked on Superman III with Richard Lester…
EH: That was horrible.
EH: I was offered Superman II and I was doing something at Fulford called The Knowledge which is very, very funny, you know, about taxi driver’s knowledge. I was half what through it and Dick Lester rang up. And everybody warned me about big movies, they said they were miserable, and I said “Oh well, I’ll think about it”, and the wardrobe mistress and the producer had lunch with me at the studio I was working at which was in Wembley somewhere, well below their standards. And the wardrobe mistress told me all about all the things that were carrying over from the previous things which were to be used, you know, so I wouldn’t have to do these…and in the end I thought, I don’t like the sound of all this. So, I rang up Dick Lester and I said “I’m terribly sorry, I don’t think I can do it”. I don’t think they could believe that I wasn’t going to do this other thing to do their super thing. So, he offered me Superman III, and I thought, because everybody said to me “You must be mad you know. You must be mad”. So, I thought, “Oh god, do it.” And it was a huge, it was horrible, I hated every minute of it. He was nice, I’ve got to say, I’ve got no complaints about him. Yes, Christopher Reeve, he was lovely, and it was so sad, what happened to him. So, the rest… the leading lady was married to the Scottish comedian, he does the column in the Guardian… sexual awareness… Pamela Anderson… not Anderson… Pamela Stephenson, who’s very sweet, but caused endless trouble with being late on set and putting it down to wardrobe when it’s wasn’t and things like that. That was another red dress. That was lovely, that worked.
PF: Pamela Stevenson’s dress, very 1940s, ‘30s Hollywood style?
PF: Was that your approach?
EH: Yes, the first one was the nicest, the cherry dress, but you don’t notice it as there’s so much going on. She’s carrying this cherry handbag and she’s got these cherries all over. I thought that was a really lovely one.
PF: Because the character she plays is very Marilyn Monroe like?
EH: Hopefully a comic book version of it yes.
PF: It did come across, yeah. So, you talked about the design that carried over from the previous films, did you notice that and was it kind of …
EH: That was the one I turned down. The one that I didn’t do, which was II, I suggested another English designer, who got the job and Dick Lester hated everything she did. He hated it, and she finished the film and told me afterwards that she’d spent most days sitting in her car crying, and I must say I can understand that. And it was going well, you know. I mean Dick always liked everything I did. So there wasn’t anything carrying over from that one. So, I had a free hand on that.
PF: I guess it was just the Superman costume itself that was kind of established.
EH: I had so little to do with that, it was unbelievable. It was one of the old time, bitchy wardrobe mistresses who was so powerful. She was the head wardrobe mistress of the whole lot, you know and, it’s quite funny, one day, they had a meeting in my wardrobe… because it was her wardrobe, you know. All these wardrobe mistresses who were working at Shepperton, one of them needed an assistant, so they were all sitting there going through the names of the lists of things and there was one and she was quite sweet, they went “No!” And- how awful they were and they really were beastly. And I had a beautiful Irish wardrobe guy who had been at London Weekend with me, and he was sitting there sewing and went “She’s a very nice girl” and they all went…
PF: So, talking about being influenced by what had come previously, you made a film called The Ritz? The one that was set…
EH: Oh, that was fun.
PF: That film was based on the Broadway show. Now, were the designs carried over from that?
EH: Only one.
PF: Just the one.
EH: It was the Balloon Man
PF: Ah yes…
EH: And he was a really nasty piece of work, and we didn’t get on. But all the others were mine. And the biggest joke of all was, the guy who was on the run dressed as a woman, and he was a big bloke, and he needed an evening dress. And Lady Docker was a big, big woman and I’d found out that all her clothes, she was famous for her evening frocks, and she used… she used to cruise a lot, I think, the Dockers. And I discovered where they were, they were in some… they weren’t really to hire but if you talked your way in you could. It was the woman that sold feathers on Lexington Street. And I got one that fitted him, and I never saw it on him in practice because they shot it in New York, and I couldn’t go as my mother wasn’t very well…the only thing I remember about it, Rita Moreno was lovely, absolutely wonderful and the only thing I remember that was… the only drama in that particular film was that they had a special evening and Rita was singing and we had a big orchestra there and for some reason, and I cannot remember why, they all got… oh, because this gunman arrived and they were shooting at each other, that’s right. All the orchestra jumped in the pool and within about five minutes the pool turned black, I mean dirty brown black because they were all beastly old Burman’s costumes, they’d never been to the cleaners in thirty years. And the costumes were all wet and it was like six o’clock at night and the pool had to be emptied and cleaned before they could go back shooting, and we had to get them all dried for the morning, and we managed to find a dry cleaners that was still there and they did it, I mean, we did it. But I was always blamed for the dirty costumes which I thought was mean of them, you know, because you didn’t expect that to happen.
PF: And was all of the film shot in New York or did you… were they any interiors shot over here
EH: I didn’t go to New York so I don’t know. I can’t remember if that was in the film. I think it was just exteriors, running in Lady Docker’s dress with the actor.
PF: What was it like designing the costumes for Rita Moreno?
EH: Oh, she was a treasure. She was very… she knew what she liked. But I was very lucky actually because this amazing, stretchy fabric from Germany had just arrived and I had this maker, Natasha Korniloff, who was… made all David Bowie’s costumes when he claimed to fame. She did it for nothing, in kind as it were… favours yes. She did a lot of light entertainment programmes and things like that. The thing was she always left everything to the last minute. She made Pamela Stevenson’s costumes all things like that she was brilliant at. She lived in Greenwich and if you went there there’d be about four motorcycle couriers waiting because she hadn’t finished these jobs for the BBC and ITV and everything you know. But whatever she did was very, very good. How did I get round to that? Oh yeah, Natasha found this bloke who was in High Holborn near the Post Office building. I don’t know how she found him but anyway he was an importer of fabrics and things, only a little tiny shop, this old Jewish guy, and he got all of these beautiful stretchy fabrics and so they just all worked, you know that’s what she wanted.
PF: On that note, talking about fabrics, are there any preferences? Are there any particular moments or films that you worked on where you needed particular materials or could you talk a bit about where you sourced your materials from perhaps?
EH: Well I’d say that one really because we used him a lot and he was invaluable. You couldn’t get anything like that in John Lewis or the other places you know. But there used to be favourite places you know there was one in…off…what was the road we lived in the East End? Cannon Street Road. There was one off Cannon Street Road called The Farm would you believe? Yes, it was always the old Jewish rag traders that were the best, you know.
PF: Another film you worked on in the 70s was Vampira, also known as Old Dracula, working with David Niven. Obviously, a parody of some of the Hammer films from that time. How did you approach that film? Did you have any references to some of the older horror films?
EH: No, I didn’t actually. I wasn’t even aware, until you said it, that it was a parody. I just knew I had a very big-bottomed black girl to cope with and I had a Fortuny dress of my own. Fortuny was the famous Italian who, in the early era, about 1900, come up with this fabric that was pure silk and he’d pleated it, permanently pleated it, and he had a business on the island in Venice and was very elite and everybody wore Fortuny dresses. And I happened to have one, I don’t quite remember how I got it. It was beautiful. I’ve still got it. It’s sort of cream silk pleated, and it just seemed to be the right thing for here at one stage, and it happened to be a scene that was being shot at London airport, which took forever because we kept being stopped. We couldn’t do things you know because it was an airport. So, she sat around in it and she had this great big bottom. And talk about permanent pleating, it’s not true because she completely flattened the back. We still managed to use it but it was… I kept it upstairs with this hopelessly flat bottom and I don’t remember any of the other costumes really.
PF: There were several characters. There were a group of women who were meant to be Playboy bunnies I think in that film, escorted by Bernard Bresslaw, from what I remember. They were meant to be Playboy bunnies. Do you remember?
PF: It’s only part of the story, it’s not the main…
EH: I should watch it again because I’ve never seen it.
PF: What about David Niven?
EH: Oh, he was a sweetie, he wanted to please everybody. He’d give you little presents which weren’t actually a present, it was something somebody had given him or something. I went to Nice to see him and he was living in a lovely house on the… one of those bits that stick out in Nice, with this Swedish model she was and he went off to do something and I was left with her and she said “Oh, it is so boring here”. I said “How can it be boring? It’s wonderful, all these things going on and water around you.” “Oh it’s because David is never here”. And there were these beautiful plants growing and wonderful hanging bells, white bells like that that you get some places in France and Italy, and she said “I get so bored. I think I shall go to sleep.” And we were… mentioned that if you lie underneath them and go to sleep you never wake up. She happened to know this. And she said “I try lying near these plants hoping I will never wake up”. Then he came back and she was a completely different person. But he was very careful and I don’t blame him. Why shouldn’t he be very careful? And very sweet.
PF: So, no problems with…
EH: Neurotic. He always had to have a cravat thing because he was neurotic about the creases in his neck.
PF: I was just about to say, was there anything that he required?
EH: Only that.
PF: Just that.
PF: But again, he was happy with everything that…
EH: Yes, yes, yes, most of them always are. Yes.
PF: What about A Christmas Carol which you worked on?
EH: Ah, that was nice. Shrewsbury. The only thing I remember about that was… nothing, it was lovely…no problems at all but in the original orphanage, the children all had to have clothes. I had another maker called Doreen Brown who was a wonderful, wonderful maker, but she smoked loads of pot and as she got older, she got worse. Anyway, she was in Lewes so I had to take all the fabrics down because I thought she could make all the trousers. I think there were forty pairs of trousers for the little boys. I took the fabrics down and pinned a note on them, you know different ones. And a drawing and left her to it. Things arrived but no trousers and so I rang her up, she was from Newcastle, I said “Doreen there’s no trousers can you send me trousers?”, “ere, you never asked me for trousers”. I said I did Doreen “No you didn’t” so I had to get somebody else to make them and at the last minute you know rush, rush, rush. And not many years ago, and A Christmas Carol was many years ago, but not many years ago, I received a parcel from Doreen with this fabric in it. She never apologised. We did two with, big American bloke…
JR: He played Scrooge.
EH: We did Scrooge first and then we did A Christmas Carol.
JR: The general in Patton.
EH: Which he asked me to do actually but I turned it down.
PF: George C. Scott
EH: George C. Scott. And… oh George C. Scott. He arrived from America and came straight to Morris Angels. He sent measurements and we’d made something up but not finished it unfortunately. And he put them on and they were that much too small. He’d lied or somebody had lied about his measurements, only about two days before he was filming. And fortunately, they managed to… I mean they were brilliant. Another Mr Davis, a different one funnily enough. They did it. They took this thing off that was too small that was the first thing he put in and he said I’ve got to go I don’t feel very well. And it dropped on the floor and he went. And I was furious and I got…the next time I saw the…he did come eventually- No he didn’t, he didn’t have another fitting that was it. Morris Angel’s made the costume, it was wonderful. It fitted and everything was lovely, but I found out from the chauffeur that he really had been ill and they’d had to stop in the park for him to be sick. So, I did sort of forgive him. I’d put a hat in and he’d tried it on and it looked alright. And on the morning of the shoot he was on the set and these American producers came all these women that you never saw again you know…argggh, I actually had to fight my way through them to see him and he was sitting there at the thing and he went… he got this hat on and it looked absolutely ridiculous, I mean it was just awful. And I couldn’t get on the set to do anything about it but I did eventually get on the set to do something about it but apart from that he was an absolute, total angel. But he wouldn’t let anybody tie, re-tie his cravat, except me for some reason. And I’d have to go on the set where everybody was waiting you know…and re-tie this cravat. He has the coldest, clearest blue eyes of anybody I’ve seen. He was quite frightening actually. No, he asked me to do the next which I think was Patton but it was in America and it was all uniforms and I didn’t want to do it.
PF: Obviously, A Christmas Carol, a story being told many times onscreen. Was that something which you looked to in your designs and your costuming. The inspiration from the past perhaps other versions of the film, did you take inspiration from previous…
EH: No, I didn’t. I avoided doing that. And there was another one made immediately after, which my assistant worked on and I did think they took everything from my one you know. I think it was almost identical. But that was Clive when he still cared. He lost it completely in the end.
PF: Did Clive have much input?
EH: No. No, he had not an artistic cell in his body. He was a sergeant in the army. No, he was very good Clive, he did some good films in the beginning too. What was it called the one you liked? Nothing but the Best was very good.
PF: For A Christmas Carol, did you have quite a team, with there being quite a few extras in the film, did you have a team of assistants and then a few…
EH: Did I have an assistant?
PF: On A Christmas Carol?
PF: Did you have an assistant and where there a number of other people in your team with there being quite a few extras in that film?
EH: I had a wonderful wardrobe master, absolutely divine. And a dresser who was meant, who was a very good dresser, very camp He said he didn’t want any camp dressers and somebody… I don’t know they must have done it on purpose. One of the first or second assistants gave them the campest person they you could ever… he used to say “Mother’s coming, don’t panic, mother’s coming”, you know, when he got called for. But it was all very harmonious. He lived with his camp assistant or dresser. I had an assistant who was… immediately had an affair with the producer. Which was quite helpful. I got all the wonderful books that producers give each other, bound in leather and things like that. She got me one of all those.
PF: I’d like you to talk a bit about the late 60s period- into the seventies and early eighties. Is there anything that you’d like to say about those changes…
EH: No. Look it’s so boring. No. I just got on with it and that was it. No.
PF: What about a film like The Knowledge then, which was contemporary set. It was a very realistic look to the film, whereas you’d worked in, sort of the fantasy genre in the late sixties… that sort of comedic approach to the films. Did you like working on those kinds of films like The Knowledge?
EH: The Knowledge that I did?
EH: Well that was just a cheap film, yes. I mean it was done by a commercials director Bob Brooks and it was almost amateur. But it was very good. It was one of the only times, two times, that had to stop filming because the camera team are laughing so much that the camera was shaking, was on The Knowledge and on The Ritz.
PF: Nigel Hawthorne gave a great performance in that.
EH: He was such a good actor, such a nice man. He was lovely. Very sad.
PF: Yes. Okay we can stop there, that’s fine.