E E (Dave) Davies

E E (Dave)
Family name: 
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Interview Number: 
Interview Date(s): 
27 Nov 1991
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Dave Davies (DD)

Laboratories – Production Controller (Technicolor)

BECTU No. 230

Interviewers: Alan Lawson (AL) and Syd Wilson (SW)

Date 27/11/1991

2 Tapes


Side 1

00:00:00 – 00:03:00 Introductions; born in South Wales, Troed-Y-Rhiw (foot of the hill), 1921; grammar school until 16; moved to West Drayton; first job in a carpet factory dissecting carpet for quality control; moved on to working in traffic control but he didn’t have enough qualifications.

00:03:00 – 00:05:20 Applied for a job at Technicolor; Mike Allen (Company Secretary) saw his application and asked when can you start, without any interview 30/05/1938, started out in a clerical job; joined the territorials in May 1939 and called up in August 1939 until 1946; 4 years in the artillery and 3 in infantry; later became a Sergeant in the Army before being demobbed and returning to Technicolor.

00:05:20 – 00:12:00 Wrote to Lesley Oliver at Technicolor who told him to start when he’d had enough leave; started on £6 a week; next few years formed control of production; pioneers of organisation and methods; always an administrator, looking after customers release print requirements; nothing went through the plant unless it was sanctioned by the production office; Basil Oliver (supervisor – Lesley Oliver’s brother), Jack Simmons (16mm), Len Allen, Val Gibson, Ken Casey; built a nucleus of what was production planning; 1950 – a state where the laboratory did what they wanted rather than the other way around; George Gunn; Dave Davies got to a stage where he was working with every print manager at every major distributor –United Artists, Columbia, Warner, General Film; because Technicolor was a secret process, nobody was allowed into the laboratory; one department could not go into another; he built up a rapport with the distributors for 30 years.

00:12:00 – 00:18:00 At its peak in the 1960s, Dave Davies would have a year’s schedule on his desk; initial print run was 50 prints for North London, which then went south of the river for the next week before going nationwide; further 50 prints for export (they made prints for the world except for North America); later prints were done for redubbed tracks; prints for France, Germany, Italy and Spain; Pathe Pictorial every week (650 in total); 2 COI magazines (Carousel and Roundabout); Rank Screen Services advertising (100-500 copies); major sporting events for Pathe; 180 million feet a year.

00:18:00 – 00:26:40 What you need to make a Technicolor film; you need a matrix not a negative (Yellow Cyan and Magenta) and a soundtrack; a matte loop was used to make positive soundtracks from the negative; each film was given a production number, Four Feathers was production 12, Wings of the Morning was number 1; by the time Dave Davies left they were up to 22,000; if a foreign version was made titles would have to be re-photographed; if there was anything detrimental to the country they would make cuts in the dubbing and then from the image; selling films to TV meant that sometimes the films would run shorter than promised as a result of these cuts; 1,500 features were available on demand to print at any time; their record system was so good that Dave Davies could answer any questions about the film passing through Technicolor; prints for German television were printed lighter (2 prints lighter); his filing system was transferred to computer in 1985.

00:26:40 – 00:34:00 Dealing with the Hollywood plant in America (50 prints in UK compared to 3000 in America); there was a continual exchange of information between the two labs, sharing ‘facilities’ (various components which make up the film); Technicolor have a bad name because of their monopoly; at their peak television came along – the industry didn’t think too much of it; before they knew it, Technicolor were no longer always required to make prints as colour reversal came in; a number of processes were introduced to combat the threat of television; new audio tracks were also introduced.

00:34:00 – 00:45:00 16mm work was done for the multinationals (BP, Unilever, etc) for showing in village halls (100 prints a time); printing techniques for 16mm audio; the first film with magnetic track in the UK was a reel of Alexander the Great; when prints were being requested for television, a great deal of research had to be done to track down the original elements, and to find the correct version of the film; ‘blanket’ releasing – 300 prints across the country (the Bond films were released this way); cinema managers could request to keep the film at the end of the week rather than it moving on to the next theatre; The Queen is Crowned sent all over the world as was the 1948 Olympics; bulk printing decreased dramatically in the 1970s but picked up again after the blockbusters came in the late-1970s.


Side 2

00:00:00 – 00:01:45 There was a competition between Eastmancolor and dye transfer as in the 1960s there was a split between colour reversal and matrices; the balance of the production schedule shift to half Eastmancolor and half matrices; Eastmancolor was a strange thing to the veteran Technicolor team; Eastmancolor wasn’t as complicated; with more people in Europe speaking English, more domestic prints were sent out.

00:01:45 – 00:12:25 Ideal Film Laboratories used to etch titles on rather than overlaying them; Tales of Hoffman - 31 pages of 30 column analysis paper listing various versions of the film; cartoon programmes in Scandinavia of Disney films; they knew that during the school holidays, the Disney films would be sent out again; United Artist bought Warner Brothers cartoon so they had to change the titles to reflect this change; changing footage in BP films; Cal-Tech films.

00:12:25 – 00:27:00 Dave Davies and his team were not against change but resisted interference from ‘experts’ asking the impossible; quality control – specs of dirt and dust often led to production shutting down and dirt being removed from prints by hand; although the matrices were dried before being put away, if it was still damp, enzymes were created from the algae in the water which resulted in spots forming on the matrices, ‘mottle’; there was an anti-computer movement at Technicolor because so much knowledge couldn’t be taught; Technicolor was so different to other plants; a barcoding system was introduced to identify each title and how it should be printed; this information was added to a computer 1984-85; Dave Davies explains how Technicolor recorded orders which passed through the lab.

00:27:00 – 00:35:00 In the 1960s, the processes became fully automated rather than separate processes which involved taking the print from one machine to another; a technique was developed wherein trailers could be added to a feature which went through a loop to save time as a result of odd reel lengths; printing surplus film reels was never a mistake, there would always be a requirement for it somewhere in the world (TV print requests etc); 70mm was always done at an Eastmancolor plant; Dave Davies earned £2 a week when he started and finished at £12,000 a year.

00:35:00 – 00:45:37 Dave Davies was always happy in his job and enjoyed all aspects; he would take orders to the value of £500,000 and nobody would check it; many of the staff in the 1960s had been working together for 30 years; families came to work there – the Bonners, the Thorns, the Robinsons, the Smiths; domestic release prints were a priority – cinemas never missed a print from Technicolor; customers were looks after but the big print runs were prioritised; Paul [Fasnak ?]; premiere copies were always selected from a print run; Dave Davies became a Cinema Veteran in 1978; he dealt a great deal with customers on the continent.

Side 3

00:00:00 – 00:20:52 Walter Jacks from Warner Brothers (Continental Manager) and his visits to Technicolor; Lilly Lang (Columbia) based in London; Dave Davies discusses his relationship with continental customers; attending Premieres in London; Clive Howard (UIP); the more films they made the more problems they had – some films would be out of sync; Don Kingaby; 8mm films for jukeboxes in 1960s with a ‘Devil’s knot’ in it which would play in a loop; also made educational films for schools; medical films; religious films; MRA films; Ron Jarvis (Theatrical Production in Hollywood) invited Dave Davies over following his retirement.