Peter Manley

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16 Mar 1999
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A Summary of the PETER MANLEY Interview. File 448.

INTRODUCTION:-   Peter was able to provide us with a complete list of all the motion pictures he was involved in throughout a remarkable career in which he was always in demand and therefore never without work. Remarkable indeed, for an industry not exactly famed for its continuity of employment!

To enable the list on pages A B and C [located under the biographical tab as a cv. DS] to be used as a cross-reference, each title has been given a number which refers to that particular side of the cassette on which the production details, personal experiences and comments can be found. According to the list, there is a grand total of 138 features, including TV serials.

We began our interview with his early formative years: Now read on:-


Born in Cleethorpes, Lincolnshire in 1924. He moved with his parents to Ealing a few years later and settled there: He was educated at Ealing Modern in the late thirties.

He recollects his first glimpse of film production by observing a 'battleship' on the backlot of the ATP Studios which were quite near. The film being made there, he subsequently discovered, was MIDSHIPMAN EASY, 1935, d. Carol Reed.

One day whilst cycling past Ealing Studios with a friend, he was approached by a man who invited them on to the set as extras to ride their bicycles, for which they received ten shillings: It was a George Formby picture and he relished the experience.

On the outbreak of war, he went to work for a firm of aircraft engineers as a draughtsman. His wages were 22 shillings and sixpence, [£1-12.5 pence] increasing to 25 shillings [£1-25p] a week. He tired of engineering drawing eventually, and at the end of 1941 he was introduced to Carmen Dillon by his father who worked in the Scenic Department at Denham. After a chat about the industry's ups and downs, she placed him in the Art Department where he studied the construction of film sets and how it all went together, an experience which was to prove invaluable. He describes his work with Ted Vibash on the store’s accountancy side.

His first picture was IN WHICH WE SERVE. He describes how the destroyer HMS Kelly was built on hydraulic actuators and steam driven rockers, and many other details of the production on Stage 5 including the visit of the King and Queen, and the sad loss of the head electrician who was also the pyrotechnic expert, blown over the side of the ship due to a premature explosion. He mentions his salary of five pounds a week - a fortune in those days. The next picture was THE LIFE AND DEATH OF COLONEL BLIMP.

There is some discussion about Rank's first film for the Organisation THE GREAT MR HANDEL, and its complete lack of appeal!

After his work on the first five pictures listed on page A, Peter wanted to get on the floor as a cameraman and pestered Bert Easey, head of cameras, for a job, but without success.

Eventually he was offered a job at Islington Studios as 3rd. Assistant on GIVE US THE MOON, and this was really the start of his 'floor' career. His pay was two pounds a week, plus overtime but he soon received an increase and enjoyed every minute of the job. He describes the responsibilities of the 1st, 2nd, and 3rd. Assistant's jobs and the work involved.

After WATERLOO ROAD he was moved to Lime Grove Studios to work on a little 3-week short directed by Jessie Matthews, called VICTORY WEDDING, 1944.

He was then called up for military service in the Army, an earlier application for the RAF having been apparently mislaid by the authorities! He recalls his earlier service in the Home Guard and the wearing of battledress at work, because there wasn't time to change. In the Army he became a machine gunner, course instructor, and eventually, sergeant.


On demob, he returned to Lime Grove Studios. He then talks about the next 24 features listed on pages A and B which he was involved in, either as 1st.or 2nd.Assistant Director.

BOYS IN BROWN was an 'independent frame' production, and the technicalities of 'independent frame', 'process' projection, and the technicians involved in the development of the system is discussed.



Peter continues his narrative with THE SEEKERS. He also mentions three productions he worked on for Associated Rediffusion. These were short teleplays earmarked for eventual transmission during the early days of ITV.

He talks about the transition from Assistant Director to Production Manager, and the increase in salary.

An early production for Rank of LAWRENCE of ARABIA with Dirk Bogarde which was planned to be shot in Iraq, had to be aborted at the last moment due to political instability in the Middle East. (This is a fascinating and detailed account of the length of time, money, and energy expended on a production which came to nought. Ed)

Peter even went down with pneumonia during the preparation and woke up in hospital. As a result, he gave up smoking - for ever! (It must have been a Production Manager's nightmare. Ed).

Fifteen production are covered on this side.


Peter continues his narrative with AN EPISODE OF SPARROWS and continues to entertain us with production details and anecdotes of another 33 features and 30 episodes of THE SAINT, ending with CALL OF THE WILD. We also see him progressing to Associate Producer.


Continues with the on-going account of CALL OF THE WILD. (Harry Alan Towers).

Peter was a keen and early member of ACT and a staunch Trade Unionist. He joined in 1941 and remembered his number which was 4361. He remembers the days when everybody knew everybody else and would meet up at AGM's.

Restrictive practises began to appear in the post-war period, but these were mostly caused by silly, personal animosities that were not necessarily Union policy. Peter rarely had problems, and the odd ones could easily be sorted out by negotiation. He goes on to give some examples of how it worked on the set. He disapproves of 'all-in' deals.

A total of 31 features are covered on this side, which also includes his transition to Producer.            [END]

PETER MANLEY was interviewed by TEDDY DARVAS.

DAVID MATHER ROBSON recorded it and wrote this summary and he makes the usual disclaimer about the correct spelling of some names, which need to be verified.






A fairly comprehensive list of productions on which he has worked since starting in THE INDUSTRY


All mentioned on SIDE ONE of the recording

From the end of 1941 until spring 1943 all at Denham Studios:

IN WHICH WE SERVE         Art Dept. Assistant.


THIS HAPPY BREED      Art Dept Assistant

HENRY V                        Art Dept. Assistant

THE WAY AHEAD        Art Dept. Assistant

Then moved to Gainsborough at Islington and Lime Grove.

GIVE US THE MOON      3rd Assistant Director

WATERLOO ROAD           3rd Assistant Director

VICTORY WEDDING         2nd Assistant Director

From the beginning of 1944 until the end of 1947 the army On Demob: a return to Lime Grove.

All mentioned on SIDE TWO of the recording

MY BROTHER’S KEEPER            2nd Assistant Director          

HELTER SKELTER                       2nd Assistant Director 

QUARTET                                   2nd Assistant Director



THE LOST PEOPLE (Cockpit)       2nd/1st Assistant Director

 It was at this time that Gainsborough at Lime Grove and Islington ceased and [Peter] moved to PINEWOOD.

From then onwards I became a freelance.

CARDBOARD CAVALIER    2nd Assistant Director

BOYS IN BROWN                2nd Assistant Director

THE ASTONISHED HEART 2nd Assistant Director

SO LONG AT THE FAIR     2nd Assistant Director

TRIO                                    2nd Assistant Director

THE CARD                           2nd Assistant Director

NIGHT WITHOUT STARS   2nd Assistant Director

During 1949/1950 I was also the Assistant Director working on the development of the Travelling Matte System (Blue Backing)

HIGHLY DANGEROUS        2nd /1st Assistant Director

DICK TURPIN'S RIDE          2nd Assistant Director

HOTEL SAHARA                  1st Assistant Director


All mentioned on SIDE TWO of the recording.

ROBIN HOOD (Disney)           2nd Assistant Director

THE PLANTERS WIFE              1st Assistant Director

THE SWORD AND THE ROSE (Disney)    2nd/1st Assistant Director

TURN THE KEY SOFTLY             2nd Assistant Director

ROB ROY (Disney)                      1st Assistant (2nd Unit)

THE RAINBOW JACKET              1st Assistant Director

MEET MR LUCIFER (part)          1st Assistant


All on SIDE THREE of the recording.


THE SEEKERS                                   1st Assistant (New Zealand)

THE COLDITZ STORY                       1st Assistant

A YANK IN ERMINE                         1st Assistant Director

THE LOVE LOTTERY (part)             1st Assistant Director

Three productions with REDIFFUSION 1st Assistant Director

TIGER IN THE SMOKE                     1st Assistant Director

LOST                                                  1st Assistant Director

PASSAGE HOME                              1st Assistant Director

GUILTY (WHITE BLOOD)                 1st Assistant Director

THE SPANISH GARDENER               Production Manager

THE ONE THAT GOT AWAY            1st Assistant Director

THE CAPTAINS TABLE                      Production Manager

LAWRENCE OF ARABIA                   Production Manager (this was the Rank production)


All on SIDE FOUR of the recording.

AN EPISODE OF SPARROWS             1st Assistant Director

Four months of Artistes Tests for Rank   Production Manager  

INTERPOL CALLING                             Production Manager (European Locations)

JACK THE RIPPER                                1st Assistant Director

THE SIEGE OF SYDNEY STREET          1st Assistant Director

KIDNAPPED (Disney)                           1st Assistant Director

PLEASE TURN OVER                             1st Assistant Director

CARRY ON CONSTABLE                        1st Assistant Director

GREYFRIARS BOBBY                              Production Manager

THE HOR5EMASTERS                            2nd Unit Director

THE PRINCE AND THE PAUPER            Production Manager (not mentioned)

THE CASTAWAYS                            Production Manager

THE HORSE WITHOUT A HEAD     Production Manager

THOMASINA                                     Production Manager            

ALLEZ FRANCE                                  Production Manager

DOCTOR SYN                                     Production Manager

THE LEGEND OF YOUNG DICK TURPIN          Production Manager

THE MOONSPINNERS                       Production Manager

DAVID COPPERFIELD                        Production Manager  

THE RED BARON                                Production Manager

GREAT EXPECTATIONS                      Production Supervisor 

THE SAINT (30 episodes)                  Production Supervisor



MY FAMILY AND OTHER ANIMALS              Production Manager

ZEPPELIN                                        Production Manager (Malta Locations)

WHEN EIGHT BELLS TOLL             Production Manager (Malta Locations)

THE LOST CONTINENT                   Associate Producer


HELP                                              Production Manager, Bahamas & Austria

MARRAKESH                                Production Supervisor

CIRCUS OF FEAR                          Production Supervisor 

MONTE CARLO OR BUST            Production Supervisor

RUNNING 5CARED                       Production Manager   

CALL OF THE WILD                        Associate Producer

WHAT CHANGED CHARLEY FARTHING            Associate Producer (prep.)

THE SLIPPER AND THE ROSE                 Production Supervisor

All on SIDE FIVE of the recording.


OUT (3 hour TV serial)                            Production Supervisor

FOX (13 hour TV Serial)                          Associate Producer

LITTLE LORD FAUNTLEROY                    Production Supervisor    

HEAT AND DUST                                      Associate Producer

HIGH ROAD TO CHINA                            Production Manager

GIVE MY REGARDS TO BROAD STREET          Associate Producer

KIM                                                             Associate Producer

THE CHAIN                                                 Associate Producer

LOST IN LONDON                                      Producer

THE SECOND VICTORY                              Associate Producer

THE STUFF OF MADNESS                         Producer

A CURIOUS SUICIDE                                  Producer

A BIRD POISED TO FLY                              Producer

SAUCE FOR THE GOOSE                           Producer

UNDER A DARK ANGEL'S EYE                  Producer

THE CAT BROUGHT IT IN                          Producer  


THE SECRET LIFE OF IAN FLEMING          Associate Producer