see also #466
[Transcribed from Joyce Robinson’s notes. DS]
NB Unfortunately there are no indications as to where tapes begin and end.
Gus was born in 1913 in Carnock, near Dunfermline/Fife. School there, and Technical College to learn building construction and surveying. Came south to earn money to go to South Africa, but stayed to work on new studios at Uxbridge and Pinewood. [Paid] 25/- [£1.25] for ‘digs’ [lodgings] in 1935. Worked on Things to Come, The Ghost goes West, Knight without Armour, Fire Over England, South Riding, Thief of Baghdad. Heard of outbreak of 1939 war on Alexandra Korda’s portable radio. Then A Yank at Oxford, [and] I, Claudius. Remembered work on film stopped when Merle Oberon had an accident., and two-hour’s notice was not unusual. Next: Busman’s Holiday, Goodbye Mr Chips, The Citadel.
Gus was made a charge-hand in 1938; then a supervisor on In Which we Serve. A chief electrician was killed in front of him, and others injured when charges misfired on this film.
Speaks of Designer David Rawnsley, and of David Lean. This Happy Breed followed and Henry VIII. Mention of Bill Searle, construction manager and Stapleton’s tightening up of expenses exercise at the studio. Gus worked on The Drum and The Four Feathers, Contraband and George Formby comedies; Korda’s Q Planes, The Amazing Mrs Holliday; and The Life and Death of Colonel Blimp.
He responded to appeal for wood-workers for aeroplanes at the beginning of the war. Was called up in 1942 and commissioned soon after. Worked again after the war at Denham/Pinewood on new Technicolor films Wings of the Morning. Then Treasure Island, Robin Hood; The Sword and the Rose. Was on 14 Disney films in all, then Rob Roy, The Third Man, Major Barbara.
Nicholas and Alexandra, and Doctor Zhivago followed, then Travels with my Aunt.
He accepted a construction franchise at EMI in 1975, and retired in 1981. He talks of working in Nettlefold/Walton [studios]; Merton Park; MGM; Associated British Studios and several locations.
Favourite Directors: John Ford, Henry Hathaway, Otto Preminger, Fred Zinnemann, David Lean, John Huston.
St Joan, Bonjour Tristesse and Exodus followed. Speaks of changes in production techniques, and loss of/lack of professionalism (due to not working up through industry in his opinion). Considers unions have played a big part in shaping [the] industry – belonged to NATKE, and the Amalgamated Society of Woodworkers (ASW) in his career. Ted Higgins [was] his first union contact. Hopes ‘stories’ will come back into films.