ALFIE COX SIDE 1.WAV
[00:00:02.440] - Alan Lawson
The copyright of this recording is vested in the Bectu History Project. Alfie Cox feature film editor. INTERVIEWER Alan Lawson with Syd Wilson recorded on the 18th of November 1992 side won.
[00:00:29.680] - Alan Lawson
I should have them on the blotting paper they used to me first of way. Where were you born.
[00:00:41.190] - Alfie Cox
London Marylebone in 1925 August 16 School Well because the war interfered an awful lot of that. Yeah see the Bedford School. In Hampstead. There was a film is very much involved with the nuns schools who the guilds arts and crafts which used to have an exhibition at. King's Works. So there's an awful lot of things went on there and then a half failed scholarship.
[00:01:32.340] - SPEAKER: M3
Tell me do the Hardaway's schools those days which was the central school system.
[00:01:38.370] - SPEAKER: F1
No it was all very central school. It was a lot like the governor the 11 plus after that crisis and that was the Fleet Center which was just by blokes station and I was there till evacuation during the war. I was good was moved up to. Rutman near Oakham and just in 1940 no returned to London because nothing seemed to happen happening was the sort of Cold War period and there were scratch calls were made and I went to one just round the corner from us called the harbour and I eventually left there and. Started work as it were when they started. Now let me say in the early days prior even to the war starting I think there were the rehearsals for air raids and things that went on with people volunteering to be either. Casualties or. One thing another level of mock exercises in the streets and all the boys got bikes became Muslim boys or whatever and I was one of those and eventually. Went into the LP is the most of the heavy rescue depots. And then from there to work down the railways. Clerkin returns empty goods a Barbie road which I now think is paying above Leigh complex or the other side of the road where lines from there. From the National Cash Register and from there into the film industry.
[00:03:29.580] - SPEAKER: M4
Is there any family connection at all. None whatsoever not related to any of the various properties in the business. Now it's a very common no.
[00:03:39.430] - SPEAKER: F1
What was your parents reaction going to visit my mother and fathers both that my mother was horrified. She had taken me to because the centre was Galway's and all of a commercial school as which is that day that you weren't very crafty and included in that shorthand typing even for the fellows she drove me off to work the London Chamber of Commerce they'd got an examination entrance thing for the clerks. She took me to that and I looked up the questionnaire and I looked around a table at the other people that were applying and the people that were doing the questioning I thought No way. So I answered all the questions on the questionnaire wrongly or half wrong. And the best thing that I had no idea I got a job in the film industry first of all was in the contract department then in public where I knew wrong conferences.
[00:04:50.320] - SPEAKER: F3
That was in Wall Street opposite Playhouse and then into publicity. During that time they had programs that they were.
[00:05:06.510] - SPEAKER: F1
Pushing around the country. Old Mother Raiola and thousands sometimes there were double billed and one job was the linehaul United is somebody at 17 years or less and five for nothing. Travelling around the country with a six foot lion away. Sometimes lavenders overnight. I remember one occasion having to go from London up to Oxford. To rescue a lot of these stuffed animals things and take them down to Bristol on a cross-country train and the air raids and training was long and you've stopped twice to the station. Sometimes you stop without the station because the bombers and riving and Bristol at the end of the night. And then you'd hire a shop or they would have. Hired an empty shop and you do a window display and come back with a oh peanuts you know about 30 bucks a week filling it out it it was very very little. And then suddenly I was whipped off into the Cunninghams where I was I was in New York and it was basically working on a effective in nearly all was government documentaries for the Ministry of Information. It was it was the editor the end there was a woman called and so they Cummins believe she's no longer with us. She married and married an American after a divorce and went to the States and of course at the ministry of information in those days there were lots of producers who were there as part of their war effort. Who of famous names didn't mean anything. I had no idea how Baz a film got shown up on the screen like Weatherley else it was all very interesting. Where are you living in this time so traveling. You really I mean it was only to illustrate the love of the time was on point but I was fit and healthy and young and working conditions like in the country there are pretty good there actually because we were a three man team. Were you working for the government and you had to work through a recognised company. So we had lined this whole deal up and really it was nothing to do with you rolling but it was other things going through their books and it was all then these bonafied. And we had Cunninghams on the top floor and they were very nice. By today's standards Kulwin was very antiquated but when they cut her out of Cays digital native getting old Jack when it was I suppose is what this animal taught me an awful lot about negative Kaupthing or anything at all. He was one of the first members of VCT and that's when I joined Acito. As would have a probationary member in those days that was about 43 Ford on forty two point one put it literally except as a full member I think it was October and December 42. You did a three month probation and that even though I think that the basic wage for this documentary was 35 but. It was like fifteen hundred pounds.
[00:08:54.350] - SPEAKER: F17
What was your working week then. Pretty good. Because we were so much more than we were when it was necessary you.
[00:09:07.710] - SPEAKER: F1
See. And in those days one was always enthusiastic about making films as they did last 20 years. Only in the last few years that has become a bind. Because of the supposed general circumstances. There's not as much fun in moviemaking as there was for sure. I mean sometimes we work late not always worked on us. We just went away according to the climate of the time what move is required. We did do a certain amount of work for. Some for New Rome and some for other people that but the you know new ROM for argument's sake would get the licence to distribute an American film but wanted it shorter because I had already done it you know and we used to get the job cutting it down then cutting down the prints. But that was something that kept us going and kept the salary cap me in the pretty. How long did you stay there. Wednesday was over. We moved from.
[00:10:20.170] - SPEAKER: M2
Then to Cunninghams in San Anne's court building is no longer there was any house and then we went through the winter there when everybody was being cut off for power and about the only time you could work was lunchtime. This really is somewhere about there. We know it was. Earlier than we and. Only we did we had we had we'd gone through the war. That's right because we'd already done the. Film of the relief of pure bogon those sort of things. And so we're left and started working for Jim Muller who was the chief editor of Paramount news until he opened his own business.
[00:11:15.040] - SPEAKER: F1
Has stayed with him for a while and then persuaded features to persuade you to go to office was an editorial. There used to be a feeling I don't know how much of an issue he was it seems to view varying stories and of which I've been able to verify but he's trying to persuade me to have to leave to go on to a small back room. But I didn't do any persuaded me to leave which I did and that was good too exclusive as they were not have well exclusive in those days with a company. On them little things that they were doing in those days. The small detective stories and doing the dick buttons and the doctor Marie-Rose and the Peacey 49ers. It was that stage you know to go assistant assistant to him yeah yeah and eventually finished up when he when he went after a fall the gentleman had a terrible start and about Demba as well and he went on and I was given the job of completing the picture that he was doing at the time. Ray Pitt who used to be an editor revealing he he was working there had two editors working alternately on films. And I completed the one and he was there on. The film called Celia.
[00:12:52.740] - SPEAKER: F3
Starring Hi Hazel. It's about 49 I think somewhere about that.
[00:13:00.390] - SPEAKER: F1
As well and I stayed there with them for a while. Eventually when the Bush goes down. Jimmy needs came there as an editor and the issues. No no no. When the Bush closed I'm sorry you to have been there as an adversary to come back from. Performances. He came there as an editor and I got pushed on being his assistant. Yeah I spoke to him. I can't remember exactly. Some time this year he was a member of the Guilbert he. Resign.
[00:13:51.660] - SPEAKER: M4
Usually taking umbrage at something that somebody said but as both between March in August of this year he's still alive. So you really kind of had to backpedal backpedal a bit. But there again you know I mean 49 numbers 20 for you. No not really. I'd only been in features for. About a year I love being involved with a couple I didn't really know what it was. All about.
[00:14:22.140] - SPEAKER: F1
Actually we're working well at the point when I started with them cutting them up on the fourth floor on the corner of Wardour Street and Broad Street dead opposite the round house. I remember working there late at night or I can't remember whether it was a dog or.
[00:14:44.220] - SPEAKER: F4
A baby or was that the police arriving at the door because somebody had been complaining about her treatment.
[00:14:51.300] - SPEAKER: F5
No ma'am no no. As I've read on the corner here it is down down the bottom line on Wall Street. See there was a Joe Lyons on the other side on Wall Street. And there was the round house pub. And then on the other corner of that block is the Wellington. And it was up there on the top the fourth on the fourth.
[00:15:16.280] - SPEAKER: F6
And about 10 o'clock at night with the policemen arriving. It's not funny. So what is this animal you need. And then they had Calends of their own in. All street in my house.
[00:15:34.500] - SPEAKER: F7
As well as at the school. Eventually I had the studio as well as that which Julie would be using. Well in my view they kept dodging around one was never to show host and park they use down place. They did use where they are now for a period of time I think. But they kept moving around. As a made in all sorts of places. I'm not sure with Celia was made certainly the lady craves excitement. Was made in down place which is next door which is now the restaurant expensive restaurant. Because it still has know. In the hall. Because of a massive massive gothic style building here and in the hallway there's an organ which was played by air.
[00:16:29.570] - SPEAKER: F9
And which was featured in the film. Render that. And then eventually moved to bray to the studio is helpful here they call.
[00:16:44.460] - SPEAKER: F1
Did you. Did you move with them. No I think I'd moved away to do a few other things.
[00:16:55.570] - SPEAKER: M5
Yes after a period of time I was working as an assistant. I moved off and went. More or less freelancing. When I worked at Whartons studios like that. With varying editors. And. Then went back to them as it sounded.
[00:17:15.040] - SPEAKER: M6
But when you were freelancing that was about me doing this is it really all about the work.
[00:17:21.520] - SPEAKER: M5
There was a fair amount of work in something that didn't seem to be any problem. There were a lot of things going on which did it. Did you as an assistant. And Bakos you. Had gone to. In. A period of time only with the company of the jury and Asen was involved in. Go to a member and I actually work with. People like. John Siebel senior.
[00:18:01.690] - SPEAKER: M2
And John trum.
[00:18:05.220] - SPEAKER: M4
Did he come. Did you work with Jose. No no. My most.
[00:18:11.590] - SPEAKER: F10
Vivid recollection of John was one of the boys had been injured. I can't remember now whether it was John Junior or whether it was Peter. And his car system that Steve was on location shooting. It might very well have been his car at the studio. In the car park at the bottom end of her Grove. So the old man was commissioned to bring it home. It's the only time I've seen the car going up grove with both traffic as the old passion semaphores.
[00:18:47.450] - SPEAKER: M8
Both of them out at the same time. They look ridiculous as they go and try and take no freeloading for a while.
[00:19:06.370] - SPEAKER: M9
How did they come to treat the editors reasonably well pretty well. I mean we were all having a ball again at Walton when.
[00:19:15.800] - SPEAKER: F6
You had power failures or power cuts or whatever it was everybody has grown. But the neighbors around the studio were a little worried about that. And the ball in the road.
[00:19:28.250] - SPEAKER: F11
But we used to have a great time and I was there at the period time and they were digging up their Roman temple in the centre of London they found me the bitterest myth. There were also doing some work in the studio. Some police found a property part with it.
[00:19:50.980] - SPEAKER: F6
But we used to have terrible when you consider it in those days everything was flat. There were no safety stock or anything has come Guy Fawkes Night terrible terrible fire fights all around us. And on one occasion a victim was sent round to the manager's office. Anybody caught using fireworks in the first instance.
[00:20:15.790] - SPEAKER: F11
Dismas Baron from the studio for life. So his office got them over everybody that sort of thing that wouldn't be tolerated at all.
[00:20:31.570] - SPEAKER: M9
Tell me which way did any of the editors really go out of their way to help you.
[00:20:43.750] - SPEAKER: F5
Yes I suppose they did. You weren't aware too many Ted certainly did an awful lot and not quite so much. Score and. One was you know picking things up all the time. Watching points and in fact it was. You it was on the thing where than where I got my first solo dubbing job of feature of all commercial television half hour Biola as I had done on documentaries and things but this was the first time on my own. In the feature world who was going to ask you really know what is going on here what was it like working with optical tracks what this may. Well be one of the worst ones was that was the factor. Because it sounded a it it was an optical process. And in those days the first thing that you did was to clean up your dialogue tracks. And get those all the overlaps and split off and everything has to get the coming copy of the lab just to get them for cutting.
[00:22:05.980] - SPEAKER: F12
So they could print up a rehearsal copy which you use when you rehearse dubbing and then the shooting print which only went out when everybody was happy that the mix is a god they use right. And they were spotted which was peoples thing there. Was a set of headphones on listening for the blips and looking to see whether the White dots were anything isn't binding them out so that they wouldn't sound. That was the first job you did. Well no cleaning up the video and try to track. Then you went on and did your effects and whatever things were necessary because in those days you weren't shooting very much in the way of footsteps. They weren't the sort of requirements in those days. One of the advantages of having to do that to the tracks is there was nothing left for the editor or the director. To start altering. That was the way it was. Nowadays the last thing you do is you your dialogue because it's magnetic it doesn't need to send it to the lab it's not going to take another two weeks before you get your prints back.
[00:23:16.600] - SPEAKER: M9
So they're all turning up to the last minute and beyond in those days how many tracks did you have. I mean you know were using. Well it would be an absolute max.
[00:23:31.920] - SPEAKER: F6
That would be a big feature Yeah. But you didn't mean in those days if you did a preemie. Yes it was an optical here so they're going to go to the labs and be processed and come back the following day or maybe the day after. If you knew what it was like to be able to use are they. Well they worked preannouncing. Yes there was a certain amount although in most cases they have more people on the desk but things were simpler when you say they have more people on the day. I mean Prime with these days. They normally have three people but even small smaller places you would have had three people really two or three you. There were three people at the RCA towers at Hammersmith and there were two shepherds or. So you know they would be handling more. It was it was a much greater mental strain I think in those days because. You didn't have the opportunity to stop or hold back. It was straight through earlier than it was when they were dabbing at the bushing places. They were only dubbing 140 stations. Or sequences. And they would be joined up afterwards because of the time taken to run for 10 minutes or nine minutes I.
[00:25:01.400] - SPEAKER: F13
I see you you had a synchronized but didn't have any any means of reading the tracks at all. You do then on the move you know the.
[00:25:14.560] - SPEAKER: M4
Right side by. Oh no no no no no. So the standard for one picture and three tracks but then you couldn't read it as. They are lonely. Well it was the old movie or the act made to you. You couldn't read anything you couldn't hear anything because there were no opticals our minds on synchronizers. You a little bit adept in reading your soundtrack. Almost as you would the printed word but that was usually it to see where it started or where it caught up in it that something wasn't much post thinking.
[00:25:51.020] - SPEAKER: F1
Or very little very little as much as possible. It was kept down to the minimum age because the technique wasn't so great wasn't there yet in getting it to fit. And also if you had to make cuts or anything else because there's optical you had to be very careful the jawans don't out whereas because of the cement join the overlap join could leave a white line which case it's going to sound it doesn't happen on mine and I think the king that the word diagonal Joiner's put Joiner's opiated a little bit the joint sounding but it was a problem and again you know it's another added expense because there's got to be Najat again afterwards.
[00:26:48.640] - SPEAKER: F13
And if you are talking in terms of putting a perforation in note taking a perforation out that's really difficult for the others to follow the numbers on to.
[00:27:03.120] - SPEAKER: F1
So are you really getting the key numbers in this rubber memory a rubber numbering although they've been in for a long long time over the numbering and covers is the only way to reach it. Yes yes yes. I mean I worked on a picture which was 100 percent allocation so it was much like later in life that did have a fair amount of poetry because it was on vacation and we were post thinking at weekends because of the fact that we shooting during the week and it was during those Salisbury Plain. Although it was a wall picture but it still got the bangs in the wrong place. The it was on whether the thing was shown on the western system and it was that the whole thing would process the Olympic labs and they didn't have the machine there flash blueprint. It is what they had seen they had but they devised a method where they overprinted and they punched black film. So a punch diagonal punch mark when it was synchronized up would print black. Of course the joy we have one road come in and it was one perforation all the way.
[00:28:32.660] - SPEAKER: F13
It did sound and there again we were loping at the gate which doesn't exist anymore at the weekends and the again was the main lead in the picture and he refused to posting without the other people in the same building. Now should always Posa each person individually because what happens and inevitably did is that little as good as it and the other two weren't very good and when they came on Lobb he'd gone way off so that you never got anybody. And in those days you had to make up your mind as to whether it was going to work or not because you were on optical.
[00:29:16.130] - SPEAKER: M4
And you couldn't play but I knew what you were looping on optical Oh yes yes because it was only just Ian and even then it was in thousand rocks.
[00:29:29.480] - SPEAKER: F13
So every time the light went round that was another bit of the thousand foot rollcage. It wasn't a slow falling in the same valley and you had to make up your mind that you can make it work because you couldn't wait till the following day and you couldn't go through all the business of playing back through another thousand feet. I thought the rushes in and I started off for a weekend session started work and I am having a terrible trouble getting it to fit and I'm having to stretch it stretching stretching and sounding my need to stretch it in words. Oh dear oh dear I'm going to need a second native to be able to cheat cheat it so I rang Mahrez askew up who was the mixer at the gate and said Maurice I'm in trouble my eyes must have been off last weekend. I can't get this stuff fed. I'm going I need another negative to be able to make it work he said. Well I wondered about that because we found.
[00:30:33.530] - SPEAKER: F1
That we had transferred it had 25 frames not 24.
[00:30:40.850] - SPEAKER: M7
So we said thanks for bringing me in telling me they wait for a day dry and he get it right. I got another transferred 24 rounds that was all right because it do that as Morris was a church deacon or something I really couldn't tell him what I thought of it as well as blatant lies.
[00:31:06.890] - SPEAKER: M11
Well before becoming yours. You note your specialization. When you first started in the cutting well Joiner's re being used.
[00:31:18.040] - SPEAKER: F13
Oh and John has the Premier League of a job that was with the cement and scraper that never worked exactly through the film. I remember on one occasion when I was working for the Cummins in the documentaries I was an editor.
[00:31:39.150] - SPEAKER: F15
The floor below was either the floor below or next door below that's where I used to be and can well directly to find that I didn't know.
[00:31:53.180] - SPEAKER: M7
He came up said Sylvia was right there joined the lab is making me do some drawing for me just finished and very important things to friends. Yes said I'll give in five of five bob in only 25 a week. That's a lot of money. Yes you are right with your Alfie years. Yes I've done it. So it goes away and comes back with a real. And it's on a thousand foot ball and it's out like that and it's full of paper clips. And when I joined it was about 100 feet long. The clips had taken up so many joints but it wasn't worth the fight.
[00:32:33.630] - SPEAKER: M8
Bob was your dad.
[00:32:37.460] - SPEAKER: F15
He was a director. Well when he became a director and he was doing the government film. On the bomb squad the army disposal men and it was around the time or just after that bomb dropped in gone by the door of Sir Paul's Cathedral and he got the man who had defused that bomb.
[00:33:05.090] - SPEAKER: M7
Was his technical adviser and they were shooting and they had things made up by Brockes special effects no both got blown up not seriously but they got blown up. So there was good clean up followed by botherer all that Jeudi.
[00:33:22.500] - SPEAKER: M8
Then after the premiere you got the range rover.
[00:33:27.850] - SPEAKER: M4
Well it very much depended on which company worked well because the Preminger was a little tiny thing about the size of your recorder a little bit less if the company could afford it you Adelaide delam now Foote's are great for taking fingernails off the boat. Oh no no.
[00:33:51.080] - SPEAKER: F11
Said. The only thing that you had the only when you were working with them in the studios. Was you had your own scraper. Because the touch was all that matters. And I know some rather unscrupulous assistants are used to finish their joining. And then tap.
[00:34:10.550] - SPEAKER: M8
So that makes those whose grants the whole of the robot. You know I didn't like it very much and I know people well still you were using the robot when magnetic came in. And the effect of that of course and using as it was to spread the oxide.
[00:34:33.830] - SPEAKER: F11
Became a terrible mess. The best thing about the advancement in carrying and everything else has been the Italian joint.
[00:34:44.510] - SPEAKER: M4
Or the joint or you know that must have made enormous difference. You also points out that no way. No question about that. Wasn't it I know what was your picture.
[00:34:57.780] - SPEAKER: F16
Who for a long time still wouldn't do their own joint. And they were just to put the film and then making the system sit down and join it. But then by the same token I didn't know people had editors that did their joining and it spent hours going backwards and forwards and deciding whether or not to put an awful lot on the schedule that they got so right on it and enjoyed I almost lose it. Well then maybe I will join us from myself. Thirty five pounds up to 16. Years again the same thing applied to those a little bit. It's why the Americans won't use an awful lot is that. Really there where there's mass usage.
[00:35:51.890] - SPEAKER: M12
Different people and they get dropped and knock you off and that's one of reasons having a record I could Toxo you didn't say about location. Did you ever go on location filming yourself. With the unit based on how you do your editing away. Well no that was abroad when I concentrated more on sound there not so much on pay occasional visits to the. Location or if I was going out doing second unit direction. Because then I would go on occasion. But normally you would be amazed. Because that has changed a bit now. Yes it has a bit yes. Would you say that the job editors become much more complex. A resounding yes. Not so much of a picture. No.
[00:37:00.080] - SPEAKER: F4
Because the technique is still the same is basically the same. Maybe you thought I was in one of the reasons that I gave up. Picture editing so much was. For years about. Seeing the same faces day in and day out. A window in the movie line or on the screen. And you were very much of a fraud factory inasmuch as that you really did as you were told. You. Know there was always somebody to sort of say oh no I hold on to that big long roll kind of way does that. Well it came to sound and still there aren't that number as it can tell you and your left to your own devices.
[00:37:45.850] - SPEAKER: F17
When they started doing the horror films when you were there have you know why. I think I was the horror. I see in the Bible over this weekend that. Terry fissions Frankenstein. Which was made in 1957 has now been voted universally. In the top 100 films by directors and critics throughout the world. And I think that was the very first of. The horror that made Jimmy needs it. And I did some work on it as I wasn't doing a thing.
[00:38:26.750] - SPEAKER: F1
I've got my own picture of times. What was the picture you were doing there. Well we to cause was 57 I might have been doing one of these small my but. They did some shorts around that time I might have been doing one of those shows where they were run. Featurettes they were you with the package yeah yeah. Things with honor Blackman and Maurice delam people like that.
[00:39:00.820] - SPEAKER: F17
Some very well correct. Yeah they worked together in the same way but it wasn't one of them as I remember. I left in about three or four or around that time. I may have been doing that. You. Know.
[00:39:18.920] - SPEAKER: M11
You say. So what made you decide to specialize so you've got to speak.
[00:39:27.090] - SPEAKER: M4
It's been very different in life for you as a sound editor. It used to be. No well generally speaking generally speaking yes is a lot different. We've got many more technical things as a sound editor.
[00:39:45.780] - SPEAKER: F4
As Metropol in the way of technicalities. And you're always making up the times that somebody else has lost you. Schedule never moves.
[00:39:55.690] - SPEAKER: M8
No delivery is always the same no matter what happens.
[00:40:04.610] - SPEAKER: M4
I mean the only other thing you want to be when and how much leeway you have your own when you're doing this a fair amount at least I've always found a fair amount of leeway. Come up with ideas discuss maybe discuss things with a director and.
[00:40:24.940] - SPEAKER: M3
Build a yes or no. It is a no is a very good thing because it's less for me to do day go out and record your own effects and things given the opportunity given the opportunity. It depends whether things are. Especially required for the.
[00:40:43.300] - SPEAKER: F1
Film. I mean if one were shooting aeroplanes then obviously you would go ahead or organise it. It will be done you shoot them indoors these days. I remember working on one picture and I didn't know how that how I was going to have my own tape recorder in the days when they were. All about tape recorders and Revox.
[00:41:10.950] - SPEAKER: F13
No it wasn't it was a good was one of those as not knowing how to do something and experiment with it and got what I thought was a reasonable sound for it a little bit of extra manipulation to edit and recording in transferring it in the sound studio playing it to the producer and that's great. Now I know how to do it he said no use that. So I said were you going to pay for it. So I charged my footage and it was the footsteps of the giant in Jason and me and I've got an awful lot of photos Dave and there's an awful lot of money there.
[00:41:57.100] - SPEAKER: M8