John Hogarth

Forename/s: 
John
Family name: 
Hogarth
Work area/craft/role: 
Industry: 
Interview Number: 
328
Interview Date(s): 
8 Jun 1994
Interviewer/s: 
Production Media: 
Duration (mins): 
86
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Interview

SUMMARY: In this interview he talks to Rodney Giesler in detail about his early career as an office junior and later as a travelling film salesman for British Lion (in the Eastern Counties region). He discusses the culture of the company and the sorts of contracts and negotiations distributors’ representatives had with cinemas, and the status of the independent British distributor compared to larger British and American rivals. He tells several anecdotes of his life as a travelling rep, selling British Lion films such as Private’s Progress (1956) and They Who Dare (1953). Later he became the independent circuits manager at British Lion, and then after it became British Lion Columbia, he worked as a producers rep for Bryanston, ensuring correct treatment of films such as Saturday Night and Sunday Morning (1960). More briefly he discusses his career as an independent distributor in the 1970s and 80s, distributing films for producers such as Merchant Ivory. He recounts the changes he has witnessed in the industry, and provides interesting material about the financial side of the British film industry.

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BECTU History Project - Interview No. 328

 

[Copyright BECTU]

Transcription Date: 2002-03-02
Interview Date: 1994-06-08

Interviewer: Rodney Giesler
Interviewee: John Hogarth

Tape 1, Side 1

 

Rodney Giesler : Right, this is an interview with Mr John Hogarth by Rodney Giesler on the 8th June 1994. Can you tell me when you were born and how you came into the industry - give me a sort of chronology?

John Hogarth : Yes. I was born in February 1931 and entered the industry in September of 1946. It's a point of quiet amusement for me that at the end of 1946 the yearly admissions reached their absolute peak in Great Britain, with 1640 million admissions, and immediately upon my joining the whole decline started, until 1983 or 4 I suppose it would have been absolute depths and then started climbing again. So I've seen the best and I've seen the worst and as I'm about to retire at the end of this month it's very encouraging to know that the admissions are now constantly being increased each year and it's a trend which I think will probably continue indefinitely. I came into the industry, as I suppose a lot of people do, purely by chance. There was no pre-planning, there was no great master plan, although, like most of the youths brought up during the war, and of course immediately after the second war, the major form of entertainment in this country was in fact the cinema. Or the 'pictures' as we used to call it, cinema is a more recent and rather upmarket word. And I'd gone to the local polytechnic for a commercial course of shorthand and typing and book-keeping and commerce generally, and my thoughts were straying towards the estate agent business or property development or something in that area when one day my mother and I - I'm an only child and my father died as a result of wounds he sustained in the First World War in 1943, so my mother and I had obviously lived together and she has been quite a considerable influence on my life - and to support the pair of us, she as a result of her earlier training, had turned herself into quite a successful dressmaker. And she had - amongst many of her clients - she had a lady whose husband happened to be at that time the general sales manager of a film company called British Lion Film Corporation. And Sidney Myers was looking, or somebody within British Lion was looking for some young blood, and Mrs Myers happened to mention it to my mother one day in passing and said what was John going to do when he left school. And she said well she thought I was going to be an estate agent, so she said, "Well if he thought of joining the film business..." there was a possibility of a job at British Lion. And I thought, "Well that's a pretty good idea." Because I'd read only recently that the highest paid man in the world was Louis B. Mayer, the head of MGM, and I thought, "Well this film lark, probably has got something going for it." And it sounded a bit more interesting than estate agents. So I joined British Lion, as I say, in September of 1946 as what was then described as an office junior, which was rather a grand title for office boy and general factotum. And I can remember very clearly going for the interview, and they simply said, "Do you want to go on the sales side, or do you want to go on the accounts side?" Because there was a basic division within a distribution company in those days. And accounts sounded very boring, although I had done this commercial course and had been quite successful at that, and I thought sales would probably be more interesting and more exciting. So I elected for the sales and went into the office. I mean frankly there wouldn't have been any difference between an office junior in sales and an office junior in accounts because both were equally boring and equally tedious. And for years and years and years I came into the office at nine and left at half past five, with a strict hour for lunch, doing the most routine and mundane of tasks because in those days obviously there was no such thing as computers and everything was done manually. And there were 5000 cinemas in this country, and the amount of paper going through was absolutely incredible. And there were a great number of distribution companies, including British distribution companies, all independent, all running their own separate organisation, all with their own despatch departments, all with their own people doing technical work and all of course all people with their own sales department. And every cinema that booked a film from a company had a contract, and so there were thousands of these contracts floating through in the course of a week, let alone a year. And each one had to be recorded in three or four places. Quite why it was necessary to have that amount of documentation I never did find out, but it was absolutely essential and so for many, many years I recorded all this stuff. The big advantage was of course that I got to know the country very well. I don't say actually going there, but if somebody would say to me, "Barrow in Furness" or "Shipton under Wychwood" I would not only know where these places were, but I'd also know, and still know to this very day, the name of the cinemas in these places, because it was being drummed into me day after day after day, and it was no effort to learn because it was just, particularly as a young man, it was just absorbed. So the knowledge of the country was obtained without any effort and has actually been very useful over the years. Even nowadays when somebody says the name of a town, I'm able to tell you exactly where it is and how far it is from its opposition. That's one of important things again in those days was this barring system which has now been outlawed. It's the famous barring system where if you booked a cinema, a particular film, no cinema in its particular environment could book the film for a certain period of time. And all of this had to be checked out.

Rodney Giesler : Your knowledge of geography was of great importance in that respect.

John Hogarth : Yes it was, yes. Although there were records to that effect, but if you kept on looking up the records, the amount of time given for these various tasks was such that you just couldn't get through the day. So you had to learn where places were, otherwise you were of no use to the company and presumably would not have lasted very long. So I did that for years and years and years. And then one day again, I'm quite sure, entirely by chance, I happened to be in the lift and that was rare thing because junior staff were not allowed to use the lift, only above a certain rank in those days were allowed to use the lift [laughs]. This all sounds very Dickensian, and I'm only talking about a comparatively short time ago, but life was different in the office and there were stratas of management and people just didn't automatically do things, and you always wore a tie and a suit and things have obviously changed a lot. Anyway, one day...

Rodney Giesler : You were known as 'young Hogarth'.

John Hogarth : Oh yes, nobody ever used your Christian name - ever. Sometimes it was, "Hogarth come here" or sometimes, if somebody was being particularly polite or even facetious it would be "Mr Hogarth please come here". But never, never ever a Christian name, except amongst ourselves of course, but any of the senior management, any of the heads of departments, it would always be a surname used, all the time.

Rodney Giesler : And where were your offices?

John Hogarth : They were in no.76-78 Wardour Street, which is on the corner of Meard Street. The building's still there and I think it's multi-occupied now. But we had the whole building and the demarcation lines were such that again, the ordinary staff had a separate entrance, you didn't go through the main entrance of the building, that was reserved [laughs]. And you went through a side entrance, where there was a clock, which, although we didn't have a card to punch, what you had to do was to bang this handle and a window opened with the time and then you signed your name. And the sergeant everyday collected this document to prove that you were in. So what we used to do was round about 9 o'clock, when was the starting time, anybody that had got there about two or three minutes to nine there was sufficient room in this window for three or four people to sign their names. So the person who got there at that time held the handle down, while as many people as possible could sign, even though perhaps by then it was about two or three minutes past nine, which was absolutely unforgivable. But if you were slightly late you managed to creep in by the connivance.

Rodney Giesler : How were you prevented from forging the time with the window shut?

John Hogarth : Well the time was stamped - there was a great big clock, and as the window opened, the time was stamped on this piece of paper by a mechanism in the clock. But, you know, I can't remember, I don't think we ever actually signed out. So it was only a question of signing in, and then when you got to this level, whatever the level was, you then didn't have to do that, you could then come in through the main door. There was still a book which you had to sign, but they trusted you to sign it yourself and put the time of your arrival. You were allowed to enter that yourself. And obviously when somebody got to 9 o'clock, there would be a whole string of people at 9, even though somebody had come in at ten past, they weren't going to put ten past nine, so about 50 people arrived at the same time, all signing at the same time, you would have thought it would have been a big queue but obviously it was a way of breaking the system. Anyway, back to the lift. Obviously, totally without authority I'd decided I was going to get in the lift that day. And even when you were allowed to go in the lift there was a separate floor that you had to go to. There was only one lift but the lift had two entrances, there was a side entrance and a main entrance to the lift. And the junior staff, when they were a little more senior, allowed to use the lift, still couldn't go in the main door of the lift, they had to go into the side door of the lift. Anyway, I was in the lift one day and the lift stopped and the then assistant general sales manager came in and said something like "Morning Hogarth", something like that. And I said, "Morning Mr. Faber." He said, "Oh, um, can you see me at half past eleven?" So I said, "Yes of course sir." I had no idea why he wanted to see me. And so I went to see him at half past eleven and he said, "I've been watching your work and it looks to be okay. Our man on the east coast is leaving, would you like to become a salesman?" And I'm absolutely sure that if I hadn't been in the lift, that opportunity would have been given to somebody else. But obviously it suddenly triggered a thought in the man's mind, because there was no training programme, there was no review of anybody's performance. You got in and you worked and you left and if a vacancy came up, and if you happened to be in the right place at the right time you got it, and if you weren't well hard luck, you carried on entering all your records. Anyway...

Rodney Giesler : Actually that often happens, or it did happen in the freelance business.

John Hogarth : Well that's right. Even in what you would consider to be a more regulated environment it still was very much haphazard and there was no planning. So in 1952 I got married. Then I can remember very clearly I was earning 9 pounds a week and I was about to get married and I went to my then boss and said, "Look, I really don't think I can make my budget work." And he said, "Why not?" And I said, "Well if I'm going to support a wife." And in those days wives didn't work, I met my wife actually at British Lion in fact, going back to the clock, there was no allowance made for left-handed people and my wife is left-handed. And you can imagine, it was quite a large machine, so if you write with your left hand and the lever which opens the window is on the left, you've got a situation where you're banging the thing and then trying to do this, and as a left-hander it was very difficult, and particularly as a female - quite slender left-handed female, she had tremendous trouble. So we came to an arrangement because it was easier for another person to hold it down, so one day I said, "Would you like me to hold this thing down?" And I'd sort of seen this lady in the distance, and she said, "Yes." And that was the start of a long and very beautiful friendship. We celebrated our 42 years of marriage the other day and hope to do a lot more. Anyway, I asked for the rise and they said they'd consider it and eventually they came back and said yes, they'd agreed to give me 10 pounds a week. And in those days everyone was paid weekly and it was in cash in a little brown envelope. And sitting as we are in 1994, it's the sort of sum of money that you go out and buy a round of drinks in a pub. But in 1952 it was a magnificent sum, I mean people brought up families at something less than that. And inflation was hardly heard of. So having got married and then this thing in the lift very shortly afterwards, I said, "Well what are the wages going to be?" And this chap said, "Well it's 25 pounds a week and a car." And talk about being knocked over with a feather! I just really was so staggered by this. Amazing - I mean more than doubling your salary and getting a company car into the bargain. But there was only one problem, I didn't have a driving licence. And part of the agreement was that this chap was leaving at the end of the following week and I had start on the territory the week after. So between then and about 10 days time, it was necessary for me to have a valid driving licence. Again, in this day and age it would have been an impossible task. So the first thing I did was to lie when he said, "Do you have a driving licence?" I said, "Well I haven't got one at the moment but I'm in the middle of a course of lessons and I'm quite confident I'm going to pass, and of course I'll have a driving licence by 10 days time. So that lunchtime I hared down to British School of Motoring in Charing Cross Road, almost opposite where we are sitting now. And said I wanted to sign up for a course of lessons and, "When can you start?" And I said, "This afternoon." So I had 10 one hour lessons, over a period I think of 8 days and I said when I started, "Can you book me the test on the 9th day" which in those days you could. And so fortunately I did the 10 lessons, in fact I did 9 lessons because the 10th one was in fact the test. And I passed, and therefore a very new and very inexperienced driver was launched on the roads of this country after 10 driving lessons. But as we sit here I'm pleased to say that I still have got a clean driving licence. I'm now a member of the Institute of Advanced Motorists and the country is quite safe with me wandering about. So it wasn't entirely unsuccessful.

Rodney Giesler : So you went on the road, selling pictures.

John Hogarth : Selling British Lion's films on the territory which was called the east coast, which was broadly everything north of the Thames up to about Lincoln I suppose, the whole of East Anglia and Norfolk, Suffolk, Essex, Hertfordshire, Right the way across to Wantage in Oxfordshire. And I would leave home on a Monday morning and spend the whole week going from town to town, hotel to hotel, seeing independent cinemas because in those days of the 4000 odd cinemas which were open by then, three-quarters were owned by individuals.

Rodney Giesler : As many as that?

John Hogarth : Oh yes, amazing, people nowadays thinking of Odeon and MGM and National Amusements and so on - chains of cinemas. The independent is very much the rarity. But in those days the majority of cinemas were independently owned. And a man would either have one cinema or in some cases two or three. And the biggest circuit I had to deal with was a circuit based in Ipswich called the Bostock circuit, all of which is now gone entirely. And none of their cinemas still exist, they've all been turned into supermarkets or bingo halls or whatever. And I think they had about 14 cinemas in total, in market towns throughout East Anglia. You didn't have to go to each market town, you just had to go to Ipswich, where you did your arrangements with the head booker. But very often they wouldn't make appointments with companies like British Lion, they would probably make an appointment with MGM or Paramount. We small independents had to have the crumbs from the rich man's table, so though we were selling in those days what I considered to be very important films, mostly made by the Boulting brothers or Frank Launder and Sidney Gilliat (who latterly both - all of them - became personal friends of mine which was very nice), you had to check into the hotel, let the secretary know that you were in Ipswich and available and then they would send a message. So you couldn't go very far and eventually when they had an hour or half an hour to spare they'd send for you and then you'd give them the spiel and show them what product you had. And then you'd try and sell them as many of your films as you possibly could. But often the cry from the independent was well I can't see you now because I'm still waiting for the MGM man. The MGM people dominated the whole of this territory and they had the best films with the best stars and taking the most money, and the exhibitors therefore were anxious to book their films ahead of anybody else's.

Rodney Giesler : You were only handling British Lion films?

John Hogarth : Only British Lion films. Films like 'Private's Progress' and 'They Who Dare' and films... later on they became a little more adventurous and films like 'Room at the Top' and 'Saturday Night, Sunday Morning', but in those days they were very much um... very British and very nice and in those days they did good business because there was no independent television. Television was still not the threat that it later became. It was still transmitting only at limited hours during the day and cinema-going was still something that most people did at least once a week and sometimes twice. So there was a good living to be earned.

Rodney Giesler : Did you have to fight hard to get your pictures in.

John Hogarth : Yes, very hard, yes, because not only were we fighting the American majors but we were also fighting the Rank Organisation and probably a dozen other independent distributors, all of which were acquiring films from various sources - trying to compete and get playing time from the independent exhibitors. But it was an interesting life, you occasionally stayed at one hotel for two nights, but very rarely. It was normally a different hotel every night. And as a young man of 22 or whatever it was, very exciting. Not boring. Most people in those days didn't have cars and here I was, very young, with a car which I could use for my own purposes. So weekends were very nice, we didn't have any children in those days, so my wife and I used to be very much the envy of the neighbours because here we were, young couple, with probably the only car in the whole of the road.

Rodney Giesler : Where were you living then?

John Hogarth : Living in Kingsbury, which was in NW9, north west suburb of London. And we were able to then visit places of interest and relations and all those sort of things that made it possible because of the internal combustion engine. So my years on the road as a 'film traveller' was the term used in those days, it's not used so much any more but it was a... I can remember my first passport, and it said, 'profession' and I used the expression 'film traveller'. And on one occasion the customs officer said, "Well what is a film traveller?" So I had to explain briefly. I think it was just curiosity, I mean he wasn't worried that I was trying to do anything in the smuggling line, but it was just that 'film traveller' was an expression they hadn't come across. So after some considerable time my previous boss in the office decided to leave and again I was summoned - this time I don't think by accident, because I'd done pretty well for the company as a salesman. And I obviously knew the job that this other chap had been doing and I was his assistant before I went out on the road. And so I was offered a job back in head office, which...

Rodney Giesler : Before we go there. While you were talking about your experiences on the road - have you any particular anecdotes from that time, any particular characters you met?

John Hogarth : Yes it was actually full of characters. They were all in their own right characters, the amount of skylarking that went on by quite grown men doing silly things when I look back, like making apple-pie beds for... I mean, we were all friends, we used to very often stay at the same hotels, and so you'd find, not by plan, but simply that you'd turn up into a place like Cambridge for example...

Rodney Giesler : ...These are other salesmen?

John Hogarth : These are other salesmen. And you'd book into the film hotel in Cambridge, which was the Red Lion, no longer there, now developed into a shopping precinct called the Red Lion Precinct. And as you checked in, you'd go down in the bar and there'd be Fred and Bill and Charlie, or Harry and Frank, depending on who was doing what at the time. And so therefore there was a great friendship of the road as it were. And then you also got to know the other travellers, people working for Cadbury's or Ford's, so not just film travellers but commercial travellers generally. And in those days they had what they called the commercial room, and that was... because nobody wanted to sit down and have dinner by themselves, and if you only had two or three of you - again it was difficult and do you all sit at one small table or whatever? So they had a commercial room, with a table about the size of the table that we're sitting at now. And you could just sit down and you'd be served, and there'd be three or four or maybe ten people sitting round this table - all commercial travellers. All in different professions, some would be film travellers, some would be in sweets, some would be in clothing, some would be in ladies underwear, like the famous old gag. And so there would be a discussion about, mostly pending roadworks and they'd got a new bypass round Ely, "Oh really, that'll be good because we can..." So the general exchange of general information about the territory was always very useful and also a new hotel would be built or some of the chaps were on commission only and therefore much more concerned about their expenses and the cost of staying, and they'd say, "Mrs Jones has opened up a B and B on the outskirts of Oxford, and it's no.17 the High Street" or whatever. And so all that sort of general intelligence was very useful, particularly useful for a young man who had no experience of it before. I fortunately was not on commission, I was on a set salary, and all my expenses were reimbursed. I did have guidelines, and I can remember now that the average Trusthouse Hotel would do bed and breakfast and an evening meal for 17 and sixpence [laughs]. That was the sort of going rate. There were some that were only 15 shillings, but they weren't quite of the standard of Trusthouse. And Trusthouse, throughout the country as they still do, the Forte chain have standards which you know be you in Ipswich or be you in Cambridge, the standard will be the same. But I suppose the one anecdote that I can remember particularly, and it doesn't concern me but it happened to a chap who was working for Columbia, and Columbia had the misfortune of having a sales manager who insisted on their salesmen going in on a Saturday morning. I used to, as I said before, leave home on a Monday morning and go into the office last thing on a Friday, so my last call would be somewhere on the territory at sort of lunchtime-ish on Friday, and then there'd be the drive into Wardour Street, park the car in Wardour Street, no problems, no meters, no problems, you'd always park, it was no problem at all. And you'd have an interview with your branch manager, I was responsible to the under branch manager who had three salesmen working to him and he in turn would be responsible to the sales manager. Anyway, the Columbia man had to go in on Saturday morning and he was an elderly chap and he was taking around with him at the time, a trainee. We often had trainees grafted onto us for a week, simply saying, "This is how it's done, this is the territory." Although he would be a trainee for another territory in fact. Anyway, I heard this story from the trainee that he and his instructor went in on the Saturday morning and the interview was due to start, the general meeting of all the salesmen, was due to start at 11 o'clock. And came 11 o'clock this chap wasn't there, and so the sales manager thumped the desk and said "Where is Mr Smith?" and this trainee said, "As a matter of fact he wasn't feeling all that good and he's just gone to the lavatory." So he said, "When was that?" So he said, "About 10 minutes ago." "Well that's long enough for anybody, go and get him." So he goes out to get him and one of the cubicles in fact is shut and he says, "Charlie are you there?" And there's no reply. So he looks underneath the door to find him slumped on the floor, probably dead. And in fact he pushed him and there was no movement, so he in fact had died on the lavatory. So this is an awful story but I've told it on some other occasions and the people I tell it to tend to laugh. So the man goes back to this assembled meeting to say that he tried to get him up but he was in fact dead and the sales manager said, "Search the body for contracts and then go and call an ambulance." [RG laughs.] And that's how life was in those days. It wasn't a question of tell the poor man's widow or anything, it was does he have any contracts on him, make sure they're off him and then get rid of the body.

Rodney Giesler : Was it a stressful life, those days on the road?

John Hogarth : Well if business was good it wasn't stressful, it was a lot of fun because you were in a town with three or four mates and very often you went to the pictures, where obviously it was all free because you knew the theatre managers. Or you went out for a meal or you went to the pub or you'd play darts or... The social part was fine. If business was bad and it was usually bad because the films that you had weren't taking any money and therefore it wasn't really anything that you could personally influence, then the pressures on you from your supervisor or your branch manager were such. And you didn't want to lose the job because obviously it was well paid, in fact it was fantastically well paid for those days, I mean two or three times the national average wage. Plus you had a car, plus you had total freedom to do what you liked and providing you produced the business then there was no problem. But there was pressure which came and went. But as a young man it's one of the things that you learn to live with.

Rodney Giesler : What was the programming in those days - did they just have a film for one week or did they have holdovers.

John Hogarth : Oh yes, no, no. Holdover was unheard of, a film played, actually not always for a week. Usually, in fact more often than not, they had two films every week and another one on the Sunday. So each film would play for three days and they'd have a separate Sunday programme. No such thing as a holdover, a film would play for three days. If it was a very successful film, for instance if a major American film had come into this country having already been a success in the United States, there would be a sales policy dictated to say no less than a week, or maybe if it was very, very successful, no less than two weeks. But remember in those days, Rodney, that the average cinema probably was 700-1500 seats in a little town, small towns like Coggeshall or Aldeburgh, I mean the cinema in Aldeburgh would have had 1000 seats - the population couldn't have been more than 2000 people. And so there was no need to show the film any longer because even if everyone went, you'd had everybody in Aldeburgh in the course of a week, so why would you want to extend it? Meanwhile in this country we were probably making 600 films a year, let alone what they were making in the United States, so there was a huge amount of product and still only 365 days in every year. So if you put one into the year...

Rodney Giesler : You had your 'full supporting programme'.

John Hogarth : Very often, in addition to the feature you had a second feature, and shorts, and a newsreel. In those days a programme would be running continuously and you could come in and go out whenever you wanted to. And people didn't book, I mean there was no such thing as advance booking and there was no such thing as, "I must arrive at half past seven because that's when the film starts." People used to walk in 10 minutes before the end, see the end of a mystery and sit through it again. I mean, you think my goodness what a peculiar way of going on, but that's what people did. That's if you could see the screen because the screen would be observed through a thick blanket of smoke and you'd sit there with your eyes streaming because of the denseness of the smoke. And I can remember during some very heavy London fogs, when the combination of smoke and fog coming in from the outside was such that you really couldn't see the screen. And I can remember being in one cinema where they had to stop the show because the screen was obliterated entirely by the fug that was in there, it was really quite extraordinary.

Rodney Giesler : When you were selling films did you offer the full programme or did you...?

John Hogarth : Yes, always. Yes.

Rodney Giesler : You sold the whole package.

John Hogarth : The whole package. Sometimes the owner, for whatever reason and usually a devious one, would ask for what they called an allowance. An allowance would be a set sum of money allegedly to purchase some special little gem that he wanted. If we supplied the programme it would be obviously at an overall percentage for the programme, if you gave him an allowance of say 5 pounds to purchase the supporting programme, he would then go to another renter and purchase the supporting programme, the one B feature for 3 pounds, and pocket the 2. I mean, that was the object of the exhibitor, to try and get the allowance, is to buy something cheaper and keep the profit. So therefore we were very reluctant to do that because we didn't want to give away the money in the first place. Any money that was coming in the box office we wanted to retain as much as we could and the actual deal was done on a percentage of the box office takings, which they then had to supply to head office. Once we'd done the deal that was the end of it, we didn't do any more. Had a contract signed, the contract went through its processing in the office and the print of the film would be delivered by film transport as contracted. And then the exhibitor would send in the returns and an invoice would be raised and he'd pay. So our job as salesmen was simply to get as many British Lion films into as many cinemas on your territory as you possibly could. And the more successful you were, the better everybody liked it.

Rodney Giesler : Was it your job to check up on box office takings?

John Hogarth : No it wasn't.

Rodney Giesler : They took their word for it?

John Hogarth : Well nobody took their word for it, there was in those days, and there still is, a renting association, it was then called the KRS - the Kinematograph Renters' Society. The same organisation now is called the SFD - the Society of Film Distributors, we've updated that a bit over the years. And they had a team of inspectors. I think at their peak they had something like 20 inspectors all over the country, who used to go around incognito and buy a ticket, and submit the half that was retained to the distributor who had that particular film and the number should appear in a box office's returns. If it didn't then an investigation would start and the exhibitor would be pulled in front of the irregularities committee, which still goes on to this day, to explain why ticket 8753 wasn't in the box office return that he sent in for that particular day. Doesn't happen so much now because of computerisation, the fact that you go to a modern cinema, you've got a ticket issued by a computer and on many of those there's an automatic link to that cinema's head office and the sale of the ticket is automatically recorded so that when the box office's returns are sent in, which they still are on a manual basis, a piece of paper still arrives in our offices saying that x number of people at y price went to see this particular film. That's done now automatically, whereas of course before it was all done by a manual process. Again, another piece of paper, again had I have chosen the accounts route, today it would have been my job to get into that side. But it was a good life.

Rodney Giesler : The prints in those days, I suppose were slowly going onto non flam. stock as well.

John Hogarth : Yes, the nitrate was almost non existent when I went on the road then. Some of the older films would have still been on nitrate and the projection boxes were still constructed to standards allowed for inflammable film. But by and large it was not a problem. I was actually on the road during the birth of CinemaScope, which was interesting because you'll probably remember that 20th Century Fox broke away from their tied supply arrangement with what was then, and still is, the Rank Organisation and Odeon, and set up their own chain of customers because Rank refused to pay the additional film hire that Fox wanted for this new process. And they also refused to equip, at considerable expense, their theatres with CinemaScope lenses and screens and so on. So that was in 1954. So really quite interesting, we of course, as independent salesmen had nothing to do with the Odeon cinemas on our territory, or indeed what was then the ABC chain. They were the only chains existing in those days. There was a company called Essoldo and anybody that had more than about 20 cinemas was considered to be a circuit and dealt with as an entirely separate thing, unless the circuit happened to be based on the territory. If the head office of the circuit was, say, in Ipswich or Cambridge, or there was one actually would you believe based in Wisbech. I mean the idea of a major operation coming out of Wisbech does surprise some people, but yes it did and therefore I was responsible. But the other chains would have their head offices in London and therefore would be booked by a head office based salesman, which is where I was going to say that I then started a new salesman's life as a salesman based in head office.

Rodney Giesler : We're just about at the end of tape, so possibly we could get onto that subject on side 2?

John Hogarth : That's fine.

Rodney Giesler : How's your voice - all right?

John Hogarth : Yes, I'll have a drink of water - yes.

[End of Tape 1, Side 1] [Tape 1, Side 2]

John Hogarth : So after several years leading the - I suppose the life of Riley, you could say - this opportunity came to go back into head office in a more regulated life, which after a few years I was quite pleased to do. The only thing which I didn't like about it is that although there was an increase in salary, the job didn't include a car because they reasoned, quite logically, that working in Wardour Street, why did you need a car? All your customers were within walking distance, almost, of the office. There were one or two that weren't but then you were expected to go there by train. So I became what was then called Independent Circuits Manager, which I suppose was my first managerial position. And I had actually somebody working for me for the first time. The job was to do the same thing, selling British Lion films, but instead of to individual customers all round the country it was to small circuits and they were defined as really anybody other than Rank or ABC, who had a chain of cinemas with a head office in London. The biggest of which was a company called Essoldo who had a lot of cinemas, mostly based in the north east of England but because London was - and is - the hub of the commercial world in this country, a lot of people decided to base themselves in London. So these people did and there was a number of other ones, there was another company called Southan Morris which had a whole chain of cinemas, probably 50 or 60, all in the Midlands. Essoldo and Southan Morris eventually came together. Then there was another company called the Star Circuit and I had I suppose, under my particular jurisdiction, something like 2-300 cinemas which I was then responsible for selling to for British Lion. And I had as I say, an assistant, who helped me with the paperwork mostly. And I mostly did the selling. Entirely different change, it was very much going almost back to my previous existence of going into the office at 9 o'clock and working until lunchtime. By then - and I'm talking about 1956, something like that - the demarcation between 'them' and 'us' had blurred somewhat and there was no longer the clocking in mechanism and business had relaxed quite a bit by then and people did call each other by their first names. And there was a general sort of relaxing of discipline which perhaps is a good thing, I don't know. In some cases I'm sure it was but in other cases perhaps not. And so it was an interesting life but without the excitement of the travelling. My wife of course was very pleased. By then we had our first child and obviously it was a much better thing for a young father to be around and about, even though he didn't get home until quite late, at least he was at home and had a chance to see the children. So there was many things going for it, and it wasn't long before I was able to buy my own car and so the loss of the car was made up. I think I lived without a car for about 6 months or so and then was able to scrape enough money to put a deposit down and pay off the balance. So that was the one thing that I missed most of all. So then I continued doing that until such time as... British Lion had been going through all sorts of traumas. There was the famous golden share owned by the National Film Finance Corporation, the government body set up for financing. And British Lion were the distributors of a series of films, some if which were more successful than others, which had been funded by the NFFC but eventually things couldn't keep on going on. The losses piled up and British Lion Film Corporation became British Lion Films Limited, with an entirely new structure. There was a sort of a quasi management buy out. I mean I wasn't involved in any of this, I was purely an employee. But there was a trend in the country, cinemas were closing rapidly. The number of distributing companies had come together and then somebody must have decided it would be a good idea for British Lion to amalgamate with somebody else and Columbia were the chosen partner, so a company called BLC, British Lion Columbia, was set up and absorbed both the British Lion and Columbia staff. At some... I mean I'd been working for the company then for something like 13 years - something like that. And much to my shock and amazement and absolute desolation I was told that I was not required in the new setup, which was a terrible shock. Anybody that's been made redundant doesn't have to know what sort of shock it is, particularly in those days when you did in fact leave school, join a company and if all things went well and you didn't put your hand in the till or whatever, you would expect to work for that company for the rest of your life. And I, as a moderately ambitious man, but not overtly so, had done well enough in my career to set up home and have a comfortable life. To be told suddenly that you're no longer required was a terrible shock.

Rodney Giesler : This is what year?

John Hogarth : This would have been 1956, something like that. Yes. Maybe a little later, '58 maybe. But anyway, it was no good moaning and groaning, I had to get on with it and support a family, so there was a little tiny, tiny, tiny company called Mondiale[?], run by a charming rogue, who had latched onto the idea of this CinemaScope business, and realised that 20th Century Fox were not able to supply all cinemas that had turned over to the new equipment, because they didn't have sufficient films. So he started importing, from Italy mainly, films that had been made in Italian and dubbed into English, in the CinemaScope ratio, for use for these cinemas that had been turned over to CinemaScope. And I'd got to know about this, and this chap had got to know that I'd been made redundant and literally before I left he contacted me and said would I like to go and work for him? And as I hadn't had any other offers I said, "Yes, absolutely." So I joined this little company called Mondiale, which had offices further up Wardour Street and that was my first experience really of, I was going to say independent distribution, I mean British Lion was independent but this man ran an operation with himself and a dog [laughs] and I joined this, thinking there was going to be some semblance of what I knew about organisation but I was somewhat surprised to find out that there was absolutely nothing. He had an outside accountant that used to do the wages whenever he thought about them and it was a very casual and very haphazard and very slenderly funded operation, which obviously I didn't know before I went into it. One of my earlier tasks was to go round the exhibitors who played the films and get the film hire from them, because he said, "Unless we collect this money, there won't be anything to pay you at the end of the week." So that was not a very good introduction to this. And I thought to myself, "Well that's really not going to suit me very well." I'm by nature a well-organised and tidy sort of chap, this really wasn't going to suit so I thought, "Well I'd better look around for something else." And in the event I stayed there for about three months, something like that, until an opportunity arose, which probably was the most, I can honestly say the most interesting job I have ever had actually. A company had been formed called Bryanston and another called Britannia, and another one called Pax, and they were a group of producers, one headed by Michael Balcon, and the other one by Stephen Pallos, I think Stephen's still alive, I asked about him the other day and somebody said they thought he was. I hope he is, he became a close friend of mine. And they were making superb British films - 'Saturday Night and Sunday Morning', 'Loneliness of the Long Distance Runner', 'The Day the Earth Caught Fire', Cliff Richard's first film. And they were worried that if they gave the films to a distributor they wouldn't get the attention they perhaps were deserving. And so they came up with the idea of having a producer's representative. And they were looking for somebody, and I got to hear about it. And they said will I go and see them, so I did. And they were telling me that this was going on and did I have any ideas as to which distributor would be a good one to go to. And I, knowing the organisation and also with a certain amount of devilment I suppose, said that British Lion Columbia, BLC would be a very good route to go and I would be very happy to supervise the distribution of these films. So it was that a deal was struck between these three producing groups and BLC for the films to be distributed. And I found myself in the very enviable position of being able to say to the person that had made me redundant, how I wanted my films to be dealt with and how I wanted the terms to be adjusted and they couldn't do anything without my permission.

Rodney Giesler : You were a producer's agent then?

John Hogarth : So I was a producer's agent, between the producer and the company that made me redundant and there's a certain irony in it, which I would be less than human if I didn't say I enjoyed, saying, "I want to see you at 5 o'clock in my office." [Laughs.] Although I hope I didn't take too much advantage of that. I'd like to think I've got a nicer nature than that but there was a sweetness about the situation which, as I say I wouldn't be human if I didn't tell you that it was very pleasant. And so it was that I spent then many years, I can't remember how many now, enjoying a life where superb films were being produced. The returns were excellent, the actual negotiation and the to-ing and fro-ing I missed, the cut and thrust of the exhibitors, because it was my job to supervise what other people had done and either accept it or say, "No that wasn't good enough and I want an improvement." And sometimes they'd say, "Well we can't get an improvement, if you think you can do better you'd better go and try." And so there were occasions when I went back to my old customers to say, "Can't you do this?" and, "Can't you do that?" And in some cases I was successful, in other cases I wasn't. So it was a very pleasant period of my life both professionally and indeed as far as domestic arrangements were concerned. I moved from my small house in Kingsbury to a large detached house in Watford, where I still live, and was able to send my children to private school which I had ambitions to do. And it was really very comfortable, very pleasant and very rewarding because of the product that I was handling. But like many things, nothing goes on forever and through various circumstances, Michael Balcon died and some of the films that were made weren't as successful as perhaps they'd hoped and the operation folded. So then at the age of forty-something - no, a bit less than that - I was without a job again. And I thought, "Well, no one's going to give me the sort of job I've got very used to," because they were like hens' teeth, there weren't many of them about. And I've always wanted to run my own business, so I thought here was an opportunity and so with another chap called Brian Sands, who is still around, we formed Crispin Film Distributors as an independent film distribution organisation which acquired films from independent sources, British and foreign. And we did rather well, in fact we did very well. And we were trading very successfully for almost a year, and making substantial headway, we had I think three employees, maybe four. And at that time, a new producing group had started up under the financial arrangements and Morgan Grenfell and being run by Dimitri de Grunwald. And they'd made 'The Virgin and The Gypsy' and they were making a whole series of films - 'Murphy's War' was one and 'The MacMasters' and 'Connecting Rooms'. Again good, solid British product. And so I approached these people and said, "Look, here we are at Crispin. We've got a tiny overhead, there's only four of us, modest offices in Clifford Street, and what you need is a distributor, and what you really need is us because we are experts." And they bought this idea, so much so they said, "That's all very well but if you own the company you'll be taking out vast sums of money from these very, very successful films we're going to produce. What we'd like to do is buy you." So we found ourselves, in less than a year, being made an offer for a purchase. And I must say it was a temptation which I certainly couldn't resist because to be running a company and then to be offered a substantial sum of money for the purchase of the company after less than a year was marvellous. So we in fact sold out all but 10 percent, we kept 10 percent the two of us. And we sold out to Morgan Grenfell who became the major shareholders in Crispin. And we retitled the company London Independent because that was the company they were making the films under, so we became London Independent Film Distributors. Crispin remained, and in fact still remains and is still my company and I'm in fact employed by Crispin to this very day. And we went on and we built up London Independent very successfully.

Rodney Giesler : Which is where our paths crossed.

John Hogarth : Which is where indeed we first met all those years ago. And whilst that was going on another group started producing over here, called Hemdale, which was John Daly and David Hemmings and the first film that they got involved in was a film with Ned Sherrin called 'Girl/Boy'. And the same thing, history repeated itself, I learned about this and I learned about their programme and went to them and said, "What you need is a distributor, and what you need is us." And they said yes but...

Rodney Giesler : So what had happened to London Independent?

John Hogarth : They were still producing but more and more slowly and there was a lot of pressure on them, I knew from Morgan Grenfell, as only the city can, to increase profits and not only increase them but do it more quickly. They are really impatient. I knew there was pressure on there, I didn't know how much pressure until later. And actually, just going back, I can remember one particular incident when we were doing due diligence for the take-over of Crispin and a chap called Michael Flint, who subsequently became a senior partner in Denton Hall Burgin and Warren, who is still a very close friend of mine and I saw him recently in Cannes, said he'd been going through these figures and he couldn't understand that there was no details of any bank borrowings and why we were not disclosing this? I said, "Well it's not a question of not disclosing - we don't have any bank borrowings." Which he really couldn't understand, but we'd set this whole thing up with a very modest amount of money which we'd borrowed from a relation of mine actually. And we paid back within three months, out of what our activities were. I mean it really was very successful. Anyway, so Hemdale are doing all this and they say almost exactly the same as the other people who said well that's all very well but you'll be making money out of our films and we ought to buy you. So I said, "Well in that case you'd better talk to Morgan Grenfell because I'm only a 10 percent shareholder in all of this and it's the other 90 percent that you're going to have to talk to." So they started negotiations and Morgan Grenfell in fact sold their 90 percent. I kept my 10 percent. And they sold their 90 percent to Hemdale and therefore I then became Managing Director of Hemdale Film Distributors. And a series of very good British films again, 'Triple Echo' and 'The Amazing Mr Blunden', all of which I distributed. And I kept my 10 percent, so that was fine. And then I was approached by EMI. I'd been doing an awful lot of business with what was then the ABC circuit which was owned by EMI. And within EMI the distribution side was being run by Nat Cohen who was by then probably mid seventies I guess, something like that, and obviously getting on a bit. And the EMI people thought it would be a good idea, I don't think Nat subscribed to the theory but they thought it would be a good idea to have a younger man coming in, ostensibly to be his shadow and eventually to take over from him. So they made me an offer, and I can always remember it went on forever, I had meetings with Bernie Delfont and he hasn't got the name 'Promises Promises' Bernie for nothing because he really kept on going on and on and on but not actually saying finally, "This is what we're going to offer." And I got a bit fed up with this, and I thought the only way to bring this to a head is to do something drastic. So without a job, and although I had a pretty good idea that this EMI thing was going to come to fruition, I resigned from Hemdale. I can always remember the night I did it, there was a bit of a contretemps between myself and John Daly. I mean we got on normally quite well, but being used to running my own ship, whenever he wanted to what I considered to be interfering, I was usually not very happy. And on one particular occasion I was going to a premiere and my wife had arrived at the office and I'd changed into a dinner jacket and suddenly he phoned down and said something which really upset me, I can't even remember what it was now and it doesn't matter. So I stormed up to his office and it's one thing which I can recommend if ever the opportunity arises and you want to give notice to anybody, if you do it in their office and they're sitting sloppily in a chair, with an open-neck shirt, and you're in a dinner jacket, you have a psychological advantage which is not to be underestimated. And so I gave my notice in, in a dinner jacket and I said, "I'm going to give you the full month's notice." And that's what I did. And the following morning my wife said to me, "Are you sure?" And I said, "Well, 'Promises Promises' Bernie hasn't done anything yet but now he's got to make up his mind because he'll know that I don't have a job." And so, very nicely, John also said the following morning, "Now are you sure you wanted to do what you did last night?" And I said, "Yes, absolutely." It may have seemed to be a spur of the moment decision but in fact I'd thought about it a lot. I didn't tell him about the EMI situation of course, and so I left. Told Bernie what I'd done and said, "Look, I'm going to look for another job unless you actually make me firm offer." So he said, "You'd better go and see John Reed." Now Sir John Reed, who was then heading up EMI. So I went to EMI and we did a deal. A few months prior to that, probably just over a year, I'd had a secretary for a long time who suddenly was going to leave because she was going to have a baby. So I said, "Well the only reason, or the only way I can let you leave is if you find a replacement before you go." And for whatever reason she found several people for me to interview. One which was a lady from MGM called Ann Boyle who came to work for me at Hemdale in 1973 as my secretary. And so when I went to John Reed, he said, "Well you'll need a secretary." And I said, "I'll try and persuade my existing secretary to leave Hemdale as well. What would the offer be?" And he made an offer which was considerably more than Ann was getting at Hemdale, so I thought well no problem as far as that's concerned. So we both joined EMI, into Film House in Wardour Street. I as Managing Director of UK distribution, and she as my secretary. And we started in January 1974, I think. And so I had again a wonderful short period of not being employed but knowing I was about to be employed by EMI at 50 percent more salary than I was getting at Hemdale. And with a company car - I didn't have a company car at Hemdale - and a pension scheme and all the things that a major company can give you. And what I thought was again security. It turned out to be nothing of the sort but I wasn't to know that. And so for nearly three years I ran the EMI distribution business in the UK with Ann's help. And then by another quirk of fate EMI again were having second thoughts about the film business and decided that they were going to merge with a company, which they asked me if I'd ever heard of, called British Lion. Well I said, "Funnily enough yes I had." And so not so much a merger but a take-over and certainly it appeared that way to all of us. The British Lion people took us over. And again I was told that, because of the existing British Lion staff and because of what they were going to do, my services would no longer be required. So I had the good fortune of having a contract so I was able to negotiate my contract very successfully, so financially I was in a really solid position. And remembering that I'd sold Crispin previously very well, finance wasn't my big problem. So then I thought again Rodney, well one of the most successful, financially and mentally, times in my life, when I'd started Crispin, maybe I should start another British independent distributor. And Ann had also been made redundant at the same time as me because her job obviously was no longer there. So we formed, then, Enterprise Pictures. One of the first films we acquired was from Frank Launder which was the last of the St Trinians films. And we set up offices in Soho Square and traded then for the next 12 years, something like that. Some years were good, some years not so good, some years were terrible. But the life of a British independent distributor is never going to be easy, but I knew the territory, and I knew where Shipton under Wychwood was, and...

Rodney Giesler : Capital wasn't a problem presumably?

John Hogarth : Capital, no. I'd gone actually back to my old friends at Morgan Grenfell and said, "I'm prepared to put in this. Would you put in that?" And they said yes. We had a shortfall and I went to another friend of mine, very close friend was and still is, Michael Samuelson. And I said to him what I was planning to do and were the Samuelson Group interested? And within less than 24 hours he came back and said the brothers had had a meeting and they were interested and they put in the balance. So there were three financing parties - Morgan Grenfell, myself and Sammies. And that went on, we moved offices because the building was torn down. We moved back to Wardour Street. And that went on until 1980 something or other, when I was approached by an independent producer called John Hardy out of the blue, who said he was doing a programme of films. And I said, "Ah, very used to all this. We are distributors, you're a producer, you're just the people that we want and we're just the people that you need." And the same dialogue, I mean it's amazing how many times it happens. He said, "That's all very well but you'll be taking all the profits and I'm making the product, I want to buy you." [Laughs.] So history repeated itself again. And so eventually, after a long negotiation, he did in fact buy us and gave Ann and I five-year contracts at more money than we were earning before. And this time it wasn't so successful. Not only were the personalities not right, but the industry had become very competitive. John was an inexperienced producer and frankly an inexperienced businessman as well. And it wasn't long before Ann and I realised that this wasn't going to last for very long, the way he was conducting things. And so we went to him and negotiated out of our five-year contracts, very fairly. He obviously was a bit surprised but we explained that it really wasn't what we wanted to do and he would be better off and we would be better off if we agreed to part amicably and we did. And he settled our contracts and that was fine. And so we then decided to start another company and thinking of my surname and her surname, Hogarth and Boyle, we started Hobo. There was a brief moment when she said it should have been the other way around [laughter]. But I explained that Boohoo would not be a good name for a company and in any case I wanted top billing. So top billing I got and it became Hobo. And we had as a 49 percent partner Roger Wingate who owned, and does own, the Curzon chain of cinemas. And so we carried on with Roger until quite recently when an international division was being talked about and formed. And it was obviously not possible to call an international division Hobo. It was home made Hobo, we said to Roger, "Look, would you like to change the name?" Because it was very personal to us to, and a bit of a joke really. Although it actually worked very well because nobody ever forgot the title and so often film titles, company titles get confused - whether you're Mayfair or whether you're Majestic and you think. "Well, it's very difficult to remember." But anyway he said no it was very definitely our company and he wanted to keep it. But once the international was set up under Mayfair, it was then considered and certainly by Ann and I that it was not sensible to have it as Hobo, particularly if the international division was going to be called Mayfair. So we changed the name of Hobo to Mayfair and at that time we said to Roger that I, by then, was getting on a bit, had seen an awful lot of what I considered to be the best times of the business. And that by the mid part of 1994 I felt that by then I'd probably done enough and was thinking of taking things a bit easier and retiring. And so it was agreed than that he would exercise an option whereby he bought the rest of the - what were the Hobo shares - that had become the Mayfair shares. Ann had had a long ambition to run a hotel/B and B on a Mediterranean island and an opportunity came up in the latter part of last year. So Ann left the film business at Christmas and is now living on the island of Majorca in a - I haven't seen it but she tells me - a sweet little house with geraniums falling down the front, and waiting for planning permission to turn a local villa into a B and B for the many people in the industry which I'm sure will be very delighted to go out and see her - I expect you'll be one of them. And I said I'd stay until the middle of this year, making arrangements for the existing films that we had contracted or indeed produced, the last one 'Deadly Advice', the Jane Horrocks film which had just been released, to make sure that everything was tidy and ship-shape. And come 30th June I'm going away for four months on my 60-foot canal boat which is the second love of my life. And after four months I'm going to come back, see how that suited me, see whether or not the film industry still has an attraction for me, or I for it and we'll see how things go. It's been so far a very wonderful, very exciting, very stimulating life and I wouldn't have changed it for anything. Parts of it were better than others, that would be expected, but I just feel that it is a young man's game. Some of the films I saw in Cannes last month, I had no idea what they were all about. Total puzzle to me, I just didn't know what was going on two thirds of the time and certainly could not understand why anybody would want to pay money and see them. And when you find yourself in a situation where you're looking at a product which you're no longer able to judge, I think it's time to let somebody else have a go. And that's how I feel the business has gone. Things have changed dramatically in my lifetime and I just think it's a younger person's business.

Rodney Giesler : Couldn't agree more. It's the same from my point of view when everything went to video. I felt completely out of it. I'm very interested because once you left British Lion, it strikes me you were someone that didn't want to get mixed up in the big wheels of the major companies. I know you went back to British Lion temporarily and...

John Hogarth : Well back to EMI.

Rodney Giesler : ...EMI. I think you've been an individualist person carving out a very interesting and useful niche in the market. I mean I'm thinking particularly of the Merchant Ivory pictures that you got very widely distributed when you would normally expect you'd see it in the Curzon or somewhere, but I mean a lot of these Merchant Ivory's went on at quite big cinemas.

John Hogarth : Yes. I started my association with Ismail and Jim to a certain extent, but more Ismail, with a film of theirs called 'Savages', which was way, way back in the days of London Independent it would have been. And the life of an independent as I said earlier on, is not easy. It's very fraught, very difficult and if you're running an organisation you've got to be everything, you've got to be the financier, you've got to be the staff controller, you've got to be the salesman, you have to do everything. And you get very used to it and you get a bit stubborn and I suppose you get a bit big-headed too because you're used to not having to say to anybody, "Is it okay if...?" Because you just get on with it and do it. And again I think it's probably got something to with being, not only an only child, but being as it were orphaned at a very tender age. I was used to making the decisions in my house for my mother in all sorts of areas that normally a boy of 11 wouldn't be dreaming of doing but, yes, there was nobody else so therefore I did it. And so that's obviously part of the whole psyche of me if you think about it. And although the stresses and the problems of running an independent business are such, when the EMI offer came up I thought this would be absolutely marvellous. I would be less than honest if I didn't say that my time at EMI was probably the least exciting and the most boring in the whole of my business career. The systems were set up by other people. All sorts of experts were there, much more expert at certain activities than I could ever be. In the publicity field I was used to doing quite a lot of things in publicity but I wasn't needed at EMI because we had two or three publicity experts. I mean they had experts of experts and therefore my area of responsibility was much reduced and I found myself...I mean to give you some idea, and this is another amusing anecdote, when Ann and I first saw the office that we were going to occupy at Film House, it was full of old furniture which they must have bought some time in, I should think before the war, and had never been replaced. And somebody said to me, "And this is your office." And I said, "What?" And remember that I'd been used to having new furniture, and whenever I wanted a new chair or filing cabinet I simply went out and bought it. So I said, "No, no, no." So they said, "Well we haven't got any other furniture." So I said, "Well I'll deal with that." So Ann and I went up to Heals one day, I don't know why we chose Heals but we did, and I said to the chap in the office furniture department, "You've got an EMI account haven't you?" So remember this is before I joined EMI, this was in the November, and we didn't actually join them until the January. And he said, "Yes." And I said, "I want to order some furniture." And I gave him an EMI card which they'd already given me, didn't have my name on it but it was an EMI card, and I explained who I was and what I was going to do. And we ordered a most beautiful, and to this day, the best office furniture I've ever had in the whole of my life. Beautiful, beautiful matching cabinets and desks and chairs, absolutely modern. There was a fitment which included the refrigerator, I mean it was all blended in. It was absolutely fantastic. Leather sofas, I mean it was absolutely stunning. And it was all delivered and installed because I said, "It's got to be delivered before Christmas." Because I knew the Christmas problems and I was starting work on January 1st. January 1st in those days, believe it or not, wasn't a bank holiday. And so it was all delivered, much to the surprise and I think somewhat consternation of all the people there, particularly Nat, who didn't realise what all this stuff was coming in, because he hadn't ordered it. But there was all delivery notes and it was all put in. And I was amazed that there should have been any thought that that was unusual. I had a budget for the acquisition of films up to and including a quarter of a million, but once I was there, if I wanted a new filing cabinet Ann used to have to fill out some requisition which I then used to not only have to sign myself but get countersigned by the next person up the tree. And it was that that persuaded me that perhaps I wasn't destined to be cut out for a large organisation. That's one of the reasons why I'm departing from here because as you would have seen, it's a large organisation. There is an element of well you can spend x on a film but don't for goodness sake have another pencil until you make sure that it's really necessary.

Rodney Giesler : It's Parkinson again and his bicycle shed. Do you remember?

John Hogarth : Yes it is, absolutely, absolutely.

Rodney Giesler : Who are the owners of Mayfair?

John Hogarth : The beneficial owners are Chesterfield properties plc. Which is a public limited company. And they are the major shareholders. I have still got a small shareholding. Ann had a small shareholding which she sold when she left. And I shall probably sell mine because there isn't any point in being a small shareholder in a multi-million pound operation. And I have finished working all day long, five days a week. This particular business requires total dedication and working probably into sometimes midnight, with press shows and magazine screenings and wining and dining exhibitors and that sort of thing and I just feel there's more to life than that. I've done it for 47 years and I think it's time to do something else.

Rodney Giesler : Well John thank you very much for talking to me, I think it's a good note to end on. Have a smashing retirement.

John Hogarth : Thank you Rodney. It's nice to see you again.

[End of Tape]
John Hogarth
Distributor
1950s - British Lion Salesman (Eastern Counties)
1960s-70s - Mondiale (CinemaScope)
Hemdale Distributors
1980s - Hobo/Mayfair

 

Biographical

BIOGRAPHY: John Hogarth began his career as a film distributor at British Lion in 1946. Until his retirement in 1994 he worked for and founded a variety of Distribution companies, including Crispin Film Distributors, London Independent Film Distributors, Hemdale, Hobo and Mayfair Distributors.