Ray Elton

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Interview Date(s): 
16 Nov 1988
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nterview extract, on his start:-

I had an uncle in Nottingham who owned quite a few small fleapits so I asked him if there was any prospect of getting into the film business and he said he knew one or two people. I wrote to various studios and the manager’s secretary used to make appointments for me to come and see them but inevitably whenever I got there the manager was busy or out and I had to come back another time, which was difficult because I lived in Cardiff. My family were just about broke but my father’s bank manager was very nice and saw that I would have to come to London so he allowed an overdraft of £50 to see me through a few weeks looking for work. 

    Eventually, I was given an appointment to see Julius Hagen at Twickenham Film Studios, which I found with some difficulty, not being a Londoner. And to my amazement I was asked immediately to go up and see Mr. Hagen. So I knocked at his door and walked into the traditional film mogul’s office - he was sitting about half a mile down the carpet smoking an enormous cigar  - and he eventually looked up and said, “Who are you?” and I said, “I am Ray Elton, I have an appointment with you, sir.” Whereupon he said, “You’re not the Elton I’m expecting to see, but now you’re here what do you want?” I said, “I want terribly to work in your lovely studio” or words to that effect. It was quite obvious I didn’t know anything - I was only a boy - so he said, “All right, start Monday, thirty shillings a week. Goodbye.”

    That was it. I was in. They started me in the negative cutting room carrying tins. I was there for about a week and the women got thoroughly fed up with me because when I labelled tins, nobody could read what I’d written, so they said they thought they could do very well without me and I was very pleased - I found it very boring and I wanted to be “on the floor”. In those days, it wasn’t difficult. They pitched me into the floor staff. I did the clapper board now and again and I unwound the cables. I became a sort of dogsbody to any department that needed a hand, to carry a camera or push it around or move the boom or anything else.


Ray Elton  0:04  

to November 1988. Ray was interviewing Ray Elton, interviewers Bob Dunbar

Bob Dunbar  0:20  
Ray  When, when, when and where were you born? 30 years or whatever, right

Ray Elton  0:31  
I was born in Cardiff in 1914. And spent my earliest years at the local schools. I was then sent off to a minor English public school or grammar school, call it what you like, in Cambridge. And after several attempts, I managed to pass my matric. I then went to the University of Wales in Cardiff, sincerely believing that I was a brilliant chemist and would have a career as an industrial chemist. I soon discovered that all this business about playing about with chemicals of school is a waste of time. And that it turned into mathematics and trigonometry and all sorts of things that calculus which I couldn't understand at all. And so I got virtually zero marks, asked at the end of the by the end of the year, and the universities suggested that I was probably in the wrong profession, I agreed and left then there was the problem of what to do. There was a major slump. By this time in Wales, this would be around 1932. And I couldn't think what to do. I used to go to the cinema, of course, to the centre day shows for threepence or six pence and watch the serials. But I didn't have any great desire to become a movie maker. So I spoke to various scattered members of the family. None of them had any very bright ideas. But I remember that I had an uncle in Nottingham, who owned at least one cinem and it turned out that he had quite a few actually small flea pits. So I asked him if there was any prospect of getting into this thing called the film business. And he says he would try and help and that he knew one or two people and being an exhibitor, they were never rude to him. So I wrote to various studios, including Shepherds, Bush and others, the manager, Secretary used to make appointments for me to come and see them. But whenever, whenever I got there the manager was busy or when he was out, and I had to come back another time, which was difficult. Because I lived in Cardiff. My problem was, my family were just about broke. My father made the mistake of opening an expensive shop just as the slump hit the town . But his bank manager was very nice. And he saw me and realise that I would have to come to London. And so he allowed me to open a banking account, with an overdraft of 50 pounds to see me through a few weeks looking for work. Eventually, to my astonishment, I actually was given an appointment to see a man called Julius Hagen or Hargan at Twickenham film studios, which I found with some difficulty not being a Londoner. And when I gave my name to the girl in the telephone box in the hall, she said, Just a moment, I rang up and gave somebody my name. And to my amazement, I was asked immediately to go up and see Mr. Hagan. So I knocked at his door and walked into the traditional film moguls office. He was sitting about half a mile down the carpet, smoking an enormous cigar and eventually looked up and said, Who are you? And I said, I am Ray Elton err err err l I have an appointment with you, sir. whereupon he said, but you're not the mite? and I was expecting to see. But now you're here. What do you want? So I said, I want terribly to work in your lovely studios or words to that effect. He didn't keep me very long. It was quite obvious that I didn't know anything because I was only a boy, it must have been 1933 I supppose But

so is it all right. Start Monday. 30 shillings a week. Goodbye. So that was it. I was in. I found a room above a cafe in Richmond, which gave me breakfast and supper, I think, and laundry and everything for 30 shillings a week. So there's no shortage of bus fares and pocket money. Which wasn't too bad. They started me in the negative cutting room carrying tins for obviously, after about a week, I think. And the women there got thoroughly fed up with me because when I labelled tins, nobody could read what I'd written even in those days. So they said they thought they could very well do without me in the cutting room. And I was very pleased because I found it very boring. I wanted to be what we used to call on the floor. Well, in those days, it wasn't difficult. They simply said right out of the cutting room and pitch me into the floor staff. Not there's anything in particular. But I did the clapper board now and  again and I unwound the cables. And at that time, Ernie Palmer was there Billy Russ. Cyril Stanborough still man, Ben Homre? on sound with Ching alias Carlo Manzini? as his side, as a second recordist, Monty Berman, and various directors, one of whom I will tell you about in a moment. So I became a sort of dog's body, to any department that needed a hand either to carry the camera or push it around or move the boom or do anything else. And also, to actually work the boom at times, and indeed, to, pull focus at times and load magazines at times, and so forth and so forth. Because that was the way it was. And we worked. I suppose many small studios were working in that way. In those days, we were working on quota quickies for RKO. And I understand that we were paid a pound a foot for our product. So the quicker they were made, the more profitable it was. So we were making I think it was 7000 switches to 7000 pounds. In order to make any kind of real profit, I suppose. We started in the morning, sort of eight o'clock or whenever.

And but there was no end of the day. And in fact, since we only had one stage, somebody had the bright idea when I'd been there a while

that we could get a day unit and a night unit and make a different film at night with different actors who were not obliged weren't working in the theatre at that time already known as resting. And by redressing the sets a little bit, we could make two films a fortnight instead of one film of fortnight. The result of this, as far as all the staff were concerned was that it's very frequently the case that you've finished your day shoot, shall we say, worked for the day at about seven o'clock in the evening. And you had to get out so that they could redress and get the next lot of actors in for the other film. And somebody would stop you in the hall and say our rainbow that was my nickname at Twickenham the Christened me Rainbow and that name stuck with me for years. You will have to work on the camera on the night crew tonight because George is ill or Burt hasn't turned up or somebody has broken his leg. So instead of going home, you're joined the night crew. And I remember very well how warm the camera was, it was a super Parvo Debrie And when you opened it up to load it for this new production, the motor was still quite hot from running because we ran film, shoot, shoot, shoot, shoot shoot all day long. On one glorious occasion, we've worked all day and we're going to work all night. And we've done this several times over the weeks. And we looked a pretty sorry, crew. And the night film was going to be made. And it was to be directed by George Pearson, who always wore his hat. And he came on to the stage. I suppose it must have been around eight or nine o'clock that night and looked around at us all. And you didn't need to be very acutely sensitive to see the state of us all . But after studying us all for a moment, he held his script up into the air and looked around at us individually. And he said, You know it's rubbish. I know it's rubbish. But this is what's giving us a living. So can we get on with it. And we did. So we worked all day. And if necessary, we worked all night. 100 hours a week was not unusual. I got along very well with Bainham Homre?, who was chief of sound. I liked him very much he had a very quick manner. And he and Ching used to hold me in their hands, as it were one each side because I hated electric shocks. And they would touch one amplifier on the right side of the mixing room. And Ching would touch the amplifier on the other and leave me yelling in the middle because they didn't mind the shocks at all. I hated that I was reasonably popular on the sound crew particularly because when we started the night dubbing system, dubbing on film by the way, we had a four channel machine, which required threading, like four projectors in the central joined up together to massive equipment. In those days, I think it was called Rizatone? And I became the night dubbing cook. Because the studio in those days this is before the union started. Although they paid us virtually no money, they gave us our food for nothing. So we had big lunches. And if when we worked all night, we had dinners and all that all thrown in for 30 shillings or 35 shillings a week. And the food was all provided at night. But there were no cooks on duty. So that became my job. And we shifted enormous steaks and heaven knows what all. And that made me reasonably popular. This went on for a while and I gradually began to learn a thing or two and was able to pull focus with reasonable accuracy and eventually was moved to j h productions. Julius Hardham? productions at Boreham Wood. They bought that studio as well where I was camera operator to a camera man called Kurt Courant who was an Alsatian and he had very picturesque English which had been taught to him by some particularly foul mouth  electricians. And he didn't realise what he's saying halh his time. However, he was a very dapper, slight man


passionately involved in his lighting. So I became his first operator. And, at that time, I'd already developed very severe  back trouble so while Kurt  was lighting. I tended to sit down and rest rather than bend over and look through the viewfinder all the time, I think was still using the bresive pecardos I was asked for. And he would come to me and say rainy, what do you sit for? And I say, Well, my back hurts. Well, if you have pain, you sit if you have more pain I chuck you out. So I say yes, go and go back to my camera somewhat beaten down. My salary by then was about four pounds a week. And he was earning I think it was 120 for lighting, because he was not English. And in those days, anybody wasn't english was a lighting camera man could earn a fortune.

Just the word about still man at Twickenham, who also worked at JH Cyril Stanborough a Union was rumoured called ACT, and everyone got very excited about it.

And we all decided to join, I suppose it should be 34 35, maybe 33. I don't know. Where upon the studio manager got us all into the theatre, preview theatre, I wasn't asked to come because I was too lowly to be bothered with. But Ernie and Billy Lufre? and all the senior people that packed into the cinema. And JuliusHagen said to them very briefly, I understand that you've joined this thing called AC T. Well, I can tell you this, that you can either join that or work for me. And any one of you who doesn't resign from AC T can consider himself fired. Well, after the meeting, everyone I just was read formally joined anything anybody really it was all a bit chaotic. But the only one who flatly refused to have anything to do with resignation was Cyril Stanborough. And he dared the studio to do their worst. They did nothing. And he remained a member. And we all went on working and I think we all stayed in the union and didn't say anything about it. about it. However back to Kurt Curan. He really trained me to understand the operation of a camera and what it meant in filmmaking that he believed that whatever the director was doing was a very little importance by comparison with his lighting. So we'd have perhaps a big set and he there'd be some chandeliers up and he would put some lighting effects up near the top of the set where the practicals were and he would say to me now Rainy, you see them shutters up I put on top there the lovely lights and say yes, you get them in the picture. Yes or I kill you I'd say yes. So I put on a 35 millimetre lens or something and make a beautiful setup showing the chandeliers and his lighting effects at the top of the set. And it was wonderful. And Morris Elvey who was directing I remember on this occasion would come over and look through the camera and say Rainbow What the hell do you think you're doing? I say, well, it's a sort of long mid shot you See? I told you I wanted a half figure. Yes, sir. Well do it. Yes. Right. What lens have you got? 35 I put two inches and move in and I want a half figure and no further back. Right sir. So I did it. Courant comes back. Look through the camera and says what you do what you do you bastard`you you work for me not from draft law for that pig there. You take the camera back. So I take that Kurt he;s the director I don't care who he is. I am your boss, I tell you take the camera backside start moving it back. Morris Elvey would come and and shout at me and between the two of them and surprised that I didn't go berserk and eventually Because of all this business of Courant wanting the camera tilting up to see the beautiful effects of the top of the set and Elvey wanting it tipped down so you can see the actors. There were many times when having made a setup to Elvey's approval. I had to hand him the keys to the headlock, for the debrie head had a tilt and pan lock, which just slipped off and on Squared ends, and he would walk off with them in his pocket. And then Kurt would come over and say the same story all over again. So I would have to send somebody to the camera and we had a spare pair` had, readjust the camera trying to split the difference between Courant requirements. And the director Morris Elvey. It was not a very happy time, although in some senses it was

and he was passionately fond of pretty girls, Kurt Courant was and when we had a sort of a crowd scene or a dinner thing with perhaps 30 40 extras usually started off by doing a long shot from the rostrum to get the production value and please the art director and all taht business he would say to me, you see that one, the blonde now 6789 table down as as you go, see if she has nice teeth. If she has nice teeth, you say her Kurt Curan That camera man will give you a lift to London tonight. If she has no nice teeth. You don't tell her that. So off I go. And I say that exactly that to her Curt Courant  lighting cameraman has told me that he knows you've got to get back to London from Elstree station, which isn't very amusing. And he wondered if you'd like a lift Oh, thank you very much. I'd say well, that's in there. And you know, you can meet in the hall after the shooting. What they did together, I never knew, however,

it was fun. But like all good things that came to an end. Although I think after the receivers came in, I'm not certain that I didn't go back to work at the home studio Twickenham

because there was one film for which I have a affectionate memories that I'd like to tell you about. It was definitely before 1937. Anyway, the studio decided to make a film called Dusty Ermine, which was going to be the story of smuggling, either currency or gold or something either across the Alps by skiers and so we set off for Kitzbuhel where we went up, funicular railway, and along snow road pulled by horses and sledges, until we got to a hotel called the Aierombath And there we were, with all our sound gear, the Rizatone? equipment alone must have taken about eight or 10 or 12 wooden crates about half the size of the human coffin Debrie super power of all things to shoot things sound booth in the snow. And all the assembled gear there was also a second unit consisting of an Italian and snow expert camera man and his gigantic German assistant. And the film was to be produced by a very distinguished and elegant gentleman called Heinrich Sokal who I believe produced the White hill of Pitz Palu and had considerable experience in Alpine filming. At least that's what I was told. And I see no reason to disbelieve it. The director was Bernard Vorhaus and Heinreich Sokal was calm, gently spoken. Very elegant. And Bernard Vorhaus was a excitable, panicky, and so forth, and probably with reason. One day we set off bravely with all our sledges and we hired all the mountain guides in Kitzbuhel to carry the stuff off we went deep into the mountains to film where the snow was virgin, and where there were no other skiers in sight. And with some difficulty the Debrie was set up on snow shoes as I remember. So the tripod didn't disappear because the snow was fairly soft and very deep with a ruskin top? behind the camera. So the director and anybody could stand there without getting their feet frozen. I had snowshoes on as well as standing on the rostrum. And it was getting late into the day. And we were at least an hour and a half from our hotel of difficult terrain. When the actors were performing a scene about 10 15 yards from the camera. They were standing on skis, of course. And it was sound and we were running the Debrie and so forth. And suddenly Vorhaus shots cut cut cut in his funny voice now now and Sokal was standing nearby on his skis, said, Vorhaus I think it is now time to stop. We must go back. The sun was beginning to get awfully near the peaks behind us. And Vorhaus said no, no, no, I must have one more. And without  thinking he ran forward to talk to the actors. He had no snowshoes on no skis, and he disappeared up to his armpits in the powder snow. Well, this of course brought the house down. However we got him out. But by then it really was too late to continue. So we packed up and went back to the hotel.

But it was fun. To take a rest here shall we Twickenham ran into financial trouble. Jays productions were closed and at Twickenham. They said that they were going to have to make some people redundant. But by then I'd been working on the camera and bits on sound So, I suppose for years and decided that with four years experience, there was very little more to be learned about anything. I knew it all. And just at the time they were seeking redundancies, I saw an article on either a newspaper or magazine about the rigours of dunraven, South Wales Dunraven was a castle on the coast. And they used to put out false lights, to wreck sailing ships, and plunder them as they came ashore. So I decided, since I was from Cardiff, that I ought to make a film about this. And that it would be the beginning of a great series of the myths and stories of the happenings around the coast of the United Kingdom. So I volunteered for redundancy. And my offer was accepted. Without further ado, and I told the management, what I was going to do, and they exchanged pitying looks that I missed them I think at the time. But up in the loft above the camera room, there was a sort of door place. And in that door were a lot of samples of film stock sent by people like Gevaert and Agfa for this and there were quite a pile of 400ft cans. And also a big, beautifully varnished box with a very large brass gate, outside it. And when I looked into this thing, it had an electric light bulb holder on its insides and the lever which enabled you to pull the light nearer or further from the rear of the gate. And the gate was constructed with very long claws. So that it would take at least two that as a film. So, I assume that was a printer, which indeed it was. And it you just turned the handle and it went chunk, chunk, chunk, chunk, but it worked. It was beautiful brass and mahogany and whatever. And the studio didn't want it so they gave it to me. I was working at the time on a film with Henry Edwards. He was directing and acting and doing everything else. And he had a 400 foot wooden Debrie, complete with tripod and a couple of lenses, which he didn't want. And he sold it to be for I think it was 20 pounds, or 25, something like that. I'd met a young man at a cafe in Richmond, whose name was George. And he'd been left a couple of 100 pounds by his grandmother. And I told him about my great scheme. He knew nothing about it at all he was just a bloke hanging around a cafe. And he decided that this was a great opportunity to become rich in the film industry. And he threw his 200 pounds in and we were to be partners in this great enterprise, financial and physical he was going to help and so forth. So the next thing was we had a camera and we had a printer.

And before doing anything else, I shot a little bit of film on the Debrie which was hand cranked at that time. But it had on its speed counter. It went up to 26 or 28 frames so I thought well then it will run at 24 if is persuaded to do so I shot a little bit of film of some trees I think and sent it to Humphries and asked him to return the negative with a print which they did. So I then had what I consider to be a perfect example of negative quality and a perfect example of print quality. And these were going to be my standards. I then decided that we simply could not afford to use laboratries So we bought what one can  only describer as oil drums I think they weren't 40 gallon maybe they were only 20 gallon but they were they were simply steel drums which they were in scrap yards nobody wanted them and for very little money. We had them cut in half longitudinally. And one half of the of the steel drum was fitted with little legs so they would stand level on the table and the other half was given a lip so they could be put on the lid. We also had made for a bad Carpenter some slatted drums which would fit in to the base of these steel drums and with a handle attached to them which came out through the lid, so as you could wind them round and round these drums, the drums and the containers and everything. We're given about five coats of anti sulfuric right enamel and we set off To find a way of getting the camera, motorised to run at 24 friends local garage, said they would do it for us. He had an old, I think it was an Austin seven Dynamo here, which he said he could make run as a motor. But it would probably take a lot of current flow, it didn't matter where he was right, it did take a lot of current, and he put the motor onto the crank handle spindle that stuck  out of the door. So just stuck up the side of the camera. And it ran onto a roll. But it exhausted a car battery with enormous speed. So we had a coffin made containing I think, 4 12 volt batteries connected in parallel with one another. So we still had 12 volts, but we had an awful lot of amperage available so that we could last a day or two without recharging. We then bought a car for about 30 pounds, I think it was big old saloon, loaded everything in and went off to Cardiff where I still had a few friends. And we found a room behind the shop, which they didn't use. And we set this up as our darkroom and used the yard for washing the negative. And we tended only to use the room at night because it wasn't totally light proof. And obviously, these drums had a limited capacity, which I hadn't quite occurred to me earlier. But fortunately, the Debrie had a little button in the front. And when you press this button, it nicked a piece out of the side of the film, it was a punch. So we've measured how much film we could get onto these drums, I think it was about

30 30 30 feet, maybe a bit more, maybe a bit less. So it was quite obvious no setup could run longer than that because it couldn't be got on the drum for developing that cutting it that wouldn't do in the middle of a shot even I knew that in those days. So we restricted our running time per scene to the capacity of the drums. And we bought a little darkroom clock and safe light. And I had discovered because I had a still camera in those days that there was a good developer called d 76. And there was another one suitable for positive film. So we bought some positive film, which was quite cheap from Kodaks and we had all these samples of negative

and we set off bravely as film producers. Trouble was that I had decided that the film should be made as a full scale reconstruction of the events of the past. one that required actors required costumes require the sailing ship to be wrecked. And amongst other things, I required a scene in which the Earl of Dunraven's two children appear to drown on the tasical ? rock about a mile offshore because his chief of staff hated the earl and made the boat slip away on the tide. And watched the children as they were swept off the rock and drowned. So that was the problem. Now, the local police were very helpful. The Chief Constable said Oh yes, he said I'm sure a lot of my chaps would be very happy to help. There was a particularly ugly fishmonger in the fish market, who had no teeth at all and a face like the back of a bus, and he agreed to play the villain. And various mums. Were happy for me to use their offspring as actors. There were two children who were really contrasts when there's a of great, or whether they were young they, they got all certificates and god knows what. And one of them's eldest sister was an ex Olympic swimmer or something. And she offered to be the lifeguard when we did the drowning scene. And so the mums made the costumes and the police dressed up as pirates, and they carried the batteries, and all that sorts of stuff. And we set about making this a fully fledged acting film. My experience as a film director was zero.

What I knew about editing was, I suppose, double zero. But somehow or other we got through the making was one only one terrible moment, though, by the way, the shipwreck scene in which they all slid into the water was my one technical triumph, I found a sort of sailing ship in Cardiff, docks, it was tied up alongside and the people a board seem to think I was stark staring mad, but they didn't seem to mind. For a fiver I think they'd allowed us to use the deck and all that. And so by putting the camera on its side as it were, and throwing some buckets of water over members of my cast, and pulling their legs gradually out of frame, it looked just to my eye, as if they were sliding into the sea in a violent death. So we got round to shooting the drowning scene. And off the beach at Porthcawl was a rock not very far from the shore. And I knew because of my childhood, it did get watered up over it at high tide. And so we all assembled the camera on a nearby nearby rock rock sticking up rather higher than the rock we were photographing, of course, so that we didn't get drowned as well. And the, when the water began to rise around the rock, the two children waded out climbed onto the top, and they were instructed to stay up there as long as they could. And then finally, as the waves rolled over the top of the rock, to make a big thing about being swept away, to swim badly for a few moments, then disappear below the water to look as they've been drowned, and then pop up again when they couldn't last any longer and swim to the shore, or walk ashore, whichever it was. Well, it was very tense waiting for the tide to rise. And I was very itchy finger wec were  down by the way to last roll of film, and it was loaded into the camera. And I was very itchy fingered and nervous. And I thought I better test that camera. While the tide is still quite aware that at least

45 minutes ago. I switched it on. And it had been wired in reverse. And the film went back into the magazine. We had no changing bags. The Bay where we were working was a protected area. So there were no houses no cafes,

no nothing. I opened the camera took the magazine. We weren't allowed to have any cars or anything on this particular area and ran to the nearest group of houses, which I suppose was half a mile. I don't think I've ever run so fast in all my life.

And I came to a house and I hammered on the door like a lunatic and a woman came to the door not sure whether I was the fire brigade or what

and I explained it was puffing and blowing and begging to be put into the cupboard and under the stairs There's just a few moments because this piece of film has gone into this magazine we're making a film down the road and oh, I was practically in tears. I don't think she understood what I was talking about and I'm not sure about it but she pushed me into the cupboard under the stairs, shut the door. And I wiggled the film out of the magazine, tapped on the door, she opened it. I thanked her very much in the bottom heart and ran all the way back to the unit..............................

Ray Elton  0:00  
And then of course, I realised we heard from these drums up horizontally above a small electric fire to dry. The result is that at the bottom of each turn, there were about five frames covered in lime, I


water spots. And they said, You can't possibly print this as it stands  otherwise, you're going to have every 18 inches or so every foot and a half, you're going to have these blobs all over the screen. So they said, I think the only thing we could do short of throwing it away is to rewash it at your risk, I said all right nothing I can do about it. And first half of them, they did rewash it and cleaned it with Shammi leathers and god knows what afterwards. And it just got rid of 99% I suppose of these watermarks. So we had to print. I was very proud of this thing. And I thought I know what I must do now. Go back to Twickenham and show it to Julius. There was no problem arranging the thing. He remembered me Rainbow quite well. And he gathered the senior people into the theatre. Ernie Luss? Harry Palmer and various others, but me alongside him. And they projected my masterpiece. And the lights went up. There was a very short silence. Hagen took his cigar It was nice turned to me and said, my boy, you have got a lot to learn and walked out of the theatre. how right he was.


I found a distributor I think they were called Zinni films. They agreed to release this epic. Because they believed as I did that it would be very popular in Cardiff it was only I thinlk 20 25 minutes long. But they decided to have a go at it. And strangely enough, it was advertised in Cardiff papers. And because it was made in Wales, and it was about Wales and everything else, although it was on with a terrible feature film. word got around that this was a real Welsh film full of Welsh people in Welsh actors and God knows what all. And they had queues right around the block. But of course, that was not enough to cover the production costs. After about six or seven months of release, I think we made either one print or two couldn't afford any more I believe the total returns to the producers were about 11 pounds. Gross. Well, this meant that I had some debts to pay off, particularly to this very kindly gentlemen, who lent me the money for the sound. I can only tell you that it took years not months working as a mostly unemployed freelance film technician, to collect enough money to pay everybody back, which was eventually done. So Twickenham shut down. And I was unemployed, I

suppose. When

a chap called Frank Bundy, who was then with a British Council, we'd known each other I think, for some reason, I don't know how we got to know one another in some sort of film, making around wanted a fairly cheap film made about happy British children in the British countryside. And he didn't want to go to a proper film company because they put 30% loading or whatever it was only in a profit. So he thought of me because he knew I liked being a one man band and said, Look, Ray would you make a film for the British Council? I said all my dear friend, of course. What about some money down? So he said, Oh, that's alright. We've got a reasonable budget. I can't remember how much it was, but it was reasonable for the time. And he gave me an advance. So I rushed around to Newman Sinclairs, waving my chequebook

and they made me a


Very short, very short time I bought a camera. Not sure if I paid for it before but anyway, with that camera

made the film paid for it. And so I was then unemployed, freelance with my own camera equipment. Which information of course I passed around the trades as much as I possibly could.

And a man called Jock Dean telephoned me, and his inimitable Scottish voice said that he heard that I want to come forth and so forth on the way was quite good at making short films. So I went to see him. And he said, there's an African tribe called the Ashanti want to present a silver Bell, and a gold plaque to a warship called the Ashanti, it was a destroyer, that it would be sailing from Plymouth to Takarabi?. Then the captain of the officers, going overland by train, to Ashanti, and he wanted a film made about it. And I think we agreed a fee, including a camera at about seven or eight pounds  a week or whatever it was. And then he said, Now, of course, you'll be wanting money for expenses won't giving me one of these sly looks. And I said, Well, yes, I mean, I've got to live, I got to get out. And he said, Well, you'll be living in the wardroom with the Navy. I've agreed to pay for that. So you wouldn't have anything to pay at all for your trip. But I tell you what he said, Here's five pounds. And when you get back, I want a detailed account. And I want the change. So I set out for West Africa with five pounds on a warship. And true enough, we got to Takarabi where the key side was crowded with 1000s of Africans cheering as we came spanking in to the harbour The Skipper was a very enthusiastic greyer? Welshman. And he was determined to demonstrate how to bring the destroyer alongside that a minimum of effort which he did to such a degree that we gave the dockside an enormous whack And I think we'd bent some plates. And then he decided to demonstrate how happy we all were to be in West Africa. And let off a salute of guns Bofors firing blanks. And what he didn't realise was the last time these people have heard gunfire was when they were being cut down by the British some years before. The results of this welcoming blast of gunfire was the whole population ran the screaming away from the harbour and were never seen again. Well, eventually we set off for Ashanti in the governor's train. I'm delighted to say that in the last carriage, there was a bath and I spent most of the journey lying in this bath with lukewarm water because I suffered terribly from the heat. But we got to Ashanti And there were all these chaps in their plumes chief kneeling down and messing about and I was leaping around with me. Newman Sinclair on a unipod set about photographing all this. when a  ladies voice behind me, said, Hello rainbow. What are you doing here? I was transfixed and turned around. There was a lady called Winifred Shutter,

who was an actress with whom I'd worked at Twickenham. And I said to her what I'm doing here what Are you doing here And apparently she'd married the colonel in the West African rifles or something. And so I was up there for this Durbar I was given some hospitality by somebody, I can't remember who because noone ever tells me, he

with part of the five pounds I'd bought before I left England, I think, a box of what was then known as tropical pet chocolates which are sealed in rather like a sardine can but five times the size so that the bugs couldn't get in it. And I presented that to my hostess. And back we came. And I did give Jocj Dean back the change, I had no option because it was all just chocolate so much, and so on and so on. And that was that was the end of that. I did make a foray into directing. I think it was after that. through the good offices of the camera man called Cliff Pennington Richards. He got to know a parson at the studio in I think it was Croydon, run by the religious Film Society. And he had a Bell and Howell` an enormous cabin in which 

he'd been

given the job of photographing two films. One was called the  Call of Samuel. That's right. And the other was to be the Good Samaritan. And he was asked if he could produce a director. And he had not been quite fun because we both loved old Bentley's. And he rang me up. So what about directing a couple of films ooh smashing He said, Well, it's part of your deal that you've got to provide a cutting copy as well. Right? I assumed that the an editor you see, and that all I would do would be to say to

him, we'll join this up, let me see. however I ran into terrible trouble straight away because everyone working through religious Film Society, except Kenny and myself were volunteer amateur labour. The people building the sets could only come

after they said their prayers or finished a day's work. They built right in the middle of this comparatively small studio, they directed the full scale church organ. And some they got some Bishop into to ordain the place, I think it's more or less anyway, I was heard protesting in standard studio, language about the state of two sets where we were supposed to be shooting, and was pulled into the office by the production controller who was wearing a clerical collar and informed that in view of, the fact that the building had been sanctified or such language was not permissive. Right. But we started yeah And I decided, although I must admit, there's not a great student of the Bible, in fact that never read it. But it did seem to me that at the time that these things were happening. The individuals would speak to each other in a normal voice, they didn't know they were going to be sanctified or turned into saints or whatever. And that if they came into a room, they would say, Good morning, they wouldn't say good morning, as if they were in church. So I started shooting in this way, and of course, a terrible, colossal horrified They didn't say that this sort of how did anybody know that? This is a saint. I said, Well, he wasn't a saint at this time. Because the samaritan didn't know he was doing anything in particular except helping somebody was like in the ditch. Anyway, we fought our way through it and I think I won in the end I stuck to my guns and made them speak plain English. And then suddenly, it was all shot. I remember I think I got the flu, but then Kenny rang me up and said, Hey, Ray, you know

What about the rough cut? He said there jumping up and down here isn't the editor getting editor getting on with it is what

it is no editing is part of your deal. You've got to cut it. About the only thing I'd ever cut in all my life was the edges of some stills of a river side. I had no idea about anything except that. So I went down there with Kenny was there to help wind on. And I just cut the thing according to the scripts that joins us join us join ta lot of  it was dialogues. I managed to sync it up somehow. And during the course of that one half day I spent did a complete rough cut of both films hung up everything all around the cutting room. Quite a lot of leftovers as I've just covered that. Much in the film itself, all the rest is outtakes and should have no trouble. But I didn't realise that they should all be marked and numbered and put in some sort of order. I just stuck em up chucked them in the fridge and left the two cans on the counter. marked rough cut Call of Samuel and Good Samaritan. Went over to see Kenny who turned out as a bad flu. So we don't suddenly come from a lot of whiskey. And that was the end of my service for the Religious Film Society. I never knew whether the film's ready to show or not. Perhaps over time went by what how I occupied myself for jobs I had. Not sure but I did a day's work for this one on that one and the other one. The posh people of documentary wouldn't employ me because I was too expensive. I expect to be paid something like the agency rate eight, eight pounds a week even a bit more for the camera. And they thought this was scandalous example of capitalist thinking. So the GPO Film Unit people in real documentary in those days that I did odd days and a company called Educational and General Services. They were known as e. g s.

run by commander Hunt Royal Navy retired. and Mrs. Morland had a beautiful house in Highgate provided the money How  they got on to to me? I still don't know but they did.

I think it was because I had done the Ashanti film and was by then considered an expert in deep water naval photography, although I felt terribly sick and I hated going to sea and I never wanted to do another film about the Navy. So they said we have a script which was written by another naval commander who worked with and called Our Island Nation. We got Stanley Holloway's and Dinah Sheridan to play the  leads like he would do it. Location work at sea and then there will be studio work critically if we're gonna start with the exteriors because the Navy are holding their spring manoeuvres starting next week And you've got your camera. So we want you to go off as and

take the script to get whatever shots you can of the ships and see which can be cut into the body of the film. Fine.

So off I go. I was given a berth on a battleship, I can't remember which one or battle cruiser or something. And read the script. And there was one scene, which has been burned on my memory forever. It's a long shot. HMS Rodney. shells are falling all around her bracket. This might be faked in some way. There was I with my Newman Sinclair supposed to bring this home well of course, I just started  laughing ridiculous. But Rodney, was quite big in those days. It hadn't been sunk. There were an awful lot of ships. And luckily, but no, luckily, although it nearly killed me. We ran into a really force eight nine ten

North Atlantic Gale. But inusually unusually it was brilliant sunshine. So there were these monstrous ships in line, the head line, the stern line, whatever.

appearing and disappearing. Water flooding all over in brilliant crackling sunshine. Absolutely wonderful to behold.

Well, I came back with all this stuff. And then came time to do the studio stuff. Where upon I went along to stores that we've decided that we, Stanley Holloway thought it was supposed to be on a ship on fire and I can't remember the story. But

there was a lot of dialogue on the deck of this particular ship. And cCommabder Hunt said to me, Well Ray, as the director, I don't really think I need to come to the studio. I think you'll be much better at it than I would. So over to you dear chap. So as the director, he never did come near the actors or the studio. And left it   to me and light it and direct the actors I just thought this was all so good. I fell in love with Dinah Sheridan think it was her first film her mother was on the set  with her and she was very beautiful. And that was we also had to do a location in Portsmouth Harbour with a super Parvo and more dialogue. Maybe we shoot the super Parvo for other reasons. But I do remember saying to the camera assistant after we've been shooting for most of the morning sure we don't need to reload this is ridiculous. Footage counter says . 400 feet been used but we've done about 12 setups as this is monstrous. Because what I didn't know is that he didn't realise there was a right way and a wrong way of putting the plug in the camera. And we've been running forwards and backwards all morning. Double exposing every shot the shot before the shot after

So we went back and did it again. company we kind of had to shoot, ship on fire from which Dinah and Stanley were just great. But Commander Hunt  rang me in Portsmouth and said that they had run out of cash. And that because the

electrician, and things would need overtime, something or other they would just have to take that out of the script or since the whole point is the film was this film was shipped. I persuaded him that I thought I could get the shot done with either no expenditure or minimum. And I'm happy to say the boys gathered down we we had a ship in the harbour, and some smoke pots in the house. And in about an hour, we did a sort of amateur exercise rather like the one we did. Right. So I'm on a couple of buckets of water the camera on its side, and sliding them sideways towards the ship's rail. So it went into the film. Then, to my surprise and delight this film was shown, I don't think I ever saw it. But somebody must have seen it the presser because it was RN Royal Navy

I think that was

one of the The Sunday  Times or was it the  Times or both. gave it a whole page the banner headline, magnificent photography. I've thought through this gale ` I am made. So I rushed around everywhere say I am a great photographer of all time read that. never listen to journalist press. And then I regret to say nothing much happened to me. Until Chamberlain made his famous announcement that we were at war with Germany. And that is my pre war story. Take a full stop for a minute. I'll come on. Ready? Go. It is now after lunch. War has been declared.


recovering the problems of the past is becoming increasingly difficult.


having occured war I thought I should do something about it because I didn't like fascism. So I tried to volunteer to the army. And I was interviewed by an officer who said you you're a cine photographer fellow? Well. Could you do something useful and learn to type weell I said I don't Know, sir. if I could learn to type. well will you come back and see me when you sort of have made up your mind. But eventually I went to into a factory making machine tools and tried to learn how to make broaches

which were drawn through a gun barrel to make them straight put swivels in them or something I never learned properly to censor broken relays. result was that all the broaches I made were slightly  curved or considerably curved So, I suspect a

lot of people behind the lines who were part of the gun barrels of which I was a part of was shot entirely by accident from round and round like a boomerang well I found myself frustrated, I couldn't fight fascism. couldn't fight anybody not  really and some reason or another, March of Time got in touch with me. This was an American monthly magazine programme run by a man called Rochemont. And was very, very pro British. And March of Time said to me, will you be our war correspondent in the Western Hemisphere, I had np idea what a war correspondent was but I agree. So, they hired me I went to Moss Bros   And I got me  a lovely uniform British officer with WC on the badge on the cap WC shoulder tabs so I became a WC which some people would call warcorrespondent other people would cal it  by different names.

So I then had this lovely uniform. And I was asked to go to a place called France

which I did. I got, I think, to Le Havre where I got into a train, I was with another man.

Another war correspondent from he was the he was a property writer from Toronto Telegram naturally I had my Newman Sinclair  with me my own equipment

And so we got into a train. And we went I was told to report I think it was to Amien

There we travelled. very nice. And we arrived, Amien, before dawn in the pitch black I put my head out of the window. Being a pucker Englishman. I demanded from the trainfor a porter. And then there was a strange silence for a moment. And then people a poteur a orteur ripples down. And as we got used to the night light realised on the platform was what I thought was the entire train to Amien

and they absolutely fell about at this Englisman asking for a porter in the middle of the night, they were waiting to go the exact opposite way from which we came


they did and we got a barrow We went through streets around Amien. And we found the hotel eventually that we were supposed to report to I think it was Dimbleby Richard plump one who was in the war, there were masses of baggage. And he said hello, who are you and I said Im Ray March of Time and you should have a bit of chocolate which I'm  sorry to say it was all the food available in this rather splendid hotel

in Amien

or they gave me a room all by myself beautiful brass taps gold taps I remember they were and I unpacked all my luggage in my suitcase forget that. Oh, now for a lovely meal from Amien for me. I'm sorry. I may have discovered there was no water neither hot nor cold. And this glorious bathroom with prolonged really short and luxurious brothel licence there were girls, so I went to bed. And I'm not sure that I'd actually closed me eyes or not. before somebody said, right, everybody, out Germans are coming one end of the town and you're at the other end, every level of a hurry up, hurry up, hurry up, get up, get up, get up, get up. So obviously I did, I've never  been captured by the Germans Particularly because March of  Time it said that whatever happens if you're captured you must throw your identity cards away. Because the Germans know, we are strongle anti Nazi and pro-British. So if you're captured, get rid of all your identity documents including your war correspondent's licence and all that rubbish anyway.


up I got rather the worse for wear


into a car. And off we went. with of course, my beloved Newman Sinclair and we travelled I suppose it would be south really to Boulogne where we were incarcerated, I think the right word, because the British war correspondent had  to have and there's scoresheet analysis on whatever they did. And if the reporting officer wasn't there, you have to plan if you weren't there, either. So that we were in Boulogne 


we were told that the situation was confused, which I suspect was the understatement of all time. The British GHQ didn't really know where the Germans were, where we or were or where anything was. And so they gathered this together in a hotel with armed guards on the jdoor and told us that under no circumstances rwere we to send any dispatches to London  without going through censorship in order. In point of fact, the only news we got was from London we didn't know  what the hell was going on. My camera was locked up in the police station and there it was. Well after a day or so I went out trying to buy some cigarettes because I'm in inveterate smoker

and found  the town strangely deserted however I was wandering about trying to get these cigarettes when my escorting officer arrived found me in the street he was puffing and blowing cuz he's obviously run the wrong way

I said oh my god and a few other things where have you been? I said absolutely nowhere he said we are leaving I said leaving


he said we are leaving Boulogne and | said  when he said now so I said all right then what about my equipmenthe said Oh sod  that you just get on the bus Get on with it

well, I went down the street and fortunately for me a few days before I had asked March of Time` for some more money for expenses which I had and then  town was deserted. I knew that my equipment was in the police station which was empty. There was not a problem in breaking down the door to the office where it was stored. And there was my beloved Newman Sinclair and the  tripod and the lenses and the case and everything.

So I thought I've gonna get this to the boat and he said that you got no time at all. You got to get on to the boat because I think it's the last boat leaving from Boulogne

and we will pick up your equipment from the harbour I said, No, no, your bloody well won't this is mine. So I took the 50 pounds, the March of Time had sent me and was turned into francs which was a lot of money. And I found a dive where there were a lot of old boys

60's 70's drinking and I said, Who wants these held up a lot of French franc notes And that's what everybody wanted them. So I said right, come with me. Which they did.

They took a case, my personal case my  camera, tripod, magazine, everything right I said en avant mes braves up  we went to the docks, they went up one gangway and deposited all  my gear on the deck down the other gangway way. and off that to Boulogne...................................


Unknown Speaker  0:01  
Ray Elton

Unknown Speaker  0:03  
cassette two

Unknown Speaker  0:06  

Ray Elton  0:11  
As I remember we were in Boulogne and


war was not going very well, although war correspondents like myself, were kept in total ignorance.


the chap I travelled up to Amiens with whom I'm sorry, let's be grammatical, was whom I travelled up from Amiens who was the war correspondent I think the Toronto telegram asked me if I ever been to see where Napoleon sat, when he was looking out over the channel to conquering England. I said, No, I hadn't So he said, Why don't we go up their this evening and look out over the channel and see if we can see the and see if we're running and see if we can see the lights of Britain over the water where Napoleon sat. So I said sure, why not. So we climbed up the hill. It was dark, of course. And we lit cigarettes and we looked at over the sea. I must admit, we didn't see the lights of Dover or anything, because they have blackouts. Anyway. Anyhow, we did see an aeroplane, which was stucking around. More or less overus  and a little below us because we were very high up and there were a couple of bangs. And we realised that this aeroplane must have been hostile, presumably German. And it was dropping bombs. below us, not very many bombs and not very big ones. At the same time, an enormous noise began behind us. It was quite obviously an anti aircraft battery, firing in all the wrong directions. But we were quite amused by this and we were smoking our cigarettes peacefully and quietly when quite suddenly a hand came down my collar and nearly strangled me and did the same to my friend from the Toronto telegram which I think was the name of his paper. And it said in French, here are two spies, smoking to attract the enemy. And we said don'tbe so stupid, but he took no notice. And he said, You come with me. And he dragged us both.


There was a wall behind us with a door. And he dragged us through this door and handed us over to the anti aircraft battery squad, who are going Bang, bang, bang all over the place with very little effect. And said, I have two spies for you shoot them. And they were very enthusiastic about this. And perhaps it's not unnatural. I began to feel that since my hour had come I ought to pee first. So I said to the guards who surrounded just Of course in French, I spoke quite reasonable French. I need to urinate and they put me up against the wall. And one of them I heard a bolt go into the rifle either or help he's taken to believe that I beat and I did my widdle. And they said right. You come with me and they locked us both into a room into a shed I say with a revolver hanging on the wall in a holster. And I said to my friend, look old chap I think this is very dangerous. I think we better get this revolver out of the shed. Because if we don't there gonna be trouble we could be shot trying to escape or some other nonsense. So I created a hell of a row and got the guard back. And he agreed to take the revolver and the holster away from the shed. And I demanded in my very best French that we see the officer in charge. They were not awfully enthusiastic about it because as I said, You're a couple of spies by the hedge. Why the hell should we bother with you. However, willy nilly, by continual pressure on the soldiers we were allowed to leave the shed and march in to the office of the commandant. Who is not very enthusiastic about either us, as he explained, in French, of course, the people responsible for the war, that if we hadn't done this, and that the war wouldn't have that dah dah dah  and finally, he said, You claim you're British? How do I know you're British? I said, Well, ask me some questions. So it started off by asking me where Piccadilly Circus was, which I didn't find very difficult. But he was still not convinced. So finally he pulled up he opened the drawer in front of his desk, and pulled out the biggest revolver I ever seen in my life. It must have had a barrel about seven inches long And he said, Zoo da, Hua Zhu Li Bray, which in Welsh means I will liberate you or I will shoot you. Now, I thought this was a joke. So I laughed but the French have no sense of humour, and he'd was extremely upset. However, he forgave me my laughter. And after convincing him that I knew were Piccadilly Circus, and various, absolutely, totally idiotic questions. He said, Okay, you can go. And so we left the anti aircraft battery, and walked back to our hotel. The next day, I was looking for cigarettes. I forgotten to mention that my camera equipment had been confiscated. Because the British considered that people who took photographs were very dangerous, and might not be sensible. And it was put into the police station. But I was out in the town which totally deserted as I found looking for cigarettes. When my escorting officer caught up with me in the street. I've been looking for you everywhere.

Where have you been?

I said, I've been looking for cigarettes. Oh, I must tell you so see. You've got about 20 minutes to get onto the boat. Which is the last boat leaving from Boulogne for London. And if you don't get that you've you've had it I said what about all my gear , my gear. Oh, see. The army will look after that will come out in the next boat and I said ooh la la Not I hope. So. I took my French francs I went down. I heard some singing in a dive. And I said to the assembled company of drunken French. In French, of course. Who wants some of these? And I just had my expenses from March of Time. And there were these 1500 franc notes. Well, obviously, nobody present in the pub was not interested in 1500 franc notes. They said, Oh, bravo and so forth. And I said, right. You come with me. And you get all these francs knew there wouldn't be much good in London So they came with me and they went to my hotel. And some of them gathered up my clothes and this and that. And we went to the police station. We broke down the door because nobody in it. And they got my equipment at my beloved Newman Sinclairm and all the lenses and everything else. And off we went to the docks. And we went up one gangway and down the next. And I paid them off at the head of the gangway  with all the francs I had, and arrived in London, broke but happy with my beloved camera and all the bits. Well then, I had a problem, which was to account to March of Time for my expenses and having a sort of warped sense of humour. I wrote a letter to the accountant was named Mr Siebert, I think, yeah, nice man. Siebert and I said, to Porter's to the docks with equipment, the equivalent, I suppose it was 50 or 60 pounds. And he rang me up and said, Look, Ray, is, you know, March of Time. I've always been very, very reasonable about expensive, but 50 or 60 pounds of Porter's to the docks we wonder about it. And I said, Look, ring up movietone  And a couple of pathe, and someof other newsreels companies, and find out how much gear they got out of France through Boulogne And he said, Oh, I see. And that was the end of that. And they were quite happy. Because it didn't cost them a farthing. And I was the only one who got the gear up from France. Hooray for me. Now, when I'm on it during the wars and had a boring war, it was Yes. Because I never saw a gun fired in anger. I was a war correspondent I had WC on my cap, which most people most people refer to as water closet. But everybody saluted me because it looked like a French general. and so. Oh, yes, that's right. I got this damn ship. and came back to London. Well, at that time, there was a big flap about Hitler invading Britain. And we were all going to be Nazified or slaughtered or whatever. So I thought it'd be a jolly good idea. To join the Home Guard, which have got reason I'm looking at I had nothing to do in the evenings. So I had an officer's uniform. As a War corespondent

I was also of course, a civilian. And when I joined, joined the Home Guard, I was a private and had  a rifle. And neighbours used to observe me as people across the road, using funny sort of feller comes out in the morning as an officer that in the afternoon, as I said, a civilian and the evening he turns up as a private must be something wrong with him. Which actually was so I had regular visits from the Special Branch. Used to knock at the door, these large gentlemen and raincoats and say, are you Ray Elton and I'd say Yes, sir, please. Can we come in? Yes, you received my passport. You see my dirty knickers if you want to. And it took a long time to persuade the that actually I was just ordinary, quiet living civilian trying to do his duty. And so they used to go away again. And then a few days later, they turn up again so it  went on all the time.


I got a telegram from Grierson whom got takes over the set, the great guru of documentary and it said would you accept if offered, I loved that if offered. Captain's rank  Canadian Army. I discovered that that would involve  involve paying British tax on the income and then When I was working for march of time, so I said, No, thank you very much. And so I was struck off that true documentary thing once and for all.


March of time, decided to back the British, all out  against the Nazis. Well, they'd done that before, that they really did this time, they decided that they would throw everything they had, but hype the British effort to defeat the Nazis, which suited me fine. I wasn't terribly political. But I must admit, I did not like Adolf Hitler Well, we got a telegram from De Rochemont to the London office of march of Time De Rochemont being the big boss in New York, which said, cover battle North Atlantic, torpedoed if possible. Signed regards De Rochemont Wow. That's a reasonable thing to ask a camera man to do? Is it not? So one went to the ministry, or whatever it was at that time, and they said, Oh, yes, yes, yes, yes, yes, we can get you a passage on an empty molasses tanker. But since molasses don't blow up. If you're torpedoed`, john, this is a sugar compound, you're not likely to burn, I said, lovely. The crew got together and decided that since I was making a propaganda film, to try and save Britain from the Nazis, I would allow be allowed to break the fundamental rule of the sea, which is when you get to a lifeboat, you just go in with the clothes , you stand up. And they said, Look, in this case, you can get into life boat if we're torpedoed with your camera, your lenses and your magazines, now. Thank you very much, gentlemen. I'm much obliged. And they gave me a birth in the tin shed on the deck where I was very handy to the lifeboats This tanker was a molasses tankers I've said and we set out from somewhere, Heaven knows when Scotland or somewhere in a vast convoy of ships to cross the Atlantic. It was a very, very, very rough crossing within 24 hours, or 36, or 48 at the most. My tin hut on the deck was flooded. I didn't have any dry clothing. I put the camera and equipment as high as possible. So that was pretty dry. The rest of me was cold, wet and frozen. When I got out onto the deck, I realised that we were in North Atlantic's storms, the like of which, those who haven't experienced them can never imagine. There was not another ship to be seen anywhere. And when I asked the captain, I said, What's happened to a convoy? He said, convoy, my dear chap that was scattered during the storm last night, all over the North Atlantic. So we're on our own I then  assumed that will not be long before Mr. De Rochemont was able to have his story, and that we will be torpedoed. There was no reason why we shouldn't have been we had no protection, nothing. So I got my  gear near the lifeboat I also volunteered quite ridiculous to mount camera alongside the Lewis gun, which was the worst weapon ever invented, because he kept on jamming, in case we were attacked by aeroplanes, so I mounted the camera alongside a Lewis gun. Having never fired one of course, I had no idea The moment I fired it, the judder on the camera would have

rendered the pictures. totally useless, however, doesn't really matter. The fact is that by some extraordinary circumstance we arrived in Halifax, Nova Scotia all by ourselves. And there is a lot of pack guys. And there we were safe and sound And there I heard that a man called Jimmy Davidson, who had been the production manager on the film we made in Austria, which I think was called Dusty Omen that's right  was in hospital. So I went to see him he had fallen into the pack ice between two ships, trying to get from the ship that brought him to a sort of cutter or something to take him ashore, had fallen into the water, and he thought had drowned. But Jimmy used to be able to drink unlimited pints of beer. And I'm quite certain that he wasn't drowned. He simply drank Halifax Harbour. Anyway, I want to see him and he was more or less alive. There I was in Canada, working for the march of time, in Halifax, Nova Scotia. So it seemed to me reasonable that having risked my life, as they say, to serve the company, the least they could bloody well do is to invite me to New York. So I suggested that and they said, Jolly good idea. come to New York as our guest. Well, in Halifax, I checked in that day, I think was the Nova Scotia hotel I'm not sure it wasn'y the only one.

and a clark said to me, excuse me major Elton I said,what do you mean  major Elton Major? I'm a war corresondent from honorary captain. he said excuse me Major, but there is a  lady said,

when you check him, would you please telephone her He must be joking. But I did. And it turned out to be quite a handsome brunette from London who was waiting for her fiance in Halifax, Nova Scotia, but was very frustrated. And jumped into my bed that night. And when I told her I was going to Montreal, said, Can I come with you? And I said, Well, my dear why not

What about your fiance was coming tomorrow? Who was in somebodies Navy or other Anyway, she kissed him goodbye at the station. And we stayed in bed, all the way to Montreal. And even to this day, I remember as a very happy experience is really nothing to do with at all. However, I haven't got to Montreal I thought well now how do I get to New York? You must remember that America at that time was neutral. I was wearing British army uniform. Although it had WC on the epaulettes and on the badge. We can ask you people call water closet as I called war correspondents So I went to the airport at Montreal. And I said, I've been invited to go to New York. But I have a problem. I've no a civilian clothes.The man said when I told him all about myself, don't worry it. Don't worry And he said when you get to LaGuardia,

which was the airport in those days, gives a guy who meets you this card and he wrote on the back of his card, a message

I said thank you very much. He said, you won't have no problem. And when I read it, it said, Joe This guy ain't in nobody's army. Signed Al or whatver his name was.  so when I got to New York, and my fancy uniform, I showed this card to the immigration officer at LaGuardia, no problems as he come in for you're welcome And the taxi driver, who took me too march of time offices, refused to take any fare. He said you from that your

from the other side of the Atlantic you

guys you're fighting a war, you're not need to get me any money. So there I was in New York, because I see as the guest of the march  of time, which was pretty good. And then I, I'm sorry to say that I fell in love with the Hawaiian girl who was dancing in the hotel. But would not allow me to go further and stroke her hair. And I stroked it and stroked it and stroked it till the electricity  crackled all around the bedroom. And my underpants fell off. But we didn't get any further than that. And I developed tonsillitis. And the wonderful thing I remember about March of Times, accounts department  was that I went in there before I was due to go back. And I explained I'd had doctors fees, my hotel wasoverspent , I spent too much money on my Hawaiian girl. And he lookeddown at the desk and he said, Wow, why he said, you're involved in a war. And I guess the best thing to do is keep it and he drew a line right through my expenses, and said have it on us, which I thought was terribly nice. While I was there, they were doing a thing about the FBI, march of time. And they invited me to what they call a scoring. And all the material relevant to the subject was assembled by the library and all the big bosses, and me as a visitor, sat there and watched all this material, which ran much too long of couse

and they decided what line they were going to take. And the staggering thing was, the next morning, they were all through the night. The thing was assembled roughly and gradually put into shape, day and night and day and night. Until the man with the extraordinary voice called Roarhus?. And today,

the march of Times had a fantastic voice was brought in. And the thing was completed in about three days and three nights of continuous work without break. And that was called a scoring. But because when I was there, they were doing something concerning the FBI. I met these guys. And so they were intrigued by me with my war correspondents uniform. And they wanted to know, I mean, what the hell you're doing up and you know, what's it like over there? And there's a war going on all this sort of stuff you see? And I said, Yes, that's right. There is a war. So let's have a look. At when I explained to them. or tried to the war correspondent was supposed to be inviolate You had a badge on your arm that said war corresondent  weren't supposed to be shot. And you were, as it were. A non combatant, I think is the right way. And they said oah gee you mean to  say you're in a war and you ain't got no gun or nothing. I said well, this is the way it is. If you'rea war correspondent you're not allowed to carry arms Ah, sod that all it says, you come with us. So they took me down to their museum. And they said, You have this with our  compliments, and with one of the biggest revolvers I've ever seen in my life, which I think belonged to Al Capone, it must have been a footlong. It looked like three feet long for me, because I've never seen such a thing. And I said, Look, it's very kind of you. But officially, I'm a non combatant, I'm an observer. And they were very positive about this and they said you'regoing back to a war god. And I said, in any case, if I took this gun off you and the ammunition, I'd be arrested before I got out of New York, to find it, they would convince and they put their heads together and decide they had to give me something before I left New York. So they gave me a signed portrait of J Edgar Hoover which I think is still in the bottom drawer somewhere. Anyway, so time came to come back to United Kingdom, they wrote  off my expenses. The Hawaiian girl, kissed me goodbye. But without any genuine intercourse of any kind, simply hair stroking until I went potty. And back I came to Halifax, Nova Scotia. Where I was delighted to hear I was booked on a first class passage to the United Kingdom on a ship called the SS Tortuguero. Well, I went to harbour and there was the SS Tortuguero leaning, as I remember quite heavily over to the right, about 10 degrees, I suppose, a 10 degree list at least. And I thought, Oh, that's a hell of a first class passage. So boarded the Tortuguero I did with my Newman Sinclair equipment and all that.


they'll go, listing as she was to starboard as I remember, as the right think. Went choking off to London, escorted do I remember by a large number of other Merchant ships and destroyers and all kinds of Royal Navy bits and pieces that flew around us all the time. Meals consisted of various foodstuffs, all of which had weevils and various other kinds of disagreeable objects. Which you could leave if you wanted to but if  if you left, the weevils there wasn't wasn't much left. And, astonishingly, perhaps you've lost right Friday. Nobody bothered to torpedo the damn ship.


we got into a Scottish loch, which surprised me. And what surprised me even more. The motorboat came alongside and asked for me by name. I can't think that anybody knew about me.or who I was. So I was taken off the SS Tortuguero. Pardon me, by rope ladder in the Scottish loch. And thankfully, and happily returned to London, which was very nice. Far as , I can remember, I don't think my passport was stamped or anything, but there it was so there was so I was  back in London, in one piece, complete the Newman Sinclair camera. And everything was lovely. London, I think, at that time, was probably being bombed. Because I remember shooting some shots in of Regent Street. Where a bomb has fallen on a . Building there was a fireman carrying a woman with no skin off my body, I don't suppose a sight I will  never forget. And I happened to be around the corner in Dean street with my camera. I heard the bomb dropped, rushed out and came upon this terrible sight of a skinless woman in the arms of fireman and I thought but war is no good to anybody. It doesn't matter who wins and who loses. It's a disaster. can you switch off I must do a pee

Unknown Speaker  35:45  
You remember that?

Ray Elton  35:49  
I forgotten the story about De Rochemont in New York but it doesn't matter.

Unknown Speaker  35:55  
Which one was it? Were he? Well, I

Ray Elton  35:58  
got about De Rochemont on New York  Right wrong. I haven't got a microphone as I have. Started, I'll ask you the question.

Unknown Speaker  36:12  
Are we running?

Ray Elton  36:12  
I think you forgot to tell us about de Rochemont in New York. I did. I was warned by Boris Lancaster, who was the rather posh fixer in England. A real gentleman. Not like me, I was a sort of rough and tumble cameramen technician, that

De Rochemont would invite me to dinner if I ever got to New York during this thing I've told you about before. But strange things might happen. But I mustn't express any surprise or astonishment or anything. I thought this is weird. However. there we were, with a vast round table. God knows who was there. I was sitting next to De Rochemont who was delighted to see me and was honoured to see me and was very flattering about my work for March of time and risking my life and all this rubbish. And he was a bit slurred when he sat down rather like I am now. However, why? I suppose you've call them waht  you have before. dinner aperitifs but served in considerable quantities. And we got this  far, I think this halfway through the first course. When De Rochemont suddenly his head fell on the table. And I was sitting next to him, I'd already been warned by Morris and Lancaster not to do anything. And I thought, well, that's the funny thing if your host collapses, surely you must rush to his rescue, but I contained myself. The waiters were already gathered around the table. They slid his chair back. They took him away. They closed up the chairs. This is a bit nearer. And the conversation went on, as if nothing had happened. And Maurice Lancaster's said to me Look, Ray, if you come to the office in the morning, as I'm sure you will, which I needed to do to get by expense allowance, you will find De Rochemont won't recognise you. But don't let that worry. And that is what happened. I went the next morning to collect my expense allowance De Rochemont met me in the coridor, and wondered who the hell I was. Right End of story. So, now, we must move on to the return to Britain. In the SS Tortuguero. God bless that ship. I have a picture of her. She was leaning on one side when we left Halifax Harbour, and she was still leading leaning on the same side for we got to Scotland. How she got through the Atlantic, I don't know. I think the Germans must have decided there's a ship there could lean like that wasn't worth a torpedo. So back to London. And the war was still going on of course. And the Special Branch visited me from time to time I was living at home with my mum in those days because I was a good boy and and sexual affairs, I had were always  outside the home. And as a result, because I was working for March of time, but has also been doing some other nonsense, I don't know. But every now and again, the doorbell would ring him in mum's house. And some large gentlemen in raincoats would appeare and say you're Ray Elton And I'd say yes. And say, we've had report that you are moving your cones during an ari raid communicating with the enemy. And all this stuff Oh, for God's sake, however, finally they went away. But more of them later. Now, there was a thing called the Battle of Britain, which you may remember. So  De Rochemont sent one of his marvellous telegrams saying record request coverage, Battle of Britain, were upon, I was summoned to the offices in Dean street,

and told that the idea was to cover a thing called the Battle of Britain. Well, obviously, bombs are falling all over the bloody shop by then. And I had no idea how to cover this because I was one of these people who had never seen a gun fired in anger. I've been brought out of Boulogne. I had enormous faith in the British forces and the British Air Force and the British Navy. And I thought I was invincible. And I didn't realise that people actually got killed I know sounds terribly naive, but I didn't realise that anybody with a camera could possibly get killed. That seemed to me quite ridiculous. They were to record for history, and therefore you were inviolate So okay. De Rochemont's telegram cover Battle of Britain. So, Maurice Lancaster, who is the fixer, the office in in Deen Street. said look, Ray We fixed up to you to go and see the Ministry of whatever it was in those days. It wasn't a Ministry of Defence. I can't remember there were all different ministries at that time. And we want you to cover the Battle of Britain knows. Oh, lovely, absolutely marvellous. Great fun flying. Can we just........................

Ray Elton  0:05  
Okay, where were we anyway? Yes.

Bob Dunbar  0:08  
How did you cover the Battle of Britain? Ah,

Ray Elton  0:11  
well, that was a tour de force. Did I not have a Newman Sinclair I did. Did I not have total faith in the British Air Force?

I did. Did I have any experience of combat in war? I did not. Did I realise that people actually got killed? Not really, I didn't, in spite of the Spanish Civil War, which has taught me differently.


I set out to cover the Battle of Britain. The first problem was that aeroplanes fly in the sky do they not And if you're going to photograph them fighting each other, somehow, or other you've got to get into the sky. So I trotted along to what was then I suppose the Minister of aviation, I don't know what the hell it was called. I suppose it was nowadays be the Ministry of Defence. I can't remember these names. And I said to them, Look, I need an aeroplane because I want to photograph the Battle of Britain and they said, aeroplane my dear fellow We'revery short of aeroplanes, you know? And I said, But look, I was at an airfield in Wales a couple of weeks ago, photographing Spitfire pilots learning to fly Spitfires. And watching them crash one after the other, because they weren't awfully good. And they're on the airfield. Lying in the in the  corner. was a brand new, Blenheim painted yellow, I think. And they said, Oh, you're not supposed to know. That's a state secret. Well, I said it may be a secret. I know it's there and I kmow  it's not doing anything. So they said, oh, oh. So they made a few phone calls. And realised that I was in fact correct. There was a Blenheim sitting on the airfield at what I think was St Athans in Wales, I think it was called St Athans could be wrong. And they said, we're all right. And they provided a pilot who had recently qualified. He was the most junior type of Pilot Officer that is on the agenda. He had half of one stripe or something. Nice young chap had to be in all 19 or 20. And they said, but we can't give you a crew and you know, this is a war on mister Elton I said  yes. I'm aware of that. That's what I'm supposed to be photographing. And they said we still can't give you a crew.


all right, you have the Blenheim So I was the crew of the Blenheim and used to wind it up and start the engines and my own pilot rather splended a young man called  Always in the ship rose. This damn thing was brought up. We flew it up to London. And I decided it would be rather splendid to have a shot of a dozen. Spitfires taking off in line of breast line or breast twelve of  them in the line? Because in those days, they could take off on grass and on runways of course And I thought it would be rather splendid. So after some argy bargy with the Ministry but most of all, the most cooperative were  the Polish wing at Northolt. They said yes, lovely we'll take off in line abreast for you. And so I said well, I tell you what we'll do. We'll fly in against the wind as slowly as we possibly can beig aeroplane virtually falling out of the sky. and we;d come down to as nearly dare get to ground level and will throttle back till it's almost collapsing out of the sky. And when we get alongside you, you will open up an old twelve Spitfires go off together with us. longside you and will be a marvellous shot and the Polish lads said magnificent, but there was a Polish word is that the way to do that? So me and my Blenheim flew in against the wind.

The hangars were on the right hand side. The Spitfires on the left. They were all engines running, of course, and revving up and we flew in at nought feet, as it were, with our tail virtually hanging out the sky Hey, this


As we got alongside them, they all opened up. And there was a shot of a lifetime 12 Spitfires in line a breast all taking off together in the middle of my Newman Sinclair viewfinder. And suddenly they weren't there anymore. And I thought, That's funny. And I look up and there were Spitfires above, but I looked down and there was a Spitfire below me. I looked to the right, there was a Spitfire on the right hand look to the left, there was Spitfire on the left, what had happened was that when we came down, literally hanging out of the sky, we had not realised there was a crosswind of some sort between the hangar sheds. And as we carried on across the airfield, you get strange effects of wind round big buildings. And quite Suddenly, there was a gust like you get round the  buildings in, in London skyscrapers and they make their own wind. And my Blenheim was blown across the front of these twelve, Spitfires taking off. And instead of crashing into me, the Polish squadron got quite fond of me in a way because I thought I was mad.


that they would peel off in every conceivable direction, which they did. And they went up, they went down, they went  sideways, everywhere all over the bloody sky to miss my bloody Blenheim  And so that was that. But when  I tell them what I was supposed to do, which was to cover the Battle of Britain, having survived this with no crashes, not one of them was killed. No Spitfires were damaged. They said, Well, why don't you let us take you for a sweep over the channel? I said what a marvellous idea.

And they said Look, you've got nothing to worry about. However All I had was my ordinary civilian clothes. And they said you can't fly that like this is ridiculous. So they got together and one of them found me flying suit one of them found me some gloves, and one find  me some boots and they find me a helmet. But the only thing I didn't have of course was a radio. Because anyway, I had nobody to operate it. And they said you don't have to worry. We'll take off from Northolt. And we'll fly the amuses me to this day. We fly tight round, you got nothing to worry about. You will have you will have us inside of you. And you will have half a dozen Spitfires above you half of us below and all you've got to do is get your pictures. You don't have to worry about anything. Nobody's gonna hurt you. And they taught me to say if anybody if you do happen to get into trouble and somebody says Do you speak Polish ? They have to say Janya movia pop Polska what does that mean it means I do not speak Polish. So

I'll be back from Northolt And I think the whole wing went up with me

36 is a wing, I think all I know is

and never felt sick. It was half right to half the left half just above

And so we flew over southern England over the channel, then the Wing Commander gave the signal, and we turned


Back over southern England. And then we went round again to get and flew out towards France. And then we turn round again came back towards England and  we kept doing this, till we were short of fuel. And then we all landed at Northolt. And I was declared a hero, because this excursion which was not  for my benefit,although we  didn't see a single enemy aircraft. Apparently, the Germans had decided that this was a major incoming daylight lights sweep into northern France. And they put up something like 1000. Mig's, or whatever they would call. And the whole German Air Force was in the Air wasting millions of gallons of petrol.

And so

my Polish friends and myself were patted on the back for once, in the cause of a great British victory, I'm now going to blow my nose

Bob Dunbar  12:07  
and ask you and you tell us what did you get in the way of shots for the March of Time out of this enormous exercise?

Ray Elton  12:18  
I'm sorry to say virtually nothing. There were just shots of aeroplanes flying along in a nice sky. There was no action of any kind, of course. However, a great opportunity was offered to me. Would I like to join a bombing raid on Le Havre. And I said, of course, having no idea what it is all about. And I had my yellow painted Blenheim with my young pilot, but we had no radio, we had no intercom, we had nothing. If I wanted to talk to him, I had to come up from the turret and walk where the camera was mounted  walk forward and talk to him in his ear hole. So we would tell them, we're going to be a bombing raid onLe Havre` and we were given authority to join it. Finesaid I, let's go for this. And there was a rendezvous, which we were given at so many thousand feet, angels, oh, one, five, whatever it was. And off we went. And my pilot said to me, he said, Ray How the hell are we going to meet this rendezvous? I said, but I don't know. He says, is your problem, mate? I said, I'm only here to take pictures. He said, but we've got no navigating got nothing. I said, I know. He said, I tell you what we'll do. There's an airfield down the bottom of the Thames somewhere. I can't remember what the name was. But the Americans are and I think I can borrow a radio from them and a direction thing and everything. So I said great, well let's go in there, which he did. And they said, Well, I don't think we've got anything which is compatible with your things. So off we went again, and quite obviously not having a navigator and not having a radio or not having anything else. We simply flew round in circles with him looking at his compass and hoping for the best. And we never found the bombing Squadron that we're going after bomb Le Havre and just as well. Because as far as I can remember, none of them came back. And in our unarmed yellow painted Blenheim. I would certainly not be here recording this today. But then, in those days, the Ministry of Defence as it's called now was probably as stupid then as it is now. And none of the people in offices, nor indeed me, because I'd never seen a gun fired in anger had any idea what warfare was about? So they'd say yes, well, here's a ticket. If you queue up at three o'clock you can go with the rest. It had no idea what it was about. So we missed that rendezvous, I'm happy to say. And we came back, all in one piece, because we were a long way from France. However, I decided it would be rather nice to have shots of Spitfires attacking an aircraft. And so

I think that

must have been at St Athan's I suspect because I seem to remember it was over the Bristol Channel, where there were a whole lot of dfcs. And air wing commanders and God knows about decorations across they're chest more than Idi Amin. They'd all been in tremendous actions have been decorated and decorated and decorated, and they were really resting. But the idea of shooting down a camera man or pretend you did  appealed to them very much.

So about

a dozen  Spitfires and me and my Blenheim took off from St Athans around dusk. And we climbed in till it got too cold for me. Because down below, it was now dark. But wherever we were 5 1000 feet, we had, I suppose what people would call the magic hour. And I had a long conference with the chaps before we went up. And the idea was

that they should fire tracer bullets at me in my little turret, but aiming off just enough to miss me, because I had enormous confidence

their accuracy. They couldn't believe these guys could possibly make a mistake. And so we flew up over the Bristol channel at this magic hour of because shooting film. At that time, I knew I had to have enough light to see. But not so much that the tracer would simply be strips on a black screen. And so it was agred and they peeled off one after the other and attacked me in my Blenheim. And I didn't realise them. Because I didn't know much about Einstein and his theory of relativity. I always thought the bullets went straight of course they don't. Because we were flying. as it were that way to the right at 200 miles an hour over whatever this old Blenheim would do. They were diving down at 300 miles an hour. And they were firing at me but the whole thing was quite surreal because in fact, nothing went straight. All these tracer bullets. It's described an extraordinary curve past me where I was sitting with my stupid Newman Sinclair in a turret of my old Blenheim. It was quite extraordinary. I never realised what relativity meant until that moment. However, there it was, and they dived one after the other. It was all very exciting to watch even through the viewfinder. When below us suddenly a whole lot of light flashing went on. And never Of course, one realises what goes up must come down. But since they were diving on me everything they were firing with live ammunition of course also went down and down below the Bristol Channel was a compromise and there would be spattered with these bullets. From aircraft they couldn't see and they were most upset and they were flashing their lights and doing this and that. And so that little exercise was called off but it was fun. However, it wasn't such fun for one whose name I can't remember famous cameraman Otto yeah Otto what was doing the same trick as I was asking aircraft to attack with tail of the bomber in and one of them came too close and cut the tail off. And he went straight down Scoot? Kelly was it

Unknown Speaker  20:18  
No, no,

Unknown Speaker  20:18  
he was a gentleman in

Ray Elton  20:22  
there so that was a survival number one now yes then


Time went on as the saying goes and for some reason I can't tell you why I left March of Time I think they ran down their British office I don't know perhaps they fired me perhaps they were bored with me. I don't know. And so I went to Verity films god bless them They are they agreed to take me in which I think they had done before. But they really did take me in as a director, camera man, whatever.

Which was then film Producers Guild in Saint Martin opposite St Martins lane. And they took me on as a director, cameraman whatever, just make movies, propaganda of course. And one day I got a telephone. I was told by Alf Berlinson who was a lovely man, the managing director. Although he was an accountant, he was really a really lovely person. that a man called Arthur Elton's. No relation wanted to see me at what were you now? What was then I think called COI. It was some kind of propaganda. MOI COI I don't know

So I went to see Arthur Elton. And he said, I want you to make a film for us. And I said, Oh, yes.

Whay about a script. Oh, he said, I've got a script for you, dear boy. As you know, lovely. That makes a change. We said there's your script. There's a piece of paper on which was one sentence. A battleship is a city. So I looked at it. I said, Okay. Okay. I understand. Fine. Thank you. So I went back Alf Berlinson he said, you've got the script I said yes. A battleship is a cityy. Oh, he said. That's not very specific. I said no, but I think I know what they mean. So I was given a beautifully engraved grave card gold lettering to invite me to beautiful ship, King George the fifth Prince of Wales as well, it was a beautiful ship anyway. And it was the sort of card that you I keep going by missing and just fill in the details. And off I went Scapa Flow as an assistant, which was amazing in those days. Bless us. But he liked me was not in the army because those were considered dead loss for some reason. he had nervous stability. What was his name? No, it wasn't yours. So anyway, the moment the anchor chain rose, on the ship, we were sailing on. He began to feel ill. And he was taken was looked after by the surgeon until the anchor chain went down again. At the end of the voyage. He suffered from nervous stability. And although I felt awful in seasickness, he simply couldn't cope so he was put to bed. My assistant was before we left Scapa Flow, and didn't get out of bed. It was time to go So, we went to I don't know where the hell we went, I think we went to protect a convoy on the way ships on the way to Murmansk, which is in Russia, as you may know. And the weather was apalling, absolutely appalling. And I remember seeing and photographing a aircraft carrier following us, was it the Glorious perhaps it was with green water running down her flight deck, put her nose in and woosh, the water would come over and run down absolutely unbelievable. quite wonderful to look at awful experience. Anyway, this convoy patrol seemed to be a great success, because we didn't see any other ships whatsoever. And we turned around and came back. Apparently, the idea was to remain invisible, invisible, in the hope that the German fleet would come out and attack the convoy. And then we would rush in and defend them over the horizon. Fortunately, the Germans didn't consider this convoy to be much importance or whatever. And nothing happened, which was a great relief to yours truly. So I played bridge with a surgeon commander all the way to what I assumed was somewhere near Murmansk, and all the way back again. And I did quite well, I was quite a good bridge player in those days. And various bods joined us to make a fourth. So the Murmansk convoy was a great success. Now, I then continued with Verity films. And one of the problems at that time was that because I'd left Mach of Time, of course, as I was making as either as a director or as a camera, man, there's

I can only call them rubbishy short films. Perhaps they were important at the time, but I don't think so And every time I rang up the cutting room Merton Park, and said, Can you tell me what's happening to the cut  of de de de somebody would say, Oh, well Veronica's dealing with that so I speak to Veronica. And she said, Well, I'm awfully sorry. But I haven't got all the rushes in yet. And you can't expect the cut until you've got the rushes in and broken down and examined and thought about I said oh yes quite right this` went on for quite a long time. And finally, I said to myself, I am going to see this bloody Veronica that keeps on holding everything up at Merton Park this  bloody dictator. So I went and sitting on a stool at the end of the cutting room was this female, called Veronica and I introduced myself and she gave me a pretty sharp reception. And I looked at her and I thought, if I ever get married, I think it'll be you. But she didn't seem very impressed with my thoughts, because I hadn't expressed them alive. Anyway, I went off and lived with another girl for a year or two or whatever. And by one means or another, this stupid woman actually seemed to like me. And in 1943, Veronica was dragged out of Merton Park, and married by me and became Veronica Elton, instead of a Veronica Newman. Simple. Then we have a really wonderful sort of mad carastrophic sexual love affair because I was About 80 and she was nearly 70. And as a result, she found herself pregnant. Just at the moment when Verity films decided to send me on a film with a San Michele documentary director did not bloody hell he was doing. The film was called Tinker Tailor, Soldier, sailor. And one of the actors in it is now, something to do with the  BBC. I don't know what, nevermind. So this damn film was to be the story of a heroic convoy through the Mediterranean to Italy. So I was hired. I was told that was going to be for me. So off I went, I can't remember the name of the director. I'm very sorry. Alexander Shaw, I think it probably was your brilliant. Anyway. There we went thumping? through the Mediterranean with lots of dead bodies floating in the water. And the those of us who survived and the ship company would fire machine gun bullets at them to sink them as they were floating around in life jackets, but they were dead. And so we went to Egypt. And we went to Italy And we went to town called Bari And I had a few pounds in what was called, I think, British military money or something, think currency. It was printed on stuff looking like lavortory  paper. But it was the only currency that was worth anything at that time because the Italian lira was not worth anything it had been  cancelled. But as long as you had British military money to buy things, well, I knew that I'd left a little bun in the oven. And there were no prams in England. And there were no wedding cakes, and there were no sugar. There were no this never know that. And when I got to Bari, to my amazement,

the Americans had been there a few weeks or months, weeks before, the only thing they had in the town was millions of pounds of sugar. And some prams amazing to bring the prams, so I went to the markets where, of course I speak no Italian, but I love Italian opera. And I thought, must be good line when they gathered round because I was an odd sight with WC on my cap. And I was quite obviously in umarmed and knock my knees, great heroes. So I attracted quite a number of people. And I said, finito, Benito. And that caused a great laugh. And everybody thought I was absolutely splendid. Because it did. Benito was finito. And then I pointed at the window of a shop which was locked up. And I said, something like me oh bambino ended in Inglaterra or something like that. tried to quit the dialogue, frpm Rigoletto but they understood that I had a baby and then you're always gonna have one. So they got the shop, proprietor and he opened the shop. And he took my British military money through lovely little pram, like a little tiny racing car. And then we marched, round to a what do you call them a patiserrie and I explained me,a feminine bambino. Oh, no, no, no Inglaterra and all that, that was meant vaguely. I'm gonna have a baby in England. And they said,

Unknown Speaker  34:24  

Ray Elton  34:26  
And the next morning, I came back and there was a beautiful, luscious wedding cake like of which you couldn't have found anything. And for me, it was all packed in boxes. Well, now, that's fine. But we were in a town called Bari in Italy. And there was a war on believe it or not. But everybody was very nice. And the chap loaded, the pram in a  frame


and to Alexandria, we went They carried it  ashore bless their hearts to the water on their heads. So neither the cake nor the pram got wet. And surprisingly, as they say in a chat is saying that in marhaba ledig two

will go got home

avec cake and pram which was one of those wartime miracles. And when John Elton was born in 1944, he had a pram waiting for him. And his mother and myself had a wedding cake to eat. So, Verity films looked after me very well. And Sydney Box joined them.


the war I think we're still going on. I can't swear to it, but I think it was we had to make a film about the steelworks in Ebba Vale, with a trainee director off Alf Berlinson said to me, look, Ray,  you've got this nice young chap who wants to be a director, I mean, I don't know nothing about him. So you must stand in? run the bloody thing. And I said, well, who is he? He said his name is John Krish. But he just joined us and you must look after him see he doesn't put his foot in it.


we went off to Ebba Vale where we spent months and bloody months. And john Krish was a nominal director. With me being his sort of  supervisor, which is a weird thing to be. However, we came in at the North Gate with thesort of stuff. It's or ORE Yes. With the iron ore, and other bits and pieces, and about three or four or five or six months later, we came out at the south gate with the template complete. So Hurrah for us. The war I suspect must have been over by then. I'm sure it was. It must have been. So this is now post war must be postb war And I went on location to make a film. in the five towns to be produced, which was produced by Humphrey Strindburn whom god preserve me`we kept, and directed by Terry Bishop. And we virtually finished it. I think we had maybe one day's work to go. When Ken Annakin who I had known  for a long time, for one reason or another, rang me

and said, Tell me, he said, Would you like to photograph Miranda? I said, What's that? wellhe said it  it was a feature film?

Ooh, I said, Boy, how marvellous he said We got to start in a week's time. And I understand that you're in the middle of shooting a film. And I said, Well, don't worry about that. Ken I'lll ring Alf Berlinson my managing director and talk to him. And he was a lovely man. He was really gorgeous. So I rang Alf and I said, Alf I've only got a couple of days work left on this. Epic. I've been offered the chance of a lifetime, which is to photograph a feature film. Will you let me do it, please? And he said yes, of course. And I kissed him over the phone. And we put the baby and the pot into the old car we own and we drove to London, trying to sing all the way. The trouble was John Elton had by that time discovered the word

Unknown Speaker  39:34  
wee wee

Ray Elton  39:37  
And about every five miles he decided that he needed to wew wee which simply wasn't true. So but we had to stop. So the journey from the five towns to London took an unbelievable amount of time. But there it was. We got there..............................................

Ray Elton  0:02  
Go and shoot running. So Ken Annakin had rung up and offered me the chance to light Miranda, which is going to be my first feature lighting job. And oAlf Berlinson  the managing director of Verity films, being the lovely man he was, released me and said, Good luck, go ahead and do it. So we sang songs all the way to London.

And I arrived at Islington on the due morning, and realised that something was wrong. Because although I hadn't lit any features before, I had lit lots of interiors. And I knew by the position of the lamps and everything else, that somebody had lit the sets before me. But I didn't inquire about it because I was aware that there was a thing called studio politics, and it had always been my motto, to keep out of them. So I simply got on with it. And although the sound crew and indeed everyone was exceedinglly hostile, I just thought, well, I can't help it. It's not my fault. I haven't  done anything. I've been hired to do this damn thing. And do it. I will. And I did. And so we made a thing called Miranda. And we went on and made a couple of other films, all of which for

Bob Dunbar  1:56  
unknown balls. If I might interrupt rate, and I think you've got to tell us what why was that the lights? were all there and what what it was all about? Because you've started something which we must know the answer to. 

Ray Elton  2:11  
Yes indeed well the lights had all been used before. And it was quite obvious that there had been another director, because I knew Ken was as new to it as I was. And they'd been another cameraman. But for some reason, I didn't know and I didn't choose to enquire. Whoever had been using these sets before. had been fired if you like or whatever. And now it was up to us to use them and get on with the film. And I simply decided not to ask the sound crew were exceptionally hostile. They would always wait ttill I had finished lighting. Then they'd put the boom in and say oh, well, you obviously haven't worked in  features before. So you don't realise is a microphone and I said look, there was no reason to put the boom that side where the art was supplied the daylight  like why did you put the other side? Well, you know, you bloody amateurs amateurs and so on anyway, I struggle through it. And we've made Miranda for better or for bloody worse.

Bob Dunbar  3:25  
That was the film about a mermaid

Ray Elton  3:26  
Yes, the one waith a tail


No, it wasn't Quartet. There was a film called a boy and a girl in a bicycle of which I can remember absolutely nothing which was being made at Islington and I being so quirky chap, had invented my own kind of lighting equipment. So that I could reduce the circles from under women's eyes consisted really of a counterbalance boom, rather like a microphone boom. Which you could put just out of frame with a little tiny rinky dink on the end tiny lamp, which I would do close ups or whatever, try and get these females to look better than they were because my instructions are lighting cameramen in those days was all women must be beautiful. Whatever the character they're playing, which got me as a terrible trouble because I didn't believe it. However. I was coming down Western Avenue from somewhere near Beaconsfield where we by then we bought this little tiny farmstead, I suppose you could call it and I was travelling along, Western Avenue on my way to Islington doing a comfortable 75 80 miles an hour in my beloved old Bentley with absolutely nothing in sight anywhere. I was going sides as it were, and I could see some lights on the carriage way coming north, which quite normal in a dual carriageway. And there were a lot of bushes in the middle of the road so that any oncoming traffic appeared and disappeared behind the bushes. And as I approached Northolt entrance, I saw the nose of a vehicle come out from the northbound carriageway to cross and go into Northolt. And the way it was moving, told me it wasn't going to stop. And I knew that I couldn't stop in time either. So all I can remember his putting the steering wheel of my beloved Oold Nentley hard over over to the left, because he was coming from the right. And saying to myself, alright, I'm not religious. I said to myself, Jesus Christ, this is it. I put on the handbrake and the foot brake and turn to the left as if I was going into Northolt myself, but he hit me smack in the middle. And eventually, I woke up in a hospital with a very nice young man who had a Lancia used to travel to Denham while I was going to Islington So he was going north, I was going south. And he looked across as he was going and saw the wreck of very familiar car stopped very kindly and found out that the guy who was driving it was believed to be dead. But dead or alive. He was in a hospital nearby called I can't remember Hillingdon hospital. Vernon Sewell god bless him. So he actually turned up and I was sufficiently conscious to be able to talk to him. And I tried in my own sort of simple way to explain. There's a lot of broken teeth and everything and he was very sweet. And he took out the teeth for me and put them on the table in front of me and said, Don't worry I'll tell your wife or whatever. And he did. Well, I was eventually released from Hillingdon hospital. I had a room full of flowers, they naturally kept me apart from the people in the British Airways crew bus who had driven across the carriageway without looking And I've been left for dead in my car And the little bloke on the gate said to Ronnie when I was released, he said, I thought the only way this guy was going out was in a box.

But I didn't go out in a box. And a Bentley specialist rebuilt My beloved car. It was insured for 450 pounds. insurance company sold it to me for 25 pounds. And he said don't worry, Ray We can. He came to see me when I was at home after being released from hospital. We can rebuild this Im sorry I dropped the mic we can rebuild this for you. And he did. And it was wonderful. Anyway, Time went by and while I was mending myself, Gainsborough shut down. And the Bush I think shut down. And they wrote to me and said, this was after filling my room with flowers typical film industry gesture your contract ran out four weeks ago, whatever. And we're not renewing it. And will you please send us by return a check for the excess salary that we've paid you. Yours faithfully, PPP productions or whatever the hell they would call them. They And so I rang George Elvin because I hadn't I hadn't got a penny. And they kindly he lent me enough money to pay them back the month salary they'd ever paid me off my contract. I didn't send the flowers back as they were are all dead by them. And like everything else eventually recover. And I was offered a chance to light the film call the Last Holiday with one Alec Guinness to be directed by Henry Cass, with whom I'd work during the rubbish years of propaganda films at the Gill?And this I did. And they agreed with my agent that I would accept five pounds a week less than he wanted or eight pounds a week listening or whatever. Because if the film, if they were happy with my work, they would give me a year's contract. At the end of the film, they said, Well, we think it looks very nice, but he's used too much electricity. And we've decided we can't afford him. And so we won't give him the years contract. Because it's too expensive in that respect. So they got their fiver a week off my pay. And they didn't renew my contract. So I was outt again.

And then John Guillermin was to make a film for the Proudlock brothers, called Song of Paris. And somehow or other they got on to me, I think they thought probably thought I was jolly cheap or something. And we did this at  Walton. They were so short with money that we were down to about the last shot on the film, which consisted of two people getting into a taxi. And I said to Proudlock where's the taxi. And he said, I'm not getting this taxi. And I know we can shoot it is we got to finish at 520 sharp, we're gonna pull the plugs. well I said look  its five minutes past five. There's no taxi. How is it? Well, you'll just have to light it in your mind. And if there's enough time to get the taxi. I can't afford to get a taxi, keep him waiting. Anyway, I said, Look, I'll be ready for heaven's sake, go and get the cab. So I lit my imagination. We had a front door built in the studio. Now I lit in my imagination, the taxi should be there and the light would come from the front door and all that now we're getting with about five minutes to go. He arrived with a taxi taxi driver very bewildered, it was going on backs into the stage. Putting on the marks the lights were virtually ready. I think we put a jelly in one of them or something we shot the damn thing. And five 19 it was over. And John Guillermin said great as the last shot. Thank you very much everybody off you go. And so it was and that was how that particular film was made. It was made always on the last farthing Guillermin was very good in that. The shot before the taxi was quite a big ballroom scene. And we had about 14 minutes to do that if we were to get the taxi. And he said, Well, what about around us have a look? If you don't mind me screaming at the electricians while we're screaming while I'm spirit while you're screaming at the actors. We might just well make it which we did. So that was the Song  of Paris and I was offered a piece of the picture. A percentage whether it ever made any money or not, I never know. I think it's unlikely but certainly I never got any pieces any picture. So then after that unemployment again, not unusual. But this was unusual in the sense that there was a major slump as I Remember,

a lot of studios closed down. And far as  I could, there was no hope of being employed as lighting cameraman on movies. So I tried selling secondhand cars or anything else I could do.

But it was hopeless. And we had a mortgage in the bank on our little farmlet and farming common. And the bank manager who was so charming when we bought it call Mr. Helps decided that he was no longer prepared to be Mr. Helps And that he wanted his money back.

Bob Dunbar  15:55  

Ray Elton  15:57  
he said, I'm sorry, but there it is.


you've got to sell your house. Well, I was a bit frantic but I was lucky in that chap I knew was the head of the Gold Coast film unit. And he wanted somebody bright, like me to direct and photograph movies and also to train African technicians. And also, if he could find such a person, a good editor, to train technicians to edit Well, what an ideal combination, Veronica and Ray Elton the ideal team. Well, we applied to the press advertisement and so forth which are essential. And we were hired me to make films and train camera crews and whatnot, and Ronnie to edit and train editors. And so we went to the Gold Coast. And I had a two tour contract which were two tours of 18 months each with I think it was six months leave on each tour Well, it was very successful. We were very happy to we liked the crew I used to bring him round to the bungalow. They brought the Debrie superparva which I bought at the Denham sale. I also bought a crane that and they used to come around to the house and I would show them how to take this damn thing to bits and put it together. And it was very nice. And we were coming to the end of the first part of our it's called a tour in what you call it colonial parlance two tours of eighteen months when I was told that I would not be invited back for my second tour. But if I wish to appeal, I could go before I tried to. So I did. But they were not permitted. Or they would not make up  I can't remember to state the reasons for my contract being as it were broken quite legally in the middle. So I decided to appeal. And I went before this tribunal all white men on typical British colonials. There were some colonels this and that. And I said, Look, can you tell me why I'm being fired? And they said, No, no, we can't tell you anything. You You must make a statement. If you want to be we can't divulge why your contract being broken. They said we will tell you one thing. We have no complaint to make about your professional competence or integrity. So I said, Well, what that means Surely, is that you are firing me because I'm too friendly with my African crew. no reply. If you've no complaint against my professional integrity, how can you fire me? It's ridiculous. no reply. So we came back to London. We had either three months or six months. I can't remember what it was leave on full pay to go. And we wandered around Belsize Park So notice outside this very house that said maisonette To  Let no calls at the house.  I sa a notice outside called house and after a lot of argy bargy, we managed to rent this floor where we're now sitting and the one below for five pounds a week, which didn't worry me because I had my leave money. But no job. Ronnie went back to work at Merton Park as an editor to look after her loving husband


work for Ronnie Riley and various other Bob's there. And then one day Alf Berlison said, Well, look, we've got a film I think you would make, you could, you

know, it's going to be produced by Oswald Gilpeck?. So I went back and Oswald Gilpeck  had recently come out of hospital, after which I didn't know and I didn't know why, but he had come out of hospital. He's had his varicose veins done. And he was a very explosive man with whom I'd never had any content. And he said, we got this film to be made about Hovis bread. And nevertheless, so I said, Okay, fine. For some reason, or either he had to go off, either back to hospital for some reason or another. He was away for a while. So I got together with a client who was charming and delightful, intelligent man. Called  Alan Wood was the advertising manager of Hovis. And between us we wrote a rubbishy little script, about two children romping in the corn, for Hovis. And obviously, the children turned out to be his children. And the farm where we shot it was his farm, and so forth, said we wrote this ridiculous script, Gilpeck? came back. And I'd left a copy of it on his desk, and I was asked to go and see him. And he had a long, thin office, as long as the room you're now sitting in perhaps 10 paces or 12 paces from end to end He had a desk at one end, and the visitor's chair was at the other. And he was a bit flushed when I went in. And his office had obscure glass up to about nose level, the rest was clear. And he said, What the hell is this and threw the script out of the window, and said just because I've been away you've I know what he meant. You treachery and all kinds of words works. I just sat that I never been so surprised in all my life And he threw the  script up in the air. Then he finally took it tore it and pieces, he opened the window and threw it out of the window. I've never been so betrayed in all my life I thought  what the bloody hell he wastalking about And then he sat down and disappeared, completely disappeared behind the desk. He'd made a great deal of noise. And various people began looking tiptoeing and looking through the clear glass And there I was sitting at that end of the office at  right hand  in the office, and there was no sign of Gileck?l, but at the other end. So somebody went and got Henry Cass who had known me for a long time, we've made films together. And he came and somebody helped me quite short, to look through. And he saw Gilpeckthe scope it was missing. And he saw me sitting at the other end looking well puzzle this at least the word and he decided, because he knows I'm very quick tempered that something very serious had happened. So he went to see Alf Berlinson who is the managing director of Verity films, and he said, Look Alf I think Ray has killed Gilpeck?but what is wrong, there was a terrible row in the office, and you know what Ray is like he gets as he did kill Gilpeck? Oswald Gilpeck? but so I didn't know all this. I was just sitting there. The door opens  and Alf Berlinson puts his head round the door. And he looks at me. And he looks round the office. And he can't see Gilpeck?, and he says  Ray. what's happend to Gilpeck?  I said, I don't know Alf I said, I've been sitting here for the last 30 minutes. I said he got in a terrible state. And then he disappeared down behind the big desk. And I haven't moved to see what's the matter with him. All I know, it was a terrible sort of uproar  that he created all by himself. So Alf tiptoes across the room, looks down behind the desk, and sees Gilpeck down on the floor under his desk, holding his leg which is covered in blood. And says, What's happened, Oswald Oswald says, My varicose veins have burst again, you see, so they get an ambulance.

They cart him off. Because his stitches had come undone he got so excited and so bloody minded that he burst himself. So anyway, that was the end of that. I made the film of the client. It was great fun. He had a lovely daughter with whom I fell in love. But she wouldn't have anything to do with me. She was too young. And so there you are then one day, not long after that, because I was only on that one particular film, they didn't hire me on the payroll. Alf Berlinson asked to  see me and said, there's a thing called commercial television starting. I said, What's that? He said, Well, you make advertisements sort of lasting a minute or 30 seconds or whatever. And they're going to put them on television. I said, is that a fact? And he said, Look, Ray, let's face it. I've got two difficult, impossible people on the staff. You are one. Ian Latimer is the other. So I've decided to make Ian  Latimer as a producer of Guild Television services. And you are to be the director of TV commercials. I said, but Alf how do you make a film? Last 30 secondsit takes longer than that to get through the bloody door? Well, thats  something you'll have to sort out? So they formed a separate company called Guild Television services. In no time at all, we were making so many goddamn commercials they had to get a new building which they got off the Strand called Exchange Court. And I became a director of TV commercials. And I did some of the classic ones like Frys Turkish delight, where the girl falls out of a carpet, a terribly sexist thing and gives the Turkish delight to the Sultan, and all that rubbish and lots of others. And we won lots of prizes and everything was splendid. But doing two or three commercials a day or whatever it was at Merton Park, which is where we shot them all I found that my feet used to hurt an awful lot. And I got very bored with all this rubbish. And a young man who was sort of producer at Guild was desperately anxious to direct His name's Peter Duffle. So I said, Look, Peter, you want to direct? I'd love an office desk, right? My feet don't hurt. Why don't we swap? So we went to the managing director called Bill Williams. And we said look, Bill, there's bugger all you can do about this. I am going to produce and Peter Duffle is gonna direct if you don't like it, you can lump  it. But since he didn't do anything, it had nothing to do with anything. There was nothing to do except accept it. So Peter came in the director, I became the producer. And I took the clients out to lunch and put on five stone in five days, eating at Rules and all the other marvellous restaurants in the west end with all my old mates who used to be in documentary but when our clients and so I suddenly discovered how marvellous food could be, instead of eating a studio canteen. I never realised that such sort of food existed. Indeed, Peter Plaskett summed it up magnificently. He was an old documentary bloke who went to an agency and we was sitting in Rules in January. And he said to me, you know, Ray, there's only one thing I've got against the advertising industry. said Peter, what's that? And he said, the strawberry season is insufferably long. Because at that moment, the trolley had arrived and there were all these wonderful strawberries in January. And I thought, well, that's really what it's all about. Hello. One of the prize giving things at Cannes Festival. I was coming down the steps from the theatre when a very large man five times as wide as it was in spite of Rules, and all the other restaurants was coming up the steps. And he said, your name Elton I said. Yes. Come with me, says he. And he plopped me down at the cafe at the sort of reception, bought me a coffee

and said, Now young fella nobody called me that for a long time. I was a young fella by comparison to  him. I want you to come work for me. Oh, I said but then. What exactly do you mean? Is it well? Don't you know who I I am I said no. No. Is it well, my names Lytle I run advertising and CJ Lytle? advertising. Now I want you to come and join me as director. I'll give you a direction of the company. And you must be Director in Charge of television. Ooh says I really, he said don;t you play hard to get with me. I said, But look, I've got responsibilities. I'm in the middle of various productions. To Guild television. I must finish them.So he said  don't you play hard to get with me but is running on a mafia. So I went down to the beach where I found my Managing Director, Bill Williams. And I said, Bill, I've just been offered a job in an advertising agency. Twice the money you're paying me. And they're offered me a director ship. And I must tell you, it sounds very attractive. I don't want to do it. But, you know, what could you do for me he said well I'll ring Alf Berlinson and see what can be done. So a couple of hours later, we met on the beach again. And he said I spoke to Alf. And he said you tell Elton as long as he got his holes in a hole in his arse I'll, never pay more than 50 pounds a week. So I said, well, I've been offered double that. And he said, Well, there it is. But I said, right. I'm going to take the job, which I did. And I stayed there for a year and learnt a lot about what not to do and what to do.

About towards the end of the year, Bill rang me up and said, Why don't you come back? And I said, Well, why don't you invite me back, which they did. So they invited me back as again, an increase in salary over what the increase. And I went back to Guild television, which made me very happy because I hated the advertising agency. absolutely awful. And there I was sitting in my office, quite happy. Because not being a pompous type. anybody wanted to come and see me or just could walk in the receptionists to ring up and say, Joe Bloggs says never send him a man who the hell cares? It doesn't mean you're not gonna do anything. And there's a young man. there's a there's a gentleman called Nigel Malinson wants to see as I send him up for Christ. So it becomes a young fella he was even younger than I was rather suave, had a suit on. I saw another one wants to get into the movie business. So I said, Well, young man, what can I do for you? Oh, he said, I hope you don't mind me saying sir, Mr. Elton, but I was hoping I do something for you. Change. He said no, really? He said, Do you know who I am? I said no. I had no idea. Oh, he said, Do you know Mr. Annett I said no, I don't know. He said he's the managing director Rank advertising films. And I'm his personal assistant. Oh, I said that's very nice for you both. And he says he is authorised me to come and ask you if you would consider joining Rank advertising films because organisation has rundown over the years. Nobody comes to us for production anymore. The TV commercials systems scene has changed. We want somebody to rebuild us and put us back into the market dabba dabba dabba number ooh Well, nobody ever lost anything by listening to proposition. So with better so I saw his boss. Now I thought over there. They're building. I told his boss to Bill and that was very nice man. I said, Look, this place looks as if it was born. before the age of quota quickies. I said the moment you get out of the executive offices into production, section, the walls are filthy. The equipment's worn out. It's absolutely awful. And the modern young agency producer is not going to come and work here. Whatever you pay him, whatever you do. so he said Oh, dear, dear, well, what do you think I said, Look, if you want me to come and work with you, you've got to put up a lot of money to refurbish this place and re equip it. And he said, Oh, yeah, well, I can't do that. That's got to go before the board. So I said, well, that's your problem, not mine, because I'm very happy where I am. He put it before the board. To my amazement, they passed the capital sum And I refurbished the whole goddamn place, and brought a lot of new people in. And it was marvellous until John Davis decided that the investment was not earning the amount of profit that it should do, and decided to shut the place the production unit down, I don't blame him in his way.

Bob Dunbar  37:14  

Ray Elton  37:16  
I heard the rumour that there was going to be trouble and Bill Annett, told me he was really sweet that they were going to have to reduce the overheads of the production unit. And I said what you mean is you're gonna have to fire people. He said, Well, I'm afraid so. As a result, you must realise that the only asset we've got, are the people making the movies. you start firing them, you'll have nothing left. You'll be able to make more profit in the week you've fired them. But the week after that, they're working on a fall after there's nothing. I said no. Anyway, if you decide to do that I've been with you now for I can't remember how many years. The only favour I've got to ask you is if you're going to make staff redundant, that you put me at the head of the list, and fire me first so that you don't leave me sitting at my desk, in an empty office with no staff, and no prospect of doing anything. That's the only favour. I've got to ask you, he said I understand that perfectly. So a few weeks went by. And everybody was busy working.

And we had the

stage at Hill Street and there was a commercial on the stage and everything. When my internal phone rang and somebody said, Would you come and talk to Mr. Annett which I went up to his office? And he said we're I'm terribly sorry to tell you, it has been decided that we have a list of redundancies.

And in accordance with your request, we have agreed that since you've asked us to do so you're the first person we're telling and As from today, this person, this one, this one, this one, this one, this

is one that is going to be redundant. We're paying redundancy fees and all that. And so that well so I went back to my office and I took that painting away, which was hanging on the wall. I cleared my desk and I came home letting myself in with a key. And my beloved wife was sitting there looking at television. And I came in and said hello Ron, no reply. And I thought that's funny. And she said, I said Ron sheesh, I looked at the box. I saw a man leaping about in a strange sort of way.

And it was the man landing on the. Moon. And suddenly it was over. And she said, What's the matter? What are you doing here? middle of the afternoon I arrived just at the moment that the first man ever landed on

the moon,

but quite rightly, she was transfixed by it. And I said, I've just been fired. Ooh good heavens said she There it was and then after that, it all runs down in the sense. There was a young man, a director, Ranks who made documentaries called Jeff Inman. He had a group of powerful friends called Bob Monkhouse and  others in a company called Mr Monkhouse the moment they heard I was fired. Henry Howard, who was a businessman said to me, look, Ray, you've got a marvellous reputation of being disinterested in the years, you must set up your own company. I said, Oh, come on.Henry  No, no, really, is that we've got room in our offices. We'll provide the initial finance. We've got a couple of commercials on the books you can have to profit from and this and that he was enormously helpful. And so I said, well, unwillingly. All right. So I thing called Ray Elton and partners limited was formed to make TV commercials, documentaries. And it lasted for quite a long time, and we did very well. And I realised I was getting more and more out of date. And represented another world as time went by. I knew that I was no longer what the advertising industry were looking for, was looking for. And so Marital? bought me out and took over the company. I left the end of four or five years and decided to go into Limbo

Bob Dunbar  42:05  
that;s it.........................................................................................

Ray Elton  0:00  
You're gonna definitely so are you ready Ray out and again. So Barry Joel, who used to be a protege of mine is a talented young man and an artist took over the company, and is still running it is now called Barry John associates very successful it did to. For me, I thought, this is the end of my professional career. And Ronnie, as I call her, whose proper name is Veronica, and myself set up to find a suitable hovel, somewhere in the United Kingdom, where we could settle and remain like Darby and Joan, for the remainder of our days. But we couldn't really find anything that seemed any better than the flat. We were living it. But we did try. But I printed a sort of miniature biography and sent it off to lots of people, not without any hope of reply. When extraordinarily, Dora Thomas, who was head of Shell International Film Unit, who I didn't really know. And I didn't think I was sort of up the market enough for Shell anyhow, rang me and said, Ray, are you busy? And I said, No. So she said come and see me, which I did. And she offered me one or more films, one after the other, to direct and or produce for Shell International. And very nice. It was too they paid very good money. They were delightful people to work for. Dora although superficially excessively tough, was really quite a charmer in her own way. And I made a few films for them of variou sorts. And the time came when Shell said, on the phone, your medical has run out, Ray, do you mind coming in on Wednesday, and having a new medical so that you can go on doing whatever you have to do? I said, No, not at all. so on Wednesday. Don't ask me the date. I went through the whole Shell medical department eyes ears nose throat this that the other finishing up with an old Doctor Who said Oh, it's you again? Oh, yes. How are you? I said, I'm fine. Oh, that's good to see. And kept me over a few places and said, well, you look pretty good to me. And I said, Well, I am pretty good. And then the fire bells went, and there was a trial evacuation of the building. And I was on the fifth floor. And they said, Oh, now's our chance. Shall we take you down on the stretcher I said, that'd be ridiculous. So I walked down the five floors gathered on the pavement with everyone else. And smoked a cigarette I regret to say. And finally it was all over and the rehearsal was declared a great success. Everybody was evacuated. Absolutely marvellous. So I went back to the office for a few minutes, came home, had lunch, had me afternoon sleep. And we were going to BAFTA that night to the cinema. And I walked down the garden past two that was in our garage at the far end of the garden, and got the car out. And my beloved wife was closing the doors. When I shouted ouh ouh ouh, please don't close the doors. I need help quickly. And I had the most awful pains down in the lower part of my abdomen. Well,Ronnie herd me back into the house. And I was kneeling at the side of the bed for a while while she made telephone calls to doctors. And finally one turned up and thought I had colic or something like that because I'd had tummy trouble before and said, Do you want me to give you an injection for the pain which is likely to come back? Or would you rather go to hospital? So I said Well, I think I'd rather go to hospital. So he said all right, he called the ambulance and I was shunted shoved off into the Royal Free and though I was having burst what is known as the aorta artery that runs down from the heart to rest of you. That of course I didn't know The point of the story is that the next morning, this is Thursday morning, the Secretary at Shell rang Ronnie and said, Ronnie, I've got good news for you. Ray has been past fit to work anywhere in the world. And Ronnie said well that's lovely news, I've got news for you. He's in intensive care, for the Royal Free at the moment  having almost died. Much consternation. However, there it was and after a certain time, one recovers from these things to the skill of the surgeons, and the marvellous treatment of the intensive care outfit. And I decided that that was the end of me. But strangely enough, Dora Thomas decided that if I returned to the land of the living, she would give me more work. And by God, she did. And so

I was in not really fit to direct, I don't think, but to produce, which is easy, we just complain about what the rep is doing. I made some sort of technical films for her but then time moves on Dora retired from Shell. And they decided that their film section was costing too much for total, too little visible profit. And so I decided that it was time I gave up. And so I retired from the film industry, the ACT were kind enough for some reason or another, I never understand, to give me a fully paid up membership, which I thought was really civil of them, considering they hadn't done dam all, really. And so it was, so I became an ex-film industry, which gave me certain privileges, I was able to join the veterans, whatever it is, and go to variou cinemas without pay. And that was very nice. And so that was the end of me.

Bob Dunbar  7:14  
 On the other hand, Ray I'd like to, to mention about how all the way through this fascinating life you've been telling us about, you've also been a considerable painter, you've done a hell of a lot of hard work, lot of painting. And in a way, that seems to me, pretty important. It ties up with your work as a cameraman, it seems to me, does it not?

Ray Elton  7:39  
 Well, I suppose in a sense, it does that. You can't really be a cameraman, if you don't have a sense of composition, and all this and that, and, and so forth. Why I started painting, I suppose was simply because in 19, gosh, it was so long ago, in the 1940s, perhaps. We knew some painters. And I was intrigued by this. And I couldn't help thinking that this was rather nice, rather good stuff to do. And so I began working as a painter, in round about 1940 567. I can't remember something like that. And I've carried on ever since. And, interestingly, I suppose enough, is that I found that the busier I was, and the harder I was working as a filmmaker, the more I could work as painter. And I was able to stay working into way into the night when I should have been asleep, I suppose. painting. And when I was out of work, it was very difficult to go on painting. One thing seemed to stimulate the other. And I've been at it now for what 40 odd years. done a lot of shows. Some of my work, some people will say is actually rubbish either way. Other people think it's wonderful. I don't really mind. I just go on doing it. And now and for the last, why don't how many years. But since my official retirement as you like, I've been a whole time painter. And that makes me very, very happy. I thank you for listening to all this rubbish. I hope that the archivists and the researchers in the year 3000 get some pleasure out of all this nonsense that I've been talking and good night to you all. Thank you

Bob Dunbar  9:54  
for asking me. Thanks..................................................................................................



Ray Elton was born on January 28, 1914 in Cardiff, Wales, UK. He was a cinematographer and producer, known for Quartet (1948), Last Holiday (1950) and Miranda (1948).Elton was employed by Sydney Box's  documentary unit Verity Films  during the Second World War He worked on several Gainsborough films, once Box took over the running of the studio.