Erwin Hillier

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Interview Date(s): 
1 Nov 1988
4 Nov 1988
10 Nov 1988
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Interview notes

Sides 1-6 recorded on 1 Nov 1988, sides 7-9 on 4 Nov 1988, and sides 10-15 on 10 Nov 1988.  There is no side 16. Last 2 Tapes added are on Austro- Hungarian Cinema.

Erwin Hillier in at the start of German cinema and continues through British Cinema from 1938 to 1965. Born in Charlottenburg in Berlin to English and German parents being a polyglot was to hold him in good stead later on. Eventuall choosing photography over painitng Hillier joined UFA under the eye of Fritz Lang. Here he worked as a general assistant on the film M. Hillier talks about the equipment in German cinema at the time. Mostly German but some Czech products. He rapidly progressed to camera assistant under Lang. Germany in the 1930's was becoming very anti-semitic wiht the rise of Adolf Hitler. Lang encouraged by the actor Peter Lore was introduced to Gaumont British and joined them under Michael Balcon.The Ostrer family owned Gaumont British. Hillier had early associations with Alfred Hitchcock. Also mentions early discussion with ACT union as it was then. Hillier made lots of films for the MOD during the war. Although due to his German roots he never filmed abroad as he would have been shot as a spy if captured. Hillier recounts many WWII stories. This being a very personalised reminiscence many British film companies and individuals figure in Hillier's interview and  very robust answers are given to questions from Roy Fowler. Hillier discusses in detail about camera techniques as well as going in depth about Film stocks and developing. An exponent of the Technicolour process and the cameras used he explains fully the for and against of the three matrice Technicolour process..After the Second World War Hillier worked for most major British film companies. Possibly his biggest success was the Dam Busters shot by ABPC. Hillier's recount of the production and filming, he even shot the aerials, are quite fascinating. Hillier also tells the story about his biggest flop. The musical London Town with Sid Field was by common agreement a very bad film The trials and tribulations of this film are set out in detail by Hillier. Location shooting in the early days could be quite hazardous. On the film I know where I am going Hillier describes some very near miss moments at sea. Anecdotes are also featured some about stars of the day and directors, once again very robust comments. Some now very many years later would,have been considered indiscreet. One interesting one of Directors "clocking in " for work at Shepperton Studio's. All in all an A to Z of the Cinema industry as seen by Erwin Hillier. Including a in the last 4 sections a history of the Austro-Hungarian Cinema.