Gerry Humphreys

Interview Number: 
Interview Date(s): 
21 Aug 1995
Production Media: 
Duration (mins): 

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Born in Llandrindod Wells in1931. Educated various places, left school in 1947 first job as office boy at Nettlefold Studios – has some interesting stories about those days. Was promoted into the Sound Department as a general hand. 1949 National Service in the Royal Air Force. Demobbed 1951, back to Walton Studios as Boom Assistant to Fred Ryan. Then when Fred was promoted to Recordist, he became boom swinger. The Adventures of Robin Hood series; I was Monty's Double Talks about location work and problems of batteries. Then Technicolor added to the problems created. In those days there were never any redundancies. He talks about the differences he noted of working practices between Walton and ?

[Summary ends abruptly at this point]


Side 1

Alan Lawson.

The copyright of this recording is vested in the BECTU history project.  Gerry Humphries, sound recordist, dubbing mixer, managing director of Twickenham Film Studios.  Interviewer Alan Lawson.  Recorded on the 21st August 1995.  Side one.

Now, first Gerry when and where were you born?

GH 11.5.1931 in Wales, a place called Llandridod Wells which is in Central Wales.  It is now Powis, it was then Radnorshire.  I think it sounds better Radnorshire but I don’t think the Welsh would agree.

AL What about schooling?

GH I went to all the normal…well the war years came along.  When the war started in 1939 we were in Eastbourne and then we got evacuated back to Wales in fact, where I passed my 11+ and then by this time it was about 1942 or 1943 and we moved because the bombing had stopped, we moved to Esher.  I had already passed my 11+ in Wales and then I went to Surbiton Grammar School, then the doodle bugs started and we all got evacuated to Bridlington in Yorkshire, so I went to the Grammar School there.  In early 1945 we came back from there and did another year at Surbiton Grammar School and then out into the wide world which was by then, like every child that used to go to the pictures two or three times a week I certainly wanted to be in the film industry and had written all the usual letters to Rank and to Sound City at Shepperton, any names I could get that were appertaining to the film industry I had written a letter and got all the usual letters back again, 'Thank you very much indeed.  We have got your letter on file….' Which is embarrassing because I am now writing the same letters to people who want jobs.  All to no avail.  And then one day my brother who had been to Shepperton and was on a bus from Shepperton back to Esher where we lived saw on a board outside Nettlefold Studios, Office Boy Wanted.  So he came home and said Nettlefold Studios Walton, they want an officer boy.  Whoosh I was off and fortunately got the job as office boy at Nettlefold Studios as it was then which became Walton Studios.

AL Who engaged you?

GH JK Morris who in fact died last year.  He lived in Weybridge.  There was the Studio Manager called Bill Norris who was in charge of accounts, JK Morris about a year or eighteen months later Bill Norris left and JK Morris then ran the studio from then until the day that it closed.

AL Were they brothers?

GH No, one was Norris and the other was Morris.  JK Morris was the one that took on the studio and stayed with the studio until in fact it closed.  And so I became Office Boy doing all the usual carrying trays of tea and delivering the letters and all that.

AL Did you get on the floor much?

GH Yes, I used to get on the floor at every opportunity.  The picture that they were making when I first joined – well they were just finishing – there was a set on the back lot for The Master of Bagdam, the Tom Walls picture – Ann Crawford, I can’t remember the other artistes.  Just finishing that.  Then they were making a Frank Randall picture When you Come Home, Diana Dekker was in it.  But I used to go on the floor at every opportunity.  Then Margaret Lockwood did a picture The Milk White Unicorn.  I was still the office boy taking the great Margaret Lockwood trays of tea – this was stories I could tell all my friends back in Esher that I had taken tea and fan mail to Margaret Lockwood.  Margaret Lockwood, Denis Price, Ian Hunter – I can remember those names today and yet someone I met yesterday I find I am having trouble with remembering.

I can remember they had a party for when they had got what would be called today an assembly cut of that picture which was one of the big pictures of that era to be made at Walton, and they ran – they fixed up a screen on the big stage there and they got the press down – and they ran and I sat and watched from the back of the stage a film that was done in nineteen o something or other, your archive will tell you, Rescue by Rover which was shot at Walton Studios.  I think it was about ten minutes or it seemed like ten minutes now, Rescue by Rover the dog, obviously a silent movie which they had got all the invoices for and I don’t know what it had cost, whatever it had cost £37 or £75 or something quite ridiculous, and then they showed The Milk White Unicorn, the new latest epic out of Walton Studios, Nettlefold Studios, which had cost £150,000 or £160,000 or something.  I remember, I think it was in the Daily Mirror, the report the next day said we were given some drinks and food at Walton Studios yesterday where they showed us a film which was made there I don’t know how many years before, Rescue by Rover which cost whatever it cost.  And then we were shown the latest epic The Milk White Unicorn which we are told cost £150,000 and actually I could not see the difference.  [laughter]    Probably they were right.  So that is the trap you have to be very careful you do not fall into.  But all those pictures, the Chrissie White, Mary Edwards pictures that were made at Walton all those years before.

AL You were talking about a 50th anniversary.

GH Well that was one of the very first jobs that I can remember doing as an office boy,  The studio used to run a monthly or quarterly magazine but it just so happened that this year was the 50th anniversary of the studios so they were doing something more special, and apart from all the bits and pieces of information inside, the stories of who was doing what, to mark this anniversary the paint shop came up with a colour front to it and all these fronts had to be stuck on to the front of the magazine by paste.  So that was one of the first jobs I can remember doing, pasting all the fronts of these brochures with this Special Edition for the 50th anniversary.

Then many, many years later, six or seven years ago and the studio has for many years been knocked down, the local film society in
Weybridge and Walton had a memorabilia sale for some charity at the Playhouse in \Walton and I say this in the local paper and my wife and I went along to it.  And there was a single copy of this magazine that I had stock all these things on the front.  And in fact there is a picture inside of all of us sitting out on the lawn being addressed I think by the studio manager.  I am actually in the picture although you can’t recognise it as me.  So I was determined to have this for old times sake and the bidding opened at 50p and then it was £1 and then it was £1.50 and there was a lady that I was bidding against and I was determined to have it so when it got up to £5 I thought – it is for charity and anyway I want this brochure.  £10 she went £10.50 and it finally got up to £17.50 for this.  I could have made a film in those days for that amount of money.  But anyway I have got it and it is my prize possession in my drawer that I have got this brochure.

There was that and blanking out – the two things I can remember in the actual office as opposed to going on the set and watching them shooting.  Nettlefold Studios had asked to become a limited company and they got all the invoices and everything made but then the documentation did not come through so with black ink which was on a kind of goose quill on the end of a stopper that you had in those days, I was having to blank out the ‘Limited’ until such time as the documentation came through that we were actually a limited company.

They are the only real things – getting the papers and the cigarettes.  Cigarettes were a big item in those days because you could not get them.  They were under the counter so I got known by the local tobacconist and used to have an order from the person in the sound department and the cameraman and the people in the office and – 10 Players here and 10 Woodbine so I used to  have a big shopping list.  Getting cigarettes was a very big part of my duties in those days.  They were not rationed but they were difficult to come by.

That was in 1947.  September 1947 I joined Walton Studios.  And then after a year in the office getting onto the set and watching this magical thing called filming as much as I could, which was quite a lot, I then went over as general sweeper upperer, wrapping up the cables, putting the microphones away in the sound department and the then chief, Red Turtle and I was there until September 1949 when I had to go and do my National Service which I did in the RAF.  I went in for 18 months but then I was home on a 72 hour pass and I had been to see a Chelsea Arsenal evening kick off match and I came home and my mother said Mr Atlee has been in the radio dear, something about National Service.  And I said OK and ignored it.  And the next morning I switched on the radio and because of the Korean War they had extended National Service from 18 months to 2 years and I had had this demob calendar on the back of the door saying I had got three months to do, suddenly I have got 9 months to do.  Which did not go down too well because all I wanted to do was get back into the film industry.  [13.23]

So September ’51 I was demobbed, came back to Walton Studios.  I had reinstatement rights.  I think it was six months they had to – I am not certain but I think it was 6 months.  I came back there as boom assistant.  I had been doing some camera operator work before then but I didn’t like it.  Some camera work you are in a room away from the set and I did not like that.  I wanted to be on the stage.  So in fact I took a drop in wages in order to be a boom assistant as they had in those days.  But now I was on the floor.  I was on the stage and could wrap up the cables and get the mics and a do a bit of second [14.14] ???

AL Did you get any training at all in the sound department or did you pick it up as you went along?

GH Picked it up as I went along.

AL Really.  Who was the boom swinger then?

GH The boom swinger I mostly worked with was Fred Ryan, later known as Ted Ryan.  He became a dubbing mixer and he had a heart attack in Wardour Street.  He just came out of his dubbing theatre in Wardour Street and just went and that was about four years ago.  Fred was the one that I was mostly assistant to.  The mixer was Lindop.  So Lindy was the mixer, Fred was the boom swinger and I was the boom assistant then when things started getting busier and busier Fred became a mixer, I then went boom swinging with Lindy and then Lindy regrettably died of cancer and then I went boom swinging with Fred.

Lots of pictures.  I always remember a question when Radio Luxembourg was on I was listening to it one night and one of the questions to the contestant was what was the busiest studio that made the most films last year.  And they said Pinewood or Shepperton and in fact it was Walton Studios – never mind the quality feel the width.  That is probably putting it down a bit but we always had pictures on the floor there and in fact Walton Studios was the answer to this question on Radio Luxembourg.  Whether it was the Robin Hood series which was done there with Sid – I was boom on that and the mixer was HC Pearson, Pip Pearson.  He did all the Robin Hoods.  Lovely man, and I used to almost a bolt hole for the winter.  During the winter there was probably not so much shooting going on on the stages and so I would go on to the Robin Hoods but then when the pictures started and the locations started during the summer I used to go and be boom swinger on one of the proper pictures as opposed to a TV series – although now my eldest son who is 38 he watches the Robin Hoods which are running on television now and thinks they are fantastic, the old black and white.

So then it was just a series of one picture after another

AL Any outstanding location jobs?

GH The longest one was probably Monty’s Double which was off to Gibraltar and Spain and Tangiers.  That was my first overseas one.[17.38] France a couple of times.  But the Monty’s Double was good.

AL In those days you had sound tracks didn’t you?

GH You  had sound tracks and you had big….you took a thing called a Q channel, a Western Electric.  Most of the studio were RCA but our only mobile sound track was in fact Western.

AL They were enormous things.

GH Yes.  You know you practically needed riggers to lift it around to get the camera part of it.  They were monsters, and of course all the banks of batteries that you had to take along with it because you not only fired up the sound equipment but you were running most of the time the camera.  So you had this huge bank of heavy duty batteries that accompanied you.

AL I can remember those when I worked on a serial which was made at Stowells and we had a Western sound track with John Denis and I know eventually they had to bring in a night watchman to charge the batteries.

GH Oh yes.  That ended up as the sound maintenance perk, you finished the day whatever time you finished but his time sheet went on because he was having to top up the batteries and make sure they were charging and even might have to come down at three o’clock in the morning to make sure everything was all right.  That was the sound Maintenance Perk for that.  Obviously it was necessary but whether it was necessary to come down at three o’clock in the morning to check them and whether he did or not I don’t know.  I was fast asleep so I can’t say whether he did or he didn’t.  But then that whole era – a lot of the pictures now in the late 50s were Technicolor with all the ensuing lamps and heat that got on stage.  I would hate to be working on a stage now and on a Technicolor printer with a three strip which was wonderful because when they had to reload and they had to get that camera out of the great big blimp and put it on a tripod and blow it all through with an air hose and everything to make sure, that was great because to reload the camera was certainly fifteen minutes and it was a relief to jump down off the boom and get out into the fresh air.

I can remember on one picture a Claude Raines picture, The Man who Watched the Trains go By and the amount of light on that.  I don’t know why that one should stand out [20.54] but I can remember the stage being so hot – there were some great big sets on it I guess and everything was being lit by great arcs and everything and the heat factor, the extracts could never take out what they were generating, so that was that really.  It was just a succession of one picture after another.  Obviously the whole studio employed the staff be it electricians, painters…

AL It was permanent crew?

GH Oh yes permanent crews.  There was no four walling in those days. [21.33]  And if there was a break in production you were still kept on.  Redundancies were just unheard of.

AL Well only for indiscipline.

GH Well yes.  Indiscipline or if you had your hand in the proverbial till.  It just didn’t happen.

AL It was a happy place.

GH It was a very happy place.  There was a good atmosphere to it, because it was small, it wasn’t the size of your Pinewoods and your Sheppertons and your MGMs and your ABPCs and when one thinks of the amount of studios that were about in those days.  So there were these four small stages, and everyone knew everybody of course, who the riggers were, the painter, the plasterers, the carpenters, stage hands and it was a friendly atmosphere.  It wasn’t quite as rigid I think as the big studios in the union sense.  Today it would be classed as left of Stalin I guess but in comparison to restrictions that used to be imposed it was not – it was just a little bit but I must not over emphasise it, but there was a little bit more give and take than – I remember being hired out to Shepperton on Room at the Top as a boom swinger, they wanted a boom swinger for a week.  They wanted a second boom swinger.  I wasn’t the main boom swinger on it but on this particular set they wanted two boom swingers and this was the first time I had actually worked at [23.56] another studio and the amount of breaks and discussions and things that stopped play with the stewards surprised me.

AL Was that with Frank Cousins then?  The steward there?

GH It could have been.  I don’t know.  Did he work there?

AL Only before the war.

GH This was later on than that.  I don’t know who the……Peter Handford was mixing that picture and I think it might have been Jack Davis who was the boom swinger for the picture.  It was great and I was working at quote a big studio.  Having said that I was quite pleased to get back to Walton.  And it just carried on like that until Walton closed in 1960 or 1961.

AL But you were mixing by then weren’t you?

GH Ah yes I was assistant in the dubbing – I was the effects mixer.  We then built at the end of 1958 I think, because Walton Studios had not got a dubbing theatre.  And then we built a dubbing theatre and Fred Ryan who was the mixer, the floor mixer, and myself went into the dubbing theatre and the pair of us were mixers in the dubbing theatre.

I had done a couple of small pictures the mixing on the floor.  Nothing to write home about but then when the dubbing theatre opened I went into the dubbing theatre and it could only have been two years I guess that the dubbing theatre was opened before the whole studio closed.

AL What was the reason for closing?  Was there a proper reason?

GH I don’t think there was a proper reason – I’ve got to be careful since I am on tape –

AL You can embargo that bit if you want to.

GH Well then I will embargo it!  Well most of the people are dead now anyway.  All I can say is that certainly the studio had taken out loans and we just walked in one Monday morning, we were in the middle of a picture, and the banks had foreclosed on this loan.  It was not that the studio was insolvent because in fact when everything was settled up and everybody had got paid a pound in the pound including the banks, including all the staff there was still money left over.  So it was not that the studio was insolvent.  There was a rumour that certain people wanted to sell it for real estate.

AL Which was true!

GH Which was true.  Well it was certainly sold as real estate, how Machiavellian it was to sell the studio I am not in a position to really know but that was certainly the rumour.

AL Had there been a change on the Board?  More accountants coming in?

GH No, no.  An accountant K Morris ran the studio.  Hannah Weinstein of course had a lot of shares in the studio, not that I think - Hannah was probably too occupied with producing than the actual running of the stages.  She left that to others.  It would probably have been better if she had paid more attention to that side but she was a film producer not a studio runner or management.  And she married of course Fisher.  But certainly I have not heard anything from that day to this to alter my opinion that there was no financial reason for the studio to close.  There were two pictures on the stages at the time, we were in the dubbing theatre working, there were other pictures due to come in then suddenly literally on the Monday morning the gates were padlocked and we were not allowed in.

Al Tell me about Hannah Weinstein.

GH [2905] Hannah of course came along with Robin Hood which was the first I believe I am right in saying, the first television series to get a network in America.  Very, very successful and she built up this organisation that sort of turned out Robin Hoods almost like on a factory belt.  It was unusual because I had not I am certain and Walton was at the forefront of anything that was able to be done quickly like the B pictures and things like that, but certainly she came in and obviously people like with Sid and people around her for advice and Robin Hoods used to be turned out – you would have the sets on stage on wheels so that what was a castle draw bridge one moment you turned it around on the wheels and suddenly it was the battlements or M’lady’s bedroom or something like that.  And it was very, very well organised.

AL Who was the Art Director on those?

GH Now a person who in fact, Peter Mullins used to do some but there was another….

AL Peter Proud.

GH Peter Proud!  Absolutely, the two Peters.  Peter Proud was the top and then Peter Mullins came along as – I don’t know what his official title was – but certainly Peter Proud.

AL He was probably Assistant Art Director.

GH Probably was.  But they got it down to a fine art.  We used to turn out those Robin Hoods on schedule.  We would go through and….

AL Were you aware of her presence?

GH Oh yes, oh yes.  Everyone knew Hannah.  She was a hands on lady.  She would see the rushes.  Yes, sometimes she would be in America and things like that but she wasn’t a figure that would just come in ….her office was there, right in the centre of the studio.  She was part of it not just the financing and setting up the deal, she had a say in what they were.  And of course Sid was really involved in it.  And they had all these named directors now, Slessinger did some and Bernie Knowles.  First time I ever saw yoghurt being eaten was Bernie Knowles.  He used to have one at ten o’clock in the morning.  They did not have such great variety as you have today it was just plain yoghurt, but I used to watch this man at ten o’clock in the morning he always used to have to have his yoghurt.  Funny stuff you know!  Hannah Weinstein’s office, when the dubbing theatre was first built we were dubbing away but we sued to get clicks over the system, just an odd click, one click then you would not have it again for one hour or two hours or maybe not that day, and just one click is very hard to find.  If you get a nice good hum that stays there you can trace it down and isolate it and cure it, but a click that would suddenly come in the middle of a reel….and we could not trace these clicks and then one day the mixer, Fred Ryan, and myself we were in the foyer of the dubbing theatre and we used to have the volume in the dubbing theatre turned up high, we were still trying to look for these clicks, and we heard a click and then a bit later we heard another click, and I said to Fred – you know those click coincided with those lights going on.  This was in the middle of the day but there was a light over in this office block.  And I said, ‘Fred, do me a favour.’  So we went to the phone and I was a clock where Hannah Weinstein had her offices in, so I got through to her secretary and I said, ‘There is a window that looks out on the back there.’  She said, ‘Yes that is Hannah’s private loo’.  I said, ‘You wouldn’t do me a favour would you and go and switch the switch on and off.’  And she went over there and she switched the switch and we could see the light flashing on and off over there, and every time she did it there was a click over our speakers.  And the earthling of the wiring of Hannah’s loo was giving us clicks in the dubbing theatre.  So we disconnected the earth and things like that and got rid of it.

They were good times at Walton, good times.

AL Then when it closed what happened to you?

GH When it closed I was fortunate.  Literally as the studio closed on the Monday, on the Friday a personal who was assistant dubbing mixer at ABPC called Hugh Strain had left ABPC to open up Warwick Dubbing Theatre in London and the Sound Chief at ABPC Tony Lumpkin was now looking for an effects mixer for the theatre.  He heard as the grapevine goes very quickly by lunchtime on the Monday that Walton had closed, phoned me up, said would I like to come down and see him.  I went down on the Tuesday morning and I started at ABPC on the Wednesday morning.  So I was not out of work.  So then I went down to ABPC.

AL That is quite a trip.

GH It is a very nasty trip, especially for someone who has not got a car.

AL How did you get in then?

GH It seemed all right – I suppose you can call it youth.  I used to get the bus to Weybridge Station, train to Waterloo, underground to Burnt Oak, and a Green Line bus down into Elstree.

AL How long did that take.

GH Oh Alan, I can’t…..

AL Two hours?

GH Two hours, it must be.  And then there was that terrible winter when the ice was on the road in November and stayed through till March whenever that winter was, and trains were cancelled and there were fogs and things so you would end up if you were lucky, you were able to get into the guards van which was absolutely packed with people anyway because one out of three or one out of four trains had been cancelled because of the weather, ice on the rails, whatever.  So it was quite a journey.

I was there a couple of years and then I got offered a job at Star Sound at Hampstead.

AL How come you heard about that?

GH The mixer that was leaving there to go and work at Kays and in fact funnily enough I didn’t even know him and I think a friend of his called Malcolm Stewart who I knew and had worked with, he was a maintenance man who I had worked with quite a lot at Walton, and when this man had given in his notice at Star Sound Hampstead to go to Kays at Soho Square and the person who ran Star Sound said, do you know anyone, he apparently through a roundabout route said Gerry Humphries who is now at ABPC and I went up and had an interview with Faraday and got the job and I can remember I was getting £22 10s or something at ABPC and then I was going up to £29 at Star Sound….

AL And less on fares….

GH …and less on fares, exactly, which was a big consideration, and time.  In fact when I went in the next morning to give my notice in to Tony Lumpkin at ABPC and he asked me where I was going, I said a place called Star Sound.’    ‘Never heard of it.’  ‘They do commercials and documentaries and things like that.’  And he says, ‘Gerry you can’t go there, think of the prestige.’  So I said, ‘My bank manager does not bank that.  He is only interested in cash.’  Which wasn’t the sole reason but the travelling was a major consideration but also the money was quite good too.  By now I had started a family and I stayed there until 1964.

AL As Star Sound does not exist anymore does it, I think it is worth describing what was there.

GH Star Sound was in a lovely old house in Hampstead, listed building, just up the hill from the tube station Holly Hill, and it back onto the famous pub….

AL The Holly Bush

GH An the Holly Bush, the Bull and Bush is down the road, and the owner Faraday had turned what I think was the Music Room of the house as it had been built into a dubbing theatre.  Basic, they had a little mixing console, I think it was an 8-way the mixing console and there was a little room off where you could do voice overs,  35 mm projectors, that was upstairs and then downstairs we had the recorders and…..

AL What sound system was it?

GH The sound system was basically RCA, it was a bit of a mixture, the sound play-offs were RCA, the sound camera was RCA but then we had quite a bit of BBC equipment in compressors; there was the mixer in the…we mixed music there….that was a BBC mixer.  It was an amalgam of different things, and some basic tape machines of the day.  We had a couple of EMIs.  Later on he got two very good Ampex machines which had had won from the Ministry of Defence and they had converted these machines I should think for very secretive purposes to run at such an incredibly slow speed – you could throw this switch and you could make it 3 ¾, or 7 ½, or even 15 but if you threw this master switch which was hidden inside you could hardly see the tape moving so I imagine they were hooked on the end of some telephone conversation for 24 hours from the MoD.

Anyway he got these because we used to do quite a lot of COI films up there and he obviously had contacts and these were surplus to requirements so we did have a pair of these Ampex machines which was really good.  But I think we used to fudge our way through things basically because commercials which was a large part of the work up there…

AL Sound commercials?

GH No, picture for television.  One of the main ones I did, hundreds of them, Senior Service [42.01]  we always used to do them.  I forget which agency did those but we always did the Senior Service ones and lots of others as well.  And of course documentaries for yourgoodself and things for the BBC.

AL Of course you did Bill and Ben.

GH Flowerpot Men we did yes.  We did some of those and something about fish.  There was another series I can’t remember, used to come up there.  Then there was English by Television dubbing which was….

AL That is when we first met….

GH That is when we very first met.  Yes.

Al No we didn’t, we met on Bill and Ben I came down.

GH Was that prior to English by Television?

AL I think so yes.  I may be wrong.

GH I think you are right Alan.  In fact I am sure you are right.

AL Because Peter Sergeant was the cameraman and I think I came down to see Peter and see how they were getting on.

GH Yes, that would be right.  And then English by Television which was interesting.  Actually the person who edited the Bill and Ben who was the sound camera breaker up at Star Sound is here with me now as a mixer, John Bateman.  He did the editing, or the other one, the Ondine Half Fish Half Woman.

AL I don’t remember that at all.

GH That was done by the two ladies who lived down in Kent.

AL Maria Bird and – I have forgotten the other name – but Maria Bird was one of them.

Side  2

AL I wish I could remember the name of the other woman.  She was the important one the other woman.  Freda Lingstrom.  She was Head of Children’s Television at that time.

GH I think in fact when we did the Ondine one I think she had left the Beeb.  She was still doing work for the Beeb but she was not head as when they did Bill and Ben for instance.  I can remember our maintenance man erecting the puppeteers rail our of Dexion and so they were up there pulling the strings from this Dexion bridge.  All that stuff of having to improvise particularly with equipment stood you in very good stead.

I mean if when you went to the big studios like ABPC the equipment was there, it was standard at ABPC - RCA – and it was the standard equipment and you never had to mix and match and duck and dive and pull in a bit of quarter inch here and a big of 16 here and 35 there, they were purist.  They had the money.

AL Did you ever go on any courses to understand what was in the box? [01.45]

GH No, no, and to this day I probably don’t understand what is in the box probably as much as I should.  I know how to put it into the box and what it can do within the box and how to get it out of the box and by doing things…..why it does that within the box – it has never been an area that interests me.  I can always remember dubbing here at Twickenham one time and it was a battle scene and I was throwing everything including the kitchen sink at the sound track, and the maintenance man came in and said, ‘ If you knew what that amplifier was doing when you were throwing all that volume of sound at it….’   I said, ‘Jim, I am not interested.  As long as the sound I am getting out of the speakers is the sound I want, what it is doing to that amplifier I am not all that bothered about or interested in..’  because obviously in some scenes you can use distortion.  You have only got so much area of a sound track and to get the proverbial quart into a pint pot you sometimes have to go into areas that the purists would say, ‘No, no you can’t do that.’

There are all sorts of laws that you have to keep to but there are times when you can use amplifiers for not what they were strictly intended to be done.  So the answer to your question of what – this is outside of the basic area but – what is happening in a certain amplifier or anything, it does not really interest me too much.

AL Really that is the maintenance man’s problem.

GH Exactly, Exactly.  Have a good maintenance man!  That is it.  It is knowing what you can do with it is far more interesting I find.  The maintenance man will say he loves to be in there and changing his chips and transistors and things.

AL What do you think is the important gift for a dubbing mixer?  What is his most important role?

GH A pair of ears.  There are various things, obviously I am being facetious but a pair of ears is the most important because it certainly comes before any meters that you might be watching.  That comes secondary.  First of all, you can judge very, very close by listening whether you are 100% or not and you get to know levels.  It is only if you are going to ultimates and you want to really stretch things that you might glance at your meters and line them up.  This is – you probably look at your meters more for television work because they say you must not go beyond PPM-7 or they are going to trip the transmitter or something like that.  I don’t actually totally believe it but tripping of transmitters is a good excuse!  Yes, you have to be a little bit more careful on what you supply to the television companies.  They are much more strict in watching meters than you would do in films – particularly now digital has come in where the danger is because you have got so much headroom with digital that you can put on too much because you have got all this headroom that first of all your magnetic tape would not allow you to do it before and certainly your optical sound track.  You would have squared off and gone into distortion and in this case where you don’t want to go into distortion.

So there are other disciplines that are now being put onto mixers and quite rightly so now that digital is with us.

AL Does that enable you to get more on the track?

GH Yes, oh yes.  The headroom is much more because there are no hiss levels and things that you are bringing up which was part of the old system.  But what you have got to be conscious of is that people are going to be sitting in a theatre and it is no good giving nice low dialogue one moment and then suddenly blasting the cinema out of an aircraft up and past because the customers just do not like it and object to these….so there has to be discretion and within that you get the balance that you want but you have always got to remember that there are paying customers out there and you are not just on an ego trip showing how clever you are of I can record right down the bottom me and I can also blast you out of the room up there.

AL What about in the dubbing theatre, I know it can become very tense at times, the relationship between the editor, tracklayers, directors, maybe even producers…

GH Yes.  There are only two people I can honestly say I have fallen out with in over 270 films as what the Americans term the lead mixer, not when I was an assistant, one was Peter Collinson.  I had done quite a few films for him including The Italian Job, Penthouse, quite a few and we were on this one picture, I can’t even remember the name of it, I know Ollie Reed was the star, but because of shortage of money he had gone out and got some which today would probably be called Heavy Metal group to do the music and they hadn’t even shot the picture and it was just a noise as far as I was concerned and there was this love scene in the desert I think at night.  Ollie Reed and whoever the lady was in the picture, and there was this terrible raucous heavy metal type music going on supposedly as the love theme and we had had niggles about the music all through and then he said, ‘Why is it that in American pictures you can have the dialogue up front and you can still have the music up front.’  So by this time I think I had had enough.  We had been bickering a little bit before that.  And I said, ‘Because in American pictures they shoot the fucking picture and shoot to music to the dialogue in the picture and it is scored for the dialogue and it is wonderful……’  And we had a flaming row and he said, ‘Well obviously you do not see this picture as I do.’  And I said, ‘ No I don’t.’  And walked out.  And he came up to this office here and spoke to Guido, then I came up and funnily enough they had to re-editing and on the re-editing they took it to a studio in London somewhere and they dubbed it there.  Then about a year later Peter made another picture and before he went to America, he died in America, and I did another three or four for Peter after that so there was no ill-will or anything like that.  He used to say to me, ‘You still think you were right about that music don’t you.’  And I said, ‘Yea, and you still think you are right don’t you.’  And he said, ‘Yes.’  ‘Well we will just agree to differ.’  And it was lovely we were great friends.

The only other person that I have had a disagreement with is John Borman and that was on, I cannot remember the name of the film but it is his story when he was a boy during the war.  Now it coincided with the new dubbing theatre being built here and all the new equipment being put in.  While he was doing the shooting he was very apprehensive about being first into a dubbing theatre, probably quite rightly in his defence.  ‘Oh Gerry are you sure I am going to be the first – I am an artist…….’  Now he came in and there were problems with the desk that they had sent over from America, it was a Mitsubishi desk.

AL A Japanese desk?

GH Yes, made in Los Angeles.  Mitsubishi had just bought it – it was Western Electric and they had gone belly up and Mitsubishi had bought them.  So it was a Westrex but now it was called Mitsubishi and actually because of that desk, after two years they were out of the business of making consoles for the film industry because the desk in the end cost them so much money to put right, the desk they sent over to here.  So we certainly had disagreements on that picture if I could only think of the name – his wartime experiences as a boy in Shepperton.  John has done other pictures since which I have not done.  That was probably the only one that I have fallen out with – all the other ones I am happy to say keep coming back.  People like Attenborough – I have done all Dickie’s.  Dick Lester I have done eighteen for, and various others.

AL Now what is Dickie Attenborough like to work with?  Is he very much hands on?

GH Dickie Attenborough is – if I could only dub for one person ever, start all over again whatever, it would be Dickie Attenborough.  He is fantastic.  He gives you time, total freedom and guidance.  He knows when to – he is great at man management I suppose you could say – and I remember the very first picture I dubbed for him as a director was Oh What a Lovely War.  I was a much younger man than I am today and at the end of it and I think it was about a four or five week dub I felt really tired.  Now we had been working till nine or ten o’clock at night but I was used to that and so I thought why am I tired?  I am never tired at the end of dubs.  It is meat and drink.  Then I sort of analysed the picture and you go back to the first reel I can remember saying, you dub the reel go back to the front, turn the lights down and just project it on the screen and then when the light go up – so you are doing it as one run not stopping and starting – when the lights go up you say to the editor, the director and anyone else who is important in the room who was it for you?  How was it for you?  And Dickie was sitting behind me and I said, ‘All right for you?’  ‘Oh all right for me darling, that is perfect for me.  If it is all right for you it is all right for me.’  So now you think, ‘Oy yoy yoy.’  Because there is a slight imperfection that only you have heard because you know you didn’t do your hand movement just the way you wanted something, and you would take that secret to your grave if you never said.  No one else even knows it is there.  It is only you that has got it and if it goes through it certainly ain’t going to spoil the soundtrack.  But now he throws the responsibility back onto you.  He says if it is all right for you it is all right for me.  So I say, ‘I think I would just like to go again - I think I can do that fade in a little bit better.’  So that then became the norm.  You really are not dubbing for anyone else except yourself.  So if there is anything wrong up there he is giving you the time to do it correctly, but on top of that he comes up with – his input is tremendous.  He sees – like all of us we love film and that is the love affair you have all your life and if you have not got it you get out because the hours are unsociable, if you want a nine to five job don’t come into the film industry.  So you get someone who cares and helps and has got the ideas but will also listen – they are not up there on a pedestal – I know and my word ……He might not always accept your ideas – it would be terrible to think that he did always accept them – but he will listen and give an objective view of why on this occasion, ‘On balance Gerry I can see what you are saying..’  I say Gerry but this could be to anyone, he will listen and give his views on why – oh yes I think that is a good idea – and might go along with that, or say the reasons why he doesn’t.  He is a great person to work for.  He really is great and I think he is misunderstood in the way that Monty Python used to send him up with his crying and had the onions under his eyes and tears and make a bit of joke of it.  He is a very, very emotional man.  I can remember when we were dubbing Gandhi, I can even tell you the reel, it was reel ten the massacre at Amritsar, and we had run that reel.  We were still dubbing the picture but if anyone came down to see it, any of his friends – I can remember Shirley Williams coming down one time and she had broken her arm or her leg I think.  She was in plaster.  It was always, we have got visiting quote royalty unquote, ‘ Darling I know we have got a tight schedule today but do you think…….’  ‘Reel 10 Dickie?  Yes we will put up reel 10.’  So we had seen this reel ten, the Amritsar massacre many, many times and then for some reason, days later, there was just he and I in the theatre and we genuinely had to put up reel 10 to run it again, I think it was a change of music or something, and at the end of the running when the lights went up I looked at him and there were tears streaming down his eyes.  And he says, ‘I am such a silly bugger but I am just emotional and it gets me.’

The cynics would say well he is playing to an audience.  There wasn’t an audience, there was him and me in there and he certainly doesn’t have to impress Gerry Humphries.  He is a genuinely emotional man, a really emotional man.  And absolutely fantastic to work for.  His man management skills if you put it that way of being able to get the ultimate out of a person, I think is tremendous.  The music he gets out of George Fenton, I think the best scores George Fenton does are for Dickie because Dickie loves the man one and this encouragement he gives a person……  I could fill this tape up with stories about Dickie Attenborough.  As you might be able to tell I quite like the man and I think he is great for the industry.

AL Are there any other directors that you find……

GH I did all Dick Lester’s one’s going back to when I was on Hard Day’s Night and Help, starting on there although I was the effects mixer on those.  Steve Dalby was the main mixer.  But then I did his Peculiar and Bedsittingroom and all of them from then onwards in fact, there were eighteen of them.  Dick Lester has not got the patience in sound.  He is a very, very impatient man.  He is impatient in the shooting particularly during the last lot of films he has done, he shoots with multi cameras which does not give the sound all that amount of help.  And then of course when it comes to the dubbing theatre he wants it as if it is pristine so I say if you concentrated a bit more and let the sound man when you are shooting having a fair crack at the whip you would not have – because he does not like post sync either -  but he is not unhelpful – I like Dick…I should call him Richard now and he has an office below the office we are talking in at the moment and has had since 1963. [21.34]

He is fine and I get on well with Richard Lester but he would not be my number one choice of someone to work for.  As opposed to that you get someone like Sidney Lumet that I did three pictures for, maybe four, now he is very quick.  Sidney again does not like post sync.  He uses the original good, bad or indifferent.  The first one I did for him, I think it was the first one, Deadly Affair, and I did one pass and he said, ‘put up tape’. I don’t know why he wants to put up tape but I did and we did one pass which was like a rehearsal pass and he said, ‘fine.’  I thought right back to the beginning.  And he said, ‘No, next reel.’  And I said….. And he said that looked fine to me, next reel.  And that night when he went home I stayed behind and remixed the reel.  And then I got chicken, so then he came in the next morning and I said, ‘Sidney, you know we did that reel yesterday, I actually had another go at it last night and I would like to play it back to you.’  And I played it back to him and he said, ‘Yes, that’s fine, if you think that one is fine you have that one.’  And so he would let me have that one.  He is lovely to work for.  I like Sidney very, very much.  I think he is very talented.

I should have brought a list up here.  Names are not my strongpoint.

John Huston, I have worked with him on a couple of pictures.  That famous voice of his, that deep brown voice.  He told a story about Mackintosh Man that Paul Newman was in and – this isn’t publication is it?

AL No, no, no.

GH Good.  At the end of the picture they had a screening for the critics up in town and apparently one of bloody idiots said to me, ‘What was your motivation Mr Huston, for making this movie?’  It was not the greatest movie of all time, certainly not in the John Huston catalogue, he said, ’Well….’ And fumbled his way through it and so at the end of the interview apparently when they were all out Paul Newman who was also there turned to John Huston and said, ‘John, what was our motivation for making this movie.’  And he said, ‘You know very well Paul, money.’  That was Macintosh man.  So that is the sort of thing one can maybe talk about at this stage of the game.  It certainly won’t hurt Paul Newman’s career.

AL I don’t think he has to worry.

GH No.  But dubbing is a lovely….given the time over again I would straight into the dubbing theatre.

AL Not the floor?

GH Not the floor well, the floor is a good learning curve for a dubbing mixer because he does know the problems.  If you went in virgin straight into a dubbing theatre you would think – why isn’t that sound they shot on location correct?  Why is it so bad as this?  In fact you know that in a Dick Lester or many other pictures they have shot it with three cameras and there was a wide angle shot so you could not get a boom within 400 yards of the artist, yes they had to put a neck mic on them and you have got all this rustling of clothes and all the many, many problems that the recordist in production has to put up with.  So that helps you to understand that part of it.

But the interesting part is, without a doubt, where you get the real input is in the dubbing theatre.

AL Really because then you can see what makes the director’s mind tick.

GH Yes, exactly, you sit there – you have a concentrated say three weeks with a director, maybe a bit more, and you are inside his mind, inside what he wants out of that movie and you get involved with it.  That is where you sort of have a very, very small percentage help to create something.  An example would be – again going back to my favourite Dickie Attenborough – on Shadowlands, we had done quite a few temped ups on that to work out the music, and George Fenton was the music, and during the famous dying scene when Debra Winger? dies, the camera pulls back out of the window and goes back to a long shot of the house which dissolves into the cortege coming down the drive with her in it.  Now throughout all that scene of her and Tony Hopkins beside her bed there had been no music.  During the scoring I think George and Dickie had had a discussion and said, ‘Put a piece of music there.’  So from the moment you see her actually die in the picture George had done a cue and on the very first run through and we were all in the theatre and I saw there was a cue on the music sheet but I didn’t realise what position it came up, so when suddenly when the music pods? Open up came this music cue at the end of the dying sequence I think I went, ‘Oh no.’  And Dickie says, ‘Is something the matter darling?’  So I said, ‘Yes, that music’  And George was there and said, ‘What is the matter, don’t you like it?’  I said, ‘I hate it.  As a piece of music it is lovely it is fine, but where it is I hate.’  ‘Why?’  I said, ‘Well if you have the cue there because during the scene which was the wonderfully played scene by the pair of them you had got the audience to coin a phrase by the short and curlies and you could hear a pin drop and if you introduce another noise the audience in my view are so emotionally now tight and they are looking emotionally for an excuse to let themselves down, you introduce another noise and it gives them an excuse.  And if a music cue came along in my view it would have given the excuse to say – that is the end of the scene she is dead.  In fact it wasn’t the end of the scene, the end of the scene was you came out of the window at night and there was this lonely house.

So after a bit of discussion, this is where I come back to Dickie, you talk things through.  He said, ‘OK let’s try it.’  And we slipped the cue to where the funeral was coming down the drive.  And it worked fine there.  It took you through to the crematorium and so if you see the film today that is where the cue is.  But it was originally from the moment she died.  And that lesson rightly or wrongly I leaned from Louis Gilbert  when we were dubbing Alfie.  There is the famous abortion scene and she has had the abortion and is sitting on the settee and Michael Caine is there embarrassed and he had bought a big teddy bear from her son and it was obviously a very tense scene the whole abortion scene and you then got the audience in the palm of your hand, and Michael Caine throws the teddy bear onto the settee and the sound editor had put a baaa as the teddy bear landed.  And Louis had not been there that morning.  We had dubbed the reel and he was coming after lunch when we would play he back the reel and he would OK it or say what he did not like about it.  He is such a nice man and there was both Thelma Connell the editor and myself did not agree with this baa thing, but anyway not to upset the sound editor there was a discussion about it so we put it in.

When we played the reel back to Louis and the lights went up, he said that is fine.  ‘Just one thing, I think we ought to take the teddy bear noise out.’  So Thelma and I exchanged looks and Peter Musgrave who was the sound editor said, ‘I thought it was a nice….’  Dickie said, ’No, the audience know you have got them in the palm of your hand.  I don’t want to let them go.  It is too early to let them go.  When you go into the next scene, that is when you let them go.  I still want to hold that audience there.  You give them an excuse, a baa, any noise and it breaks their concentration and they can let themselves down.

So it was remembering that that I came out with this thing in Shadowlands, the music, it would have given…

AL Now you did talk about Louis Gilbert.  Did you do any more with him at all?

GH Oh yes.  In fact I have just …..I have done a few with Louis.  In fact I have just finished one called Haunted.  [32.22] a nicer man…..up there with Dickie……a nicer man you couldn’t, couldn’t wish to work with.  Shirley Valentine I did with him.  Have you interviewed him?

AL No.

GH Alan you must.  He loves talking about the past.  I go back again, before I went into the RAF and Louis was shooting when I was the cable boy at Walton and he shot The Little Ballerina which I used to go on the stage for, but also he did a picture called Emergency Call which was for Butchers and that, I was boom swinger on that one, and I think it was made for £12,500 or something and it had his brother-in-law Sidney Taffler in it, Anthony Steele, Jack Warner, and Freddy Mills the boxer, amongst others.  There are other names which will come to me in a moment.  But it was done very much on a shoestring.  One of the night locations was in a corporation dust yard which is next door to what was Riverside Studios where they used to and I think still do, where they bring the dust carts to dump into the barges to take the refuse downstream, down river.  We were shooting a week of nights there and there was a famous production manager, famous because he was so mean, called ES Laurie, long since died.  He always used to work on Butchers’ pictures.  And we came to the famous 12 o’clock at night when you should stop and have your hot meal and in those days with the unions you stopped at 12 o’clock and had your hot meal.  But 12 o’clock came and then quarter past, and the stewards were saying, ‘Excuse me Mr Laurie…’  and he said, ‘I am sorry I could not get caterers…’ and he came out with this huge bag of Extra Strong Peppermints.  This was our hot meal.  [laughter] I think it was Hobson’s Choice because there was nothing else.  The next night we did get Phil Hopps or whoever it was, the caterers, but he got away with it on the first night with hot peppermints. [35.16]

I love reciting these things with Louis who loves talking about the past.  But one of the famous lines, Freddy Mills the boxer who later either committed suicide or was murdered, he had a nightclub in Soho I believe, he had this line in the picture ‘Who knows when to quit.’  And  Louis always remembers it and he found out that he apparently, I think it was his only line in the picture, and he was so nervous, apparently all morning he was in his dressing room – who knows when to quit….who knows when to quit…..who knows when to quit….So by the time he came onto the set he was a nervous wreck.  And this one ‘Who knows when to quit’ line – I don’t know how many takes they had to do on it – which Louis remembers to this day.  But it was a very, very successful picture Emergency Call.  As I say it was made for peanuts but became a talked about little movie.  And Louis is very fond of that movie.  Then we came to Shirley Valentine which he thought was lovely.

He is a lovely, lovely man to work for.  He is another man who knows films from A to Zee.  He is almost now the absent minded professor until either he is on the floor or he is in the editing room or the dubbing theatre, then he is a total professional no trouble at all.  He will walk out of the dubbing theatre and he has to turn right for his office, and left to go to the loo.  If he wants to go to the office you can bet your sweet bottom dollar he will turn left, and turn up in the gents, and if he wants to go to the gents he will turn right and end up in his office.  But when it comes down to film he has been there, done that and he knows it in the nicest possible way.  He is a lovely man to work for and a lover of films and really professional.  [37.51]

AL Now I want to get back and talk about the changes that have taken place in the dubbing theatre from the time when you first started dubbing.

GH Well we had only just come off photographic fortunately, very fortunately, but we could not rock and roll.  If we made a mistake we could not roll back and punch in.  If you make a mistake you still had to go back to the start bar and do it all over again.  So that was certainly – as you do today you edit up on optical but that is the final mastering.

But we did have the luxury of we actually started off on magnetic, albeit that we could not roll back and punch in.  So that was a good thing but it was so basic, I mean this was this new dubbing theatre at Walton Studios, so it was the ultimate that RCA could give you…..

AL How many heads?

GH I think it was either eight or ten heads….

AL That was quite something….

GH It was probably ten heads but what we had was twelve rotary faders in banks of ….there was a bank of four and then four and then four.  They were rotary, turning knobs, fading two out and one in on the same bank meant sort of running along your hand and a bit down your arm to fade the two out and fade the other one in where today you grabs four or five faders in one hand and another four or five in the other hand and do what you want with them.

So in comparison with today’s there was not half the amount of tracks used then as there are today.

AL Did you have visual clickers?

GH No, you had AVR or post sync as then was….

AL No, no I meant on the screen.

GH No we don’t, we had a wipe to cue you to a cut or something like that but…..

AL No running numbers.

GH No, no running numbers.  Footage counters yes, we had footage counters.  I know where you get the clickers from, the old ones, that takes me down memory lane.  They always had a break about once a week.  Footage counters, definitely, could not live without them.  But now they are much more stable than in the days that we are talking about.  In fact one of those types, the rolling type that you were referring to, I was doing a film with Michael Creighton called The First Great Train Robbery, a Shaun Connery picture.

AL Charlie Creighton you mean?

GH No, Michael Creighton who is the author of Jurassic Park but he has done a lot of films in his own right as director.  He was trained I believe as an ordinary medical doctor and after a couple of years of being a doctor decided that he would change careers and came into the film industry and has done some big pictures in his own right as director and written a lot of stories including Jurassic Park.  But we were on this which I think I am right in saying The First Great Train Robbery was if not his first one of his first pictures.  Again an extremely nice man and a very, very knowledgeable man for film, and he said to me, ‘that counter, [41.47] does it ever go wrong?’  Now I can honestly say this counter had not gone wrong and I am talking about years.  I said, ‘Point to any other piece of equipment round here on the desk, and we have to change that or change that or a meter will go, but that footage counter never goes wrong.  That afternoon it went ape! [laughter]

I know you are not going to believe me but touching wood is a good thing to do.  No Michael Creighton is a lovely man.

John Badham, another American who is a pleasure to work for.  I have done two or three of his.  I should have brought my credits up here – only from the point of view of reminding me.  You are going to go away and I am going to think, oh I forgot to talk about him.

The changes you were talking about, the changes, we are going through them now.  Here we are in 1995 and I suspect that people in ten years’ time will look back, certainly 1994 really saw a token and now it will happen for the next two, three, four years, but the change in technology that has happened is enormous. 

[End of side 2]

Side 3

AL You were saying the changes that are happening now are enormous.

GH Indeed yes.  It is a bigger revolution than the incredible revolution from Optical to magnetic and what that entailed and meant.  But this is much bigger with all the advent of all the electronic equipment.

AL Is that DAT?

GH Well no, DAT is just the small end of the market.  The memory of the new electronics, what you can store to memory you can do things now with soundtracks that would have taken a month of Sundays to do in the old days, and not been able to do it frankly.  But now with all the latest electronic equipment on DATS, I mean now you can buy, and this is only an intermediary step because we know within the next year or eighteen months, certainly two years, there is going to be a change, but at the moment you can go out and buy a piece of equipment called a Testcare?? which gives you 8 tracks of digital all in sync with your picture, and you can rock and roll, you can punch in individual tracks.  This is 8 tracks of individual digital audio.  So from where the music people record onto tape, 24 inch tape, you have to go and buy yourself a big Sony tape machine or a Mitsubishi tape machine which can do that, which can cost you £100,000+ but for the same amount of digital 24 tracks for under £10,000 you can buy that with a Testcare?? and you can do a lot more with it than ever you can with 35 mm magnetic or anything like that.

Now that is still only a bridging between a 35 mm which is still being used, and still will be used for a number of year, but it is certainly in a decline now.  We will all I believe be going on the next step very very shortly which will be hard disc recording because you can get so much information onto it and you can get instant access; you don’t have to wait to wind down the reel, you can press the button and get access to any part of that reel.

AL Like CD you mean.

GH Exactly like CD and you have got DC quality, you have got digital quality.   [02.50]  The question of storage becomes far, far less.  Instead of having to store all those cans of film that you know about, on one disk now in a very short time I am talking twelve months, you will be able to store all your dub, all your foreign version, all what the Americans call stems you mastered twelve tracks or fourteen or sixteen tracks or whatever, all that information will be able to be stored on one disk.  And within a comparatively short space of time and I am thinking of four to five years, maybe slightly longer but there is no reason why it shouldn’t be that time scale, if a person in Rome or Sydney or Cape Town wants a foreign version from UIP or Clubyear or whatever, as long as they have been given an access number to the storage file, the vault, you won’t be transmitting certainly not pieces of film across.  They will be able to dial into the store given the code, the access number to it, and if they want a foreign version it will just go over the telephone lines as we do today with ISDN.  We now have an artist here in Twickenham with the director in New York or Los Angeles rocking and rolling the same picture.  He is in a theatre in New York and we are in a theatre here at Twickenham, the artist is doing his ADR is post sync here getting instructions or getting the OK or put more emphasis on this word from the director or vice versa.

AL Really!

GH Oh yes, we are doing that with ISDN.  We are doing that……..

AL ISDN, what does that mean?

GH A very good question, integrated – the DN is digital network – integrated…..

AL Is it sound?

GH No it isn’t sound.  I think it is integrated system digital network.

AL So they put the picture down the line.

GH No, we have a picture this end which can be 35 mm or video and they have a dupe the other end.  They have a start mic and there is a time code and either they pipe the time code down the lines to us or we pipe the time code down to them.  It just does not matter which way it goes.  And so that locks up both the picture and the sound to that time code, so when the mixer presses it to go forward it goes forward at both ends and backwards at both ends, but because it is on digital lines the quality is exactly as if you are in this room with a microphone.  [06.03]  What they do then is if the artist this end and the director is that end it means that the picture is out in America they will record probably onto a DAT or a Tascam or whatever they want but usual a DAT or an 8 track Tascam, we will also do a recording this end as a safety master.  They sometimes say send the safety master, other times they will wait until they have finished the dub and then they will phone you up or send you a fax to say you can wipe your safety master.  We have done all that.  But that saves either the director or the artist getting on a plane and flying from LA to……you can do it from anywhere in the world, from Sydney, Tokyo we have done it from.  It saves everything and you get immediate………on Shadowlands we had finished the dub on the Friday and I was going to do a final mix down for Dolby Optical on the Monday and on the Monday morning Dickie came into the room.  I said, ‘don’t need you.  What are you doing here?  We are just mixing down today.’  He said, ‘No darling, as I promised Debra Winger that I would send her a video of the dub I sent it to her on the weekend.  She had played it and there were a couple of lines where she thought her accent was wrong.’  She lives on the East Coast apparently and she has got to go into a studio in New York today and redo these lines to get the accent correctly.  I said, ‘I thought there was a hurry getting this right.’  Then I thought, as long as she goes into this studio in New York, a sound one, we can actually edit using ISDN as I explained to you.  In went Debra Winger at nine o’clock in the morning into Sound 1, so it is two o’clock in the afternoon here.  We link up to ISDN.  She did her lines.  Thank you Debra, goodbye.  I dropped those new lines into the dub and we were still able to complete the optical that day and send it off to the labs.  So that was her in New York and us here in London.

That is just one of the many areas that you know it used to be a joke to say Oh yes, we have phoned it in but that is basically what you are doing now, you are phoning it in across lines.  And that together with all the other electronic toys and things that are coming on the market which as they come on very soon they get cheaper.  Once they have got their R & D rate back you suddenly find that it is getting less to buy than more, this is as they refine the amount of storage, memory they can do, and as memory gets bigger and bigger there is nothing they can’t do now and it is a huge help in a dubbing theatre that you can do things and even just starting off at the beginning of the day, the setting up process, which if you have done a set up the night before which used to be all patch cords and things like that, they are virtually a thing of the past.  You set up on a touch screen the setup of what you want to go where and what echoes you want in where and as you go out at night you hit a button which puts it into memory and you come in the next morning and you just touch that button and the set-up that you did the night before is there, albeit you had to go that evening onto another film because they had done a recut you are having to do some night work in order to accommodate that, you have done a totally different set-up at night, but you did not have to break down the old set-up and put out all those hundreds of patch cords and put in another hundred patch cords for the evening session and re do it in the morning.  I mean that just in itself is a great time saver, and of course if it is time saving it is money saving.

I am not saying that with all the new things and all the different options that it now can give you and give the director of the movie it is time saving because if you give a director an option he wants to hear it and chose – you can do it this way or you can do it that way – and you can put it into memory and store but nevertheless you go through and if you have got three options he will listen to those free options, where before you had just a very few tracks and there was only one option and you chose that.

Nevertheless there is no excuse now for not giving a much better, much refined product.[11.22]

AL Do you think that often there are too many tracks laid?

GH Yes, yes there are.  That is where you can…..someone once said to me in another context you can over egg the omelette.  Yes you can and you lose the definition, but that should be part of the dubbing mixer’s advice and the director’s say, but the sound editor who has spent weeks and weeks laying up this goodie and this little thing like ……he knows what he has laid and he wants to get everything onto that screen where when it all comes together in a great big wodge it would be better if they took some out and made it clearer and better.

AL The other thing I wanted to ask you about, I don’t know if this is me getting old or if it is a fact but I think a lot of the things I see now, the sound quality actually of speech is poor.

GH It is.  Because when if one goes back to the optical days, I was not around but you go back to the 30s to redo a sound track was a major, major thing so consequently the sound when they were doing the shooting had a much bigger say.  They had to get their microphones which did not have the gain of today’s microphones in a certain position in order to get the quality.  You hear those lovely Warner Brothers pictures today, to this very day, it is a beautiful round sound.  The microphones they used, how they were able to place their microphones because the constraints to redo a sound track, so you did get a better dialogue track.  Then along came microphones with much more gain so you were able to come away from the artist a bit more so the lighting cameraman would light a bit more and say Don’t worry that microphone has got a big gain we will push you out a bit more before we get the mic shadow in.  Plus the fact that microphones are not quite as round in quality as I think the old lower gain ones albeit that you had to get a lot closer.  Also the directors know that if everything else fails they can redo, they can post sync, they can ADR that soundtrack and consequently with a little bit more thought during the actual shooting and a little bit more co-operation where they could have got the original soundtrack a lot better they said, ‘Oh well the sun is going down,’ or ‘We will miss that cloud effect – turn over’  Yes there is an orange 707 going over which we don’t want to hear that noise but nevertheless we want to get the picture.

I can sympathise with them, shooting costs money, while the sun is shining let’s get the picture on the screen and to a large extent we will worry about the soundtrack afterwards.  Then they come to post sync and they don’t really like that because he never did quite get it read the way he did it in the original.  So now you use the original and you are torn between the devil and the deep blue sea.  You are back to trying to make as good as possible of the original which is a very flawed piece of material.  It is a constant battle.  Again, if ADR – if you have the time and you have the patience you can get ADR sounding good.  You have got to start off from the actual artist and you have got to put all the effects and noises back around it but still keep the dialogue intelligible.  Having said that I always prefer the original.  I think the original has an energy that is sometimes hard to…..

AL Could you explain what ADR actually means.

GH Automatic dialogue replacement.  As we used to know post sync.  ADR comes along because now instead of in post sync it used to be a loop which would go round and round and round until you got it correct, now again with the new memory what happens is you put up a reel of picture and a reel of cutting copy sound and you can programme the numbers in that at 130 feet 10 frames to 147 feet 9 frames that is the section that you want the artist to do and it goes back and forward over that section until you say that it is correct.  You then hit the button and it goes on to the next section that you have pre-programmed.  That is ADR, Automatic dialogue replacement.  It is post sync.

AL I suppose you lose spontaneity.

GH Yes.  The good thing about ADR as opposed to post sync is that at the end of a sequence you  can go back to the head of that sequence and play it all the way through, whereas before it would have meant taking the loops and joining them up and then bringing them back into the theatre and run.  So you can get the flow of it.  Having said all that the original has got the energy and the little nuances that somehow always seem to manage to escape.  But on a very few occasions when you re-do it is how the original was.

AL I know what I was going to ask you, one of the directors – I don’t know if you have had him in the dubbing theatre, Nick Rogue.  Have you met him?

GH Oh yes, Nick.  I did Walkabout, Eureka, Performance. There are another couple around somewhere Alan, Walkabout was his first.  I saw that on the box not so many months ago.  [18.38]  and I still think it is a good movie, a really good movie.  Beautifully done.  His first one was the Mick Jagger thing   Performance where Mick Jagger was playing a straight part with the drug culture of the 60s.  Eureka, I think there were a couple of others.  I can’t remember.

AL What was he like in the dubbing theatre?

GH He is good.  Again, of his background, I worked with Nick when he was a camera operator and in fact I had a unit still on a location in Knightsbridge somewhere and I brought it in to show him when we were doing Eureka and he has still got it.  If you are listening Nick can you please give me back my picture.  That was that, a nice man and a professional.  Loves film.

AL Obviously I know quite a bit about him.

GH I believe he is doing another one now.

AL In America I think.  Before looking back I suppose now you are wearing two hats.

GH Yes, I am doing very little dubbing.  In January I am going to do the sequel to A Fish Called Wanda, dubbing.  I did the original Fish Called Wanda.  They have just finished shooting this one which we dub in January and I would like to think that I will do any that Dickie does.  Having done them all so far, I would very much like to continue on that but I don’t think I will be doing too much dubbing in the future.  As you know Dean my son is doing that.

AL Your son is in the dubbing theatre?

GH Yes.

AL Really I hadn’t known that.

GH Yes, he started when he left school.  In fact he started in the cutting rooms on a Dick Lester picture, I think it was Robin and Marion, but at the end of it he said he wanted to come into the sound department and I said, ‘You are just saying that because Dad is in the sound department.’  But he has always played about with tapes and everything so anyway he did and stayed with us for about five years and then went to a dubbing theatre, Worldwide in Soho and then from there to Tony Palmer, Ladbroke Films, and then when we were building the new sound complex here he came back to Twickenham and sat on the desk with me as effects mixer.  But for the last couple of years I have been easing myself out and so he does most of the dubbing now and I just when tried and tested customers come along then I do those, but certainly I will do the Fish picture God willing in January and I think Dickie is contemplating doing another picture either late this autumn or the beginning of next year which would be in the dubbing theatre I suspect September of next year.  So I would do that.

AL That must be very gratifying having a son really taking over from you.

GH Yes, yes.

AL No frictions?

GH None at all.  There was at the very beginning before he left here and then came back again because for obvious reasons I had to be more royal than the king so he did get probably the thin end of the wedge or whatever comes to mind on that to prove he was not being done favours but since he came back and he had been a dubbing mixer in his own right up in Soho, no we got on like a house on fire.

AL But now you are gradually taking over the job of MD.

GH Yes, which because I have been at the studio since ’64 and because it is not a very big studio there are no surprises.  If there had been any surprises I have known about them for the last ten years or twelve years or something.

AL You mean you know where all the bodies are.

GH Exactly.  Yes.  Don’t open that door there is a skeleton in it!   So I know not to open that door.  If someone came in afresh they would have to bat themselves in but the sound side which is the biggest part of the studio in any case I have been in charge of for fifteen years so that is not a surprise and the stages side and the offices side every day Guido and I would see each other either up in the office here or at lunch and we would talk about who was coming in and what was happening, what the problems were.  So all that had been assimilated over the years so there is no problem….

AL No hidden agendas.

GH No hidden agendas – that is perfect – yes.  [25.31]

AL It must be a worry I suppose really to have just bricks and mortar and hope to god somebody is going to come in.

GH You are absolutely right.  It is a totally different thought process on that.  Yes, you can do a certain amount of publicity but basically it is if the phone rings and a person has got a picture to do and he wants a space, from the point of view of the sound department all over the years first of all I have known the picture months and months before is going to come in to me because they have started shooting in January, I know that it is a twelve week shoot, a fourteen week post, so it is going to come in to me in June or July or whenever and they have booked up in advance at that time and you know that it is going on.  Here, if you start off with commercials it can be the following week, today or they want a stage tomorrow.  They usually have got more time than that but we are only talking of a week, or ten days or a fortnight whereas on the sound side you are talking three months, four months, five months in advance.

AL Is it a problem to get hold of floor staff now?

GH Well that because we are forewarned we don’t have to……that is the big plus because all the studios now, Shepperton, Pinewood, they are all four wall and the production brings in so what they want from you is the stages, the art department, the prop rooms, the carpenter’s shop but they bring in their own personnel.  They bring in the carpenters, the electricians, the painters, they bring in everyone.

AL What about lamps, have you got lamps here?

GH No, they come in with….they don’t bring in generators.  We have all the power obviously, but they bring in their lamps because invariably ninety-nine out of a hundred practically pictures in stages are also on location so they have these lamps and the vans and everything to take them out on location.  So all that area either Sammys or Leighs or something.

AL So obviously they bring in their own sound too.

GH Oh yes.  They come in with absolutely everything, the sound crew, the camera crew, the whole unit.  It is a total four wall.  We supply them with the space.  So that would have been a more difficult job like in the old days where you had to supply them with electricians, plasterers, painters and the sound crew.  No it is relatively easy, a person phones up and wants to hire a one stage, two stage, three stage and you look at your board and you book, and yes they are available for those dates.  How many offices do you want, props, art department and things like that.

AL You have got a nice bank of cutting rooms too.

GH Oh yes, that which we built ten years ago.  There are 42 editing rooms and I think they are quite nice cutting rooms, your son would be able to tell me that.

AL Yes, he is quite happy.

GH Yes they are. [29.27]…They are good.  We try to do them – from where we started from there was only one way to go because we had a bunch of very old and run down cutting rooms here, so there was only one way to go from there and so we went up and yes, they have been very successful because they are…..

AL Well obviously somebody with a lot of forethought really did start reorganising Twickenham.  The cutting rooms, the dubbing theatre………….

GH Well over the years certainly from the beginning of the 70s, I then found in a dubbing theatre for every picture I was doing I was turning away at least one and we had the dubbing theatre which is those days was modern, we put a new desk in, but that is all we had.  The studio was very run down.  The cutting rooms were appalling.  There were some wooden sheds at the back which if you weren’t careful you could put your foot through the floor.  That was almost a joke in the industry.

So then I started compiling….when people used to phone up and say can I book your theatre next June or whatever, instead of saying thank you very much for the call but I am already booked for June I took their particulars and logged it.  I did this for 18 months or so.  Then I came up to the then directors and said, Look, this is the work I have been turning away.  We could double up.  It was, Yes, I think so, and things.  We went through two owners of the studio.  The original owner was Kenneth Shipman which his father had left him.  It was Shipman and King.  But then Kenneth sold the studios for I think financial reasons and BET bought the studios.  They had it for about three or four years and then a person came along called Mustapha Acard who had made a picture called The Message, which I dubbed and he just had offices here, and he said to me one day, ‘Would someone sell the studio whoever owns it?’  ‘I hardly think so Mustapha because they only bought it three or four years ago and why would they want to sell it.’  ‘I would like to buy it.’  So from out of those discussions BET started off by selling 90% to him and then he bought the other 10% two years later.  He bought it through a company in the Far East I think.  The very next morning that he now owns the studio he called me to his office which is on the floor below here and said, ‘Now I have bought the studio I suppose you are going to tell me I need a fortune spent on it and you need new sound equipment.’  And I said, ‘No I don’t basically need new sound equipment, the dubbing theatre is OK, but what we do need first and foremost is a new cutting room block.’  So he gave me the go ahead for that and that became what is now Novello Lodge, and then I presented to him about a year later, which I have updated a lot since then, my list of films which I had turned away owing to the fact that I was already booked in the one and only theatre that we had got.  And so after a period of discussion he gave the go ahead to spend the money to build what is now the sound centre which is forty-two editing rooms, another dubbing theatre and an ADR theatre, and a few offices and things like that.

AL So you have got three theatres?

GH We have got three theatres now yes.  And it has been very successful.  We have had an extremely good – it has been open about nine years and even during the period of two or three years ago when everyone agreed there was a slump in the industry we kept busy and we have certainly been very busy this year and in our advance bookings through to next April or May.  So it has been, touch wood, a success story.  That is to a large extent – not a large extent practically 99.9% that the owners have not taken any money out of the company.  They have ploughed it all back into the company.

AL That is quite something.

GH So I have been able to build that building, re-equip it with new equipment.  We are now starting over this side of the studio which is the stages.  The studio is in two halves.  The far side is the post production, this side is the production.  All it means is, the stages and the offices to a large extent are this side of the studio.

This side of the studio has been neglected a little bit over the years and we are addressing that at the moment.  Things like resurfacing the car park, redoing the sound proofing in the stages, redoing the offices both carpets and furniture, putting air conditioning into them, things like that which is an area which I have not touched, not part of my remit over the years.  And I have probably by not having money spent on this side of the studio it has been to my advantage being greedy the other side, being the post production, so if there was any money around I was pinching it for the production side.  Now I have to look at it a little bit more globally.  Having said that I don’t think the post production will suffer.  We are just about to order a new sound console for the one dubbing theatre which is going to cost £500,000 so they are not being neglected.

AL What equipment will that be?

GH It is not 100% decided at the moment but I suspect it will be people called Harrison which are an American company.  I went to see one of their desks last Friday.  I have seen them before obviously and other makes of course but I suspect it will be Harrison.  We have to put the order in in two months’ time, so we must make a decision but I think it is almost certain it will be.  But in the meantime, to elevate the production side and tart it up a little bit.

AL I suppose there is quite a bit of competition isn’t there?

GH Yes, obviously Ridley down at Shepperton is going to spend some money making their image – the place is going to look better plus they will spend money on equipment, so that is going to happen.  Pinewood has always been there.

AL It is a bit of a mess.

GH Yes, it hasn’t….Pinewood has been the one studio over the years I would have loved to have been in charge of.  The potential there is enormous but the thought processes that have prevailed there over the years, although they now have a new studio manager, which he is trying to do different things with.  I think he has problems in as much as the ways of Pinewood are engrained over the years and have almost been passed on, not from father to son but by tradition.  Dye in the water.  They are a bit slow in picking up new ways.

Shepperton I think would be different because Ridley who I did Bladerunner and Someone to Watch over me for, Bladerunner was on the box again last week, and I thought was just a fantastic movie and I also loved Someone to Watch Over Me as well.  Bladerunner for imagination and creativity was fantastic.  And there is another dedicated – I do not know who I have left out of this conversation – not to have brought Ridley into it is criminal, a great film maker.  He will in American terminology kick arse, I think he will make things happen at Shepperton.

Side 4

GH Apart from Pinewood and Shepperton there is this new complex where they have shot the Bond movies, the old Rolls Royce factory, I think they call themselves Third Millennium, they I believe are asking for grants from the Ministry of the Environment or whoever it is to turn that place into one and proper studio and two a theme park.  So if that happens, I don’t think it will affect Twickenham Film Studios because it is too far out and we are not competing in the market of that type of thing.  I would suspect more your Pinewoods and indeed Shepperton.  Apparently the stage they have got, I have not been there, it is the largest covered area in Europe or something and it makes the 007 stage at Pinewood seem minute.  So that would be the area of competition but we don’t have anything like that size of stages or the number of them that Pinewood and Shepperton have so they would not strictly be competitors of ours.

AL Because the old BIP is almost dead.

GH Yes, I can’t believe that would be resurrected.  I still think there are a couple of TV companies in there but so much of it has all been knocked down.  The great sound department they had at the back there, that is flattened.  Tesco have got their store up.  The sound stage which they put up for Star Wars is now at Shepperton.  It was dismantled and put there.  So I can’t believe that that will blossom again.  First of all they have not got the space and funnily enough I think it is on the wrong side of town and always have felt that – not when Elstree had MGM and Rock Studios and AVPC when it was a town of studios, but as just a one studio which it came down to, the great mistake was made I believe going way back when they closed down MGM, I think they should have kept MGM open and closed ABP.  MGM was far the better studio, had a great huge back lot to it, but they closed MGM and kept ABP open.  I can’t believe that will come back like a phoenix from the ashes.

So that leaves stuff which is basically west of London albeit north in Pinewood, Shepperton, us, and whether this 3rd millennium takes off.

AL What have been the highlights for you of your career so far?

GH Highlights of my career?  I suppose it starts off – I didn’t mention Ronald Glansky.

AL Oh yes, yes you must.

GH The first picture I did as number one mixer was for Roman which was Cul De Sac.  I had remixed Repulsion.  It was done by Steve Dolby and I was effects mixer but for various reasons he wanted it remixed and I had remixed Repulsion but not primarily as the first, but Cul De Sac was my very first picture as first and linking up with Dean, my son.  Many many years later Roman is in France now and can’t go back to America at the moment and he was doing Pirates and he phoned me up and asked me to go over to Paris and dub the picture for him in Paris which I had already long since been committed to a couple of other pictures here in England and there was no way I could do it.

At this time Dean was dubbing in London, in another studio, and I said to Roman I would love to because I felt I owed him as he took a chance with me as his first mixer, and we talked and I put the phone down and I didn’t mention anything about Dean.  About half an hour later the phone rings and it is Roman again.  He had been speaking to Timothy Burrell who produces for him.  He said, ‘Timothy tells me your son is a dubbing mixer.’  I said, ‘Yes.’  ‘All right, send him over.  He will do it.’  I said, ‘No, you can’t do that Roman.  You have never met him, you didn’t even know until half an hour ago he was a dubbing mixer.’  ‘He is your son.  Send him.’  So I said, ‘I am not taking that responsibility.  I haven’t even worked with him for three years since he has been up in London.  I will tell you what to do.  I will give you his number, you phone him, and if you want him to come over and see you fine.’  Dean went to Paris, talked, Dean dubbed The Pirate.

Then the same thing happened on Frantic that Roman did, a Harrison Ford picture.  Again he phones up and Dean goes across to Paris and dubs it.  In fact I went across a couple of days with him just to say hello to Roman, not dubbing, which was lovely.  Dean dubbed his last picture as well again in Paris.  So we have kept it going that link with Roman who is again great to work for.  Knows film making, what the camera can do, what the editing can do, what the sound can do, anything can do, because he was taught in Poland and he knows it from A to Z and backwards.  Very European, you will get to the end of a reel and get it all right and he is all bubbly and he is lovely and he is very happy and then you put up the next reel and the tracks are coming at you from all angles, too loud, too soft, too whatever, too many, and he is ‘oh no this won’t work’ and then you start knocking it into shape and he becomes almost a little boy again.  Of course he has had a tragic life.  And when his wife was murdered he was actually in the dubbing theatre here.  It was a Saturday morning and with the time gap we were running a picture which I could not dub.  He had shot it down at ABPC, it was about vampires which he actually acted in as well.  Vampire Killers or something which he not only directed but acted in.  Because it was EMI money or ABPC money I forget which, they had to dub it down at Elstree but he asked could I run the picture for him to check for dialogues and what needed to be done.  And we ran it on a Saturday morning, finished round about 12 o’clock, shook hands, said goodbye and off went Roman up to somewhere in London or where he lived.  And as I was just tidying up the desk prior to going home myself the phone rang and I think it was The Standard said, ‘Can I speak to Roma Polanski please.’  I said, ‘You can’t he is not here.’  ‘Yes, he is, I know he is there.’  ‘He was here.  He has left.’  ‘Where has be gone.’  I said, ‘I do not know. He has gone back to London.  I don’t know.’  The phone rings again, it was the Sunday Express.  ‘Can I speak to Roman Polanski.’  The same thing, he’s gone, don’t know.  Put the phone down and went home.  Switched on the radio or television and heard what they were chasing him for.  They had heard the news on the wire and they were trying to get in contact with him.  And then when I did the time thing – he had started at 9 o’clock in the morning, we were running the picture at 9 o’clock on the Saturday morning so if you went back 8 hours that was it.

But he is lovely, and Dean is carrying on working for him.

AL What are the highlights – no - what has been the pits for you?

GH It might be awful to say it but there have not been any pits Alan.

AL Aren’t you lucky.

GH There really hasn’t.  If this tape is ever heard it sounds pretentious, it sounds everything but the film industry to me has been a love affair.  It is the old cliché.  I love this and I get paid money for doing it.  If there was a third person in the room I would not even be saying this and if I thought that tape would ever been heard I would not be saying it, but I do love not MD, I am talking about dubbing.  I just love doing it and I have been paid reasonable money for doing it.  You meet wonderful people – and I have not mentioned Tony Richardson which was the 60s, who I did a lot of films for and who was lovely to work for.  But there has not been, I cannot think of any downs.  They have all …..I mean you get on pictures that are bread and butter pictures.  Now you don’t try any less on those, but the adrenaline obviously will not flow as much as when you get on something that excites you and for people that are involved.

AL But that is also partly to do with feedback from if you like the people you are working with, your director.

GH Absolutely but your director….I mean there have been directors and they have not lasted the course….but there have been directors that have come in with a picture and they are saying, ‘It is almost beneath me to have done this but it is just a stepping stone…..’  Now if they are not going to try hard for that movie you feel, ‘Hang on….’   Obviously you try to maintain a professional standard but you are not going to work your nuts off for something that the director whose movie it is, whose name is up there on that screen, is not interested in.  Is degrading it.

And there have been people like that but then there are so few.  You have your people like Tony Richardson because he was instrumental in lots of movies that I did and were wonderful.  John Slessinger, all his movies.  The first nomination I got for BAFTA was on a John Slessinger picture which was Sunday Bloody Sunday.

I am getting to feel quite hot under the collar that I am not mentioning your Tony Richardsons and John Slessingers of this world which did a lot for me.  Franco Zepherelli.  But the lows – coming back to your question – the lows I can’t really think of any lows in the film industry.  Highs – get onto pictures, to get your first BAFTA nomination, to get your first Academy nomination.

AL Which was that?

GH The first BAFTA one was Sunday Bloody Sunday, John Slessinger’s. Oh What a Lovely War was a BAFTA nomination and won it.  A Bridge Too Far was a BAFTA nomination and won it.  Cry Freedom won BAFTA.  Ghandi was Academy as well as BAFTA was an Academy nomination.  So was Chorus Line.  They were the only two American Academy ones.  But all those, not necessarily the ones that were nominated for…which was lovely….I am not knocking it….but there are still great highs that you are working with.  Tony Richardson on Charge of the Light Brigade and all his films.  Great to work with.  Absolutely wonderful to work with.

John Slessinger, great to work with.  Amongst all the seriousness you can have a laugh and a joke with them as well.

No it has been highs all the way I’m afraid.  It is boring isn’t it.

AL Not really, no.

GH A lot of the people I have been attached with, with Dickie both of my Academy awards have been because of Dickie on Chorus Line and Ghandi.  I had a wonderful evening – he was responsible for that – I was attending at the Guildhall which was some years ago now, a whole meeting of film people for some reason which I can’t think what the occasion was but it was wonderful to be at a dinner at the Guildhall.  All sorts of things like that and culminating in this year I got an OBE for services to – I think was the terminology – which was absolutely wonderful.

AL Yes, yes.

GH As you can imagine it came out of the blue.  Couldn’t believe it when I opened the letter. [16.11]

AL One thing – how has your wife adjusted to all your hours?

GH Well because it has been so long……….

AL She got used to it….

GH Yes, you either get a divorce early on I think or she has long since….I could quote you …Sidney Sanderson was in this room one day quite some years ago and we were talking about nepotism and I said, ‘Dean works for me.’  And he said, ‘No, if someone comes for a job with me, if their father has worked in the industry that is the one….. all things being equal I guess [16.52]……I would like to employ.’  I said, ‘Why?’ and he said, ‘Well if that boy or indeed a girl has grown up with his father being in the film industry and saying Yes dear I will be home tonight to see you in the school play, or for your birthday tea, or whatever have you, and then at the 11th hour the phone goes and he says look sorry but we are shooting on and I can’t make it.  With all the disappointments that they have grown up with over the years that the film industry puts on you, if they have grown up with that and still want to be in the industry, he is my man.’  Which I thought was very sound logical reasoning.  Sidney told me this.

So yes, there have been lots of disappointments when yes I should be home for going to the school play or the birthday party or going down to the seaside on the weekend or something and yes, my wife and children have had to put up with that without a doubt over the years.

AL She wasn’t in the business?

GH She was originally in the office at Waltham Studios in the accounts office for about four years.  So yes she had a background to it.

AL She knew what it was about.

GH Yes.  And it is the same now with Dean’s wife, she knows  hopefully – yes we are going out next Friday night but that could be cancelled at the 11th minute or I will be going out by myself and making the usual apologies.

AL If you could start again would you change?

GH No – not one single second Alan.  Not a second.  There is nothing I can think of that I would want to do that would supersede being in the sound department, being in the dubbing – especially being in the dubbing theatre.  It was wonderful fun and it was all I wanted to be and I wanted to be on the stage and I wanted to see the stars and see the cameras and work on films….it was wonderful and I couldn’t wait to get back out of my National Service to get back onto the boom and do all that and it was fantastic, and going on location and all the people you meet, great……but certainly the most constructive part of my career is from the time I went into the dubbing theatre.  I have enjoyed that.  It is something I like doing and getting paid for it.  As simple as that.

AL Well Bob Allen said to me give my love to Gerry and tell him to open his heart and I think you have.

GH Well yes.  I mean it is…… life must be tunnel vision because I haven’t been interested in anything else.  There are times when you get onto a dub at half past five and there is no reason in the world to work overtime because you are already ahead of schedule, you know that, but sometimes I think I could finish this reel off in another couple of hours, I would like to go on.  But it would mean paying the projectionist and everything like that, but there is no hardship attached to it believe me.

It is a good game to be in.

AL Thank you Gerry.


Gerry Humphries was a prolific sound technician, and former head of Twickenham Film Studios, Humphreys’ 250 film and tv credits include many directed by Richard Attenborough. Nominated for five BAFTAs he won twice for A Bridge Too Far (1977) and Cry Freedom (1978). Other credits include Blade Runner (1982), Gandhi (1982) and Hamlet (1990).He was nominated for two Oscars - A Chorus Line 1985 and Gandhi in 1982 in the category Best Sound.

Gerry joined Twickenham Film Studios as Sound Recordist and, with the departure of Stephen Dalby in 1969, he became Head of the Sound Department. A talented mixer, Gerry was much in demand by directors. Richard Attenborough mixed all of his films with him at Twickenham and Gerry’s credits appear on many famous films throughout the 70’s, 80’s and 90’s. During the 1970’s and 80’s, Twickenham Studios continued to do well, both on the stages and in the theatres, so much so, that it was decided to expand the facilities.
Gerry succeeded Guido Coen in the running of Twickenham Film Studios in 1996.