BEHP0196 Frank Godwin Synopsis.
ACTT INTERVIEW No 196 – Frank Godwin, interviewed by Roy Fowler 30 May 1991 and 14 June 1991
Synopsis of interview by David Sharp.
NB Overall FG seems reluctant to say much against anyone, even when prompted, and comes across as a rather dry, slightly old-fashioned character. There is a lot on film finance practices on Sides
Family background. Born 23rd June 1917 at City of London Maternity hospital (Leslie Grade was born in the next bed).
Family had background in music hall and theatre: Grandfather was on the production side (possibly on the first stage version of Peter Pan), later at Drury Lane and Duke of Yorks.Grandmother: Ballad singer, Eagle Tavern. Auntie: Marie Lloyds’s dresser. Family livedin cottage behind Pavilion, Whitechapel. Karno-Chaplin connection (FG was to co-produce Chaplin’s last picture – unmade – ‘The Freak’
Mother (b 1891)- jewish was stock player in melodramas and was the Odol girl in ads. Father, Christian, not in showbusiness, but in the city. Brother, Ricky, was a solicitor, worked for Korda and then Army Kinema Corps
After school (Coopers) involved in drama. In 1933 with Ball Baker & Co (?) city accountants (very Victorian ethics); Auditor (clients: Royal Marsden also New College Oxford). In a band called the 1st Avenue Swingtette, joined Workers Music Association, songwriting , met Alan Bush composer.
Joined Unity Theatre, as performer and organizer, did 1000+ shows gives examples of venues, audiences and talks a bit about performers (Bill Owen/Rowbottom; Kossof; Alfie Bass, Warren Mitchell, Ted Willis; Gambon, Bob Hoskin, Lionel Bart)
TV production: Winkles and Champagne, general wartime entertainment reminiscences,reviews etc, wanted to become “3rd rate Variety artist” but...
... becomes internal audit clerk at Gainsborough, talks about “Robbie” (A W Robinson)£350 a year Sept 1943 at Lime Grove, working out daily set costs. Shared office with Andy Worker. Mentions Fanny By Gaslight, way to the Stars, Mason, Archers, Ostrer.
Beginnings of Rank, move to Denham and Budget Costing Dept. SIDE TWO
Denham, other sites, size of unit (55 people) and refers to some of the “fiddles” and moves on to discussion on “efficiency” of financial activity.
Oliver Twist 143 studio days costs £438,000; London Town 217 studio days, costs £832,000.
Rank in 1947; more on meeting him and setting up pre-production and preliminary budgeting processes; Board meetings.
(muffled at start)
The Golden Age, Rank in USA, decline in British exports to USA, duty on imports. Rank underwriting Ealing productions, Pinewood being built. John Davis (JD) and boardmeetings and FG’s relationship with him.
Independent Producers group, Earl St John.
Federation of British Film Makers, Sydney Box, George Archibald.
Assoc producer on Penny Princess (Val Guest/Yolande Donnelan Geoff Unsworth)
Talks about applying for ACTT membership, rejected. Jumps forward to 1955 when (on Portrait of Alison) Bessie Bond talks to him about joining and tells him he lackedexperience hence his earlier rejection; so refuses to join, and doesn’t until 1977 when hemakes Electric Eskimo.
More about Earl St John – Penny Princess.
1950, c £3000 a year.
Romeo & Juliet (Neorealist film) sent to Italy to rescue production (“One of Best Colour pictures ever made”). Harry Miller, Bill Travers, Laurence Harvey.
Budgets for Genevieve
Leaving Rank for Pinewood, Julian Wintle and Anglo pictures Portrait of Alison (US: Postmarked for Danger) at Beaconsfield studios and location work.
Ted Willis (and Skywalker) NFFC; Woman in a Dressing Gown; No Trees in the street;Operation Bullshine (ABPC), Don’t Bother to Knock.
Small world of Sammy Lee
Hammer: Demons of the Mind (co-writer); filmed at Schloss Bolney, nr Brighton and based on (phony) Legend of Blutlust.
Not a wheeler-dealer, preferred creative side.
[Last part of Side 4 blank] SIDE FIVE
Talks at some length about involvement with Children’s Film Foundation (CFF) howpictures were made, budgets etc. Positive aspects of working cheaply, but efficiently, and
the pleasure the films gave. Gradual shift to fairly realistic films, but with moral overtones/ good examples (eg proper green cross code road drill as hero races to escape).
Danny the Dragon (wrote title song, never got airplay but sold 50,000 copies with Kenneth Connor singing)
Lists a number of CFF films Sky Pirates, Fire Fighters, Boy With 2 Heads, HeadlineHunters, Sammy’s super T shirt, and their festival and critical successes.
Aged 62 when had first directing credit.
Talks about casting; chaperones and conditions attached to using children; “stagemums”.
More about CFF, budgets went from c£27,000 to c £184,000 over 20 year period. Breakout (shown at LFF) Terry on the Fence.
Thatcherism and shift in attitudes to consumerism.
More about Earl St John; compares US and UK systems of production.
Independent Frame and David Rawsley, (killed off by negative report from FG) and use of various technical processes that have changed film-making and could have impact on costs.
More on budgets and Rank early days (largely repetitive of earlier part of interview). CFF and costing processes.
Rounds off with views on being a director but also mentions composing, lyric writing, for Friends of the Earth etc. Hints at this continuing, but he just might direct a picture again.
Prompted by RF to talk about other board members at Rank (clarifies Production Board, not main Board) but won’t really be drawn.
Julian Wintle: workmanlike, shrewd, not warm-hearted, opportunist.
Rank Outsiders group – no comments made
Balcon, Earl St John, were they hardworkers? Balcon yes, St John no
Unions and politics – evades answering, but talks about how at CFF because of minimum rates, you got often old men who were low on the union list, and on one occasion he had to take stills because the Stills man sent wasn’t up to it. Didn’t like to sack people, butagrees one can be over-kind.
More about CFF and use of 16mm film that meant all the colour film could be printed before editing at much lower cost than 35mm. Talks about importance of editing and philosophy of directing and also that CFF films were not allowed on TV until much later when new deals were struck but there were no residuals for personnel involved.
END OF INTERVIEW