Hugh Attwooll

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Interview Date(s): 
19 Nov 1993
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BEHP 0306 S Hugh Attwooll Synopsis.


Born 1914. Educated Hampton Grammar School. In 1928 offered a job as an assistant Stills man at Worton Hall Studios. He also worked in Automatic Barnes laboratories, then worked at Twickenham on the RAYCOL colour system. Became an electrician in 1930, working at Ealing Studios, moving to Islington Studios, worked at Albany Street Studios as a general handyman. Together with two others started their own documentary film unit for the Ministry of Defence. The building of Pirbright Camp. In 1939 called up to Territorial London Scottish.

He relates some of his wartime experiences. Demobbed in 1946 went to the Bush [Shepherd’s Bush] and got a job as Second Assistant Director, later to be made Production Manager. Went to the United States in a reciprocal arrangement, along with George Hill. On return continued as production Management, worked on Pandora and the Flying Dutchman (1950). In 1959 approached by Cyril James of the Disney Organisation, with whom he worked until 1965, and then he worked on various “odds and sods”.


This side consists of reminiscences of his early career and the various directors he has worked with. He winds up talking about the changes and how the “accountants” have taken over.


Alan Lawson  0:00  
copyrighting of this recording is vested in the back to history project. Hugh Attwooll Feature Film Production Manager. Walt Disney's UK representative interviewer Sid Cole recorded on the 19th of November 1993 at Pinewood side, one

Hugh Attwooll  0:31  
we go, right. Hugh you prefer to be called you, Bob?

Yes, yes. Well, I

don't mind if you don't mind, by the way.

But tell me how, you know, when you were born and where

was born in 1914, and eventually went to Hampton, which was Hampton grammar school. And in this, just before the school holidays, 1928 I was offered a job as assistant to the stills camera man at Whorton Hall. And I said, Fine, you know, this was for the school holiday period. And I went over there on a Saturday morning, and found that the chap got the sack on Friday night. Anyway, they said they could do with the office boy. And I hung around for the rest of the day. And thought, this is a job for me. And I started on Monday 10 shillings a week, less five pence insurance and had a whale of a time running around thinking myself the the cat's whiskers and getting kicked around as well. And camethe end of the school holidays that was there. I'm not I wasn't going back. There was a big family confrontation. My mother had paid school fees. And I was hauled before the headmaster. They said Attwooll you'll never be anything but a an errand boy. He was quite right. Highly pay one but and that was that I, my mother decided that I'd  pay her the school fees. Back in two & six a week, the subsistence of two &six a week. And I could have the rest which was about four and sevenpence She bought me a bicycle to get there just to work anyway. And you're only 14 I was only 14 and a half. Yeah. And that was that I sort of became office boy. Relief telephonist call boy. And everything that's at Wharton Hall side and pictures on federal

Sid Cole  0:46  
what films that they're making.

Hugh Attwooll  2:53  
Well, the very first film was Harold Huth? and Chilli Boucher as a juvenile leads. In a film I think it was called Downstream with a chap called David Dunbar American director of wore a big Stetson hat and was marvellous at throwing knives and things like that. But he wasn't a very good director. Not at someone, not at people he used to throw them at playing cards and was fascinating. I mean, he you know, he twirled his six guns and things like that. But I don't think he's a terribly good director. And I didn't meet Harold Huth? until after the war when he was producing and directing the root of all evil, which is a while afterwards.

 So you had no your family have no connection with

none whatsoever? No. I mean, they'd be an amateur theatricals and things like that, but nothing more.

So how long did you stay at Wharton Hall?

I stayed there until really sound came in British Acoustic and

Timeline when roughly

that was 1929. I remember I sort of half joined the sound department of it with Stuart Rome. He came over and did some locations for Dark Red Rose from Wembley,

I have figured out how the actor acting Yeah. And

I thought well, I've got to learn something about sound. And British acoustic came in and the sound on disk. And I went out I went to a place called R. I. Varie? because I thought that they had learned something about sound and I went all over the placeup in town but they ended up in office jobs. Went to Siemens. And then finally I found that there was a job back in the labs automatic barns?, a Wharton Hall. So I went back there and went down to reduction printing. We're doing the sort of standard army contracts. Reducing 35 to 16 millimetre.

Of course, black and white black then, I think was must have been about 19 beginning of 1930 the ship called the Vestrus? sank in the Atlantic, remember here and a chap was on it had a 16 millimetre camera with negative and he photographed the the beginning of the sinking. he photographed it from the lifeboat and then photographed it from the ship that saved them, took it into Movietone and sold it to him for I think 100 pounds, which they bought immediately. They didn't know what to do with it. So send it out to us to see if we can blow it up. We did the first blow up. I think we got it on a Thursday. And went  right the way through to the Sunday. It was sheer trial and error. And we all we did was reverse the optics. I was only assistant the time was putting my two pennorth in. But finally on the Sunday night, we managed to get it It looked like fog of course. I mean the grain was enormous. But they did put it on on the Monday as a scoop for British movietone News.

And they never you never did. nobody had never done that.

Nobody's ever done it before.And then I worked on the 16 millimetre side with Agfa doing their reversible stuff until they found out that I was doing it. And that was that. So I stayed on an automatic barned? for a little while but it was a bit of a dead end. I thought of messing around doing very little. I decided to move and went to Twickenham to Raidsol?. They were doing a two colour process.

Sid Cole  7:06  
What did you do that?

Hugh Attwooll  7:08  
Just dog's body

that the name of the the head man of Raidcol

I'm trying to remember I can't ignition Yes. But it was a dead end. I again I thought and I was wanting to get some money and I found that if I became an electrician I get one and six and three farthings an hour and so I moved over to Teddington to Henry  Legion Norman studios. And they were doing a film called Stranglehold with Isabel Jeans, Alan James And that was my introduction to the electrical side.

Yeah. What year was that? That was

about 1930. Again, I all in that area. And Stan Double. Oh yeah, he was a chief engineer there. And he had been contracted to instal Ealing. And he promised me a job as this boy again. And I went over there and couldn't find Stan and got myself a job on one of the cement mixers nearly broke me back in about three days. blisters all over. And Stan Double came one day and did literally did a double take and saw me as well the hell are you doing here? You won't give me a job and I gotta find something. So So we're going to start so that that was it. I was at Ealing. Right from the outset. Yeah, as an electrician, as an electrician is when I remember

Yeah. Yeah, I knew then you must have worked on the film called Escapes. Did you?

 no The first thing we did was Nine till Six with Louise Hampton, Elizabeth Allen. And then oh there was a series of things, The Sign of Four years with Arthur Whatner. The Passive Footman, loyalties. lLoyalty is Looking on the Bright Side with

Gracie Fields

Gracie Fields all that stuff. And the last one I did there, I think was the Perfect Understanding. for glory Gloria Swanson.

I always quote that because I was a that was the first time I was strictly at Ealing. And because Perfect Understanding was the misnomer of all

times. Yes. was so Phil Gardner?  and Curt Couran and all that lot where you started off

with Phil Brister? remember what

Yes, yes, that's right. And then Eric Cross came in. I remember That Curt Courant wanted this and then Curt Courant wanted it there. So they Brooght, Eric Cross in,

he put it in the middle.

Remember Larry and Nora Swinburne in a carriage I don't think there's any film in the camera but they had to keep on going because they hadn'y got the money and they didn'y want to close down. It was quite a quite a show that when I went over to

is when when did you get that was that was quite early, perfect. That

was 30 again. So 30 to 32  as I was at Ealing quite a quite a long while.

And then I in November 32 I went over to Islington And there I more or less stayed until tup in arms? whenever I was out I used to there was a chap at Wharton Hall called Bert Quilch? I don't if you ever remember him, he was the general manager. And then he left there and he opened the studios in Albany Street and used to do commercials and things like that. And I whenever I was out of work, I used to go up and he used to give me a job as a either cutting room assistant or assistant director or buyer or whatever job there was, for a few. A few Bob. And I spent most of my time when I was not, you know, you always you'd have the hours notice. Anyway, I I did reasonably well at IslingtonI got myself a blue ticket, got myself one and eleven pence farthing

the way things operated in in, you know, engagement of electricians in those days.

It was an hour's notice. You used to go up to the door and wait and they come in, come out and say you can come in and you worked and he would work for a couple of hours. And they say well that's it

owhen you were at Ealing. Was it not more regularly? Oh, yes,

it was it was Yes. We were there all the time. I

you were staff in fact,

yes. I don't think we're ever laid off there at all. In fact, I'm

what sort  of money was

It was one six pence three farthings and hour and the pink ticket rate. And the union. Ealing, they weren't really militant. I don't think they're really militant at all anywhere. Except the VIP, of course, they were they were pretty, pretty tough Yeah. And that was the cause of the downfall really of in 1938 because we were on the Lady Vanishes. And VIP went on strike. And we were ordered to come out on strike as well. And Charlie Wheeler and Harry Craps and all all those. We all came out at reluctantly been the district officials all laid his foot down and said that's it. And of course NAATKE went straight in. We were out in the dogs. We did eventually get compensation from the EBU. But that was the end of the

era. Yeah, that was a bad time with that inter  Union. turnovers interest 

The only people who stayed in were the generator engineer and the the chief chief electrician and Stan Sergeant. The rest came out and the Bush came out as well. Ted Scaife and the sound the sound boys stayed in although they were EBU. Les Hammond Ted Scaife Frank Sloggett and all those people they all were wise and stayed on the job, which was very sensible of them. And then that was

so what happened to you then?

I was I was dabbling with some chums and we started a sort of a documentary. Job. And we did finally get a job with the Ministry for photographing the beginning of the Pirbright camp. The military camp that started in about what the end of 38 and it was a you know, we scratched a living I think we were earning about we gave ourselves a couple of quid a week. I think I lived at the London Scottish hut at Bisley because I was a member of the London Scottish and that was free living for me.

How did you come to be that? London Scottish I only know as the rugby club?

Oh, no, no. is London Scottish Regiment Yes, yeah. And I joined them in 37. And of course, we travelled long until 39. And I was Lance Corporal then key party because I was a signaler. And end of  August that was it. So I was in the in the in the army for the next six and a half years

Sid Cole  15:42  

Hugh Attwooll  15:44  
I stayed on afterwards as well. in the Territorial Army.

Before you go into the more years didn't didn't this little documentary setup you had have a name company?

I can't remember it now. The other two chaps stayed on for a little while and then they packed up. But we were paid footage  I think the amount of footage we we shot and it was from the time they started building the campp to the actual initial and  drilling. And I suppose we shot about two or 300 feet of film a day. A week I think. Core version I'm setting our heart. Oh, no, no, no. If you wouldn't know him I mean, really, we're all amateurs. I say well, semi professional. So they weren't

very they

say what happened to you immediately on the outbreak of war. I mean, you were

well, we were mobilised and I went to Chelsea barracks as a lance corporal, then because the regiment is such had a lot of reserved occupation people. I was promoted sergeant.

And then

shortly afterwards, getting 40 hours commissioned back into the signal platoon and stay there until I was captured in Anzio. 43. The only really amusing thing of I can think of truth was the war , you remember you did the next of kin, with Gregory  O'Rourke and David Pilbeam and Norton. Way Naughton Wayne and Basil Radford. We were in Iraq in 1943. We got back to Iraq and my Batman was an Aberdonian he was a projectionist. And he came to me one day and said, Have you seen routine orders? And I haven't looked and he said, Well, they want projectionist. What do I do? He said, I know you are you've not done it. And I am. So as to keep quiet. Don't volunteer for anything is you know, in the army. So we kept quiet. About two days later, I was hauled before the CEO. Who should I know you're in the film business you've talked about, using projectors? So he said, Well, you and your Batman are the only projectionist  in Pi  force. go immediately to divisional headquarters. So off, I travelled. And we Kiirkuk at the time with a big mud hut, cinema. And I went and saw the G 1 They said we have a very special film that we can't allow any of the Iraqis to see. And we've got to do it. coming in in half again, starting at six o'clock in the morning, Marching in and they see the film March off and the other half brigade comes in. So we arrived on the day surrounded by military police. No film. All we had in the thing was Roxie Hart with Ginger Rogers. And they had old simplex machines, they're beautiful machines, you could do anything with them. And my Batman was very, very clever. And after a while these chaps are in there and even nine o'clock in the morning, eight o'clock in the morning. It was pretty sweltering so the brigade major came out and said you can't do something I can't keep these chaps sitting around all the time. So we put on Roxy Hart They don't want to spoil it. The thing is a half dozen times. We ran it fast. We ran it slow. We turned it upside down after about 20 minutes we, we couldn't think of anything else. And we said With that said, so they dismissed the brigade, the other half brigade turned back. And then we sat no film

Eventually I went to

I was a captain. And eventually I went to divisional headquarters and said, Well, what happened? Is it always between here and Baghdad, somebody stole the film  absolute disaster. I said, Well, what was the film? I saw a very special film. It's all about sort of keeping mum. I said, I remember a film that we showed was now on public release, called Next of Kin Was that it?

has been on general release for about a year and I half I think it had  gone to Lisbon and Berlin in the rest of place


after, after the demobilisation, I went back to when we were demobilised. 46 March 46. And I having seen a lot of damn good films, I thought I really got to learn the business again. So I crawled back to Shepherds, Bush and I got a job as a second assistant at five pound a week. If I'd have been wise, I'd have gone back, and I'm now a Major and all that and what got myself a job with a bank ?????????? which a lot of people did. But I think I was wise in not doing it. Anyway, I started off on the Root of all Evil with the Harold Huth?. And the next picture was The Brothers with David McDonald.


I think it was one of those things where people were going to be called for the first time and the casting department decided that they'd have to call people. And it was one of these usual mix ups that happen in in those days. And I remember getting down into the makeup department one morning and looking for Meg's Jenkins and Rosamond John was in the chair, and I said where's a Meg she's gone. She's home in bed as in my dear she's supposed to be here was the first time she'd been supposed to been called. Anyway, I got on the phone asked her to get over as soon as possible. She was due on set, quarter to nine o'clock. She's what I can't be there to tell you. And by the time I'm made up, it's going to be about 930. Overall, that's it. I went up saw. Old David MacDonald said, David, I'm sorry. I've dropped a clangerMegs Jenkin's not here. You can't do the setup. why can't do something else. About an hour later, he came over and said, Did you draw? I said, David, I don't know. But mind you I will take the blame. Because, you know, he's over and done with now. He says you were the first on his path seems to care. And that was that we submitted a sort of fairly reasonable relationship. And then he when he was offered to do Good Time girl, he was with Pat Roc at the time. And Jean Kent was supposed to be doing the picture. He was a bit reluctant because Pat Roc didn't want him to direct the picture. Sydney Box did. And his final excuse was he wouldn't do the picture unless I was his first assistant which was very nice. And that was it. I was fascinated about three or four more pictures first. then they  decided to make me a production manager. And

Sid Cole  24:32  
we were under contract them were you? Yes.

Hugh Attwooll  24:36  

yes, we Yeah. Of course. They the one of the funny things was going to the States. You know what they came over with. So well remembered. Adrian, Eddie Demetrios and Rosenberg, Ruby Rosenberg. And the ACTT  decided that they'd let them work, providing there was a reciprocal arrangement. And out of the blue for no reason at all, like, I've never managed to find out that George Hill well myself and Mark Evans, were chosen to go back there.


mount George Mark Evans Couldn't he was doing some work, he couldn't join us. We went over on the Queen Mary on its first trip. George George Hill and myself a first class and arrived in New York. They didn't know what to do with this, but they eventually sent us out to Los Angeles. And we arrived, of course, when Adrian and Eddie were prescribed by the UnAmerican Activities Committee, and they were suspended. So we left in limbo. Anyway, they found things for us to do. And when we had a marcellous five months, really going around doing all sorts of things, I eventually ended up as a unit manager on back to back cowboy thing called Roughshod with Tim Kelly and Tim Holt, Nancy Kelly. And I learned a hell of a lot about, you know, the American, the American way of life in that short period, and then we  came back. That would have been when that was 1947. And I've yet yet yet find out how we were chosen. I don't know what the general counsel did. At that time, it came right out of the blue. And very gratifying, I must say, because we, we were paid. I think I was getting 20 pounds a week at the time, good salary yeah. wasn't bad as a production manager. And we got I think, about $100 a week, which was enormous, because it was $5 to the pound, and the time, and I got friendly with a bank teller. And all all he was getting was $42 a week. So you know, we weren't living the life of Riley. In fact, we were sending nylons and everything home. nobody's business. And when we came back, I continued cutting odd pictures then we came over here and did a thing called Roses for her Pillow with Gooie Withers And they were in the middle of Blue Lagoon and things like that they're here, yeah, yeah, yes. And then I went back to the Bush when we finished that off. Then I went to  Islington And they closed that down on us. JOHN Davis closed it down. And then I was sent back over here to do startup Poison Brown and the Astonished Heart. There we, we stuck and they course they In the meantime, they closed, Shepherd's Bush down and everybody moved over here.


when we finished the astonished heart, there was very little going and I was offered Oh, yes, I was offered to do first assistant on what was it? I can't remember the film up in Liverpool. Ken Horn was production manager. And I was then I think I was getting I was getting 40 pounds. a week  then that was the standard contract figure. And Paul Soskin decided that it was too much. And Arthur Walcott called me and said they won't pay your your salary. I said how much will they pay as well 25 as well take it goes to 25 pounds a week I was on overtime. And the first week up in Liverpool I earned over 100 pounds. We were 40

Sid Cole  29:26  
we went by what time was it

Hugh Attwooll  29:28  
that we got getting on for getting off of 50 I think it was because that finished and we went on to all the the studios here closed down at that time and they were going to do cloudy yellow, which never materialised and Tony Keys came along and said you've got Pandora & the Flying Dutchman would I like to do that? That was fine though. I joined Join them and did Pandora and worked right the way through to the end of that that picture. Of course, when everybody had gone Al Lewin was determined that he was going to have it as a Royal command performance. When we knew then, the Mudlark got it. And I think we were over at Shepperton and I think we had about 15 editors sound and picture editors trying to get the picture out. And Romulus we're going mad the money we were spending. But Al Lewin had the final say, because he never got the, the the command, the Mudlark did it. And I then that was the end of that. And I joined Sidney Box again, he left he left the Rank Organisation he had words or with the John Davis. And he was now an independent producer and they had a place over at Mill Hill. And we did a couple of films, small things. And then I came back to do the locations of the Planter's Wife because they thought that I knew all about the Malaya and the army and things like that we never got to Malaya because of the troubles we finished up in Ceylon. But that was quite fun. And from then on, I had another contract with rank organiser with Rank Organisation and went on to do things with puffiness?? with the nMalta Story . Various other pictures as well. And the last one was Operation Amsterdam, which is great fun to do. And we just finished that and I had a lot of time off in lieu of work, and he suddenly said to me one day, young john Wilcox has gone sick. And the Anna Lee Neagle pictures about to start they want you to take her when I say Oh God, I don't want to that because I was coming to the end of my contract with the Rank Organisation and they're working with Paddy Carstairs on a film called Bats in the Belfry, which we hope to get going. And the phone rang, or Arthur, Walcott said  come over to the office. But I knew what he wanted. And I was just about to leave the office and the phone rang again. And it was SaulJames from Disney. And if you would you like to come and work with Disney. I said of course I would. I had previously been offered a job with them but couldn't take it for various reasons. That was the Rank Organisation. They called it Banner in the Sky, which they did in Switzerland and then they're in the middle of preparing Swiss Family Robinson. And walked apparently walked into their conference with Bill Anderson and Ken Annakin, Dasil Keys and john Howe. And said I want a production man in England know anybody. They said me and that was it. So as I put the phone down, over the office, saw Arthur Alcott. And I said, I know what you want me to do, Arthur, I don't want to do it. He said, Why? I said, Well, I don't feel like  can cancel my contract. I've only got a few more weeks to run. He said, Oh, good. Yes. They were desperate to get rid of anybody anything. Anyway. So that's all thank you very much. Next I went up to town saw Phil James and the next thing I was on my way to Los Angeles. What year was that? That was in 1959. January 59.

I just do the one off which was Kidnapped in the middle of that to all work towards the middle of the end of Kidnapped. Walt came over and he started quizzing. about where I worked and did I know Italy and I said not to work in or Germany not to work in but I knew Holland and Switzerland, Sweden and Spain and France. And he decided then he was going to do a lot of live action pictures they split the European in two had a Peter Harold and Steve Previn took Italy and Germany and I was sort of more or less given the the remainder of Europe wisdom and They had a Norman Foster ex actor who was doing Hans Brinker and the Silver Skate. And he brought that over and it was a bit of a mess. We sorted that one out and then he was going to do a thing called Dances of Spain. So Walt sent me out there to see what I could do for that. Anyway? We did. He did these series of Dances of Spain, which were very, very good. And then said he got Greyfriars did I know the writer. Well, in the meantime, we he sort of seen a number of writers like jack Whittingham West be Brian Forbes, Tibbie Clark, and he suddenly produced Fullspeed ahead, Three lives of Thomasina Prince and the Pauper. JACK Whittingham did one four star ahead? TEB Clark. That's the fantastic one with Tbbie. They gave him the story. He said I want to go to Paris for about four days. And I said Yeah, fine. Came back wrote the script had Walt there's good put it on the shelf. This is the first time I've ever seen a script accepted just like that. And that was the greatprogress. We did Greyfriars Bobby then

Sid Cole  36:39  
not in fact, we did that

Hugh Attwooll  36:40  
John Chaffee his first really his first big picture. Yeah. And then we did. The Horse Masters Bill Fairchild directed that. Then Don did the Prince and the Pauper. And then we went on to instat did? the castaways, the Castways to full star ahead? head to Thomasina and it was just one after the other right up until about 1965 when Walthad become too involved in his Orlando, Disney World. And he lost interest and left it to Bill Anderson. And by the time when he died, of course 66 that was about the end we did the Fighting Prince of Donegal. Then the whole of the Disney Empire, more or less came to a grinding halt for quite a while. And I went on to the Battle of Britain got the sack from that why was that? I crossed swords with Harry Saltzman and Benny Fish. Because they said the picture could be made for $8 million. And I said it couldn't cost more and hurt you. It costs 15 in the end I said it cost 13


so that was that the line join the Dayton Duffy thing for Only when I Laugh


that. I was offered to go to Paramount under contract. But in the meantime, Disney came back into the orbit and they wanted to do a film so I said  what Paramount What do you want me to do either I can join you and you can loan me out this new I stay with Disney. They said you may as well  stay with Disney but probably the worst thing I did because about six months later, Paramount closed down, everybody got a golden handshake?

Sid Cole  39:00  
You still wouldn't have got a very big

Hugh Attwooll  39:01  
No I've got I've got something. I've had a two year contract that they had to get rid of. And so we did a thing called Dancing the Heather and then older the fabulous Fred Brogger turned up. We did with his Omnibus we did David Copperfield which was very, very good indeed. We had practically every known artists, in the business in it. And then we did Jane Eyre with George Scott. And then we did Kidnapped which was a absolutely which was a rehash of, of the old kidnapped Stevenson's kidnapped. And David Katrine which is a follow up. And it wasn't very good with Michael Caine. And that was really the end of Fred because he then went on to try and do a Voyage round my Father and That was the that was the end. Fortunately, I'd left him by that time and I was doing other things. And Disney kept on, you know, recurring every so often. right up until 1980. And then the the whole thing Ron Miller, who taken over, got the push. And the last film we did was Watcher in the woods, which wasn't very good. And from then on i've sort of fiddle around doing odd bits and pieces, the i's sort of did watchdog for Fox, on some stuff that Roy Skates? did a series of horror movies. Then I did sort of London contact for Inside the Third Reich, which is a television series. And then eventually, Born remembrance, which was great fun. I was on that for four years, off and on.

I started in 1984. And I finished in 1988. Which was, I was, all I was doing was doing budgets,

finding English locations. fiddling around, we did the special effects here. Of course, we've got three Emmys for the special effects. Godfrey Gogar I've got it for camerawork, the, Claudio, the underwater camera man who died with a heart failure, Gill Opsot? and the special effects the American special effects steps. And we did it all on the OO, seven stage in the tank, but it's really excellent stuff. And we do some locations in England as well. But they worked all over the world they worked from in Pen?, they worked at Auschwitz. They were in Yugoslavia, Italy, France, Germany, Hawaii, Washington, everywhere you can think of. And since then, that's that's all I've done nothing. Apart from. I come in here. We've got the Guild of film production executives, which is variety of odd, odd persons. We did. Thank you very much. I think my main claim to fame is we we produce enough, about 2500 pounds a year to the CTBF

annual dinner dance,

no old thing. We give an award and for people in business outside the business we think of you know, done reasonably well. And that that really it I come in here on a Wednesday and a Friday just to sit down

and think, think

and do a couple of other accounts and things like that send out rude letters to people who hadn't paid their subscriptions.

Sid Cole  43:20  
And can we pause that because there................

Alan Lawson  0:01  
Okay,we're Hugh Attwooll side two

Sid Cole  0:04  
Hugh you would starting to tell could you

Hugh Attwooll  0:07  
rent on the set with the camera setting it up D P  Cooper was the camera man, a chap called Norman I think was the director. It was a silent film that was destined to become sound so we had to articulate and I helped to dress the set help to light the set and was sent over to get the leading lady who was these bozis? Secretary brought her on the set. And then they said slap some makeup on your the office boy. I went and sat down and they turned over and my words I'll never forget. Where did Adam invent this loose leaf system? I didn't know what the hell I was talking. But he was all supposed to be very clever. And that was my morning's work. But I was this this was at Wharton Hall. This was just before the sound for really took over with British Acoustic and all the rest of it. But the other one was talking you talking of Tilly Day whilst we were in Malta doing Malta story, Tilly  was continuity. And we were in the bar one night, and I was recounting stories of the past. And I said, I remember right, very early days, when I ran a call boy what have you and I said one day, they called me out and said, You've got to do a bit of acting as if this was my leading part. And they had a chap called Ray who had the whooray kids were almost identical to our gang. They had the little pig in in the in the pet boy and all the rest of it. And the his son was Hooray. And they were doing a mock jack in the beanstalk or something like that. And they wanted me and I became the front of a cow that hence my leading part as recounting this story. And Tilly Day sort of said. Do you remember the young less that was sitting next to the camera there? I said well vaguely excuse that was me. Continuity girl on it.

Sid Cole  2:25  

could ask you about reminiscing about the various directors because you've worked with a whole range of them at any point you'd like to memories you have. 

Hugh Attwooll  2:38  
Oh, yes. One one chap who sticks to my mind who I think did a remarkably good job. On a thing called Pit Ponies It was called the Littlest HorseTthieves in America and escaped from the dark here was Charlie Jarrett. Who I think did a magnificent job on that there between is one of the one of my favourites I must say Don Chafee was great. You know

Sid Cole  3:05  
tell me about Don I worked with him great deals. Yes.

Hugh Attwooll  3:08  
I  a tremendous extrovert. But I he was he was a good director. He knew what he wanted he did it well. I don't think he really made a bad picture. I can't I can't recall one I mean not made the most sparkling in the world but he he never made a bad one is Greyfriars. Bobby I rate pretty highly I think that was a very good film, as one of his first Prince & the Pauper  was quite good, but Walt didn't like it because we mottled faces and made teeth black and things like that. And he got very upset about that. But he did relent and got Don to do horse without a  head and Thomasina as well, at later on But I think it wasn't a bad It wasn't a bad film. In fact, it won the TV Guide award in America for Prince and the Pauper.

Sid Cole  4:03  
Whatever happened to him he

Hugh Attwooll  4:04  
went to he died. Oh, yes. He had a he had a heart disease. He died in New Zealand. Yeah. His wife died and it you know Edna, she died cancer and then he married I think it was a coloured lady. since I think they're very happy together. And then he was hopping between Australia and America and he bought an island on in off New Zealand somewhere. A small island and he went there and I think he died there. Which is a great, great tragedy because oh, no, he was why he must have been still in his early 60s I suppose.

Sid Cole  4:53  
But what about the, the I he actually made one of the students in All right, I think we just knew that, you know, watch this knowing the English director but worked

Hugh Attwooll  5:05  
Bob Stevenson, great character. He stuck to the book. I worked with Bob. Way back when he was here. The Camels are Coming. Oh, Bob, the Man who Changed his Mind with Boris Karloff. And that's why I became Hugh. Because I've always known as Bob. When we started on Kidnapped, people kept running out Bob and we both hopped up. And he said, I know your name's Hugh. He was he'd known me way before the war. And he said we're going to change it. Of course he created all sorts of confusion. I suddenly became Hugh overnight, and people said have you bot a brother Bob? that's a finally it stuck and that was that was it but you know, as long as you don't call me something rude, I don't mind no he was good. He was good. He was good. Director, very, very good director. He liked his storyboards he watered got him into the storyboard complex and he stuck to that pretty rigidly, but very he was good. He became a bit waspish towards the end but he wasn't he wasn't a terribly well man. I believe he married enough enough times of course. But then, the The other thing where the camera man, one remembers more than anybody of the world. I remember Bernard Blakely, who did the Stranglehold always known as burn them up Blakely, the American he did burn him out. But all the other chaps who came over and during that time, Bob Martin Bob Pritchard? he was Bob was ay Ealing wasn't he Yes, but Bob started when Ealing started and Bob Gardener? is second cameraman Bob went back as a camera operator. I met him in 4047. Bob MartinBob Martin yes he been off for eight years and he came over here and started lighting and then went back as an operator with MGM. But Phil Tunura?Glen Williams, Charlie Venanger all those chaps who were almost American throw outs but they did quite well that no because they  Gunther Cramps and people like that as well.

Sid Cole  7:41  
It was a bit of a misery.

Hugh Attwooll  7:42  
He was a he was a terrible misery. He and Master  Helman together we're about the worst.

So Master looking at

his watch every 5 minutes Gunther grumpy Max Greenbaum max green he

Sid Cole  7:59  
Max's nice

Hugh Attwooll  8:01  
Motsilly? he's a terrible practical joker Of course. He and Hitchcock together they were dreadful

Sid Cole  8:09  
did you work on Hitchcock Lady Vanishes Are you near some famous very famous man Yes,how did you  get on with Hitch

Hugh Attwooll  8:16  
Oh, very well indeed very well. I mean, he was he was a damn good Director I mean, he

bit of a masochist shady. Oh, yes. And



I dunno about the fact but it really did was I was doing some practical work practical electrical work. And we had 110 bulbs in the in the carriage, inadvertently put two fourtys in the whole lot went  showering Hitch. That was that was not not a happy day

Sid Cole  8:56  
 Tell me about Africa with Antony Asquith. He worked 

Hugh Attwooll  8:58  
Oh, he was great. He was absolutely great. I did a couple of films with him. And he was because he was he'd give you the shirt off his back. I literally saw him Do not the shirt but his jacket. Somebody admired a jacket. He took it off and said there's been a wonderful character. I think the funniest thing really was with Disney when they were going to do Beethoven


somebody with an American was going to direct it, but they wanted they wanted to Asquith's opinion about it. And I gave him the script. And he came to the Dorchester and saw a Walt and literally tore that script to pieces because I didn't realise he who's

a bathroom.

Beethoven really poor old Walt is his stand? But

Sid Cole  10:06  
when I imagine Anthony would have torn it pieces very gently,

Hugh Attwooll  10:12  
beautifully Oh, beautifully done. I mean, no, it was in the most gentlemanly sort of way. But the he did really sort of slay them with the script. He did the lovely film called The Net. Desmond Dickinson lit that one. It was very enjoyable.

Sid Cole  10:34  
And that David McDonald, he was a bit of a character.

Hugh Attwooll  10:37  
He was quite a character. I pretty forcefully.

I don't

I wanted to he wasn't the World's Best Director, but I he. He knew what he wanted. And I good commercial. Commercial chap. I think you his problem was the bottle eventually.

Alan Lawson  11:02  
Did you work on down in the city?

Hugh Attwooll  11:04  
No. I say no, I did a couple of days on it. But only only in the studio here.

Alan Lawson  11:11  
I met

Dave and also Alec Bryce

in Joburg.

Hugh Attwooll  11:16  
Did you Yes. But I like David.

Sid Cole  11:22  
I drove to to work the he got involved into period pictures which was a

Hugh Attwooll  11:31  
Good Time Girl I thought was an excellent film. I mean, he did a damn good job on that with the Jean Kent

Sid Cole  11:36  
this man is man is news is good at that.

Hugh Attwooll  11:39  
Yes. Practical. But no. The Columbus's of this world were not for him Maybe he was out of his depth and wasn't really interested. And his his relationships I think with the ladies at times have not I think you finish up quite well. I he had a nurse did he not I looked after him. I don't Yes, I think eventually. But

Sid Cole  12:12  
any other directors or cameramen you Remember? would you say

Hugh Attwooll  12:18  
Oh good old Ken Annakin

Oh yeah, sir oak, panicin Anakin.

He's not a bad director either

Sid Cole  12:29  
Did you do Cromwell no, no, no.

Hugh Attwooll  12:33  
No did sort of various things with him Value for Money and On the 12 Things

Sid Cole  12:40  
raised, he went to America. He still lives. He went

Hugh Attwooll  12:42  
to America and I heard he was in Spain just recently. But I hadn't really heard of much of him. Ralph Smart Of course.

Sid Cole  12:54  
Oh, yes. What happened? I don't know. I don't know what how do you find out about him?

Hugh Attwooll  13:00  
Because of the various people who who became bad directors when mainly cameraman Bernie Knowles for one. Arthur Crabtree for another? Yeah, I need to stay to the their profession tghey'd be good. But once they went over to the directorial side, I think the  only person was Ronnie Neame who's is really made the grade.

Alan Lawson  13:27  
Guy Green did

Hugh Attwooll  13:29  
not really know. He was a very good cameraman And he

Sid Cole  13:32  
only made one very good picture of Gaumont I tried to recall it was about a haunted house. But he worked. He was a good TV director.

Hugh Attwooll  13:50  
Yeah, probably yes. Yeah.

Sid Cole  13:52  
I mean, it's a different

Hugh Attwooll  13:54  
different techniques.

Sid Cole  13:55  
Tell me Hughwhat are the most outstanding changes you've seen in that long varied and interesting career of yours? 

Hugh Attwooll  14:06  
Oh, gosh. Well, I think the the violence that's come into to everything that in practically every aspect of sort of filmmaking or television making as well as mainly now. It's I don't think its helped us at all. Some of the very exciting films that one can think of the old Hitchcock's The Man who knew Too Much and 39 steps. You got a little bit of action and violence but nothing much and it was never They're all terribly interesting and well made and enjoyable films. And nowadays you have nothing but sex and violence, it seems to me which is I suppose when you look back on them now some of them they they look, I when you look at Pandora and the Flying Dutchman, it was a very slow slow film, but you could still sit and look at it and it was quite enjoyable to watch. Maybe Alright, a bit boring for the youngsters now, but that is only to be made boring because everything is so fast that once you slow things down, it's so boring.

Sid Cole  15:53  
In the way, pictures are made nothing was detected. equipment has changed, but the actual approach to filmmaking really hasn't changed.

Hugh Attwooll  16:03  
Really? No, I think a lot of people become pretentious, I think and but basically, it's no different from when I first started than it is now.

Alan Lawson  16:21  
The improvements been really been incredible.

Hugh Attwooll  16:23  
Yes, yes. I mean, when you think of it, I saw the Ghost goes West on television the other day, the sound there was Abu squeaks up there. Now, of course, different chalk & cheese, except when you look at some television shows, they've forgotten about sound, and you can't understand half of what they're saying. And they you know, they go into, or big mansions, or they they don't think about baffling it at all, and is booming all over the place.

Sid Cole  17:00  
I find it interesting to say that because I find in one worries with age or something, that the balance very often between music, for instance, and dreadful dialogue is all the wrong way to me. I mean, I find it very difficult to hear the dialogue

Hugh Attwooll  17:15  
Funnily enough last night that I don't know if you see London tonight, they have a thing called your shout it from six o'clock to seven o'clock they have a thing. There's a thing called your shouting people come on and say silly things or some profound things. And I was talking to Penny last night. And as I remember now what I want to go on your shout is the balance of sound because the music comes through and bash. And then the next thing you go on to dialogue, you can't hear it. You have to switch it up. And then of course, the next thing the music comes through again and is thumping your eardrums. There must be somebody on a monitor they're controlling or should be iI would have thought But that's that's one of the big, big bugbears of television that I find at the moment. 

Alan Lawson  18:08  
Do you regret the passing of the you know, the real studios with crews?

Hugh Attwooll  18:15  
To an extent Yes. You just got bricks and mortar. Yes, yes. And I think that they've gone too far in some respects. I recall one thing that when we did Only when I Laugh with Len Deighton and Duffy, they wanted realism. They didn't want to go into a studio at all. And they decided that they would use a place of St Catherine's Doc, come in. They wanted to use St Catherines  Dock with the Tower Bridge in the background.


I said, why not? If you want to use BP, build it in the studio, because you've got to go up three storeys. Now they had they, they're going to have that room. So they built the room. It took about four weeks to build the set, because you had to haul everything up on a rope. All the equipment went up on a rope. And when you came to shoot it, you couldn't shoot because the sun was in the wrong direction. So you couldn't shoot out of that window except for certain parts the day And it took us two days work took us about seven I think Where if we'd have come into studios, we're going to build the thing in a week. Use BP That was it. Oh, for blue backing anything. But that sort of thing is it's people don't use their nuts . really  in when they're sort of organising these are there are times of course when you know, you've got to use the, the broom new or what have you because you can't possibly afford to build it that. is there's a happy medium all over all the times. Yes, of course. Exactly. I think they've they've they've lost that. I think that accountants have got a lot to blame too nowadays.

Sid Cole  20:45  
Mark, Could you expand on that a little bit?

Hugh Attwooll  20:50  

it's down there in black and white, it's going to cost x and that's it. But, and you get a y return or she'll get away return. Whereas if you take an artistic viewpoint, all right, is going to cost you x. But maybe x plus one. But you might get you might lose that little bit, or but you might get x plus three, because it's artistically Far, far, far better and more people are going to see it is the the old old thing that is the nuts and bolts thing that you can't, you can't make pictures like you make nuts and bolts. We've got to take that that little risk. And you're not allowed to. I think that one of the things now is that with all the trials and tribulations of all the we have all  made terrible mistakes in the past I know. But I think anybody goes into make a picture now.

That is going to actually lose money is a fool or an idiot. I think you can make pictures, artistically and economically. Without the tremendous risk, it might not make a fortune. But you shouldn't be so desperately in trouble, that you pack up halfway through or lose lose a lot. There are too many charlatans around doing that sort of thing and to the detriment of the business. It means taking money out of

Sid Cole  22:47  
the actual product they're

Hugh Attwooll  22:49  
taking out to the production and the production falls down or. But I think there's not there's not the tremendous future or big, big picture future in this country. But I think there's with all the television that needs on so many repeats at the moment that is hardly worth turning on on television. They've got to have new material. There's no reason why they shouldn't be some good stuff around economical stuff and entertaining, but it needs the organisation it needs the people do who know how to do it to do it.

Sid Cole  23:47  
Well, here thank you is one final thing. If you had your life over again, would you do the same?

Hugh Attwooll  23:57  
Exactly, yes. oh yes. Because I don't regret. I don't regret anyhow, I think that the wisest thing that my first wife did was in 1946, I was offered to stay on in the army. And I thought very hard about and I thought well, it's been a good life, really All in all, and I could soldier on for a few more years and come out with a nice little pension and and she said Well, look, we've been married now for since 1940. We spent a total of a year together if that. In actual days. she said you'll be going off to Malaya or somewhere or you'll be living in a suitcase. She said that's not really The lifer for us she said, You've got a chance of getting back in the film industry. You like it? Why not do it? So I said, All right. She said you can always stay in the Territorial Army can't you get the best of both worlds. So I did that. And fortunately, I went back in the Territorial Army and stayed there till 58 had the best of that world and the best of the film world. I didn't do too badly.

Sid Cole  25:36  
Great. Anything.

Alan Lawson  25:43  
You talked about Harry Kratz. Yes.

Did you also meet Lyndon Haynes? Yes, we did. Yes,

Hugh Attwooll  25:50  
the bush both of them bush. Well, Tommy Lyndon Haynes was here. In fact, funnily enough whilst I was when they were doing African Queen who was I can't remember who the chap was that fell by the wayside and they Romulus rang me up and said would you come and do it and I said, I can't I've just started on on the film, which fell by the wayside about five days out. And I said why not get Tommy and Tommy Lyndon Haynes did it.

That was but and Victor Lindrum? and I didn't want to ever happened to Victor his brother.

Sid Cole  26:33  
A nice bloke, really?

Hugh Attwooll  26:34  
Oh, very nice. Man. I tell you another man, we're talking about cameramen who turned he became eventually became a makeup man again, was the old Dave Eyelot? Do you remember him? He used to do the British Green Gazette system and that the Toytown series, they you know, one frame and he he was the cameraman. And I always remember I thought he was very wealthy because his family lived in Manchester and he used to send me down to Hounslow post office to send five pounds a week to his wife. I recall he's, he's a wealthy man. Of course, he's he his sons became very wealthy. You know, Dave and Eric. They became they did I look. Remember? They they eyelashes and things say that they became millionaires. That one of them's just died recently died. I think they David Young Dave is died about they they will make up men and dear old Dave eventually went back and became a makeup man as well.

Sid Cole  27:53  
Right. Okay, fine. Well, thank you very much.

Hugh Attwooll  27:57  
It's a pleasure says it's a pleasure...........



Born 1914 took job in school holidays in film studio and left school at 14 to work at Wharton Hall. 1929 to British Acoustic in sound department. Then to Siemens . And back to Wharton Hall in print lab. Part two is anecdotes about many British film personnel. Recalls using the wrong voltage lamps for Alfred Hitchcock. Talks of a run in between Anthony Asquith and Walt Disney.