Jocelyn Rickards (JR)
Interviewer: Roy Fowler (RF)
Date 7-8/3/2001 & 5/4/2001
00:00:00 – 00:17:35 Born 1924, in Melbourne; when she was 11 her family moved to Sydney; at 14 she went to art school where she studied for 6 years; she came from a nice middleclass family which had no connection to her later career; after the first two years at college she was required to choose a specialist subject and started in the painting school; her ambition at this time was to become a painter and had no interest in working in the cinema; after finishing at art school JR set up a studio overlooking the harbour where she worked on her painting; her paintings sold very well but she wanted a larger canvas to work with and decided to move to London; her parents were very supportive of her decision to go to art school; her studio in Sydney was located at Merioola House which was also occupied by a number of other artists who formed part of an art movement in Australia; there was a constant flow of artists moving through Merioola; the painters at Merioola were rooted in contemporary European.
00:17:35 – 00:35:15 She moved to London in 1948 with her partner Alec Murray; Harry Watt had been in Australia shooting Eureka Stockade prior to JR leaving for England; Julian Spiro had a room at Merioola for a period; JR talks about the journey from Australia and her arrival in London during times of austerity; JR talks about photographer John Deakin and theatre designer Loudon Sainthill.
00:35:15 – 00:43:30 By 1950, JR is still painting; she talks about some of the paintings sold during this period; Loudon Sainthill was asked to storyboard a film version of A Midsummer Night’s Dream for which he sought the help of JR and Margaret Olley; JR discusses some of her other activities during this period including the Diaghilev exhibition in London featuring variety of period dresses.
00:00:00 – 00:10:30 JR continues to discuss her involvement with the Diaghilev exhibition in London.
00:10:30 – 00:17:00 JR’s paintings would be used as set dressing; decorator John Bannenberg hired JR’s paintings for some of the films he had been working on; she was asked to meet with Anatole Litvak to discuss The Deep Blue Sea; she met Terrance Rattigan at Shepperton; Vincent Korda was the production designer on the film.
00:17:00 – 00:26:30 JR describes her initial designs for The Deep Blue Sea which Vincent Korda agreed to purchase; JR worked on the actual screens used in the film but had little more involvement; discussion of Graham Greene, Alex Korda and Merle Oberon.
00:26:30 – 00:43:20 1956, no longer with her partner Alec but still shared a flat with him; JR had a relationship with philosopher Freddie Ayre for three years; JR talks about costume designer Beatrice ‘Bumble’ Dawson; JR worked with Loudon Sainthill on a musical ‘Bloomer Girl’; at this time JR had been working at Nathan’s costumier and was asked to work as assistant to Roger Furse on The Prince and the Showgirl; they worked at Furse’s home before moving on to Pinewood; JR became friends with Doris Box; for The Prince and the Showgirl, Dawson worked on the women’s costumes and Furse the men’s and sets; JR discusses her experiences on the set and begins talking about Marilyn Monroe’s white dress in the film before the tape ends.
00:00:00 – 00:03:55
RF: This is Jocelyn Rickards take two. Yes, you were describing…
JR: Marilyn’s costume. And I wouldn’t have put her in a white costume. She had three identical costumes in case anything was spilled on it and we didn’t want hold ups. It was a scene of a court ball and there was Larry, in uniform, with his hair parted in the middle, than which nothing is less attractive. It didn’t even give him a very good period aspect, you could have done it in several other ways and there was… in that scene there was Sybil Thorndike, Maxine Audley and Esmond Knight, I can’t remember who else, but they were people I got to know, I mean, Sybil looked marvellous in violet velvet and it was a beautiful, sort of, weird period recreation. Maxine Audley was in shaded lace, very beautiful rose pink shading to shell pink. Immensely elaborate, she looked beautiful but I heard Bumble say “Uh, my god, I had no idea that Roger would people the ballroom with men in scarlet jackets.” I’d done it in fact because I had chosen all the period costumes, I mean all the ballroom costumes, and there were dark green jackets that I liked, I mean, given that in a ballroom the jackets are more important than the trousers. There were marvellous dark blue privy councillor’s uniforms I think, dark blue gold braided frock coats and… Richard Wattis was in it too, he played Larry’s aide-de-camp… but Bumble said “All these red jackets and I thought the centre of the piece would be Maxine in rose and pale pink.” And I thought “Why didn’t you talk to Roger, why didn’t you talk to me. Why did you leave it to chance, Bumble.” I didn’t have to choose red jackets, but it was limited what you can choose… those remarkably swept up grand uniforms for a ballroom scene – don’t keep your hand over your work, communicate far and wide. But I didn’t say anything.
00:03:55 – 00:11:00 JR talks about some of her other experiences on The Prince and the Showgirl; JR earned £30 a week for the film; Jack Cardiff had no input on the designs, the film was very compartmentalised; Carmen Dillon worked on the film alongside Roger Furse.
00:11:00 – 00:23:10 JR talks about Alec’s operation; JR then worked with Loudon Sainthill on stage musical ‘Expresso Bongo’ whilst continuing painting; costumes for Expresso Bongo were made at Berman’s and Elizabeth Cuzon.
00:23:10 – 00:45:30 JR met Tony Richardson after a performance at the Court Theatre; Loudon Sainthill was working on Look Back in Anger and asked JR to design the costumes; on working with Harry Saltzman, Tony Richardson, John Osborne and Mary Ure; the film was a real act of collaboration; Monty Berman asked JR to redesign the costumes for the UK version of ‘West Side Story’ as the original designs had been lost; JR talks about the cast and crew of Look Back in Anger; JR took Edith Evans shopping for clothes for her character; Richard Burton was derisory toward the script but was easy to work with at this stage; JR talks more about her work on ‘West Side Story’.
00:00:00 – 00:18:15 Costumes for the stage production of ‘West Side Story’; friendship with John Osborne and Mary Ure; relationships with Wolf Mankowitz and John Osborne
00:18:15 – 00:45:25 JR designed the costumes for John Osborne’s musical ‘The World Of Paul Slickey’ which wasn’t a success; JR recounts a trip she took with John Osborne across France following the premiere of ‘Paul Slickey’; JR talks more about her relationship with Alec Murray; JR talks about the period surrounding the theatre productions of ‘The Entertainer’ and ‘Look After Lulu!’; on her meeting with Noel Coward; JR talks about the pre-production on the film version of The Entertainer.
00:00:00 – 00:33:00 On The Entertainer; JR greed to work on The Entertainer as she and Tony Richardson had worked so well together on Look Back in Anger; Laurence Olivier arranged his own clothes for the film; JR recommended that Shirley Ann Field wear her own clothes as they were already the right style; Joan Plowright was fitted for a bodice to give her a waist; JR felt that the cameraman’s opinion on her work was most valuable; her role as a woman in the film industry; after The Entertainer JR began painting seriously again; John Osborne left JR for Penelope Gilliatt; JR continues to talk about her relationship with John Osbourne.
00:33:00 – 00:44:30 Harry Saltzman called JR to ask her to do the costumes for From Russia with Love; JR talks about some of the principle actors on the film including her friendship with Lotte Lenya; the KGB costume tailored for Lotte Lenya; a lot of the location work was completed in Istanbul.
Side 6 – BLANK
00:00:00 – 00:47:00 On Morgan and dressing the cast; JR discusses the gorilla suit worn by David Warner; JR talks about the costumes worn by Vanessa Redgrave on the film; whilst shooting Morgan JR began designing costumes for Mademoiselle which were to be made by Pierre Cardin; these were difficult to design as they were character clothes and very un-chic; JR’s designs were lost on her way to France to meet Pierre Cardin and had to be re-sketched on return to London; JR recommended David Watkin as cinematographer for Mademoiselle; further discussion of the film’s production in Corrèze, France, including stories about actors Ettore Manni and Umberto Orsini; working with Pierre Cardin on her dress designs and fitting Jeanne Moreau; further discussion of the film including JR’s experiences living in Corrèze; Tony Richardson’s relationship with Vanessa Redgrave and his bisexuality; planning costumes for The Sailor from Gibraltar.
00:00:00 – 00:21:30 JR talks more about The Sailor from Gibraltar; working with cinematographer Raoul Coutard; working with Ian Bannen; on shooting in Greece; shooting at the Uffizi in Florence with Vanessa Redgrave; Tony Richardson’s behaviour on the set; shooting in Rome and meeting Franco Zeffirelli; the various personalities on the set of The Sailor from Gibraltar impacted on the filming; shooting in Athens; JR brought in Ruth Myers to work on the costumes with her; Tony Richardson asked JR to meet Orson Welles in Madrid before starting work on The Charge of the Light Brigade; JR told Richardson that she would not work with him again.
00:21:30 – 00:26:20
JR: I mean, David Watkin had a totally dozy idea about The Charge of the Light Brigade, he said “Can’t they wear blue and silver instead red and gold?” And Tony said “No”. But it had been decided by this time that [Ruben Taylor Tournien?], do you know who I mean?
RF: Sorry, who?
JR: [Ruben Taylor Tournien?]
RF: Yes, yes indeed, yes. [Break because of distortion] Really we are talking around Charge of the Light Brigade and you were saying Watkin had some peculiar ideas.
JR: David wanted all of the British army to be in blue and silver – nobody would’ve known where they were and David was to be cameraman, [Ruben Taylor Tournien] was to be production designer and there was a letter for me from him wanting something, wanting samples of red and I said to Lee “Well, I’ll do that, but I am absolutely at the end of the line. I don’t want to work with Tony again, he’s be mercurial, impossible and unpredictable and I can’t imagine what it will be like in Turkey with him with a huge crowd.” Apart from that, John Osborne’s script had been pinched from Cecil Woodham Smith’s ‘The Reason Why’ and there was a huge court case over it, because Larry Harvey had the rights. By this time John and Tony were daggers drawn. I can’t quite remember why. I mean things were getting very dicey between them when I had been in Istanbul doing From Russia With Love. And he … and they went on squabbling and falling rapidly apart. So I guess Tony had taken it aboard that I was pissed off. And I settled down, now what did I start doing? What is the next thing?
RF: Blow Up according to this.
JR: Well I think it probably is. What’s the date of The Sailor From Gibraltar?
RF: ’67, which it has to be release date because Blow Up is listed ’66.
JR: I got back to London. I was exhausted because I had done one and a half films…no, I had done The Knack, Morgan, Mademoiselle and half of Sailor From Gibraltar on the trot and the only thing I was faintly interested in was all the news of Antonioni coming to London.
00:26:20 – 00:45:50
JR: And the telephone rang one day and it was Assheton Gorton who said “Listen, I am working with Antonioni can I bring him around to your studio and any others you can get me in to.” And I said “Sure Assheton and you are not to tell him that I am a costume designer. I can be a painter because you mustn’t pressure him.” And so they arrived, Antonioni, Tonino Guerra, who’d written the script of Blow-Up, and Assheton. And I showed them our studio, I showed them Richard Wollheim’s and I showed them a couple of others and then took them around the corner to see some more and they set off to look at more studios. Telephone call from Assheton who said “You didn’t tell me I could not tell him after we’d left you that you’re a costume designer. And he wants you to come in and see him.” So I said “OK, I will.” They had offices in St James Street in the Economist building and I went in and Antonioni had said to, I still don’t believe this, had said to Assheton “She won’t be too sophisticated for me, will she?” I mean, certainly one of the most sophisticated men I have ever met; anyway, there we were, sitting on either side of this large desk and he said “Do you speak Italian?” And I said “No.” And he said “Oh, what are we going to do?” And I said “Francais?” And he said “Yes.” And so we spoke French and we spoke French right through the shooting of the film. I’d read the treatment which was fascinating and he said “Are you interested in it?” And I said “Absolutely. Totally interested.” And he said … I then said “It’s too important for you to trust me without knowing I can deliver.” And he said “Would you go over to Paris and write an essay for me on the state of fashion there?” And I said “Yes.” And he also said “And then you could do a few drawings.” So this took a week I think. I went to Paris duly, I mean I went to the fashion houses, I went to see Victoire, who’d been Christian Dior’s favourite model and she’d opened her own, sort of, Pret-a-Porter in the Place des Victoires, and we talked about fabric and she said “There are some amazing fabrics coming out.” And she showed me some which would change colour under different lights and one had never seen it before. Anyway, I got back to London, I wrote my essay and delivered it and then did some drawings and went in to see him, with the drawings, and I put them on his desk and he threw back his head and laughed, which was always a very good sign with him that he’d liked what you had done. And he said “Est ca va Jocelyn, bien, merci.” And then I … did I go back to Paris? I think I did and bought fabrics … no I didn’t buy fabrics … yes I did buy fabrics. There was a place that sold fabrics, the offcuts from the Couturiere’s Collections, which you got for almost nothing and I bought fabrics for all models, or maybe not all of them, but any fabric that really pleased me and I got … they gave me an office where I … where I was quite happy working and I didn’t do drawings there, but Michael Seymour, Assheton’s assistant, had a girlfriend called Ann Mollo she’d been working as … no, her husband was one of those Mollo’s who was great with … oh Jesus … was great with uniforms. With historical uniforms.
RF: Oh yes.
JR: Andrew Mollo.
RF: Might he have worked with Kevin Brownlow, originally, hadn’t he?
RF: On the film they made about the occupation.
JR: One was called John Mollo and one was called Andrew Mollo. I don’t remember which she was married to. She nearly drove me mad as an assistant, but she was very willing. We worked on St James’ Street and I would send her in to Jermyn Street, well to Fortnum’s, to get something for Leonard to eat in the evening. And she was very good with cheese, or with smoked salmon, or something – she was great in that way; but if I’d show her a piece of fabric, she’d squeak and say “Oh Jocelyn, I think you are going too far.” And I knew then that I was going in the right direction if Ann thought I was going too far. She became, later, very well known as a set dresser, but she hadn’t turned herself into anything with any creative input at all, she was just a very boring girl, upper class girl. I eventually … casting took forever, we started trying to decide on … David Hemmings had been decided on and we started working with models and eventually we got those sorted out. Peggy Moffat was … you’ve seen Blow-Up?
RF: Yes several times.
JR: Peggy Moffat was extraordinary. He said to me one morning “Peggy Moffat is coming in today, have a look at her she’s just an astonishing piece of self-creation.” And she came in with this white mask of a face and eyes painted on. Absolutely astonishing, and I can’t remember what she was wearing, but it was dark blue with a white clowns collar and this sleek cap of black hair cut very short and we had her, Jill Kennington, I don’t remember the others, or not very well. We had two who were great – Jill and Peggy and then, did we have two who … I can’t remember if there were four or five and David’s costume we decided on very early: a pair of white jeans, a pale blue shirt and a green corduroy jacket. Then I started to get the models clothes made and I said to Antonioni “Listen you’ve got to come to one fitting of one model. You’ve seen the drawings, you liked them, but you ought to come and have a look at the clothes.” So he came to a fitting of Peggy’s and he sat there and again said “Ca va Jocelyn.” And went off. And Berman said “Does he ever say anything more than that?” And I said “That’s the best one hopes for, sometimes he says more.” And …
RF: Had he ever talked about the film, what he wanted, how he saw it, what it was about? Because there are degrees of enigma in the film, are there not?
JR: Yes, I think I thought we had talked about it. I had immense respect for him, I mean, I remember Assheton coming round one day with some little model aeroplanes saying, they were khaki with targets on them, “I think this is how he sees the costumes.” And I looked at them and I said “Well, leave them here.” And I looked at them and thought “I don’t think he sees the costumes like that. I’m just disregarding them.” And I think Assheton in fact was totally bewildered because he didn’t speak French, I at least got more from him and then he kept testing Joanna Shimkus, who eventually married Sidney Poitier, and he wanted her in the part that Vanessa played. MGM said “No, not well enough known.” So I kept saying “Try Vanessa Redgrave.” Fell on deaf ears. Then he got Maureen … who’s that harpy with dark hair, pretty, very … what was her name…
RF: You said Maureen?
JR: No, not Maureen, I’m wrong.
RF: Can you think of something that she was in?
JR: A star. She was a Hollywood star. What the fuck was her name?
RF: No idea.
JR: She came over to be tested and I said “What do you want to test her in?” And he said … I showed him some clothes we had … and he said “Ca va Jocelyn.” It was a sort of madras checked skirt and a green handkerchief linen shirt as far as I remember, and she arrived and she had the most astonishing figure, she had large tits and… oh god, what was her name …I’ve got to think of it. Maybe I can’t. Clive will remember later. And she didn’t like what she was to wear and I said “I can’t help it, this is what Antonioni wants you to wear.” And with very bad grace she did the test. And when she finished and went to say goodbye to him, he said to me after “You don’t like her?” And I said “No, I don’t like her.” And he said “Why not?” And I said … he said “I think she’s great looking.” And I said “I think she’s of the forties, I don’t believe she’s a person of the present day.” And then Peggy Moffat, I remember, came in, she was wearing a navy blue dress, I’ve remembered that, with a white frilled collar with a red bow there, with a red bow falling to her hem. And we were getting into shorter skirts and eventually I had all the models clothes made and we’d talked about … I said “What sort of thing?” And he said “Do one in black, white and grey and the other collection in colours and do one for morning, one for midday, one for evening and one for whatever. Four dresses or whatever and we were shooting in Princedale Road in Noting Hill in a photographer’s studio… it was a living studio, but a huge photographic studio and Assheton had built gantries from the living part along the wall so he could go from the dark room to the living part. Veruschka came and I decided not to have anything made for her, but to see what I could find in period stock, and I found an amazing beaded tunic which came to a point… it was scarcely on her. It had little strings of beads across the hips. And her body was astonishing, and she looked amazing in it. He said to me “Who could I use for makeup?” And I said there is a French makeup man, I mean a makeup man who speaks French, he’s a Frenchman called Paul Rabiger and he said “Hair?” and I said “Well, there’s a girl I know called Stephanie, at least she is younger that most of the others, she will probably do what we tell her.” So we settled with those and …
RF: Were there not any union problems…
JR: No, they were both union members. I mean Paul Rabiger was a union member…
JR: ACT. Or NATKE…
RF: It was NATKE, of course, in those days, yes.
JR: And the hairdressing girl called Stephanie. And Peggy Moffat did her own makeup, always. But Jill Kennington and the others were made up by Paul, but once one talked to Paul and told him what one wanted he got the message very quickly. And Jill said to me one day “Why has he chosen those…I mean there is Peggy and me and those two others who have got two left feet.” And I said “God knows whether he can show it on film, but he wants…what he wants to show is the fact that you, Jill and Peggy are supermodels and the others are also-rans.” And she settled down at that and then we started still trying to find a replacement for Joanna Shimkus. Maureen … no it wasn’t Maureen Swanson, it looked like Maureen Swanson, this girl from America and eventually he said to me one day “Do you know Vanessa Redgrave?” And I said “Yes.” And he said “Could you ring her and ask her to come in and see me?” And I said “Yes.” She was appearing in Miss Jean Brodie, so I rang and I spoke to her and said “Vanessa, are you free to come in and see Antonioni?” And she said “Oh God, yes.” So she came in, they met, they got on … Vanessa spoke good Italian and they got on very well and he said he would like her hair darkened, so Stephanie arranged for her to go to Vidal Sassoon to have her hair darkened and … [end of tape]
00:00:00 – 00:14:05 JR had a shirt made for Vanessa Redgrave at Turnbull’s which Antonioni wasn’t happy with; Redgrave was eventually dressed in a blue denim skirt, a thin viyella checked shirt, black silk scarf knotted at the neck, and a pair of t-strap flat black patent leather shoes; JR wanted costumes for Jane Birkin and Gillian Hills to look homemade, one was white, turquoise and apple-green, the other was pale blue with a green print, both had colour tights; all the models had flat shoes of multiple colours; the costume for Verushka was a great success, “like beetle’s wings back and front”; shooting moved to a park in the East-End; Assheton Gorton clad all of the houses which showed beyond the trees in white with a bit of black detail, the grass was sprayed greener, the tennis court was marked; JR talks about costumes for the mime-tennis sequence; the spectators at the tennis-court were designed to look like a student rag; for the actress during the scene in which David Hemming’s buys an aeroplane propeller, JR asked her assistant to dye a skirt in such a way that it looks fragmented an split like a sapphire; Antonioni requested guests at the party scene to bring their own clothes and for JR to look through them and control the colours.
00:14:05 – 00:23:50 The end of shooting on Blow Up; JR then took a break in Tunisia and recounts some of her experiences here.
00:23:50 – 0:27:00 Antonioni requested for JR to join him for the filming of the jazz club sequence which was shot at MGM; David Hemming’s green jacket had been stolen between shooting and JR found a replacement at Berman’s; Antonioni requested no yellow for the jazz club extras; JR got a mixture of mini-skirts and period clothes.
00:27:00 – 00:47:30 JR publicised Blow Up whilst in New York; JR talks about her experiences in New York and seeing Blow Up for the first time; a screening of the film was arranged accompanied by a viewing of the costumes; the film had endless publicity in the US; Battersea Market painted red and black for Blow Up; model Donyale Luna and bathing suit in dark red, yellow and pale cerulean blue – most of the shots were cut out of the film; JR’s memories of Antonioni.
00:00:00 – 00:32:30 JR on Antonioni; Antonioni controlled Blow Up completely; not a great deal was shot which didn’t appear in the final film apart from the scenes in Battersea Market; the Time article on swinging London; JR states that the article had nothing to do with Blow Up nor what was happening in London; the King’s Row scene during the 1960s; JR designed ‘Meals on Wheels’ by Charles Wood whilst working on Morgan; her relationship with John Osborne and his work; JR worked on sketches for Osborne’s play ‘Luther’; John Osborne’s personality and how this manifested in his work; the relationship between Vanessa Redgrave and Tony Richardson.
00:32:30 – 00:46:10 The Bliss of Mrs. Blossom; Evangeline Harrison worked as JR’s assistant; Assheton Gorton was very inventive; details on the production of The Bliss of Mrs. Blossom; Tony Richardson’s personal relationships; JR was going to work on Wonderwall but Evangeline Harrison took over, JR believes she only contributed a costume for Jane Birkin; Alfred the Great where JR met Clive Donner; JR conducted a lot of research for this film.
00:00:00 – 00:28:45 JR talks about how she came to be involved with Alfred the Great, working with director, and future husband Clive Donner, and production designer Michael Stringer; JR conducted research for the film and which materials could be used for historical authenticity; Evangeline Harrison worked as JR’s assistant; the cameraman was using blue filters, meaning that if JR wanted hot colours they would have to be forced – the Danes were dressed in a slate-y blue and the Saxons in hot earth colours; the Danes’ trousers were based on a pair which had been preserved in a bog; Saxon nobles were in leather and furs; there was a close collaboration between the designers and cameraman; Saxons wore sock boots which were colour coordinated with their skirts; hundreds of costumes were made for the film and were used again in other productions, included Polanski’s Macbeth; a lot of fur was used in the costumes; Prunella Ransome had a coat of ‘ginger bunny’; a dress for Ransome was embroidered with shells which was inspired by research conducted by JR; Pattie Pope made the jewellery in the film.
00:28:45 – 00:46:35 JR talks about the team working with her on Alfred the Great and her relationship with Clive Donner; JR was not entirely satisfied with Alfred the Great but was happy with her own work.
00:00:00 – 00:25:15 Events leading to JR’s involvement with Ryan’s Daughter; David Lean’s involvement in arranging costumes; JR didn’t get on well with Lean; a number of stories about various cast and crew; JR spend about nine months on the film.
00:25:15 – 00:27:00 After returning home, JR was asked to provide more black clothes for the women in the storm scene; JR talks about an Irish extra who brought her own black cloak to the set and asked a local tinker to find more.
00:27:00 – 00:35:40 JR talks more about her experiences on the set of Ryan’s Daughter; JR on her and Clive Donner’s return to London and their personal life at this time.
00:35:40 – 00:42:30 Sunday Bloody Sunday with John Schlesinger and JR’s experiences on the film.
00:42:30 – 00:43:50 JR believes that costume design should be totally at the service of the audience, to take short cuts; you should be able to tell from their clothes exactly what type of person they are and their preferences.
00:00:00 – 00:25:05 Charlie Chan and the Curse of the Dragon Queen came after a long period out of the industry while JR and Clive Donner were living in LA; CR spent a term at the University of Southern California working with design student; she consulted on a few films during this period; JR talks about Franco Zeffirelli’s Hamlet; securing a union ticket in the US; on the production of Charlie Chan and the Curse of the Dragon Queen; costumes for Michelle Pfeiffer were bought in downtown LA; JR felt that some of the American crew had little knowledge of the industry.
00:25:05 – 00:38:45 On returning to London, JR had an exhibition of her paintings; JR painted a mural for the film Stealing Heaven, in Eloise’s bedroom; JR had a consultant role on Arthur the King; JR reflects on her career in film and painting.