Gilchrist (Gil) Calder

Gilchrist (Gil)
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Interview Date(s): 
19 Jun 1992
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Born 1913, father was a jockey, mother an actress, so he knew from early years he would go into the theatre, and he talks at some length about his early life clearing stage craft. 1940 went into the RAF, became a ground engineer and spent all his service time in the UK. After the war he went back into the theatre and talks about his early post-war years with a base in Highgate, London. He joined So Brief the Spring in which Robert Newton starred with Barbara Mullen; he then joined Wilfred Pickles with the music hall version of Have a Go, after which he wrote to the BBC, asking if there was a job for him. Arthur Osmond replied to his letter, and he was taken on as holiday relief as a studio manager; he was then offered a permanent post and talks about his early days at Alexandra Palace working with Robert Barr, Ian Atkins and the scriptwriter Duncan Ross. He was given a late night show to produce with Nadia Gray which he talks about, then various programmes, and then the move to Lime Grove – and the difference.


He talks about the film programme he produced, Current Release, with [W] Farquharson-Small; he then worked as director on Robert Barr’s Under Her Skilled Hands. Talks about the arrival of Paul Rotha and his first idea – not good, finding stories by reading through Hansard, and talks about Docklands, and Behind these Doors, and They came by Appointment, then on to Sunk Rock with a script by Colin Morris, and their ongoing relationship.


His partnership with Morris was coming to an end; his new scriptwriter was John Prebble with whom he produced The Londoners, Body Found, and then came a script from Troy Kennedy Martin, Incident at Echo 6; then another John Prebble, The Seventh Age, and produced Colin Morris’s Who, Me? After which Peter Saunders asked him to put this on in the West End, at the St Martins Theatre but it only lasted three weeks. Then came the Mather Story from John Prebble, a documentary [BBC Genome lists this as a play DS] about Stanley Spencer, which he said wasn’t good. He continues to talk about various shows with Michael Caine; the various changes being made in the Drama Group, and about the various personalities. In the mid-1960s he took unpaid leave to go to the States, to produce a play with Terence Stamp and Margaret Courtnay. On his return he started work on Softly, Softly and The Onedin Line. He then talks about working at the training school in Woodstock Grove, his final retirement in the 1980s, and his boat and cottage in the Isle of Wight.


He now remembers that the name of the play was Alfie; talks about the early heads at Alexandra Palace, and some of the people he worked with: Cecil McGivern, Paul Fox, Huw Wheldon; Cecil Madden, Norman Rutherford; and the Kinsey Report. Talks about Bill Rutherford who gave him a chance to try his hand on rehearsals in the gallery, and it was on a Vic Oliver show. He was able to see a screen credit for this, thanks to Bill Ward.