Frances Cockburn

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Interview Date(s): 
15 Mar 1990
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Margaret Thompson  0:11  
The copyright of this recording is vested in the ACTT history project we're interviewing Francis Cockburn I spell the name C O C K B U R N, who started life in the film industry as an editor became a producer and finally information officer interviewer is Margaret Thompson the date is the 16th of March 1990 side one.So, Frances tell us something about your background where you're born? 

Frances Cockburn  0:56  
Well, I was born in India, in Calcutta, which was the capital of India on Valentine's Day

1919 My father was for a time manager of Micronise? I right? Because the cycle is very bad. And there's real reason for being out. there was just he didn't care for life in England. Yeah. tiny amounts of money and tiny amount of money went a long way in those days. So we lived in Dehar?, and Delhi, Lahore. Eventually, I came home to school Ensley house? in Colchester . Then we moved to Harpenden. Hertfordshire where Bruce Wolf also lived. And I suppose you're going to ask me how I got into the film industry?

Margaret Thompson  2:07  
Yes. And explainwho Bruce Wolf was as  well.

Speaker 2  2:10  
Well, Bruce will was then the head of GBI, and GB Instructional. And I was just

Frances Cockburn  2:21  
told, I

Speaker 2  2:22  
think, I'd seen a film. I'd seen a feature film that allowed out of school as a boarding school, allowed out of school school to see this and I was absolutely bowled over by it. And I just couldn't see that. At the age of about 12. Hollywood was next stop. But the reality is always different from that. I still had this idea of film stills in mind, and somebody said, Do you know that Bruce Wolf at all, I never heard of Bruce Wolf. But anyhow, this very kind person who so often happens in life of people who help you most seem to drop out of your life. He got hold of Bruce Wolf, and then rang me up and said, if you go up to see Bruce Wolf, you will learn he will see you. So I duly went at the right time, it was something of a garden party on at the time, and I've got mistaken for  the gardener, which is rather unfortunate. Anyhow, he, um, he saw me in his in his office. And a week later, I was offered a job at a pound a week, which was and how old were you  then 16? I think yes, not 16. It was in 1935. I started working in April, May 1935. So work it out. I think I was 16.

Margaret Thompson  3:53  
And you were attached to cutting rooms?

Frances Cockburn  3:55  
Well, I arrived in Darvo? Street. I think you were there

Margaret Thompson  4:00  
Darvo? Street probably

Speaker 2  4:05  
And I was taught the first thing I was taught was how to splice film. And I must say it was the most unhygenic and disgusting experience of the first day of working that don't have to lick the film. scrape it off with a piece of hacksaw blade. And I in years after I remember, was working with other directors. One in particular who was a well known documentary director, who used to lick it  first off you both know who he was, what you would do, by Tony told you about Arthur Elton

Frances Cockburn  4:57  
I couldn't you couldn't

Margaret Thompson  5:01  
But anyway, now tell me when I went to GBI. Darvo Street was purposeful Sophos was and a few cutting rooms, but the main work was done at Student  House Student Hall

was that when you arrived

Frances Cockburn  5:20  
Yes, I arrived in well I arrived and D'arblay Streets was there about about a fortnight a moviola fell on me and l paralysed my right arm. And by the time I got over that, which was about, I said, it took me about a fortnight to come from that. I was when I came back, I was sent off to to Cleveland Hall. Here's where I spent, I don't know, two or three years and then went, yes, about two years, I suppose. And then went down to Lime Grove where we all went is you working with Mary Sue? I was Mary Field's assistant here. And also she was no in the cutting room. I was General was, cutting herself. Yes.

Margaret Thompson  6:09  
She did. As I remembered everybody.

Cut there were no editors as such. No, I think everybody, everybody, every director cut

thatwas the way it was. Yeah.

I think so. Yes. Yes.

Frances Cockburn  6:29  
Oh, well.

JACK Holmes, whom I enjoyed working with very much working on the miner coal mining film that he directed with Alan Izod. Mary Field,  particularly 

Margaret Thompson  6:51  
talking about \mary Field a little bit because she's, well,

Frances Cockburn  6:56  
she was and she was very, in fact, she oneme She taught me many important things. But one thing that she did bring me up short on was that I have been taught to to take up light frames. And so there was a famous shot of her. She was making films, or she was making film, and I was helping on the on the Sparrowhawk. And there was a shot of a sparrow hawk taking off from its nest. And so I duly cut out the light frame. And when she saw this, she was absolutely enraged. And she taught me that there was a difference between meeting technical excellence and, and looking at a reality. she said, The fact is that this bird is flying off the nest. And if it's flying off the nest, you don't worry about light frames. There's one other important lesson to learn very early on is that there is a difference between technical perfection and the general effect. Interesting here. So here's her number. She was a wonderful person to work with. I'm slightly frightened over that she had  a reputation of being not very keen on other women. But I personally found her very, very kind. Oh, she was very kind to me. She was Oh, very yes, no, no, I think I'm more interviews. And she gave me the first chance to do something on my own because some when we moved on to, to Shepherds, Bush, she made a film on animal locomotion how animals move. And she made the theatrical version. And she said to me, look here, there are the bits and pieces, go and make a an instructional film on how animals move. And this enabled me to go down to the Science Museum and look up all sorts of and I found a whole lot of material, which wasn't in her film was a slightly awkward situation, because I felt that I was perhaps getting a bit above myself and putting in material that she might very well have put in her own film. But anyhow, she said nothing about it in the film as duly finished I even wrote the commentary for it how I was  qualified to write a commentary for anything at that age from 18 as well. But anyhow, that was that was Mary Field keep giving, giving giving another women an opportunity.

Margaret Thompson  9:19  

Frances Cockburn  9:22  
Bruce Wolf. I never really got on terms with I mean, my he gave me this was this job was a tremendous opportunity. And then afterwards, at at Shepherds Bush, when really things were running down, he said to me, would you like to take over the library was a huge library. They're all in utter chaos at the time. And I was given the job of putting this into some order. I really enjoyed this enormous that we introduced.

The decimal system I can't think I invented it, I think I must have learned it from somewhere. But anyhow, it did bring a good deal of order into it. And the thing began to pay, and all was going  extremely well. Until I had, then I had an appendix operation, which took me away for a while, I came back to work. And you remember this Tommy, I then had a motor accident, do you remember? Because you and I were sharing digs at the time. And I, I just was black and blue and had to go home. But anyhow, I was at this, this rectus because it was a, it was a motor accident after a party, which he got to learn about. And he fired me as and was being used to being irresponsible, you see. And so I was at home three or four weeks wondering thinking, well, this is the end of my life. And then he wrote to me and said that I could go back well I know why, because I think it's so happened that I was the only person who knew anything about the library at the time. And anyhow I went back, and because one has the impertinence of youth, I said, Do you think you could give me some more money? I was being paid two pounds, and I wanted two pounds 10 shillings? And he said no. And I said, Well, all right. And when I got home, I thought this is no way to live. I'm sure I'm worth more than two pounds 10 to this organisation and I wrote and said I wouldn't go back, which was absolute lunacy at the time because there was no reason to suppose that I've ever get a job anywhere in the film industry again. But you'll see about a months after that. The ACT gave me an opportunity. They wrote to me and said there's a job going four pounds a week to much more than I'd ever thought of earning as an as an assistant. And this was at Nettlefolds at Walton Reginald, this was a feature film,Reginald Denham was directing Reginald Denham Denham spelt like the studio is and Charles Hosse H O S S E I think I'm in right but Charles Hosse he made after all famous films Ealing the children's Hue and Cry That's right. Yes later but but if we go back to Walton I can't remember the name of the film but I was the assistant like most of it, were it really I mean feature filming at last It was very happy occasion. Then, in the middle of that the war was declared.And

Margaret Thompson  12:56  
Youve gone a bit . Because you hadn't met you haven't said how you came to be.have joined the ACT.

Frances Cockburn  13:04  
Oh, well. This was a Cleveland Hall. Yes. And Mickey Jay was the chief projectionist. And he is a great buddy of mine. I admired him enormously. And he said, Look, why don't you join the AC T. And I had no idea what the ACT was. But there's one quite interesting thing came at that, at that time, was that there was a general feeling that the ACT would take on and train people. whether this was just a myth. At the time, I'm not I don't know. But anyway, I've joined and I did have a great desire to be trained. Because up to that it was one one did one job learning the hard way. But in fact, I don't think it ever was in the ACT 's mind to do to train people that in fact, it never really came to an end.

Speaker 2  14:05  
Yes, I can't. I wouldn't like to say whether this was a reality or it was something people just talking about time. So that's how I joined before we leave Cleveland Hall. or GBI Can you remember the people that you worked with? I worked at France Sewell? And I worked for a time of course on the Charles Gibbons? and the Savoy Hotel fields used to do Radio luxenberg programmes. That was really the main I think the main income, I think it was, I think there were there all the time, every week, and there was this. Wow, this woman that used to come in sometimes Miss Brooks. And I think that somewhere there must be some records of Miss Brooks because she was either a very modern singer Even more modern music or she was just couldn't sing. But they were in bought every three months instructs us to arrive in the, in the, in the studio. And the whole studio echoed to this tremendously discordant noise I suppose if you heard it today, you might think it was really rather good if you're fond of modern music now. I'm quite fond of it. But in those days, it was absolutely nothing and the entire studio has to run about with its hands over its ear has tried to escape from this terrible outbursts. It was a very rich woman that  liked to be recorded. Don't you remember?

Margaret Thompson  15:42  
I remember, Amy Johnson.

Frances Cockburn  15:45  
Was I don't remember her.

Margaret Thompson  15:46  
I think well, it was one of those women flyers

Frances Cockburn  15:50  
 I think I remember the name of it. I remember it being mentioned.

Margaret Thompson  15:55  
Yes, yes.

Yes, of course. Lots

of people came in and out.

Speaker 2  16:00  
And of course I have a lasting memory of the Ovaltines is you know, these terrible little squeaky voices singing We are the Ovalteenies. But it was a curious

Frances Cockburn  16:16  
he did I think I only knew him as a name. I don't think I ever knew him. In fact, I can really it's really well, disgraceful. I can't remember very many people who were there. There were a lot of people. It's just too far back.

Margaret Thompson  16:29  
Jeff Rose.

Speaker 2  16:31  
No, the only films I do remember. I was with Mary Field  almost all the time. And her work was mostly theatrical, wasn't it? Well, it was admitted into the instructional side of things. Well, I think she did. Oh, she did. Oh, she did. Yeah, she did. And these were all  films, films about bird life as I remember Farne islands, Sparrowhawk

Speaker 2  16:55  
that kind of thing. I don't remember the secrets of life and Secrets of  Nature. Yes. Nature. That's right. Yes. Do you remember the these two specials cameraman will supply the material? PercySmith first? Oh, yes. Percy Smith was a minor so slight science. boffins only one man he was able to do. Yes, I do. Remember. Yes. originator. Well, I suppose I must have done but I found that in the cutting room, you really weren't very much aware of of the business end of filming. It was rather said. I never would have never went out of the cutting room or anything anywhere. Mary Field used  to go but I would be back at base went underwater the meantime, but I don't think I didn't go on the location. Absolutely. I agree. Absolutely. Yes. Yes.

Margaret Thompson  18:07  

Speaker 2  18:10  
There were a lot of others. In fact, there were films being made there was a film called The Gap I think being made which which was really heralding the the it was the sort of first film concerned with what to do with the wars. That's it I think it was is well, I think I worked on that. I'm sure I did. I was being worked on it. And made the joins

Margaret Thompson  18:38  
was for son in law.He made that pity. He was

Frances Cockburn  18:45  
I think you're right. I can't remember though

Margaret Thompson  18:49  

Frances Cockburn  18:53  
Man, I can't I can't remember that. Though, I think my memories of that really, of season fall away are limited.

And then then.

Oh, it was in fact, the first thing I ever worked on was in fact a moviola editola. But when I went when we went to went to Cleveland Hall and then to lime Grove, there was this wonderful machine the the moviola, which was the thing that clatters past. And I really thought this was a marv and of course there can be wonderful automatic joining machinen which was a blissful change for me to lick and stick. was actually it is it's an extraordinary how it was ever, ever allowed because it must have been just about the most unhygenic Health damaging so you could have been asked to do that. Life certainly improved. The equipment was From the the editola I think was made by students and mentors. But the but the moviola   that was an American Bell and Howell no the Bell and Howell was the was the was the joiner that wasn't it. So that's that when for is, as a matter of fact I used to get. So the one thing that really, I could not bear as being an assistant, Mary Mary Field knew perfectly well what she was doing. But she wasn't, I think probably because she was thinking didn't really tell you what she was doing. And I used to find that a terrible thing that I used to find that and when I stood behind her was the side of the hallway, I used to go off to sleep. And I could find myself absolutely asleep on my feet because it was boring, utterly?. I'm sure she knew what she was doing. She did know what she was doing. But if there was a little been a little bit of suggestion why I was there what was my function And of course, the other barbarous thing that was going on at the time, was the fact that you had to somehow was no kind of system, save and find the cuts. These were all hung up on these ins. And if the editor you're working for wanted a cut, you had to go and find it. And you really had to have a elephantine memory of where you put the things because if it fell on the floor, it was ghastly gone forever until you cleared up and then then you wouldn't know where it belonged. So it was there was always an element of chaos in the time.

Margaret Thompson  21:48  
 I think that it's extended all the all the documentary film unit somehow. Do you think sir?Yes.primitive and inefficient and many efficiency was your watchword, you know, I remember even when he was 16 or 17. Is that so?

Frances Cockburn  21:58  
 Well, I suppose it's so it's a lifeline rarely, because I mean, I don't think I ever understood all the time that I was with GBI. Really what we were supposed to be doing, because the whole process of filming and editing seem to be so haphazard. There were no rules to follow. Because going to a feature still going and going into Ealing that changed miraculously. And the order in the in the cutting room was absolutely different. I suppose this appealed I don't know. And the Ealing was in full production must have been

Oh, yes, it was.

Yes, yes, it does. I do I have a sort of figure of 139 I can't watch it. I wouldn't think there's any any strength to that. But I don't know why I have this figure. But it must have been a very early figure because the AC T was was presented to me certainly by Mickey j as being having just started.

Margaret Thompson  23:17  
Don't know the number because at that time, they predict projieswere in ACT weren't they

Frances Cockburn  23:26  
I don't know. Maybe they were well, they must be otherwise he wouldn't have asked me.

Margaret Thompson  23:36  
I don't know when that ended.

 I don't know. Okay. Stop. Stop. Stop. I do remember an occasion when we moved the library that TVI library from D'Arblay Streets into Film House.

Frances Cockburn  24:26  
Literally, I don't but I can really believe it. These drips across the road but we wasn't just across the road carrying cans. I don't even know that the vaults at D'Arblay street were up on the roof. Remember that? And we had to care this must have been 10 vaults or so. As we weren't allowed into the front door of film house. We have to go into a side door ambition of my life to go up the central staircase Wasn't allowed cringing? round in some little alleyway, I remember that was a few more perhaps curious or more friendly than I was because in the room next to us film house and it was all the examining girls who were examining the ask them 16 mill copies. 16 mil wasn't part of our life and 3535 was often seen. No 16 mil didn't come into my life until many years they have this girl but exactly, so I thought they were 16. And you came in and said, Do you know how much they get? They're getting a week 35 bob, and sthey're mediaeval prostitutes as well. They have to be good god


Margaret Thompson  25:58  
I remember that very well Really?

Weak, you know, when we thought we were pretty, definitely done at two or three pounds a week is fantastic. Yes. How would you prefer to live during those early days?

Frances Cockburn  26:12  
 Well, I always lived at home Harpenden or I came and that instant transfer we were living. And I must say that that little room on the top of the Charles square house with the little little roof terrace was one of my happiest memories. And it was the most wonderful mural of horses ploughing on the wall and the room was tiny, was just about room for a bed and and the dressing table where there was this vast mural that somebody who was there before we painted this picture on these horses ploughing and and the girls following. It was a great sort of release, particularly as there's most of the conditions in which we work was so appalling. Certainly around around Soho, awful basements Do you find yourself working in at one time or another? And this was a sort of release. But we were both at Shepherds Bush reporting at that time.

Margaret Thompson  27:30  
I was an extra

two or three months that was really alone in the newsroom. Yes, Roy Drew was head of the newsreel cutting drama centre. Remember, I remembered hardly at all.Anyhow.Yes, yes. Yes.So should we have a break?

Frances Cockburn  27:56  
Yes thing that happened then it was so overshadowed by everything that happened afterwards, that I attend. I don't think my memory of it is all that. reliable. I can't think of the

Unknown Speaker  28:15  
events that ?

Frances Cockburn  28:18  
I was never a pubber. I don't know why. I was part of the time I lived

during that period.

Well, oh, are you recording Yes, I do. Remember. I was Martin Jones, John Martin Jones, who went to Australia to work for Stanley Hall?, Stanley Hall, as I remember. I liked Stanley Hall  very much as nice kind person.


Dennis Segala. Whatever happened to Dennis Segala Yes, I remember him he was he was a good friend.

Reception. It was a sociable time and I can't think why. I don't think that I didn't, I think probably one of the things that stood in my way of of either an evening life apart from the time that you when you when I when when we're in digs together is that I lived in Harpenden and it was a question of commuting. Yes. I think this was rather lomiting when it came to a social life. And I think I probably really didn't didn't have much of a social life. Work.

Oh, yes, yes, yes.

Yeah, it's like being like upended in a bin That's right. Yes, yes, it's happened so quickly we'll just be passing have been  suddenly puts you on the shoulders before you knew where you were upside down. And in no way of getting out without help. You can't get out of the bin upside down unless somebody comes to your rescue is recording? Sort of, absurdly and so somebody usually had to come. Well, I suppose you had the chance of knocking the bin over, but I think I think it was you were kept in it was as well as charming as well. Just Just as you passed your best friends.

Alright. Oh, yes. And I can remember the the the thing that they were absolutely facile things but when you're when you're very new to the industry will take things terribly seriously. And I can remember being sent to try and find the key of the interlock. This was this Do you remember this? Everybody? Was this happened to everybody at some time. And And somehow, this, I remembered particularly at Cleveland Hall, because it seemed to be somehow suggested it was my fault has the key last  a lot from room to room. I think what what, what is it? Well, I haven't either courage to ask God, it takes a long time. pulling your leg?

Margaret Thompson  31:26  
Everyone has no natural sense of humour. I don't mean that this is a personal question. You start work pretty early. Yes. For somebody that has been to school. Yes. That was a family how to run out of money. Yes, your mother wasalone was she

Frances Cockburn  31:45  
Well, you see, what happened was that both my parents have been brought up to believe that things would go on like that forever. Yes. And when the neither of them had any idea of money to save, some saving have appeared from nowhere, and have some doing them and injustice, but I'd rather suspect they didn't really have any idea of where that money came from. And then suddenly, through mismanagement of somebody or other I don't know. Suddenly, there was no money and there was no money to to go on the schooling and I was out one night yeah. I say I didn't mind I was an idiot at school it  terrorised me. I loathed boarding school, it really was quite awful. Having spent my early life in India I suppose I was just used to rather more heat than there was available in boarding schools at that time and I remember very well the young the uniform blanket the blanket that was put on your bed and Windows wide open and I can remember I used to cough by coughed my way through every winter propped up with pillows keeping everybody else in the dormitory awake. So I think I was really rather glad to to to leave school. Very glad. So but then it was a question of getting a job. The first job I ever had was, in fact with a photographic agency in Colchester and I was paid five shillings a week the handsome sum  and I think I graduated to 10 shillings. Oh, yes, then I worked for the Exchange Telegraph is this is your third. I was I had a job with the Exchange Telegraph. And I really couldn't have been more than about 14. And my job was to sit at some kind of teleprinter that came through in the evening entirely alone in an office. And I the the the cricket results, and the racing results came through. And it was my job to then phone them around to all local newspapers and I was paid 10 shillings for that. That was that was an absolute 100% rise on anything I've been paid before. But then I think I went up to about 12 shillings something like that. And then there was a hideous long gap where I didn't seem  to be employed at all and then suddenly there was the film industry. But it was a total It was a total change because all the things that I had known all my life were suddenly not  there was nothing. Absolutely nothing And of course you see my parent, my mother particularly had no idea of how to cope. She had always had everything done for her. And like so many people have had it too good. They just can't cope with difficult circumstances. And in many ways, I'm quite glad I got all that over fairly early on.

Margaret Thompson  35:11  
Right. So, should we go to Ealing now?

Frances Cockburn  35:12  
 Yes, you think yes or no. Again, I I rather think that the the job the offer of the job atb Ealing came from the ACT. In fact, I think they

Margaret Thompson  35:28  
they did

Frances Cockburn  35:30  
offer they they heard of people that they heard of the jobs and then they was to get to find the people there was a sort of job exchange element in labour exchange. And when and I went to Ealing. I went to Nettle. That was the first first feature film Oh, justi as  and then only halfway through it because the war came and my mother sort of panicked and said, We should go should go home and sign it was a silly business. I shouldn't have gone But anyway, that's true. You don't know how to behave in these circumstances. Mothers I still haven't heard about at Ealing Ealing was altogether a different

Margaret Thompson  36:15  
Ealing  was GBI.

Frances Cockburn  36:18  
No Ealing was Ealing or Ealing because when I went to accept it, suppose Yes, I went to Ealing. And can't remember the first film I was on. I certainly I worked with the film I remember best was Ships with Wings with Robert Hamer was editing. It was in the early days. Yes, yes. And in fact, I was working at Ealing  through most of the bombing. Because we Robert was one of these people who used to work for so many did right far into the night and the poor old assistants to hang around. What used to be so, so daunting in those days was that came six o'clock, and all the senior people went off to have a drink and some food you were  left in  the cutting room along with the other assistants. They used to come back about some eight, then you'd work on to pretty well all night or you could work on the ACT in the end. I mean, this was done can remember these terrible long hours at Denham for example. Switching around a bit there was a 66 hours a week was no overtime. But I think the ACT played a very important part in in stopping that. Because the conditions were awful. The hours were awful. There was no kind of discipline, no cut, nobody had any nobody had any rights at all. You just you just stuck around until somebody said you could go home, which was an appalling business. Really when you look back on it. Very low rates, or something I can't remember I spoke I spoke about much more than I'd been paid before. But I suppose I paid bottom at 10 pounds a week. And we're still in a fairly well organised shop. Oh, boy shop steward as ACT I don't know. I really don't know. I was just I paid my membership. Oh, there's a lovely place. I loved it. Bobby Williams was a studio manager. And it was it was a wonderful, wonderful set. Once wonderful camaraderie there. I really enjoyed this very much. I think largely because a lot of directors were quiet or editors were quite high powered. People knew what they were doing. But the thing that struck me having come from that it's absolute chaos of all the conditions I've worked in before was the at last the cutting room was organised there was this wonderful thing called the roll book where every every shot every day was written down in the rollbook. And then it was was numbered. So if you had a numbering system that was quite different from the from the edge numbers that we've been working on beforr, which had no no continuity to them, whereas this produced the the continuity and if you wanted to find a trim, you could find it immediately. No problem. This this appealed to me enormously. I'm thinking that that was the Ships Ships with Wings. I was going to work on San Demitro That guy was ill and could'nt do it. But I did work for time witj  Cavalcanti the Cavalcanti turned up there. Now he had been given control of the General  de Gear somebody had entrusted it to him, General de Gaulle  I think. And so there were one or two documentaries being made compilation films being made, by Cavalcanti and I worked on those

as his assistant That's right. That was one about the sea That's right.

Yellow Fever? That's right. Yes. Yes. I think that was about that time. And I can't remember whether I worked on that or not. But I all I can say is that I worked on on a number of Cavalcanti for I'm sure Yellow Fever  this one. Yes. Oh, destiny. Yes. And of course, he was absolutely wonderful because he used to take me out in the evening. So after we'd been I became also neurotic about this bombing of this bombing every night. And, no I was living out at Denham with some cousins. I went up and down on the bus. Yes, but I mean for people worked so much during the night. Robert Hamer used work far into the night and so so did I never expect them finished return to 11, or 12. was a question of how you got home after that I rather think sometimes we didn't get home. But I do remember that Cavalcanti when I realised they got rather neurotic about distance bombing and they did drop bombs in in Walpole Park, which seemed to be rather close. And I always remember he, two peoples have said things to me at that time bezel, the zil.?? But Cavalcanti said, Look, here, we go and have a drink. And you just must remember that you're very unlikely to get bombed. And you will, you will come out of all this as we will all come out of it. And suddenly, I began to realise that that I wasn't the only one being bombed, he was being bombed quite often. But it's extraordinary, these things will get hold of you and feel terribly alone, you know, it's just, it's only me. And the other thing is, Basil, because it never occurred to me with all the sort of the strength of the German army and so on. He's making wonderful uniforms they all wore, I'm sure it was just the uniforms that did it, as though you felt them absolutely invincible. And I remember Basil Rearden saying to me. He said, I just have a belief that right will overcome might is the difference between right and wrong and right will prevail. And it does seem to be the no logic, but absolutely, a kind of sense of belief in that. And that was that that was very comforting actually it was it was at that time. And he said it in fact, after the terrible description with the tea. They hadn't given the, of the of the, the Cafe Royal the CafecRoyal  sorry, yes. What happened was that he and his girlfriend, as I remember it, we're having we're dancing and dining at the Cafe de Paris. And they were he left the table to go and get the drinks, and the bomb dropped, killed everybody at his table. And he survived. And he told us told me the story. And when he was saying, telling me that you know that that there is a difference between right and wrong. Right will prevail. this had happened at that time. Oh, I love I loved Ealing.

Margaret Thompson  43:24  
How long were you there?

Frances Cockburn  43:27  
I don't know two or three years. And then of course there came the call up and I was told a terrible piece of paper arrived one morning saying would I have a report to Hillingdon hospital for domestic service. And I fled into the studio and the Shauna Marshall? was there at the  time to look at this help what's going to happen? He said we've gone had this happen. And I was sent off to see Sydney Bernstein at the at the at the MOI. And the result of this was that I went down to I was sent off to the Crowne Film Unit and spent well quite a long time there. Well, I worked with some I was still an assistant. And I worked with well which boy you at this time? Well, I was working partly at Denham and partly at Pinewood can't quite remember why we worked with both of these studios, but we did Pinewood usually Pinewood

Oh, that must have been it then. Yes. Well, I work for Stuart McAllister on Fires were Started when Humphrey and Humphrey Jennings I was terrified of Humphrey Jennings. But Stuart and I had had I had a quite good relationship. And I brought the insisted on the the Ealing order and the cutting will should prevail at Crown, I determined that everybody would fill in the rollbook and everybody would have everything numbered. And so that made my life a lot easier. It was so unpredictable but I do remember the classic case of you didn't have much consideration for anybody else. But there was a famous case with Nora Dawson whom I know of leave afterwards . I can't remember lies with them I suppose I must have been drove Hampstead to London The great thing was everybody went off to Players club in London almost every night and I can remember that Nora Dawson that you really ought to talk to her about this because I remembered she had a puncture in her Piccadilly and Humphrey just got out of the car and walked off and went up to the went onto the Players club at that time it was no way in which it was going to be able to get the puncture mended but then they have so this is this this is this and and although there was tremendous talents that was it was very difficult to see any logic in what he did. And I think it's all rather frightening to for people who would go try to follow what he's doing. He could immense immense Yes, yes. And of course it was a very interesting film but there was a there was there was this always this sort of vicious humour that used to run out I do remember being on location in the docks when there we had permission to break the blackout and the whole of this warehouse was set on fire and everybody had been rather suffering under Humphrey at the time Humphrey went up to the top of this building stood with no roof on the building stood on the on the on the wall and a voice somewhere near me said one foot back and one foot back this awful wickedness in this occured almost wish you hadn't said it afterwards but particularly in view of the way the just about knowing did die could have been could well have been yes it could well have been but then there was Silent Village assistant on that for a time

you might explain what that was. I can't remember the circumstances you'd have to look it up it was a it was a village somewhere in Czechoslovakia I think the closest always which was raised and everybody shot Himmler they shot some Himmler had been shot was it.


that's right.

Margaret Thompson  48:34  
Yes, yes. This was

a reconstruct Yes. Yes,

Frances Cockburn  48:40  
I think it was one of from For me it was Humphreys best film. I don't know that other people would agree with that. But I thought there was a tremendous atmosphere of reality about this thing he was shooting it in Wales. And the the contrast between the German band and this the certain set of images that he he created the chapel..................................................

Frances Cockburn  0:02  
Well it's just finishing off the description of it because it had an impact on me that film yes on silent village there were certain things that were repeated through it and I thought the the cumulative effect of that was was very, very inspiring your work the the chapel, which was essentially the wonderful thing about Humphrey was he was able to, to pick up the general pression of the village so that you felt and somehow it was possible to transpose this in your mind to where it's really happened. And you could at the same time see that how it could happen in Wales, if it if it came to it. And the chapel and the stream which are repeated over and over again and the and the German music The German band, which was coming out of a loudspeaker on top of a car then all this ends up with this wonderful group of men and all women and children have been taken off and the men singing land my father's I suppose, as they backed back against the wall, just going moving slowly back, and Humphrey was able to make ordinary people produce these wonderfully drunk dramatic effect on film, I would love to have tape off I'd love to see it again and never see it. I think most people will say that that was not his best film but for me, it was

quad clots and it was all over Oh, yes, I mean, people used to shake when an Humphrey King came in the room I think I shipped to No, no, no Mac I used to just stand behind it was violent It was a van But you see, this is the thing I've never really understood what it is. And I think it goes on today that makes directors so violent and editors mean I can remember for instance the editor of on Goodbye Mr. Chips denim I don't know whether I should mention absolutely falling into some rage almost rolling on the floor with a fury and filming somehow creates this in people doesn't it? Have you not notice that

Unknown Speaker  3:04  
there was a sort of general

Frances Cockburn  3:05  
feeling and Humphrey had this it's there is an anger seems to on the corals are legendary surely.

Yes, but I mean, these these sort of corals go on elsewhere? I mean, don't rob it he knows the same. Absolutely. farland I didn't when I say Vaughn I mean don't anybody about but in his temper. But everything been going quite quietly and suddenly an explosion coming from the from the movie. And this was always taken up on whoever was nearest. It's usually the system's sadness. Yes, I never saw it. But I had I heard about that. Oh, it's very it's in my memory, a feature of all filming I mean, I can remember to and I can remember other directors thing when I was editing. And then of course, I went to worldwide. So I ended up with well, because having gone to denim, and then to Pinewood I suddenly got

an offer from the blue to go and

edit. And this was the first task I ever had of editing. A film, a feature film was being made by john coffee coffee at Hammersmith. And I just up and went left the Tron film in it where I was really was, was to do at the time but left the crown film that went off onto this this at the time when I was really lucky to be sent back to the Hillingdon hospital for for domestic service but anyhow, went off. And really this was a was was again I think was the thing called detective john Harlow was directing very nice man. And

Corfield was it was, it was a rather difficult man.

But somehow or other But anyhow, I did did. I did that. And then I, then somehow he, he fired john Harlow. And so the picture just came to a halt. At the same time, Caulfield went into hospital. And I remember he said for me, and I remember going in to see him and something roughly been done to his head and what it was, but it was it was covered in black stuff. And he said for me and he said, Miss Coburn, I want you to take over this film and finish it, you will direct it. Well, I mean, I was 2021 the rest of my life. And I swarmed about john Harlow. And he's arrived john Harlow is no longer on the picture. Well, what do I do? It was my living. So anyway, I went through the script. And I think I'd always known that there was a flaw in the script, or something wrong with it. Somebody had to it was a detective thing. And somebody was in possession of information they couldn't have. And I said well, I think if I'm going to do this, we've got to write a scene in which again I did in person is it really and we shot this in the open now at at on one of the bridges over the Thames railway bridge. And I wish

I get and

Anthony Hearn and Celia

Margaret Thompson  7:02  

Frances Cockburn  7:06  
I'll just have to remember these later on within the fair, they're gone. But they're both quite well known actors, you'd know them. When we played this scene out and eventually finished the film and went to tactical film and said, well, there's your film, there's only one thing I've got to ask and that is that john hollows name remains on as director. And I

really thought it was such an injustice and quite

apart from this would have been nonsan absurd to have my name martyrs. Who the hell was I? But I think I had the editing kind of 35 pounds a week. This Yes, he paid me well, much more than I was getting. Yes. In fact, really that that film was that was was an important step up because it enabled me to do or to, to, to show me that I could do other things.

Margaret Thompson  8:00  
Yes. Well, that was good money. Because when I went to New Zealand in 1947, I was getting 18 pounds a week. We will work realist because it realist had a it was across the board the job. What a good idea.

Yes, which was

very cool. From your point of view.

Frances Cockburn  8:28  
It's a good idea. We thought that

Unknown Speaker  8:53  
was the time

Frances Cockburn  9:02  
Yes, yes.

Unknown Speaker  9:08  
People today

Frances Cockburn  9:16  


Yes. I think he did his incident they haven't read the book about Mac don't read the scene where the thought the part where it was somebody passed out. Looking at the it was me.

Margaret Thompson  9:42  
Looking for

Frances Cockburn  9:43  
where we're looking at.

There is there is it was a

film on plastic surgery. And and I had stayed with this as far as I could. And I'm not not a passer out ever. But it was just too much Seeing this person's face so distorted and I just just think straight up for max

lift rescue me.

He's lovely man.

Margaret Thompson  10:17  
McAllister, Jess, is Don McAllister is his? I gather, because I I was I didn't really know him on on anything about them very much then. But I got this piece. He should have been getting a lot of credit for Jennings. Oh,

Frances Cockburn  10:39  
I think Stephanie on on on fires was started, particularly and I do have close knowledge of that is it was it was McAllister. Who who made that film? Yes. So the worst seven films. On the whole, I think editors, as such really didn't have much. It was the Dallas job in the whole of production. But none again, when the film was overshot or in compilations, then I think the editor

didn't get a chance to, to do something. But the more efficient directors became the more the tighter scripts became the less that was for nurses to do. I mean, you were you were a joiner really put it together as, as the sheets told you to

Margaret Thompson  11:29  
be accepted and introduced. Images of changes that yes, I think added trust or tightened up or?

Frances Cockburn  11:39  

I think that's true. I think I think that some somebody new if provided, provided you are new to it. I can see what is wrong. Which director might not have seen if there isn't anything wrong? Yes. Yes. Yes.

Well, I think people like zoom on. Yes. Because he was really shooting in a documentary way. I think it does depend on on how the film was shot.


Margaret Thompson  12:38  
Yes, sir. Man, was it happened with the chap who stated? Do you know that then? Well, he was there. And it was he who introduced Korea to the theme of the Serb man, when you think the editing that film episode, man tune is essential to that film isn't Yes, it

Frances Cockburn  13:10  
is absolutely. As indeed the film too. It was so high noon the other day. I was felt the nursing degrees is there. But I felt that high noon. Although it's it's a film I adore was was shot on the cheap. And I can't help feeling that it was pulled together by an editor. Because there's so many things about it that just didn't seem to fall into place. And in fact, when I first saw it, I remember thinking, that's a mess. It's saved by the music.

I don't think it now because obviously the more you look at this film, more how how intricate it is. But on but there isn't this this element

Margaret Thompson  13:58  
of luck and the music is together.

Frances Cockburn  14:02  
But I can't help think I don't know what is true. We've interesting to know whether it's true. Is that the that somebody looked, I've always felt that somebody must have looked at that film in rough curtains and my goodness, what are we going to do? Somebody so let's have a tune. This

Margaret Thompson  14:18  
drove into

Frances Cockburn  14:20  
the holiday and I hadn't seen

Margaret Thompson  14:21  
the horses. Yes, yes.

Frances Cockburn  14:27  
I didn't, but I'll have a look. I have taped it.

Yes. Because I suppose Gary Cooper was very ill at the time.

Which would, I think you said, you say no. In fact, you refuse to use makeup. No, I wonder why I should think probably because he was no longer able to make the effort.

It just took too much time. It's

interesting to note, I'd love to. I think Gary Cooper was, was a considerable actor. I think he's always been underrated. And I'd love to have a look at all the other films too. None of them were not all but they weren't very good. Weren't highly rated films. But he came across with tremendous impact. I was thought in all of them. And I'd love to have a we will have a retrospective have a retrospective on on on on the films he was in.

Well, after reverse Oh yes. at Riverside the dreaded note came back and said you've left the craft Film Unit where you're doing national service will you please report production national national service again so I

called them up called a marshal and remember, we were sending Mr. Crown when I sinned and I went away from crown I'm now back into a terrible problem. And he said only golf we're going to do so he got me. He got Wednesday's advanced in

Division time in PMI. And I was given

a series of films to do and put with us I was asked which which company I'd like to be with and I would either Merton Park, or worldwide, well, I at the time was living at denim. And I thought well, which of those is preferred to let me go on the cutting room with Dennis you know, why such things faces determine? And so I was put with worldwide to make the series on the war in Europe and the war in,

in, in in the Far East.

And I really wasn't equipped to do this, but I did have I had had the advantage I was really inspired by Frank Capra's Why We Fight the series, which was to mine mine the model of what what I would do but from from the British point of view. And this was I think, where an editor did come in I mean, I thought thought that this was an opportunity for an answer is that it was all compilation. And really, with with the with the cat Pro Series in, in, in my mind and and helping me on, I made these and then there was a greater show muscled in which I later would understand absolutely within the civil service because Sidney Bernstein had very kindly in response to call the marshals be given me a job and of course, the civil service doesn't work like this. And in the end, despite a great deal of difficulty, a lot of lot of interviews,

Margaret Thompson  18:21  
you mean that you'd gone to worldwide but the job would come to you personally

Frances Cockburn  18:24  
had come to me personally and, and Sidney Bernstein was in the position of having to make me Give back my contract and renegotiate the contract deals But really, the upshot of it was that it all worked out all right. But it was a which was because the civil service always says you know the contract as a suit in accordance with the rules and this was right against anyhow it saved me and I'm grateful to both of them. Let's go to Marshall and

Anthony Bernstein

Oh, did a lot myself.

Margaret Thompson  19:13  
Production controlling facility

Frances Cockburn  19:15  
No, I was I was I was taken on as an individual. I wasn't

Margaret Thompson  19:20  
meant in the in the in the EMI.

Frances Cockburn  19:23  
No, I was never in the EMI

Margaret Thompson  19:25  
making them for the

Frances Cockburn  19:27  
I was making the four films division of the fly but i was i was a contractor. And I was just put under the


nothing. I had Nothing. Absolutely nothing I just sent off into the blue. And I and I and I sort of sat there in the cutting room for I goodness knows how long know I worked to worldwide but you see I was working on my own. And I used to have an occasional visit from somebody who was the guy he met Jimmy Carter type, somebody called him his lead guy who was I think the finance officer at the time. He was to come down and see me from time to time to see how I was getting on. And then I would go up and take the rough cut off. It was all a very haphazard affair. And I can't think how we will did it. But anyhow, that's how I did. But the upshot of it was that that when that came to an end, I was somehow taken on by worldwide. I mean, I was already taken on by worldwide, but there was no reason why I should have been kept on. And then but I was and then I worked with worldwide for for 11 years, I just ended up supervising as a worldwide and the undefeated as a film I greatly enjoyed working on with Paul Dixon. Dixon was another one who used to fly into these furys like Humphrey Jennings. Yes, it's something in the film industry that does this. And I'm surprised that you haven't run up against it. I saw a lot of it

Margaret Thompson  21:06  
was paraplegic. Yes.

Frances Cockburn  21:10  
No, I think, brilliant piece of thinking, too. Planning? Yes. No, I think that that is a film I enjoyed editing.

Margaret Thompson  21:21  
Yes, it is

Frances Cockburn  21:23  
very much. I will see that. And Paul Dixon, it was always It was a surprise, in fact that Paul Dixon left because he made he made not only the undefeated, he made a wonderful film about a Welsh minor, David. And then Paul Dixon was, I think, lured away into making commercials or involved is something in Hollywood, I can't remember now. But the thing was, it seemed to me that Paul was was going away from a region in which he could really be supreme into something where he will be just another man, just another director. And this is what seemed to me to happen, because I don't think he ever I may be wrong. I'm just out of date, but then ever did anything after that. No, and if he'd stayed in documentary, he would have been, he would have been remembered at Salford Jennings is remembered. And I thought it was a great waste of talent that he should leave. Jackson was ruined by went to Hollywood and sat around doing nothing destroyed.

Margaret Thompson  22:56  
Well, of course, he wasn't really a documentary director. Well, he left to go to the army film.

Unknown Speaker  23:19  

Frances Cockburn  23:34  
Yes. Yes. Wonderful.


But I didn't know is what you're doing now. Tennessee. I remember him very well. Yes, well, he's got a lot of talent to pass on.

Unknown Speaker  24:16  
Because he worked

Unknown Speaker  24:37  
cheap as possible options.

Frances Cockburn  24:49  
It's interesting, because some pie was felt that he was wasted talent. I didn't at all. I did chemistry between Jimmy and on me was just wrong was wrong?

I don't know. I just Yes, I don't I don't know. I wouldn't. I didn't. I don't know that he was difficult. But I just think that we did not get on and how we spent 11 years ago, I feel quite sure. But I say glad to go. Yes, there was a lot of films. In fact, I tell you that the I can't remember now. But there's some extraordinary statistic and I do know Peter nobles book of the film industry. There is a there is um, Peter now. Yes. VSP. There is a book of, of there's a directory of everybody. And I think I'm in that and I think there's something like 300 films are something that was when one way or another responsible for and a lot of, but I can't remember it. I mean, it would one would have to look it up in in, in that book

Margaret Thompson  26:44  
from Jimmy Carr.

Frances Cockburn  26:46  
Johnny price, of course, was the price. Yes, Gianni price was very nice. They all were they all were in fact, I mean, Jimmy Carr was It's just that I that somehow or other and I just didn't couldn't, couldn't hit it off. We didn't not hit it off. It's just that one was never I didn't think were either was comfortable in the other's presence. But I was a supervising editor for a long time. So we must get on it somehow. Yes, that was actually that was there was some curious things that because in Soho then it was still when when that when the leaders were on on the street. And my cutting room was in in old Compton Street, the door under which the doors were always clustered, one or two of the girls. And the the office was in, in Soho square, and we use theatres in Water Street. So I was all often in the position of walking with film cans under my arm to either a theatre or, or to go and see Jimmy Carter at Soho square. And the number of times that people used to sort of fall in beside me was sort of trying to sort of

Margaret Thompson  28:13  
wrestling money

Frances Cockburn  28:19  
or making a hideous mistake. And what was so extraordinary was that the number of people whom I would have said if I'd met them in other circumstances would never ever have had anything to do with a prostitute just like the

Margaret Thompson  28:35  
but on the other hand, Francis agreed agree that so who was an absolutely safe place in Alaska is a rental in manly but oh

Frances Cockburn  28:45  
no, no, I never felt Yeah. It's just just was comic rally. No, I never felt risk. Even go even leaving that place late at night. You know, I used to park my cars to drive up and I was living in another Park. And I used to drive up in an open car and park it outside the door. And it would be unlocked on any shopping. I had to be in it and stay there all day until I went home at night. Nothing was finished. The car was never damaged in any way. All lunches ready. Would you like to Tony and I got on very well with him.

Yes, yes.

He was very much a loner. And not a not a man that I think you will definitely know very well. But I think in a working relationship Yes, I think Old age, I can't. There's a woman

Margaret Thompson  30:13  
who came from Ireland.

Frances Cockburn  30:17  
Oh, Mary Francis. Yes. Very frosty. Yes. Very fraught. Yes, yes. loveless as I remember her. Now who?

Margaret Thompson  30:33  
Shawn Rhoden was?

Frances Cockburn  30:34  
JOHN Roden. Yes, I got a cup full of his coat in black and white foil. Put a few words back because I just can't remember. We were

Unknown Speaker  31:13  

Frances Cockburn  31:17  
I can't remember the tremendous number of films I remember combined operations was filmed as an on for a very long time. Which again, was compilation. I think I always thought that the as far as an editor is concerned, that's compilation in documentary that gave the editor most chance. Whereas I think that most directors wanted to edit their own films, and quite rightly, why shouldn't actually who was there Robin Carruthers, to ever hear of him now? To the film called Dan tomorrow, about the Middle East.

Margaret Thompson  31:54  
He lived out in the Middle East for a long

Frances Cockburn  31:56  
time. I think it is in the distance. Yes, I think he did. Yes. Yes. I know. They went off to Ray Fleming. When was that? He shot a lot of it in the Sudan. And yes, he was. No, he was. He was a he was an assistant director. Yes, I think, production assistant. Anyhow, he went to, he went to the COI. A year before I did. Angus Ross, rang him up and asked him to go there. And he said, No, the first time the year later, Angus, I think asked him again. And he went and he went to the production control officer. A year later, he he said to me, why don't you come and join us? And, and I did. And it was, it was a major step for me I thoroughly. I mean, it was it was the beginning of, I think the best time in my working life. And I think one of the things that struck me was having suddenly been referred to a certain amount of chaos. in this industry of wasting way films were made, suddenly was faced with the very first film I was asked to be involved with, I was faced with a piece of paper, which said, What is the purpose of making this film? What is its intended effect? And on whom? And it was that absolutely stunning question to have to answer because we used to answering questions like, does that mean my lot to do so? Of course, but it did seem to me that they are on the suddenly in a business where things were being done for a well defined purpose. That is what I found interesting of that.

Margaret Thompson  33:58  

Frances Cockburn  34:00  
Yes, I would like to just go back to Pinewood for a little while.

Margaret Thompson  34:05  
You can compare if there isn't any comparison you could make between the MLR and the COI.

Frances Cockburn  34:12  
Yes. Yes. Well, I think I didn't know enough I mean, when I think about the omoi I suppose, it was making films for the EMI when I was outside the FBI. But I think that this the COI the central office was a very different organs, I mean, after the MMI in wartime was really being run by the top top brass of the film industry. Whereas in peacetime top brass goes back to its proper job, and the film's division was was rarely in the hands of civil servants. But I'm joined by a lot of film people. I mean, films division was a remarkable place in this and that there was some luck. JOHN Langston was the director of films division when I first went there. And I said earlier, I was very lucky in the people I worked with. And he was a he was really a very testing man to work for, but at least you knew we were going because whatever decision you may do, you have to be able to stand up and defend it, which I think did shock. no end. Five o'clock. Five o'clock. He was Churchill's press officer, information officer. Prior to that, yes, he was he was, he was a very good man to, to, to, to work for because you could always go to five o'clock and sort things out. But films. Well, the, the, the, the, the production control people. Well, there was Ray Fleming. JOHN ball. Derek main. Derek main was at the GBI at one stage, I'm not in my time, but he was. And Ray Fleming and me, Rosie brownrigg. And we were the john Langston was the was the was the Director of the Division and at that time, we were making raw this will standard documentaries. I don't need to call them doc documentaries, instructional films, really. And a few fillers on road safety fillers by fillers what we meant was what you'd say commercials today. But they had a style that was different from commercials. And they were run by the BBC and the and and ITV at the time. a certain amount of time was was given as a sort of goodwill gesture also because I think they didn't sell all the advertising space and so on public service themes you fill us with a nice This was one of my tasks I seem to be involved with more fillers there anything else. Then we went to made the move from from Baker Street to this

Margaret Thompson  37:47  
new building.

Frances Cockburn  37:50  
Building with terrible it's terrible noisy building, as all the noises seem to come up through the, through the pipes, what we were doing lives that were not happy, not a good building, but nonetheless is where we were. And Ray, john Langston went blind and went over to radio division. And then rave briefly became head of overseas production and I was was a little non theatrical

Margaret Thompson  38:27  
production, theatrical production at all.

Frances Cockburn  38:31  
Well, it depends what you mean by theatrical. I mean, a lot of the newsreels for example, were shown theatrically throughout Africa, what they mostly tended was that there was one or two magazine programmes made specially for for for television, and showing in other parts of the world. And the COI, the film's division at that time, broke down almost media into two and there was a home home production which made perfect public service films. And then of course, we went into making commercials and advertising agents came into our lives. And we were in charge was always I think, a bone of contention between the advertising industry and and the COI that they thought up the ideas but we infect control. We we control the production. And the first for the first Jim Jimmy Savile seatbelt films were made at that time. Andrei Fleming, as I say was in charge of all the overseas production at that stage. I was in charge of production on the home side. Then re Fleming moved up to be overseas controller, because the COI is the hierarchy of the COI at that time, I think probably still is, was that there was a director general than two controllers, the overseas controller and the home controller and it meant just that all overseas material would come under one and all home the other by this would be all divisions

Margaret Thompson  40:25  
as the film's division so

Frances Cockburn  40:26  
not only because the COI is made up of publications division, advertising division, and Photographs Division,

Margaret Thompson  40:36  
how about

Frances Cockburn  40:36  
distribute our Yes, distribution was a was I think part of the production division in all case, or cases, press Library Reference Library. So we have a number of or a number of divisions of which films was one. And Ray Fleming went up to be overseas controller.


then john bukh, became the director and I became Deputy Director. And then the Charles boats now became director. When there was the other way around, Charles Bhutto became director, and then buga. And then when Giambi left, I became director, director, oh, I suppose about mid 70s, early 70s, about 72, something like that. But I think that the very enjoyable part of it was, in fact being in charge of of production for that, because we made the first films of the role tours, the first was it nowadays, I mean, when the Queen goes overseas, I mean, anybody can sort of poke a camera in her face. In those days, it felt that if she was going to do an overseas tour, and he was these were her, I think her first tours to India, Pakistan, Nepal, and Iran. And it was decided that somebody from the COI should, since the CIA was responsible for making the films that somebody from the COI should go and generally control the production and I and I went and a good couple of years move couple of movies on camera, man, and the sound and the sound and yes, what you can what you do in a case like that, I mean, you can hardly a Director of Operations for what you can do is to look through the programme. And know, I mean, you know, in advance what you want to get out of it, and just say, look, let's cover this, and so on, and insofar as you can control it. And then of course, when you get back into cutting, then you can't control it or put it together. But that was that was an interesting

Margaret Thompson  43:18  
time. Would you have from above? dericks.

Frances Cockburn  43:27  
Well, what you read him would you are you have tremendous Will you had tremendous freedom provided you decided you did what you was required to do. I mean, it was first the the briefing was very strict. I suspect stricter than than then then outside. So I But you knew exactly why the film was being made, who it was going to be distributed to and what you're supposed to achieve with it. So I revised you kept within those limits and provided you didn't overshoot the budget, which of course, right thing with any government department have you were the dreaded word in any government department just nugatory expenditures, you get your head cut off for that. But the thing that I suppose that I valued most or whenever big when Okay, the Director of the Division was that I thought that the the films that programmes who were making were being shown on overseas television were, I thought very good. They were being made by an excellent team. And there was a brief at that time for us to get ourselves on primetime television overseas. And really, this is a very difficult thing to achieve. Because you really can't go to a to an overseas television station and say please put this on primetime afterwards piece of British propaganda. So here's how The ideal maybe the thing to do is try and set up a co production. And this is quite hard for, for a government, Department of Defence, because how much control if you've got over the production, supposing it goes wrong and becomes anti British. But that worked. But more than that, we then found ourselves in the position of why not hand hand the budget as it were, to, to to the to the production company. It was his television company, with a result that they made a better pro British film than we would ever have been able to me they said things about us that we would never have been able to say for ourselves without appear to be boasting. And we got on primetime.

Margaret Thompson  45:54  
chapron versatile.

Frances Cockburn  45:57  
COMM Well, they will use Rei in Italy, when I remember doing a tour through without them lease was still up. We went right through Europe, we went to Rome and talk to our Rei we went to Paris, talk to television there we went to Frankfurt.

Margaret Thompson  46:26  
We would talk to them about something they want to do something.

Frances Cockburn  46:31  
Well, we were, we were we were doing several things we were promoting the sorts of material that we had. And because in addition to the, to the films I'm mainly talking about, we also had a newsreel service, which was really short piece of news items as you would get on television here, a news item comes in from from, say, France and you would show it's their material. We were doing the same thing, newsreel material, just just a section, which would be incorporated into their news costs. So we're promoting that. But the the main thing we were trying to do was to get overseas television stations to make films about Britain, showing how splendid Britain was. And this was, this was the most effective way to do it, just to help them with the money and get them to do it. Because they can say things that we could never say about ourselves. So instead of turning into a piece of propaganda, it was a piece of useful information coming other way. So that was the other thing that I very much wanted to do. And because we did make, we made Tomorrow's World on which you see on BBC, we had Tomorrow's World for promoting British trade and science. But ciments this was this was of newsreel total dead tomorrow. And that was going overseas. And I was made for a long time by at least it was extremely well made. One of my ambitions was to try and make to sell these because after all, if you can sell a television programme to an overseas television organisation, they're going to use it because they bought it. And it seems to me much better to do it that way. So but you've never had this, this label of British propaganda on it. And it didn't actually happen in my time. But I believe now that film's division is entirely self supporting. So it was an ambition that eventually not in my hands, but carefully but the man who succeeded me as as director of that division rang me up one day and said, well, Francis, you your ambition has come through. We are now self supporting and I believe on a tremendous scale. I believe it's a very good, good commercial issue. He should talk to them about that.

Margaret Thompson  49:27  
Now when I had to do was a CSI, most films are made with government departments. Yes, like Minister of Health, yes. Even if of watching brief on Oh, yes. I mean, that would be they would, they would organise whatever they want. And you would just see that it was done to their specifications. Well,

Frances Cockburn  49:54  
they don't be two ways of doing it. There were some departments that kept them own had the money but for most most of the departments and during and most of the time it's not true that no it's gone back to an original system but when I was the CEO I held the money and the government each each year government departments would put up their proposals a sum of money for each department and the department would put up its proposals as to what what one don't want wanted done with that money. Yes. The COI would then commission the work from from you perhaps and then see that it was for filming to this songs it's see that it met its what its purpose is and was then shown to the

Unknown Speaker  50:56  
to the

Margaret Thompson  50:58  
but then when you get got big nationalised industries like cobalt transport, they will be self contained. Oh, yes, yes.

Frances Cockburn  51:10  
I didn't come out. No, no, no, the COI was just purely there to promote government or non government within industry.

Frances Cockburn  0:01  
Find an anecdote for your partners you

Unknown Speaker  0:03  
have gained

Margaret Thompson  0:03  
a level that would you like to say real thrilled cassette 2 continuation of Francis Coburn's interview. Yeah, we were talking about the nationalised industries. Yes,

Frances Cockburn  0:22  
I'm sport that they, they were really, I they were in a whole different channel, I think for us, although if they had a story that was suitable for our distribution, we would certainly distributed for them. And of course, a lot of their films would have been distributed overseas by us. And insofar as they were, they wouldn't didn't have their own distribution, they might well have gone into the central film library, which of course, is yes. But the was one point one it might might might say is, there is a tremendous difference between making television films for home and for overseas. And I do remember, an occasion when we made a, we were making a series for New York television. And one of them one of the series was in primary education. And the normal procedure was this was for the Foreign Office. So therefore, it was for an overseas audience, in this case, an American audience. And the idea was that we ourselves made these films a lot of them were  made internally for overseas merely because we knew an overseas audience. And somebody, a representative from the Department of Education in this time would see you through the script, and so on. But the point of all this is that, but unlike most departments were quite content to let their Information Officers deal with all this. Margaret Thatcher was, was Minister of Education Secretary of State then. And she insisted on coming to see this. And whether her information officer had not briefed her, and I suspect he had, or whether she just saw this as an opportunity to use the film intended for overseas for distribution in the UK. whether this was a willful thing or not, I have no position to know. But the outcome outcome was that she burst into a rage about about this and said this was no good for for her schools and so on. As I tried to explain that it wasn't intended for schools, it was intended for overseas television. And this went on in the end, we had a most  tremendous bust up. And there was a little screaming match. And they in in the in the theatre . And I waited all the time for her, instruct her information officer to say something but of course he wouldn't. And as I had to as it were live with him, on the next day, I really wasn't prepared to wasn't able to just say, look here, you've been through. what she was saying was that you've made this film without proper supervision without consulting my department, when in fact sitting between us was the man who had who had been our liaison officer all the way through but he stayed very silent. So did everybody else. And the there was an ambassador there. That was the, I think, certainly was the head of the Foreign Office information. Our liaison officers there. The overseas controller was there, everybody stayed absolutely quiet. While she and I hammered it out. And in the end, she got up and stormed out there and I went out with her and, and I saw her into her car and she got into a car, she wound down her window and she said I hope you won't think too badly. of me

said it's too late to say

this, I knew we were both so thoroughly badly behaved.

And afterwards, I should think so after that I was sent for and I said do you ,  really cannot squabble with secretaries of state. And I said, Well, nobody else said anything. Nobody else was defending our position and it was left to me to do it. I know that perhaps it's a little bit out of control, but then she was out of control. But I turned around to Ray Fleming and said Why didn't you speak up? He said we all thought it was better to let the gale break out.

Margaret Thompson  4:36  
how bizarre?

Frances Cockburn  4:44  
I suppose it's better once I mean, I'd gone to the slaughters him as well. No, no.

It must have been a big budget.

Yes, we have in my time mostly it's it's probably 10 times that now but in By time we had a budget of four and a half to 5 million a year. And I think so just to give you a statistic we were producing 17 hours of television per week, when you think that's quite a lot to produce every week, and that's to say nothing of what was being produced for home in the way of road safety and health subjects, specialised

Margaret Thompson  5:25  

Frances Cockburn  5:26  
subjects made

Margaret Thompson  5:30  
Tell me what happened to there was a minister of education once wasn't her Ministry of Education

Frances Cockburn  5:39  
as well as Department of Education Yes.

Margaret Thompson  5:43  
Do they did they in your day? That was my route by you?

Frances Cockburn  5:47  
That's right. Well, that was my role with Margaret Thatcher when she was Secretary of State for education as it became of course and this was a this was a film for years overseas television but was was she was the subject department hers was the subject department Yes, yes. No, we made them I mean all all all government departments had their own needs and we just we just made that made the films to fit as far as we could their needs. But it did mean it was a very interesting life because going I mean, I remember doing a trip through Africa looking at the really trying to find out which was the best medium of those I was concerned with for say Africa. I mean, television is usually said to be the the best but in Africa Of course then it was not because there were very few television sets. But there were cinemas everywhere. And so we we made material for the cinemas and it was interesting. I remember getting into one cinema I can't run Botswana I think now and seeing a whole pile of our fill our newsreels and and films is stacked up in the corner of the projection room. And it was it was something like three years supply and I said to the projectionists what do you what do you do with all these? He said, Oh, well I put them on when I think so I said what they come in every week for you to to see it to his will and I put them on just as I think if I if I was one I like I play it over and over again. And then he went on to tell me that about the power of television because very often I think this projection is for all sorts of managers but no I think this and this is that this is true but in this case one but he did say that I said well how effective is he is this he doesn't matter he said they are so keen and everybody comes and everybody loves it and it doesn't really matter where they're seeing the same thing over and over again It means a great deal to them. And he went on to say that how that the main feature of of that was running with our our newsreel was supporting was a long running Indian serial. And in when in one of the one of the favourite characters in the serial got killed in one of the one sequence and so enraged were the were the audience that they rushed off to the the the manager the cinema and he had to escape for through a back door because it was thought that he was responsible for the death. So in the best suit, I'm sure it's so much more sophisticated now than it was then. But we also went i'd also remember going up to to Kenya to make a film about modern technology to in mainly in agriculture showing modern modern methods. And I do you remember the the the director and I were went up to the Naluki? to to see some people there. And on the way back, we realised we'd gone on the wrong road. And so we were trying to turn round and in the process of turning round, we got the car absolutely stuck broadside across road miles and miles from everywhere. And just it wouldn't start and out of  the bush came on a Masai dressed in a sack and looked at us and looked under the engine under the bonnet and looked all around and eventually went around to the back of the car and discovered that in fact, the director had backed into the side of the bank and had filled the exhaust pipe up with with earth and of course the car would not start so he fished all this out and tapped us on the shoulders and went off and we're out here to teach them

no it was it was a good life. Because some one knew why one was making films and knew what sort of films and it did give them a chance to see how they were being received overseas. Like one of the great dangers is to make last plaster wall industry to is to make something for someone else to use, and you don't know what their circumstances are. So I must say  enjoyed that very much in America. Yes, I mean, the New York office, of course, was it was a law unto itself, because the the they've got a very sophisticated audience in America. And the sort of material that they wanted was with it, they they control their production, through us much more closely than anybody else did. For anywhere else in the world, that the judgement would be taken by the Foreign Office of which was our sponsoring department. And we have a sort of array, everything we made was looked at every, every everything went out with looked at by somebody from the Foreign Office, for overseas, but when it came to New York, New York itself would. Well, I mean, we've sent them, they used to tell us what they wanted, and we used to shoot it. It was that that way round, rather than us making material to send out they said what they wanted, and the way we shot everything mattered to to New York, it had to be shot in us in a in a really very special way.

Unknown Speaker  11:26  
offices in other countries.

Frances Cockburn  11:29  
No, no yes we were, there is a there's an Information Office in every in every embassy and every consulate

that went through,

no, yes. I mean, they they everything went out to them. And they would they were responsible for distribution. And they were also they would report back and say something is working or is not working. So they will departed depended entirely upon the the local embassy as to whether the material was successful or not. Then we sort of went around and had a look, look at the television stations, ourselves from time to time.

Unknown Speaker  12:08  
It was a technical software as well.

Frances Cockburn  12:11  
Yes. Yes. Rozzie Brownwick?was head of the technical section for a long time, she was very good producer. And this was

Unknown Speaker  12:18  

Frances Cockburn  12:20  

there are a lot of the well there were two theatres to to run. And there was a huge number of vaults that was

Margaret Thompson  12:34  
storage and distribution, film technicians as well and cameraman,

Frances Cockburn  12:40  
no, no, no. We had a, we had a production, we had a production staff, in fact, for overseas production, but never for home. Because the home industry documentary industry was was set up when we there was the obvious thing was was to use use them. And there was no way in which we could we could do that, that ourselves but what we did do largely because of speed. And and because because of making things for an overseas audience. And it is it is a special you do have a special knowledge when you when you're producing material for overseas all the time, and the information is being fed back to you through the embassies and through the Foreign Office and so on. And it's much quicker to make it yourself  than to farm it out, because there are all sorts of I think it's really when you're making something for overseas, you can't take things for granted. When you can make something is as high as St Paul's next question, what is St Paul's? But that is the sort of thing that you would put into a commentary for home and assume that everybody would know and when they would know. But it's surprising how how little you can infer there was somebody one of somebody had in an office one of the offices there was a big placard that said what do they think of it and Tegucigalpa and how many people who went into the office would know whereTegucigalpa was anyway. So this is it. You see what you've just had to know. Yes.

Margaret Thompson  14:19  
And did you translate into different languages? 

changed. proposal cinemas take very much of that sort of material to think so.

Frances Cockburn  15:10  
Well, it just depends where the cinemas are. I mean, I don't know what the up to date position in Africa is. But

Margaret Thompson  15:18  
I actually think they're really documentary.

Frances Cockburn  15:20  
No, no.

It? No, that none of that would go in the, in the cinemas, I think. Except, of course, well, I can remember some commercials being made for cinemas, but they would be on on subjects likes, right. Or this anti smoking or anti something I or other

Unknown Speaker  15:47  
the claim? Who knows? So going?

Frances Cockburn  15:49  
Yes, it was and it was the easiest of all departments because it had such a clear brief. You always knew exactly. It was a very narrow, brief and doing making things, especially for well, colonies you managed to get out into into Commonwealth countries and to foreign countries. It will awful ot to take into account because it's much broader. Brief, it's a brief, it's less easy to satisfy. But the newsreels went to the code, which went through the Colonial Office. Shall we

Margaret Thompson  16:38  
account for what you said, but but do you use to satellites? Or you had the option of using the satellites? Is that correct? And I've got it wrong.

Frances Cockburn  16:51  
I, we may very well have done. I don't I don't remember we would have no idea. I'm not sure about that, though, don't they do?

Speaker 3  17:02  
it? I mean, going on with it become rubbish? Yes. half million in those days with equipment was 45 million.

Frances Cockburn  17:14  
Yes. Not only one division. On top of that, there was there was a advertising division at that time had a had a budget in excess of that five or 6 million a year.

Unknown Speaker  17:26  
Yes. You know, fulfilling a

Frances Cockburn  17:28  
very big Yes, yes. But a huge outfit, huge output.

Margaret Thompson  17:32  
And you had to be very careful with it. Oh, absolutely. Yes, we all knew, I mean, we knew that we couldn't expect great riches from making films

Frances Cockburn  17:44  
had to be cost effective. And it had to be you had to be very sure that what what you were putting out wasn't going to offend anybody overseas. Or it was very easy to, to, to, to make a mistake, even for something for home in a few. I mean, for instance, when when it came up to election time, we always withdrew all the the first first as soon as an election was announced, or we got an information about it. All the fillers and commercials that might have might be in any way political, although they're never supposed to be political. You just got to look at them very carefully. And they were just withdrawn until after the until after the election. So they're very, very, very careful like that. And

Margaret Thompson  18:39  
I guess you'd have been more careful than say the BBC is

Frances Cockburn  18:43  
the BBC doesn't have to be?

Margaret Thompson  18:45  
Well, in a way they

Frances Cockburn  18:48  
are independent when we went to London.

Speaker 3  18:52  
You know, most people say rude things about the civil service, but you seem to have

Frances Cockburn  18:55  
I just Well, I think it is the it's, it's I found the civil service working in. I mean, I don't know what it would have been like in another department. But working in the department I worked in, gave you a free mind to use whatever ability you had was freedom. I mean, there was a it was a well ordered state. The finances certainly were very strictly controlled. Well, why not? You could produce a very good effect with very, very little money. And you and and you were encouraged to to, to think in a way that I didn't feel that I'd ever been encouraged before in the film industry, largely because it's just dispense from the job you're doing in the film industry. I was editing. And I stopped mid said you don't have to think when you're editing of course you do but there is a kind of there isn't an outfit for ideas in ci that I hadn't found anywhere else. Or maybe I just had to arrive at the right time that suited me. I don't know. But and of course, you are supported by by a very competent lot of people who knows, who knows how things are done and who are working with good well trained lines. And also you are in touch with people who have got well trained minds when it got to. We did one time we did. It's done. Now, but we did the first interviews with ambassadors training, training ambassadors to go overseas while you're already dealing with somebody was with a fairly good mind. Or even if even if he's been going to be trained to, to know how to counter a difficult interview interviewer on television, you're still dealing with a with a pretty well trained mind and people like that to

Unknown Speaker  20:59  
deal with to deal with.

Frances Cockburn  21:01  
Yeah, yes, yes, yes.

Unknown Speaker  21:03  
It's a small studio where you

Frances Cockburn  21:07  
know, we didn't we didn't have we didn't have a studio we went out to where as you would go out and use a theatre. So we went out and hired a studio and did it was in it was a it was a sub country contracted. I mean, it was a studio where there was everything there, including a director, but the the first the first interviews were done by, by by us. And of course, why don't suppose we knew enough about it at the time. But we all learn together. We knew we knew more. Yes. And Matter of fact, there was a very famous American one went to America green, green one man's mind goes. And he was very I remember he arrived at the studio and I met him on him out of his car, and took him in and went through. And he was very reluctant. He thought he just felt the whole thing was a waste of time. And as he came out, and I saw him into his car, he turned when he said, I didn't realise there was so much to learn. And


it No, it was it was a very rewarding. There are lots of little funny little things that happen. I remember staying up past the night with Duncan Sandys on some films he wanted to make. And it was to be an interview with Mrs. Nehru, who was I think then the Indian High Commissioner in London. And we were all set up, we'd all been terribly tired. Looking at the the focus he was he was like a filmmaker, he just wanted to change every single shot. And this was a film that was going out for overseas. And the next day, we had this, this interview with her, she turned up and he didn't. And we waited and she waited and she got cross her cross. And he didn't turn off at all. So eventually, the next day when when she went out, she went home she had enough and managed to get hold of Duncan Sandys  and said, you know, do you know that they were supposed to have had an interview? I never knew from his reply whether he meant he did know or he had forgotten. But what he did say to me is what do I do now? So I said I think you go out and buy a dozen roses and send them to her at once.

Unknown Speaker  23:42  
More How do people like that take you to the ATM to deal with.

Frances Cockburn  23:46  
Oh, well harold Macmillan I did. I mean I didn't do the interview. Robert McKenzie always did the interviewing but the we'd had these transatlantic television shows, which were done originally by Ray Fleming and somehow came into my orbit at one time. And the terrible Harold Macmillan when he was foreign secretary. And he and I sat on a chair like this about the size on on a stool just like this with his his very considerable bottom and mind sort of thrown to the only place for sinners. That was the that was the day I locked Lady  Dorothy in a cupboard It was too awful. She was not at all keen to have have us there. And this was in Carlton House Terrace. And we just we were this was what she was objecting to was the cameras moving over her carpets. And we'd sort of got we were just about ready to go. And she and it was a room  should say surrounded by doors were piles of doors all round around it. And she came in just as we were going on and I said  you mind getting in there and open the door I pushed her in. Only when the tape was over I opened the door  realised locked her in the cupboard. I saw.

I thought it was another room

So this was a steaming lady came up. She was she was very forgiving, because I think she knew that it was a genuine mistake. You can make awful. But no, I know. I didn't. I mean, we did but not in not in my day went to Downing Street once  to do the set up an interview. I know that was a big fuss because we were going to use James Mossman. And it wasn't acceptable. Who was the Prime Minister? I can't remember it could have been Wilson, I can't remember now.

Unknown Speaker  25:55  
You did you have much trouble with politicians?

Frances Cockburn  25:59  
No. No, we did interviews where we did interviews with them or for them rarely, we would just the servants really to do to do what we want to do. Barbara Castle was going for this example. Barbara Castle was going overseas. And I can't remember what her job was. But I think she went where the was she  Secretary of State for education at any time. Yes, I think she must be. No. Health. That's right. Because yes, right, because we made a film for her to take on the building of hospitals and the excellence of of the hospitals. And she was going to take this to the Middle East I think probably as a trade promotion effort. So when she came to see that she was entirely reasonable Nice, very nice person.

Speaker 3  26:54  
You can any catering from, from politicians on your work.

Frances Cockburn  27:00  
Only from Mrs. Thatcher

Margaret Thompson  27:03  
when I went out to New Zealand?

Frances Cockburn  27:09  
I I don't think so. I mean, I can remember a great. I mean, the people used to get upset if, if any one of our say fillers or commercials said something that was was anti another party. I mean, if you if it was for the  Tory party, that there might be somebody from the Labour Party who come up and say, Look, that's, that's not reasonable. And it's not true. And there'd be a bit of a flurry at the time, but nothing, nothing terribly offensive I

Speaker 3  27:38  
COI did come under attack politically, by the good side didn't get it?

Frances Cockburn  27:44  
Oh, yes. I mean, he's tried to close us down. In fact, it was one statistic I can give you is that, that I remember going up before some committee and and saying that, yes, whether the COI was was really efficient. And I remember being able to say that I'd been at the COI, I think 15 years and we'd been investigated 13 times in that time and come out sound each time so I think after this you probably can take it that it probably is efficient and worthwhile. But everybody had a had a go at it. He's tried to

Unknown Speaker  28:21  
close it down.

Frances Cockburn  28:23  
I think he's was very, I mean, there are people who know a great deal more about this than I do. But he's came to conclusion that the whole of the COI was a waste of time and we'd rather do without it. And and and there was another one of his own if he sent inspectors around to sort of see if they could demolish us. But of course the thing is that when you do this again and again, you all that happens is the COI becomes expert in defending itself. And you're wasting you're really training people to defend themselves and you're wasting everybody's time and money because the further you go on and what expect the expert they become defending themselves. And but I think in everything we did, we were always, always you always have to be able to defend what you were doing. And it was a very difficult position if you couldn't defend it.

Speaker 3  29:13  
Did you have any gaps without the current government abroad?

Frances Cockburn  29:18  
Oh, yes. Not No, no, I don't think we ever had any main ones. But I do remember we did a thing called roundabout which was excellent colour magazine, rather like a news reel. But but the magazine and I remember the the one that went to the, to the Gulf. I mean, there was always a great problem with the Gulf because the Iranians liked to call it the Persian Gulf and we are used to calling the Persian Gulf and of course the Arabs regarded as the as the Arabian Gulf. And I remember a tremendously angry Ambassador hurry where we generally the policy was you call it the Gulf but you know what the comments is it slips by the can the person in charge of production didn't didn't notice it at the time and called it the Persian Gulf because it was the thing that came easily to them. I think in fact, it was the commentators fault because I didn't think it was written. But he he just said it. And this thing stayed on there went out to to the Arab side. On the end, there was a very angry Ambassador on the phone saying you do this once more, I won't take any of your messes terribly, but it seems to him to see the tiny slip But if you if you're out if you're on the ground, it matters a lot. has to be

Unknown Speaker  30:37  
a delicate job.

Frances Cockburn  30:39  

Yes, it was, which was and this is what made it interesting,

Speaker 3  30:45  
especially with the tiny worldwide basis with all different susceptibilities. Yes.

Frances Cockburn  30:54  
Oh, yes. And of course there are the when you get overseas you are always surprised you go with certain preconceptions. I can remember going to New York. There  was a British week, and Prince Philip was opening it. And we had as the opening piece of four or five screen display of the guards marching across from screen to screen to screen. And we were rehearsing this, always think of the Americans as being the most efficient, certainly in the film industry. And the thing kept on going out of sync is How can this be going out of sync? It's nonsense. And I remember ringing up yet, which was thing they absolutely hate ringing across the Atlantic, saying my copies seemed to be out of sync. Why is it in fact, it was a separate soundtrack and and so they check the check the copies at home, no they are in sync. And, you know, I discovered that the the equipment that had been hired from a reputable New York company, they were controlling the synchronisation, synchronisation by hand with two knobs, trying to keep marching men in in step ,of course it was still going out. And I said, I said, well, let's have a look and see what your what your What are you running this on? And we're back in some tiny little room at the corner of the exhibition. There was this guy with these knobs, trying to keep them synchronised For heaven's sake, let's fire this lot and get a new lot. So we fired the  lot and we got a new lot. And of course, it was all right, the night before the fire department arrived.


could they could they see the person in charge of the operation? Yes. And he said, I'm afraid you won't be able to run because you're none of your film is fireproof. You mean fireproof, it's non flammable film. I flammable film copy. I said, so he took a piece of film and he put his his his lighter out. It just went woof like this. Oh, my God. Here we are. We open tomorrow. And this is non flam. I don't know steady on steady Just think this through. So I went to the projector and I got out a piece of film. And I tried to set fire to it and I couldn't. So I said to this man, where did you get this from? How can you set fire to it? He said well |I got it? So I got hold of Vis New York, which is the Information Office and I said, I got someone from the fire department saying that we can't open our film, his  just checked it. I've tried to set fire to it can't set fire to it. But he's got some he said, Look, he said is there for the payer, like just give the guy $5 and shut up. I said I can't give up do it. $5 and I'm a civil servant bribing another civil servant of another company or another country in a way can we do this? So they sort of a ground and sort of thing. So tedious.

This is the way the country works.

So I gave the guy $5. And he went away and I put it down on my expenses. Is bribery of New York Fire Department $5. And then the expense. And the accounts department came back and said we don't like this can you change it to something else? Can

you call it a taxi?

So I said no, that in the end because he did change it to taxi, but was very indignant. But this was some even I think some of the things you learn you arrive out in New York expect not expecting that. No, it was it was a interesting time.

Unknown Speaker  34:46  
Which year did you leave  in the end?

Frances Cockburn  34:49  
I think I left. I think I left in about 1974 or 76 something like that. It's quite a long time ago.

Unknown Speaker  34:57  
You were quiet?

Frances Cockburn  34:58  
No, I left two years. early because it was just Well, the family felt that I why on eatrh was I  still working there was no need and before fun to spend more time abroad within spent a certain amount of time abroad anyway, we had house elsewhere. And I went I suppose I was a bit sorry to go but you've got to go some time. I just went to two years early. But I did was the best part of my work was most interesting part of working life. Okay,

Margaret Thompson  35:46  
all right. Yeah.

I think it's remarkable how you came from films and accepted the civil service discipline. Like a duck to water ,

Frances Cockburn  36:00  
like, a civil servant

Margaret Thompson  36:03  
Interesting exam. I mean, not many people would, most people would bet against it, I'm sure. Because they're not been trained into it.

Frances Cockburn  36:12  
Yes, I like the order of it, which is probably something you said earlier on that I was obsessed with efficiency. Well, I wouldn't say it badly if no one's no

Margaret Thompson  36:20  
one's percent efficient. No, you respected, efficient. Well, I

Frances Cockburn  36:27  
was like, things that work. I still can't stand things that don't work. Uh huh. But I think that no, I liked I loved I loved I loved that part of the civil service. I also loved the I loved the travel I liked I like the way they were, like the whole organisation. How embassies work and

Margaret Thompson  36:50  
I imagine I imagine that the English Civil Service is different, say from the New Zealand civil service because when I went out to the film unit in New Zealand, the government filming I was appalled at the way the Labour Party used the film unit . No, absolutely blatantly. You mustn't ever criticise I had a housing estate. It had to be perfect. If you had any, any innovation of any content it had to be perfect , it was made by the Labour Party could was empower them then. And I thought this appalling

Frances Cockburn  37:29  
module there's been a there's been some talk recently some objections recently on the way these the COI has been used when the winds have been something in the in the paer and in the paper and there's something in Parliament about it.

Speaker 3  37:43  
I mean, Mr. Mrs Thatcher, in the whole of the information centre is controlled by

Frances Cockburn  37:50  
by 30. imprecisely Oh, yes. Yes. I mean, he's he's he's the head of the information service. Ingham Yes. Bernard Ingham

I mean, I read really well several people writing letters at the time and I wrote a letter saying I don't think this is this is right.

Margaret Thompson  38:15  
I thought it was appalling

Unknown Speaker  38:20  
in every day

Margaret Thompson  38:23  
even an interview with Wogan did Maggir Thatchers interview with Wogan was  party political broadcast. Kenny it really was.

Speaker 3  38:35  
I tell you one thing Try not to talk too at a time

Margaret Thompson  38:41  
sorry, very difficult.

Unknown Speaker  38:44  
converting it sorry. to reprimand you

Frances Cockburn  38:51  
Why will you talk for a bit I've run out of steam. I don't know where this was of any interest but I remember going to the palace the shows we've done on Prince Philip had been in the in the in the Pacific. And they've been a naval cameraman has shot a lot of material and we we put it together. It was my job to go and show it to the Prince Philip the at palace. And so I went because you know the film industry in fact gave it gave the Palace a cinema. You know that I'm sure. And that's a lovely room. And anyhow, so we ran through it and he was

very, he's very

perceptive about it. He knew and he re edited it when he has reset them. He just he just knew that much more about the material and than we did after all, he was there. And so they were halfway through this and the door opened and about 12 corgiso rippled through the door, followed by Queen we staggered  to our feet and, and the thing that surprised me about her. Remember, she was dressed in a pale blue dress with some pearls. And the thing that absolutely amazed me when she came in place was this fantastically beautiful skin. It doesn't mean I'm sure she maybe do one does notice it, but I had no idea that she it was some It was almost transparent for beautiful skin. And so she sat down and and looked at the rest of it. One or two. She's very funny, actually. Wonderful, caustic remarks.

Unknown Speaker  40:43  
Did you hear any other dealings with him on other films?

Frances Cockburn  40:49  
No, but of course, I went with the Queen to the on the on the on the royal tours overseas. In the first part, it was the royal party and it was that. Well, this is to India and Pakistan, and Nepal. And and I remember that tremendously long journey out to to Persepolis. And we stopped, there was really rather like it was almost like a for old historical camp, because there was the Queen and Prince Philip, and a mass of  pressmen and my unit, all sitting at tables out in the desert, having a having a drink of little orange adw and so on. And so before we all carry on, somebody gets up and somebody else gets up to spend a penny . And suddenly, it's, you know, you realise that everybody's the same. I remember she passed our table and I used to think was Kelly who was

his principal, it's

not hers, his and she gets such a look with this long drink. And she said, there's no stop between now and Persepolis felt unsafe to drink the rest of our drinks after that. So she has a she is she's much man. I know. Not that I've claimed to know her at all. But she is much sharper and wittier than than you would think because he often looks those stand, doesn't she? but  she is quite good. I think

Unknown Speaker  42:46  
you get to know

Frances Cockburn  42:48  
what you don't get. You can never quite get to know them, but you will see them they know who you are. I mean, for instance, the Queen's press secretary called me Fanny  and I mean, I had the name fanny at the palace just forever after I mean that I was just that Fannie Coburn. So they have a tremendous some way of making everybody feel at ease. You've just they just they just absorb you into the into the family because the the the press office is always very

Margaret Thompson  43:15  

Frances Cockburn  43:16  
at making everybody feel at ease. And they've got these tremendous memories. I mean, they just the Royals,

yes. And they can't say you get to know them, but they know who you areI think they wouldn't know know who I liked for doing that trip. They knew who I was.

But it was it was wonderful. I was that was the time when they went off. Tiger shooting I think it was when I remember. I think it was when Hume came out and really didn't want to shoot put on his elephant and told to shoot a  Tiger

which is rather difficult because there's considerable

Unknown Speaker  44:01  
flak like shooting the Tigers.

Frances Cockburn  44:07  
That's right well, he then got got an injury to his finger which everybody thought was not an injury but a reason for him. Not too many. I don't know for all i was a proper real  it may have been real, certainly

more bandage and he didn't shoot a tiger 

Now, the trigger finger was was bandaged but it may have been quite genuine, who am I to say  it wasn't but the general feeling was It was lovely. And of course it was some It was lovely being in the in the in the sort of atmosphere was when took me back. And curiously enough, I went back to I found the house where we lived in, in in Lahore Did you yes two Racecourse road and it was lived in then. By the Advocate General of Pakistan and I went in to see them and you know  the house was completely different it was in terrible


and how on earth can somebody who is so senior live in this sort of uncared for mess but in fact it's just a different different attitude it's it's neither good nor bad wasn't with wake up to smack it was all business if they decide not to their business but it was but The curious thing about it is that he turned out to have been to Cambridge with a cousin of mine recently rather sort of knew he

wasn't strange

so um I suppose the opportunities to go round the  world that I wouldn't have had had it not been for the COI and of course you go around the world and not round the world is putting it out to grand scale but to go elsewhere. And of course, you go out a working level, which is quite different from going as a tourists because you get much closer to

Margaret Thompson  46:16  
your local this place

Frances Cockburn  46:24  
and then when I got up to New York, I went over to at the exhibition Expo, I suppose it was Expo  68 or something like that to |Montreal Did you have any notes and have anything? No, no, not at all. We had we had sort of that with the the expo was very much there was an exhibitions division in in San Jose. So they so it was it was very COI exhibitions division affair. We will usually try to fit in as there are exhibitions you know, make films form not film separate, but display is really another use film.

And so Canada and and out to Mauritius where it was then Nigeria, Ghana. You see I went to one of the ports for for his login is being fought over now the lalibela In fact, Angel was a little Rams on that I picked up in in in lalibela where they have all these Christian churches that are in fact built downwards. They're built into the earth of the earth. I spent the night there . Stop worrying. It's it's feeding time. Just stop for a moment..................

argaret Thompson  0:01  
Francis Cock burn interview casssette 2 side 2

Frances Cockburn  0:09  
Where were  we go, places to go, while Europe course.

All places you'd expect Germany, France, Italy, Belgium, Denmark

and here we are dealing with the Indian rupee in the you know, in the places with the low cost or with British

no always was the British high commission or the or the embassy, you or or lucky or dealing with television stations Direct. What happened would be that the we would go over and be in the care of the high commission or the or the embassy who would introduce us to because they would be in daily touch with local television stations introduced us. And then they would either be with us all the time or certainly in in Europe just say Well, you've You carry on because it turned out in the end to be an almost Well, it will a technical technical exchange of ideas, which was probably a waste of time for anybody from the embassy to be there. But where  there was any question of policy being discussed, of course, they would be there because they're the people on the ground and they'd know better than I would. But setting up co productions and so on would do that direct that but it was useful, I think useful to for people on the ground sometimes talk to somebody from COI to feed, ideas back into our heads as to what we might be doing that weren't we were not doing? And you'd have you'd have reciprocal visits were due from those countries? Oh, yes. Well, yes. Because that, in fact, the COI ran training, training courses. There was a whole training section for Information Officers from overseas. So and of course, anybody that came that you've met or was came in to see you  and as indeed that they have information  officers from the posts. So it was a it was I think quite well, I think the I think it was a well run organisation right through. So do you think we finished the series? Yes. Yes, I was only going to say that at Pinewood when the RAF and  the army Film Unit the RAF unit particularly is that you had people the camera crews went out on these on on bombing raids. And you know, you'd go to perhaps breakfast or lunch the next day in the canteen and somebody hadn't come back. And this is

Pat miner who was never the operational.

Yes. Patmore as Pat Miner on. Skeets Kelly who was after all taken prisoner. I remember the day he came back he was released. He was a prisoner in the forest. Somewhere wasn't he?

He was he was caught on the land on the ground. What he stamper men said to him, please give me a light in English.

Unknown Speaker  3:29  

Frances Cockburn  3:31  
Is that so?

That was they were dressed in he had the baby was being transported through Paris

Yes, I don't remember him. I remember him coming back. And then there was so there were two or three others was john Johnny Morris, Johnny Morris didn't come back. Johnny Morris didn't come back there was one name has now completely gone as names do. And I remember making most  awful gaffe when I went to the COI. I was new to looking around when he was he was a camera man at the time. And he'd become a director after the war and a good one. And I remember ringing him up and asking him if he would like to direct a film a recruiting film from the RAF for the other because there was always a fairly good budget for films that were intended to recruit people as  You couldn't do that on the cheap. It had to be well done. I remember ringing him up and saying Would you like to direct it and there's a hush the other end and I realised this that I wasn't going to like the reply and he said, when you've been running about like a madman in a burning aeroplane twice, you don't want to recruit anybody to the RAF So that was and of course, I should have realised it was absolutely insensitive because I knew he had been shot down. And, and you imagine what it must be like in an aeroplane when it's on fire. Terrible, unlike what we saw the other night. The matter of life and death, unlike very unlike is very unlike that. So I think that was the thing about

being quite placed during the war because it was packed with all sorts of people. Boulting  brothers.

Yes. And john Mortimer  there was there. Jackie Clayton was there. Well, the Crown Film Unit and  the army film unit and the RAF film unit were all  there. Yes. And Laurie Lee was there Jacky  Pat Jackson.

whwere you there with Dalrymple

Yes, yes. Exactly. When he was there

was being repaired.

I think he was a very remote man. And he was there for a long time, wasn't he? Yes, he was there at Denham when I went first to Denham and Coastal Command. So first thing I went there for In fact, I don't think I worked on it for very long. I got to put onto something else. And then we went to Pinewood and he was there then after a while the Dalrymplel very well.

He was always very remote, but he's an extremely good producer.

Yes. Yes, they were. him and  Ian Humphrey were sort of elite weren't they,

but he is how strict

I was that it because Humphrey was a very good painter, wasn't he? Because I remember seeing so I used to paint railway engines. He was part of a surrealist movement was he

Margaret Thompson  7:17  
when there was an exhibition at the Hayward gallery of surrealist art 

Frances Cockburn  7:23  
he was one of the half dozen of the English school considered Is that so? I remember being tremendously impressed by these paintings. When I

you know the anthropologist know that he was one of the founders are there is obviously a highly acceptable young JT s. And he basically he wrote poetry and he acted did all sorts of things. He was in using I suppose it was Cambridge, he was in the dramatic

spotlight yes

you want to go on that after the car?

What made you go into farming? Tell us well, I've always had to have my feet in the mud at some time and I've had water in all my life as you know. And I got interested in cattle and I had a small herd of simmental cattle summon tall Swiss Well, it's of the French breed French German as there are different kinds of Intel's now. S i m e n t a r  some people call it the SSimental all the Irish call it Simental but we didn't really have enough land to run this herd properly. And so we had a small place in a Croft in in an Ireland and I then had a quite big house too big a  house sort of Settleworth and decided to sell that and so that for three times what I paid for it was at a time when houses were going up. Tremendous. And I remember, I remember sadly thinking that I made more money out of moving house than I'd made the whole of my working Life

comment on the way we live

that so I bought these farms in Ireland one was a lovely old place with a with a lake and an island and so on and a mountain they will even buy them for nothing. I think you still can and we decided to go over and live there. But you've only got to spend a winter in the in the far west of Ireland to to know that it rarely there's it's rather it's just a dull  life there  is not enough to interest in this. The new shops open, there's nothing all closes down for the winter, what did the so I came back. And I thought well, I can't give up my cattle altogether. So as it happened, sort of switched over to sheep because it was more practical. And this year, we got the first year with Jobred kings?, which is a Welsh breed. Well, it's it's I'm sure I didn't pronounce it correctly. Nobody

does. It's

double l l e y n s and it comes from clin penisula is there's a different pronunciation of that which I can't make.


so this this year, we've bought a ram  with a breed up till now we've just been crossbreeding with a borrowed RAM and just selling the lambs for the hook. But this year, we got Clin?  Ram. And we're going to hopefully show them and sell them  sell them for breeding. which is which is a better proposition on a on a on a smaller acreage to make sheep pay. You've got to have sort of two or 300. And we haven't the  acreage for that so but you can manage on a quite small acreage, we've got about 20 acres here. You can you can manage for breeding, each animal fetches so much more so

it works out.

Did you do any other work 

work other connected with films and so on after unit

Yes, I went to Belfor? Fraser for a time and produced some

quite a lot of films for the Arab world. For the for the,

for the ruler of Abu Dhabi and Sharjah made the film

Yes, it wasn't a very satisfactory period, because the whole idea of my retiring is that I would be free to do things other than film things. But of course, you can't do films on two or three days a week. It just doesn't work.

And I was involved with films, mostly about Islam. There's one Islam in the sciences and was film on the Quran. And there was a film went up to Dubai to film a film on the Dubai police

Unknown Speaker  13:13  

Frances Cockburn  13:15  
I was producing no it was with British units. Well, I mean with with wealth of wealth of films was a film for the film unit.

So went out was that was that unit?

We did as a lot of small film units do is just

collect the crew as and when you need them. So we went out  to do that.

But it didn't really work for me because it worked for any of us. I mean, it was quite successful. I mean, the films were were paid for paid their way. And I've

somebody said to me the other day I saw film was your name on it  Islam and the sciences. So it's in circulation somewhere


as a woman working in Islamic countries,

you don't when I was all right, in Dubai, because it's very much more sophisticated. But I can remember going out and talking to television. Actually, this is the thing in in Saudi Arabia, when I went out to see the television people there. There was no woman's women's loo. Because no woman was expected to go to the lavatory  in

Saudi in the Riyadh television

station. I mean, there were women television newscasters and they wore the little veil over the head. But there was nothing, no facilities.

And of course, there are a number of things you can't do in Saudi Arabia. But it would be extremely difficult if you were working there. I mean, I was just talking to the or trying to talk to the television station.

That and certainly, I mean, some of the some of the journalists there were very easy and nice to deal with.

And I remember going back to one of their houses, but I won't remember being a member being told that I would have to have clothes that really

be covered from head to foot. And I took what I thought were reasonable clothes. But even so the information officer, the local information officer had to lend me his girlfriend's long evening skirt in order to go through the souk. And, and even then I go ahead, I was putting wasn't done up  enough. That's my neck. And

Unknown Speaker  15:53  
it I remember that because they may have prayers

Frances Cockburn  15:57  
five times a day and it was in and all shops close, and there are the religious police.

And I was still

trying, I was just trying to buy a ring little, there was a craftsman there making metal rings and silver. And the time had come and they pulled down all the  shutters. And anybody who's at all late they have tremendously long battens which they bang on the shop fronts for people to go to the mosque and then the first mans  have closed this shop and went and I was left standing there and he just came at me with the with this with threatening with this great baton and the information officer who was witness of Come on I think it's time we went

Speaker 1  16:41  
and it was just that I was just I gave offence  either because I was a woman or because I wasn't quite covered enough I don't know so i think that those those things are definitely no no difficulties in Dubai at all and really no difficulties in in Egypt Sharjah No, no, you know, Sharjah you is no, no, no problem. There's always a sort of No, no problem that went in Sharjah. But we were in fact only in Dubai went into Sharjah. But I was I was in Dubai and Abu Dhabi. Of course, I can't remember where Sharjah  is nearest to Abu Dhabi nearest to Dubai. I know that there is always a great trouble between the middle of daily trouble not not serious trouble that. Usually traffic troubles.

Frances Cockburn  17:51  
The producer in charge, how did you get on with the local people who

Unknown Speaker  17:55  
are on your level? I mean, he's

Speaker 1  17:59  
no, no, it's very easily I mean, no, very, with great difficulty, because I can remember going to talk to remember good to talk to somebody in this was in Sharjah, I think. And he lived he was in his room  was locked. And you had to have a special key to be let in. And throughout my interview with him, and he did speak English. He was trying on shoes, there was a low as a trader came to his office

Frances Cockburn  18:38  
and everybody although this office was locked,

Speaker 1  18:41  
there was a succession of people coming in and out who all had keys. And they would come and give him messages. And he had this short conversation having they go. And he was just trying on shoes all the time. And seeing whether this pair  and we were carrying on our conversation about television and so on. And it was quite clear that I wasn't very good news. So it didn't no it was was was quite a lot of difficulty. I mean, in curious enough in Riyadh, which is much more strict, because the journalists are more relaxed. I did rather  better out of journalists, yes. But you don't I mean you're not welcome. Really. Hardly to

Frances Cockburn  19:35  
find in general being a woman affected your career?

Speaker 1  19:38  
Not at all. I think that nowhere in the film industry would you have to do fine. I'm intend that. If you get on with people who get on if you don't get on with people, it doesn't matter whether you're a man or a woman. That's that's all there is to it. I found this I certainly didn't and of course mind you I think in the film industry This is generally true The only time I came up to in difficulties when the civil service was that the finance division which is a very minor civil service finance is always slightly closed shop and I know that when I became Director of the Division the finance officer resigned because he would not work for a woman so I was rather interesting because then they said well, who will you have? So I said tell me of a good woman and it's already in films in finance division and there was one who nobody liked and I said I'll have her and she was brilliant. She was so much better than the man who resigned would have been that was the only time where  I just couldn't believe it it was there's a certain amount of slight harrassment when I mean when I first went there is that I put in an expense thing and I remember the finance officer coming I was  then quite junior  well relatively Junior. And I remember I put in a  an expense account, or some small sum of money and I remember the finance officer coming to me and saying, you when you come into the COI or the civil service at this level, you are expected to absorb your own expenses which was harrassment It was not based on truth at all. What do they mean? Well, what he was saying was I'm not going to give you the expenses it was it was pure harrassment there was no there was no truth and it wasn't based on anything it was just that it was it was an irritation because I'd come in and I was at that time the the first of the women were production control officer they used to call us and I was the first one there and it was an irritation but but this is the only time and in answer to your question that I've ever been made aware that the difference doesn't make no difference marking they

Unknown Speaker  22:25  
used to do that kind of thing with with maintenance versus

Frances Cockburn  22:30  
establishment and

they can look up I mean when when I had except the car black costume or something quite reasonable car first got the oldest me How old are

they old green green the first time there wasn't a carburetor Head Head brown

the first time out there there was nothing and then there's very ancient old green thing appeared and this was one of the people the people in I suppose it was an establishment

Speaker 4  23:26  
used to do it and in your case it you know it was I suppose because you're taking back

Speaker 1  23:39  
Yes, they've their establishments and finance were very much there was a it was another world wasn't it?

Frances Cockburn  23:50  
No, he won't. No. No, I knew them. But I knew them. I think when I went to the MLI?

Speaker 1  24:06  
Ferguson was there   no Ferguson had  left. Phil Ferguson Phil Ferguson on us. Well, he can he was at the MRI. one of  those two. But one of the curious things about the Civil Services that the way that people are able to sometimes come back into Junior. The man who was head of Finance. When I first went to the COI retired and within a week he was back as a clerk and in the same division and the I said we're not getting his pension as he as he gets vacations paid back and get some more pocket money. That's it. And I thought, how can you be the director of finance division, which was about to serve the senior division, if you look at it in purely civil service terms, solidly, sitting as a clerk doing clerks work, and I said, doesn't isn't that Moynihan? So I said, Yes, please, I thought he retired bonus, but he's back as a clerk. And they don't they don't it doesn't seem to worry him at all. I didn't think you were worried me, I suppose. Come to think of it. But just a strange thing to do.

Frances Cockburn  25:37  
Did you have anything to do with the IPA or Independent Television that was sent appraiser in here?

Speaker 1  25:47  
Not really, there was that there was this terrible occasion when I went up before the day the tribunal industrial court, I suppose you'd call it with Donaldson as the judge when there was to be a I can't remember the detail of it. But there was to be there was some difficulty was a strike, I think. I wish I could remember the details of this. But the fact was that if we didn't, if the COI did not do what it was, didn't stop doing what it was doing, that the whole of the of the Independent Television division would have been blacked out. And part of the industry wanted to wanted us to stand firm and and part said, for goodness sake, just give in. And I remember getting a rather  that was right, wrong out of my depth, and getting sort of grilled a bit by by Donaldson. And then eventually, the decision was taken that the COI would back down did wasn't taken by me. I don't think I was. I don't think it was ever a decision in my power. It was it was meant for as much. I was just answering and decision was taken at a much higher level than some that. But I can't remember quite why that happened now. So that was my only contact with the Yes, although we were always in touch with the, with the independent companies because they were using our material when they used our fillers, and they used the commercials, of course, because the commercials were placed on them. And the fillers were used by them as a goodwill. What were they were fillers when they didn't have have a moment of spirit. That was very useful. It's also duel role. I can't think of anything. Yes,

Frances Cockburn  28:13  
yes. What about the piece of intervention? over the working?

Speaker 1  28:22  
Yes, there have been quite a few. I was very lucky with the people I've worked with. And I'd start off with with Margaret Thompson, who was a very important person in my early life and I think provided a model for that time whenever you do it. It's quite true you did for that time. And I think it was a tremendously steadying and important influence to me when you were 16 I suppose after that, Jack Holmes was an influence I was his assistant for a while and now he was always someone I felt that I can go and talk to if I have any problems

Unknown Speaker  29:22  
he was very nice.

Speaker 1  29:23  
He was a lovely man. And he's very good to work for because he's very sweet understanding person. very calm  Yes. Nope, never know. And then I think that the I suppose Watty  he in then He was he was at Elstree MGM was was a great personal friend, A W  Watkins. And he was yes. And he was a very, very good influence. And then I think when I went to the COI, John Langston was a tremendous influence because I've just arrived in from, from the film industry into a totally different environment. And I don't know whether he realised how little I knew that he's certainly made it possible for me to adjust. And I spent a lot of time with him and with Barbara Fell was to spend a great deal of time together. And that was some

Frances Cockburn  31:01  
Barbara Fell was she was head of the reference library. When I first went there, but she she was overseas controller afterwards.

Speaker 1  31:15  
And they married eventually. And Ray Fleming, of course, was a tremendous influence of his very, very good friend. And I owed him a lot because he'd got a very, a very good political, very good political sense. And a very good had always knew what the temperature of the water was with them, as far as the civil service was concerned, and what was politically  dynamite and what was the okay. And, and, and also instilled in me, the need to be abreast of Current Affairs. In fact, I don't think that until I went to the COI that I had any interest in what was going on in the world of tall. And Saturday when you started reading The Economist, yes. So I have a little little story about the economist, because I think I have told you about some when it when I have all the books that came through one's desk and everybody had tremendous number. I found the economists and the new scientists are the only ones that have any real value to me apart from papers. And when I retired, I thought, my goodness, I'm never going to be able to afford this economist on my pension. And so when they, they wrote to me to renew, I just wrote back and said, I can't afford it. But I read it for 20 years, how about it? And so they made me a student. So I get  it's half price now all students whatever the student rate is, so um, oh, well can't live without it. And I'm very interested in current affairs, I listen to endless programmes. I just wish there was more. I very much wish there was a channel on overseas on world affairs where I feel that there's never really time. Nothing's done. BBC World Service. Yes. All day all nights. Yes, it's very good. So these are the people who have influenced me a great deal.

Speaker 4  33:46  
To take care of the film for programme to work down to any time.

Speaker 1  33:53  
Well Opus, I remember very well, which was, I think, nominated for an Oscar and to do what got on. But it was an interesting film, in that it was the first time that the COI had ever attempted to make anything that was at all  way out. If you've seen Opus. It's, I can't remember tell us well, it's, it was a film on the on on the arts. And it was certainly I saw the script. And I thought this is it. This is this is where we really take our courage in both our hands and make this film. And I remember taking it up, I thought I'd better get advice on this. And I think John had gone to there was nobody to ask. That's right. Everybody was either overseas or not there. I thought I better get some clearance on this. So I remember taking it up to Fife Clark? and he looked at it and I tried to describe how I thought it would be and it was quite apparent to him that it was far beyond anything we'd ever attempted. And remember he said well you will have to take personal responsibility for this and it's your head and I thought well it must because it's just it is something that the direction in which we should be going and was made by James Archibald producer and in fact directed by Lord What was his name? Oh, but Bracket and it was a masterpiece absolute masterpiece and of course the lovely thing about that went on your head as soon as the thing is out everybody says good success but that's happened to everybody doesn't this well, it's it was a it was a mixture of I mean it it was a montage of of ballet and architecture pop music The Beatles are in it fashion modern cars half an hour suppose something like that two reels I suppose two or three reels can make it sort of thing. It was more than it was it was it was there was no commentary there was it spoke for itself it was more or less it was yes more like listen to Britain but very, very way out. I mean, there was sequence the there was a sequence which you simply couldn't put in or the government couldn't put in which is what it means but the time is putting the film today because it would have a different connotation but there was one scene with a can go into this with a tune baby you can share my car with some girls in in in in very short skirts and high fashion going along the street and the Rolls Royce comes up and up and an arm  reaches out and grabs grabs and into the back of the car and this was I mean I thought it was slightly dangerous but it was so much in the mood and they and they there was the whole film itself was not like that that it was it was perfectly all right butyou couldn't do  that now because it would be the times change because I show this thing film dates doesn't it very very quickly

Unknown Speaker  38:01  
remember with affection

Frances Cockburn  38:06  
well the undefeated i thought was a good film I don't remember with any affection the making of it but I I knew was a good film The film yes yeah so pleased to have worked on the undefeated

Speaker 1  38:30  
well first started it was a privilege to work on that really. Although my was an assistant I was any sort of tea boy on it. So I didn't really contribute very much except of course I suppose you could say that McAllister and I were very close and I suppose he did. We did have conversations about it. That

Unknown Speaker  38:55  
you were coming in by Christmas I

Speaker 1  38:58  
know nothing. Nothing nicer. No. Well, no, not listen. I mean, I remember listening to listen to Britain later. Well, I sort of did but in fact the only one that I really was working on for a length of time was one works for bits and pieces and sometimes on something sometimes on something else. But Fires were Started I was with that all the way through. I don't know I think really when it comes to I dont think I have individual films but I have series COI series that I that I I mean the the the today and tomorrow series I enjoyed very much try that was fine and enjoyed the fact that that was there and I enjoyed the idea of, a sub kay?  production really overseas but Individual films. I don't think I really did work on anything that stays particularly in the mind except the ones you and I have mentioned.

Speaker 4  40:16  
With that kind of production, I mean, it would be in a series rather than individual films

Frances Cockburn  40:23  
Yes. Yes.

Speaker 4  40:26  
I think that your paperwork must be run into many.

Speaker 1  40:31  
Yes, I think so. There is a there is a records. Well, I don't know what it was. If you if you count what you count the COI  must be 1000s. But before I Oh, yes, must be if you break down individual. We after all, there are 52 issues of newsreel going out there are 52 News. Issues of various kinds of weekly programme. Going out, if you break those, those down, it did it runs into a lot of turnovers. You've got 500 or less right so. And of course, a fair number of documentaries, a huge number of fillers and commercials. A lot of recruiting films of one kind or another. But before I went to the COI, there is a record somewhere and I for the life of me, I can't remember what sits in Peter Nobles book of something like two or 300 Films even then. Even then, I can't think how it added up to that. But as I obviously did the calculation at the time. But it's rarely I'm now so glad to have been with film. I think the editing side for me because I never really, I believe contributed very much was the most boring side of life. It just admit that I found the whole the conditions and was really not not enough to do and it's not enough for me to do. And I think that after, after that life began to wake up a bit. But I was very grateful to those whom I did work with. I enjoyed working for Rtha. At one time on this one film what he did with with worldwide was can't remember the name of it. So put that down to diminishing memory. Because it would Jack was directing. Paul it was producing but they were a lovely pair they seem to work through. Yes, they were. And I remember that Rotha was having awful troubles at the time. I remember feeling passionately about doing trying to do something about it. And I know that I think Jack was trying to do something about it too. And but this was I think it was a film. It was a film about seamen. I remember some wonderful scenes of it was a little documentary where there was a central character and I remember wonderful scenes of a man rushing along appear to get into a boat. And I remember Jack and I having a great quarrel was the weather. It was shot in, in two parts. Some of it was cloudy skies, grey skies, and some  sunshine and I thought absolutely, it must be grey skies because this man is under threat and therefore it must be a threatening sky and we had this sort of large log image true. didn't look so good. But I can't remember which we used in the end, but I remember that. But it's dreadful. I find that I have very little memory for film. There's a memory but just  remember things about certain films, but the whole film. I think I'd be amazed if I saw them. That they look the way they did. I'm sure. Yes. I've seen some films that I've made. Can't believe it. Yes. Everything looks very bare and sparse. That's funny thing. undecorated. Yes. I don't know. I think that the years of austerity.

Frances Cockburn  44:55  

Speaker 1  44:56  
But it's, it's it's I think it does make a temendous difference to have people with good minds to train your mind when you don't have a good mind. Now you're very modest.

Speaker 4  45:16  
Certainly working with people, you know with a biller to rub off or not Brathwaite

Frances Cockburn  45:23  
stretches you It makes makes you think yes

Speaker 4  45:30  
or no it does raise your whatever it is your consciousness or your

Frances Cockburn  45:38  
without them we would not have been done would not have done it without them. I think that's the point or anything you've ever achieved would not have been done without the influence of other people. Yes, I think it's true

Speaker 4  45:56  
influence achieving things with that I don't think anyone really achieves anything without all the other influences that

Speaker 1  46:12  
I think it's difficult in film because the film is after all, after all, a very an imperfect world it's more perfect now but it was an imperfect medium because however good a script to write it's dependent upon how it's directed. And how it's directed depends on how it's photographed. And it's depends on the editor it depends on the sound man  or whether on the weather depends on so many  things so it can never be perfect never end up with what just what you thought you're going to end up with. But I think now of course with this was tape and being able to redo things and edit it as you go goodness, wouldn't I wouldn't have given for it for some kind of electronic edits.

Unknown Speaker  47:08  
final result is problematical

Speaker 1  47:15  
otherwise, otherwise, there wouldn't be any sort of gambling, filmmaking wonder if everything was that's . True. Perfect, but I think today a director can be more sure of getting what he intended. Or a writer I suppose. Just depends who's where the influence lies. Yes, well that's that's true.


Frances Cockburn worked for Film and Television Division of the Central Office of Information (COI) [qv]. She is credited as producer for issues of the technicolor series Roundabout (1962-1974) which was made by Associated British Pathe and sponsored by the Foreign Office [qv], Commonwealth Relations Office [qv] and Colonial Office [qv] for distribution in South and South-East Asia. One of her earliest credits is for ‘COCONUT MATTING’ Roundabout No.6, released October 1962. She was also a regular producer for two other COI colour cinemagazines Parade (1963-1973), including the first issue released in March 1963, and Carrousel Britanico (1963-1974), distributed to Latin America. Her credits for the latter series include the first issue released in July 1963. She later became head of the Films and Television Division of the COI.