Syd Wilson

Family name: 
Work area/craft/role: 
Interview Number: 
Interview Date(s): 
18 Jun 1991
4 Jun 1992
14 Jul 1992
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Interview notes



Born in Uxbridge, 1920 and left school at the age of 14 in 1934 to work in the stores of the Uxbridge Gazette & Advertiser for 7/6 a week [c35pence]. Called up in 1939 he describes his battalion’s fortunes as having John Mills and the Walton Brothers as NCOs [Non-Commissioned Officers] (Walton was the fruiterers). Demobilised in 1946 and applied for a job with Technicolor, started at the labs on 1/10 per hour [just under 10pence] as a track printer. He talks about Leslie Oliver, who he says was ‘his hero’. Moved to matrix printing at 2/6 per hour [12.5 pence] in 1948. In 1949 Leslie Oliver made him a foreman: worked on the travelling mattes for Black Narcissus and The Red Shoes; stayed as foreman doing shifts until 1954. With the introduction of the ‘scopes and visions’, made up to Assistant Supervisor, [and] in 1956 Supervisor.

He talks about the bitterness between London and Hollywood, in particular about a process which he was involved in and which was nominated for a ‘technical Oscar’ which was awarded, but when he got the award there [were] several American names on it who had had nothing to do with the idea(1961).

He talks about the Hollywood Technicolor plant, the dedication of the staff; he also tells how the Hollywood staff claimed to have produced nearly twice the footage as London with the same number of staff, but he discovered that when they were pressed, they could call up freelance staff who didn’t appear on the normal payroll.


He talks about Lawrence of Arabia and the trouble with Kodak’s stock. Also about problems of developing with a new stock. He was made Plant Superintendent. He talks about ‘wet’ printing in which Technicolor were 20 years in advance of the rest of the industry. In 1964 he was made Plant Manager. He then relates the problems that came up with the various ‘buy outs’, the sacking of Frank Littlejohn: Syd says that felt completely on his own. Fassenack, one of the new owners told him to get rid of everyone who had worked for the company for more than ten years; at this he decided that it was time to leave and Roger Cherrill suggested that he should talk to Studio Film Labs who were looking for someone to pull their operation together.. In 1971 he joined SFL as General Manager; in 1974 he was made Sales Manager, a job that gave him great satisfaction. He finally retired in 1987.

SIDES 3- 14

There are another 10 sides of tape recorded by Alan Lawson Sides 3-8 were recorded on the  4th June 1992. Sides 9-12 were recorded on the 14th July 1992. In addition to these interviews. Syd recorded a seperate "tape letter" addressed to Alan Lawson in 1992 on the subject of Cinecolor and Dufeycolor. In it he gives the background and the history of Cinecolor ( Britain), not the the American company. On side 2 he goes on to descibe in detail the process of Dufeycolor and Dioptichrome and the reasons for it's demise.      



Syd was born in Uxbridge in 1920. He left school at fourteen and served in World War II. After the war ended he saw an advert for Technicolor  in Hayes in the local paper .He joined the company  as a track printer at their laboratories on the Bath Road in Harmondsworth ,Middlesex in 1946. It was a fairly basic job which involved changing the exposure during printing. Syd learned the job in two days and quickly became bored. He applied for a number of jobs and eventually moved into matrix printing. He worked on the travelling mattes for Black Narcissus and The Red Shoes. Syd was constantly suggesting ways of improving the efficiency  of the plant. In 1949 he was promoted to foreman and invited to join the Technical Development Committee, an internal committee responsible for discussing and developing new methods and ideas.. 

In 1962 he won an  Oscar for his contribution to scientific & technical developments in film.The first feature film to use his new optical printing system was “ l Cid” starring Charlton Heston.   

Syd left Technicolor in 1971 and  joined Studio Film Labs as General Manager.In 1974 he was made Sales Manager, a job that gave him great satisfaction. He finally retired in 1987. His paper on The Evolution of Colour - via Technicolor is located under the tab below.