Dallas Bower

Interview Number: 
5
Interview Date(s): 
8 Jun 1987
23 Nov 1987
Production Media: 

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Interview
Interview notes

The original recordings on Hard drive 7 are not the complete interviews recorded with Dallas Bower. We  discovered  on the 17th March 2022 that an addition side 4 of material existed on the original cassette tapes. The reason for the material being missed was because the interview on side 4 of the cassette only starts several minutes in.   

Transcript

Dallas Bower Side 1

Alan Lawson  00:02

Dallas Bower producer, television director, television producer, sound recordist, film editor, drama producer.  Dallas, when and where were you born?

Dallas Bower  00:19

Kensington Hall Gardens, London 1907.

Alan Lawson  00:25

Now what kind of schooling did you have?

Dallas Bower  00:29

First of all Barr Kindergaten, which was the Froebel  Institute, hard by Kensington Hall  Gardens;  Willingdon School, Putney, which enjoyed the distinction of two very distinguished pupils as they became in later life, Liddell Hart, the military historian, and  Maurice Bowra no less, warden of Wadham, Oxford and great classical scholar. And my first Latin mistress was one Miss Botting who became in due course Antonia White "Frost in May" no less [LAUGHTER]   And then Linton House, London and St. John's, Hurstpierpoint. 

Alan Lawson  01:24

Now did you get any special schooling at all or training for later life? Er you know before you started work?

Dallas Bower  01:35

No, none whatsoever.   My interest in radio was sparked off at Hurst by a senior boy who was given permission to work on a small valve set, which in those days of course was something very precious. And that really sparked off my interest in in radio.

Alan Lawson  02:00

Um now from school then, did you take any exams at school?

Dallas Bower  02:09

No. I went straight from school, straight from Hurst into radio having set up my own amateur station at at Upper Richmond Road in Putney. And when the time came for work I simply wrote to the Marconi Scientific Instrument Company, and said, "Could I be of any value to them?" And surprise, surprise I was immediately given a job!

Alan Lawson  02:41

What was your job?

Dallas Bower  02:42

Oh, chiefly bench testing and that kind of thing.  All quite straightforward and simple. 

Alan Lawson  02:47

And what did they pay you? 

Dallas Bower  02:48

They paid me 30 shillings a week. 

Alan Lawson  02:51

That's quite a bit of money. 

Dallas Bower  02:52

Yes, it was in fact in those days, of course it was exceptional [LAUGHTER]

Alan Lawson  02:58

Then from Marconis where did you go then?

Dallas Bower  03:01

Well, from there, I went to Burndept, which was another radio manufacturer, manufacturing concern, one of the founder companies of the old British Broadcasting Company. And then in turn I went to 'Experimental Wireless', which was one of the first serious radio journals, by which I mean it became 'The Wireless Engineer', run by Percival Marshall, Art Marshall's father, and Percival Marshall and Co.  In those days they ran, Percival Marshall ran 'The Amateur Mechanic',  'The Model Engineer', it was a most interesting concern, a small family publishing concern, finally taken over by Iliffes.  And I was there for some little time and indeed it was edited by a man called Paul Tyres who was extremely young -  we were all very young, everybody associated with the whole venture was young. And I had the privilege of editing the journal for I think four or five years. And then it was taken over as I say  by Ilifes and I migrated so to speak to BTH where I did the same sort of work as I'd been doing at Burndept which was to advise customers on technical matters.

Alan Lawson  04:30

Then from BTH you went, you went to BIP was that with the BTH sound system? 

Dallas Bower  04:36

What happened was this RCA had installed their equipment, their recording equipment at BIP Elstree and their temporary London office, the temporary RCA London office was in fact at Aldwych House just immediately adjacent to the Aldwych Theatre. And one of the senior men, by name Harold Sundy, I happened to meet and I found him a man of great interest, we seemed to have interests in common, he was interested in opera. And indeed it was he who took me to my first 'Ring' no less that was way back -  Bruno Valter, Covent Garden - and he asked me if I'd be interested in becoming a sound recordist at Elstree.  Well of course nothing could possibly have interested me more because way back in, as a child, there was an uncle who as it were conditioned my very, very early childish interest in the cinema. He used to take me to the old Royalty Cinema in Kensington High Street, which was the first cinema ever in the Royal Borough, and in fact the only cinema for years in Kensington.  And as a small boy I saw "Intolerance" and "The Birth of a Nation". And so you couldn't as it were stop me from getting myself to BIP as quickly as I could get there.

Dallas Bower  06:19

So, so in fact you could say you had encouragement from the family, they didn't didn't oppose this rather foreign medium?

Dallas Bower  06:28

No, my mother and father parted when I was  very young. And there would have been no opposition whatsoever from my mother because on my mother's side the drama as it were is in the family as much as we are really Kimballs. Sarah Siddons is, was, my great- great,-great-grandmother. So  there would have been no opposition of my associating myself in any way with anything to do with the drama. And my father was interested in commerce, he was a  businessman and something that would have never entered his head to oppose anyway.

Alan Lawson  07:07

Where were you, where were you living  when you're working at BIP and how did you get to and from work? 

Dallas Bower  07:13

Well when I went to BIP I was living in Mill  Hill and I used to get myself from Mill Hill to Elstree by being driven either by David Cunningham, who was my assistant, or by John Rinders, who was then was the Director of BIP and they were doing an enormous amount of scoring of their early silent films and John used to give me a lift and take me back of an evening and likewise David Cunningham.

Alan Lawson  07:46

What, what wages were you getting at BIP then?

Dallas Bower  07:51

I started at the at BIP at £15 a week, which in those days was really quite handsome.  Yes, you know it was considered to be not a bad wage, in fact a very good one.

Alan Lawson  08:12

And you were a floor recordist?

Dallas Bower  08:15

Yes. And of course we had no, we were in fact in a booth on the floor. 

Alan Lawson  08:22

Yes. 

Dallas Bower  08:23

There was no question of working for a central recording room, at BIP that all came very much later.

Alan Lawson  08:30

Now there's always been a nagging doubt as to which was the first English 'talkie' was it "Blackmail" or was it "Under the Greenwood Tree"? 

Dallas Bower  08:41

Well, I suppose you must say it was "Blackmail" because Hitch started "Blackmail" as a silent film. It was then decided to reshoot a good deal of it and make it into a sound film and that in fact is what happened and it was completed and shown before we completed "Under The Greenwood Tree".  I recorded "Under The Greenwood Tree" and David was my assistant. And I had the great pleasure and privilege indeed of working with Claude Friese Greene, who photographed it. 

Alan Lawson  09:23

Tell us a bit about Friese.

Dallas Bower  09:25

Well Friese was an extraordinary man - I mean he was totally unflappable and he was quiet and had enormous confidence in himself, was extremely, extremely agreeable in every way. He was pleasant with people, he got on with people, I mean his own crew loved him, and sparks loved him. And what he himself found so frighfully difficult, as indeed we all did of course, was working in a booth because more often than not you  see he had to have a certified arc in the booth with him. And we had another form of torture in those days, which was a thing called a marker light and the marker light was something that fogged the edge of the stock outside the sprocket holes and outside the track. Now this was the most, it was a nightmare device in as much as it certainly kept one in sync, there's no question about dead room and got the material onto the bench off the four way. But it also had the hideous effect of fogging both the mute and the track if in fact anything remotely went wrong with it. It was very sort of scrap and the clapper board became the stop and start operation [LAUGHTER] That was one of the things that we all had to cope with in those days, apart from the fact that the track itself tended to shift and getting it right, properly aligned meant innumerable tests at least three or four a day to make quite certain that the track wasn't in fact running off its prescribed area on the on the film.

Alan Lawson  11:26

Now what were working conditions like, you know from the point of view of sound recordists in those early days?

Dallas Bower  11:34

Well, they were absolute hell you know, because, I mean apart from the fact that the actual microphone itself was a large box, it consisted of a large box and a cable from the box with the mic on the end. And mic had a fairly narrow polar curve, I mean you know you could come off mic very easily. And of course there was absolutely no real system before placing it properly. So that what one had to do was to haul the box and the mic with cable up on a gantry rail, and hang it. That was the only possible way of placing the mic properly above the cast, above the actors. And it gave, it gave rise to the most difficulties in getting really good setups. And at the same time working cooperatively in as much as giving the director what he wanted and aware of his actual mechanics, and of course not interfering with the camera man's work, such as casting the most dreadful shadows everywhere. 

Alan Lawson  12:48

Booms hadn't come in? 

Dallas Bower  12:50

Oh, booms, there was no such thing as a boom in those days at all.  It was quite considerably later, the boom.

Alan Lawson  12:56

It's hard to believe. 

Dallas Bower  12:58

Oh, yes, yes. 

Roy Fowler  12:59

Um, now were there any concealed mics on the set? 

Dallas Bower  13:05

No. The only concealed mics that I ever used was an extreme long-shot in a comedy that David and I recorded for Monty Banks, and he liked working with three cameras. And indeed it was a system that have been used long since silent days, certainly in Hollywood, and he wasn't prepared to deviate from this. And I decided that one of the things we might do, for, he wanted the dialogue you see on this particular setup, the long-shot of which was circa 35, if not 25, and the other long, wide and there was a an extra standing in front of a small altar in this particular set, whose name was Estelle Thompson, and very beautiful creature, and I said to David, "I wonder if it's possible to stick that mic under Miss Thompson's gown?" So Miss Thompson was approached and asked if she'd mind and she said she didn't mind at all. And so that's where the microphone was stuck.[LAUGHTER] And in due course as you know Miss Thompson became Miss Oberon no less [LAUGHTER] and so the first concealed mic took place no less on Miss Oberon's bosom you might say at BIP. [LAUGHTER]

Alan Lawson  14:50

You did talk about some work you did on microphones. While you were at BIP, you found a means of making them more effective.

Dallas Bower  15:04

No, Alan I think you're confusing it with something that happened quite fortuitously, it wasn't microphones it was the fact that we had great difficulty in in recording music really well. And on one occasion quite by accident, I found it almost impossible to line-up the galvaniser head on the machine, on the actual recording machine. And in order to get the image sharp I stuck a head? ? under the base of the galvanometer itself the ?, it was a it was a galvonometer system in the Royal Court? it was a galvonometer light system. And this had the effect of greatly increasing the bass quality of the actual recording. And er, I can't give you any technical explanation as to why this should increase the bass but nevertheless it did.  It was the nature of the mechanism itself that caused this to happen. And of course at that time BIP in fact we're putting music to all their silent films previously made and John Rinders would hear of no-one but myself and David  making these tracks for him. And so we rather got stuck with this, not to be minded particularly, I didn't mind at all because it gave me an enormous opportunity to record  music as I was always interested in doing.

Sid Cole  16:35

Now you have talked about Rinders let's talk about other personalities up at BIP at the time, when you were there, there was Walter Mycroft now what what was he? What was his job?

Dallas Bower  16:48

Well Walter Mycroft had previously been a film critic of The Evening Standard I think, and he was a strange man, hunched back, deformed and he had an immense enthusiasm for German cinema and insofar as BIP is concerned he was very much the eminence grise. He, the managing director was a man called John Court Ackleby Thorpe and I don't think he was very interested in filmmaking particularly, I mean I think if he found himself making razors [LAUGHTER] you know, he'd be equally interested in making razors. Do you know that I mean? But Mycroft was certainly, he was technically known as the scenario editor but of course, what it really meant was that he was the artistic director of the place and in as much as well he brought in people like Arthur Robeson, 'warning shadows' Robeson, E A Dupont, Hitch, Harry Lachman and cameramen such as Werner Brandes, Rene Gisard, I think for a short time Karl Freund and Fritz Arno Wagner. Those, those were the kind of people working at BIP in those days. In fact, they were practically you might almost go so far as to say as a straight import from Ufa. And of course, from the point of view of the quality of the work that was done it was the greatest possible interest: photographically and objectively and subjectively.

Dallas Bower  18:30

Did he produce any original work at all?

Dallas Bower  18:33

No, not that I know of. But I mean, what he did you see was to allocate, er he more or less set the units in motion. For instance, now "Under the Greenwood Tree" you see the scenario was done by Frank Launder and, er Frank Launder and Many Waters Hoffe, what was his name oh dear oh dear it's just escaped my memory. Monkton Hoffe. Monkton Hoffe who wrote an extremely successful play called Many Waters and the combination of Frank Launder and Monkton Hoffe could not have been more admirable. And it was a very good script, not an easy, Hardy is not easy to adapt and there it was.  And it was a directed by Harry Lachman who had come straight from Nice where of course he'd been working with Mickey Powell indeed [LAUGHTER]

Dallas Bower  19:37

That well, now let's let's move on then. I suppose it's this is when it was it Maxwell appeared and he put in Stapleton didn't he?

Dallas Bower  19:47

Maxwell was the Managing Director, no the Chairman of the company. Yes and Stapleton was put there because it was considered, I suppose the the view was that the whole plant could have been run more economically. Whether that will sell or not here at this distance in time it's very hard to say but there's no question about it at all but Stapleton was a total disaster, to such an extent that I mean he really had no idea what he was about. And the most memorable, I think what summarises Stapleton's approach to filmmaking was that he came to a very quick conclusion about certain aspects of the rushes that he was looking at every day and that was the clapper boy marker lights have been done away with by then, the clapper boy took far too much time to leave the set having worked the clappers and announced the scene number, he should leave the set more quickly. So Monty Banks again being an excellent comedian himself in every conceivable way, decided that we really had rather too much of this so he tied a rope around the clapper boy's waist [LAUGHTER] on the next occasion when the scene was marked for him and the boy was hauled off, flat on his face as quickly as possible out of the frame line. [LAUGHTER] We had no more nonsense about clapper boys leaving far too slowly, believe you me. [LAUGHTER]

Dallas Bower  21:31

You've left BIP to go and join Stall, Stolls. Why was that?  Was the equipment more attractive?

Dallas Bower  21:40

Much more attractive and the I didn't like the setup at BIP. The working conditions were quite intolerable you know. I mean, you see every morning the first call was at 8.30,  9 o'clock of an evening was a relatively early evening. And in the 18 months I was there, for the first two years I was there, the first 18 months I had three weekends clear. They were quite, quite intolerable. And I had heard that Stoll were putting in first gen equipment and I simply suggested to I think it was not Sinclair Hill but Osborne Mitchell I think was the studio manager.

Alan Lawson  22:31

That's right Ossie Mitchell.

Dallas Bower  22:32

You remember Ossie Mitchell? 

Sid Cole  22:33

Yes, yes. The Panther. 

Dallas Bower  22:35

Was he called that?

Sid Cole  22:36

He was known as the Panther.

Dallas Bower  22:37

Was he? Yes he moved rather slowly [LAUGHTER] until he pounced. That's quite right [LAUGHTER] that's it. And before I knew where I was I was invited to go there. And so I thought, oh, this is absolutely splendid. So to Cricklewood I went, and there was Round, and Langry and Swan, his  two assistants. And I couldn't have been more pleased to find myself there because the whole atmosphere at Cricklewood was an entirely different kind of atmosphere that was pervading at BIP.  It wasn't a happy crew you know at BIP at all, I mean everybody was at each other's throats. And, and of course the most appalling exploitation there's no question ever about it at all. I mean, for all intents and purposes it was sweated labour, and there's nothing any of us could do about it.  At the same time it doesn't bear, it doesn't do never to bear in mind that we were doing something absolutely of a pioneering nature. 

Alan Lawson  23:30

Yes, yes.  Now you know I was at Stolls when they opened up the same as you and I've got a very vivid memory of you. When Dick was, I think it was on "Such Is The Law", he was having microphone shadow problems and you just came in and skived the mic. Now as that's the first time I'd ever seen a sound recordist kind of not give way but be co-operative with the round, langrycameramen. Now, why was it you could do that and in the past nobody had ever done it?

Dallas Bower  24:11

Well I think it was probably two fold you see I was, I don't want to be seen as disagreeable about my colleagues in the recording divisions but I don't think they were all that interested in the cinema per se. They were interested in simply recording good sound, I was interested both in recording good sound and in the cinema as such. And furthermore I'd had this enormous advantage of working was Claude Friese Greene and it was quite clear that we weren't going to work amicably unless we work co-operatively and that's what we managed to do. And I mean this question of mic shadows was extremely difficult for for cameraman and I have no hesitation in doing everything I possibly could to to avoid them as much as possible. And that's why when Dick said he was troubled by shadow I don't recollect this occasion but you do, clearly Alan I said, well you know I would just take it higher. And whatever I did, I must have somehow pumped the gain up in someway and so there it was.

Alan Lawson  25:19

I've got a you know I've got an old feeling in my memory that a lot of the early sound recordists had come from being wireless operators either on you know, maritime, Navy or or from other areas. Is that it ...

Alan Lawson  25:39

No, I don't think, I can't recollect that Alan. No I don't know where that's come from, there may have been one or two who had been. I think, I think, I think there was someone at Gainsborough, which of course was after BIP, whose name I can't recollect. It may be may have been Adam, I''m not sure maybe been Adams I'm not absolutely certain he may have been in wireless operations some time, but certainly not the early BIP people. I mean Thornton, Ross, Murray I don't think they may have been operatives, they may have been but I don't think they were so I had never heard that they had been.

Alan Lawson  26:22

Well, I think it's a useful thing to kill.

Dallas Bower  26:24

Yes, I think so. No, I've never I've never actually heard that. No.

Alan Lawson  26:30

Now when do you think kind of the co-operation between sound departments and camera department really came about? Was it the better equipment? Was it the new breed of technician coming in that made this possible?

Dallas Bower  26:43

Yes. I think it was a combination of both. I think so. And, I mean, fortunately sound equipment was continuously improving.  You see I mean, what really the, I would say the major step in the way of improvement from the point of view, or from both points of view in fact, camera and sound departments was the blimp. Yes. And the first blimp was designed at BIP in so far as this country is concerned by Theodor Sparkuhl, who became Lubitsch's cameraman and was a fine cameraman. And I was happy, very happy indeed to work with him because I was prepared, you see he he wanted to test out his blimps. And he made he made his own blimp. And his own blimp consisted of the what you might suppose it would consist of, a sort of sponge in a wooden case, covering er a wooden debris, an electrically driven wooden debris and it tended to make quite a noise.  Well in due course, no in due course I mean Sparkuhl managed to design a blimp that to to all intents and purposes was quite silent. I mean you couldn't, you couldn't put your mic over somebody's head if you were doing close up say with a 75.  You would hear it certainly, but for for normal working Sparkuhl's blimps, the Sparkuhl blimp worked and that made a wealth of difference. It freed the camera you see from from booth, from the booth. Yes. And of course microphone boom.

Alan Lawson  28:39

Yes, yes, I suppose the two things.  Now in your years as a sound recordist which director do you remember perhaps making the best use of sound you know in an imaginative way?

Dallas Bower  28:54

Well, I suppose you could say that Hitch did in in "Blackmail" by using sound expressionisticly; in fact that wild track in the famous life scene you know where the repetition, the repetition of the word knife keeps occurring to the girl I think David Cunningham and I actually recorded a wild track for the purpose of cutting it in.  In fact we did 'knife, knife, knife knife' and that was certainly an imaginative use of sound in those days. Nothing like it had ever been done before and I'm talking about films here.

Alan Lawson  29:39

sound recording, didn't you?

Alan Lawson  29:41

Yes well, you know Thorold Dickinson had an immense influence on me and he was very much concerned with the Film Society at that time, and if you recall Sydney Coles in my department at Cricklewood, and Thorold had to do practically all the editing for the Film Society himself you might say. And he needed systems, he needed the systems and Sydney and myself, Ray Pitt, another editor, he became an editor, we did a lot of work for the Film Society in no uncertain terms and I became interested in editing. And then there came an opportunity to edit because we did some scoring for cue ships at Cricklewood and the sound editing was something of key importance. And I found that I could do this and wanted to do it. I might say without the assistance of two admirable women Doris Dooley and Violet Burn nothing would ever have been in sync [LAUGHTER] but it was [LAUGHTER] And they really, they really gave me so much assistance and I don't know what I should have done without them but nevertheless that's how it was in those days you know and one simply worked, one worked together you see.

Alan Lawson  31:22

You were doing, you were doing mainly sound editing were you or did you actually go onto picture editing?

Dallas Bower  31:29

Yes, yes indeed the first film editing I ever did was for Pathé, I cut a comedy for an excellent Belgian director called John Daumery, made at Welling and the film was called "Meet My Sister" would you believe.  And I was absolutely terrified, scared stiff, but still it worked out all right so basically I was pleased with it. I believed it did very well as a commercial, commercial film, colourful film, then from …

Alan Lawson  31:58

Then, then after that you went on to do direction, didn't you?

Dallas Bower  32:02

Well, not … What happened was do you remember Reginald Smith? 

Alan Lawson  32:10

Yes.

Dallas Bower  32:11

At PDC? 

Alan Lawson  32:12

Yes, yes. 

Dallas Bower  32:13

Well, he set up The Riverside Studios and I think what he wanted to do was to make films at Riverside of a kind that he had not previously been making at er Stoll at Cricklewood. In other words they were still quota films but he wanted something just a shade better than the average quota of those days. And the point about Reggie Smith was that he didn't really, he was a distributor use see he wasn’t a producer.  He wanted to be a producer and he didn't really know anybody in production, but he did happen to know some of the people at Cricklewood including Leslie Howard Gordon you know …

Alan Lawson  33:05

Yes, yes 

Dallas Bower  33:05

… and, and myself.  And and he asked me whether I whether I had something I would like to direct.  Needless to say, of course I said it goes without saying I’d love to take this on. And I made "The Path of Glory" there.  Which was, Leslie made the first film, which was a thriller the name of which escapes me, but "The Path of Glory'" was rather more ambitious and we made it there in 1933.

Alan Lawson  33:36

Did you, how long did you stay with Smith? Or did you flicker and do other pictures as well?

Dallas Bower  33:41

No, I did this one film and a short called "First of the Ebb", which as its name implies is about the turn of the tide on the Thames.  "The Path of Glory" it has an interesting career, you know, because it was an immensely successful radio play you see by a man called du Garde Peach and I had a very distinguished cast.   It was Valerie Hobson’s first film and Maurice Evans who even at that time you see was quite a distinguished star played the juvenile lead. And of course the star of the film was Felix Aylmer if you remember.  Maurice always claimed that the fee that he received for "The Path of Glory" enabled him to buy a steamship ticket taking him to the United States where of course he became the most successful Shakespearean actor in the United States during that period. [LAUGHTER] And Maurice, I’m delighted to say is still thriving, still very much alive. He's 86 or 87 I think ... {LAUGHTER]

Alan Lawson  34:47

Now, well, now, we really arrived at the time when you became associated with Paul Czinner, well tell us about that, tell us a bit about that.

Dallas Bower  34:57

Well, I'll tell you how that came about. It came about in a really rather interesting way because I met him first at BIP.

Dallas Bower  35:07

Way back you see, and he had made a film here called "The Way of Lost Souls" with Pola Negri no less. And it was, of course, and he decided or the company that made the film decided to put music to it and the music was written and played by Fred, Fred Elizalde who was the the bandleader immediately to succeed at Savoy Hill, and he was a Spaniard Fred Elizalde was, a very good musician. And he came to BIP in order to record the tracks because of the fact that in those days there was nowhere else to do it. And I met Paul during that time I got on extremely well with him. And then having made, years afterwards you see having made "The Paths of Glory" when he had  to leave Germany for obvious reasons he came here. And I remember my wife wrote a note to him and said she wondered if I could be of any value to him. You see because his English wasn't all that hot you know.  And I was immediately summoned.  And I was asked if I'd like to become his personal assistant and I said, 'Indeed, nothing would give me greater pleasure'.   And the first film that we embarked upon was "Escape Me Never" in which, of course Bergman had an immense success as play and then subsequently "As You Like It".

Alan Lawson  35:07

Way back, yeah.

Alan Lawson  37:04

Now er, tell us more about him, Czinner, actually what was he like to, to work with?

Dallas Bower  37:12

Well, he was the, I think the primary point about Paul was that he came from a family of doctors. And he his Ph.D. in fact, was in psychiatry, Dr Paul Czinner, and he had this quite exceptional capacity for for handling actors, actresses. And he they found him simpatico and in turn he found them simpatico to work with and I learned a great deal from him clearly.  At the same time, I think both of them found working in this country rather difficult. And of course, again they had this dreadful habit of being unpunctual for everything and that did cause a good deal of dissatisfaction amongst the crews. I mean with the normal cause, for instance "As You Like It" Bergman had appendicitis in the middle of and I had more or less had to finish it you know because neither of them were available clearly, and Lee Garmes and Howard Rosson both were extremely helpful and Howard and Lee splendid men to work with.  But you see this unpunctuality, I mean the call would be at half past eight and they’d arrive on the set at noon.  It didn't go too well you see and it did make for great difficulties.  And nothing, it was it was just indigenous to them there was nothing one could do to stop it that's how they had worked in the past and they couldn't bring themselves to I think work in other ways.

Alan Lawson  39:16

Now, who would be, who the, who else were the leading technicians on those those two films they used Lee Garmes and Howard Rosson, who else?

Dallas Bower  39:25

Well, no in the case of "Escape Me Never". "Escape Me Never" was photographed by Perinal. And Perry was odd you know, he was a tremendously technician. You see having worked with Claire I think he took rather a poor view of Paul. He thought Paul was, you know I wouldn't say inclined to go outside the axis or something of that kind but he was he I don't think, I think he rather took the view that it was a very good thing that Paul had David Lean more or less at his elbow, which he did you see.  And er I was responsible for bringing William Walton in to do the music. There was a great deal of discussion as to who's going to do that small ballet for "Escape Me Never" and I said that there was no doubt in my mind that you've got two composers here, either of which could do it, preferably Walton ??? before Walton and I think Walton is your chap and Walton indeed it became.  So it was a fairly high powered team you see I mean, it was er Paul and Bergman, David was the editor, Perry was the cameraman, David was the editor and Walton composed the music. And that was exactly the same setup except for the fact that "As You Like It" had two cameramen first Howard Rosson, and then he had to go back to address a previous commitment, and then Lee Garmes for "As You Like It". And the and the additional, the additional additive you might say was Lazare Meerson who of course previously had done all Claire’s films and the most wonderful art director he was. And his assistant was Alexander Trauner no less, still happily very much with us and I mean, as bright as ever, according to reports from Paris, and I mean, two superb art directors, wonderful. 

Alan Lawson  41:25

This is where you got to know David Lean was it or had you met him before?

Dallas Bower  41:29

No, we got to know each other because we both worked on "Escape Me Never'".  And David had an enormous, his great passion in those days was fast motor cars and I've never been faster to this day [LAUGHTER] than I have once taken by David in an immense Invicta  a thing with a bonnet from here to infinity. We went, we got pretty fed up in fact with humming and hahing of one sort of another, and he said, 'let's go for a spin, it's it's too awful, I can't bear any more of it.'  So we got into this vast thing and God knows how quickly we went but we went very quickly indeed, spin up the North Road. [LAUGHTER] And that's how we got to know each other.

Alan Lawson  42:13

You know, of those pre-war years which perhaps director or technician do you think made perhaps a lasting impression on you?

Dallas Bower  42:23

Well I suppose Paul Czinner certainly and as a technician undoubtedly Thorold, Thorold Dickinson no question at all, I mean, he was a superb technician. I mean, he really was, he was, he was extremely good and he had this great quality of things that which he knew very little about technically.  He would always say that he didn't know enough about sound for example, I mean, the intricacies of sound and, and I was extremely fond of him, and we got on very well indeed.

Alan Lawson  42:52

He was a dear man.

Dallas Bower  42:54

A dear man, no question about it.

Alan Lawson  42:56

Well we have now arrived at what I would say is perhaps the turning point of your professional career, is when you suddenly opted to go into television now what made you decide to do that?

Dallas Bower  43:10

I think before we continue, we'll have some more coffee, because I'm getting a bit hoarse. 

End of Side 1

Dallas Bower Side 2

Alan Lawson  00.00 

We now arrive, I think perhaps at the turning point of your professional career, television's arrived, and you decided to go into it. Now, what made you decide to try this new, new form of entertainment?

Dallas Bower  00.18  

A two-fold thing: in the early days of radio, The Radio Society of Great Britain, of which I was I think probably one of the youngest members, used to meet in Savoy Hills, the Institute of Electrical Engineers, and on one occasion a lecture was given by one Campbell Swinton.  Now Campbell Swinton in his head, invented the cathode-ray oscillography, which, as you know, is absolutely indigenous, in fact, it's the quintessence of television today.  And at this lecture, which none of us who was there, have ever forgotten, there was this wonderful idea in this man's head but in fact how was it to be done? Because in those days it was quite impossible to make vacuum tubes at that high degree of vacuum necessary for the thing to work practically. And that sparked off an interest in me and in television as such and then, if we might do some speak, as Lothar Mendes used to say, "quick dissolve now". Quick dissolve six feet and Gerald Cock, who became the first director of television, when the service was put into the hands of the BBC by the government at that time, came to Cricklewood to do some recording for some OBs that he was going to make. In those days you see the corporation had very few recording facilities of any consequence. And any recording that was necessary for the kind that he wanted, what he wanted these recordings for is of no great moment, they were links I think that that could be done in this way.  He decided to do it in this way as he was Director of Outside Broadcast you see and indeed was responsible for the first broadcast of the monarch at that time, George V, who liked him very much personally. And he came to Cricklewood and I found him I liked him very much and he apparently liked me. And I said, "Well, if ever we"  somehow or another how this happened I can't accurately recollect. He started talking about television and I said how interested I was in television and related the story of Campbell Swinton. And it was quite obvious that Cock I think was a bit reluctant ever to take it on you know, but felt that it would be something he liked, would like to do because he had tremendous faith in it. And when the service was set up, he more or less called his own terms, insofar as Reith is concerned, because Reith wanted to have nothing whatsoever to do with it, he thought the cooperation had landed with something that it really had no business on the part of the select committee set up by the government to land it with and he didn't believe in it. Furthermore, I thought it wasn't properly developed. And to certain extent, he was right in as much as everyone thought the Baird system is going to work and of course it clearly was not going to work it was going to be an electronic system and not a mechanical system. And I said to Gerald Cock if he thought he was going to recruit staff I'd like him to consider me and to bear me in mind. You see he was very, you see he was very adamant about taking people professionally into the service from from the film industry and from theatre.  Hence Stephen Thomas, George More O'Farrell and myself and indeed Bax, Peter Bax from Drury Lane. People like Peter Bax, Harry Pringle, who marvelous stage manager, one time running the Coliseum as a musical hall, the Holborn Empire and the Palladium if you please.  People of that calibre, you see and indeed when the service was finally set up I was invited to join service and nothing could have given me greater pleasure than to say well this is something that is a most wonderful opportunity and there is really nothing I would like to do more

Alan Lawson  4:51  

Did you get any pre-transmission kind of training sessions at all? 

Dallas Bower  4:55  

No. What happened was I mean, the I think it was six of us. If you exclude the two announcers the two splendid girls, Jasmine Bligh and Elizabeth Cowell.  Leslie Mitchell was already announcer of course. What, yes, the nine of us we were in all I think and we came into the Corporation and in those days rather like being made a senior member of Trinity House, it was all very grand and we were attached to various departments in Broadcasting House so that we could more or less learn procedures you see. Corporations ... that's something very low indeed, I thought [LAUGHTER] this room was reasonably soundproof. Anyhow, what happened was we were attached to various departments and I remember the very first task that I ever performed for the Corporation was in a show of Max Kester's at St George's Hall, which of course was the old Maskelyne Devant Theatre next to the Queen's Hall, a show of Max' called 'I Scream too Much', which was a parody of 'One Night of Love' by Spike Hughes.  And Max was a splendid chap, he found me there I was simply sitting around and he said, "Would you like to take a line old fella? Would you like to take a line?" And so I said I'd do anything that he wanted me to do. And he said, "Well here's a line." And so the first thing I ever did professionally for the BBC was to impersonate Ernest Newman [LAUGHTER] leaving, leaving a performance at Covent Garden, and the memorable line was, "I thought the horns were splendid." [LAUGHTER] And then, then of course, we finally found our way to Alexander Palace where we plunged into the deep end.

Alan Lawson  7:12 

Now, tell us the difference of the working in television studio in those days and the film studio. What was the, how different was it?

Dallas Bower  7:23  

Well, it was very different to this extent Alan, that the studios had in fact been planned as a theatre rather than as a film studio, I'm talking now about A and B at Alexandra Palace, they were both of course damned. Then they both both A and B studios had tabs, they both had a cyclorama, in fact, the consideration that had been given to the actual setting up the studios, mind you there was no precedent as to how it was all operate. But as I say, it was quite clear, very clear to myself, I think and Stephen that the primary requirement was going to be that we should operate in a manner of a film studio rather than the manner of a theatre. The very nature of what in fact, we were putting on the screen, it was monochromatic and it had more or less to the final result what we were doing at the receiving end had more or less to look as near as possible as it could look to a film , rather than a long shot of a theatre performance. And so, what we very soon found ourselves doing, of course, was to break up our material in such a way as if we had little alcoves, so to speak, in which small sets were erected around these two very small studios rather than shooting continuously one-way, no reverses bear in mind you see, one way into a set in front of a cyclorama.

Alan Lawson  9:10  

Now tell us about some of the early productions you did up there.

Dallas Bower  9:15  

Well, I think the the the major point of criticism about those early days, and it's something that again I think is most unfortunate it a good, a fair degree of jealousy was set-up because there's no question we were over ambitious I don't think was any question of that at all. But I mean, there's nothing wrong with that in as much as if we hadn't been as over-ambitious as we were, when the service re-opened after the war we wouldn't have gotten anything like as far as we had got.  And although I think we were over-ambitious to the extent that some of our productions were over ambitious, certainly mine were, and had defects inevitably. At the same time I never regret having done let's say, 'The Tempest' you see, which was an immensely difficult thing to do.

Alan Lawson  10:10 

What was the budget for that?

Dallas Bower  10:12  

Oh, the budget was miniscule, I mean in terms of the present day I mean I think it cost just under £500. But one of the interesting things about it was you see that I decided to do it, having decided to do it, I decided well, here was this wonderful Sibelius score and could we not use it? It had never been used. Gordon Craig commissioned it from Sibelius for production that never came off and Sibelius put put the score into a suite for concert performance. And one of the problems there of course was the fact that the storm music for the opening of the play, as you know an enormous storm takes place, was scored for a Ring-sized orchestra and it had to be re-scored. Now, the early television service had the most wonderful orchestra and a musical director, who if he had lived would certainly have become one of the leading international conductors of this century -  Hyam Greenbaum. And he he decided to re-score the work and Cecil Gray, who was a close friend of his, and also a close friend of Sibelius', was going to Finland to see Sibelius, took this re-scored Storm to Finland for Sibelius' approval and the great man said, "I can't think why on earth I didn't score it in this way originally." And of course, that's what we used. And I had a very distinguished cast, largely by virtue of the fact that we'd already in those days done an outside broadcast from the Phoenix Theatre, which was a beautiful production of Michel St Denis' Shakespeare's play Twelfth Night."  And it was just at a time when the London Theatre Studio, which was run by St Denis, was running into difficulties. And Peggy Ashcroft wrote a note to me and said, she understood I was going to do The Tempest and could I in any way use any of St Denis' people.  And I thought my goodness me what an opportunity this is, so I invited Peggy, who was then I think, I don't know 25 or 26 maybe a bit more, she looked 18 of course, whether she would like to play Miranda as indeed she did. And again, you'll see the kind of people around, available, was quite superb. I mean my Prospero was a man called John Abbott, who in fact disappeared during the war I believe in rather unhappy circumstances, I don't know the details it doesn't matter.  But my Ariel was Steven Haggard, Ferdinand was Richard Adley and my Caliban was George Devine. So really what more could one want? And then again you see George More O'Farrell did Hasan which was an immensely ambitious thing to do, but it came off superbly.   And he also did a wonderful production of 'Journey's End' in fact.

Alan Lawson  13:52 

I know you've talked about doing an OB, from the Phoenix. What was it like working on early OBs working on early OBs?

Dallas Bower  14:01  

Oh, extremely difficult, extremely difficult. And there was a, we had OB vans of course, and the the director of OBs for the television service was Philip Doherty. And when it was decided they wanted to do this production of St Denis' Phillip said, "I'm afraid I'm not capable of handling this myself, I'd like to have old Dallas handle it", and so I went to Michel and said, "I'm afraid I'm going to mess about with your production". He couldn't have been more co-operative in every way and he said, "Of course. Naturally in order to shoot it.I don't know how you're gonna do it." And so I said, "Well I'm going to close everything up rather and he came and sat with me by my side.  And that was the first OB from a London theatre that was ever done. And leading out of that we came to we went to Denham and Pinewood and did six OBs from each unit working at those respective studios of that time.  That was very interesting.

Alan Lawson  15:04  

A lot of people have seen all kinds of things of of a controller in operation what is it really like? We're in those days, what was it really like to be the director, be the producer of a television production?

Dallas Bower  15:20 

Well, I think it would be fair to say that the strain was quite frightful. One was never in a position of being able to sit back at the premiere of one's work, as one should be able to sit back if one was directing a play in the theatre you should be in the front at the first night no question, nowhere near should any director be backstage, be in front. And in the same way as any director and a film director wants to be at his premiere sitting in the audience, not anywhere near a projection room, let's say.  And the whole point about television, live television, particularly drama, was that and to a very large extent it it still holds good you know. There's never rarely enough rehearsal time. The result was that one gave to all intents and purposes, a performance oneself from the control bridge, largely due to the fact that one might have come up with a cast, let's say for instance, I did a production of 'Rope' Patrick Hamilton's 'Rope', I think probably one of the best thrillers of the century. And now for the final presentation I only had the crew,  the full crew, two sound booms and four camera operators for the day and therefore what one found liable to happen was that if you didn't in fact in your allocated rehearsal time, get through all your wanted to get through you were really shooting off the cuff and giving directions to your operators as to what they were going to do next in the way of you were coming on let's say to camera 3 and you were telling camera 2, being on the air, you were telling camera you were briefing camera 3, " Now line up on the door and as the actor makes his entrance on that door, he is going to walk quite quickly to his marks. So you'll have to do a fairly quick pan to the left."  That sort of instruction going on while the transmission was actually taking place. You can see the sort of thumb muscle operation it amounted to. That was one of the great problems of course, was really getting a smooth, a smooth production, and you know poor set-ups, wobbling set-ups, and you know, cutting people's heads - it was as simple as that.  It was the sort of thing that you would never allow in the cinema for a minute. I mean, if you shot yourself like that it would just be on the cutting room floor, clearly.

Alan Lawson 18:16 

Now, before we leave those AP early days, but but if you like jumping ahead 50 years. Recently, there was a television production called 'Fools on the Hill'. Now do you think it gave an accurate impression of what it was like to work at AP in those days and the role that various people play?

Dallas Bower  18:37 

No. I it was a total parody of what in fact took place, anything do with personalities at all. I can never recollect and I was there from the very beginning I produced and directed the opening programme and I think I was there on the last night when the service closed.  And what I was in fact because a production of mine was taking place, I can never remember the vinten trolley ever running into the set, which is what happened in this wretched parody, the thing called 'Fools on the Hill'.  And the reason it was called 'Fools on the Hill' is Reith refers to us all as 'fools on the hill' in his own personal diary, which was published not so long ago. I can never remember there being a camera accident of that kind. Furthermore 'Fools on the Hill' makes out that the the engineering staff and the programme staff were to a certain extent at loggerheads. It was never so, in fact precisely the reverse was what happened. Cock was absolutely insistent on there being complete and proper co-operation between camera, camera and sound staff and indeed engineering staff in general and, and programme staff. And this was done quite admirably, really largely due to the fact that in D H Munro we had an absolutely first class production manager, a man who was on his toes to such an extent that there was never any question of us not being totally co-operative. And the thing therefore, this this wretched programme, 'Fools on the Hill' was nothing like what in fact occurred at AP in those days, not remotely.

Alan Lawson  20:36  

You know, I'm glad you know we've cleared that point up because, you know I had the same kind of feeling which you had. Now, now then we've reached the kind of war years. Now what did you do during the war years?

Dallas Bower  20:51  

Well  you see after Munich, there was this threat, the muck in the sword as it were. And as the television staff we knew perfectly well that if anything occurred the service would shut down. I don't think the Corporation behaved too well. We were told we better make arrangements for ourselves.  Mind you we were all under service contract, in fact we were technically the equivalent of civil servants. And so what they had in mind to do I really don't know but I think what they might have had in mind to do was simply say, well that's it thank God, we've got rid of them.  Anyhow, I put myself in for all three services. And the army happened to get me first as a result of what they thought to be good radio qualifications. And so I found myself commissioned into the Royal Corps of Signals, almost immediately. [LAUGHTER]

Alan Lawson  22:01  

But you didn't you didn't, didn't stay long actually, with the army, army as such?

Dallas Bower  22:06  

No, I was posted to a training brigade at Whitby and er the film's division of the Ministry of Information was the most extra-ordinary set-up and as much as there was nobody in it who had any experience of real film-making. And they're all very worthy people and I am not suggesting for a minute that they weren't but I'm afraid worthiness was not quite enough. And when Kenneth Clark was appointed Director of the division, I think greatly to his surprise and I think he was rather pressed to do it, he said, "Well, I'll take it on, but I want to have I want to have X and Y" and Y let's say it was myself, because he wanted somebody who really knew something about film-making. And so he asked me,  I was hauled out of the army, loaned, still technically a member of the BBC, to the Ministry of Information, to sit at Clark's elbow. 

Alan Lawson  23:17  

Now what actually what was your actual job?

Dallas Bower  23:21  

Well, it was the equivalent you see of an executive producer really, and what we were doing was to very carefully vet all scripts naturally. We were put to work by the industry, not all that many I might say. And also, we were we very soon found ourselves in the position of producers and in as much as this directive to make three films about careless talk, which was a cabinet directive. And we had to simply put these films into work. And I remember those days very, very clearly because it was a question of how they were going to be done, they wanted them done and they wanted them, the government wanted them, on the screens of the nation's cinemas just as quickly as they could be got onto the screens. So I went to meet Balcon at Ealing, he took them on.  And John Paddy Carstairs and I wrote the script, and I think I thought Paddy was the right director because he was extremely quick. Either Paddy, I'd worked with him at AP you see, he had worked very well with his father Nelson Keys. And we made these things and then it was a question of course, it's all very well to have made them but how were they going to be shown.  And so I suggested to Clark that we had better consult the KRS  as it was called in those days, Kinematograph Renter's Society, and they were brought in. And they said that there was really only one man who could really make arrangements for these films to be shown and that was Sam Ekman of Metro who was bought in, brought in, and indeed he achieved miracles.  I mean we managed to get them into there were what just over 4,000 cinemas in the country in those days. And we just topped over the 4,000. And then you see when Kenneth Clark left the division, shot upstairs as they say, the the film's division was taken over by Jeff Beddington and it became something quite different. He, he wanted to make what was known as five minuters. And I had an, a very difficult task in as much as I wanted to distribute the work as equitably as possible, and I tended to use well people I knew, I mean both teams for example as whole, the directors I knew in fact and we made quite a number of these things and they went into the cinemas in due course, but I didn't see eye to eye with Beddington. And I think that applies to quite a number of people. In fact Beddington didn't see eye to eye with Noel Coward in as much as he simply decided that "In Which We Serve" was something that shouldn't have been made and to all intents and purposes as Noel Coward makes very clear in his autobiography, Mr Coward and his script were catapulted into Malet Street and if it hadn't been for Mountbatten of course, "In Which We Serve" would never have been made.  And Beddington and I, I regret to say, thought in exactly the same way as we started to set-up "Henry V".   And he was odd about the actual distribution of "49th Parallel", having persuaded in effect, having partly persuaded Micky Powell and Emeric Pressburger to set it in work he came unstuck on the distribution of it - not finally it was all arranged. In other words Beddington wanted, he had had a very narrow experience of film-making.  He had been Director of Publicity for Shell you see, and there was a Shell unit. And I think Beddington could only think really in terms of his own experience of film-making, which was totally documentary nothing else at all. And I decided that I'd had enough of it. He wanted to bring in Arthur Elton, in which he succeeded in doing much to Arthur's great surprise, I think. And I said, no I've had enough of this, so I went back to the Corporation. Kept myself out of the army, thank God [LAUGHTER] and I wasn't really much good, I was a rather inefficient signals instructor. I had a splendid experience in that respect you see because I was frightfully lucky in as much as I was posted to a Brigade where I liked the Brigadier, splendid, in one pip I got on with him and my own Colonel was an extremely pleasant chap and a little note on one occasion saying, would 2nd Lieutenant Bower kindly make it his business to see that his squad do not carry their signal flags as if they were umbrellas. [LAUGHTER]  That is you might say the shortest sum total of my military career. [LAUGHTER]  The umbrella man!

Alan Lawson  28:51  

You say you went he went back to the Beeb?  The war was still on and what did you what were you doing then for the Beeb in those days?

Dallas Bower  29:02  

Well, you'll see what had happened was drama, after drama department, Val Gieguld's department had developed to all intents and purposes you might say, a documentary er, er ...

Alan Lawson  29:13  

Approach isn't it?

Dallas Bower  29:15 

Well yes, well the features department, the drama division, let's call it that was run by Laurence Gilliam and I was simply posted to this division of the BBC. And I was I was there as it were to do whatever was wanted off me and I, amongst other things, and unofficially I became Val's, whom I knew personally liked very much, we were close personal friends, he had far too much to do and I became his personal assistant. And there were then, you know anything that was wanted of me either in in drama productions or feature productions, I was available to do and, to, to, to pieces happened to land on my plate, which I was very pleased to do indeed. 

Alan Lawson  29:57 

Now what were they?

Dallas Bower  30:00  

Well, the first you'll see was we had to make a gesture to save it. And so I suggested to Louis MacNeice who was their resident scriptwriter, that we might have a go at Alexandre Nevsky as a sound production. And Louis did the most wonderful job, it was only a paraphrase it couldn't be anything else.

Alan Lawson  30:19  

Quite yes.

Dallas Bower  30:20  

 And again, we did that at Bedford where the music division was stationed. And the reason we were there was simply because the music division was there and furthermore, the Prokofiev score for Nevsky, which is as you know Eisenstein originally commissioned from Prokofiev needed an orchestra of the size of the number one orchestra. And so we did it, we did that production as an open studio production from from the school Hall, from Bedford School Hall And it just happened that the production took place, the night after Pearl Harbour. And it was interesting to this extent that I cast it, i was more or less given very much a matter of a free hand, and Robert Donat played Nevsky and Peggy Ashcroft was Natasha, Sir Adrian Bolt of course conducted the orchestra. And despite the fact that this had been an effort directed mostly to us, I said, "You know, I think we all have something rather special in the way of our opening announcement." So Lou, Lou and I proceeded to Kensington Gardens and asked Ivan Maisky, who was the Soviet  Ambassador, if he'd act as a duty announcer, which he proceeded to do and when we actually went on the air, the continuity, it was held up for an hour of course because because of the events, I mean the fact that Pearl Harbour destruction, the continuity of events was Roosevelt, Churchill and then old Stuart Hibberd saying, "Ladies and Gentlemen, His Excellency, the Soviet Ambassador" and Maisky announcing Alexander Nevsky. It was quite an occasion.

Alan Lawson  32:52  

Yes, yes.  What other radio productions did you do?

Dallas Bower  32:54  

Well, the other big production was was Columbus you see, which was a gesture again, it was a directive to celebrate the 450th anniversary of the discovery of America.  And two  Governor's, two Governors Violet Bonham Carter and Ian Fraser said, "Well, yes, members do this, of course and we want MacNeice and  Bower to handle it."  And so off Lou and I went again, and I was in the happy position to be able to commission Walton to write an original score. And lastly, we played Columbus. And so that again was done from the Bedford School Hall. And the reason we made these these two, they were very ambitious pieces, they were the largest enterprises really the Corporation indulged in at that time. From I mean, in from the point of view of numbers, well what have you and general production necessities and we worked together. We did that in the Bedford Corn Exchange, the Town Hall, simply because we needed the space and involved.

Alan Lawson  34:18  

When did you go back into films? Was it still during the war or when you went to do "Henry V"? 

Dallas Bower  34:25 

Yes I, Henry V came about in this way. After Munich I thought we were going to need "Henry V" and I'd done a TV script. And I had in mind that Ralph, Ralph Richardson might do it.the war while at the MoI I thought why don't I work on this 'cos Kenneth Clarke was most anxious that the Government should subsidise feature production you know but it didn't come off, except in the case of "49th Parallel", a small amount of Treasury money in there but not otherwise.  So I got a script, and Filippo Del Guidice who having been released from the Isle of Man, where he was very quickly shot under 18B, made  Freedom Radio, which Puffin Asquith directed. I got to know Del, as he was called by all of us, quite well and I suggested to Del that it would be a splendid idea if we could try and set this up. And that's how I came in to my association with "Henry V" In fact, Del said yes indeed bought my script. And then the process started the awful process after getting Olivier out of the Fleet Air Arm and that so it came out of Fleet Air Arm was to make "Demi-Paradise" first for Del Guidice.  And then go from there to to Henry. And I resigned from the Corporation because I I didn't particularly want to remain in sound broadcasting as I thought my proper job was was filmmaking. And here's an opportunity, quite obviously, to make a film of some stature. And so, out of the Corporation, I went, I went,

Alan Lawson  36:22  

What can you, tell us a little bit about the setting up of this, that actual production, "Henry V" production?

Dallas Bower  36:29 

Well, it was very difficult to do you see because quite clearly to to to have contemplated Agincourt anywhere but a) in a suitable terrain and b) with the necessary resources - horses and men - and there was only one obvious place in which to do it and that was, of course, in Eire where we managed to find ourselves. Now if it hadn't been for the fact that, again you see Jack Beddington wasn't very co-operative but Ralph Nunn May was his deputy, and of course John Betjemin had been posted from the MoI to Dublin as press attache. And if it hadn't been for John Betjeman I don't know what we would have done. He simply laid the way open; he was very persona grata with the with the Irish government, and we were received more or less with open arms, mind you we spent a lot of money there but that wasn't the primary point. John was responsible for our, for securing the facilities that we we managed to procure in Dublin. Such as you see there was a local defence volunteers, LDV they were called, and they were to a man good horsemen and there were record numbers of horses - hence the Agincourt sequence [LAUGHTER].

Alan Lawson 38:10  

And now after after "Henry V" what what did you go onto next?

Dallas Bower  38:18  

Well, I made one or two bits and pieces I went back to to Riverside and made The Second Mrs Tanqueray and I did that as if it were in fact a TV production.  Shot the thing with four cameras, poor old Gerald Gibbs had to turn it for me, and that nearly drove him dotty.  The only thing that really went wrong was a slight shadow on Virginia McKenna's nose in a cross-cut and I didn't think that was going to sink the whole operation so [LAUGHTER] But it was interesting to this extent you see that it was made very cheaply. And I rehearsed it for a week in the Adelphi Theatre which BILL  ??? kindly lent me, he had the lease of it. And then into the old Stoll Theatre rehearsal room on the roof of the Stoll Theatre, Kingsway was all four camera crews and both boom operators a week there and went into Riverside and shot the whole thing in eight days. And I think it it cost well under £25,000. 

Alan Lawson  39:37  

Those were the days! [LAUGHTER]

Dallas Bower  39:41  

Those were the days you see!! [LAUGHTER] And of course Pamela Brown gave a superb performance as Mrs Tanqueray, which is what she wanted to do and that was one of the reasons why we set it up.

Alan Lawson  39:50  

You also made a version of Alice, Alice in Wonderland, what about that?

Dallas Bower  40:01 

Well, it's it's a long story. I think we better just wait for a moment otherwise I shall become so  hoarse you won't be able to hear what I am saying. Cut for a minute.

Alan Lawson  40:11 

Yes, right.

Dallas Bower  40:16 

Are we right?

Alan Lawson  40:17 

Yes.

Dallas Bower  40:22  

Good.  Well the thing is this. I made "Tanqueray" of course after "Alice in Wonderland"  what happened was I was approached by, through MCA who were my agent by a puppeteer called Lou Bunin who had set up a unit in France to make Alice and they wanted a British director and so Robin Fox Lance Evans said, 'Well, indeed we think we have the man for you' and I went to Paris, where I found a unit in toto waiting to get this production to work. And the whole script, which was done by an excellent old Hollywood scriptwriter called Henry Myers, did a first-class job.  And it involved a lot of live action in as much as what they wanted to do was to tell the story of how Alice in Wonderland came into existence you see. Which as I think you know was through Lewis Carroll, who was Dr Dodgson, Professor of Mathematics at Christ Church and it came into existence simply as a result of a visit for the monarch to Christ Church, who is the visitor to Christ Church, the one occasion during Queen Victoria's reign that she went to Christ Church.  And the children of the then Dean, Alice Liddell the eldest of the daughters, the daughter of Dr Liddell, the famous Liddell and Scott the great lexicon,  the children were not allowed to be present at the garden party and as a result of the intense disappointment this had engendered in the children Lewis Carroll, who was a very close friend of the Dean's, a personal friend and the children, he decided to take them for a row on the river.  And during the course of this excursion, this was after the Queen had left of course, he tells Alice Liddell the story of Alice in Wonderland and that in fact is what we made. And it was done at Nice, we reproduced Great Tom and the Dean's lodgings and the library at Christ Church on the lot at Nice and all the interior work, the puppetry, was done at Bianco in Paris.  And the scoring, because it was a musical you've got to bear in mind, the scoring was done, the pre-scoring was done here by the LSO and the post-synchronisation was done here in London by the Philharmonia and the Musical Director was Ernest Irving and the music was written by Sol Kaplan.   And again l had a superb cast: Ernest Milton, Felix Aylmer and Pamela Brown.  Run out ...

Alan Lawson  45:37 

No. Right.

Dallas Bower  45:38  

Alright. I thought I heard a noise like a camera jam, a very familiar sound to me!

Alan Lawson  45:44  

It seems to be a lose connection.

Dallas Bower  45:46  

It's always running?   Then it ran into the most dreadful difficulties you see because apparently the opening sequence parodied Queen Victoria but of course the book does you see.  That is what the book is about, it is about personalities of the time. And the censor here was a  strange creature called Alan Watkins. And he did something quite unforgiveable in fact, he showed the film to the Controller of the Household, parallel with showing my films to the Controller of the Household, a man called Terence Nugent. He showed Litvak's 'The Snake Pit" to Aneurin Bevan and Bevan said in effect, "Well, of course if this film is released in it's present form it is will mean that I shall have every mental institution in the country up against me." And the Controller of the Household said to this strange character, he had no business of course to show either film to either of them, "Well you know HM doesn't like his grandmother, his great grandmother being parodied in this way" his grandmother in fact being parodied in this way. And so cuts were demanded and the Americans, and indeed the French bear in mind Alice was made entirely with French public money, they weren't prepared to do this. And we made a French version, we made a version in the French language to say, the French version played in France very satisfactorily. And the, the, the ...

Alan Lawson  47:25  

We have to wait.

End of Side 2

Dallas Bower Side 3

Alan Lawson 0:01

 Yes, you were saying, you made you made the French version.

Dallas Bower  0:05  

Yes, and the French version ran very successfully in France. They like, they like Alice in France you know, they like the piece you see and it was very successful. And we had all kinds of frightful complications. One of the things was Disney went into work with an Alice in Wonderland simultaneously with ours and one of the things that was quite determinedly done was to infringe the visual copyright you see.  Well we hadn't done this, we hadn't done it because we bought the the original illustrations, the copyrights are still in copyright. And we hadn't done anything of the kind our visuals weren't anything like the illustrations that had originally been done for Alice and the the the, the two versions ran ran in the States, in competition you might say, and I believe very successfully. But of course, the film was never shown here on circuit release, but it has been shown once by the BBC, Easter '52, and not before ITA had run it in a mutilated version. So really, it's had a pretty shucky history.

Alan Lawson  1:31  

Is there a full, is there a genuine full-length copyright of it anywhere? 

Dallas Bower  1:36 

Well the BBC, if you please, bought a copy for this showing Easter '52. And can the copy be found? No. 

Alan Lawson  1:43 

Oh dear.

Dallas Bower  1:44  

It can't be found looking for it now because quite recently and I've seen it quite recently, I can't remember what, six, seven weeks ago. There is a version here which was played at the Everyman Cinema just before the turn of this year and it's much hacked about, it's not quite as I shot it, and I really want to know what on earth it's doing here and where it came from. In fact that at the moment is in negotiation, I simply want to know who's got hold of this copy and how it's how somebody I'm rather afraid has got hold of a copy, and indeed is making cassettes.  That I don't know Alan at the moment so one has to be rather careful about making any sort of commitment of the kind that might be injurious to its future because insofar as the corporation playing of the film during this Easter, that was the version that I made. In other words you see it's er it's one of these, it's had a slight hoodoo from the very word go you know.  And looking at it the other day yes, it's, it's pretty, it's pretty direct in what it has to say but then so is the book that's what the book is about.

Alan Lawson  3:17 

I believe you did get involved making commercials. 

Dallas Bower  3:20 

Yes, I did. 

Alan Lawson  3:21  

In the early days of television commercials wasn't it? 

Dallas Bower  3:24  

Yes. 

Alan Lawson  3:25

Tell us about those. What was your, what were your impressions of them then as now?

Dallas Bower  3:32  

Well, it was quite, it was quite fortuitous. And it happened in this way, there was a company called TV Advertising and at that time they were the only concern making commercials, there was nobody else making them you see, nobody had made any commercials. And dear Mariusz Janiszewski was the director of this company, and he was going to be the executive producer. But he committed himself to another assignment and he simply found he couldn't do both. And so he's board said to him in effect that if you can find somebody of comparable stature of yourself so to speak, fine  you go off and do what you committed yourself to do but we must proceed with what we are set up to do. And so I was asked if I'd take this on and I thought oh why not only to discover that the company was essentially really an advertising agency and the cutting room hadn't been all that well organised, and entirely by accident I happened to find Vera Campbell.  Vera Campbell who had been trained by Thorrold and David Lean was available. And so I shot her into the cutting room and we managed to deliver the first 80 for which this concern had committed itself to an idea on time, God knows how we did it. And I attribute that to the fact that Vera was such a wonderful editor and organised our cutting room in such a way that we we could meet our commitments.  I directed 12 of these things myself nearly killed me, but I must say I found it a very taxing experience.

Alan Lawson  5:25  

Can you remember any of them?

Dallas Bower  5:29 

Oh yes I mean, the most difficult was the Senior Service cigarettes you know it was very, I mean optically difficult to do, tracking into that laurel wreath and the ship coming forward and the wreath opening up that kind of thing. And of course shoestring, shoestring operation, I mean I think you know £1500, £2000, you spent £2000 you were  spending the earth in those days. And I must say I found I found the there was no precedent and there was no reason why it shouldn't have been as it was, but what the advertising people have done you see was to panic slightly and they brought in advisors and on the whole, I must tell you now I am not going to pull the punches on this the advisors were pretty phoney. And they weren't the kind of people the advertising industry should have gone to they should have gone to proper filmmakers.  Of course they didn't you see they went to people who were on the fringe, you know, and they got themselves into the most dreadful muddle [LAUGHTER]. They really did. And then TV advertising expanded too quickly after I'd done this, but daddy came back and went on very successfully was a concern for a short time. I wanted to have no more to do with it, I wasn't particularly interested in making commercials. And it went out of business as it should never have done largely due to over-expansion too quickly. And of course, by that time any a number of other people had come into operation.

Alan Lawson  7:04 

But now you also went back to make television productions for the Beeb. Was that on staff or on programme contract ?

Dallas Bower  7:14  

On programme contract. I did six. Six.

Alan Lawson  7:17  

And what were they?

Dallas Bower  7:19 

Three of my own and three of the of the house choice. Well I did Henry IV, Pirandello's Henry IV again, which was not as good as the pre-war production I'm afraid. 

Alan Lawson  7:31: 

I remember the pre-war production.

Dallas Bower  7:33: 

You remember the pre-war production wasn't Milton wonderful and not as good, and I suppose the most outstanding piece I did at that time was called "Assassin for Hire" which was a thriller.  Rather well written thriller by an Australian called Rex Rienits. And this was the, ratings had started mark my words, very highly rated it and it more or less started Nat Cohen off in the film industry because he decided he wanted to make this into a film and indeed he did, I didn't direct the film I directed the TV production, and of course it made a mint of money. And that was one, again that was you might almost say the first occasion when a successful TV production also became a successful film. 

Alan Lawson 8.36

But you've also done ballet on television and and also opera on television haven't you?

Dallas Bower 8.43 

Oh yes, yes indeed the lot.

Alan Lawson  8:47  

Which was which would which did you prefer of those? 

Dallas Bower  8:51 

Opera.  We did a lot of opera pre-war you know - 32 productions in all. And the most ambitious I did was the second Act of Tristan with a double cast, which was a pretty ambitious thing to attempt in those days. And then Stephen Thomas, my colleague, did a lot of opera, he'd done a lot of opera in the theatre. And I did a lot of original ballet with Antony Tudor no less who died, what, six, seven weeks ago?  And he was I think a great choreographer. And when he went to America as he did, he came into his own and my goodness me he was you know an outstanding, an outstanding man and he did some outstanding work for me in small, small, small ballets for revues, you see.

Alan Lawson  9:51 

Yes. Yes.

Dallas Bower  9:52  

Revue programmes. 

Alan Lawson  9:53 

That's also another medium you've worked in, isn't it revue?

Dallas Bower  9:59  

Yes. Television revue, yes and it's something that's disappeared. 

Alan Lawson  10:03  

Unfortunately.

Dallas Bower  10:04 

Unfortunately, just as the revue in the London theatre has disappeared, totally disappeared. I mean why it's disappeared I cannot imagine it because I mean it was an extremely popular form.  Charlot's revues do you remember? William Walker Ballyhoo Hooey revues of that kind you know. They were very popular and outstanding people like Hermione Gingold,  Hermione Badley, Sybil Richard, Nelson Keys.

Alan Lawson  10:32  

Now of all the television productions you have done which which one gave you really the most satisfaction do you think?

Dallas Bower  10:40  

I suppose really the most satisfaction was the Pirandello, you know Henry IV, Mock Empress as it is called in America. I think so.

Alan Lawson  10:49 

And which one perhaps gave you the most headaches? Or was that the same, does  that come under the same one? [LAUGHTER]

Dallas Bower  10:55  

Oh yes, yes, yes same one because I tried to, I succeeded in doing the Pirandello with reverses you see to shoot reverses live I might tell you is really quite something. I wanted the foresight to see it naturally in complete reverse and had to shoot through apertures you see.  A masked door you see and a curtain.  The play lent itself to having to work like that it's a claustrophobic piece, takes place in a small enclosed space most of it and one was able to do it in that way. 

Alan Lawson  11:29

Now can we, let's just talk about ACT or ACTT as it is now. When did you first get involved? And who recruited you?

Dallas Bower  11:44  

Oh Thorrold, Thorrold and Sidney Cole and I seem to recollect that my ticket was number five, I seem to think so, may have been seven but I seem to think so. The first four were Thorrold, Sidney Cole, two newsreel cameramen Redknapp and Campbell. 

Alan Lawson  12:02  

Marty Redknapp.

Dallas Bower  12:03  

Marty Redknapp and another cameramen called Campbell, I can't remember his first name.

Alan Lawson  12:07  

No I can't remember his first name. 

Dallas Bower  12:10  

No I can't remember his first name, your memory is almost as good as mine Alan, mine's not as good as it was, clearly now couldn't possibly be. But that was my first enrolment and then of course when I became a member of the BBC I had to resign the union. We weren't allowed to be a member of the union if you joined the corporation.

Alan Lawson  12:38  

Have you any recollections of the early days of ACT at all?

Dallas Bower  12:42 

Well the only recollection I had was that it was absolutely imperative for it to come into existence.

Alan Lawson  12:50  

[LAUGHTER] So, but you know, you never didn't hold any position in ACT?

Dallas Bower 12.55

Oh  no, no, no.  I was a very close personal friend of Puff's you know, I liked Puff very much and we got on extremely well together. I did, he did, we did some broadcasting together and all this that and the other and I liked George of course very much, George Elvin.

Alan Lawson 13.09

What do you think ACT standing was up, up to the war years?

Dallas Bower  13:14  

Oh vitally important, vitally important, I mean I don't know what on earth we should have done without it. Because to a certain extent is not untrue to say that the appalling  exploitation which was taking place at BIP would have continued if it hadn't been checked. No question of it whatever.

Alan Lawson  13:34 

Do you think ACT has played a useful, ACTT has played a useful role role in the shaping of the industry?

Dallas Bower  13:42  

Vital, absolutely vital.

Alan Lawson  13:45  

And now kind of on final thoughts kind of looking back over what has been a very varied career which part did you enjoy most? And why?

Dallas Bower  13:58  

Oh I think the early days of television you know.  I think so. Because you see it was a combination of the two things one knew quite a lot about: radio and cinema. And they were real pioneering days, no question whatsoever about it, practically everything in connection with the early days of the TV service was new. I mean, and furthermore this country was streets ahead of everybody else in the world. Streets ahead of America.

Alan Lawson  14:27 

Now er finally perhaps if you had a chance to start all over again would you change course do you think?

Dallas Bower  14:39  

Not remotely.  Not at all. [LAUGHTER] Hope to go on God willing [LAUGHTER]

Alan Lawson  14:43  

Right.

Dallas Bower  14:44  

Now I am so hoarse I can't talk at all.

Alan Lawson  14:50  

Now we change position.

Dallas Bower  14:51  

Now we change position, now's the time. All right. 

Roy Fowler  14:59: 

Dallas if we can go back on a few things and maybe expand a few points. 

Dallas Bower  15:06  

Yes. 

Roy Fowler  15:07  

Your years at BIP, first of all you mentioned so many of the immigrants, the the German UFA people. Did you find that they brought a particular as it were German or expressionist style with them?

Dallas Bower  15:22  

Yes. For instance Arthur Robeson who made "Morning Shadows" for UFA was a splendid director, I mean a very wonderful director and he had the kind of director who had everyone, as it were, attention by what he was doing you know. One felt that he had complete control over over his cast and his crew. He was a very large man physically, and he had the most wonderful ideas. And I think his cameraman on the piece he made at BIP was Vernon Brandes, and again they had this capacity for total concentration you see total concentration. And if you went on the floor woe betide if you made any sort of noise whatsoever you know. And there was very much this, well I mean it's a, it's a German quality, isn't it? They they concentrate they they bring to bear an intense concentration on anything they're doing. And that was very, very evident with Robeson and with Dupont.  My own experience of Dupont is that David Cunningham and I recorded throughout the night of one week the French version of "Atlantic" and that was pretty strenuous believe you me - it started at whatever it did nine in the evening and went on the following morning until nine you see, throughout the night.  I enjoyed working with Dupont because I found him again this quite incredible concentration on where I think it's best, it's simpler to say concentration on good performance, which is of the greatest possible importance and who denies it.

Roy Fowler  17:44 

Was there ever a clash of styles because there's so many of them brought with them specifically the German expressionist school which I would have thought conflicted immensely with a British realist or naturalist approach?

Dallas Bower  17:57  

No, no, no, no, because you see at that time at BIP there was no producer in the modern sense. There was Mycroft who was you might say overall artistic director of the company, but there was no producer in the modern meaning of the word. In other words the the, the operation was carried by the production managers.

Roy Fowler  18:32 

"Atlantic" is usually represented by a clip as the ship goes down, which you probably know the one I mean it has John Longden as the first officer, I've forgotten who plays the captain. And it sort of runs for about five minutes it's quite excruciating. And again it was I think a deliberate stylistic effort, whereas it's represented here as realist acting. And this is I think one of the problems in trying to assay the films of those times.  Do you remember the scene which I'm speaking?

Dallas Bower  19:07  

Not very clearly no I can't.  I remember the first, I remember the second, the second Titanic film, Roy Baker I think made it did he not?

Roy Fowler  19:17 

Oh, yes, that was considerably later that's "A Night to Remember".

Dallas Bower  19:21 

At Pinewood, "A Night to Remember". A much better film really.

Roy Fowler  19:25 

Yes, quite different yes. Actually that uses a certain amount of German footage from the wartime German film.

Dallas Bower  19:31  

Does it?

Roy Fowler  19:32 

Yeah, yeah the the long shots. The other I suppose towering figure at BIP was was Hitchcock, would you like to tell us your memories about Hitch?

Dallas Bower  19:46  

I didn't know him very well you know, I mean I don't think anybody did. I remember "Enter Sir John" which was I think the film he made, no, yes he made the, he made the Sean O'Casey play.

Roy Fowler  20:06  

"Juno and Paycock"

Dallas Bower  20: 07 

"Juno and Paycock" that's it.  And then "Enter St John" which was I think was it not, am I not right in saying it was a play of Clemence Dane's I think.  And then he very soon disappeared you know from BIP, then he disappeared.

Roy Fowler  20:33  

Right, yes I think from there he went to Shepherds Bush.

Dallas Bower  20:37  

I think that was what happened he went then to Shepherds Bush indeed and started to make those films that he made at Shepherds Bush.

Roy Fowler  20:44  

Yes. Do you remember any details of "Blackmail" other than those you have spoken about? I think Hitch had the self-serving myth that it was he who turned it into a sound film rather on the quiet without letting anyone else know and I would have thought that really was impractically impossible due to the way the studio operated.

Dallas Bower  21:03  

I mean I think everybody knew it what was happening yes indeed. You see at that time, at BIP, we had a we had an American contingent. The supervising editor Gary Schwartz, he was an American and a very good editor too. And then subsequently we had an excellent well Fitzgerald came from the States, Edward Fitzgerald, not Edward Fitzgerald, Frank Fitzgerald I think his name was and then Stuart Payton. And they were producers in the American meaning of the word producer. And admirable they were, in fact insofar as Fitzgerald is concerned, it was Fitzgerald who persuaded David Cunningham to go to France and join Korda. I would have gone too, I didn't go for the very simple reason that my younger daughter was unwell and I couldn't leave London. Other words, other words, otherwise it would have been a very different continuity for me in the future as it was indeed for David, very different.

Roy Fowler  22:13 

Could you tell us a little more about David Cunningham? A name well-known to the business but maybe not too many people nowadays.

Dallas Bower  22:20  

Oh well he was a splendid man in every conceivable way and vastly underestimated, vastly underestimated. He was a Baronet of the 16th. And he started, he wanted to come into the film industry and he started I think as a prop man and a very good prop man he was. And before he became, he attached himself to the sound department and the most junior members of the sound department at that time were David Cunningham and er parallel with David Cunningham in the sound department was none other than Jack Cardiff who in fact was a learning boy you see.  And they were sort of running neck-to-neck.  And they both, David more particularly had been he had also by the time he joined the sound department he had become a he wasn't a technician at all I mean, he just was learning in so far as sound I mean we all were to a certain extent, but he had been an assistant director. And when he went to France he was still in the sound department but he very soon got out of it and attached himself to Korda.  And David had the most extraordinary capacity for organisation. I mean he was very, very good, he was a very good organiser. And that's exactly what Korda needed of course, when he came here, and when they came here to make "Wedding Rehearsal" David you might say was the of greed you know. There he was he was a man who never sort publicity of any kind, in fact, he had to be persuaded to allow his name to appear on any credits, he thought no it was quite unnecessary.  He thought that the important important people, the most important person was the director, the editor in that order and of course the cast. 

And his work here I always maintain that he really did set the whole of Denham in motion.  Because we were close personal friends and I remember on one occasion, he rang me up one Sunday and he said, was I lunching with anybody, which I didn't happen to be, and so he said he would like me to come out and have lunch with me at Gerards Cross I want to show you something. So this we proceeded to do and after lunch, had lunch at The Bull and he said, 'Now I want to show you something we're going to place called Fisheries.' Because at that time London films as it had become was operating at Worton Hall there was a thought they might come to Cricklewood you see.  And at Worton Hall they were and off we went, after this lunch we had at The Bull, to The Fisheries at Denham. And we stood in the drive of The Fisheries and looking towards the railway station, which is south I think, and he said, 'This is where we're going to put the studios and just behind you here I think I think that's place for the tank. And then I think we'll put a site behind the tank of course and behind that I think the laboratories.  How do you think this might work?' I said, 'It's absolutely wonderful but what about the trains?' He said, 'What do you mean the trains?' I said, 'Well, we make it not too near the railway.' 'Oh you are thinking of Twickenham,' I said, 'yes I'm thinking of Twickenham'. 'Oh, well no that's a thought. Yes, indeed once a sound man always a sound man.' [LAUGHTER] I said, 'No, no, just a thought David.' And it didn't mean anything of course the site for the studios was a long way from the station really no sound of the trains. But that was the start of Denham and it's an appalling thought that the whole thing no longer exists. I've never forgotten it you see it because when in fact it did exist when it came into existence there it was a superbly equipped studio from every point of view.  I mean, all this lot you hear nowadays about Denham being awkward to operate in that's just rubbish. I mean it was it was very large you had to know your way around but it worked superbly and stage five was the biggest stage in Europe those days I mean, even bigger than the zeppelin shed in Berlin.

Roy Fowler  27:15  

What about the quality of the various departments at Denham?

Dallas Bower  27:20  

I thought they were absolutely wonderful, superb.

Roy Fowler 27:23

You mentioned your time at Stoll before and that's generally a very undocumented studio. Would you like to tell us something about the studio itself, the people there?

Dallas 27:33

Well, Alan knows as much about it as I do, I think because yes, it was a tightly knit studio you know, it was. It operated as a rental studio you see for independent producers, independent companies, and insofar as Stoll Production itself was concerned I don't think anything very distinguished was done there let's put it like that. But they set about doing it in the right way. And of course one of the reasons for the Visatone sound system was that Stoll, old Oswald Stoll, was not prepared to be bullied into taking either RCA or Western Electric, largely because it was extremely expensive. And he thought that as there was in existence at that time potentially a British system why on earth shouldn't they use of British system, which was the Visatone system, invented by Round - great radio pioneer.  And there was inevitably, an examination made quite soon by RCA, and indeed by Western, mind you Western in those days was on the decline and as much as it was a variable density system, whereas RCA was variable area and so was Visatone. Well, the patent investigators were put in by both Western and RCA and Round, Round's system was absolutely clear. No infringement at all, nothing they could find that in fact technically infringed either the RCA system or the Western system. And it's a great pity that it didn't become something more than it did become.

Roy Fowler 29.28

Did it stay the course to the end of optical sound or did it go by the wayside?

Dallas Bower 29.32

It stayed the course until the end of optical sound. Yes, indeed it did. And one of the things that I think is interesting as I've always thought that Round has never been properly recognised for the great man he really was, you know, there's no question of it. When Thorrold Dickinson became the first Professor of Film at the University of London, first occupant of the chair, he had two students, one of whom was doing a thesis on Cavalcanti and the other was doing a thesis on sound and Thorrold asked me if I'd help both these young men and I said what do you mean by help? I'll talk into a recorder if that's what you want me to do.  I can't help the Cavalcanti, I knew Cavalcanti rather better than Thorrold did for some reason I can't remember exactly why I did. Anyhow the point I'm trying to make at the moment is that the man who was doing a thesis on sound, I said, 'Well now what you must do is is to go to the Patent Office Library and have a look at all Round's patents.' And you'll find it's really quite extraordinary because when he was with the Marconi Company you see all his patents, master patents indeed they were, were taken out  in association, jointly with the Marconi Company, and I think he found somewhere in the region of about 120 master patents. Hence, see why I mean to give you an example of the kind of patents that were Round's inventions I mean the B24 valve, the NF5 valve two totally different kinds of valve, the water cool transmitting valve, apart from such things as the Sykes Round microphone, which is, the principal to the Sykes Round microphone is that it was very similar to the sort of microphones that are used today. And of all kinds, all kinds of other patents that Round had in fact been responsible for very, very remarkable man. And there's not much known about him other than the references to him and Franklin, who was immediately contemporary with him. Now it was Franklin who designed the arial at Alexander Palace, and I don't think, I think it's true to say at least Douglas Burkinshaw always said this and I am sure Tony Bridgewater whom I'm delighted to say is still very much with us, nobody else in the country or indeed anywhere could have, could have designed that arial at that time bar Franklin. Absolutely unique, a completely unique invention.

Roy Fowler  32:27  

I think the principal Director at Stoll was Maurice Elvey who is someone who is currently being rediscovered and rehabilitated by the professional film historians. I wonder what you would have to say about Maurice Elvey?

Dallas Bower  32:39  

Well I don't know but, I mean, he was a he was a strange man, I got on very well with him. And I liked the old boy, he was extremely disagreeable you know, he could be very disagreeable in some ways, and he wasn't very popular I don't think. But he was an awful thruster, I mean he, he rather drove, drove his units a bit dotty, a bit mad.  But on the other hand he had he had qualities of a sort that were  engaging I found.  I mean I don't know what Alan thinks, I think he's  grinning at me. But I don't know what Alan thinks about this but he, he was very much he was very much a martinet you know.

Alan Lawson  33:22 

He was.

Dallas Bower  33:23 

He was very much martinet. And I mean, he had these awful little pince nez, these frightful clip things you put on your nose that nobody dreams of wearing them nowadays. But he wore them and he would take them off in this little fidgety way and say, 'Walker ??? ???. Where are my men?  Where are my men?' [LAUGHTER] His three assistants you know, and if one or the other wasn't immediately to hand he would tear his script in half, stamp about the set or something of the kind. But I got on reasonably well with him, I never worked with him you know.  Yes I did make one quota quickie, I recorded one quota quickie for him, I think. But I remember on one occasion it was just after we'd made "Headrun" and I think we were having a drink and I bumped into him or something and he said, 'Well, boy. Well, there it is. There it is. It's a very remarkable achievement. Now you see I've made 112 Films, 112, all bad but 112.' [LAUGHTER] That was the kind of man he was.

Roy Fowler  34:30  

Delightful.  Delightful.  Can we go back to television the early days at AP? We didn't really go into the Baird system at all. You had a an experience working with the Baird system presumably when it was on air?

Dallas Bower  34:31 

Oh yes.

Roy Fowler  34:32 

Is there anything to be said about it?

Dallas Bower  34:34  

No. No, not really.

Roy Fowler  34:35  

Not at all?

Dallas Bower  34:37  

No not really.  I mean frankly it was the most dreadful mistake to have landed the corporation with the two systems. I mean it's a most appalling example of British compromise at it's worse. At its worst, I mean there's no question about it at all. And it cost an additional hundred thousand pounds, which in those days was enormous. And it should never have been put into service at all because it was totally inflexible, and it didn't really work. There's no question of it whatsoever it didn't really work.

Roy Fowler  35:23  

Could ... What I was gonna to say could it not have been that it was an expensive but a rather expedient way of disposing of it by having the parallel tests. In other words Baird at that time was thought to be the inventor of television, it wouldn't have been easy I think to dispose of him had they not given him as it were a chance.

Dallas Bower  35:44  

I suppose what had happened really was that he was he was heavily promoted you see, not by jack Buchanan who will never stop giving him money, because Jack Buchanan indeed was at school with him and liked the man personally. No, he got himself in the hands of a lot of exploiters you know and they were they were pumping him up I dare say quite honestly really but what they failed to take into account that there was an electronic system you see , Stine Vincent, and so on that was clearly the only possible system for practical television. And the fact that we had to work with this system at Alexandra Palace was a very depressive business, because both Stephen and I knew perfectly well that we were not going to ... In fact, it reached a point you know where I remember both of us went and had a long, long discussion with Gerald and said we really couldn't see ourselves carrying on if the Baird system was, was to continue in this way. We used to alternate week in and week out. And the thing was, was impossible. You see the camera was absolutely locked in a booth. What in fact had happened was we had gone straight back to the early days of sound  film. And the thing was so clumsy, you see, I mean, as you know it shot a negative into a bath where it  was instantly developed. And then the developed negative was scanned wet, and then the phase reversed. So that in fact, when the thing went out whatever it was a minute and a half later it wasn't a negative, it was in effect a monochrome print, in effect you see, that's how it worked. But it was totally impractical, simply because I mean, that in itself was impractical and the camera system was such that you were back in the days of "Under the Greenwood Tree" indeed with a camera locked in the booth. And what what you could do, you had a tied head admittedly you could swing of course you could but I mean that's the only way you could change a setup. You could pan from right to left, that is through a very small arc and you could of course you could swing the tide during performance and lose whatever the gap was in the in the tight swing when you see.  I would lose what twelve frames which of course you could see.

Roy Fowler  38:33  

Was it a standard camera?

Dallas Bower  38:34 

Oh yes, yes, indeed.

Roy Fowler  38:35 

What lens did you have on the turret?

Dallas Bower  38:39  

Well, I mean, the usual selection about 25 to 75. Yes, I think that's what in fact, yes. Usual selection 75 to, 75, 35 40, 50, 75.  25 ,35, 40, 50, 75 and a vinten. 

Roy Fowler  39:02 

Now, once you had the EMItron cameras I think it would be interesting to know how you went through mounting a production right from scratch. Did the producer was he given a project or did he take the a property of the idea for property to the front office to management?

Dallas Bower  39:22 

No, no, no. We put up our own ideas. Put up our own ideas. We were all, that was one of the great virtues of the service we were totally free to put up our own ideas, that was splendid I mean, one of the things we all wanted of course.

Roy Fowler 39:35 

What happened then did you prepare your own budgets?

Dallas Bower  39:39  

Yes. Prepared our own budgets, prepared our own scripts and repaired our own budgets.

Roy Fowler  39:42  

Right. And then you got approval of budget and approval of the project itself. Yes. Then then what was the next stage casting?

Dallas Bower  39:50  

Casting. And then rehearsals outside you see.

Roy Fowler  39:55  

You casted mostly from the West End theatre?

Dallas Bower  39:56  

 Yes.

Roy Fowler  39:56 

Right. 

Dallas Bower  39:57 

Almost exclusively from the West End theatre.

Roy Fowler  40:03  

Did you find that suited to the medium as it then was?

Dallas Bower  40:07  

Very much so because by virtue of the very nature of what one was trying to do you wanted experienced actors. And not only experienced actors but quick, quick and good studies was absolutely essential. Otherwise you run yourself into the most dreadful difficulties.

Roy Fowler  40:27  

What sort of outside rehearsal did you have?

Dallas Bower 40:30  

Well, it depends upon the size of what you're doing.

Roy Fowler  40:22  

Let's take one of your large scale productions. 

Dallas Bower  40:36  

Well for "Henry IV" I think I had two weeks in Beaumont Mews, which was our locale, which was three, three rehearsal rooms immediately behind the BBC publications offices in Marylebone High Street.  Beaumont Mews runs parallel with with Marylebone High Street. And the these three large rooms, they were quite large too, they served admirably as rehearsal rooms, I don't know what we would have done without them.  And then as the service expanded, we were outside to a certain extent there was another small, smaller rehearsal room, again in the Marylebone area which was very handy. Very handy, and it was a small rehearsal room in Paddington Street, which needless to say of course as you know is nowhere near Paddington Station it runs east and west from Marylebone High Street to Baker Street.

Roy Fowler 41:28

Incidentally, did they have the bus service in those days from BH?

Dallas Bower 41:32

Oh yes.  The bus service was absolutely essential. I mean that was a part I mean I don't know what on earth we would have done without it because I mean it conveyed everybody, I mean conveyed staff, crews, and so on so forth.

Roy Fowler  41:45  

Right. So with a very limited budget, you're go into production. Tell me about designing the production.

Dallas Bower  41:52  

Well, that was something you did with Bax and his staff, which, which expanded. And we had a man called Malcolm Baker Smith, who became one of Baxter's assistants, who was extremely good. He was an odd character, he, he, he was one of the very few men who taken a degree at Cambridge in architecture. And he came from the theatre rather than from film, but he was an excellent designer, very imaginative designer. And he was a tower of strength in the service and again he's one of these people you don't hear very much about but he did very good work, very good work indeed. And Bax had come from the theatre and so had Malcolm but Malcolm I think it would not be unfair to say was rather a more imaginative man than Bax was.  I think there's no question about that whatsoever.

Roy Fowler  42:55  

Scenery in those days was rather lightweight, I presume?

Dallas Bower  42:58  

Oh very much. It was to all intents and purposes it was stage scenery you see. 

Roy Fowler  42:03: 

Painted first?

Dallas Bower  42:04 

Oh, yes, yes. I mean, we couldn't possibly there was no question no question of plasterwork of anything of that kind because you see a set had to be struck as you strike it in the theatre indeed. And then something else for the evenings' performances would go up in its place and then the set if it were a repeat would be directed again and so it went on.

Roy Fowler 43:28

How soon did you feel the need for two studios up there?  On a single production using both A & B studios.

Dallas Bower 43:38

Oh, quite soon. I mean once we got rid of Baird one said oh well this is tantamount really, it is tantamount reallly insofar as space is concerned of, it's tantamount to having another stage which was splendid, splendid. I mean for instance for the Tristan production you see, which was extremely complicated, I had the orchestra in the original Baird stage and we shot the the visuals in stage A. And of course the orchestra played back to from from B to A. And that worked very well indeed. And then then again Steven I think on one or two occasions used both studios actually having say two cameras in A and two cameras in B.  It was quite practical to do that you just had to, all that was necessary to do was to cable through from one to the other you see, no  complication. 

Roy Fowler  44:38  

So you had a maximum of four cameras on any one production?

Dallas Bower  44:40  

Yes four cameras.

Roy Fowler  44:42  

You couldn't lock two studios together.

Dallas Bower  44:47  

No you would have four cameras.. And you would use the second, what was the old Baird stage, you would use as as another stage you see.  So if you wanted to go from one stage, in other words you built on A and you planned in such a way that you would have another set on B and you could go from A to B in other words gave you greater flexibility.

Roy Fowler  45:11  

You couldn't utilise B's cameras, you had to have A's cameras down into B's you couldn't lock the two control rooms together?

Dallas Bower  45:19 

Oh there was only one control room.

Roy Fowler  45:21  

Ah. Later I'm thinking in postwar there were then two control rooms.

Dallas Bower 45:24

Where there was the Baird control room you see when the Baird control room, when the Baird system was scrapped there was only one control room and that was the Baird control room. So if you if you took two of the of the EMI cameras out of Studio A, you can either take them out into the ground ...

Roy Fowler 45:45 

I  understand.

Dallas Bower  45:46  

... if you so wanted or you could take them into Studio B.  Studio B being with no control room of it's own because the control, the Baird control room had been scrapped with the Baird system.

Roy Fowler  45:54  

So it was only postwar that B became a fully contained EMItron studio. 

Dallas Bower  45:58 

That's right. 

Roy Fowler  45:59  

Yes, right.

End of Side 3

Dallas Bower Side 4

Roy Fowler 0:04
The, were there divisions that one found in film studios and again, I think subsequently post-war, was there a difference in attitude between the administrators and the talent at AP?

Dallas Bower 0:19
No, no, that's one of the points that one has to make very strongly. There wasn't there was complete co-operation.  And there had been a division; there was a division in the BBC in as much as the liaison between programme division and engineering division at the BBC was not altogether happy. It could have been happier let me put it like that. But Cock was quite determined that this should not be so at AP and he happened to have a brilliant chief engineer,  Douglas Burkinshaw, who was also likewise minded. Let me give you an example of precisely what I mean, clearly all camera operators were engineers, they were on their engineering staff and they hadn't been trained as operators. And I said to Douglas on one occasion, 'It would be of the greatest possible value if your crews could have a look at what good composition amounts to.' He said, 'I couldn't agree with you more. How do you suggest we do this?'  and I said, 'I think what we had better do is to find a film that is really outstanding in its compositional values, its visual compositional values, and just run it for them.  Any new men you bring on or forward let them look at Alexander Nevsky.'  Which is exactly what was done and of course it improved the standard composition you might almost say overnight.

Roy Fowler 1:30
Do you have any particular recollections of your colleagues at Alexandra Palace, George More O'Farrell, for example?

Dallas Bower 2:08
Yes, George you see, George started as, he was supposed to be assistant to Steven and myself, but he was obviously an extremely talented man, and a very good director in his own right. And you know, as we were so worked to such an extent pressure wise that George was very soon given a production of his own.  Which of course he did superbly. I mean he did some wonderful productions. I think probably better than anybody's here and there. His production of "Journey's End" was quite quite, quite outstanding, quite, quite extraordinary, beautifully done, a fine play and beautifully managed. And he could have made a botch of it as anybody could have done, no question of that. Yes and D H Monroe, who was the General Productions Manager, which meant that he had to schedule everything and see that everybody was allocated to being as it were in the right place, the right time, was an outstanding man. And Cock himself of course was was, was just the very man, had complete belief in what he was doing and was resilient you see, was resilient.  And always accepted ideas from his from his producers, from his producer directors.  You would put up an idea and he'd say, yes, if you can think you can manage it. How much you're going to spend? But no, that was never the primary consideration. Do you think it is going to work? That's was the first thing. Can you make it work? And if you can make it work, how much do you think it's going to cost? Oh no couldn't have had anybody better.  Couldn't have appointed anybody better no question of it at all.

Roy Fowler 2:30
I think Cecil Madden has been promoted as one of the founding fathers of British television. Do you have any comments on that?

Dallas Bower 3:58
Yes, I think he was I mean to this extent that he did, he was responsible for doing the initial tests from Olympia. And it was difficult to do clearly and he became the planner as it were, which again was something that was a forward looking operation, which meant he had to work very closely with D H Monroe. But I think it's important to bear in mind that Cecil was not really a producer director in the accepted sense of the word. I mean the work he did at at Olympia, and indeed his own shows, were what this "Picture Page" programme did, was the equivalent, the visual equivalent of "In Town Tonight" you see.  He was you might almost say the inventor of the chat show but Cecil was not was not a director in the sense that Steven was and if I may venture to say I was and certainly George was, I mean, he never put anything by way of an original conception on the air.  And he did this "Picture Page" programme, which was a very popular programme and then he did variety shows. And he usually booked you know, the kind of people that you would expect to find say at the Chiswick Empire or what have you you know.

Roy Fowler 5:35
So "Fools on the Hill" is really a travesty of history? 

Dallas Bower 5:38
Oh total, total travesty of history. Nobody behaved like that. They just didn't behave like that. You see the casting was cockeyed in every conceivable way. I mean, it just wasn't, it wasn't like that and the language in that script, not relevant at all. Not, I mean in those days you didn't use language of a sort that that script shots out every so often you just didn't talk like that.  I mean Tony Bridgewater, who was the engineer in charge of our first production, I mean was appalled as I was when we read the thing, let alone saw it.  Absolutely speechless. We were totally speechless. [LAUGHTER] Simple as that. [LAUGHTER]

Roy Fowler 6:33
I think we should now jump forward to Henry V, because we rather went quickly over that, I don't quite know where to start questioning you I wonder if maybe you could take us through it as a production, your recollections of it?

Dallas Bower 6:50
I don't know that I can say any more than I've already said reaally. Now, I mean it was frightfully difficult to do at the time, owing to the fact it was made during the war. And the outstanding point about it I think is that what we had to do was to make quite sure that we had the facilities we needed you see, insofar as mounting the Agincourt sequences concerned.  Because clearly having come out of the Globe Theatre into what's known as opening up extension it's no good doing it half cock. And therefore, the only way we could possibly see clearly how to manage that sequence was to do it in some place where we had the right terrain, and the right facilities in the way of men and horses - hence Eire. That is, I mean that's the primary point about it. And then of course, the other, the key, key thing about it as Olivier, Larry is in it and ready to admit, in fact he never ceases to say so, that very much key to the success of Henry was was Walton's music, there's no question of this whatsoever. And in, one of the interesting things about Walton's music, particularly the Agincourt sequence is that he wrote it in short score, I'm not suggesting we shot the sequence to playback because we didn't. But it was sketched in short score against the script and it was not shot to playback but it was planned to the short score. Now in the film sense Eisenstein tries to make out that he did likewise where as in point of fact it's since been made known, I think through Alexandrov primarly and I think through Alexandrov, Lionel Montague and I think  Thorrold. What he, the film sense makes out he did something which in fact he didn't do. The Battle on the Ice in Nevsky was entirely a matter of post-synchronisation, it wasn't pre-planned. In other words Prokofiev hadn't put a note on paper before the Battle on the Ice was shot. He post-synchronised it in the normal way of post-synchronisation.  The difference between the Battle on the Ice and the Agincourt sequence in Henry V is simply that there was a degree of pre-planning in as much as Walton had sketched his music in short score, before we shot a foot.  That's, that's the difference and it's important.

Roy Fowler 9:36
The shape of Henry V going from the Globe Theatre to the Cinquecento style to the outdoor realism where did that originate?

Dallas Bower 9:45
It originated jointly, Alan Dent and, and, and Larry, between them thought that that was one of the key ways of opening it up starting in The Globe and and then going outside and coming back and finishing in The Globe.  Alan Dent had a good deal to do with the, with the original script, very good deal to do with it. Apart from the text or textual manipulation of the script, particularly the the the intervention of the, of the Falstaff scene from Henry IV, Part I.  That I think was was Alan's idea, I think it was Alan's idea originally.

Roy Fowler 10:28
Sorry, that also included visual stylisation on the sets? 

Dallas Bower 10:31
Yes. 

Roy Fowler 10:31
That didn't come from Roger Furse or Paul Sherrif?

Dallas Bower 10:33
Oh, no, no, no. I mean, I mean, Roger, to this extent that I mean, Roger and Paul were asked to provide what it entailed but I mean, no, didn't come from, the idea of using that interpolation from Henry IV, no, it was it was Alan very, was very largely responsible for that and it was a very, very interesting thing to do. And indeed, I think it could be true to say that Alan was also responsible for the interpolation from from Tamburlaine, 'Farewell, farewell divine Zenocrate' which if you remember is a line that Pistol uses on his exit from the, his descriptive scene. And that I think was original, well I think it was very much a joint thing you know I remember discussing it with Alan at lunch one day, and he said, 'What do you think of this as a possibility?' and I said, 'Absolutely wonderful' and he and Larry must have discussed it previously and so that's what we decided to do. But one of the things that we did insofar as casting that sequence, the Falstaff sequences was that Larry for some extraordinary reason didn't know that old George Robey had ever played Falstaff, I don't know why he didn't know but he didn't. And I happened to have seen George Robey's Falstaff, which I thought was wonderful. And he was very afraid of course you know at that he was a very old man, it was very difficult to work with him. But nevertheless, I thought he did what he had to do superbly [LAUGHTER] so we had him do it.

Roy Fowler 12:11
The film seems to be in a very happy amalgam of talents, was Olivier the first among equals? Is that how you would see his role?

Dallas Bower 12:20
Yes very much so, very much so.

Roy Fowler 12:22
He brought very much an artistic prescence to the film in addition to his performance?

Dallas Bower 12:27
Yes certainly. No doubt at all, yes and we all liked each other very much and got on extremely well, yes. I think Bob Krasker was a bit crust you know because we took a tremendous chance you see we wanted Perry and we couldn't have Perry and Perry in his own inimitable way said, 'Well, you know, take Bob, and I will always come and have a look at the master long shots', which he did, unofficially [LAUGHTER] Because Bob had been Perry's operater for years as you know and it worked pretty well indeed but when it came to our actually having Perry, no, no, no there was a good deal of opposition all round you know to the whole idea of the film and Korda said, 'You know, it's impossible whatever it was, and he's doing something else and we can't take him off it'. And there was a good deal of opposition, there was a good deal of opposition generally.

Roy Fowler 13:36
So Del Guidice really was taking an enormous chance with the film?

Dallas Bower 13:41
Oh, absolutely, gigantic, gigantic. I mean it couldn't have been more, more enormous in everyway I mean ...

Roy Fowler 13:48
Frank financed it, did he not? 

Dallas Bower 13:50
Well yes, he came into the finance simply because I mean, there wasn't enough money to the the carry the thing. And "Two Cities" was originally financed with Sassoon money very largely and the Sassoon money as large as it was wasn't comparable to the kind of thing the Rank Organisation was then doing you see. And so we had to fetch up with Rank and Rank couldn'thave been more splendid in every conceivable way. And at the time it was the most expensive film that had ever been made in the country bar none. You see it was the most expensive films that have ever been made and as a result, of course, we engendered a good deal pretty, pretty severe opposition from all sorts of people. What are they doing you know playing about with this this kind of thing at this time?  Not really realising I think most the opposition was ill founded in as much as it was engineered by people who really didn't know what they were talking about quite frankly.

Roy Fowler 14:53
Would you say it was an efficiently made film? 

Dallas Bower 14:56
Yes, very.

Roy Fowler 14:57
 Unlike some of the later disasters in the British film industry such as Caesar and Cleopatra or London Town?

Dallas Bower 15:04
Oh, I mean, I mean, we didn't work like that. The script was extremely severely worked out and Reggie Beck was at Larry's side the entire time. And no, I mean, yes, indeed yes it was efficiently made no question. I mean, we, there was no actual shedule of so much screen time per day. No, but what, what it amounted to, alright, well one day one might make six minutes and the next day perhaps we did half but the following day even seven or eight as much as that.  Dependent upon what one had in hand, I mean how much work one had to cover and how difficult or how easy it was to do you know.  

Roy Fowler 16:02
You remember, when we first started at Alexandra Palace there was a plea  from the trade that they they wanted some transmissions in the morning and you know a demonstration film was made. How did that actually arise? Do you, who whose idea was this?

Dallas Bower 16:24
What the demonstration film?

Roy Fowler 16:25
 Yes, yes. 

Dallas Bower 16:26
Well, I tell you what happened. What in fact happened was this The Radio Manufacturers Association was a rather powerful body, understandably in as much as  the radio manufacturers had set up the BBC itself. And the BBC started as you know as the British Broadcasting Company and then it became a public affiliated corporation as it did. Nevertheless, The Radio Manufacturers Association was a powerful body to deal with as much as they would be made radio sets, they also made television sets in due course. And what they maintained was that it was impossible for the retailers to sell sets unless there was something to demonstrate the sets with of a morning. And it was quite impossible in view of the kind of facilities we had at Alexandra Palace to I mean to envisage doing a live transmission during the mornings, unless you had a camera simply. It wasn't even practical to have a camera because everything was in use - rehearsals. And so the alternative was film, and not one, let alone a foot, not a sprocket hole was the industry prepared to let us have, not a sprocket hole.  The only film we were able to run was Paul Rotha's documentary on the History of The Times. And of course The Times was absolutely delighted to have such a thing happening because what could it possibly be other than a marvellous piece of publicity for The Times, and as old Paul managed to engineer all kinds of grandissimi to the thing, TS Eliot and people of that description it was a very acceptable thing for the corporation to run. But it didn't fulfil the necessity of showing what in fact television was like you see, hence the necessity for someone to go away and make a symposium of the first six months' work. And I was asked if I do this, so I said, yes. But I said, [LAUGHTER] but I want to have complete control of the thing. And I didn't deal with Reith but I dealt with Graves, who was a Deputy Director General, Reith wouldn't have anything to do with anybody you see. He'd set this, he had committed himself to The Radio Manufacturers Association and what it really amounted to was we had to get him out of something he did, he had got himself into the most frightful jam and he had to be got out of it. I dealt with Graves and I said to Graves I recollect very clearly now, because at that time they were about to spend more money than they hitherto had spent on anything programme wise. I said, 'Now, one thing I must ask for is that I have my own production manager and he's going to be a production manager come assistant in effect you see.  Because if I don't have that, I may go over. I don't want to do that at all.' And Graves, I must say who knew nothing whatever about filmmaking was extremely sympathetic, he said you must have what you want.  So I had Teddy Baird you see and of course I couldn't possibly have had anybody better who kept me totally on the rails. I mean he really kept the thing, he knew exactly with whom to deal and how to deal with everybody at Cricklewood and I mean I couldn't have been more delighted. And it was difficult to do you know Alan if you remember because we had a very tight schedule and it was such a varied operation, was it not? 

Roy Fowler 20:17
You say dealing with Cricklewood explain that because I know but I don't think a lot of people understand.

Dallas Bower 20:26
Well, you see they couldn't make the film at Alexandra Palace. So what we had to do was to go into a film studio and take the material which had been used live at AP and reproduce it at Stolls at Cricklewood.  Which is what we did and as far as we could manage cover the whole spectrum of the programmes that had been done over the first six months, which was pretty considerable, including if you recollect a location at Sadler's Wells. 

Alan Lawson 20:56
Yes I remember that.

Dallas Bower 20:57
You remember that I'm certain.. It was very largely due to your expertise and excellence we managed to make the thing, which was the Tarantella from 'Facade' between half past five and seven o'clock do you recollect that? And technically again, you see that was interesting apart from the fact that old Bayliss came up to me and shook a great wobbling finger at me and said, "Now dear bear this in mind, if you're not out by 6.45 I'll drop the iron on you'". [LAUGHTER] So I knew what that meant. [LAUGHTER] Apparently that evening, there was going to be a performance ????????? and this is what he said. And I told Alan and he said, "Don't fuss me, don't fuss me"  two enormous roaring generators in the street directly. And we no question and we shot the thing to Constant playing the piano. They just done it. And so we shot it wild with three cameras and when we came to post-synch it B??? said, "Metronome or not only Constant can do this".  And Constant came to Cricklewood with the orchestra. And of course, there it was absolutely bang in sync to frame. And we did in fact make that make it between half past five was it not and half past six. I mean literally we shot the thing in an hour and how many takes were there I can't remember? 

Alan Lawson 20:57
I think only the one.

Dallas Bower 22:32
I think we had one take I know I got three cameras I think that's all we had.  That's all we could possibly do then we had to get out, had to get out. And it was a it was a fairly it was a fairly tricky film to make you know in as much as you see all the old 'tilt and bend' business was worrying us don't you recollect? I mean, although I must say Douglas and Tony Bridgewater they never hussled me in the least but I was always careful about blacks on the frame line,  bottom frame line or indeed top or either side. But you know, all that was still going tilt and bend that nightmare thing we all had to cope with. And no, I mean, we came out of it you see £800 in hand and that delighted, delighted Teddy {LAUGHTER} and I idiotically supposed this would be immediately ploughed back into the programme pool, not a bit new doorknobs on the ladies loo you know [LAUGHTER]

Roy Fowler 22:32
What was your budget?

Dallas Bower 23:41
Just under £10,000.

Roy Fowler 23:42
Does that footage represent for history the the actual programming content of the BBC television at that time.  Do you think it is fair portrayal?

Alan Lawson 23:54
Yes, of yes.

Dallas Bower 23:57
Yes, very much so indeed. Oh, yes, very much so. I mean it it covers an enormous, I mean, I'm in Ras Monolulu the tipster, the racehorse tipster, the then Minister of Transport, Leslie Hore-Belisha, you recollect? John Piper with a Constable on one side of him and a Picasso on the other do you recollect? 

Alan Lawson 24:21
Yes, yes.

Dallas Bower 24:22
And such, I mean show business people if you like so called.  Frances Day ...

Alan Lawson 24:35
Nina Mae McKinney

Dallas Bower 24:36
Nina Mae McKinney. Exactly. Who else did we have?  Nina Mae McKinney. 

Alan Lawson 24:46
Well there's the Eric Wilde and his Teatimers.

Dallas Bower 24:48
Well, that was a little jazz group that was set up from the main orchestra.. We had them there Eric Wilde and his Teatimers. And oh, I mean, we covered

Roy Fowler 25:02
Marie Christmas??? as well,

Dallas Bower 25:04
Sid, Sid, Sid,

Alan Lawson 25:06
Sid Owen.

Dallas Bower 25:06
Yes Sid, Sid playing.  er ?????  yes indeed yes and she didn't like being put on a rostrum.

Alan Lawson 25:15
That's right.

Dallas Bower 25:15
She couldn't bear being, I wanted a nice set-up on it you see I didn't want the stupid thing ... normal.  She didn't like the idea being put on a rostrum at all. And she knew she, she, we've since roared ourselves silly with laughter over this because you see, she really thought she didn't like the idea of having to get on a six foot, a six foot rostrum wasn't it Alan? and she didn't like this and she thought well if they are going to play about you know harps go out of tune at the slightest provocation she thought that undoubtedly that when you get the damn thing up on the roster it would have gone out of tune and it didn't in fact. It gave the most marvellous performance. But she didn't like the idea, we wanted a nice setup on her you see. Which is what we did you see stuck her up and there was no other way of doing it. And not we couldn't use a high head somehow or other I don't know why We wouldn't get low enough. That was exactly the reason that we couldn't get low enough. So that's why we couldn't do it. So here's what we did. And on the whole I think it does represent what we were doing at that time. And then that little excerpt we have from 'Television Comes to London', which of course you weren't associated but Jimmy Carr photographed it you know. And then Charles Van??? did the studio work you see. And if you recollect, and there's a rather nice pan from the tracking image from the back of the studio right the way round to Adele Dixon singing her stuff on the stage. But that pan to 180 degrees, and that that shot has been used time and again, and for every conceivable kind of reason this is what it was like at Alexandra Palace.  What it was not like was 'The Fools on the Hill' [LAUGHTER] if there could be said to be a representative piece of how it looked at AP during those days that shot does it I think. And the other thing that's interesting, you know, for this BFPA thing that they gave on the night before, on the night of the opening you know, last year, the thing that, I noticed that the first 10 minutes was how packly shot everything myself. And the one thing that really upset me was that lovely divertissement that Margot did you see just a long shot and nothing else. And that was a very great pity, because that was something frightly, and I do remember .. 

Alan Lawson 26:27
Checkmate. 

Dallas Bower 26:27
Oh Checkmate marvelous ballet ...

Alan Lawson 26:47
That was it, that was it's prom wasn't it, that divertissement wasn't it from Checkmate?

Dallas Bower 27:49
Oh no. It was an original piece. It was an original piece. 

Alan Lawson 27:52
Oh.

Dallas Bower 27:52
And there's been an enormous amount of discussion about it the ballot and mains all go dotty I've had some awful old creature called Janet Davis who never stops writing to me. And I have had to write to her recently and say, Look, I'm frightfully sorry, this is exactly what happened because they've all got it wrong. We rehearsed it live if you remember. 

Alan Lawson 29:17
Yes

Dallas Bower 28:11
Because we wanted a divertissement for Margot in due of the fact that she'd done so much TV, and had total belief in it, which is more than most of the others had, not Anthony Tudor, but the two ballet people who had more belief in TV than any of the others, including Ninette, and indeed Ashton and indeed old Mim, although she was very co-operative, were Margot and Anthony Tudor. Now, I said, we must have a piece for her solo and there was a marvellous ??? that William had written for 'The Boy David', a Bergner play, which had music that had been recorded but hadn't been used. Well we cleared the copyright, it was William's in any event so he could do more or less what he liked with it, but Cochran wasn't uphelding any difficulties. So we used this bursers. And then as Margot was part of the ballet company, I invited Freddie to set it and John Armstrong who designed 'Facade' originally you remember did the clothes and it became what it was meant to be a divertissement for Margot Fonteyn.  And we rehearsed it at AP and then we took it to, to Stoll and shot it there, do you remember?

Alan Lawson 29:18
Yes. Yes I do, yes.

Dallas Bower 29:18
And so that piece really became quite a piece. Now they all wonder how on earth it was done you know and mumble mumble Dick used to say with a straight face, mumble, mumble glorious technophiles [LAUGHTER] Mumble, mumble glorious technophiles [LAUGHTER] Desmond Dick was an absolutely tremendous chap. Well, there we go. Once again. mumble glorious, glorious technophiles, mumble, mumble tone glorious technophiles [LAUGHTER] that's right. Yes. Yes. And it's been hacked about.

Roy Fowler 30:14
Unfortunately, there's no complete edition of it anywhere.

Dallas Bower 30:19
Yes, there is. 

Alan Lawson 30:20
Is there?

Dallas Bower 30:20
Yes. And I'll tell you where it is, I'll tell you exactly where it is. Who could have done this I have not yet been able to discover. But somebody, and I imagined it could conceivably have been Norman Collins or though I rather doubt it, it could even have been Gerald Beadle, I don't think it was Gerald but it could have been Gerald. Somebody has presented the definitive version of that film to the archive. Because I was doing a little sort of ad hoc thing for them and I was approached by the number one man of the archive, not the director of the archive but the number one archivist and he said, we've got a film that I think we would like your views and I said oh yes.  And we put this on the viewing machine and I said  oh yes, yes, really, interesting.  And you know I said, I made it and he said I rather thought that you did. Because none of us had any credits do you remember?

Alan Lawson 30:20
Yes, that's right.

Dallas Bower 31:16
The utmost idiocy on the part of myself, I was being ridiculously modest, quite wrong, like a fool anyhow there it is, doesn't matter none of us had any credits. And suddenly, we ran the whole thing on the viewing machine in Dean Street. And that's how it was that's how it went out time and time and time again, old Nina Mae McKinney doing her stuff and all the rest do you remember. And I said well, that's it now keep it in good condition. So back it when to Aston Clinton so as far as I know it's still there. But the corporation hadn't got a definitive ...

Alan Lawson 31:41
Oh well that's something.

Dallas Bower 31:41
 I mean the corporation's print at Acton. I took old Bailey ??? down there because he wanted to use it to for some lectures he was giving you know. And he wanted, what he wanted to use was Tarantello from 'Facade'. Somebody tried to cut that you know on the ???? printout you see. And of course, it succeeded in putting the whole thing out of sync and they were so furious and I said oh to hell, to hell with it, take something else, use some other thing which I think he did. I don't know what he used something else, some other part of it. That was the corporation's copy. And then George did some additional stuff after the war you know and they intercut that into the thing you see. And well, also it was it was remade after the war erm Marcus Cooper remade the whole thing.  Did he?

Alan Lawson 32:47
Yes, it was re a completely new thing was made with Petula Clark, you know, still as a child singer. 

Dallas Bower 32:56
Well I've never seen any of this. You didn't photograph it did you? 

Alan Lawson 33:03
Yes, I did yes.

Dallas Bower 33:03
Did you? The remake?

Alan Lawson 33:06
Yes, the complete remake?

Dallas Bower 33:07
Where did you do it?

Alan Lawson 33:09
It was done at AP.

Dallas Bower 33:11
AP.  Was it?

Alan Lawson 33:13
Yes.

Dallas Bower 33:15
Of I see, you didn't go outside? 

Alan Lawson 33:18
No. No.

Dallas Bower 33:18
Oh, by that time of course it had all moved to Lime Grove. 

Alan Lawson 33:22
No, no, no, it was no, we were still at AP. 

Dallas Bower 33:25
And you did do it at nights? 

Alan Lawson 33:26
No, no, no. We did it before we went on the air. 

Dallas Bower 33:29
Oh, you did? Yes. Oh, I see. But jolly difficult. 

Alan Lawson 33:31
Yes. 

Dallas Bower 33:32
Marcus Cooper? 

Alan Lawson 33:33
Yes. 

Dallas Bower 33:34
What's happened to him? 

Alan Lawson 33:35
Oh, he's dead .

Dallas Bower 33:36
Is he? Is he?

Roy Fowler 33:37
Yes. I mean, he'd be quite an old man. Well in fact he I should think he'd be somewhere around about 95. 

Dallas Bower 33:47
Yeah he would be [LAUGHTER]  Well you never know.

Alan Lawson 33:51
Well there we are.  Thank you Dallas, very much.

Dallas Bower 33:55
Delighted.

Roy Fowler 33:56
One last quite trivial thing whenever I see or hear that film I note the ladies' accents.  Now tell me was that Mayfair, or was it RADA or was it BBC those cut-crystal accents? [LAUGHTER]

Dallas Bower 34:10
RADA. RADA. [LAUGHTER] RADA I think that's a fair thing to say, isn't it? [LAUGHTER] You mean, do you mean Jasmine and ...

Roy Fowler 34:24
Elizabeth, yes.

Dallas Bower 34:27
Well, I would say but no, I don't think I don't think either of them would be RADA in fact.  I think it was if you'd like to call it Mayfair I think you can. They had this enormous virtue, that you could always hear what they said with the greatest clarity and there was no dropping off of lines at the end of sentences. Which is in fact what's happened now on radio. I mean, can you beat it on on occasion? It's quite, the presentation has gone, completely to pieces 

Alan Lawson 34:56
It's almost as if they were off mic. 

Dallas Bower 34:58
Oh, it's almost as if they'd gone off my mic exactly. Some of them do. I think they go right outside of the ??? of the mic - absolutely extraordinary. No they're both in good order Jasmine isn't.

Alan Lawson 34:58
Not really.  Jasmine is not at all well.

Dallas Bower 35:19
Elizabeth is alright.  Because this occasion at the Grosvenor House was quite a thing.

Alan Lawson 35:25
Really?

Dallas Bower 35:26
Oh, yes. Because Jasmine was in a chair. And she was had to be pushed about. 

Alan Lawson 35:32
She's had a stroke hadn't she?

Dallas Bower 35:33
Oh, yes, a rather severe one. But I mean, Elizabeth's all right. Yes. And then that BAFTA thing that subsequent BAFTA thing that was very well managed by Graham Benson. Because Bridgey and myself, Cecil and Elizabeth were all placed in the front row you know, so that we were there for the stills and all the rest of the rigmarole. [LAUGHTER] But now I think on the whole I was absolutely horrified to find Jasmine really as poorly as she is and she's, she can't be more than 70 you know. 

Alan Lawson 35:33
No, no.

Dallas Bower 35:59
Not really. Because she was very young you see when she came she couldn't be more than what, just just a babe, about 22, 23. 

Alan Lawson 36:16
Yes. Yes. Yes.

Dallas Bower 36:18
A shade more perhaps.

Alan Lawson 36:22
About right.

Dallas Bower 36:24
Well you've had enough of me. 

Roy Fowler 36:25
That's fine, that's excellent.

Alan Lawson 36:27
Bless you. Thank you you very much.

Dallas Bower 36:30
I'm absolutely delighted. And if you can ever find time to run off the material I'd like a copy of it. I'm prepared to pay for it, not that I've got any money but only too prepared to pay for it just just for my own use.

Roy Fowler 36:45
This recording of Dallas Bower was made on the 8th of June 1987 at the Savile club in London by Alan Lawson and Roy Fowler. There are four sides on two tapes, it is fully copyright and protected by the ACTT History Project.

End of Side 4 

Biographical

Dallas Bower gained  early employment in 1929 as the sound technician on Alfred Hitchcock's first sound movie Blackmail .In 1936  he was appointed as one of the first two senior producers to the BBC Television Service . He made the BBC television demonstration film - a symposium of the first six month's programmes for morning transmission. He  produced the broadcasts of a wide range of  plays, ballets and operas for the BBC before TV trials were terminated with the advent of WW2. During the Second World War, he was commissioned into the Royal Corps of Signals, and was selected to become the executive producer, Films Division at the Ministry of Information from 1940-42. He then  joined BBC Radio where he produced a radio version of the Russian film Alexander Nevsky, starring Laurence Olivier and with music by William Walton .The same group later made the film Henry V, with Bower as executive producer. He rewrote  the  script he and Olivier had broadcast before the war. Returning to British films after the war, Bower made a colour film of Alice in Wonderland in 1949 (restored 50 years later by the US Museum of Modern Art.) He later produced eighty of the first British TV commercials.