Brian Marshall

Brian Marshall
Work area/craft/role: 
Interview Number: 
Interview Date(s): 
15 Nov 2017
Duration (mins): 

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Speaker 1  0:04  
Okay, the copyright of this recording is vested in the British entertainment history project. Today is Wednesday the 15th November 2017. And we've been welcomed into the home of Dorian and Brian Marshall, who both had long careers in the film and TV industry. We've just done the interview with Doreen. So this interview is with Brian, who had a long career as a sound recordist. So Brian, if you'd like to just start us off with telling us when and where you were born where you went to school.

Speaker 2  0:37  
I was born in 1930, in Hornsey, and North London, where my both my parents came from from from top and one from Finsbury Park. My mother suffered from ill health, and we moved to near South and when I was about eight, I guess Nine, eight. And then war was declared. And house was requisitioned by the army I went to I was evacuated to call for about a year. And when I came back when they moved to Adminster, in Essex, well, it's a school and left school that just turned 15. My father had been in the in the film industry before the war as working in for documentary come here, I guess, one of his jobs when he was an accountant to start with, although he had an artistic flair for other things. And he was recruited by the Admiralty to work on label training. At the end, he was still working for them. In fact, he got an MBE for his for services to Naval training, he invented the steel strip, which is like a sophisticated lands and slide really which improved in training for things like gunnery, cut it down from sort of months to weeks. Anyway. But anyway, that's how the one reason my original plan was to join the Navy. I always wanted to go in the Navy as a kid was, but I wanted to go as an artificer apprentice, because you got extremely good technical training. But because my eyes was too bad, it never worked. I never got in. So I thought I decided I'd like to go into the film industry.

Unknown Speaker  3:16  
Did you have Did you have a love of the movies anyway? Yes.

Speaker 2  3:19  
Well, I think in those days, everybody went to the pitches with Doreen, she, she was I mean, we used to go to the cinema a lot. And, you know, just liked it seemed, seemed a good idea. So my father actually did get me a job in an office. And when I first left school, not so just turned 15 was still on. And I worked in the office of a documentary company for about a year, but it wasn't really my cup of tea. I've been writing to various studios and things mainly trying to get in the camera department, which everybody wants to do. They always want to get in the camera. And I managed to one of the places I wrote to it was a small studio called Viking studios in Kensington, which I don't even know whether it still exists now. But it was quite prolific little studio, and I was offered a job there as the as a sound trainee. So what its way in and I went there, and it was run by a very clever man called Eric Humphries, who was a electrical engineer Yeah, and he had developed his own sound recording system, which, in those days, everything was shot on optical sound. There was no magnetic no tape, nothing. Everything was all films were shot on optical sound. The main ones were RCA and Western Electric. RCA was a very what they call a variable area track. And Western was a variable density. This was a Viking sound, as it was called, was variable density track. And the advantage it had was the fact that it wasn't you didn't have to pay if it was done if you if a release print was done, you didn't have to pay attack. What's the word I'm searching for? If you used RCA or Western you have to pay None. None of the equipment of RCA was ever bought by the studios all leased in those days different now I guess. But in those days, RCA and Western kept the ownership of all their equipment. And all the prints are released prints. You had to pay a tax what? Yeah, I'm not sure what the taxes were. It's not a tax in effect. It's a cost. I can't think of the word royal That's it. That's it, you had to pay a royalty on all Prince. Anyway. Anyways, I was there I learned quite obviously quite a lot. I used to run the sound camera. That was my main job, but obviously it's also your general assistant. I picked up you know, began to learn about filmmaking and what was involved. off after a couple of years, I spent about two or three years to maybe two years to Viking Viking studios, and I was getting restless. And the job turned up fellow the there was a lot of in those days is a very big documentary industry in in London or Indian country, but it might be in London. And the guy that ran the run the Royal Naval fill up sound department had started up his own company. And he got the contract from the Admiralty using the Admiralty gear to make training films for training films for the Navy and also for other services. Now, he knew that I was he was looking for a CRO he knew that he knew my dad and knew that I was in the sound department and he asked if I'd be interested. So I was looking for to move. So I said yes. So I went to this went to meet this guy at at Hammersmith at the RCA headquarters of this country was now ca equipment I had and I went to meet this man. He said meet me at two o'clock outside the RCA building at Hammersmith, Hammersmith, Broadway. And I was this man look like Captain cattle with a beard and rather the fierce looking Gent. And well, anyway, he offered me I got the job that he said in the very cover another look at this equipment. And of course it was a very big sound truck with the studio unit set in a truck which it which is what they used in those days. And it was, he said, You sit here and he was being overhauled by the RCA. People hadn't been used for some time. We've been sitting down in Portsmouth. So it's being overhauled by the RCA engineers. And they gave me a rundown on what, how it all works and what I had to do. And I was only 17 When I've been there for two years. So since 1947. And he said, Right, he's okay, you've got the job. And so it was a different world in those days. And he said, we're going to Germany in a fall in 10 days time. So anyone had a quick run around this equipment found out roughly our orbit. And I mean, once again, was running the sound camera, it was all done with optical sound sense. You had to you had it was optical film that you're working with all the time. So it was all done, even if you had to load and unload in the dark and all that sort of thing. And 10 days later, I was off to Germany, with a crew of melee of ex servicemen at the tender age of 17. What wasn't to tender, really. But

Unknown Speaker  11:34  
also shooting documentaries. Well, we've

Speaker 2  11:37  
seen a specific film, it was now our AFL match. It was now our F training films. And I spent the next three months living in solids and it's messes on air fields at army camps. Silent my so my might say my education was extended somewhat. Anyway, we got over that. And I stayed with this with them for I think it must have been best part five or six years

Unknown Speaker  12:18  
in the early 50s

Speaker 2  12:20  
into the 50s into 52 or 53 I guess. And we became goat farming. The guy who was running it was a vocal, his name was Carlo mountainy is known as Ching and what you must also remember when I came into the industry sounded only been going for 15 years 15 to 16 years. So all the people I work with were pioneers. And he was a pioneer, he was one of the first people who have started into sound recording and he had worked in Twickenham studios before the wall. Anyway, he unfortunately his company got into financial trouble and he lost the contract and it was taken over by pathway I went to work for pathein which was quite an interesting situation. Because once again they did they had passe in London had a studio they had their own laboratories, small studio in Wall Street W theatre and also the news that was all tied up with the news and documentaries. I mean we used to very often work I worked in the dubbing theatre most of the time on the sound cameras and then it was changing over to magnetic. So you had optical and magnetic used to shoot onto a 35 mil magnetic film and then transfer it to optical for release in the cinemas. Because when you were dubbing if you had three or four tracks when you were on optical if you wanted to do a premix of more than one two tracks. You had to wait the next day before you've got the result when you have magnetic you could turn it all on one shot when you could so you could rerecord it and play it off straightaway. Which

Speaker 1  14:42  
is just putting together various elements of sound effects.

Speaker 2  14:49  
Dialogue fact Music Music Yeah. So anyway, they have worked out for quite a long for several years for about Now that about 18 months, two years, I guess. And one of the mixes there who I got to know quite well, he was starting up taking over the old marathon Studios, which was another small studio in London, I've been going for years. And when all these places I'd probably all disappeared now. I know marathon has, but but that had been running as a film studio since the early 1900s, silent and then into film, into sound. And he was starting out though, I was going under new management, and he was starting a new sound department. So I went along with him. And we set it all up once again, all these things are quite a great experience, because I learned a lot, setting up the equipment and all this sort of thing. And that was where I started, boom operating as well as sound camera operating. And once again, after a couple of years I've got I was getting restless and decided to move on. And then I went left there and went freelance. And I was working on various worked on various things. And I was still in touch with my old boss chain. And he came up with a job. As I was going back, I had to go back to the cell camera of filming in Tripoli, and that was when I met Tori. And I went off. We went off to Tripoli for three months or three months in Tripoli. This was in 58

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Unknown Speaker  0:00  
Hello boys. He said why don't we start the next film on money? Separate Harry, we're going on. And he said, No, you're starting the next film on Monday, and I'll give you all the bonus. Which we never got

Unknown Speaker  0:14  
to get your bonus.

Speaker 1  0:17  
So at least I've gone through films to make out here. So I thought we're gonna get Dory now. So Chris, and Chris So during came out, and we have a flat out there. And it was great. We had a great time actually did three films, we would have done a fourth of the money right now. These were features where they feature film Three feature films. I mean, he had he had big you know, good artists. I think they most often cop

Speaker 2  0:59  
Well, these both in a studio set up out there and yes, on location,

Speaker 1  1:03  
location, and we used the Chinese film studios. The can't remember the line of the outfit now. But a very big studio out there, but not soundproofed I mean, they had three or four big stages and they had everything there. And they even had a village where all the actors used to live together all these young actors and actresses now used to live live on site.

Speaker 2  1:36  
So were you mainly recording sound for these features?

Speaker 1  1:39  
Yes, that was what I was doing. Yeah, I was recording this. Yeah. So how many how

Speaker 2  1:43  
many people on the set mean you had to liaise with everybody? Didn't you for your setup to get the sound you Oh,

Speaker 1  1:49  
yes. Well, you you work with the camera people and everybody. I mean, my job was either Chinese boom operator on the first one, which was difficult. For the left for the next two. I managed to get together we call an English boom. Anyway. But no, I mean you when you work with the director, obviously the handle the assistance if there's a lot of crowd and you've got to work for the assistant to sort things out. The camera people the operating work very closely as does the pool operator. When you're a boom operator, you've got to learn about lenses you can blow said I've got a 25 on you know roughly where it's going to be I mean you can equal a cooperative operator let you look through the camera get a rough set up. So you know what's going on. And, you know, that's it really I mean it's there Recordist, you've got to, it all comes down to you at the end, it stops. You know, your goal, the end product. So,

Speaker 2  3:13  
in a naive sense, for me who's looking in from the outlet when you've shot a scene? How is the sound recordist? How do you know that? That's what you want to do? You know, immediately. Oh, yeah. Got what, you

Speaker 1  3:26  
know, you know whether it's right or whether it's wrong? Yeah. I mean, that's the point the director will say is that, you know, I mean, if you in those days, I've done so much now. But those days, I used to ask if it was all right. If it wasn't you, or you could say Could I have another one? For whatever

Speaker 2  3:45  
reason? Did you sometimes have to do that? Again?

Speaker 1  3:48  
Yeah, yeah, yeah. So can I go again, for whatever reason, it's either your fault or somebody else's? I mean, depending on the director, some directors are very cooperative and some aren't. I mean, I used to work with directors and say look, if you if the if you feel the actor should speak up, say so. Or you know, I mean, I have done that. And I've worked with an actress who shall be nameless, who said, I'm not being told by Salma now to do my job, which is common. But, you know, generally speaking, it will tell you some are more calm cochranton than others obviously. But anyway, we did those three films I came back now went to work for Shepperton on a fairly permanent paces. And the bloke who ran who's the Chief of sound, there was a game called John Cox, who's very good man very, very highly sought off. And he was almost bit of quite of a mentor to me really in some ways and I worked there for on the staff for a bit. But once again, it wasn't really what I wanted to do I was working mainly in the dubbing theatre and doing effects and post sync

Speaker 2  5:20  
stuff like where are we now? Brian early 60s late 50s

Speaker 1  5:24  
Yeah knows his 60s 6063 64 about no 60 Yeah, no laser that's about 6566 Yeah, cuz I left Warwick in 63 So it's another three years

Unknown Speaker  5:50  
then I I was put forward for for I did a couple of features and I did virgin soldiers. And

Speaker 2  6:08  
Rambo out on location because I did that go out on location,

Speaker 1  6:12  
say Singapore, Singapore. Yeah. And then I've got another job. I've got film with Michael Weiner games. It was an interesting job. We Michael was quite character. But whatever people say about him. He was a great organiser I wouldn't say was the best director but he was a very good producer and organiser. We travelled from we have three sets of gear, complete sets of equipment, camera sound. Hedge hopping from one country. We started off in London, with a fortnight in London. Then we went to Vienna. We took the game with us for the gear we'd had. We took a Saturday with us to Vienna. The gear we'd had from London, went to Rome. We came back to London for a week, flew out to Rome. With all the gear and everything was there waiting for us. The gear we had in London, who sent from there to Tokyo. We spent I think, a month in Rome, about that was touring came out there. Then we went from Rome to Tokyo. No from Rome to Sydney, to Sydney, then came back. And we came back to London, from London to Sydney. Landed in Sydney. Here's another complete set of gear in Sydney and the gear that we'd had in London and Rome went to Tokyo. We went from London to Tokyo so every time we got there all the gear was ready all we had to do check it Sunday

Speaker 2  8:26  
up. These were the locations for the for the one movie,

Speaker 1  8:29  
one movie Yeah, yeah. Yeah.

Speaker 2  8:32  
And you did a couple more with Miko and Scorpio and big sweep.

Speaker 1  8:37  
Yeah, that's right after I saw one do anymore. It got very the last one or worked on it wasn't very nice at all. The previous ones he paid all right, you know, got on with him fairly well. And when said Well, no, he wasn't he was an old character. Another character. But the last one I did he was I just didn't enjoy sit down kind of do. Working with Bob Mitchum was a was a was a joy actually I mean it's lovely man to work for very professional. I mean all the artists were great he was just in a Burt

Speaker 2  9:17  
Lancaster on Scorpio didn't you and element along. Yeah. And there were lots of stars in big sleep. But there Bob Mitchum, James Stewart was in it was nice. You met all those actors? Yeah, a

Speaker 1  9:33  
few of them didn't. Yeah. Well, no, only with Bob Mitchell. But now most of them don't. Few of them we do don't we so you're socialised. And then was an uncontrolled catch up with reason Oh, no. Oh, then it hit a rather the industry was slowing down and got rolling. And I didn't want to go away too much. I'm getting fed up with travel. So, the old Warwick doubling theatre closed and the Warwick had closed. And but the people who worked and he apart from who had bought it t saw own, were running it as a w. And the guy that was the W mixer left. So I went, I bought myself into the partnership and went there. But that didn't really work. It was too many chiefs and not enough Indians. And I was there for about a couple of years or so I guess. And that didn't really work. So I left there and went, decided to go back on the floor, things weren't really weren't really working on sort of the procedures to go back on the floor. And things were a bit were very tricky. At that time. I was had quite long periods ELA work, as a lot of other people did. But then once again, my dubbi experience helped because the people that have run on the planet time Shepparton closed and reopened under a different regime being bought by Lee electrics and there was a dubbing theatre there run as an independent outfit. And the bloke who ran it was running it was one of the X Shepherd and Salmond who I knew very well and he brought me in on a couple of jobs to to be as assistant so I did about two or three films with him which sort of really got me out of trouble at the time

Unknown Speaker  12:18  
did you do some television as well?

Speaker 1  12:21  
Yeah, yeah. I did yeah, I was doing commercials I didn't really like very much I didn't I never like never got into commercial I mean a lot of army I did do quite a few but I never really never really liked and then I've got then I was handed off to that. Oh, Superman came on then

Unknown Speaker  12:56  
that was 1978 wasn't Yeah,

Speaker 1  12:58  
yeah Superman guy I knew very well was was the main mixer on it. He left when he went over time. Well over time, and he left now the fella took over he left and I took so I finished it off. And then I was offered a job with universal and that was really when it all started getting busy again and we started taking off and I did this job for universal which was in Vienna Peter Sellers film and that was great. The cause the army apart from the money was good. I got out there I've got a fortnight preparation which never got over here in those days and will tightening up on the staff. I couldn't wait three weeks I see preparation week preparation over here. Getting the gear ready. And when I got there on fortnight preparation in Vienna, went round all the locations and found out what I needed what was needed to be done and we were working in Schoenbrunn palace where the in the main ballroom and all over the plumbing that they had these wooden parchi like parquet flooring, crate like man. So I said right we've got to get all this lat where it's our picture on a tracking boards now Everything was organised. We had soccer all these. They were just it was done. There was you know there were the the repik outfit and what you and all

Unknown Speaker  15:14  
the all the noise you didn't want. Yeah.

Speaker 1  15:16  
And we had crowd a crowd, big crowd ballroom scene. I said right where he can we had, they all need overshoes. So I turned repairs over shoes. It was great. And you could do the job properly. So anyway, did that one then I was offered and then I came back and did a few more jobs and another one for universal came up in Israel. I did that. That was that was quite an interesting job for a good director, great director, guy called Boris Seagal who's very cooperative. Unfortunately, he had a helicopter accident and got killed afterwards I mean, not when I was working for him and his wife was some

Unknown Speaker  16:35  
she was in Showboat.

Speaker 2  16:42  
Last century so no, no

Speaker 1  16:50  
was talking husband and wife but he said they divorced and she married Boris. He was a famous.

Speaker 2  17:04  
I remember I can only think of EVA God knows in showboat and Ireenie done which was much earlier

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