Donald Wilson

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Interview Date(s): 
12 Jul 1991
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[Rekeyed from Dave Robson’s handwritten notes. DS]


Born Dunblane, Perthshire in 1910. Educated at Wellington College and Glasgow School of Art. Started work by selling drawings and writings to newspapers in Glasgow. Interested in cinema at an early age – regularly visited a mobile cinema with the family which showed films at the local town hall. Entered film industry by accident through the newspaper he worked for. On an assignment he asked the film correspondent to arrange a visit to Elstree and met Walter Mycroft who asked him if he could write lyrics. He took four songs [tunes?] back to his hotel and wrote lyrics that same evening. Mycroft liked them, bought them and offered him a job in the scenario department, arranged through John Maxwell.

Maxwell profile: a mean man. Various personalities discussed. Early sound equipment – everything primitive but very exciting; amongst his contemporaries at Elstree were Frank Launder and Miller [?].  Moved from Scenario Department to become Assistant Director. Assistant Director’s duties explored: a long working day, minimum salary, £6 a week. By 1939 he was earning £18 a week – one of the highest paid assistants (at MGM). A car was shared with David Rawnsley which kept them mobile for location work. Wilson spent hours in cutting rooms learning the craft with Leslie Norman[BEHP Interview No 126] who was cutting at that time. Worked on Lupino Lane films at Elstree, also the first film with Will Hay. Also Invitation to the Waltz, where he met Wendy Toye aged 16, and ‘mimi’. Many directors and cameramen were working hard here to escape Hitler! King George V a two-reeler which became an eight-reeler: four directors and four crews, production discussed. Remained at BIP [British International Pictures] for three years, and then worked for Capitol. Worked on a film based on a play called His Majesty’s Pyjamas with Clive Brook – a total disaster because of a fire which destroyed all the property (B & D studios). Production moved to Teddington. Story was similar to real life drama of Edward and Mrs Simpson – rather unfortunate timing – the film flopped! Film was premiered on the very day that Edward made his announcement!! [of abdication].

Wilson joined up as Production Manager with Percy Stapleton and Max Schlack. Max went on to own three cinemas when the business went bust. Films: Land Without Music (first film made at Denham) and Knight without Armour.

He meets Walter Futter who wants to make a big movie with Paul Robeson (Song of Freedom). Profile on Futter. Eventually the company went bust after making the movie, nearly stranding the crew in Cairo. Interesting notes about making the movie and the sad death of the ‘Princess’.


Wilson joined the Army at the age of 29 as a volunteer. Was sent to the OTC [Officers’ Training Corps] for training and gained experience of handling people. Earned the nickname ‘Gaffer’ with film crews.

Differences between Denham and BIP Studios discussed: he preferred Pinewood. Joined MGM and worked on Goodbye Mr Chips. Got on well with Ben Goetz and after war service he re-joined MGM under him. Elstree was in a shambles and his job was to re-equip it, rehabilitate offices etc. When the work was completed, he joined Rank to work on Independent Frame with David Rawnsley and stayed on to produce. Meanwhile Goetz wanted him to succeed him at MGM.

Independent Frame – the concept explained: not allowed to use contract stars. John Davies described as the man who did the dirty work for J. Arthur [Rank] – with some pleasure!! Four films were made: Flood Tide, the most successful at the box office: five week shooting schedule. Schedules could be tightly controlled. ACT unhappy with the system, despite the fact that more films meant more crews. Everyone was prejudiced! The last film Wilson made was a version of Robin Hood (Group 3). Some anecdotes about Sam Wood and his work on Mr Chips. (10% talent and 90% bullshit).


Wilson formed a partnership with Emlyn Williams but it never got off the ground. Went to America and sold a piece to the New Yorker. He then went on to write various pieces for the BBC, including Standby to Shoot, a thriller in 1955. Just William. He was then invited at age 44 to start a script department at the BBC. Drama output then was about five hours a week. Discussion on how the Script Department was run. Competition with ITV caused standards to fall – Sidney Newman was brought in and Michael Barry left to start television in Ireland. Wilson became Head of Serials under Newman, but eventually gave it up to produce The Forsyte Saga as a Senior producer – a new grade. His salary was reduced but he was happy to be more active again. Discussion about how The Forsyte Saga came to be produced.

The classic serials for the BBC: Wilson wanted to do them well by increasing each episode from 30 to 60 minutes.

After The Forsyte Saga, he wrote The Churchills – very difficult to do – he had to read 30 books and dip into another 20 on this subject.

After retirement he went to Anglia to do a series with Orson Wells for a year. Orson only did the introductions. Then he went to America and wrote a script, and then onto Rome to write for Carlo Ponti, returning to Scotland to write Anna Karenina which took a year. He was well paid but it fell through because of problems in the USSR.


Joined ACT after the War, but resigned when he stopped making pictures. During his career the biggest change he experienced was over-manning! He liked working in films when employed in that capacity, but when he entered TV he also enjoyed that very much. Early work in both was exciting. “There are more crooks to deal with in films”.



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Donald Wilson Side 1

Dave Robson  0:00

The copyright of this recording is vested in the ACTT History Project. The subject is Donald Wilson, interviewed by Linda Wood 12th of July 1991. File 205. Side one.

Linda Wood  0:21

It's okay for you to start. Right. When and where were you born ?

Donald Wilson  0:25

I was  born in Dunblane in Perthshire In 1910, it's quite a long time ago.

Linda Wood  0:34

And what kind of schooling Did you receive?

Donald Wilson  0:37

Well, I had very good very early schooling in Scotland. And then I went to a prep school in England and then to Wellington College. So nine years in England as a boy, as a school. That was why I don't particularly speak with a Scottish accent,

Linda Wood  0:54

like further. Did you have any specialised training before you started working in the film industry?

Donald Wilson  1:05

I went to the Glasgow School of Art. And that's the only specialised training I have. Because I had I left I had to stay long. When I started, I had to burn a living. And I started selling my drawings and my writing to newspapers in Glasgow. And I learned a great deal from that.

Linda Wood  1:28

Did you were you interested in cinema as a child,

Donald Wilson  1:32

we had a touring cinema which came around to our town hall. And it was one of the because we had no radio no known, nothing else. And we used to go down the hill family office used to go down and we saw the westerns and pedal bikes and all those things matter, but we thought was wonderful. So was it all of a sudden it?

Linda Wood  1:55

Yes. Did they have a piano sort of come around? or do some wonder they have a piano which came round with the

Donald Wilson  2:04

piano didn't come round with the laws of Canada, they're in the hall. And the projection set himself up outside the hall and Trump backwards through the thing, you know, the whole thing and made it look better. And so we bouncing up and down the seats of accommodation and investigations and all that love. So we're good, great fun. I loved it.

Linda Wood  2:29

Right? How did you enter the film industry?

Donald Wilson  2:34

By accident? I was doing doing a series of drawings about talkies. Paper gone, the papers I worked for. And the paper asked me to go on I'm a cover the Hastings motor rally, you know, when did everything and knowing I was going to be in the silence. I asked them correspondents January for Proposition Robinson to give me an introduction so that I go see a film studio, which he did. And after the rally was over, I went down to Elstree and found this chap, Microsoft bought him aircraft, Giovanni.

Linda Wood  3:20

Yes, I know. All about him a little bit. Yes.

Donald Wilson  3:25

And he asked me, they were in trouble because they had, they were starting to thinking of starting to do a musical. And they got the music, songs in particular, he said, the lyrics are terrible. He said, Can you write lyrics to it? And of course, I'm writing lyrics. Well, I'd been writing comic poems for the paper as well for years, two to three years every week. And so he gave me the songs and I took them back to the strand Palo Santo, one dinner night. At night, and I wrote four songs that night, and took them down the next day. And he liked them, bought them. And I would you like to come and work here. So I thought about that. And he said, we're going to Mr. Maxwell in Glasgow next. And I saw John Maxwell and he said, go ahead and I went on to start work at Elstree Studios. So on the scenario department.

Linda Wood  4:31

Do you have any memories of John Maxwell because although we've spoken to lots of people who worked at Elstree, very few of them actually seem to have come across John Maxwell himself.

Donald Wilson  4:43

He came to studios once a week to see a collection of rushes. He was a formidable man, and a very mean, as far as money was concerned. Every penny was spent was concerned. Which didn't endear him to the filmmakers show you, but but on the other hand, it was a living. And he had to make a living. I mean, you know, what were the practices in those days? And so I suppose it was right. But I can remember sitting in the theatre one day one morning that he was there, when Mike with Microsoft, and I was Microsoft, a personal assistant. At that time. I was off track calm. And so I went over Russian women are we done a very good day's work, you know, a tremendous amount of stuff for iPhones on the phone at the time and really, a big day's work. And I remember the everything Maxwell said, at the end of the end of the show, he turned to Microsoft. And he said, I think he had five too many extras in that room seen. Now this was this was an actual you see, if I'm going to lose a chance of telling people that we're spending too much money. But that's all I really remember about him, because that's a one. So if you've just saw him at all, so once a week, you felt the influence.

Linda Wood  6:20

So the studio was largely owned by Microsoft at that time?

Donald Wilson  6:24

No, it was a it was it was the centre of a tremendous battle between Microsoft and Stapleton Stapleton when he was a business manager, Microsoft was the creative in charge of production chat. And there was a dark horse or two in the background as well, all of them were doing their best to try and be the top man and an actual very carefully made nobody the top man

Donald Wilson  7:00

Grossman, we've heard of him. Yes. And he was a studio manager live alongside and this interviews relations were always among the extras on every scene. He was a very funny man. And I always got along fine with him. But they were a great show of a badger he made worse. auger marks it used to be attributed to punch his name in the grip America several sub goals. But Joe did all that he really did do it. And the most famous this is going on too long as I go into the kind of yes, this

Linda Wood  7:39


Donald Wilson  7:41

Joe. They the king of Greece for as being shown around the studios by Joe with a little entourage behind him. And Joe was indicating this cameras and this new sound equipment and they've got in and so on and so forth. Then you turn ratio but of course you manage all this must be Greek to you. This was this was difficult job. Man, that he was another one who was I remember I remember one day I was at Microsoft and stapled and offices were next door and then intervening a door in between. And I remember being with Microsoft on one morning when Joe who came bursting through from Stapleton to Office. Straddling the door hard behind him not seeing me. So tonight. Do you want to know what stapled has just said about? This was this was the the atmosphere was there was no question. Very funny. We got on with making the making the movies. how best we could

Linda Wood  8:57

had filmed British International who'd already sort of turned to making sound films. By the time you arrived. Yes,

Donald Wilson  9:07

but the sound equipment was pretty primitive and very difficult to move about. And of course, every slashers noise wasn't just on the floors at Elstree were by no means equipped to this island. And so making sound pictures was very difficult. That was one thing. The other thing was that the sound engineers as they always have ever since, with due respect, considered themselves to be the elite on top of everything and nobody good to say a word. But it was it was a very difficult business. You'll see the blimps for the cameras were the sensing glimpse for the cameras were very primitive. At that time, they hadn't really properly developed, so that the camera noise was occasionally perceptible, even if everything else dead silent. The the camera boom, the microphone booms were very primitive in alignment, it was very difficult to get the captain the mic exactly where you wanted, you know, particularly to close up three, two or two shots to people to get the mic in the right place and move it about, you know, all this was, was it was it was it was very difficult. So there was always a sense of tension, because but it was exciting.

Linda Wood  10:35

Do who were the other people working so to have at your level,

Donald Wilson  10:40

prank launder was ended up in the script department as I was. People I'm trying to think of people who might know, there was a most marvellous chap that I was sort of assigned to begin with called Mila, who was the cleanest beer drinker I've ever met. He, he didn't we worked six days a week. To the point my son in law told me about

Linda Wood  11:12

your boss who who drank

Donald Wilson  11:18

weed, but he took his day off, not on Sunday. But on Wednesday, because the the pubs opened in our village or town that seven or eight miles from us. They haven't attended the morning. And so he'd be he'd be off there in the bus. You know, instead. That was a Dr. spended man. He he every he has his method he wrote quite beautifully. And I mean, his handwriting was quite beautiful. And he but every time he started a script to ward off any writer's block or anything. It was started by saying no matter what the scene was, he always started by writing down interior the blue Post's night, then he was away.

Donald Wilson  12:11

Great fun. I learned a lot from him. Frank was there and we ever became very good friends. Although no no more my life, my working life.

Donald Wilson  12:26

Lord, I've got a list I can never find. And of course, they that was I mean, it was just the scenario department. But

Linda Wood  12:44

can I just watch what you would do to you know, get you in the morning? And then what would your job be?

Donald Wilson  12:51

Well, there would be perhaps a script meeting, the discretion which I'd have to attend. I was also given the job of running a whole series of shorts. For which I was asked to write dialogue to me don't mean actual dialogue, but you know, commentary to which he was referring to the very first job I was given. I would then go work with Frank Miller, or whoever it was I was working with, and we got to work on a script we'd already been talking about, you know, and see how far we'd get. Then we probably have a session with a director who's going to direct that particular film, and so on, and it just kept getting busier. But I stayed very, very short time. I was very, very short term in that department, because I've only really boring and I wasn't gonna doubt but there was all kinds of things happened. But anyway, I was asked to start as a as an assistant director. And which I did. And I was put on a on a film with a very old hand called Frank Mills, who was a splendid old fellow, but too old for the job by then. And I was more or less running picture here. No, no, no production managers most. So the assistant director got in at seven in the morning, into the studio. He then made sure the actors or the actors haven't gone on the floor to make sure the studio was still still there and the ones you're wanting, they're still there. He then spent the day as assistant director to the director. And when that was finished, and the eyes court just said And was the Closing time 645. But I suppose about three or four, two or three nights a week, the unions were agreed to an extra two hours. So you had a break and then an extra two hours. So you'll finish about nine. And then you've got upstairs with a continuity go and didn't have any other secretary, when you do all the calls for the next day, and you can get home at night, and that was that that was your day, six days a week, very long working day. And if there was a service required you did on Sunday as well. I pay as a first assistant director and I started that six times a week. Oh. It wasn't much it would live on it

Linda Wood  15:54

wasn't bad for that time for fun. Other people we talked to who worked as things like camera assistant, we're only getting about 30 shillings. So

Donald Wilson  16:04

Oh, yes. Oh, yes.

Dave Robson  16:06

The runner would be getting

Donald Wilson  16:08

very little their continuity go. And we got about three or four. Yeah. When you think of the responsible work they did. It was it was pretty low pay. Alright, if you're living at home, very difficult otherwise. But that was the that was the minimum I got as a first assistant. And I suppose by the end of the, by the May the beginning of the war, I suppose one of the highest paid assistant in the country are getting 17 pounds a week, which should always be at 18. I think, with MGM, which I think is probably about as hard as they kind of say went in there. Anyway, you could live very well on it

Linda Wood  16:55

was quite substantial. What where were you living? When you were working at Telstra? And how did you actually get to

Donald Wilson  17:06

lodgings in and warm wood

Linda Wood  17:10

working those hours you would need to live reasonably close.

Donald Wilson  17:14

And I lived with Miss Miss Mrs. Plumb up the road quite a while. And then David Rawnsley and I got very good friends. And between us we managed to always find a flat to live in somewhere within reach. And if I was out of work, which I was here and huge, you have to be working and vice versa. So we we manage between us. And by then we usually manage to keep a car between us too. So we'll move on.

Linda Wood  17:46

Before you were saying that sort of you went to Glasgow School of Art, so obviously as well as writing your sort of words, obviously quite talented in sort of the design areas. Did you ever sort of feel inclined to sort of go into that area.

Donald Wilson  18:04

In between mostly location work, we're going to add go down for example, if the location might bend down in Devon, on a on a film and things are an art director was required, but not highly trained. I'd often go and do that work, do all the setups and organise the lumps or rock or tension or whatever was required. And I do a bit of modelling from sets. I mean David who would have the most elaborate search for a film and I just for the fun of it staff organising models and figures for the things and this sort of thing for nurses, and practical the prep some of the practical work of art direction I did. I also spent, of course, hours in the cutting rooms whenever I could, which meant all night. And two of my very good friends were at studios, there were cutters, and they let me sit in with a given company that night. And I learned a great deal about the cutting process that is making the final making movies by doing that. Which was great fun was the name of this young chap. He's not young anymore. Who does the film talks on television all the time.

Linda Wood  19:32

Barry Norman Barry Norman? Yes,

Donald Wilson  19:34

well, his Tibor Lesley Norman was a great champion. He was one of the cards and he and I were very good friend. And it always disappoints me that he spent the life slogging to cut out in a cutting role Eric all night every night. Whereas this boy makes up 20 times the living just talking or instead of making them

Linda Wood  20:04

feel sad reflection, isn't it?

Donald Wilson  20:08

That's an opinion rich, perhaps.

Dave Robson  20:11

He's very keen on a business day. I mean, it's something whatever happened to me? Weirdly, it's

Donald Wilson  20:15

key. We were We were totally in, wrapped up in this week, you see, we could, we could do nothing else, we have no time to do anything except think and breathe and, and work well in mind,

Linda Wood  20:30

if you were getting there at seven o'clock in the morning and then staying on to watch the editing until later.

Donald Wilson  20:36

And when David was doing an overnight set, I would probably say, do that. Help him with that or if he would not necessarily do it one of the one of the art directors, but of course it was mostly don't become a real great friend. So Oh, we've managed to have some fun, but it's all tested after the talk. And one of the chief dangers and difficulties but there was of course that we know what was going on anywhere else heard if you've been out of work, which you did. You didn't know to go to find a job. Because you didn't anybody else. Tiger in studio. So that there was this was another added difficulty. Anything else? What's the next thing?

Linda Wood  21:25

Do you remember any particular songs you worked on while you were at Elstee?

Donald Wilson  21:31

Worked on so many. I used to find myself greatly tied up with the Lupino. I always seem to be doing working on these comedies whether it was Stanley and Lupino lair Nipa. And probably three or four other Latinos are a vast clan of them. And they were all pretty awful. Quiet fun to do. And but I seem to get landed with an awful lot of those. I don't remember the name of any.

Linda Wood  22:05

Well, British International seem to do a lot of those sorts of films, didn't it? Yes.

Donald Wilson  22:12

Then there was there was another studio and for the comedian his name was written right across the top of it. You see it on my list. And I worked with him. He was a nice sad comedian in Red Hat most of them are. And he and I got along great. Then we I made a film with will hair. You will remember

Linda Wood  22:38

that? Oh, yes.

Donald Wilson  22:41

This was his first film.

Linda Wood  22:43

Oh, those were the days?

Donald Wilson  22:47

No, no, based on I'm on a play

Linda Wood  22:54

a magistrate

Donald Wilson  22:57

before that. Can't remember. But it was a racehorse was involved. I remember. And we had to do things like landing an aeroplane on on the main road. You know, this sort of thing went on. It was quite ridiculous. Great fun.

Dave Robson  23:20

Musical. I mean, how did he get into

Donald Wilson  23:23

into film? Well, hey, well, he was famous. And somebody said wouldn't it be fun to to do a we'll do update we will hair and he was engaged. He was a charming man. And he had his laboratory near Mill Hill. And he asked me though, one evening and we went and I was fascinated. Is very erudite, intelligent, non funny man.

Linda Wood  23:55

Many very good comedians

Donald Wilson  24:00

that we had an American Direct for that. And of course, we were getting directors from everywhere Minister of Germany. Paul Stein, crew arrived and good cameramen arrived or from being you know, escaping hits as fast as they could. And so we had a very cosmopolitan collection and it was fun working with them. I worked on on the circus big circus film that we made. Also on an uncle watching see I should I should have all this on paper

Donald Wilson  24:52

never some invitation to the walls the big window shopping list. popped up that 16 ruling the other dancers with an iron and really that age. Dolan was supposed to be organising it or renting Do you hardly ever appeared and Windows is a system did all the work. And I say random or we'll see her that age, taking complete control of these unruly girls. She was mounters. That was invitation to award. And that's where I first got to know Douglas Fairbanks could not leave it on film, but he was came down that time. And then I used to get hired out, of course to independent film came in. And they paid 10 pounds a week, but I only got the six

Linda Wood  25:48

and split the difference with you.

Donald Wilson  25:50

And me, me. And Gertrude alarms were the greatest fund, Bornstein directed. And they, it was it was it was great and and I worked with Doug after that later on when he left, and I left and when I joined hippie, I formed a company called capital which I was engaged to work in first as assistant director and production manager when production managers were invented. All the work that production managers do now was also then done by the one assistant, chief assistant director and his one assistant. We did all that work. And on occasion, this was sometimes very difficult indeed. I mean, we never made a comedy. And then the location was in. We went to run David Goldstein, I went around to find the railway finally ended up in Hastings, which was very admirable. And this involves a great deal of extra work. So on tour for

Donald Wilson  27:06

crime scenes. And it was it was it was very, very hard work. terribly hard work. Sorry. I keep forgetting the names of the people.

Linda Wood  27:21

That's fine. Did you do a lot of location work? Because in the early in the 30s sound was so sort of cumbersome I should imagine. It was avoided at all possible cost.

Donald Wilson  27:40

Yes, we made it we made a film for King drawers or fifth Jubilee. Who heard about it.

Linda Wood  27:46

I've seen adverts for it. I've never seen it though. Well,

Donald Wilson  27:49

it was going to be a two wheeler. And fine. So unit was got together, dirty me seems to be short. And then gradually or it became apparent it was going to be rather successful. It was all it was based on the idea of, of a 10. Year mentored and choice this year, which was 1910. And it's adventures where they went at his opinion, vitamin pond. Anyway, it this was the idea of it. But eventually, before very long, they discovered it was going to be so good. They decided to make it a full eight Rilla. Well, this is absolutely fantastic. Of course, they have four directors on it. And four crews. And we danced around doing all kinds of things all over the place. On one day, I remember we did a scene that we're all listening to towards this broadcast speech all over the empire. And in the same day, we did a scene with Africans in a in a goldmine which we did just start side wheeling Garden City in a huge trenches. And simultaneously in the same day, we did something in the Nigerian forests which we discovered locational or somewhere else. We did Laura Georgia. Lloyd George's speech at the mansion house. And we were only given a scene for the day before David and I he had to build a set and I got him on to the costumes as well because I couldn't do them all and I had cast this whole collection in Turning somebody preloaded short overnight. We shot the street birthday the next day, but it's the kind of thing we we had to do and we did. Great fun. All right.

Linda Wood  30:11

Fascinating. How long did you stay at VIP enter to Why did you leave?

Donald Wilson  30:17

Three years? And then of course I fell out of work. And then I went to Capitol Dugan verrico

Linda Wood  30:29

Do you remember which films you made with him?

Donald Wilson  30:33

One was total disaster which is written based on a flag or His Majesty his pyjamas, the cloud Brooke and we started filming as A, B and D Studios next door stream one three and of course burned down oh, just as soon as assets were built it all burned down and and overnight there was absolutely nothing left and we will do to start filming in a couple of days. All the costumes are burnt. And try Brooks five especial two pairs which are made room in Hollywood and got forgotten to the west of Las Vegas. How are we all went to work and we moved to studio on the Thames. River. Well,

Linda Wood  31:32

is it Walton?

Donald Wilson  31:34

Walton? Teddington Teddington and we rebuilt the whole thing and we started we started shooting we made the picture. It was all about a king giving up his throne for the beloved woman comedy. I broke it it was a disaster.

Linda Wood  32:01

Was that about the time of Ecuador.

Donald Wilson  32:05

And the day we it was it was due to be a wonderful evening opening in the middle of London, which I went to was the day that Edward made his farewell speech. So you can imagine the film didn't do very well.

Donald Wilson  32:30

So apart from the fact that the American director and leading lady quarrel from the very beginning, never got on Malaysia. Five was rather sweet. He's a very nice man.

Linda Wood  32:43

He's an actor I really I admire very much.

Donald Wilson  32:47

You really want to be put up with all this rubbish that went on. I fell off a high rostrum and broke my ankle and middle middle of middle of it. Got to mean I couldn't get to work. The whole thing was totaled, total. shambles. Start to finish. We then get into the opening of Denham ears. And Stapleton vs Stapleton dirty blood that joined this company with Mac sharp. Now, you know, Mac chopping?

Linda Wood  33:24

Yes, no one no one has really talked about him so far. But I sort of know from

Donald Wilson  33:30

Well Max, Max was a dwarf. He was even smaller than Minecraft and that was saying something. But Minecraft is perfect portion and hunchback with the most beautiful speaking voice I ever heard. Shark was of course a little European. But tiny. Great stories about him. People who say that when there was a bad thunderstorm we used to get up under his bed and run about until it was

Donald Wilson  34:06

stable to him got him to meet him to be the production manager of his company. And I went to see Max Shaw he take novices away Italy's real got the money from unbelievable. They arrived from Central Europe. And in no time they're gonna engage officers nearly opposite the BBC out there important and start making making movies. Anyway, I went ahead to go and see him for my employment. And he said to me, and I assure you these are the exact words he said at Peterson. I am so new and Napoleon of the film British disasters. But by the time you did come to Georgia, you're in three cinemas. And nobody ever took that away from him.

Linda Wood  34:54

And I didn't know that

Donald Wilson  34:58

because I met him in a lift when I was on leave during the war. I met him looking quite prosperous and happy. So you work for me afterward, Donald, you know, and we had a little talk and he told me about his cinema. So he's still back, but long after he, the whole of that outfit disappeared in disaster.

Linda Wood  35:22

Because it is funny about him because he was in the news a lot. So to between about 1935 and 1937. And then to 12, the company went bust, and he heard it you never see his name again. So took in the film credits and I often wondered what had happened to him. I just assumed he'd gone off to the United States and tried to do the same thing. But he actually became a cinema central proprietor

Donald Wilson  35:47

just disappeared. But of course, we made some kind of films. First film we made, which was the first film ever made at Denham. With with what's your name? Jenna. tapa Otava. Yes, I'd worked with before Elstree and one of the in the Schubert thing. And we made this this film called Lanza music. We opened Denham with we were the first film to be made. And this was great fun. Travel, and I got on the phone with him.

Linda Wood  36:24

Beautiful voice didn't.

Donald Wilson  36:26

He was an effective singer. But I wrote a couple of lyrics for him, would you like because I put the e sound on the high notes, which you would like very much, because it showed off how good he was doing. And we had great fun. And we had a lot of good good funny people on it. And it was nice all went well. And we had what else are we did all kinds of things. Dietrich appeared, of course, and I met her I must say I thought of the most fascinating creature of seeing metal heard of my whole life should be hot. She'd be mad 35 And two, utterly, totally fascinating. It's almost impossible to describe the Allu that she had just extending that I've done that. Of course, I got to

Linda Wood  37:34

know. Again, my face. Oh, yes.

Donald Wilson  37:39

And we got along fine. And so on.

Linda Wood  37:44

So what's that night without Thomas?

Donald Wilson  37:47

Making that? And of course, I worked with him better on On Goodbye, Mr. Chips on that. But then, of course, we just wanted to make sure I decided he get those American who sold in the American Water footer. You're gonna notice him? Well, sitting in my office at Denham, working as production manager was with my secretary who has a very funny go. And there's still a man walked in. And he said, I'm footer I just played in. The plane in the United States was something. He said, Well, I've seen stapled on, I've seen shock. And I've come to see you in your mind. And I sit down, you get on with your work. I get all my work. Secretary was killing all this. And, and he shot his eyes and went on for an hour or so half an hour or so. I sent him and he got a thing out of his pocket. He said Look at this. And this was a photograph of an Algerian town on a rocky hilltop. So he said you know what they did? And I said, Yes. Obviously, I sit here in the desert. So I'm going to make a big movie with four ropes. And one we want to do that occasion was we wanted to get into Algeria. So we can use one of these walled high walled cities. But they won't let me do it for you. So they don't want me and so he said, we're going to Egypt instead. I said, You mean me as well? He said, Yeah, we go the day after tomorrow. Which passport? No, but I'll get it fixed. And so to unblock what makes you think that there are cities like these desert cities like these in Egypt? He said they got deserts there. So they got desert cities are of course the end of their story. We built just outside he made this of course the storage ag opinion that the media that filmer unbelievable. Motivated was a character he he gave me a clue and went into oil business made himself very rich. Eventually, I mentioned just after World War Two, he was very rich.

Linda Wood  40:26

By the office he seemed Cymbeline. So tough not to be sort of stopped by small sort of technicalities,

Donald Wilson  40:33

nothing could stop him. He was he was an ignorant man. And, uh, he made him made a kind of hit harder, sort of semi documentary of the amount of hunting of elephants and lions and things like that, which made quite a little sensation, as Dave could have showed a man being killed by a lion. And so this was the kind of thing he did. His brother ran a Film Library in New York. So he had all the stock material to build up and pretend that what he were doing was original, you know, that you see, he had these strange, strange ways that when we did go to Egypt, of course, you and I together, train to Paris West, or NightRain, from Paris, to all the way down to boot of Italy. And he woke me up in the middle of the night. He came into my room, which is vaping room next to him, woke me up, because we'd stopped. And what he weren't meant to do was to point out to me out of the window, the moonlight on this magnificent out. So you see, it's the sort of thing that I did,

Linda Wood  41:49

yes. And

Donald Wilson  41:53

straightaway, as soon as I got to eat it, he bought a red fares and put it on this bright red face underneath it, maybe he was able to character larger than life. And of course, on the freelance director that had wet, wet fatigue that three or four times before, and we were tremendous friends. And so DNI were, where they were, that were the team that worked on that. The minister, stories actor about that particular location better than that. i When we finish, and we take this off, I'll tell you one story. Great. But we went to Egypt, and we made the film. And by this time, maxar had run out of money. And he, he hadn't paid his bill to the Egyptian studios. So I film was held. I was given the job as the most of the people flew off. But I was given the job of collecting the crew, taking the crew. And the chief Freeland, the camera man, one of the actors, and we had to take a boat, we had to take a ship from Alexandria, the El Nino nil to genuine. And from general, we were supposed to go home or when we got to General, I just got rid no tickets to go any further. And this was a bright sunny day, there were 150 people in my charge, it was no money at all. And then I managed to pay for that one night lodging and none of us been paid for three weeks. So this was a phone dilemma. So I went to cooks and they said they refused to give me tickets. So but they did give me a free telephone call. And I got held up in London and told him you know that we were all stranded there unless you do something about it to do would do him no good at all. And he said after I got there I was I've sat in that office, they all went

Donald Wilson  44:13

out. And I said that I was all day until five o'clock the train went to set.

Donald Wilson  44:22

And I told them would meet me at the railway station and have our six minute left. And at five o'clock that call came through and he paid us paydays Cookeville in London, and they gave me tickets and we got a few anxious moment was the kind of thing that had happened to

Linda Wood  44:43

know. So one thing sort of being standard sort of outside reading but another thing into you know,

Donald Wilson  44:53

a nice time, but the film was shown on television not very long ago. a call and we found a lady called it was we she was rechristened by Waterfoot. Who just a girl at the cutting rooms in Egypt Egyptian girl because of the princess Cuca we bought it back to London and shipped it into the opposite pole in the film and whether it was an ugly English winter finally finished her off and she died shortly after she got her mark in Brighton brilliant film career or go anywhere I'm I'm wondering on the

Linda Wood  45:44

question not really know well, what what happened next after Mr. Shaq has suddenly disappeared out of your observably that was the last film you made a lot of

Donald Wilson  45:59

work or money. For a bit I was taken off to hospital and fed up

End of Side 1

Donald Wilson Side 2

Dave Robson  0:00

Side 2

Donald Wilson  0:05

A  great deal of  responsibility at a very young age. So then if you went into the Army as I did at the age of 29 First of all you were older than most of the others and my nickname as soon as I got into the army it was gaffer. And secondly, you'd had much much more experience of being with people and if you like handling people if you had to handle books to film stars and that sort of thing and temperamental directors all that business used to be had to go on the army life was was so simple

Linda Wood  0:54

right, so you're like sitting on it? Yeah. I think I'm Wow. Have I looked working day working conditions wages, where were you living? We've done all that first job, what were your duties? production techniques. Well, sort of woke up. Did you? Was there any work? Were you aware of subtle differences in sort of Denham and VIP? Sort of

Donald Wilson  1:41

differences of one or two main differences? Yes, Denham is a very much more modern studio. The stages were bigger, and they were built for sound, originally, whereas the VIP studios adapted for sound and the Hogan nothing like as good from a sound point of view. Denham was a very good studio. I preferred Pinewood work in many ways, but it was a very, very well designed and well a quick except I had this one enormous character which became we're so much within seven or eight times a day and you know, we'll run down that garden. But at one time, this way, this rather prosperous time. Me and David Rosen, at that time had exact us and make a motor car which was a Ford VA drophead coupe. Splendid. Taking out the girls. You get four in the front of us. I never open the bonnet except to put oil in a fabulous car. Top speed 85 miles an hour, but very good. And it knows the wide road outside Denham studios to Rickmansworth had been built but there's no traffic on it. And I remember David and I are starting our cars side by side just don't do one of us got his wandering mind was great and is black. A side by side outside Denham studios and we restorations were side by side without any trouble at all, I sneaked sort of home in front of them and direct them to you try and do that. Anyway, that's not a story to do.

Linda Wood  3:26

So to do with background of sort of film industry and house for film industry, people sort of find their recreation so what would happened next? What what happened next after the Paul Robeson film?

Donald Wilson  3:45

Well. Remember, I suppose if I was out of work again, I won't just as to when to stop live down at the pub down at the village. Pinewood whenever we finished it. I just stared down at the park down. And I went on living. I started writing some things getting a little money. And then I joined MGM for good monster chips. Something must have happened in between I can't remember what I got married.

Linda Wood  4:34

Pretty momentous

Donald Wilson  4:37

38 But that was after chips. I think that was article I can't remember. But that was great fun. And I got on very well. Then guess who of course has been the head of MGM. And the interesting thing about that, to me was the valuable thing May about it was, we did a whole lot of locations between them the outbreak of the war. And of course, everything goes down, as you know. And we all had work. That was all right, we knew it would be, we'd be doing this or that. But my wife was working with Cochran and then how to close down. And there we were. And I've entered the home and the shows opened up again. And she went back to work and so on, as well. But the interesting thing was that after I'd been in the army, the oxygen source Training Unit, I had word from MGM, could I get out of the army? Like me back at derived games adventure in the army or in the army? Nice as it would be. We always kept in touch and

Linda Wood  6:02

volunteer to go in. Did you volunteer to go in?

Donald Wilson  6:08

To be called up?

Donald Wilson  6:11

Too old to be called up. So I volunteered. And I was only a private soldier receiver sent me almost straight to the officers training days. And so I didn't really serve much as a as a private soldier. And anyway, what about coming back? On my last live out of Germany? I went to Germany, I was in Delhi. We'd been roughly in touch and bends or when do you get out? Right? I got out on 28th of October. He didn't just start here that 20 nines one of the nicest thing I've ever heard in my in my whole life. And I said, but I've got a fortnight sleeve, which I do to have me suggest still are on the payroll from the 29th which is madness. And of course, they've taken over the big studios of Elstree thing that which has been a shambles. And

Linda Wood  7:30

was the one which never opened before the war wasn't.

Donald Wilson  7:34

And it had been used for storage kinds of things during the war. And my job was to request it, which was a very interesting and very difficult thing to do, because you couldn't get stuff you couldn't get word you couldn't get anything. You had to go cap in hand or some awful pipsqueak in the ministry of the ministry that trying to permit for 1000 pounds worth of timber. But it was quite interesting. I did immediately after,

Speaker 2  8:13

What sort of brief did you have? Brief? Yes. What did they say? We want you to go out and build studio for sort of what to produce so many films a year or what to do. How did they go?

Donald Wilson  8:24

It wasn't it wasn't as as technical as what was required. I mean, you could just get the equipment the Moving Making equipment. This was this was possible. They bought it all from America. I'm talking about the furniture, I'm talking about the just a place where people would work. No chairs or tables, or desks or anything at all. No proper benches, in the design department does you know, it was it was equipping it from that point. We were not so much from until making field. So so that's really what it was. It was it was quite an interesting job. But I still wanted to make movies.

Linda Wood  9:15

Yes. How long before the film or the studio actually went into production? Were you there to

Speaker 1  9:26

know what happened was that David had started up this independent brand, which you may have heard with the Rank Organisation. And I'd also had feelers from what's his name down at Ealing ?

Linda Wood  9:41


Donald Wilson  9:41

Balcon,to  go and join him as a producer.

Speaker 2  9:44

Can I just ask you to Balcon with MGM just before the wall? What he's still with it by the time you joined he'd already are good and left.

Speaker 1  9:55

He'd gone from there sometime and Korda had gone

Linda Wood  10:03

Did you come across quarter when you were working at Denham

Donald Wilson  10:07

a couple of times now you the two other brothers? quite well. And before we show you something commitment. But I didn't know him. I knew what I knew I knew the other brothers better. So were

Linda Wood  10:33

we you were saying that you'd been having feelers from rank in connection with independent.

Donald Wilson  10:42

And David urgently wanted me to go. So we made this. I got live from them get to go and make this experimental, short film for children. On these lines, was only experimental because we didn't have the equipment. It was just I don't know what anybody ever heard anybody ever told you about this? This theory we had.

Linda Wood  11:11

No one has ever told us about the early stages of it. Yes, how it started.

Donald Wilson  11:18

The object of intimacy nobody ever knows about the object is quite simple, is that if you look at any film studio metrum still the same today. As reading it's got nine sound stages. At any given time. There is one sound stage on which sets are being built. There is another sound stage and which sets of beings strike strike. And a third one which filming is actually taking place. So random nine film stages, you only got three actually making a film. mystery out of all those tremendous shortage of studios. Yes. So the whole of this began with David going to rank and saying look, I think I can find your way of Sir economise economising on stage space, that the overhead results will be, it will be immense. And not only that, but of course, you'll be able to make more more pictures and the time, because this was the origin of it. i In order to carry this out, David had seen the first television work in an afternoon after the war, he'd been watching a bear character. And as a designer, he knew what what could be done apart from from that. So the object costs to save space to make do everything you could in one studio, rather than using App three, with two of them not in any use, that was the opposite of it. In order to do that, you had to do several other things. First of all, you had to make a set portable. So there could be moved in and out, almost while you were shooting. This meant they had to be much smaller, and they had remover and you had to have certain things made, designed and built, which would move silently and efficiently recept on them. So all assets would be raised on these movable platforms, which David designed. And so the same with the cameras with everything. So if you worked on it level. Secondly, second thing that had to be done, because you will reduce this, most of the setting to a minimum, you had to enlarge the quantity of backprojection to a point that you've used it as a as a to cover the larger part of the settings. So if we're sitting here talking and talking to you here, you've got to take stills of what you want from the background. And then you put your actors in place, and they'd move about in front of it. But you project, the background. So that background fabric and then an NBA news in back motorcars or, you know, moving that outside exterior windows and things like that. Because now to be used as, as part of a solid citizen. A very complicated thing. But this isn't already worked out. It's and this is the origin of it. Obviously, for me, this was it was a very interesting project. But I got dented in it, and Ben gets didn't want me to occur. We made the experiment. I proved doing that. And then I had this offer to go and continue from rank to go on and do this produce the hell first before photomed Because it meant that we could finish the film on Monday or so new one on Tuesday. It was and the further thing that it meant was it meant we had to rehearse as your own film making no I'm going to erase a scene and I should immediately in television, you rehearse the whole piece. As you know, I told him not to ask the whole piece, and then you should be surprised as long as you are if you can, and you've got the time stage. So this element was also to be brought into it pre rehearsal. So that when you've got the actors on the stage, you weren't starting rehearsals are spent using good stage time, it all comes back to stay at the cost of stage time. Yes. You say, You didn't use costly stage time to perfect the actors in the way they were going to do the same. So all this method gelled into one thing, which David given them independent cream, which I thought was a bad choice anyway. But anyway. So but it was a very fascinating project. Yes. And that I got to solve a problem ran to go and do it was David, by which time get Ben gets had had the idea. And he didn't tell me that he wanted me to be his successor at MGM, and run it here in England, because he'd always wanted his son to do it. And his son who's a friend of mine, never wanted to leave America come and do it. And then it had this idea that I would do it, but he didn't. He didn't tell me. I only got it from Mrs. Gets later. Oh, that's what he wanted me to do. So anyway, he was really didn't want me to leave. But this was obviously I was going to be making pictures. So finishing studio,

Linda Wood  16:47

telling carpenters where to put nails Yes.

Donald Wilson  16:51

So that's where perhaps we were, I had signed a contract. And David hadn't. And David and Frank fell out of his contract. Come in. You know, we've got another guest and I was one of the directors on this five directors on this thing was Phil Walker, Samos yes, no, I mean,

Donald Wilson  17:25

well, water sound was had a charming wife, who was always about to present anything dreadful that had to be done as a double or she always did for example, I mean, he'd he got to lay down the road and drive a car and stuck within an inch of her head and just kind of thing she constantly was, well men so seemed to be made outside and a lot of women because we have a huge facade of a building which was drew blown up by bomb first world war on bond. David built David Rollins. And he built the whole thing on rockets. It was really beautifully designed to get one taken there's a great match because three cameras all on dollies and we did a night and the betting was terrific as to whether it would work or very it wouldn't because if it didn't work in the measure of custody and there was a great deal of betting on it and because what happened was the cameras had to go in the explosions had to work simultaneously on a lever being pulled by me the the actual framework would break up and fall down while the thing smoke and everything like that because he was fine and then the camera would have to track right in the main camera. So the bedding was terrific and we everything was carefully rehearsed except the actual thing so and finally about one in the morning, ever we just water summers decided that we should go go ahead and shoot and shoot it, which we did. And it was day cold. It's a cold night. And so there we were, and everything worked. cameras on side of the building, noise bomb blew up. And the whole facade of the building France building again and the cameras moved right in into a bedroom in which Lang it and nitrous only with a head over the wall was Who do you think she'd been there for for addressing that Go code? Word.

Linda Wood  19:53

I wanted to ask if they had a happy

Donald Wilson  19:58

ending on it. is a very clever art director David.

Linda Wood  20:02

Yes. Would you like to say something a bit like David, Ron's nice? Because he

Donald Wilson  20:08

Yes, he was some, you know, he was his father was canon Ron's quite a famous man in his own sphere. And David standards as an architect and became an architect and went into the movie business as a trained architect designer. And he was fantastic worker. He drew a tremendous speed. And he do eight to 10 to 20 sketches in an hour for one set. Very knowledgeable, and a madman in many ways as well. He was the greatest fan but he was either pretty mad, he made an actress was a terrible girl, because this would be recorded I shouldn't. But anyway, they got divorced. And there's a funny story connected to him, which I went to and he was a Nikon and because I had to have a hand in it, and then e mail in the mail anyway, even he got had four wives we've already finished. And the second one this week, type boys. But after he is I got to the point of saying when we were just starting to work on independent prem and I'd signed my contract and I left MGM. Much to Ben gets his displeasure. Yes. They did ask me later on if I don't go back, but I never do after I'd gone into television. But I signed my contract was landed. And David rank fell out. And he took no more part in the whole thing. Because it because they withdrew his contract. So when they were offering him, and that was that he was out.

Linda Wood  22:08

He actually signed over the idea to rank well,

Donald Wilson  22:12

there's no, there's no services and I decided to sign as a as an art director. He was head of the art department. And as his job in life was to design and to do things and to indent things and to make things work, and it was no copyright. And so he got absolutely nothing. I said, Sorry, we're moving to pottery and drying and Chelsea.

Dave Robson  22:43

Everybody seems to fallen out of rank at some time. But if you didn't

Donald Wilson  22:47

fall out with rank or the story of the rise story, is this during the war? I met David with Joe Craigie. Yes. Joe Foote known Gerson she was her first marriage long, long years before she lived in Elstree. She was married to the man who was a system studio manager be in the studio. And so I met Joe and who was in working for rank during the war. And she said, When you come out of the job and David's had been in the army, we must kind of work the rank or snack law of mountains to work. So that whoever over and out of the army but then Davis is but if there's any one snag, you got to watch out there's a fella called John Davis.

Dave Robson  23:37

Something interesting.

Donald Wilson  23:39

Joe said yes, but you see if John David didn't exist, Arthur rank would have to invent it.

Linda Wood  23:46

Which I think is probably true. Yeah.

Donald Wilson  23:49

He did all the work. And Arthur anchored around Glasgow went around giving people presents lefty presents at Christmas time and reading lessons in chapel all that sort of thing. But there is to have to do all the all the dirty work, which he did, I may say, the sampler we've all come across.

Dave Robson  24:08

Yes, very much. We've all suffered. It wound the wound the exhibiting side of rack organisation in the theatres sport or lovely atmosphere they've been built up in the Oscar dodge days ruined everything terrible man. Sec, you're on the stock we didn't we didn't party here on the right side and those sorts of people.

Donald Wilson  24:29

So that was that and it was Davis of course who persuaded RAM to get rid of David Yeah. So he took no part in any of these films at all except that I consulted him all the time. Each time and also got him a little money here and it could be gone. But that was it and I landed there with the with the whole thing to do and they The these were experimental films, one of the I don't have to tell but that there are certain facilities that I wouldn't be able to have, I wouldn't want to be allowed to use any of the rent contract stars in case these films turned out to be no good day, so that that while and hoping that they will big films, which will make a profit, they didn't allow me to put the essential element into them, which makes it added the ground where the person find extra spare leading parts, which shouldn't

Linda Wood  25:39

have to say I sort of did have a look at the cast list and thought, well, you know, there isn't any of the lead, as you always say leading rank contract artists of the time.

Donald Wilson  25:49

On the other hand, I could get Gordon Jackson and Rolando. I introduced them which was at three Java, which was the rest of the rest of my life. Gordon's like I've always been delighted by the most successful

Dave Robson  26:04

guy died recently.

Linda Wood  26:07

But sort of saying that you couldn't get the actual stars at all. For instance, I made a note to the people in poets pub, and it's a marvellous catalyst to Derrick bond, Rhona Anderson, James Robertson, just this. Barbara Murray Fabian. Great. Maurice Denham after low Antony steel, that's not bad, is it for a little experimental film.

Donald Wilson  26:29

But of course, it's second grade. There's no star No. One star. And that's what I would have loved to have. They told me I couldn't have

Linda Wood  26:38

it's almost like to meet them too. Isn't it?

Donald Wilson  26:41

So? So all I did was to find the best actress I could. Many of them excellent. But not standard as he does for them, but James Robinson justice received Bamenda phone I used to give James Roberts it will happen is top car he's heads to count the top. He was so high, there's enormous dawn. And he's arrived and do his one day's work. Two days, where can I give him 100 times in his hand? most reliable, splendid chat.

Linda Wood  27:24

Sorry, where were we talking about independence? Could you talk a bit about the actual practicalities of making the four films at all? What you actually did that was different from what you didn't then had been done previously? Well,

Donald Wilson  27:42

I have expanded first of all, we had to have a script which was not an apart from the normal kind of script. We had our script which in detail as you're doing making television or do a detailed shot by shot script, which the director had to produce out of the original script that he was he was given which was agreed a visual script with with with the actual scene shown on one side of the page. pictorial of what that actual shot was to contain. I just couldn't wasn't hard and fast that it was a guide yes to everybody who read that script reading this scene knew which camera angles were going to be through at that particular scene. This was this again was a time saving element was advanced. If the rehearsals were right, then the director knew as he does even television productions know exactly where his costs are going to be at which and where you want his cameras to be. Now as in television, he puts it on paper so that we introduced this

Dave Robson  29:01

shooting with more than one camera then on the set. We did we were shooting with both said you could do that you had to do two of those.

Donald Wilson  29:10

I couldn't get that far. We would have done Yes As soon as we got the right cameras and David has been working on cameras which had that that element of of easy movement without sound and also with the the viewing capacity of a television camera. So if the director could could see all the time what is what the shot was all this was in hand but never came to full develop we were

Dave Robson  29:42

working on that that system that only Scott it was called electronic camera or something because it's another video camera. Control the whole lot and all the cameras are synced up so that you

Donald Wilson  29:59

shouldn't They've housing. So this, of course, is what kind of thing David was moving towards, but we haven't got that. So, what else different nothing definitely, except, except as I say that because of this kind of scheduling and scripting, I was able to schedule the picture to be made. And then a short time and Mickey power was taking part 20 weeks, make up 90 minutes, I was taking five. Pretty quick, you'll see. But by which you can shed a fiver shooting sheduled or time weeks, which were those days was was was unheard of. That was that was the the one of the other objects again, studios base studios base for time and time being money. So and we kept to their schedules, over all my five films that are made, we will never a day of service. This moment, this meant that I was able to make artists contracts to the day to see because I knew as Jamie justice, when I was asked him to make speech at some meeting and ACTT meeting. You weren't there, as asked to explain the system to the ACTT. Yes. And Jimmy justice came up. And it was he who said, what I like about the thing is that if Donald says he wants me on the 21st of October and the 22nd of October, those are the days I work. You see, and this did have this, this was the other immensely valuable aspect of it. So that, but we I must emphasise we were working rigidly to this constant. And therefore we gave us more difficulty than we would have if if it later as we would have been much more flexible in its yield. And we'd had this these developments in cameras and so on because we're talking about we never gotten anywhere that was that printer fame was a success. But not sufficient. So it was accessed for me to be retained. No contract.

Linda Wood  32:30

What happened? They just said, Okay, we're not using it anymore. Well, what

Donald Wilson  32:36

what happened was my contract came to an end and wasn't renewed.

Linda Wood  32:42

That simple, nothing.

Donald Wilson  32:45

I did have two other items in hand. I got the script got the properties. And they're both very interesting. And which the Rank Organisation later on sold one to MGM that's and the price they pay. The company has paid for these that I bought, did she recruit my total salary while I was with the Rank Organisation? They didn't do too badly. I don't

Dave Robson  33:19

know. How successful unreleased word films made with with your sort of independent

Donald Wilson  33:26

slant. It was a big success. Plant I was shown over and over and over again, especially in Scotland, of course. Printers are famous for success. moderately successful. None of the others were I would say box office successes. In big terms. I think a lot of them got their money back because there was so little money. But there's no hit except. So where are we now?

Linda Wood  34:02

We're coming to the end of independent fame. I just quickly trying to think if there's anything more I can ask you, but I don't think there is I think you've covered at all. Oh, can I ask? What did you find a lot of prejudice against the system?

Donald Wilson  34:15

Of course. All launders and Gilliat and everybody are in the hind legs but didn't make a pile on everybody. They all gonna state as you can imagine, and why wouldn't take it back because they felt this mac then imposed upon that so there was a great deal of prejudice. There was also prejudice among some of the unions. And I had a meeting Frank and I had a meeting together with what was his name the head of the

Linda Wood  34:54

GA thing was it. No, no, no, no

Donald Wilson  34:57

knowledge during this journey. jazzman a powerful chap. And I couldn't, I couldn't, I couldn't push it past him, that if it were possible for the Rank Organisation to make their films quicker and cheaper, more films would be made and nobody would be out of a job. I found it impossible depressors

Linda Wood  35:24

just assume that sort of they'd make economies which often wouldn't make more films, just that they've made the same number of films for cheaper, cheaper.

Donald Wilson  35:35

And the technicians would own this. In fact, there was no question of that cover gradient composition, but the my own team, Matina Van Gogh got together for this are absolutely wonderful. They were they were all for it, they would spend it.

Linda Wood  35:58

Yes, yes, you were also very unfortunate because 1949 About the time you're ready to start experimenting was a time that there was a great big collapse. And so it wasn't just you being cut.

Donald Wilson  36:14

Think it was nearly. And of course, at the end of that just just when I say I have contract was not renewed. This was a time when really Davis had persuaded rank to go into production. Yes. And the the thing that was formed who may remember, mostly by Bolkan, which was the groups one, two and three. I was politely informed that I wasn't going to be included in any of these three groups. When I asked why, and he said, Well, there isn't room for you. But I did make a for one for groups. Which was really fun. But that for no money. That was the last one my neck. Ah. Can I just ask Robin?

Linda Wood  37:13

Yes, yes, I've got details of that. That was on the television the other week and I managed to miss it. I was really upset about it. I don't know I miss it my video.

Donald Wilson  37:26

Very, very good. I like

Linda Wood  37:29

films from that period often think they're much better than their reputation. So how did you come to work with groups three when Balkans was so well antagonistic?

Donald Wilson  37:42

Well, I don't quite remember.

Linda Wood  37:45

Was it to Greece? And perhaps

Donald Wilson  37:47

I think it might have been my agent. I can't remember. I know he made me a very poor deal. Yes. I'd work many more weeks and without any more money. More than ever like to film anywhere.

Linda Wood  38:07

Well, let's have people talking about group C three say that bulk and never like group three because he always saw it as a sort of rifle to Ealing and at all, practically,

Donald Wilson  38:17

if I made the same idea. I think he would have been very happy. Yes. But he came to see it with me, and shook his head, he said there were two different kinds of humour acting Grilli, a slightly different kind of humour, which you didn't quite appreciate as old the old girl and that was absolutely wonderful. Am I authentically one of the very first performers I ever met, really, his father was a tumbler in a circus. Oh, and he and Dickie Dickie was quite young. To join, Dickie joined him in the circus and the tumbling act. And they used to appear and pantomimes, things like that. And they came to Glasgow. In the winter, they called the Nagano the Fincher movement. And then in the pantomime, which pantomime is, as you probably don't remember, which had these diminutive, they weren't excuse there was any of that was abandoned and that fade, Compton bled the leading lady, principle boy. And so when I first met them, because I did a drawing of the show for my paper, and I met them together for the very first professional that sort of met. And his father was incredible. It was a great bridge. I remember playing bridge and one Sunday, which he'd fallen down and hurt his legs so badly so many times. And not only that, but either or rearranged his Her work so much that he was much better walking on his hands on his legs. And if he got up from his chair to get a cigarette, he wouldn't just get up like you and I Yes, he'd do that. Yeah, go on to his hands go across the room, his hands and get on his feet

Linda Wood  40:21

still continued.

Donald Wilson  40:24

She pushed him, got him started as a coming out on his own writing. He'd never spoken a line on the stage until then. Well, that was the Christmas of 19 1021 31. I got it in my scrapbook, which I haven't got, which I'd like to show. My daughter in London's got it. I got a copy of that drawing, which Fairlight

Donald Wilson  40:59

and remembered right up to those days where she sits in the middle of the fourth set.

Linda Wood  41:14

Oh, that was incredible. That's cast picture is it?

Donald Wilson  41:20

That that's the horse. I have some that run me with those who made it.

Linda Wood  41:28

Oh, that's awesome. I'll just have the end we'll have to have a look at them.

Donald Wilson  41:35

So that was the end of that.

Linda Wood  41:40

Can I just sort of as you were sort of doing TV you were telling us about some wood and making Goodbye Mr. Chips

Donald Wilson  41:56

well after the war she was a rude word. When I joined, rejoined MGM, then then I was in Ben's office one day with another chap, I can't remember who. And by this time Sam Ward has a very big noise. The sign of him being a big noise was that not only was it directed by Sam word, but it was a Sam Wood production. Now this is the absolute accolade then Hollywood shouldn't do that. And then Redmayne What do you think Sam would have worked out for me? Sam, Sam worse? Oh, go on just between these three walls. I said, Well, I say if you really want to know what I think I think it's 30 30% talent and send your samples. And he said it's 90% So that's what we thought the great Sam word because he was me. He did he did made his name directly in the Marx Brothers. And of course nobody directs the mark brothers who just stood there and put the camera there. But that's that's how he got his fame. And how they how they had that. The stupidity was so big to Sam Of course, we really knew what he was doing. Better. Dominga man I got over from the depths of a new Miata in California. You meet a New Yorker that's not to try to come and direct something so totally English it's inconceivable but Victor's he had got the rest of the people right. And I got at least one person right. I got the technical adviser who was my old drawing master from Wellington retired. And if Dylan Carter his name was with the hyphens, and your little man with long black hair to back a very artistic character, he was captured Shahrukh Yeah, I don't always been fun because I was one of the two people that he liked in my lot at school because I could draw we'd stayed knowledgeable to each other and so I engaged I got him engaged or attempt on the weekers as a retired by then some technical adviser on Goodbye Mr. Chips and to see him and Sam Wood together was an extra treat because assembler didn't believe in double barrel names. So he called him Carter that didn't Carter didn't believe in calling anybody mister people of his generation and mine didn't. So he called him word. Would didn't like one scrapped

Linda Wood  44:59

Gnostic She's deferential.

Donald Wilson  45:03

The dialogues between them was absolutely wonderful to listen to. For example, you know there's a character called Young Woolley and the picture and the scene you see and Sam would haven't been talking to them isn't caught her saying she here Cara there's this little scene here is gone young Woodley and he comes to common room see and there's chips in there and chips come away and and sit down and have a cup of tea and a little bit and card we love happy together. Sam was a very tall man said no no, no we never do. You savages. Nice, it's kind of warm. So on this would have delicado with one

End of Side 2

Donald Wilson Side 3

Donald Wilson  0:00

My work with him on fourth , four pictures.

Dave Robson  0:02

Side 3

Donald Wilson  0:04

On four pictures, at least. And I did, I did something else for him. Before I left Durango diversion, I recommended him and got him a job to direct the film. Not me because it wouldn't have done any one man in my whole life. But I will admit that it worked, where he could work for me. And then later it necessary for him as Michael barrier. He worked for me as a director when I was producing. I worked with him before I got my department of my own at the BBC. I don't know the amount of could have done that with

Linda Wood  0:52

Yes, it's very difficult role reversal. Can you also sort of explain how you came to work at welling, which was also another little aside, you've told us during the coffee break?

Donald Wilson  1:08

Went to work at your centre? Because you've done something rather good. David recenter because he'd done a one time wonderful designs around was getting credit

Linda Wood  1:23

traverser isn't it to sending you somewhere like wedding just as a reward? So your film career sort of sort of came to an end? Sort of, I'm sure you weren't sort of aware that it was an end at that point. Were you Did you just see it as another period of unemployment?

Donald Wilson  1:47

I formed a partnership with them Lynn Williams. And we were going to make some movies together. And it never came off the ground with the ABC asked us name and we'd formed a partnership. Maybe we could make some pictures with them. And it one way or another. I've lost a year of my life trying to get to set up I went to America I grew up went to and I went to Nando's Angeles to try and because they asked me to go to do this. We're going to make make a piece of grassy field. But it never it never came to anything. So I lost her home. But our wave began, we began writing. And I sold a piece to the New Yorker. Which was the most encouraging thing that can happen to anybody. When I told Ronald Searle he was livid because he'd been trying to sell drawing to a New Yorker for 20. So this was a great encouragement. I know that you could you could do that.

Linda Wood  3:07

Was this a drawing? A drawing rather than

Donald Wilson  3:11

going in? With a drawing or drawing it? Sure.

Linda Wood  3:19

Yes, well wait that put that I'd like to see it after.

Donald Wilson  3:25

So what's next?

Linda Wood  3:26

So well? What happened sort of after you saw that

Donald Wilson  3:29

We nearly starved? Yes. Because when I left if you suddenly find yourself without an income, and you never got back taxes to pay your hand portrait so I went to work and I started writing again. And to anyone who could look at bio people did and chiefly to begin with was the BBC. And then I read it, the ITV was just starting up, I 'd done  three or four things for the BBC. During the first thing of all, which was standby to shoot, which was a thriller, about a murder in a in a film studio was fun. Because all the clues depended on the investigator learning something about how films were made, cutting room aspects, design aspects, here's a each each clue dependent on discovering anyway, that was the first thing of course, they paid very badly. And I read a whole collection for what's that all for little boy core school boy called

Linda Wood  4:46

Just William.

Speaker 1  4:47

for it ideally before they've even started. And Howard on added another couple of things to BBC and then they invited me to go on to start this script department which I must say was great, fun challenge to do. I discovered the negative, nobody really wondered. And earlier, I thought I was merely a sort of segment commander of the drama department. But my brief was to do far more than to take a hold of the whole script operation throughout the television service.

Linda Wood  5:30

What was the state of the script department at that point? Yes, when you arrived,

Speaker 1  5:35

When I arrived, the incumbent had gone. There was an assistant stayed there, as long as I was there, delightful chap and Betty Willingale  whom ran script library with one clerk, and has now retired producer and glands. And Helen Bell, who was my secretary, which was the most splendid woman ever lived with no debt? That was it. That's all were

Linda Wood  6:02

very small compared to what it would be today.

Donald Wilson  6:06

It only served the drama department.

Linda Wood  6:08

Yes. And what was the output at that period?

Donald Wilson  6:11

Well, this is when I discovered the audio, the output of drama, dramas about five hours a week, a week.

Linda Wood  6:22

But still, it's very small department for that size, output when you consider what feature film would involve.

Donald Wilson  6:29

I couldn't do much. But what I discovered, I mean, it was the first thing I did because of practice. Nobody knew who I was, or anything is I just went from Helen bill written found me all the backfiles. And what I found was horrifying was the extent to which writers had been badly treated and ignored. And that letter not answered, and they were just going to check about, they were then even then getting something like 100 manuscripts a week in and it was helpless, nobody could deal with it. They had two readers, hashtag readers read, written accordionist and staff has jumped in. Right away. I couldn't possibly read it anyway. But they read it and ferritic passed on to me and the things they thought were really good. But I found a whole mess of stuff in the files, disastrous things that had happened in my first six months performance and mostly spent in clearing all that up, you know, dealing with coping of it and letting the writers know that we maintenance often. And striking up a very, very fine acquaintance, copyright department of Dec who ran it was a splendid man. Hours said if you knew dec, you didn't really an agent. Because go see athletes. And an interesting arises interest. But that's that's what that began. And then it was realised that this kind of work would be never was necessary throughout the service, not just in drama department. That's why they made it into a department bias. So gave me the rank of a department chief. So that's how that happened. And we went on doing that.

Linda Wood  8:42

What would happen once you decided to make a particular do a particular programme or play? You got a script and you said, Oh, yes, this has got potential

Donald Wilson  8:53

came from. It came through our drug and alcohol director, they used to call producers that obviously, he had first call. And the first thing to do would be to find out whether he'd consulted or talked to the writer about the writer had to be brought in and then we had to make a bite of the rice stir through copyright department. And then producer and everybody was happy. And Michael Berry was happy with that. All right. And then we went ahead. It came in out of the blue, and I read it for example, and thought maybe I got the trickle down the back, which happened very, very rarely actually. I go to Michael Baird, to look, I read something which I think will help from somebody who never heard of Baggarly and Morgan. Suddenly, I had the blue abcam something which got there's a router or modem which I modem is first time that we're going to we're going to be some I will take too much Michael and Michael do so if if I recommended strongly, and then he would decide which producer to ask her to take it over. And to him from then on. That would be the principle of it. There's two different methods of a chariot. If there's a script or centre of mass, I'm Dr. Priestley, for example. And he sent me a script once, which had been all around every theatrical agent in the world was so tattered and torn, and there was a band script. And we had many a battle over there, but I flatly refused to rest. And his agent rang me up and said, priestly, saying that you are not stupid, and therefore you must be prejudiced against this play, because it's political content. I said, No, the only thing is, it's a broken back play and pristine who's been walking around. So this was a kind of thing that might have. But mostly, I mean, was was the recognised authors. There was somebody go through the process of discussing it and rewrite. And we would we got to this this power system of downpayments, to certain amount, and, you know, to work so that the author never had to sit down and work on his prayer without him knew something to help him. You while he was doing it? Yes. Which is terribly important. So we arranged we organise that and we gradually over the years, made better and better deals for writers. One in one direction or another. And we got to we got to, we made it a rule there shouldn't be invited for rehearsals. And instead of being just general, the director seems very thorough, like love the director didn't like

Linda Wood  12:01

that, yes.

Dave Robson  12:04

A story outline, did you also expect to have a script or were you happy with that, and script writers would work on that or

Donald Wilson  12:15

very rarely happened, mostly, this sort of thing and much more common dramatisation of a book or, or a series of short story of something. And then I had two staff writers with UCS add up to eight altogether, two of which were flat entertainment shows, one for children's programmes and the rest of the drama. They would work with the writer, yes, on developing the story, thing, whatever it was into script forms, and then certain fairly good rules laid down for how much we paid at each stage, and how long it's to take and so on. And when that was done, I mean, if this was this was working independently of a producer, then eventually it will come to me. And I would just give my comment on it and recommend to Michael barrier whether or not should should be bought and then finally kindly agreed to schedule, the schedule. But of course by then the product the amount of screen time the week was growing all the time. And commercial started. So we are now in competition. People are writers. So it became more and more difficult.

Linda Wood  13:40

Once the BBC very apprehensive about the start of commercial television or what's your in your department particularly Did you think it would affect you in any way?

Donald Wilson  13:51

The BBC as a corporation, where I think nervous to have two things, one of which happened 10 birth, one that making television will begin much become much more expensive. And it did because you had to pay more to be able to come and work there. Otherwise, they're going to the opposite trend. Competition segment. That's competition and competition. Secondly, there were there there certain people in the BBC and I was certainly one of them. were anxious, that in order to to compete, we might be forced to drop our values drop down standings, and I'm afraid that happens almost instantaneously. And this of course, was the cause of the uproar. That ended with sudenly Newman being brought in recycled bag going ahead of all this, this business.

Dave Robson  14:59

He came up with may be seated his Newman

Donald Wilson  15:02

can maybe see Yes, yes. But there was a long gap between Michael going to, to start television, which he did. And and certainly coming in I mean, it was a nine months, three years during which the whole thing almost fell into disorder because the chap in charge wouldn't show up next,

Linda Wood  15:35

at this stage where you sort of largely did you have largely an executive role and did a one to two talk. Okay, description sort of, generally sort of a poof, did you keep away from it? The actual filming auto,

Donald Wilson  15:51

I used to go independent. Yes. And sometimes go with considerable sets behind me when we opened up winning the new studio in Glasgow, and I managed to organise it so that we met Tasik serials. This was a marvellous for them, because it gave him some quality, good quality material to work on and use that studio properly. And actors loved going there and working. And I used to go I went once a fortnight to Glasgow, Glasgow once a fortnight just to see that the stuff was, you know, everything was working. But this was our test not being able to script our script. But then that was an idea that happened, Sydney arrived and became head of serials department. Yes, you'll see where I had a much closer interest in the actual production. But as head of script department know, only when an emergency arose or when asked for which happened quite often.

Linda Wood  16:58

Yes. Did you like it when things changed? And you'd once again became more involved in the protection side? Or did you find both sort of satisfying in different ways.

Donald Wilson  17:13

Numbers were certainly his ideas on the value of script department were totally different to what we've had, and he was giving the producers and the directors far more direct authority and over what was being done. Also, the amount of product was increasing all the time, making it harder and harder for the small, close view of just two people. So that this became a it was going to become obviously a job which I wouldn't have any more interest in. It wanted somebody doing it, who didn't have the kind of background that I had. And so I was quite happy to to move and do the the serial thing. I was also quite happy to give up that job to do the foresight to get back to real production on my own. How do I get out my job as as had

Linda Wood  18:16

just I hadn't realised that I just assumed demoting

Donald Wilson  18:18

myself, PVC hierarchy to find a new name for me. So they call me senior producer, Senior Producer

Linda Wood  18:30

invented a new term just for you.

Donald Wilson  18:34

They had to cut my salary of course. That was all I had, because of course, I read a lot of scripts.

Donald Wilson  18:44

But I'd always I'd always felt and Michael that I had the same feeling in his own way that anyone heading a production department should put himself up for scrutiny by his colleagues or his juniors, people work in either microscopes by going down to the floor and directing a piece now and again, which he did. Or for me to write something because I did things like the superfan walkers they know wreath for a general, every now and again I would quite positive to say to write something myself. So those people who I was criticising or talking to or editing, we realise that you know you're putting on you hope that they think I was actually talking

Linda Wood  19:45

Yes. Yeah. Well, I think it's very easy to feel resentment about criticism from somebody who's never done something and therefore doesn't realise what the problems are. So just make it

Donald Wilson  19:59

to try Alright, somebody wants to hear anywhere, usually six material over dramatisation or something once a year for play.

Dave Robson  20:10

Did you ever do it? You did never do

Donald Wilson  20:16

it realise I was 44 years old when I went to the BBC. I think through the technique of television live television production, yes.

Donald Wilson  20:32

I felt then that I loved it. I didn't want to try this difficult, quick, elaborate thing. I just want to put myself to that stress.

Dave Robson  20:46

Yet and there were some some amazing people like George Moore Farrell, which is quite a joy for failure. He was the chap. He was absolutely absolutely had

Donald Wilson  20:58

to do. Do but then he had been doing it.

Dave Robson  21:01

Yes, yes, yes. Probably. Yes. Yes. Because it was,

Donald Wilson  21:05

especially in the early days before before tape. It was a nerve wracking. Yes.

Dave Robson  21:11

Oh, yes. Who put the idea up to the BBC to do for science? Whose idea was it? Mine, it was yours and your audience.

Donald Wilson  21:19

I'd been trying to get the rights for seven years. See, MGM had the rose. The amount of property in the books forever now. 17 years old. Germany sent. I read the books as they came up from that on Yes. So there's always been in the back of my mind or something to do. And then MGM made this drip drip terrible version. Ghastly, that foresight?

Linda Wood  21:51

Well, I can never understand how on earth they cast Errol Flynn or so you know, as Bossini. But so

Donald Wilson  21:59

it was it really was. It was hilarious.

Dave Robson  22:03

That I didn't see that

Donald Wilson  22:07

you see was a little plastic. But anyway, I don't always want to do it on television. I thought it would work. And what happened was that copyright department and I had been in touch with the goals whether your state people, and the society of authors, we had an interest in it. And with MGM for a long time. And this, the scenario was kind of what was worrisome to me, I was coming up. And so I thought, well, now this is the time to do two things involved. First of all, I had to talk David Attenborough into doing it. For BBC Two. This is where our TETRIX heroes were being done. And I was in charge of them all, anyway. And then to find out if you're possibly get the right. Well, I went to down to Elstree and been there for years. Talk to the chap who was then running MGM, very nice man. And he had, he had so much lag to our television tactics, that he said, alright, I'll go to my people and see if we can make a mega deal. So how would that help? I went to David, and talked to him about it. And my first thought was, we tried 30 In the first 13. And that was successful gone to do that he and David said, no, no, to hell with it, we're going to do so good. So we negotiated and negotiated and MGM are too happy to oblige. They had no took no part in the production at all. But they did do was to take good part of the overseas profits.

Linda Wood  24:12

Yes, because we

Donald Wilson  24:13

didn't pay anything. So we shared about I mean, the BBC has certain sets of British Commonwealth, and so on and so forth, and MGM had the rest of the world sooner. That's the only sole interest in the whole thing. When the deal was made, except that I found that the two of the books didn't belong to MGM. The MGM has sold to 22nd of 20th Century Fox, one of the other big companies, years ago, donkey's years ago, so that there's another right. This was almost when we were beginning. I discovered this. However, we got that sorted out and they They're the owners of this isn't gone down through a con through several houses. And eventually we settled down, we got the got the rights. And it was at this point having known we would we could not do it, that I went to Sydney and said, I would like to strip down from my job and, and tech was over and my baby. So then I sat down and I read the first three scripts, which were, of course, read rarely flashbacks. They're all based on material, which was told about later on, but yes, started 1214 your story. So I read those three scripts, and got Kenny more to read. Read them, because I knew he'd be right for Julian, and the voice, the voice to begin with. After that, I'm moving on. But we were tight for time. We have 26 scripts to write and rewrite. We only had a year. From the time we could start until the scenario when they had to go out. In fact, by the end we were three weeks after we had to test because we will catch up. And so I thought Matt and showing one a week

Linda Wood  26:40

getting slightly anxious.

Donald Wilson  26:45

And of course as soon as soon as that new thing, it will be old x next all Battlelog bell rang up and said what Barnum, I'm

Linda Wood  26:52

going to ask you how did you get your Casper?

Donald Wilson  26:55

Everybody wanted to be in? Nora Swinburne, I'd never worked with me. She ran around and your husband very well. And said come on now was for me. What about one of the rounds? Yes, sir. Yes. Sir,

Linda Wood  27:17

what about the LI so you said how you decided on Novik port on Kenneth Kenneth. Eric, because he was just

Donald Wilson  27:29

David. David knew him quite well and had worked with him and recommended him so strongly to me. And I've never seen him. You know, he's waking up, saying I don't understand work. But he came down. And we had a long, long talk on that. I knew he was dead, right? So he got out of his engagement with the Royal Shakespeare Company did.

Donald Wilson  28:00

Susan HAMP has signed a different I just saw her picture response. And it seemed to me absolutely rang her up and asked her to come and have lunch with me.

Donald Wilson  28:16

And when I got there, she was talking fluent French to the head waiter. Junior. I knew she was right.

Linda Wood  28:28

Especially for that part. Yes. How'd you realise what you were going to talk about? Or is it just coincidence that she was speaking French she knew she knew. She's

Donald Wilson  28:40

stupid. Maybe just like took pictures.

Dave Robson  28:44

I was just gonna say she thought of doing that. Because here's

Donald Wilson  28:51

what she found hard is reading a script a lot that she found almost impossible to do when you first meet for her and read the script through. It's absolute murder for her. Which is why I was always trying to give her a script way ahead of time so she could learn from before before she came to the first read through. Then she was fine.

Linda Wood  29:20

And then there was no return Porter. Absolutely exquisitely beautiful.

Donald Wilson  29:25

Well, he had been in one of the classics, Oscar, and I thought she was wonderful. I don't think she was the greatest actress in the world. But my goodness, she worked hard. And she looked absolutely everybody so in another way we're the only country so that was that and all the other parts fell into place simply because every actor in England wanted to be in it.

Linda Wood  30:00

Were you slightly nervous when the first episode went out? No, you knew that you'd got to

Donald Wilson  30:06

learn more. About the first time the first episode made that went out, we made 12. And it was the brand department everywhere doubt about it. But before we started,

Linda Wood  30:27

especially when you sat down and 22 scripts to write, and that huge sort of volume of books to condense.

Donald Wilson  30:36

It all went very well. The American wanted to buy the original manuscript for her favourite British copyright and copyright prayers for me. I found them all except script number one, which I've written myself as I do in longhand, and couldn't find it anywhere. Actually does vanish. And so I thought that I have to write this again. Then I discovered since I've done that, the PET NEWS foolscap paper had gone metric, yes. A different size that would never have done. I hunted all around Television Centre until I found a block of foolscap old foolscap, who arrives, and then I read down, planted him out against the most boring cars and making mistakes and grabbing them out, because that's what I do. I've crossed them out each page and I finished with it is is complete with no rub no aggression. So I rang pencil that I run for I finish a page. And the reason for that is simply that if I do that, I can time a page. Ah, yes. Whereas you got one page with 20 alterations or another with only five. I could tell to within a few seconds, how long a page man would play on the on the screen? Yes, doing it that way.

Dave Robson  32:26

How did you do that? Just by reading it at the pace that you would like to produce? You've just read the script? Yeah, yes, yes.

Linda Wood  32:36

Yes, that's something I'm interested in. How do you know how long to sort of make a particular script and how much time to give to a particular incident? And how do you are you aware that all sorts of I should have got to this before this event before this page?

Donald Wilson  32:51

No, I wish no one knew what the end would be. Yes, of anything I ever rode, which is going to remain very good. Grand novelists who returned this is terrible playwrights whose No, no, no, no, how can you possibly do it this way? But that is the way I've always done it. But that means you when you know what the end of a particular script is, or indeed the end of a scene, are you right to the to that end? That's the question. I don't quite know. But it's very hard to

Linda Wood  33:27

but I think it must be something you do instinctively sort of. It's,

Donald Wilson  33:31

it's something that as far as Euclid comes to you can do it. Some people can never do it. You know, some mildest writers like Arnold Bennett, he longed to race was the one who and that was with a co author called something externs remember, I got a copy of this. He loved right with it. I never could. HG Wells long term never could. Whereas your Christian lives he could do it on his air. I mean, it is a it is a it is a gift. And I'm writing it particularly I think I give to somebody like Glen Morgan, who never written anything in our life. Like his daughter schoolmistress in South Devon, South Wales suddenly comes up with a dialogue which is totally expert. First things you ever read? Yes, it's amazing.

Dave Robson  34:35

It's a gift.

Donald Wilson  34:36

And I think Baltimore is another genre though that's what happened. What else? If anything?

Linda Wood  34:49

Do you have anything else to say about the four star girl do you think knew what happened when we were telling your story about not quite forging but rewriting Volume One Did you social successfully send it off?

Donald Wilson  35:05

We'll go a little bonus

Linda Wood  35:12

Yes, sort of you probably first straight and most critics because they like people who cross things out and probably furious when he got the manuscript and discovered it's just really sort of a handwritten version of a type thing printing

Donald Wilson  35:25

others. The other writers, which I never saw anything back, it was only my own original. Only now those which are written by their original and other writers, and with their approval, I've scribbled over 100 times, they are all in thing to say.

Linda Wood  35:52

Can I just ask about the classic cereals because we sort of didn't that really what gave you the idea of doing them because they became incredibly popular, didn't they?

Donald Wilson  36:05

Nobody gave me the idea. The first classic cereal done by the BBC Television Service was done before the war. It the number was a time when they were not being done. But there will be done in half hour episodes. You'll see and Ron Haskins at that. When we received began, I put down down to David Attenborough, who was started as the controller of BBC One. That No, it was David, that we should start again with that curios and really do them well by giving them an hour episode. And doing each book we took according to its worth in length, not according to just some laid down rule. And this way, we agreed. And so that's how that happened. So it was it was only a progression of other guns for for many, many years, an invention of mine.

Linda Wood  37:16

But it was certainly became much more popular, didn't it? So so everyone started sort of switching on to watch the classic series.

Donald Wilson  37:25

More care was given to them. And as I say, the one hour format, suited them very much better than the other half is fine to thrillers and things like

Linda Wood  37:39

sitcoms. Most of them, and it depends on how well they've done some of them are sort of quite good, but others are half nice too long. So what what happened after the fort I saw goes

Donald Wilson  37:58

north of Fort Santiago, devices and not having to go to meetings anymore. Minister to consultation was and all the rest of the rubbish didn't have to talk to 120 people once a year about Korea via annual interviews.

Linda Wood  38:22

I would have thought it a certain level that stopped me to say to even heads of department had to

Donald Wilson  38:28

once a year, every every person in your department has to be interviewed once. And I didn't know enough of all that. So I read the chat shows. And we made it and Gerald beadle liked it far better than the folks at Target, put it on record and in the BBC TV. Daniel,

Linda Wood  38:55

what about you? Which one did you prefer? Well, I do they all have this place in your heart as the Royal babies,

Donald Wilson  39:01

the churches was far harder. It was much much much more difficult. I know narrative. To start with to begin, I must have read I think 30 books and dipped into another 20

Donald Wilson  39:24

I had to invent very much more. I had to invent him a data on CW which was not stilted but could give a flavour of the

Donald Wilson  39:41

early 18th century which would work in that way. It was much more difficult to cast a lot of trouble with a tonne of the cast

Donald Wilson  39:59

and It was it was probably the most difficult thing I've ever done. So one has a kind of liking to things to end on the things that are difficult to do. So I kind of like it. It looked beautiful. Did you see it? Yes, I did. It looked it looked like a Dutch painting through beautiful Dutch interior throughout the car and it was heaven. Which did it to me very much. But it was a it was a hard hard grind from beginning to end that one. So I did that. And then I was I was retired you'll see I got too old to belong to the BBC and they wanted me to do it stay on and do some things with new people in different departments. And they wanted me to do things which I didn't both to do. And I went did a job for Anglia What did you work for them on? Sirius they made with Orson Welles the Giants checkups produced and I'm look, I looked at all the scripts and got more written and written. So that was quite fun day a year doing that was a great fun, like something totally different. And they were there very nice, but it doesn't pay me very well. Did that.

Linda Wood  41:36

Did you actually get to work with Orson Welles or did he just sort of turn up

Donald Wilson  41:40

he was invisible.

Linda Wood  41:41

He was invisible.

Donald Wilson  41:44

Three times. All Scripts are finished. Always probably production. And he was he wasn't acting. He was only doing the sort of introduction to each one of them. He insisted on writing the introduction himself. And I didn't like a lot of what he'd written so I reread.

Donald Wilson  42:08

But that's all we only met three times. So I did that. Then I went to America and wrote a script. Just great fun. And I came back and I wrote up another script or somebody was and then I. And then then Carlo Ponti asked me to go and write a script with him for him. So I went to Rome and had a fantastic session that love came back and wrote Anna Karenina, ah, which of course mattered was going to be that took me a year and I got extremely well paid. I did all my work at home, just get

Linda Wood  43:02

off to a very nice place and golf.

Donald Wilson  43:07

And then, of course, everything fell through from here is going to make it in Russia, which I told him I thought it was terrible. But it all fell through. We didn't have money. I couldn't get the money. I couldn't get a Russian things to agree to do it. And so that it didn't, didn't happen. So let's Hello

End of Side 3

Donald Wilson Side 4

Dave Robson  0:00

Side four,

Donald Wilson  0:02

came to an end and we started all over again. So we made it.

Linda Wood  0:08

Yes, I remember. See it. I enjoyed it. 30 Yes. And

Donald Wilson  0:13

we made it. We just made a tape of it. Ah, what a cool video video.

Linda Wood  0:21

Oh, it's gonna be released. Oh,

Donald Wilson  0:23

it came out. Beginning of beginning of the year. Oh, and I edited the best way to handle improved. video shows shorter. Yes. Very good. So that's, that's about it.

Linda Wood  0:45

Yeah. So that's the end of your career. There's just one or two general questions like which we always ask everyone who has most helps you in your career? Would you say? Oh, if the if anyone sort of how would you feel?

Donald Wilson  1:02

People walk through my life? Would you say I'd say I'd say the Features Editor of the Glasgow daily. Daily Record is certainly one. Oh, David. Certainly because he published everything I wrote. When I was 19 years old. I drew pictures. So so he was certainly the one. Paul Boyle, perhaps who was a great friend of school and helped me a great deal later on, where we helped each other and David Rawnsley certainly I would say Michael barrier probably more than most simply because Michael had certain standards, which you've been mad not to try and arrive at yourself is splendid, man. I could go, I could go on. I think I learned a lot from Tony Freeland. In many ways I don't know who else but many, many others I'm sure. I suppose that the editor of the New Yorker featured department who became data managing thing have written me a charming data accepting my piece that I read for at a time when I was very low. And that was meant a great deal on me.

Linda Wood  2:40

All right. Did you join the ACTT?

Donald Wilson  2:45

I did initially after the war and resigned when I stopped making I'm not a joiner anyway. I was trying to do difficult but I was

Linda Wood  3:00

yesterday it was the BBC didn't recognise the ACTT did they so it couldn't have been for many years? Which I think you've probably answered there sort of but which piece of work gave you the most satisfaction

Donald Wilson  3:20

a difficult song I wrote in the Army Air for the Army review that I produced

Donald Wilson  3:35

yesterday, think so. Because in it's way it was it was it was perfect.

Donald Wilson  3:45

This was a this was a comedy piece comedy little comedy Song army overturns even though you remember the song Smoke Gets In Your Eyes. Yes. Well, you know what I'm in the army we're in the army. Do you know what I'm water? Fast bombs. So I'm going to smoke bombs

Donald Wilson  4:13

civil peace your hours on average two. So my views and he said my task because number two of the mortar crew is to gain surprise and I realised Smoke Gets In their eyes oh that's a joke on so there's little things

Donald Wilson  4:48

which I also read a piece about Sam Wood and his musket. At the end of chips, which we had a party Sam Wood wasn't there. I've heard of Sam Wood and Sam small and you know, I should

Linda Wood  5:13

simply question things like that are impossible to answer. Right? You might not be able to answer the next one which piece of work gave you most headaches?

Donald Wilson  5:26

Oh, I think I think the first shirt shows with

Linda Wood  5:32

Have you ever worked on commercials? adverts?

Donald Wilson  5:36

No, I was asked her I invited her when I was at the BBC invite again, go and run the department for some company or other making commercials. And I thought I had

Linda Wood  5:53

made the right decision. And the last one is, what are the biggest changes affecting the film industry that you have seen during Film and Television? In your case, that affecting? I start again, what's the biggest changes affecting the film or television industry that you have seen during the course of your career?

Donald Wilson  6:13

Biggest change over Manning over mining? When you think of it, two men and a boy did 50 years ago 150 now?

Dave Robson  6:27

Well, it's called back again, it's request television. There's hardly anybody not knitting.

Linda Wood  6:34

I don't know if that's still the case at the BBC. I think this certainly an independent television, but it's a 12. I think they have a lot of permanent staff still at the BBC.

Donald Wilson  6:45

I think I think I would have said it's very hard to pin

Linda Wood  6:53

a writer's at all, it's not that you're involved in technical equipment, is it? So you know, and as you still write longhand, you don't use a word processor, that's something you've managed to avoid,

Donald Wilson  7:03

I wouldn't understand how to use one I did, I did have a little Turing machine. And I simply could not dictate, I could dictate letters and everything I wanted to do. I couldn't dictate creative work. And

Dave Robson  7:17

it's funny that it's totally border that you can do it. It's gonna be easy. But

Donald Wilson  7:22

I had a shoulder trying to write something and I couldn't write anymore. So I went to reading and I bought one of these things, you know? Absolutely impossible, couldn't get the word out. And I gave it to my grandson.

Dave Robson  7:38

It doesn't work. I don't know why that is. Well, it's a fear of the microphone or one's voice or something. But it just doesn't work. My Account

Donald Wilson  7:46

simply doesn't come to see the words on

Dave Robson  7:51

which of the two mediums if you'd like, what was your favourite? I mean, you wouldn't feel anyone television, which is the one you like the best working in film or television?

Donald Wilson  8:06

It's the answer that is simple. Yes, really, is that when I first went into film, I would have liked it better than when I was ending in films. And the same is absolutely true television. When I first went into it, I liked it better than even being an early film. Yes. Yeah, towards the end. A little bit perhaps.

Donald Wilson  8:29

I think there happens to be a you get tired.

Donald Wilson  8:33

But being in movies and films in the early days was very exciting. And being in television. Drama in the earliest days, was very exciting. I found when I went to television, the same values among and standard that I found in the very early days of movies, which had gone by the time I left

Linda Wood  8:55

the enthusiasm.

Donald Wilson  8:58

But I think there are far more crooks to deal with in movies in every sense, but also some very marvellous character. But we say undertow. Anyway, so

Linda Wood  9:16

that's all and thank you very much. Oh, it's been very, very interesting material.

Donald Wilson  9:21

Well, I I just don't know

End of Side 4