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 Kindergarten, 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 Marconi’s 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
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 frightfully 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 the 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 had 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 galvanometer system in the Royal Court? it was a galvanometer 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.
Sid Cole 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]
Sid Cole 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]
Sid Cole 21:31
You've left BIP to go and join Stoll, 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
Alan Lawson 22:39
Yes he moved rather slowly [LAUGHTER] until he pounced.
Dallas Bower 22:41
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, angry cameramen. 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 with 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 had 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?
Dallas Bower 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 expressionistically; 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?
Dallas Bower 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
Dallas Bower 32:11
Alan Lawson 32:12
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 you 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
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. 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 tremendous 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, 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 a most wonderful art director he was. And his assistant was Alexander Trauner no less, still happily very 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 he had, 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 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 [LAUGHTER] I’m terrified.
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, he 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 marvellous 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 to 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 is a good, a fair degree of jealousy was set-up because there's no question we were over ambitious I don't think there 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?
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? 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 you 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 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 a 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 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 of 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 two, two, two 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
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. During 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 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
Dallas Bower 40:16
Are we right?
Alan Lawson 40:17
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
Dallas Bower 45:38
All right. 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
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
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 his 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
Dallas Bower 9:52
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
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
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
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
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 was 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
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 Peyton. 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 opposite 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 a 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?
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 aerial 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 aerial 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
Dallas Bower 33:23
He was very much a 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
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 going 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.
Dallas Bower 39:44
Roy Fowler 39:45
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
Roy Fowler 39:56
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 had 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:
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 really 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 too 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 post-war 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
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 post-war that B became a fully contained EMItron studio.
Dallas Bower 45:58
Roy Fowler 45:59
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 the 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 at 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 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 he 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 shoots 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 really. 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 were 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
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 time 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 presence 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't have 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 film 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 that most of 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
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 schedule of so much screen time per day. No, but what, what it amounted to, all right, 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
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 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’d 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 “Façade” 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 hustled 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, oh 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
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
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
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 rostrum 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 I practically 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 frightfully and I do remember ...
Alan Lawson 26:27
Dallas Bower 26:27
Oh “Checkmate” marvellous 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
Dallas Bower 27:52
And there's been an enormous amount of discussion about it the ballet 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
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 upholding any difficulties. So we used these bursers and then as Margot was part of the ballet company I invited Freddie to set it and John Armstrong who designed “Façade” 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
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 “Façade”. 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 didn’t 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
Dallas Bower 33:15
Of I see, you didn't go outside?
Alan Lawson 33:18
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
Dallas Bower 33:32
Alan Lawson 33:33
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
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
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 all right because this occasion at the Grosvenor House was quite a thing.
Alan Lawson 35:25
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
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
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 copyrighted and protected by the ACTT History Project.
End of Side 4
Dallas Bower Side 5
Sid Cole 0:04
Dallas Bower. Side Five extra material, recorded on the 23rd of November 1988.
Interviewers Sid Cole and Alan Lawson.
Sid Cole 0:42
Dallas since our last recording session you, I know you've had some extra thoughts and you want to start again?
Alan Lawson 0:49
Yes, you're going to talk to Dallas about rather historical occasion that you had in mind, which is when you first met Gerald Cock?
Dallas Bower 0:56
Yes well, that was at Cricklewood. Gerald Cock was then controller of outside broadcasts for the BBC. And he came to Cricklewood to make some recordings in connection with one of his outside broadcasts that he was going to do. And I got talking to him during the break, I think it was probably during the luncheon break about television only to discover that he was already interested in television via the BBC. There was no question of the BBC, at that time, taking over television because the government committee on the subject was still sitting. But what interested Gerald Cock was that I told him that in '23/'24, it must have been, I had been at a lecture in the Institute of Electrical Engineers under the auspices of the Radio Society of Great Britain, in which Campbell Swinton outlined in theory, because there was no question at that time of such a thing being practical, a cathode ray tube. And I recollect, after that lecture, having a meal with two colleagues in the early days of radio and our both saying, ‘Well, of course, the whole idea of the thing was quite preposterous because it was quite inconceivable that one could ever make a tube of sufficiently high vacuum to do what he had said such a tube could do.’ Well, the answer is to be found nowadays simply sitting in front of practically the whole of the nation. [LAUGHTER] The cathode ray tube and this clearly interested Gerald Cock to the extent that he kept an eye on me. And when I became an editor, he had all that taped as I subsequently discovered, but I made "The Path of Glory", which I think as you know was based on a very successful radio play, at Riverside and it was the second film to be made at Riverside. I suddenly found myself being summoned to Broadcasting House in 1936 and asked if I'd like to join the television service. And so that really accounts for my being asked to become a TV producer and director and I want to make the point that Gerald Cock was a most interesting man in as much as he ran the outside broadcast department extremely efficiently. He was a sophisticated individual, extremely intelligent and he's never been given proper credit of really for what he did, he set the whole thing in motion. Largely I think because the hierarchy were only too delighted to have it up at AP as it were on a limb and they thought they'd appointed a man who conceivably would not worry them. Well in point of actual fact of course, Gerald succeeded in selecting his own people and, may I venture to say, that we did make quite a success of it. I think that was the last thing in the world that BBC thought was ever going to happen.
Alan Lawson 4:45
They were just trying to sort of push it into, into a nice dark corner somewhere?
Dallas Bower 4:48
Oh, absolutely. And Reith you see on the occasion of our opening, on the second of November '36 he wouldn't appear with the then Postmaster General was the chairman of the Hankey Commission but he was found lurking in the scenery dock by a prop man and he had been in the Palace throughout the entire day of the opening of the service, but not officially. Well, that is the measure of faith, that the sort of faith that Reith had in the service. He really thought that it was a gimmick and wasn't going to work. And you see what is rather disappointing is that poor Gerald rarely, has never been given proper recognition; he was given an MVO largely because George V liked him and as you know the Victorian Order is something that concerns services to the to the Monarch or the Royal Family.
Sid Cole 5:50
He did something about the first Royal broadcast?
Dallas Bower 5:53
He did the first broadcast of George V first ever made was under Gerald Cock's auspices and Gerald Cock liked him personally, thought he was an extremely agreeable man as indeed he was and efficient, managed the whole thing very well. And the, the fact that three subsequent TV directors, controllers were all knighted I mean Barnes, Beadle and Wheldon and Gerald is just left with you might say nothing. And I just wanted to make that point quite clear. It was entirely due to Gerald Cock that one was asked to join the service, and he kept an eye on me and he, what he wanted was someone who he thought could well I had, he knew I'd got a certain degree of technical training as far as radio was concerned and recording went and I had been already by then made two films.
Sid Cole 6:51
Mmm right you want to continue on from more to say, more about television and your experiences and theories about it?
Dallas Bower 7:02
Yes but what I would also like to say Sid is that in 1936 when I joined the service simultaneously my book "Plan For Cinema" was published by Dents.
Sid Cole 7:18
Dallas Bower 7:19
Now, the interest, I think, where this book is concerned is here. Doubtless you remember a character, which I think most of us of our vintage remember clearly named Oswell Blakeston.
Sid Cole 9:31
Indeed, very well
Dallas Bower 7:38
Now Oswell Blakeston, Harry Hasslacher in fact was his real name, he was a, he was the camera department of the of the original Gaumont set-up at Lime Grove. And he became first editor of "Close Up" and he was called Oswell because he'd invented the name. And he he told me when I first met him that he was only called Oswell because he admired Osbert Sitwell he used the first, the first part of Osbert Sitwell's name and he had a great admiration for Wells and he thought he'd cut the S off [LAUGHTER]. So we had Oswell and Blakeston. Now he read the manuscript, and he thought it was an impressive piece. He had then become editor of "Close Up" course, wasn't something for "Close Up" to publish because they were extremely restricted not only in what they could publish by virtue of the size of the paper, but also their financial setup as far as I could make out. But he introduced me to Richard Church of Dents and Richard Church, a much under-estimated poet and novelist in my view even today, had quite recently retired from the civil service and become a director of Dents. And the idea of such a firm, very largely a family organisation, publishing a book on anything so atrociously vulgar as the kind of metagraph was an unheard of proceeding. Nevertheless, Richard had already published one or two, at that time quite obscure poets, and they'd been successful. The yardstick of success in our country everywhere being of course profit. And they had been they had been commercially successful. And Richard Church, read my book, liked it very much, and persuaded the board of Dents to publish it and so published it was. And I didn't make great fortune for them, but on the other hand didn't lose a great deal of money. Now ...
Sid Cole 9:52
What print run did they have on it? Do you remember?
Dallas Bower 9:59
Quite small I don't know about 500 I suppose, not more.
Sid Cole 10:04
It would be a very rare and quite comparatively valuable item nowadays.
Dallas Bower 10:09
Well now the point about it is this Sid I'm glad you raised that because not so very long ago just before he finished "The Long View" Basil Wright said to me that his own copy had been stolen from his library and he wanted to quote from it, which indeed he does in "The Long View" I'm delighted to say, and he'd been to the Cinema Bookshop in Great Russell Street - that haven for cineastes. And indeed a copy of ‘Plan For Cinema’ was there priced at £50. And he thought this was somewhat dear for a book originally published at six shillings [LAUGHTER] had I got a copy? I hadn't, anyhow there was a copy here in the monument upstairs and so he borrowed that and quoted whatever it was he did want to quote quite a lot of it in the footnote.
Sid Cole 11:06
It's interesting to know apart from the intrinsic value, which is the important thing of that book, that I in fact have a copy of your book.
Dallas Bower 11:13
Well if you want to raise £50 [LAUGHTER] I'm sure you don't Sid but supposing you did all you have to do is to fish it out, go to Great Russell Street, walk into the Cinema Bookshop and ...
Sid Cole 11:14
Say £50 please [LAUGHTER]
Dallas Bower 11:15
And doubtless somebody else might go there and try and buy it for £75. [LAUGHTER] The point about it is this: apparently quite a number of faculties in America haven't got a copy of the thing and they realise that it has historical interest now to see all this forecasting and I broke down the ?? into scenes as they might appear in monochrome, and as they might appear indeed in a widescreen format, in some considerable detail and I gather that's why it's extremely difficult to get a copy. Very difficult indeed but I'm delighted to hear you've got one and so fish it out of your, your trunk [LAUGHTER] and put it on your shelf. Well, that's ‘Plan For Cinema’ and its publication coincided with, with my entrance into the BBC.
Sid Cole 11:48
So that was quite, quite a year for you '36?
Dallas Bower 12:27
It was, yes, it was it was and in those days of course the BBC was a very different organisation to what it's since become, I mean, it really was quite, quite, very, very much smaller. And insofar as television service is concerned, I think I've already said this, we were so totally self-contained. I mean, we were given our quarterly allocation and ...
Sid Cole 13:03
And left to it.
Unknown Speaker 13:04
... and left to it, you see, and there is no doubt whatsoever that since then, and over that period, there's been neglect, total neglect of the period. And it's something that stems I think from the early days and Reith's intense dislike of the idea of a television service, let alone whether it was possible or not. And the result is we finish up with total parodies, a total parody of what in fact took place such as "The Fools on the Hill" and the reason that wretched programme was called "The Fools On The Hill" was that is how Reith refers to us in his own personal diary if you recollect.
Sid Cole 14:01
Alan Lawson 14:04
Shall we pause a moment and drink our coffee...
Dallas Bower 14:06
Yes, yes okay. I think I gave you a fair rundown on how "Alice" came into existence and all the dreadful difficulties it had what with censorship and this, that and the other thing. Well, now I discover that apart from anything to do with the mutilated version that appeared for ITA and as it then was and apart from the unexpurgated version that the BBC ran and which they've now lost, someone, somewhere, got hold of a married print quite clearly and presumably ran off fine grain from which they have tried to make a cassette, and indeed they've made a cassette. And the result is that the colour values have gone to pieces. It starts, this cassette, practically in monochrome and it gets better admittedly towards the end of the film. But apart from that, and one or two blemishes in so far as the actual sharpness of some sequences is concerned, two of the key songs are I would say anything between six and eight frames out of sync which is not very encouraging, particularly as on the final credits added practically everyone you might say who had anything to do not only with the English but the French version, is given credit, including that mythical figure the 'number board boy'. [LAUGHTER] And as I'm entirely responsible for the direction of the thing I'm referred to as the 'live action director', which I must admit rather irritates me.
Sid Cole 15:57
Now when was that put out? Was that in England or America?
Dallas Bower 16:44
No, this has been done in America and of course has been at American scanning speed, and at 60 cycles rather than 50 an hour. The old corporation friend of mine, a friend of mine at the corporation, very kindly transferred it and that's how I was able to see the thing. I was sent a copy of this cassette by the producer Lou Bunin by name, really a puppeteer you see, a very good puppeteer, a Russian refugee in the sense. And he sent me this copy rather pleased with himself that he had access to it and there is a copy of the film in the archive in this version. Now, the important thing is the copy in the archive here it's the same version, but it's not out of sync and the colour values are very much better. Bunin was wondering when he wrote to me how the archive had achieved where from where they've got this, this copy. I've since written to David Francis and I think he himself is trying to find out I don't think he knows quite how they have in fact, or from whom they have acquired the thing. But undoubtedly the pirated cassette is made from it and very badly made. Now the point I want to make is that there is absolutely no protection of any kind for from this kind of thing happening and now I don't know to what extent it's gone on insofar as British films as a whole are concerned but I gather the Crown Film Unit films have been made into cassettes and presumably that is the business of the Imperial War Museum. Because my, my information for this is Pat Jackson's "Ferry Pilot" which he assures me has been made into a cassette and I asked him if anybody consulted him in any way whatsoever and he said no not any more than I was consulted about my "Alice" being made into a cassette. I mean, the two things are very divergent but the fact is that as dear Puff used to say, 'I'm merely the director and therefore nobody ever consults me about anything.' [LAUGHTER]
Sid Cole 17:00
That's true it used to be true. I remember going with Anthony Asquith to the BBC, about the cutting of films without consultation and Anthony said, 'Look, you know, you wouldn't have to pay me if you really (?) and I understand that there might be a reason for reducing length for transmission purposes. Why don't you get on to the people who know the best qualified to do it and namely myself?'
Dallas Bower 19:51
Sid Cole 19:53
Because they'd made a cut in a film of Anthony's which made nonsense of the whole story.
Dallas Bower 19:58
Yes, that's the kind of thing that is liable to happen and that still happens I gather, and in so far you'll see we're talking about that as if we may again. I mean, I'm glad I mentioned Buff because I know he felt very strongly about it because some of his work has been totally mutilated in this way. Now the cassette issue is one thing, the hacking of something to pieces is another. Now I can't remember which contractor played the "Alice'" film, but Desmond Davis was instructed, very nice fellow I knew him very well, liked very much, rang me up and said, 'Look, I think it's better for you to have nothing whatsoever to do with this because my orders are to reduce this to 60 minutes.' Whereas the running time of the film was 120 it simply meant he had to chop it in half to all intense and purposes, made an absolute nonsense of course, which he which he did as well as he possibly could, but the point the film was trying to make, in other words the original satire, which is what the theme was from, from Dodgsons, Lewis Carroll's point of view was totally lost it was meaningless you see. I must say when the Corporation ran it, it was run in the original version, now what's happened to that copy I simply haven't the faintest idea. Efforts have been made to find it at Lime Grove but I gather, I'm told there's so much material at Lime Grove they really don't know what they have got down there, stacks of it.
Sid Cole 21:30
Probably buried away somewhere.
Dallas Bower 21:32
It's buried I'm sure it is.
Sid Cole 21:33
I mean I remember as long ago you remember the old Film Society days?
Dallas Bower 21:37
Sid Cole 21:37
You did a lot of work for them and I did some and I remember going through a vault at what was that laboratory in Dean Street we used to go to?
Alan Lawson 21:48
Sid Cole 21:49
Yes Studio Film Labs. Yes I remember going through the vault, which had us down and I found things which the Society really didn't know they had. I remember a film, a short film of Renee Clair's ...
Dallas Bower 22:00
Sid Cole 22:01
... which apparently they had acquired sometime and never actually run. So your, that film you're talking about must be probably somewhere.
Dallas Bower 22:12
It's somewhere at Lime Grove because in fact do you remember Dora ???
Sid Cole 22:17
Alan Lawson 22:16
Dallas Bower 22:18
Indeed, but Dora ??? joined the BBC really late in her career you know but she was an excellent woman. She really did an enormous amount of dubbing in Rome, and was held in high-esteem by the Italian film industry as a whole and when she joined the BBC she was quite determined to play "Alice" and she bought a copy. Now she didn't buy it from the Rank Organisation because the Rank Organisation when they found we had this censorship problem they just pulled out of it and cut their losses, they simply didn't want to have any more to do with it. Because I cover that story do I not Alan ...
Alan Lawson 22:59
Dallas Bower 22:59
... in my previous recordings we needn't go into all that again. But anyhow I do think that it's important to record that this time of day 23rd November 1988 conditions still exist in which you know films can be mutilated that's what it really amounts to as a result of being transferred to cassette. And of course this thing you see this thing of Alice it's on sale in the States and selling very handsomely I might say.
Sid Cole 23:34
To whose profit is the leading question?
Dallas Bower 23:37
Oh exactly whose profit, the pirate, you see the only use with his pieces of eight [LAUGHTER]
Alan Lawson 23:45
And no residuals?
Dallas Bower 23:46
And no residuals [LAUGHTER]
Sid Cole 23:47
There were no residuals in those days. I think you wanted to say something generally about TV in connection with Rank's attitude to television didn't you?
Dallas Bower 24:00
Well, I don't think anything specifically insofar as Rank is concerned because insofar as Rank is concerned, I mean, in the early days of the Rank Organisation the service was only just restarting you see after the War. I mean, when the peak period of I mean Cine Guild, Two Cities that was the time when the service was being got underway again still at AP and not having moved yet to Lime Grove and TV Centre was in the process of being built. But I don't think the Rank Organisation had very much interest in TV at that time excepting of course that they did, that John Davis took considerable interest in Southern TV. I mean I think they had, they were part of the Southern TV franchise and it was due to Davis that they, they took an interest in that, in other words put money into it. But I don't think, I don't think their interest extended much beyond that.
Alan Lawson 25:17
It was the predecessors really it was the Ostrers you see that was the pre-war situation. The Ostrers were in on synt, on syntel and these supplied machinery.
Dallas Bower 25:27
Yes. Yes. That's right.
Sid Cole 25:33
You have a thing about correcting the historical impression about Cecil Madden I think you wanted to talk about didn't you?
Alan Lawson 25:47
This is really about MOMI isn't it?
Sid Cole 25:49
This arose from your visit to MOMI tell us about that?
Dallas Bower 25:53
Well, it arose from my visit to MOMI because I thought it was so unbelievable that the only reference to the early days of television was Picture Page and as Alan only too well knows we really did rather more ...
Alan Lawson 26:12
Yes we certainly did.
Dallas Bower 26:13
... than "Picture Page" and there is poor old Cecil and one doesn't want to be disagreeable about Cecil and for some extraordinary reason a fantasia as it were has arisen nowadays in as much as he's called the senior producer. There was no such thing – there were two producers Stephen Thomas was one I was the other. And George More O'Farrell was our assistant and Cecil was the programme planner. He certainly conducted some, some experiments with music hall turns for the Olympia Exhibition of '36 and he did invent this "Picture Page" programme, which was the equivalent of the radio "In Town Tonight". And you had various, either visiting celebrity of some sort or another or, or, or a tipster from, from the racecourses. You know as various as that and they came and did their stuff and that was it that was "In Town Tonight". And Cecil was the pro, certainly was the programmer planner and he had his own department, which ran efficiently but he was never a producer/director in the sense that Steven and I were. I don't know whether, I think had I done my piece for the Royal Television Society's Journal when you were here last?
Alan Lawson 27:40
No you hadn't.
Dallas Bower 27:40
I hadn't. Well I've since done it. And you see I've mentioned the fact that apart from George's "Hassam" which is a pretty ambitious piece to do with the original Delius music and apart from my own three Shakespeare productions, which was including "The Tempest" with the Sibelius. And of course, it was the first time the play had been done with the music which Sibelius had written the originally planned production in Copenhagen. Well, apart from three pretty major Shakespeare productions, there were 36 operas over those three years, and I don't think really, however inadequately all these things may appear to be, I don't think you can really dismiss them quite so abruptly as all that you know.
Alan Lawson 27:55
With "Picture Page" as the headline?
Dallas Bower 28:19
With "Picture Page" as the headline exactly you see. [LAUGHTER] And I mean, after all it isn't as if we were doing amateur productions, I mean if I may venture to quote "The Tempest" you couldn't call Dame Peggy Ashcroft an amateur could you really? [LAUGHTER] As she played Miranda even in those days, I think she must have been in her late 20s I supposed she looked 18 and was a magnificent, magnificent Miranda. And I had a cast of absolute outstanding distinction: George Devine was my Caliban you know, Richard Ayling my Ferdinand you see, Stephen Haggard my Ariel. I mean, you can't dismiss a period like that as if it never existed, which is what they're trying to do.
Sid Cole 29:31
So you've written an article about ...
Dallas Bower 29:33
Yes, I have. Well I was asked by Bridgewater, Tony Bridgewater, who became the engineer in charge of the whole service and he was very largely responsible for seeing the IBA contractors were properly looked after. And I think I'm not sure whether he was, I think he was President of the Royal Television Society at the time. And he goes back to the very early days of TV, asked me to do this, and I said, I would be delighted to do it and did it. And I make a point of saying that nobody, if you say you see it's really effective you say nowadays I've said this to a number of people well you know I did "Gianni Schicchi" in '37, they look at you as if you're a lunatic and they say what do you mean you did "Gianni Schicchi" and I say I did it for television. They simply think you are shooting a lie, as we did a very successful production of "Gianni Schicchi" - high ratings such as they were in those days.
Alan Lawson 30:32
All 600 of them! [LAUGHTER]
Dallas Bower 30:34
No we did finish up you know in fact we had about 12,000.
Sid Cole 30:40
Did you really? You mentioned that in you article?
Dallas Bower 30:43
Yes I have yes. I mean in so far as it was possible to estimate how many viewers there were in an evening we reckoned we started with the equivalent of part Drury Lane and then it became Drury Lane and the Garden and then in '39 we reckoned we had about 12,000 people watching you know.
Sid Cole 31:05
That's very good.
Dallas Bower 31:05
And that's not a bad audience. And by the time we closed down you see and Tiltonben, that disease, as you know the thing we had and never to be forgotten I might tell you. Always hand grading, rather like hand correcting, hand correcting a print you know hand printing almost like that, well, that had simply been eliminated.
Sid Cole 31:29
When did your article appear do you know?
Dallas Bower 31:31
Yes, it was in the, it's in the now, November of last year isn't it Alan or the year before?
Alan Lawson 31:43
No, no last year.
Dallas Bower 31:43
Last year that's right, the November issue, why do you want one?
Sid Cole 31:50
Well it would be very interesting to read. I just thought it was useful to mention for the record, for anybody listening to the tape afterwards where they could find the article.
Alan Lawson 31:59
I tell you what besides that I think for the benefit of again people listening the disease Tiltonben they would wonder what the hell we are talking about?
Dallas Bower 32:11
Alan Lawson 32:12
I think it might be useful to explain what Tiltonben was.
Sid Cole 32:15
Dallas Bower 32:16
Yes all right, all right. Well what it, the effect of it was the blacks either on the bottom or top or side tread lines gave rise to a slight halation and this was a frightful production problem quite clearly. Because supposing you had what say a man in a, in a, in a wide two shot, a man in a in a dinner jacket and black trousers and a woman in an evening gown, let's say lightish, the trousers would have just this slight halation, give rise to this slight halation from the, from the bottom frame line. And it was an annoyance it wasn't all that degree obvious, but it was there, you see. And it was something intrinsically to do I understand with the mosaic of the actual EMItron in those days. Well now it is eliminated.
Alan Lawson 33:25
It was to do. But I mean it was it was really you couldn't afford sharp contrast isn't it, really that was the point.
Dallas Bower 33:31
That's that that's, that was really the point it was really the point and yes, and so far. That's exactly it Alan that's exactly what you couldn't do you see. And anyhow it's now of course something that's not even thought of, but in those days, it was very severe you really had to be very careful about it.
Sid Cole 33:49
I think that went on for quite a while didn't it?
Dallas Bower 33:51
Yes it did.
Sid Cole 33:52
You know in the early days in commercial television the instructions were I think Alan the contrast range had to be very much less than you used for film you know, you know the contrast range had to be very much less then than you use for film.
Dallas Bower 34:03
Than you used for film.
Sid Cole 34:07
You know film for theatres.
Dallas Bower 34:09
Alan Lawson 34:09
If I can remember when we did the demonstration film, you know they I can remember I think it was I think I think it was McNamara and probably Douglas Birkenshaw who said you know you must keep the contrast down, you mustn't have it too contrasting.
Dallas Bower 34:30
Well you photographed it mind Alan extremely well. Incidentally, that reminds me now I've written to David Francis and I've asked if the demonstration film has been transferred.
Alan Lawson 34:46
Yes to, to acetate.
Dallas Bower 34:48
To acetate because if it hasn't been transferred then I think it should be transferred. Incidentally as I think I said when we last, when you where last here nothing has maddened me more than my false modesty [LAUGHTER] in not taking a proper credit for that piece. I mean I must have been absolutely out of my mind because Gerald was very insistent that I should, I said, 'Oh, no, no it's going to bore everybody you know that old title coming up every morning. People will say, 'Oh, good God, really it's too much.'’ Anyhow it doesn't matter because all the documentation in fact of course is in the BBC.
Sid Cole 35:26
Well it does matter in a way Dallas because it is a hard lesson in this business and now we've all been at it in our entire lives ... [LAUGHTER]
Dallas Bower 35:34
Sid Cole 35:35
... one more and more realises unless you do take the opportunity to get legitimate credit nobody else probably is going to bother too much about you're getting it.
Dallas Bower 35:44
Well I agree with you Sid and I agree with you entirely, I mean I agree with the, I mean I agree with the necessity for credits and it's the only real concrete evidence you have in case the BB this particular film there's plenty of evidence that I really made the thing there's no two ways about that. But on the other hand although credits I think nowadays, certainly in TV, do tend to be much too long I'm still in favour of them I mean it is the only possible way of registering the fact that X or Y has done so and so there is no other way of doing it.
Sid Cole 36:14
Otherwise anybody Tom, Dick and Harry could claim the credit and ...
Dallas Bower 36:19
They are my wigs let's say or yes of course not all the costumes but Gertie Gooseboots, particularly Dorothy Downdraws, I did both those costumes for Gertie and Dorothy you know. [LAUGHTER] That's the sort of nonsense that goes on [LAUGHTER] I'm very annoyed with myself for not having taken credit for that thing because if you remember it was pretty difficult to make in as much as we had a very tight schedule. And again you see I didn't deal with with Reith I dealt with Graves and I said, 'All right I'll do this. I'll make this film with pleasure but I want to have my own crew and particularly Teddy Baird. And we brought it in £800 under budget, £800 under budget you see, which of course we thought was going to go back into the programme fund, not a bit new knobs on the doors of ladies' loos you know [LAUGHTER]. That's what happened to that £800 if it hadn't been for Teddy Baird I very much doubt whether I should have been able to do that, he kept me up to, he kept me up to it and it was difficult to do we had a very tight schedule at Cricklewood, which also included that excursion to Sadler's Wells if you remember.
Alan Lawson 37:50
Dallas Bower 37:51
Never to be forgotten. Now you you lit that superbly you know.
Alan Lawson 37:54
Dallas Bower 37:55
And is there is this one good copy you see in the archive it's an excellent copy.
Sid Cole 38:01
But it's on ...
Alan Lawson 38:02
Dallas Bower 38:03
It's on nitrate and the Corporation's copy was in pieces. I went to Acton, I think I told you this with Ben ????, only to find that splendid Tarantella from “Façade”, which he wanted to use for a series of lectures he was giving, you know old Ben used to go around the country lecturing people, lecturing societies of one sort or another and he wanted to use the Tarantella from “Façade” and we saw it and again they had put it out of sync cutting a print you see. And I said, 'Well don't use this I mean it's no good, don't use this for goodness sake take some other part of the thing' and he didn't want to do that well it's very attractive piece. And we shot the thing if you remember Alan interestingly because Constant's beat was so certain that we turned it wild do you recollect? We turned it wild at Sadler's Wells, strictly 24 I think certainly. And then when Constant came to Cricklewood with the orchestra because Bunce wasn't prepared to do this he said only Constant can do it and Constant post-synchronised and it's bang in absolutely ...
Sid Cole 39:14
Dallas Bower 39:14
... as expected to be you see. And what maddened me when I went to Acton, I don't know what's happened to Acton I think the Corporation have long since vacated the premises or whatever it is.
Alan Lawson 39:25
It's down in, it's down in Ealing now.
Dallas Bower 39:28
Is it? Everything? It's all been shifted?
Alan Lawson 39:30
Well they call it Perivale.
Dallas Bower 39:32
Do they? Well when we went there to Acton to see this copy of the demonstration film that was the condition in which the excerpt from Sadler's Wells was in. Now the copy in the the archives are all right.
Sid Cole 39:47
Dallas Bower 39:48
So one would like to see that transferred to acetate. Now then is there anything else that ...
Sid Cole 39:55
Well should we stop a moment?
Dallas Bower 39:56
Sid Cole 40:00
Dallas, I think you wanted to enthral further and enlarge on this very interesting historical reminiscences you have about the important people at the BBC in particular I think you now would like to talk about Michael Barry.
Dallas Bower 40:12
Yes he was an admirable man in every way and he joined the Corporation as a stage manager. He'd come from Birmingham where he'd been working for the Birmingham Rep. He was highly professional and I was fortunate enough to find that Michael was attached to me as an SM as we used to call them in those days and although the other fcms were equally professional, Michael was outstandingly so let me put it like that. And the moment he started working with me, I thought to myself well my goodness me this is the chap to have around you know. And in due course he became a producer/director in his own right and did some splendid work in the early days, and what his outstanding production was called Cry Alive "Cry Aloud Salvation", which is as you might suppose was about the Salvation Army. And it was a beautiful done piece, very well written, extremely well cast and superbly directed, had an enormous press as you might suppose it would even in those days we had quite a considerable press.
Sid Cole 41:34
What sort of time, year would, would that be?
Dallas Bower 41:36
I suppose this must have been '37, '38 you see. And now what happened to Michael was that he, as he makes very clear in his book, er as a result of this rather strange performance on the part of the television service, the members of the television service were concerned we were told that we had to address ourselves something quite different. After Munich I'd put myself down for all three services I thought probably I could be of some value to perhaps the RNVSR let's say having sailed one or two little boats off the East coast [LAUGHTER] the army got me first and I was very quickly whipped out of the army. But Michael joined the Marines and indeed achieved his majority in the Marines if you can imagine anything more bizarre for an amateur because extremely strict service I gather. He became Major Barry with the Marines and then when the service restarted back he went into the service and in due course became Head of Drama not only for the television service but also in an advisory capacity to radio drama when Val Gielguld had retired in the ordinary course of events. And then Michael, when George Barnes became Director of Television, Controller I think it was called in those days, Michael decided that the time had come for him to go. And so he went to the States where he took charge of the faculty of drama in one of the universities, I can't remember which one it was it could conceivably have been Berkeley, Berkeley as they call it. And he was there for three years, I think handsomely paid, as most people who went through that experience were at that time, and I think there was something in the way of a handshake. And when he came back Michael McComb had retired from the directorship of LAMDA, the London Academy of Music and Dramatic Art, and Michael became its president or its, its headmaster you might say, which he ran superbly. And then in due course I think illness very largely overcame him - he had a very poor hip and he retired from LAMDA but he did a marvellous job at LAMDA.
Sid Cole 44:30
He had a very, very good reputation there.
Dallas Bower 44:32
He had a fine reputation you know and I mean you know, and what he what he succeeded in doing was not only putting his students through the most excellent courses for theatre but TV and film came into it too. And so knowing very well, as Michael did, the students of LAMDA couldn't hope to make a living exclusively in the theatre but they had to be trained to do television and to do film, film and film and television. And for a very brief time he got involved with the Independent Frame. And as the Independent Frame was such a rigmarole let the Rank Organisation in for an immense amount of money, building the most enormous kind of transportable grids and lighting rails, and rarely it was an exercise for David Rawnsley to display his his skills, which were considerable I might say...
Sid Cole 44:32
Dallas Bower 44:45
... very considerable. But the whole point of Independent Frame was that it was just over planning to such an extent that the thing didn't really work it was self-defeating. But Michael made a film ...
Sid Cole 45:53
On that on that process?
Dallas Bower 45:54
... on that process and it was called I think, either "Stop Press" or "Stop Press Girl" and he realised pretty quickly that it was something that was not really very reliable.
Sid Cole 46:05
Well it inhibited ...
End of Side 5
Dallas Bower Side 6
Alan Lawson 0:03
Sid Cole 0:06
Right it was, you were saying about the Independent Frame?
Dallas Bower 0:11
Alan Lawson 0:12
Not being viable.
Sid Cole 0:14
I think the point about independent framing you said about over planning, which I totally agree with of course but I think it was inhibiting to creativity. Because everything was so pre pre-planned, pre-formed that there was very little that the lighting cameraman or the director could do on the spur of the moment which very often is the best way of doing something.
Dallas Bower 0:33
Absolutely Sid and I think it arose very largely out of the fact that when we started at AP this applied particularly to drama. I made it very clear to DH Monroe, who was the Production Manager, and an admirable one too I might say, that really productions would have to be planned in the Hitchcock sense of the word: in other words scripts really had to be properly prepared and furthermore insofar as live TV was concerned, it was absolutely essential to plan one's blocking in relation to one's setup so that one knew, particularly one's camera crews, exactly where each cameraman of the three, as indeed we had in in Studio A at EMI, I'm discounting Baird's I didn't, I don't regard Baird's as being in any way viable at all it wasn't a serious undertaking. Now that was a degree of planning that went very far, I would go so far as
to say it wasn't really practical to do a large-scale play unless it was planned in that way. On the other hand it had to be flexible to the extent that when one got into rehearsal you might have an actor who felt he, he didn't want to make that particular move on or after, or just before a particular line, you have to have that degree of flexibility to allow for change. Otherwise you, as Sid has just very properly said, you were throttling creativity on the part of your cast, actors have excellent ideas insofar as their own performance is concerned, it's up to the director to control it properly. And therefore the independent frame went too far and the sort of performances you were liable to get would be just over the top. I mean rigid and the Carshalton let's say Amateur Operatic Society [LAUGHTER] in full career. Well, that's not very much use ...
Sid Cole 1:25
Dallas I understand Michael Barry wrote a book which you've read I believe ...
Dallas Bower 1:28
Yes I have.
Sid Cole 1:31
It has not in fact found a publisher so far.
Dallas Bower 1:43
No it hasn't, no.
Sid Cole 2:08
What is it called? Does it have a title that?
Dallas Bower 3:14
Yes it's called "From the Palace to the Grove" [LAUGHTER] which I think is an absolute splendid …
Sid Cole 3:21
You couldn't get a more admirable eye catching title.
Dallas Bower 3:14
Eye catching title - that's what it's called "From the Palace to the Grove" and that's exactly what it's about and of course, it's specifically concerned with drama. I mean he touches upon other aspects of the service I mean er ...
Sid Cole 3:38
And the BBC are not interested in it?
Dallas Bower 3:39
Oh no nobody's interested in it.
Sid Cole 3:41
It does seem a shame. Have you any thoughts about, about what could be possibly done about it because it's a question of dealing with Barry's executors now?
Dallas Bower 3:51
Yes his widow is alive and I think at the moment there is some attempt being made. I tried to introduce, I tried to interest the Oxford University Press through a friend of mine and they've been very admirable in as much as they've said well, it's a splendid book and they like it but it's not for them. What they feel is they can't publicise it properly and so I can understand that if they feel they can't sell it then for goodness sake it's better for them to have nothing to do with it. I asked my son Delian if he would take it on, Webb and Bower that is. Well they've done "Inside BBC Television" and I think insofar as Webb and Bower are concerned that's enough for the time being if you understand me. And I think the book has been quite successful but they feel that they've had their go as it were and this thing is, this book is about a specific aspect of early television and not television BBC wise as a whole. But I think I think I shall go on making every effort I can to get Michael's book published.
Sid Cole 4:11
The trouble now of course with publishing is that like so many other areas there's a big monopolistic tendency with ever and ever larger firms.
Dallas Bower 4:11
Sid Cole 4:11
And American companies taking over and so on and not, so there's less opportunity I suppose except for small publishers to publish books of important but in some ways limited areas of attraction.
Dallas Bower 5:29
Yes and I think there's a tendency towards more and more specialisation.
Sid Cole 5:34
Dallas Bower 5:35
Well, I know Delian's books you see they've been very successful with their pictorial quasi educational books and I'm delighted to say that the books they've published on the whole they've sold extremely well starting of course with "The Diary of an Edwardian Lady" as you know. And the thing was quite, quite a remarkable success. Incidentally, if I may just again revert to "Plan for Cinema" Dents anyone fortunate enough to be published by Dents at that time enjoyed an enormous press, with good reason that Dents published the Everyman series. And I mean, I found this book of mine, not only did it have a excellent review by Graham Greene in The Spectator called "Wings over Wardour Street" … [LAUGHTER]
Sid Cole 6:26
Dallas Bower 6:15
… but it also had, it also had, let's say a spread in the Melbourne Times [LAUGHTER] that kind of thing. Because you see if you were published by Dents anything they published including the Everyman series went to their normal reviewers, which is all over the world and so one one was fortunate.
Dallas Bower 6:27
Have you got a collection of your notices on this book?
Dallas Bower 6:48
I have got them yes yes I have, yes yes. And they're very interesting, very interesting on the whole very favourable and old Greene's piece was absolutely outstanding.
Sid Cole 6:59
I read something yesterday because Greene wasn't always, could be a little acerbic.
Dallas Bower 7:03
Oh very much so. Well old Paul's book you see "Documentary Film" was published, we both did our best to persuade our relative publishers not to issue the books on the same day, which of course they precisely proceeded to do. So the books found themselves utterly different in every conceivable way being jointly reviewed you know for instance The Statesman reviewed the two books, I've forgotten who did The Statesman and they gave good notices on the whole and yes The Statesman that's right. Incidentally talking of reviews my piece in The Statesman justifying the existence of the Rank Organisation was very interesting because it was lifted very largely by one of the directories, British Film Yearbook I think, quoted me at great length and then dropped it completely. But Kingsley Martin asked me to do this and I did it and I made very clear to Kingsley that I would have to seek Rank's permission to publish what I had to say and this was done. And I went and saw the great man and there he sat and said, 'I'll tell you what, I'll read it back to you' [LAUGHTER] which he proceeded to do and then said, 'New Statesman eh?' [LAUGHTER] and I said, 'Yes, New Statesman' 'Very satisfactory.’ [LAUGHTER] And so back I went to Kingsley with the manuscript and I said, 'Well there it is Kingsley now I'd be grateful if it's possible that you publish it exactly as it stands’, which he proceeded to do not one comma was omitted. He was a marvellous editor.
Sid Cole 7:05
When, when was that Dallas?
Dallas Bower 9:08
This must have been I suppose Sid this must have been now let me get this right, I should think it must have been about '48 I think yes '48/'49 that was it. It was at the peak period for Two Cities, for Cine Guild and for Mickey and Emeric "The Archers". They were really making they were making films of some ...
Alan Lawson 9:43
Great ones very much so
Dallas Bower 9:46
Very much so I mean there's no question whether you liked them or not it's neither here or there they were all real films you know and and I recollect that I was delighted to have pressed this forward because I thought I might conceivably have some opposition you see. The Statesman I mean, there it was The Statesman was not on the whole as a political point of view interested in what was, what was referred to as vertically integrated combine. [LAUGHTER] You could say that the Rank Organisation was certainly that wasn't it in those days? Anyway it was also making extremely good films here and there particularly, particularly Cine Guild, what about you know that group?
Sid Cole 10:05
Well to be more accurate though Dallas would be to say a lot of very talented people worked under the Rank banner.
Dallas Bower 10:45
Yes, yes, yes it would.
Sid Cole 10:48
Davis obviously needs credit for taking on people but you know it's always this danger isn't it of attributing too much to people who just make things possible and ...
Dallas Bower 11:01
Yes I agree entirely, I agree entirely.
Sid Cole 11:04
... people who actually do the things that cause ...
Dallas Bower 11:06
I think I make this clear in the piece you'll see I quoted everybody concerned particularly Lean and Neme and ...
Alan Lawson 11:14
Dallas Bower 11:15
Tony, Tony Havelock-Allan of course, and Mickey Powell and Emeric Pressburger and then people like, oh Thorrold my goodness me and, and of course Carol. And of course insofar as Del is concerned, dear old Puff and Freedom Radio you know and Del Giudice that was one of the one of the things that Del would never have found himself as it were absorbed by the Rank Organisation if it hadn't been for what Del did originally. He again is one of these people who is totally neglected you know. I mean, incidentally I had Colin Moffat here, I'm most impressed by him. You told me that he was very much persona grata. Oh, you?
Alan Lawson 12:10
Oh, yes. I mean the, you know he's he's BFI. You know he's at the BFI give him a blessing.
Dallas Bower 12:17
Alan Lawson 12:17
Dallas Bower 12:18
Well I was most impressed by him.
Sid Cole 12:20
You must pardon my ignorance I don't know who Colin Moffat is.
Dallas Bower 12:24
He wrote to me and said that he had met me when I was doing a kind of ad hoc series of pieces for for the film Producers Guild, that strange rather overspread documentary organisation. And he'd met me he said in not Ronnie Riley's office on one occasion, I don't recollect that at all but he was then training to be an editor under Sagovsky, excellent editor. And he became an editor and joined the Corporation for a time, he was now doing a large-scale piece for Sight and Sound on the, on Henry V you see. And so he wanted to know, what he said was that he thought there was rather more than anybody had said about the initial preparation of Henry V. And I was very impressed by him I liked him very much, I got on well with him and he wasn't stiff or difficult or anything of that sort and it was quite clear that he, he'd been asked to do this. And so I said, 'Well, I'm only too delighted to give you any information you want. What do you want to ask, what do you want to know?' And what he really wanted to know was was the film adequately covered in in Larry's autobiography and I said, 'No, it wasn't' it would have been quite impossible to have made the film in Eire without Del Giudice of course.
Alan Lawson 12:24
Dallas Bower 12:37
And certainly without Betjeman, I mean if we hadn't had Betjeman there, who had left the Minister of Information by then and became the press officer to our office in Dublin, we wouldn't have moved a yard in Eire. And it was John, John Betjeman and and Fillipo Del Giudice aren't even so much as mentioned in Larry's autobiography and I think that's very remiss of Larry if I may say so not to have made this clear I mean, or indeed you can go so far as to say the editors might have taken a bit more trouble.
Sid Cole 14:24
Well these things happen. By the way as a kind of historical footnote to Henry, or Henry V you know that Kenneth Branagh, who is very similar age to Olivier and is of almost equal promise I think judging from a lot of reviewers even do performances, I've seen is currently making a Henry V at Pinewood.
Dallas Bower 14:45
It's in work now is it?
Sid Cole 14:46
Yes it's in work now yes I found this out from Ron Phipps because he's working on that production. And I thought it was an interesting sort of parallel, you know not that because Larry Olivier was already very famous then but Branagh is going on those lines and it isn't actually a coincidence...
Dallas Bower 15:06
I think he is a very good actor.
Sid Cole 15:07
He's a very good actor and a good director too, a good theatre director too.
Dallas Bower 15:11
He's a good theatre director yes.
Sid Cole 15:13
And this is his filming he's directing the film himself I gather. So it'll be very interesting, you'd find it particularly interesting I imagine when it finishes...
Dallas Bower 15:21
Who has he got with him as an editor do you know?
Sid Cole 15:23
I don't know, I don't know.
Alan Lawson 15:25
Braven is the producer I gather.
Dallas Bower 15:28
John Braven is the producer.
Sid Cole 15:30
Yes I think that's right yes.
Dallas Bower 15:32
Well there it is you see.
Alan Lawson 15:34
It comes round full circle [LAUGHTER]
Dallas Bower 15:36
I mean it comes round full circle you can say can you not, I mean apart from the fact that my eldest daughter said, 'Well I suppose it's the same as trying to remake Potemkin.' But we'll let that go [LAUGHTER]
Sid Cole 15:47
You know because you obviously heard one of the original stories not about the production itself but a reaction to the production when at Ealing we had Francoise Rosay playing in a film there, and I think it was Monia Danishevsky was with her when she saw Henry V and she came out saying, 'How can they make an anti-French film at this precise moment of history?' [LAUGHTER] Have you ever heard that?
Dallas Bower 15:51
Sid Cole 16:00
[LAUGHTER] One can understand her point of view but it was a little sort of blinkered one thought.
Dallas Bower 16:23
Yes exactly but from, from a propaganda point of view it was simply well ...
Sid Cole 16:29
Oh of course
Dallas Bower 16:30
... we are not going to have any Vichy nonsense here [LAUGHTER]. That really was the answer I mean officially not that Jack Beddington [LAUGHTER] took much interest ...
Sid Cole 16:38
But in any case it was not going to be shown much in France at that time anyway...
Dallas Bower 16:42
Sid Cole 16:42
... it was directed in any case to Britain and America.
Dallas Bower 16:45
She was actually a splendid woman she was in every conceivable way, goodness me. But I hope he has a success with it because I mean you can say can you not well anybody can approach Shakespeare ...
Sid Cole 16:57
Sure, as you have shown I remember a production of yours least I didn't see it but you did Julius Caesar didn't you?
Dallas Bower 17:03
Well exactly you see the parallel is I did Julius Caesar for the lantern as we used to call it, Julius Caesar in modern dress and it was much publicised. I mean it had it had a splendid press, everybody seemed to think it worked as it did as a piece of propaganda after all Caesar at that time there were the parallels all right, my goodness me there it was in the most dreadful way. And so if he's got, as I have no doubt he has, an entirely fresh approach to Henry V well we have to see what it's like. And you can take another example you see for instance I don't know whether either of you ever saw Tyrone Guthrie's production of Hamlet with Guinness at the, at the Wells. Well, for me, it's the best Hamlet I've ever seen. Still …
Sid Cole 17:51
Guinness playing Hamlet?
Dallas Bower 17:52
… Guinness playing Hamlet and he dressed it in a kind of late Edwardian way, it was not any specific period but it worked superbly. And Guinness was absolutely wonderful. And that time, it didn't have all that large a press you know it was known to the kind of people who are interested in such things. So I mean, you can't say that, well why is Branagh trying to overtop the Olivier Henry V I don't think he is necessarily trying to do that he's trying to do something quite different.
Sid Cole 18:29
Sure. But every generation needs to reinterpret ...
Dallas Bower 18:34
Sid Cole 18:34
... the considerable works of Shakespeare or whoever.
Dallas Bower 18:38
I think so. Anything else you want to fire at me now, which you think I haven't covered?
Sid Cole 18:43
No but if there's anything you ...
Dallas Bower 18:45
Don't think so? Have you got anything Alan?
Alan Lawson 18:48
I don't think so I think I think we've had a very good innings. We can always come back.
Dallas Bower 18:53
Oh, yes indeed, rather. Well, if we, if we succeed in somehow or another putting or another in putting A studio into shape, not as it was originally I think that's quite impossible but having it operating in some way or another, then ...
Alan Lawson 19:12
As a museum
Dallas Bower 19:13
As a museum but not ...
Alan Lawson 19:14
You didn't touch on that actually, actually Dallas you didn't talk anything about the ...
Dallas Bower 19:19
Well so far, well, so far you see it's the most impossible situation the Corporation have no, no, lease on the place.
Alan Lawson 19:26
Oh, I see.
Dallas Bower 19:27
The palace itself is operated by the local authority which is the Harringay authority I think in fact Harringay are really the ground landlords of the place. It's been refurbished as you know and what they want to do is to find a tenant for studios A and B and the rest of the environs ...
Alan Lawson 19:52
Dallas Bower 19:53
... transmitter halls exactly and everything else adjacent to it. And it's not it's not, it's been wonderfully replanned.
Sid Cole 20:01
Dallas Bower 20:01
Yes, but it's going to be difficult it's going to cost an awful lot because they stripped the place absolutely bare. Have you seen it Alan?
Alan Lawson 20:09
Dallas Bower 19:12
Oh the cyclorama's gone, all the damn things off the walls, the control bridge for A has been removed, and the ladder going up to it you know. And there's nothing there at all, nothing whatsoever ...
Dallas Bower 20:19
And the BBC don't have any more interest in it?
Dallas Bower 20:27
They have no more interest in it at all. What they have is the tower remains, the tower remains with a reduced aerial. The Franklin, Franklin round aerial no longer exists. The tower is slightly reduced in height and in what used to be Stephen Thomas's and my office is a repeater station. So the floor signal in your part of London and indeed my signal here in New Cavendish Street and Sid's signal in Ealing is in fact is the repeater operating from from the from the original site. So presumably, the Corporation have some kind of tenancy of the of the South East tower and the the aerial on top of it but nothing else at all, everything else they are completely out of it. But the repeater it's automatic it's just put up in that particular office, that particular part of the tower because it's immediately under the roof that's why it's there, very conveniently but otherwise they have no interest in the place at all. I think it's worth doing something with it. And apparently, so far as I can make out from a man called Peter Smith, who is the architect who has done this refurbishment at AP, the MOMI group think that rather than being in any sense opposed to us it would be a rather good extension of the thing because they realise that TV is not adequately covered. And the same applies very largely to Bradford, which of course is an extension of the Science Museum. So there is some hope of doing something about it I think. Now there you are I have talked myself silly.
Sid Cole 22:15
It is most interesting I must say. I am sure Alan enjoys doing these interviews.
Dallas Bower 22:22
Well I think it is absolutely marvellous that you are doing it.
Sid Cole 22:25
We had a very good one yesterday with Douglas Slocombe.
Dallas Bower 22:28
So Alan was saying. I'm simply delighted to hear that you're doing it. How many have you got now erm it's the most courageous thing ..
END OF SIDE 6
END OF INTERVIEW