Derek Threadgall

Derek Threadgall Shepperton Studios 2.11.15
Forename/s: 
Derek
Family name: 
Threadgall
Work area/craft/role: 
Company: 
Industry: 
Interview Number: 
359
Interview Date(s): 
8 Jun 1995
Interviewer/s: 
Production Media: 
Duration (mins): 
181

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Speechmatics  version

 Derek Threadgall Side 1

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Roy Fowler
The copyright of the following recording is vested with the BECTU History Project  Today is the 8th of June 1995.
SPEAKER: M2
We're right back to you and I'm talking with Derek. Third go Derek starting at the beginning when and where were you born.
SPEAKER: M8
I was born in Harwich Essex on 18th November 1938 and went to see my first film. Locals in the mob. At the age of approximately five years old. That film was Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs.
SPEAKER: F1
It attracted me even at that age the intimacy of the cinema. The magic of the beam of light coming out you couldn't see where it came from but I knew that when I after seeing a few films I turned my head to try and find out where that being came from. I was hooked. I think it has also to do with the fact that at that time of course throughout the war we were at. In.
SPEAKER: M8
Marriage in Dover court which is a mile away from Harwich. We were in many ways in the firing line from the German bombers. They were on their way to London and came over us and we were very much in the firing line. In fact on two occasions I was nearly my family were nearly wiped out. While I was with a flying bomb.
SPEAKER: M4
That clipped our rooftop dived into the next street kill 26 people and the other was when we were machine gunned while I was to in my prayer. I remember very clearly a machine gun by German fighter machine gun in the seafront one Sunday afternoon. So we survived but the cinema of course in those days was the outlet for us as she was a working class kids because I was brought up in the at the time Two Up Two Down House. Farther away the war.
SPEAKER: M10
In Burma and my mother as usual trying to bring up most of my brother and my sister my younger brother and my younger sister. I understood him I was the only real close we had to go.
SPEAKER: M3
We had three cinemas in our town owned by a circuit I believe from Aboriginal Hudson cinemas and I think they were based on part of the Bostock circuit. I believe they were based in Ipswich and they had three cinemas the regal and the regent in Dover court and the palace electric palace and heritage notary palace is still getting built in 1911 and I've been very much involved with a fundraising campaign over the years to to resurrect that cinema which was left to record ruin. It was known as the flea pit. With good reason.
SPEAKER: M12
In those days but the cinema was our only recreation really as kids and of course we we we loved it and there is in the days of course when you did have entertaining films family films and you could go to three times a week if not more.
SPEAKER: M10
And that was my introduction. Did you go that frequently. Yes I I went as often as I could about my grandmother because my mother was working in or not in a local munitions factory and my grandmother who lived with us because my grandfather being killed earlier.
SPEAKER: M3
My grandmother really took on the responsibility of looking after us while my mother was working my father's away which is not an uncommon situation at the time my grandmother because we had to have at that age 5 6 years old seven years old. We had to have an adult accompanying us to the sort of man my grandmother was favourite. She didn't think much of it but in those days you had continuity of continuous performances so as you go in at say half past 3:00 4:00 5:00 and you go in half way through the feature. You just sat there until you you'd seen seemed to quote where you came in. And then you left. Unfortunately if my grandmother's point of view I wanted to stay there until we were thrown out so and she had to drag me out and on many occasions screaming and shouting I wanted to stay and see the film. But yes we went very often and I ended my first competition because I used to run competitions in those days the local cinemas painting competitions gear to the film and I remember qu ite clearly what the first competition was that I entered for. And got a little prize. It was a film called the swordsman with Larry Parks before his Jolson pictures and Larry Parks made a film called A swordsman which played at our local cinema. And there was a painting competition which I did and I think I must've been about seven or eight I suppose. The problem with it because being sorted is about Scots a Scottish clans and of course Titans were there and to try to paint titans in the book was very difficult. But I've got a prize of some sort. And the other thing that I remember quite clearly is that the H certificate was in at the time and King Kong played at our local cinema. And of course in those days every cinema had a board outside with stills so you could see what sort of film you were planning to go and see a King Kong was there. And of course we wanted couldn't go in to see King Kong H cert but we enjoyed it looking at the stills outside. That was the news we got to Kin g Kong cause I've seen it since many times. But at the time it sort of rankled with us. Of course we were always prone to joining in the chorus of catcalls and boos when the projectionist at the film broke which it often did. Not so much in the regal in the region but it certainly did at the palace.
SPEAKER: M7
That was the fleet it was asleep at. So these are very beaten up Prince.
SPEAKER: M3
Oh yes. And there are many many stories about the carriage luxury palace which I won't go agree with here but there is a book out. Which is published by the palace Trust which is wonderful. What a wonderful stories about the early days because it is built in 1911 as one of the first purpose built in a modern country. And there was multiple stories but we went to it as kids and saw all sorts of wonderful films. But it was really a riot at times because it was a flea pit and all and Herridge at the time without being derogatory to Harry's now heritage a very nice place now. But at the time it had more pubs per square foot than any other times it was enabled our naval base always had been and it was also an embarkation port. For the army going abroad during the war. So we would see at the time we used to see miles and miles and miles of tanks armored cars cetera all going through the town to the to the embarkation area and of course heritage at the time was very working class the kids t hat went to the palace. But we don't go to the palace as a last resort as we were known as the snobs in Dover called one mile away. So we go there as a last resort but then we'll end up in a fight with the local kids and the local kids run riot.
SPEAKER: M10
Do you remember what the admission charge.
SPEAKER: M3
Yeah mission charge was sixpence in real money to an RFP. Sixpence basically the cinemas at that time were pretty well the same in terms of charges it varied very marginally. I believe in the early 50s when I moved to collect on say it was sixteen miles away I was in my teens rank were marginally more expensive than say a sold out. But the price at that time or time was I think it was sixpence and the circle on the balcony was nine.
SPEAKER: M10
So is that for kids or adults too that was for kids. If I remember rightly adults was about a shilling. In fact if we go to see the electric palace in Harry's you will see the original prices on the doors which were there when it was functioning as a cinema before it got resurrected with a died in the service you must have been a drain on the family finances then going to the movies. Yeah.
SPEAKER: M3
Oh my my my grandmother sort of took it all very stoically and I think deep down I think she enjoyed it but she didn't enjoy it with me because I think insisted on staying there and I was always embarrassing because I literally she would drag me out screaming and shouting with her choice in films I imagine was different on. Yeah.
SPEAKER: M12
I would say what I wanted to see and they were mostly of course the Disney films and that the accommodation whatever being she was she was fairly old then and I think that she'd been brought up in the 20s and what have you so she didn't really appreciate what I wanted to say but she took me and I think that she shot she saw that as part of her role because I was the oldest and keep me happy my brother and my sister at the time rarely went to the set like my brother started later on but I think my grandmother felt this is what I liked so to keep me happy. She'd take me.
SPEAKER: M5
It's very interesting I think the sense of vocation that children often had I had it too and it's a constant theme actually throughout the history project recordings that the cinema chose people people didn't choose the cinema it's hard to really define why isn't it that there was a magic or there still is a magic here.
SPEAKER: M3
The magic I found was and I still do find I'm not in love with today's it allows. More like rabbit hunches and it's all automated lottery. At the time I think it was the fact that you were in a darkened a darkened hall. And there was something about the decor. Something about the environment of a cinema in those days. Be it a flea pit or whatever and you had this. There's this music playing in the interval. You had these these lights these which of course you didn't have a home. It was a totally different ballgame because at home especially if you were doing living in a two up two down and you were all underage everyone else's feet. There was no room for you to play as a kid could you. If you've got your toys out such as they were you had to put them away again under the stairs because there's no room. So there was this. Feeling I felt a tremendous anticipation when I went into the cinema to sit down and you're there with at the time of course lots of other people and I felt that whe n the lights when the house lights dimmed and the census certificate came up on the on the on the curtains or on the screen depending on which way the projection is cheaper just want to play it presentation. And you were transported into another world. Which of course was so important with wartime and everything else going on. You're into another world and the world of Hollywood. There was a world of fantasy. It was a world of adventure. And many times when we saw the Errol Flynn Robin Hood film for ages afterwards my friends and myself. Would Run around especially the summertime being associated with our our towels on our backs and tired like cloaks because that's what we'd seen. We were very nervous. We were very influenced by what we saw on the screen. It was fantasy land and we and we tried to recreate in our own small lives what we'd seen.
SPEAKER: M5
I think kids were far more inventive than with their lives in the play. Do you think modern day children imitate.
SPEAKER: M3
Well films or television. I've not seen it but maybe I do. I don't think they imitate what they what they are though is influenced. They don't behave. Yeah yeah yeah. This is what I see with my own kids. They are influenced by what they see and what they hear which of course is the worry of parents today. My in my age group were brought up with a totally different attitude where you obviously societies changed where kids cannot go out on their own. Now as they as we used to my mother's to say to my brother was I right go off I come back for tea now five o'clock. She didn't ask where we're going. She didn't have to. But we would go miles.
SPEAKER: M6
We were trying we'd roam absolutely all over the place. We'd go to the river over the bridge. We didn't have we we didn't have watchers. We are asked a total Australian time in fact on one occasion I was in the summertime again we used to run around bare feet.
SPEAKER: M3
In the streets and on heavy and I tried on a drawing on my foot and a total stranger Glover's trailer couldn't walk on it. Total stranger came up a man. With my brother myself and asked what was wrong and I said I enjoyed it where do you live Sunny. And I told him when I was about a quarter of a mile away from the house. And he said well I got on my back and he took me home. Imagine that today. Oh questions. Also the question will be asked this is the this I think the tragedy for kids today that they are not allowed out. Where are you going. What time of day over big back by cell phone me to let me know you're there phone me when you're on the way there is what you have to do today. So kids are influenced by what they see and hear. But they certainly don't have the inventiveness. In my view they certainly don't have the simplicity of life that we had where we could go and we'd play cowboys and Indians. One of the things that we'd love for Christmas was to be born a cowboy out. Simple . But you put it on put the chaps on the belt and a gun belt. Now you've got people who are frightened or even by their kids guns toy guns. Understandably but when the thought never crossed our mind or our parents mind children were less covetous in those days too. Yeah. Well this isn't this the argument that burglary today. Is so right because there's more to steal. We could leave our house as we did the latchkey. We can leave our doors open. Nobody but we're going to pinch anything because basically it's nothing worth pinching. Now there's plenty worth pinching at a market for it. So again the thing that I find depressing these days is the security aspect of life. Everywhere you go you've got to lock up everything even if you're going radical and letting you lock up the door a double lock it put a chain on when you get out of your car. You got a lot. My father with his car. When we were older he used to leave it with the engine running. The ignition key and while he went into a sh op to get something it was there was a freedom which kids don't have today. That's certainly not as inventive. They certainly want more because they see more. And it all costs a lot of money.
SPEAKER: M7
Well they're training consumers in this horrendous society which we know was to live young. I mean that's there's some role in life to absolutely consume. I find it very depressing actually because they're missing out in my view on so much but everything is.
SPEAKER: M5
Is there at a price. Let's then retract a moment. You had a happy childhood by the sound of it.
SPEAKER: M3
I wouldn't say particularly happy. No the childhood was dictated by events and the events up to 1945 when the war ended was very much like many thousands of others dictated by air raids and broken sleep but they were not that the usual thing. They were very exciting times for a child. Well they were. Especially when you are gay and relating to what you saw on the screen. And then when you watched the world go round as a convoy coming down the road and you run up the top of the road because our road was just one off the main road. So we only had to run about 100 yards to the top of the road and we'd see these hundreds of vehicles. Plus of course we had huge prisoner of war camp about two miles from us with German prisoners of war. And we used to go up on our bikes and watch them being exercised in the main road. They come out hundreds of them and they just march up and down with about four soldiers guarding them. Nobody wanted to escape. There was yes there was always that excitement of something happening. German knew but surrendered at Harwich on a sandbank. When he got lost and came up under the nose of a century who arrested it straight away and the view boat was there as a tourist attraction. I remember quite clearly going on this year about my mother paying sixpence for the privilege of going round and banging my head very badly. I'm one of the hatches being carried off. But things like that happen in the. A flying bomb came down intact. On one occasion it came down intact didn't explode. It just came down some trees. And of course the word got out very quickly and there were hundreds of people running. It reminded me a when I saw John Bowman's film about his childhood Hope and Glory Hope and Glory. Very similar very not particularly because it was similar for him or me a similar for hundreds and thousands people all over the South Eastern. What have you but these things happened and the air raids would go on especially with the Blitz of London has been on the flight path. We as kids would be bundled under the stairs and I am to this day I can never remember actually ending up back in my bed simply because I went to sleep. You got used to it after a while upon when the flying bomb came with it clipped our rooftop and went to the next street and say kill 26 people to this explosion. There were things that we did as kids which were exciting like when we used to watch the dogfights above us and the stories you would hear that you see the planes actually fighting each other. The German and the British planes. And then of course we used as kids after the dogfight we got on the beach and we collect bits of cordite which to us was brown glass the cordite which came out of the guns which is jettisoned by the guns father cordite. A plane crash or whatever and we go and make our own our own bombs what it's called I put it all together in a bag and then. Put it in a dustbin put a fuse to it a bloody dustbin we were mad were absolutely mad but n o one thought anything of it no indeed.
SPEAKER: M5
I remember we used to. I was older 10 years old and we used to collect unexploded incendiary right. Yeah. Anyway good fun but totally dangerous dangerously rising. What. Tell me about school. Did you sign that school.
SPEAKER: M3
No. No not really. I went to what I remember is being taken to school first day at school and being very embarrassed because I had braces we had to wear short trousers. What five years on. I think it's four when we started in those days 4 years old. First day of school and I had braces and I went to go to the loo which is now outside loo. And for some reason because I never have. I'm technically senile. So I started very early age being technically senile because I couldn't work out having taken my my braces off the life and I couldn't work out to put it back on again. So I walked around the school tried to hold my trousers up and tried to hide the braces under my pullover which will wore at the time that most embarrassed and I suppose really I shone at the highest I got second in the class when I was a junior school and primary school and I began to show the English English language at that very early age. And that's course kept me all the way through with English but apart from tha t adequate I think average I would say. Did you enjoy it to a certain extent but in those days of course you had a much more tougher regime. At school. In terms of the teachers in terms of kids. There a lot of bullying went on by the masters who by and by we go through by both you and some of the teachers perhaps shifts absolutely absurd other kind of course was very much in vogue while still in veterans so I I have two minds about that. I certainly feel that there should be a greater deterrent because the fear of the case actually helped us. I never actually got the case at all. I was close to on many occasions threatened with it on many occasions and by the by the teachers. But I have I have seen the case used in class and that was enough for me. Obviously some kids took a long time to learn the lesson but I actually saw the cane used on two occasions when I was a kid in front of the class. The boy was out they got it on he got six on each hand. And that was enough for me but I ha d been threatened by it and I still think to this day that there should be greater deterrence.
SPEAKER: M7
Yes there's an old fashioned way of looking at things these days. I certainly believe deterrent should be the flogging kids is is really not an answer. I know that there's something equally wrong with the situation as the child I suspect but anyway yeah we're wondering away from film history well carrying along that tack.
SPEAKER: M3
I mean at school at primary school obviously having gone to the cinema and been wooed by cinema I could do much about it except to enjoy it.
SPEAKER: M9
And then after the war my father came back from Berlin. Home life is very fraught as I think with a lot of our life.
SPEAKER: M3
I felt very sorry for my my parents in retrospect because at the time I didn't realise what was happening. But of course as we all know hundreds if not thousands of blokes. Were sent abroad I volunteered or being called up and sent abroad to fight. And a lot of the blokes in front of my father had never been outside the home town let alone to Burma or to France or Africa or whatever they hadn't been. So they came back a different person. And of course the women who'd been left at home also hadn't been out of their home town. Really. I suppose my father said that we were all Essex people our family was Essex the relatives of all Essex and all lived around that area. So the bigger the longest journey we ever made was 26 miles from Dover to Ipswich disabilities. London was a once in a lifetime trip. So when my father came back in common with many others I suspect. He felt he found it difficult to readjust to a parochial existence which is what it was. And my mother I suspect in common w ith many other wives mothers found it difficult to adjust to his lack of adjustment because she hadn't been away. She had been bringing up kids. And of course there that it developed into a very serious roles and violence. But what happened and I had a perfect antidote for that because I learned very quickly that when my mother and my father started fighting in front of my grandmother I had the perfect antidote. I just burst into tears. And then of course what would happen is that my grandmother would turn to none of what you've done. You've upset the boy. So I realized very quickly this is a way and my mother would stop or she'd stomp out or whatever. And my father would go somewhere else and that has been shed at the bottom of garden or into the pub. But I had decided that they would stop it if I just burst out crying which I did every time. But it was it wasn't very happy. We moved from Dover court to collect on sea. And I think it's right at 47. And that's when my film making my film trip you say education really started to take off restarted takeoff because I was hooked and we had three cinemas in the town had an idea and we had an assault show and we had to assault us and it was again you had a flea pit types that had one and was asleep at times cinema Akhil Amar. Their claim to fame the kingdom of was that it actually managed to show the entire print of war and peace without any breaks without any problems because every time he went to see film The King Hamar which is the smallest cinema there'd be problems the carbons would disappear and the light would go and whatever.
SPEAKER: M7
Well one piece the King Vidor one. You know what's considerably later isn't it. You know the 50s I'm talking about the 50s and we moved to clarity.
SPEAKER: M3
I said that 47 48 but of course the thing I moved to straight away was the Saturday morning pictures. That was to me that was incredible experience. In fact I'm preparing at the moment a documentary on the Saturday morning pictures for next year's.
SPEAKER: M11
Centenary of UK cinema. I'm hoping to get that done because that was done that yet to my knowledge not complete programme on Saturday morning pictures. It was an absolute experience. Anyone who cared or didn't go.
SPEAKER: M6
I think missed out on a hell of a lot because it was a social thing but as we know is brought in by rank basically to help mothers who I would question that it was brought in by rank to try to she a brave right move you go and make a buck or two start yeah he used the talk about letting mothers do their shopping on a Saturday morning for a couple of hours without a problem.
SPEAKER: M3
Very smart plan which is a very small plan and we went Reagan and my brother myself and regularly gave the admission price then that was it. We started going I think about 44 49 1950 with sixpence per downstairs and life ends up in the circle of course all the snobs wind up in a circle. And it was a wonderful period because the social side was so good as well. They had it all worked out. The Monitor's a rather run on the school system prefects and monitors and got involved with the local community. OK. There were lots of lots of problems lots of yobbos and fireworks going off around about November 5th in the loos and the usual thing. But basically I then started going to the cinema. When I was at school at secondary school. I were just called in Colchester but I was then going. Three four five times a week.
SPEAKER: M11
Sometimes six times a week.
SPEAKER: M6
Two questions. Did you have a clear cut sense of direction at this point. Absolutely right. Well we've come back to that. The other is did you have encouragement from the family. No. No.
SPEAKER: M3
They were mystified or mystified and broke until my because my father had left then and had a stepfather. And he said right you want to go to the pictures always time you start earning some money. So he gave me part time jobs. He had a little engineering shop at the bottom of the garden. And he used to repair lawn mowers and things like that. And he gave me that Saturday job with him of stripping down lawn but I still stripped down a lawn mower and cleaning them off and what have you had to pay me about three shillings or something like that.
SPEAKER: M6
So that's my pocket money sweated labour sweated labour. Absolutely. I went back to the sense of direction then. Tell me Tell me how your sense of creativity. Well when I was going to the cinema all those times a week I still got the diaries with all the entries in.
SPEAKER: M3
Where I can get what I used to do. I got so hooked on cinema and on films that when I went the supplies to enter into my diary there was a film star diary at the time published the film the date I don't see the film the title the film the stars of the certificate and the supporting program. All this is in the little entry in the diary. So I've got diaries I've been running for about 3 4 years with every. Entry of every film I saw and I became because I used to read the credits but made a point of reading the credits films and I used to I became so expert at the 50s films that I really became a walking encyclopedia of 50s films because it was all ingrained in my brain and of course what I wanted to do was make films. That was the objective was at the end of the day to work in the film industry and make films. Obviously one immediate thought directing films but this is what 14 15 16 years on. There was no way that one could do that in a backwater like Clacton on Sea. There's nothing th ere. And of course I still hadn't. People didn't really travel to London a lot. Then we were still very parochial. My parents got very annoyed with me. My mother got very annoyed at me because she could see nothing coming of this which is understandable at the time I there is no indication that I could get anywhere. There was no exams to take. There was nothing you just had it or you didn't have it. She persuaded me in the end to go into the airforce instead of chasing after this rainbow was that national service.
SPEAKER: M7
No you volunteered. No I volunteered in 19 1956 I volunteered.
SPEAKER: M3
To go into the airforce for a career because my my mother's family was service orientated there were naval people and my father being in the army. So for some strange reason I volunteered took the exams and managed to get into the airforce as an apprentice at Hereford RAAF Hereford in 94 January 1956 and it was at an 18 month course and I got out after nine months. I just realised it wasn't for me at all. I had no complaints about the airforce but I just realised it wasn't for me. So I was getting more heavily involved with the local Astra cinema the Camp Cinema helping out projection and generally designing posters for the Camp Cinema.
SPEAKER: M11
The films are coming out that in the end I was asked categorically by the CEO whether I wanted to stay and I said no but he said you signed and there was a furore at the time in Parliament about boys going into the air force on 12 year contracts we signed for 12 years and the furore was because we were signing at 16 years old. Bearing in mind the age of adulthood was still 21 it wasn't 18 or 21. So we were signing our lives away virtually the best part of our lives away. Going in at 16 for twelve years which meant we came out at 28 or 30 29 nine and someone raised a question in Parliament about this about the way that boys were. I mean quite right when we signed anything into orbit didn't at 60. Signed the Official Secrets Act and all the rest of it you signed and there was a lot of trouble because of some of the boys. After about a year or so we're beginning to regret it but there's no way they can get out only by buying themselves out and as most of the boys went in to the service at the time came from shall we say more working class backgrounds. Their peers didn't have the money to buy themselves out so they were stuck and there was a furore about this. So I was then in a position where I wanted to get out of the airforce because I wanted to carry on pursuing this this rainbow. I couldn't get out. So there's only one thing to do. The CEO had me before him and offered me a photographic course. He said Obviously if you are interested in films etc. I realised this. He was very good. But he said we can't go on this way. I said no we can't. And he said I could best I can do in the airforce offer a photographic course. They said you can have that if you wish. And I said No it's not the same thing. I want film or movie. So we haven't got anything movie that's about that's all I want. And he tried to persuade me to stay in because of hardly. I was down after my nine months of this course. I was down for officer training but some reason best known to themselves. But I didn't know that at the time so I said No I'm sorry. The only way I could get out. I couldn't buy myself. I didn't want to be thrown out with ignominy. So the only way I could get up to flunk my exams which I did not hold up before a board. Like a court martial board. All these officers around this table asked me what why. Because my record up to that point I'd been good be very good in terms of the academic side and in terms of the trade training side etc. and they couldn't work out why all of a sudden my exam results plummeted. Fair enough. And one of them the chairman of the board said you want to get out don't you. I said yes. You should write your wish will be granted. Obviously we can't keep you. So let me let me out. And in my discharge papers which I still got it had free as indulgence which meant that as I understand it there was nothing. Come back on me. I wasn't thrown out. It was my decision and they accepted as free as indulgence. So I though I came out and I was left to my own devices. My mother was shocked horrified. Didn't speak to me for ages. I realized then I had to move out of the home. And so I made the decision. To try and get a job in London. I was then I was sixteen and a half 17 minute but of course I had the threat of national service hanging over my head rest of it. So no one would take you on for a job because knowing full well that in about a year's time you're going to be called up.
SPEAKER: M3
How long had you been. I'd been in nine months. So that didn't count. Only five months of it did count at the end to come off my national service. But I didn't realize to know that at the time there was only when my national service papers came through that I saw that they had deducted five months because I had been over a certain age. I think it was seventeen or something. There was a five month old that allowed me off so in fact I didn't do the two years I did but about 17 months or something like that but I didn't help because at the time I didn't know that they were going to allow me five months as far as I'm concerned I was down for two years. So when I couldn't get a job anywhere. In fact we had a guy in Clacton who specialized was window cleaner and a window cleaning firm. He specialized in taking on boys who were waiting to go for national service. So and so I joined him. I did winter cleaning for throughout the following winter and then I had my first break. We all had the b reaks especially when you're trying to get into a business from a backwater with no support. You have to have a break and the break came through my local youth club which I went with like table tennis at from time to time in Clacton. And I was talking to the warden about films and he was asking me what I wanted to do. My hobbies were and I said I just want to make some films idling equipment or anything it. And he said well you really want to talk. We have a teacher in Clacton who who who is starting a new system in his school of introducing film to his pupils to help them learn here and this is quite new at the time quite knew that film should actually be introduced as part of the lesson.
SPEAKER: M12
And this guy was a trailblazer in this respect that he lived locally. And I was given his name and his address by the warden to go see him tell him I said You should come to see him and I went to see this guy and he said that's interesting that you should want to work in the industry. He said I'm a teachers I never worked in industry but he said I am bringing you I love film. He said I make amateur films from time to time. And he said I've been toying with an idea of making a film through the youth club. He said We've just finished a version of War of the Worlds. I said Oh great. Which was shot locally sent and I'm just about to do the sound recording for it. You said Would you like to kind of sit in and see how it's done. That was my first major break because it gave me an option. He gave me an opportunity to actually watch something being done albeit at this stage it was just a a sound recording a tape the reel to reel reel to reel tape of a soundtrack for this film that just shot at the youth club. And it was a version of war the world very good version I'm unfortunately because I knew nothing. I knew nothing about equipment or anything. So he said we're going to do this recording up in this room in a youth club. It was the middle of the winter and he said because we want to make sure the project we're going to project the film about we need to put the sound of projector out the way because we're got to record that the artists although the actors who were kids. Doing their lines. So you said the only way I could do this put the projector outside on a flat roof. A project through the glass window. You said that we need someone to operate the projector on a flat roof. How do you feel about that. I didn't know one end of a project from another. It was a debrief. I know what objective was. It was a debris one of which I've got at home which I bought for 60 pounds of about a year ago the exact same cost machine I worked on. They said How do you feel about that. I said I have to go. Terribly excited terribly excited because and to see this machine which one of debris was a wonderful machine 16 real wonderful machine.
SPEAKER: M3
So we lock this machine onto the flat roof. He had the reel to reel recorder inside the room. The only problem was it was snowing so I'm up on this roof freezing to death with this machine got it going so I projected the film and of course the snow was coming. I was out of focus because we hadn't focused it up and he's trying to and he's recording a sound. I can already see the film and he's trying to indicate to me with sign language to focus it up I didn't know what the hell he was talking about.
SPEAKER: M12
So in the end he scrapped it and came rushing out clambered onto the roof and focused the damn thing and I felt terribly upset about that because I felt I had failed my first effort I failed because I didn't not focus a projector. Eventually we got that through and we had the premiere of the film the youth club and then he said What do you reckon about shooting another one make. We'll make one should I get a certain amount of money for the local council I said we'll make one.
SPEAKER: M3
So he said I said Well all right Peter what about science fiction. So this guy actually took me under his wing and he taught me a heck of a lot. He was cameraman. He was director. He was everything but he took me and a few others under his wing and we started making his other science fiction film. And unfortunately he died a few years ago of a brain tumor. But that man gave me a break and then he gave me gave me another break which I'll never forget. At the time it was around about nineteen fifty six 57. There was a lot of films being made by Norman MacLaren in the National Film Board of Canada of his. His animated his animated films and there was there was a system called Pixar elation.
SPEAKER: M11
I don't know if you remember Pixar nation. It was a system where it was stop stop stop motion. Where people would be shot and instead of them working somewhere they would. Yeah it was cool yeah. Pixar elation. And this was all the rage. And there was a lot of films being made by BFI people as well animated. So he said there's a course a weekend course in. In fact did in Essex a weekend course he said on animation nation where we can go along. He said if you want to come along with me. And he said we're actually going to learn about animation. Now this was all terribly exciting at the time because it was there was so much going on in these sort of experimental areas at the time. At the time you had what was called the Free Cinema Movement with Lindsay Anderson and Carl rice and Tony with all these pictures to be exciting at the time it's all very basic. Technologically it was so simple and people just making films all over the place on 16 mill. I mean Ken Russell started at 60. Well I made a film on his daughter called immediately eight Amelia and the angel which got the top awards at the time. With movie maker magazine and hammer to Sydney World Magazine and Ken Russell started off 16 mil. Tony Richardson. Carl rice Jack Clayton host also 16 now making these experimental. So we went on this weekend cause an announcement on the back of this guy's Villa set motorbike on opinion that I mean have been on motorbike and we went to this fax that we can cinema and we actually there was a Bob Godfrey also got involved with this at the time where people were drawing on film. They actually drew on film and what was supposed to happen. Was that they play a record. That's why you're doing this this weekend. They play a record. And in this particular case it was Chazz McDavid skiffle group Nancy whiskey and freight train freight train with the record. And what we had to do was get the beat worked out and then we'd actually draw. We had 16 male film blank film and we'd draw o n it or paint on it an image that we thought this to put in our minds and we're divided about six teams of two to three people each day and we plonk on there where the beat came worked it out with a number of frames.

End of Side 1

Biographical

Derek Threadgall was born in 1938 the eldest of three children in Harwich, Essex.

Fate decreed that the largest and grandest cinema of the three cinemas in that area, the Regal, should be a two minute walk from his two-up, two-down terraced home. The 940 seats Regal cinema (now demolished) also introduced him to the cinema going   experience. In 1947, the family moved farther along the coast to a seaside resort which also had three cinemas each of which would play a major part in his formative years. His interest in films was boosted by his weekly visits to the popular Saturday Morning Pictures in his local Odeon (also a two minute walk from his new home in the town centre. During his teenage years he visited his local cinemas six and even seven times a week. This was possible because cinemas’ weekly programming was changed in mid- week in order to run a fresh presentation for the remainder of the week.  Soon these early film life experiences began to form his ambition to work in the film industry.

He was introduced to practical amateur film making in the mid-1950s by a local school teacher, Lew Broom, who had broken new educational ground by successfully introducing ‘film’ as an educational tool.  Mr Broom also ran the local youth club film group which Derek joined. Mr Broom helped him gain his first employment in the film industry with the British Film Institute Film Appreciation Department in London. His appointment followed a meeting arranged by Mr Broom with Dr Roger Manvell, Director of the British Film Academy in London.

He later moved to the BFI’s National Film Theatre (NFT) in London’s south bank arts complex as a trainee projectionist (the NFT was the original Telekinema from the 1951 Festival of Britain. It was  transferred to BFI management after the Festival had closed).

Derek worked with Air Ministry in London during his National Service with The Royal Air Force. He travelled throughout England and abroad with the RAF promotions and recruitment team and a mobile 16mm cinema. The team attended events such as The Royal Tournament and Ideal Homes exhibitions to promote The Royal Air Force. his team was also responsible for maintaining the RAF film library located in RAF Hendon. In return, the RAF paid for him to take a London University course on the History and Art of Film sponsored by the British Film Institute. After completing his National Service, he joined Rank Film Distributors in London from where he plotted his final push to work in a British film studio.

In 1960, he succeeded in joining the management team at Shepperton Studios working in the Operating Office (the nerve centre of the studio). In 1965, he left the studio to freelance as a writer and documentary producer for which he formed his own film company.

In 1968, he joined the London advertising agency, Ogilvy Benson and Mather, to manage   their television commercials library. He later joined Haymarket Publishing as annuals production editor and writer for their ‘Film Making’ magazine. He continued writing for several media and consumer magazines including ‘Atlantic’ for the American Chamber of Commerce in London.

In 1972 Shepperton Studios was under threat of closure. He ran the 16 months public campaign to prevent the studio from being demolished for a housing development. Following the campaign’s

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success in 1973 he formed his own public relations business specialising in financial PR and fund raising for registered charities. His first book, ‘Shepperton Studios – An Independent View’ (a corporate history of the studio) was published in 1994 by the British Film Institute. It was  followed in 2019 by a companion book ‘Shepperton Studios – A Personal View’.                                                                                   

Over the past ten years he has enjoyed sometime lecturing on cruise ships highlighting ‘The Golden Age of Hollywood’ (1920s to 1960s).  On dry land he has presented over 100 talks covering cinema going in the 1940s 50s and 60s.

In 1996 to commemorate 100 years of British film making  he ran the team which ‘borrowed’ the Odeon, Leicester Square, in London, for ‘The Super Saturday Show’ a recreation of a 1950s Saturday Morning Pictures show. It aided the Children’s Film and Television Foundation, the Prince’s Trust and the Variety Club of Great Britain.

Now, long retired as a film and cinema historian and an industry veteran, he is a volunteer for The British Entertainment History Project based in London for which he interviews entertainers and employees from Film, Television, Radio and Theatre  His interviewees have worked in front of or behind the camera or microphone, but importantly they have a story to tell.

Derek is married to Liz and has two children, Clare and Roy, and three daughters from a previous marriage.

 

Derek Threadgall     

March 2019