Harry Manley

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Work area/craft/role: 
Interview Number: 
Interview Date(s): 
10 Jun 1996
Production Media: 
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A Summary of the HARRY MANLEY Interview. File 383.
Side 1. Born near Birkenhead in 1934. His father was a Funeral Director and the family lived above the premises. Started school at the age of 5 attending the local church primary school at Port Sunlight model village - now a graded site. Aged 7, he began at Birkenhead Prep. In 1942 his father was killed during the North African landings whilst serving in the Royal Navy. He left school at 16 with two *0' levels. His family insisted on him having a safe job and made him take the Civil Service examinations which resulted in him becoming a Clerical Officer. This led to an offer of a job with the Air Ministry in London in 1951. In 1952 he joined the RAF to do his National Service as a Clerk. He enjoyed the life, and at the age of 21, returned to the Air Ministry to work as a clerk in a secret department that dealt with Atomic weapons. Wages were about £7 per week. He had no particular interest in films but enjoyed visits to the cinema as a boy, although not encouraged by his parents. He talks about the Ritz, Birkenhead, its double feature programmes and stage shows during the great days of the super cinemas. Whilst at the Air Ministry he began thinking seriously about doing more with his life and so he went to the library and looked up any professional occupation he could do without a degree, without taking articles, or without going to college. The only possibility was for him to become a Chartered Secretary. So he enrolled for a 3 year correspondence course, while, at the same time, changing his job. He joined a bombed-out City firm with ^ offices in Great Portland Street, as a clerk. This was a 'business and confirming house', but he had no idea what that entailed. Within a month of joining, they moved into a new building in the City and he began thinking of a City career. He talks about the job which he enjoyed. He also managed to complete the correspondence course in two years; Rising at five in the mornings and studying until ten o'clock most evenings. It was hard work but he enjoyed it throughout the years 1956/59. He was now qualified and demanded a better job, but had to leave the firm at the end of the month with nothing in view. Several interviews later, he opted for Colour Film Services in Portman Close, off Baker Street and was interviewed by Roland Chase, the owner. Roland was dubious about employing a city gent who could have difficulties in getting on with people in the film industry. However, he was taken on with some trepidation, as Company Secretary at £750 a year, increasing to £1000 after 12 months. He describes the firm's work and equipment. Originally, he decided to stay only 3 months, but retired from CFS as Group MD after 30 years!
He talks at length about the development of the company, and his role in it. Masked printing is discussed. The company continued to expand. Roland Chase had an engineering bent and was able to specify the design of equipment. The interview continues with a history of CPS.

Side 2. Continues with the development of CPS. The development of the first colour tape to film transfer system resulted in the transfer of hundreds of episodes of CORONATION STREET, RAINBOW, and many other videotaped programmes - all very successful. Then came standards conversion, poor to begin with. CPS was one of the first video houses to become involved in VHS duplicating. In 1965, Harry became Pinance Director and eventually, MD. The interview continues detailing the work of the development engineers, with Roland Chase pushing innovation to the limits and Harry looking after the finances. The staff numbers employed in the various departments are mentioned. Early dealings with ACT are covered, also the complex discussions on the possible takeover of Humphries Labs. Harry took retirement in 1989 to take advantage of the terms then available and Roland Chase was also retiring at this time and was very anxious for his son, David, to take over. The history of professional 16mm. is discussed from its early beginnings as an amateur gauge. Harry recounts the story of how he became Treasurer of BKS after being refused membership! Britain became the centre of the world for technical excellence in 1977 because of the political climate in Eastern Europe. He was now asked to be President of BKS but always arranged to have technical boffins at his side to answer high-tech questions! There was talk of BKS and RTS merging at one time, and BAPTA, which had just acquired its magnificent HQ in Piccadilly, sat at the table with both Societies with a view to having a merged Society, the RPTS, based there. BISPA is also mentioned. Harry was invited to join the Board of BAPTA, having originally been turned down for membership! Another interesting story.
Side 3.
Harry became Treasurer of BISPA and talks about the financial difficulties of the Society and its aims. The IVCA, of which he was Chairman, is also mentioned. He is also the Chief Executive of BAPTA. Harry is also a member of the Board of Pilm Classification which looks after the administration, but he is not involved with the actual classification of films or video. Another Directorship is that of the Children's Film Unit which he goes on to describe in great detail. Channel 4 commissions a feature from them every year and it is crewed entirely by children, with just one adult present. They also produce commissioned documentaries, all from their Putney workshop on Saturday mornings. Harry enthusiastically states that the discipline on the set is
3/3 phenomenal and the Unit turns out twice as much footage per day as an average professional adult crew! Harry joined the Board of BAFTA around 1980 when they took over the building. He also became Finance Director for a while. He recounts the early financial difficulties in relation to the occupation of the building and how close the Society came to the Bank putting in the Receivers. At the end of the interview he is persuaded to tell the very bizarre story of the David Martin affair. [END.]
HARRY MANLEY was interviewed by JOHN LEGARD. DAVID MATHER ROBSON recorded it and wrote the Summary. , I make the usual disclaimer about the correct spelling of some names and places which need to be verified.


Harry Manley (HM)

Laboratories (Colour Film Services)


Interviewers: John Legard (JL) & Dave Robson (DR)

Date: 10/06/1996

2 Tapes

Side 1

00:00:00 – 00:18:08 Background and early life in Birkenhead; started at Birkenhead School in 1945 and left at sixteen; wanted a career as a customs officer; he became a clerical officer in the civil service at the Air Ministry, moving to London in 1951; 1952 – National Service in the RAF as a clerk; at 21 he went back to the Air Ministry for eight months before looking for a new career; as a youngster he would not be allowed to go to Rialto Cinema in New Ferry; as a teen he visited the Ritz cinema in Birkenhead; he had no thoughts of a career in cinema; still great queues outside the cinema in the early-1950s; HM remembers watching the Queen’s coronation at a neighbour’s house; his family got their first TV in 1954; HM remembers watching the first night of colour TV; Stoll Theatre, The Strand; HM enjoyed theatre, opera and ballet.

00:18:08 – 00:25:35 HM began researching a new profession without a degree – he enrolled for a three year chartered secretary course; 1956-59 HM became a clerk at a finance and confirming house for three years; moved into a flat in Hampstead; spent most of his weekends sightseeing; met his wife at 24 on a holiday in France; after qualifying as a chartered secretary he looked for a better job; had an interview at Burrow’s accounting as a salesman.

00:25:35 – 00:33:59 Applied to be company secretary for Colour Film Services; the building at Portman Close was very run-down; interview with Roland Chase; CFS started in 1948 at Shelton Street; 30-40 employees in 1959 when HM joined; Dubray and Bell and Howell printers at this point; all process went to Kodak as it was reversal at this time; a van went up to Kodak every night and took a week for the films to return; he retired 30 years later as group MD; they had just bought ‘a pair of sheds at Perivale’ behind the Hoover factory for developing B&W; something was on the horizon which Kodak were not going to develop themselves; the next ten year were critical for CFS – they developed from re-invested profits, every penny went back into the company; the factory at Perivale got busier until the late-60s when they built a proper brick building where the printing was moved into, developing and positive print film moved in also; they worked in entirely in 16mm; CFS made its name in the masked printing days – early industrial films; although negative came in by the mid-60s, reversal for prints carried on until the late-70s early 80s.

00:33:59 – 00:34:32 

JL: Of course, the point of the masked print, am I right in saying ‘cos Kodachrome was sort of rather contrasty wasn’t it?

HM : That’s right.

JL: And this is a method of reducing the contrast.

HM: It reduced the contrast.

JL: I don’t know whether you … I can’t remember…

JL & HM: [unintelligible]

HM: And I think it cost an extra penny a foot, old penny a foot to have a masked print done.

JL: And so you have this lovely quality this lovely sort of pastel quality very often.

DR: Is that mosk?

HM: ‘Mask, M A S K E D’

JL: The mask being…

HM: And you had what was called standard printing and a mask, and the mask was leader.

00:34:32 – 00:48:47 CFS continued to expand; Roland Chase had an engineering bent; Calder equipment was put in to their own specifications; CFS were unique until Universal came a long much later; they handled a lot of 16mm neg made from a 35mm original; Denham went into 16mm but Technicolor didn’t for many years; CFS processed all of Technicolor’s 16mm material until the early-80s; when Technicolor wanted to enter the 16mm market, they thought they could buy CFS when Bill Ingram was managing director of Technicolor – it didn’t lead to anything; in the 1960s CFS installed a sound recording facility in the basement of a new property adjacent to theirs which proved to be very successful – mainly industrial films with Richard Baker, Michael Aspall and Judith Chalmers providing voiceovers; HM discusses buying the new building in 1962 which included the CFS preview theatre; Beating the Romans by John Lang was one of the first films shown in the theatre; around this time CFS moved into video – tape to film transfer; TVR had been doing black and white tape to film but were unwilling to go into colour.

Side 2

00:00:00 – 00:11:10 Tape to film transfers; any TV show companies wanted to sell abroad had to either go on a 625 line tape or on film; CFS did hundreds of episodes of Coronation Street for Canada; 470 episodes of Rainbow went all over the world; Saturday afternoon wrestling; drama was still shot on film so it was only videotaped programmes; as standards conversion for TV came in the business dropped off; industrial films shot in tape were also transferred; they put in a duplicating bank with a telecine machine; they remained in the specialist area rather than investing millions; film processing was still a big part of the business; in 1965 HM became finance director and later managing director; Roland Chase looked after the technical side and HM took care of the money; Roland Chase looked to developed a printer which prints A & B rolls and soundtrack in one pass – they could never achieve this but these developments were important to the company; Bernard Happe was a consultant for CFS; on the video side Bill Wood consulted with CFS; they had 80 people at the laboratory on a three-shift system 24 hours a day; tape to film had a staff of 10; CFS Equipment Ltd had a staff of 3; a lot of Perivale staff came from Technicolor.

00:11:10 – 00:25:12 HM relationship with ACT – John Jeffrey and Roland Chase were mostly involved; eventually CFS came to an agreement with ACT; HM became involved as managing director at CFS; staff relationships were always good except during pay review; HM discusses the merger with Humphries; John Jeffrey was put in as managing director of Humphries and half the staff were removed; Humphries were now in a stronger financial position and it wasn’t in their interest to merge with CFS; John Jeffrey remained with Humphries until Rank took it over; HM took over negotiation with the union during time when laboratory work was dropping as video came in; a strike happened in the early-80s but Technicolor remained open – from then on the individual labs did their own negotiations; only 35 staff working at Perivale at time of interview; HM took retirement in 1989 then went to BAFTA as finance director.

00:25:12 – 00:34:26 Universal labs came in as a rival to CFS; 16mm wasn’t considered ‘professional’; they had very few personal customers but a lot of film units set up for companies who believed they could produce their own industrial films; British Transport Films started on 16mm Kodak reversal in 1953/4 for their travelogue films which were then blown up to Technicolor; the BBC never used CFS for printing but did for sound recording; HTV, RTE were the biggest customers in television; a lot of work from overbroad – Sweden and Norway; television took over from industrial films; Alan Barratt and Jack Potter started Universal Lab after leaving CFS which was very successful and later sold to Carlton – many staff at Universal came from CFS; Major Steadman’s Dragon Productions made medical films and had a large share of the market for a time; Buck Film Laboratories set up by David Buck from Humphries – still going at time of interview. 

00:34:26 – 00:48:20 Roland Chase was heavily in involved with BKSTS and setting up the first big exhibition ‘Film ‘69’ which would then take place every two years; HM started to meet more people from the industry; HM became treasurer of the BKSTS and built up the society; the following exhibitions were enormously successful; HM believes that the success of ‘Film ’71 and ‘73’ was due to politics as the Iron Curtain countries desperately needed equipment – there they could meet the Americans to agree on sales; ‘Film ‘77’ was important as the Chinese bought the three-strip system from Technicolor, London because they couldn’t buy it from the US; HM then became president of BKSTS; Dennis Kimberly and John Corbet became his vice presidents; HM discusses Unitech, BAFTA, BKSTS, BISFA; when he was president of BKSTS he applied to be a member of BAFTA – two years later he was asked to be on the board of BAFTA.

Side 3

00:00:00 – 00:19:43 HM becomes treasurer of BISFA and later chairman; HM initiated discussions for BISFA and IVCA to merge; HM recently visited CFS for the first time since 1989; BAFTA in Wales; his time as CFS has put him in good stead for his current duties; HM discusses his role on the board of the BBFC – he has no role in the classification of films; HM is a director of the Children’s Film Unit – a workshop for children led by Colin Finbow in Putney; once a year the CFU are commissioned by Channel 4 to make a 75minute film; the 16-plus CFU make commissioned films from elsewhere

00:19:43 – 00:32:25 HM started at BAFTA in 1979/1980; in 1989 he was offered a 3 year contract as finance director at BAFTA before retirement; HM came to BAFTA at a time when they were close to receivership; BAFTA grew very quickly, overstretching itself financially; membership of BAFTA remained steady; BAFTA borrowed £2 million to redevelop the first floor of their building in Piccadilly just before the recession started leading to their financial problems.

00:32:25 – 00:48:11 HM has no regrets about his career; the David Martin affair at CFS – policeman shot at the CFS building and subsequent manhunt and shooting of Stephen Waldorf.



Born in Merseyside where he spent all his early days until coming to Lonodn in early 50's. In Air Ministry as a clerk, did National Service in RAF and rejoined Air Ministry after National Service. Citty career until late 1950's when he joined Colour Film Services as Company Secretary. Retred 30 years later as Managing Director.  On boards of BISFA, BAFTA, IVCA