BEHP 0200 – S Ken Higgins Summary*
*NB No interviewer transcribed, so not a full transcript.
[Born 26th December 1919]
Burghley Road Junior School [London NW5]
ACKLAND CENTRAL - Left School early,
Always interested in Photography; Had a Kodak Box Brownie when a boy— used to make prints with printing out paper in a frame and expose them to the sun.
1934 Started work as messenger boy with New Era Productions — then Empire Marketing Board, which became the G.P.O. Film Unit. Used to collect rushes from Humphries Labs, Whitfield Street — using a kit bag to carry them on the bus thus saving taxi fare. Sometimes to the Studio at Blackheath which was a converted school building.
Whilst at G.P.O. did various jobs assisting in the Projection box, Cutting Rooms and the Stills Darkroom,
Fred Gamage used to make enlargements.
Head of the Unit was John Grierson. He asked me once what I wanted to be I said at the time "A “a cameraman”— He advised me against it :
I remember being an extra in one of the documentaries in production
at the time — I had to walk across the set carrying an accumulator to the radio — I think I got about a £1.
My immediate boss was a Mr Golightly — he was in the Office.
Once a month John Grierson organised a film show for the staff and friends, My parents used to go and see them.
While I was in the Projection Box I saw films such as:—
Cabinet of Doctor Caligari and some of the G P.O. Documentaries:—Six Thirty Collection.
Song of Ceylon.
Man of Arran etc., etc .
The Directors at the time were:
Cavalcanti, Harry Watt, Humphrey Jennings,Basil Wright.
Arthur Elton also around was Robert Flaherty who did Man of Arran , The Cameramen then were Jonah Jones, Fred Gamage, Chick Fowle.
Editor — Ray Stalkee.
The G. P.O. then became CROWN F11M UNIT and I was made redundant
I then had various jobs working in cinemas as projectionist etc.
I was then a member of the T.A. the 19th City of London which became the Royal Engineers Searchlight Regiment.
I was called up for a short time during the 1938 Munich Crisis, and then at the outbreak of the War served on various searchlight stations around Britain.
I then got a very cushy job as a Film Projectionist showing films at the various searchlight stations
I then joined the Army Film Unit which was based at Pinewood Film Studios as an Army Cameraman
After a period of training as an Army Cameraman which included a course at a Battle Training School on the East Coast, and also a stint with the - Scotts Guards at the Chelsea Barraoks for weapon training and square bashing (how that had anything to do with camera work I never knew).
Finally sent to India aid arrived at Calcutta. After a short stay was then sent to a Jungle Training School in Madras — splashing around in mangrove swamps etc,
Then sent to the Imphal, but the fighting there had ended and was recalled to Calcutta.
I was then ordered to report to General Lentaing’s [?] Headquarters at Shadazup to join the Second Chindit Expedition.
At the meeting he asked me if I had any combat experience in the Jungle. When I said I hadn't he reminded me to take the water sterilising tablets he said he didn’t as “my guts are too well salted". He then ordered his adjutant to supply me with a jungle hammock.
I went down the Indawg [?] Chaung River about 60 miles and met up with a column of the Black Watch, Bag Pipes draped, ambush, retreat etc.
Finally arrived back in Calcutta — lost revolver — put on a charge joined the 36th Division — various leading divisions to Rangoon, 17th and 19th.
Photographed Japs General crossing Sitaign [?] River with white flag asking in eng1ish for my C.O. Ghurka St [?]
Covered the Surrender Ceremonies in Rangoon.
Then sent with Ghurka Regiment to Saigon to cover the Jap surrender.
Jap Generals lined up at Airport when we arrived. Commandeered a large car to take us (a B B C Correspondent — can’t remember his name) to the Imperial Hotel for a meal. (We shared a room) the Jap Officers were also using the dining room. Jap soldiers were on guard at the Hotel entrance still with their arms.
Returned to Rangoon to cover a story on the "Death Railway" as it was called. It was nearly my death — trying to get a long shot of the tracks I climbed a cliff and fell about 40 feet fracturing my wrists and spine.
The end of my Army service:
First job after the War — Newsreel Cameraman at Metro News.
Dennis Clarke and Dennis Scanlan were my bosses. Freddy Watts was Editor. Fellow Cameraman Alf Tunwell (senior), Bernard Till, George Sheridan, Cyril Bliss.
One of my first assignments was to film a German ship which was loaded with mustard gas, they scuttled it in the Bay of Biscay. Boarded the tug Turmoil at Barry which towed the ship out.
Shared a bunk with the Engineer. It went down very quickly. I came back on a Naval frigate to Falmouth, after the transfer from the tug.
I had many assignments with Metro which gave me a deal of experience —also learning about "opposition" from the other Newsreel Companies. Some of the stories I covered: i.e.
Air disaster at Limerick. I did double coverage on that to send to the States. I was the first cameraman there (Charter plane-from Croydon.
[HMS] Warspite going aground in Robin Hoods Bay — in charter aircraft camera switch broke — repairing whilst circling (also being air sick).
Pit disaster in Cumbria (awful).
Various arrivals of VIPs at Heathrow —Billy Graham — which I covered at Harringay (it was just a series of huts between the duckboards.
First experiments of flight refuelling with Alan Cobham at Hurn Airport, When Metro folded I joined Gaumont British News. I vas the junior cameraman. Sid Bonnet, Eddy Edmunds, Arthur Morley, Ted Candy, Jack Harding, Allan Prentice. I think we covered every aspect of News and Sport.
There was a great deal of competition between the Newsreels.
We used DRs[Despatch Riders]and aircraft to get film back to the labs first.
At the Cup Finals at Wembley — if one camera position was high up in the eaves Of the Grandstand we lowered the film magazines down on cord to waiting DRs.
We used to stand outside No. 10 on Budget Days.
Trooping the Colour. Armistice Day. Golf at St Andrews. Cricket at Trent Bridge. Ascot. Henley. (Nearly came to blows about camera position on stand). Boat Race.
Various sport meetings Grand National etc. Motor Racing at Silverstone. Greyhound Racing. Dirt—track. Boxing and All—in Wrestling.
Covered the first Squatters taking over houses etc-
In that period, it was optical sound. The Sound Recordist laced—up his side of the camera.
One of the events we liked to cover was the launching of a ship; all the Newsreels were invited. Vickers, or whoever the ship builders were, laid on a train to take all of us to the Clyde.
Everything was first class — lots of parties until the cold light of day when we had to film the launch. If you were in a position behind the Ship with the noise of the chains, it soon cured any hangovers.
Another favourite was the Isle of Man Motor Cycle Races. Another series of parties.
Other assignments I remember — flying over Lake Coniston in the back of a Howard Trainer plane piloted by Sid Parker and filming Malcolm Campbell's speedboat attempt at the record. I was an unwilling passenger to a loop—the—loop, also flying in a Sunderland Flying Boat wearing all the gear and filming the arrival of the 'Royals. Ken Gordon looking like a barrage balloon with his flying outfit.
One of the last assignments I had with G.B. News was 'Skiing on Hampstead Heath . A ski jump was built and orates of real snow was imported.
1948:I was sent from GB News to Technicolor for a short time to become familiar with the Technicolor 3 Strip camera — prior to being an assistant to Stan Sayer.
We were going to Greece to film the Title Backgrounds for the 1948 Olympic Games film GLORY OF SPORT. I was the focus puller and Frank Kingston (who later became my second unit Cameraman in Turkey on You Can't Win ‘Em All) assistant.
We took off from Croydon in two aircraft — a Rapide and Dove — one for the equipment and one for us.
Alan Bromley came as Production manager (looking after money) Castleton Knight came to see us off very early one morning.
It took about two and a half days to get to Athens after various stops. The crews from the planes were to act as grips
After filming the Acropolis we drove down to Delphi — a lorry carrying the equipment (dolly and tracks etc).
Travelling with us were girls from a Ballet School.
We were going to re—enact the Ceremony of the Lighting of the Olympia Torch.
I was one of the cameramen at 1948 Olympic Games (we used a Bi Pack System).
After the Games I was again made redundant (last in first out) cutting back on Newsreels.
I did freelance jobs for Documentary Companies — Rayant, British Transport etc. Also a period at Guys Hospital filming the Blue Baby Operation under a Dr Brock — one of the first Heart Surgeons
At this time I was doing occasional Freelance work for the B B.C. Newsreel.
In 1952 they asked me to go to Egypt as a War Correspondent to cover the trouble there.
After getting kitted out in uniform I joined a party of press at RAF. Northolt. We were flown to a Camp in Ismailia in the Canal Zone. I wanted to send a story back as soon as possible. At 5a.m. the following morning I was filming an armoured patrol in the streets of Ismailia.
A colleague from G.B. News (Eddy Edmunds) covered the story a day later. My story had already been despatched.
I met Arthur Helliwell the Journalist from the Sunday People at the Press Camp.
Alan Whicker was also there (writing for the Times I think).
We decided to go to Cairo, the famous Shepheards Hotel had been blown up. I borrowed an Eymo Camera from Eddy promising I would share the coverage with GB News.
Arthur and I got a flight from Port Said — I smuggled the Eymo camera through Cairo Airport — no trouble.
It was impossible for safety to film on the streets. The Manager of the Hotel where we were staying was a Swiss, He lent me his car and driver and I managed to film all around Cairo.
Tanks, troops, Shepheards Hotel etc. from the car. I then had the problem of dispatching the film so went to the British embassy which was guarded and had barbed wire barricades. They sent the film and camera back in the Diplomatic Bag. Richard Dimbleby who was Newsreader at the time gave me a credit for the coverage (obtained under great difficulty etc).
In 1952 I finally had a job with the B.B.C. Newsreel at Alexander Palace. There were only a few Cameramen at that time.
Charles de Jaeger (the Spaghetti story).[ Panorama 1st April 1957]
George Rottner, Dennis Fowler, Dave Prosser, Cyril Page then came Allan Prentice and Ronnie Noble, Harold Cox seemed to be the boss.
I did many of the usual stories but it hadn't the competition of the old Newsreels — no spice;
I remember being outside Westminster Abbey during the Royal Wedding (our present Queen) — it poured with rain all day. The B.B.C. provided us with lunch boxes — I was impressed with the cans of the self-heating soup.
One story I covered were fishermen at Whitby Bay who went down the cliffs to collect Guillemot eggs. I took two cameras with me,I set one up on a tripod for one of the fishermen to film me as I went down on a rope filming the egg collectors on another rope.
I also did a spell on Sportsview and the Childrens’ Newsreels. I was asked to do an interview on live TV at Lime Grove. I didn’t find that an easy experience.
I then got on to the Shorts & Documentary Unit which I liked as it gave me experience of lighting films for the drama inserts,
At that time the Te1ecine did not like much contrast so the lighting tended to be rather on the flat side.
The Documentary Unit then moved to Lime Grove- the Newsreel remaining at Alexandra Palace. I was moved around quite a lot doing stints onPanorama, Tonight, and many other programmes.
Interviews Shah of Persia at his Palace. Poland — Woodrow Wyatt Cyprus etc.
The Film Unit at that time served all the B.B.C. Regions so I did a lot of travelling around doing inserts for Plays etc.
The Film Unit then finally settled at the Old Ealing Studios. I did many documentaries: —
The first TV link—up with Paris — filming the dancing in the streets and at the Nouvelle Eve Night Club. Trying to get a taxi with all the equipment.
I did a documentary called The Birth of a Baby — the telephone ringing at 11p.m. and having to rush to the Hospital to film the arrival.
I did a Documentary about the Outward-Bound School — the Duke of Edinburgh giving a forward to the programme (the Director was Leonard Cottrell) I had about half an hour to film. Laying tracks etc. The Duke changed everything — he wanted his model yacht in the picture — one mad rush.
Going down the Nile with Australian Artist — Sidney Nolan.
The Valley of Kings etc. The Egyptian Customs held the film for weeks.
I did the documentary — Men Seeking God — various religions of the world. Italy — Israel — on a Kibbutz in Negev (Ben Gurion) India,
Burma.- was also part of the Tour.
Documentary on building Steelworks in India. Lived in a hut on the site— the cook went off with all the utensils after a row with our Interpreter. Philip Donnellan was the Director.
Eating out in local village native fashion.
Trip with MacDona1d Hastings in Kenya doing a Safari — flying over Mount Kenya.
I then started working on the Monitor Programme.
One of the stories was of the Berlin Ensemble in East Berlin. Defa Studios supplied the Cameras and sound — we used to smuggle the film in (Humphrey Burton & Ken Tynan) through the Brandenburg Gate (that was before the Berlin Wall) in a VW. Beetle
Camera operator from the Defa Studios was in charge of the Arriflex ——one evening we managed to take it with us to West Berlin.
The following morning, I managed to film from the car, going through the Checkpoint at the Brandenburg Gate and returned the camera to the East.
At the Berlin Ensemble we filmed extracts from Threepenny Opera — Mother Courage, Gallileo etc. Did an interview with Helene Weigel
We did exteriors at night showing people going in — this was used for the titles of the Monitor programme
I filmed quite a few Artists, Sculptors, musicians etc.
Did a colour film of Costumes — Doris Langley Moore — at Eridge Castle in Kent.
Presented to the Queen Mother at Riverside Studios.
I did a film about Paul Tortelier in Paris (injured my finger) and he drove me to the Hospital.
Various films on Archaeology with Mortimer Wheeler and Glyn Daniel which was a very popular series at that time.
Ireland, Switzerland and Italy,
I did the film Onion Johnnie (Director was Stephen Hearst) It won First Prize at the Vancouver Film Festival in 1958.
Films about Henry Moore, Barbara Hepworth, John Piper, two films about Stanley Spencer at Cookham and the Church [Chapel] Burghclere (John Read was the Director I think).
Pop Artist Peter Blake. John Bratby, Julian Bream and many others a
It was while I was working on Monitor I met John Schlesinger and we did
quite a few programmes for Monitor.
We did the Cannes Film Festival — travelled on the same plane as Jane Mansfield who had a retinue of photographers and press with her — it was almost a riot at the Festival.
I also met Ken Russell and did a lot of work for Monitor. Pop Art, the Elgar film and others,
In our free time from the B.B.C. John Schlesinger and I used to do various Commercials — some of the early OXO's etc.
We also made a documentary for London Transport during our holiday called Terminus. It won a BAFTA award, the Golden Lion Award at Venice Film Festival.
About 1964 the B.B.C. gave me leave to do my first feature film with Ken Russell as the Director.
It was a Comedy about a small English Seaside Town (shot at Herne Bay) which wanted to attract more summer visitors. James Booth played the P.R. man who had the idea of importing a Bridget Bardot type who was to open the skating rink. Marisa Mell played the part. Roy Kinnear was a deck chair attendant and Brian Pringle was the mayor. We had locations at Herne Bay (most of the film was shot there) and Le Touquet.
Ken Russell and I met the Producer, Ken Harper, and Andy Mitchell From Elstree A B.P.C. They asked me what my lighting requirements would be—how many generators, brutes etc and were surprised at my modest requirements. I was reminded later when the light had vanished that if I had had a couple of brutes we could have continued shooting — advice I did not forget:
This was the first time I had worked with Studio Electricians.
The Gaffer, Ted and his second were first class, but some of the others were dreadful. When we were on location in France the French sparks seemed to do most of the work.
Ken Russell was having problems with some of the Artists (James Booth) apparently Ken was not giving enough direction. He was not yet experienced with directing dialogue He admits this in his Autobiography.
After French Dressing I returned to the B.B.C.
Ken Harper the Producer had in the meantime mentioned doing another film for them so was undecided whether to leave the B.B.C. or not,
My last job for the B.B.C. was filming the London Symphony Orchestra on a tour or Japan. [ This was in 1963 DS]
This was one of the most pleasant assignments I had. David Attenborough was the Director.
We joined the L.S.O. at Heathrow for a charter flight with J A.P Airlines. On Boarding we were handed Happy Jackets [?] the usual hot towels.
Some of the Conductors on the Tour were Pierre Monteux, Dorati and George Solti.
At one of the concert halls I noticed that the TV cameras had fast Lenses — there were several lamps about and as it was daytime they were not lit. I tipped one down onto the Rostrum to discover later that it was lighting the Japanese Flag — we were nearly thrown out.
The best part of the Tour was Kyoto — a beautiful place. We stayed in a traditional Japanese Hotel - sleeping on the floor. It had a beautiful Japanese garden.
It was when I was in Tokyo I had a cable from Andy Mitchell saying the deal for the film (Wonderful Life) was on. That decided me to leave the B.B.C.
Ken Harper put me in touch with London Management and paid me a retainer he getting a percentage, of my earnings.
I went on a “recce” with Ken Harper and Andy Mitchell to the Canary Islands to see the locations and the lighting requirements.
They said I could take my wife with me on the Charter Flight. We had a very nice flat in Las Palmas (different to the B.B.C.)
The film was shot in Techniscope (half frame system) with Cinemascope lenses which requires two focus pullers. Sid Furie was the Director.
Cliff Richards and The Shadows were in the film and Susan Hampshire
Susan had difficulty in the desert – because of glare she couldn’t open hereyes. Dennis Price started in the film but was re-cast.(drink problem)
One evening returning to the Production Office after a days shooting in the sand dunes at Maspolomas (about 60 miles from Las Palmas) was handed a cable from the Labs saying that the last two days rushes were US.[useless].Panic. It transpired that the edge numbers were being printed in the centre of the Picture. Stew Browne was the Lab contact man (an American)
We returned to the Studios (A. B. P.C. at Elstree) and M.G.M. to finish the film.
The film was chosen for Royal Performance.
I went with Ken Harper and others to see the 8how print at the Empire, Leicester Square (after the last performance) — Ken Harper and company went on to Covent Garden to buy boxeS of roses for Susan Hampshire’sflat.
Whilst filming a Commercial at Shepperton with John Schlesinger he asked me about filming Darling. Julie Christie was at the Studios.
John asked me to shoot some tests of her. He liked them and asked me to do the film.
We went on a recce in Italy— Florence and Capri.
We shot a lot of the film at the Medici' Villa in Florence and on Capri.
The Italian Gaffer — Ralph Marino, he was first class.
The Italian sparks were wonderful — nothing was too much trouble and very interested in the shooting of the film.
We returned to Shepperton to do the Studio filming.
Dirk Bogarde always wanted to be filmed on one side (he considered his best side).
On one occasion whilst filming a scene between Laurence Harvey and Julie Christie — Julie was lying down — I had difficulty in getting rid of a slight line under her chin.
Finally I filmed the close up of her standing up with the bed propped against the wall of the set. I managed to lose the slight double chin quite successfully. Everybody was happy.
I had a BAFTA. Nomination for the film.
I remember seeing the clip of the film at the Dorchester with the other film clips and waiting for the envelope to be opened.
I think Ossie Morris got the award.
The Idol directed by Dan Petrie. The cast was Jennifer Jones, Michael Parks, John Leyton, Guy Doleman. Jennifer Jones had to look
about ten years younger (quite a challenge). We did make—up and hair tests. Dan Petrie and I went to the Labs to see them but decided not to let Jennifer Jones see them.I tried various lighting techniques but in the end had to resort to some diffusion — alright for C.U.s but not for a tight two shot. She got quite upset because I didn’t use it on the two shot.
However, at the end of the •picture she was quite happy andwrote me a nice letter of thanks with a case of wine in appreciation.
Up Jumped a Swagman. Director Chris Miles. Frank Ifield.
It was filmed mostly at M.G.M. Fred Pretty was the gaffer - a first
At about this time George Cukor came over from the States to do some screen tests of actresses. I was the cameraman.
A meeting was held in one of the big boardrooms at Columbia Pictures, Wardour Street.
All the heads of departments sat around this big table, The Art Director, Wardrobe, Make—Up, Hairdresser etc. All waiting for Mr Cukor. It was like a State occasion — everyone seemed in awe of him when he came into the room,
He proceeded to tell us what he wanted — how it to look etc. we had three sets built at Pinewood — we shot for about a week just for screen tests. The film was actually going to be made in the States —it was quite an experience.
GEORGY GIRL: Directed by Silvio Narizzano. Starred Lynn Redgrave Alan Bates, James Mason.
The film was shot at Shepperton and on location. Most of the night exteriors were shot with fast film stock, using only Sun Guns well spun down — no generators were used.
I was nominated for both the British and American Awards. Peter Allwork was my Operator — he did most of the set—ups — Silvio left that to us.
SPY WITH A COLD NOSE: Director — Dan Petrie.
Spy spoof — a bulldog implanted with a bug and presented to the Russians to get secret information out of the Kremlin. I think it was shot at Pinewood.
Castle Howard was used as the Kremlin (Glass Shot) ,
Lionel Jeffries, Eric Sykes, Eric Portman, Denham Elliott, Daliah Lavi, June Whitfield were in the film.
During the filming of night exteriors at Castle Howard one of the generators got stuck in a ditch so we had to limit the size of shot. I felt sorry for the poor dogs in the film — they were kept hungry until they finished filming.
At about this time I was asked to see Joe Losey about Modesty Blaise. I was given the script and also presented with a list of equipment with which to shoot the film by his Production Manager Spike [Norman] Priggen. I was asked to see Joe Losey after reading the script I knew that the lighting list vas inadequate, as a lot of large night exteriors on the canals in Holland were in the story.
I went to see Joe but was told by Spike they didn't think I was experienced enough. I thanked them and left.
Davis Boulton was given the chance to light the Picture — he accepted their lighting list. He was fired after two weeks. Jack Hildyard took over with all the equipment he needed.
STRANGER IN THE HOUSE: Director Pierre Rouve.
Shot at A.B.P.C. Artists James Mason, Bobby Darin and Geraldine Chaplin.
I had to take Ray Parslow as Camera Operator as he spoke Italian and knew the Director.
1968: SALT AND PEPPER Director Richard Donner.
Shot at Shepperton. Artists Sammy Davis Junior, Peter Lawford, John Le
Mesurier, Graham Stark.
The Producer (American) Milt Ebbins (I think)
We had a part of Soho built on the lot at Shepperton. Shops, Police Station, Clubs etc.,. Neon lighting, buses, cabs, cars etc.
Part of it was to be used for day exterior, but most of it night.
When I said I had to shoot it at night owing to the practicals, time, etc. he said “Ken you are trying to crucify me!” I did shoot a lot of day for night on the Picture but not on this set. I had lamps on Molivators on the top of the street buildings which we ran down for the day exteriors.
Lighting Sammy and Peter together at night was quite a tricky problem -I used to say to Sammy “Keep Smiling and then we will see you”
At about this time the so called Mini Brute came into use. An American had developed a compact truck which had a generator and all the necessary equipment — it sounded wonderful but did not live up to its expectations. The Mini Brute at the time proved only to be mini,
MONSIEUR LE COQ: Director Seth Holt, Vetchinsky [?] Art Director. Zero Mostel, Akin Tamiroff, Ronnie Corbett were in the film.
It was a zany comedy film which was never
Carl Foreman the Producer didn't like the The Unit filmed 3 weeks in Arles, France.
Cleveland House and at Shepperton. It was
cameraman. In the film Zero Mostel plays a Gendarme. The villains live on one side of the street (which is always raining) and the good guys on the other side (which is always sunny). (There was a roof—top Chase (stunt doubles) and the set was built on moveable rostrums for the Artists.
Rumours started in the Unit that they were going to get an American Director to take over from Seth,
Seth was fired — everyone was upset as he was a very popular
Director. We were all expecting the new Director, but the Unit received their Chinese Hand Bills[?]— what a waste.
HOT MILLIONS:— Director Eric Till.
Cast — Peter Ustinov, Maggie Smith, Robert Morley, Karl Malden, Bob Newhart, Caesar Romero.
Shot at A.B.P.C. and on location.
A comedy — Peter Ustinov cheating the computer. Having cheques paid to him. Not much I can remember about this film except for the good experience of working with these artists.
1969: THE MIDAS RUN: Director Alf Kjellin (Czechoslovakia) [Sweden DS] Artists — Fred Astaire, Ralph Richardson, Anne Heywood, Maurice Denham and Caesar Romero.
This was a picture with an International crew: Czech [Swedish. DS] Director, American Production Manager and Gaffer, Homer Plannette. A Mexican Grip. Swiss generator driver, Italian Electricians and an English Camera Crew. Most of the film was shot in Venice. The night locations around St Mark’s Square and the interiors of the Dannelli Hotel (I was staying there. We had generators on barges.
The Studios were the old Carlo Ponti Studios on the coast at Terrenia The Studio was empty so all the lamps had to be rigged.
Homer Plannette wanted to light the sets “you light the artists”, he said. I did not agree to this American system. Our Mexican grip Ralph,used to set the flags — I agreed to this if he wasn’t busy laying tracks etc. It was a nice picture to be on, One night after shooting Fred Astaire went into a dance across St Marks Square — much to the delight of the passers-by. He had his 70th Birthday while on the film.
Fred Astaire was a very nice person to work with — he was always concerned about his hairpiece — asking me whether I could see the hairline. At the end of the picture he gave me a gold cigar cutter with
humour so the film was scrapped.
a wonderful challenge for a
my initials and his engraved on it (I used to smoke mini cigars in those days)
Alf Kjellin was also very nice — but took some time to understand what he was saying. He said — we will do Anne's love scene amongst the “puppies” —
It took a while to realise that he really was saying Poppies started looking for poppy fields.
We returned to London to finish the film.
In one sequence Fred is going to open a safe The shot starts Angle — Fred walking from his Chambers' in Piccadilly across
road holding up the traffic with his umbrella into Hatchards Bookshop — up the stairs — the camera following into a close—up of the safe, all without a cut.
Peter Allwork Camera Operator sat on a crane — which was at maximum height — and craned down to Fred as [he] approached —— Peter got off and then followed behind Fred up the stairs — hand held — into close up of the safe.
Fortunately, it was a dull day — which helped me to balance [the light DS].
I went from daylight to tungsten, lensing 85 filter on the entrance to interior. The shot worked very well.
VIRGIN SOLDIERS: Director John Dexter
Producers:— Sidney Gilliat and Ned Sherrin. Executive Producer — Carl Foreman.
Lynn Redgrave, Rachel Kempson, Hywell Bennett, Jack Shepherd, Nigel Davenport and a lot of other well-known artists.
Most of the locations were in Singapore and in England for the night locations. John Dexter left the set—ups to us,
We started the opening sequence at the Changi Prison on the Square.
It started in brilliant sunshine, then the clouds opened and the monsoon rains came down — we decided to carry on — then the sunshine came back as we had several hundred soldiers from the Malayan Army we had to finish shooting the sequence.
This was the opening sequence — and became a rain sequence —supplemented by fire hoses.
It was very hot filming in Singapore
The Sparks had a very tough job lugging Molivators and the Brutes about in the heat — A truck used to follow the Unit about with cans of iced drinks
We returned to England in the October. We had to shoot the ambush of the train.
The Art Director found a single disused railway track near Bury St Edmunds
It was an embankment — so a second track had to be laid next to it to carry the large crane which wag to lift the engine and the coaches onto their sides.
I had four 60-foot towers built for my lamps — I did the recce during the day so hoped that they would be in the right position as I would not then be able to move them:
Fortunately, they were O.K. except for having to saw off a branch of a tree which was in the way.
During the shooting of this sequence we had a problem with the Artists' breath showing up: we were supposed to be in a Malayan Jungle. We tried giving them ice to suck which did help solve the problem.
We nearly lost the set on the first night of shooting —after the train had been “jelled up” and was burning furiously, we did the first take of the Guerillas attacking— everything looked great —we cut and shouted for the Fireman to douse the flames— there was a terrible delay before the water appeared— they finally put the fire out much to the Producers relief.
The film never went into a Studio— they used an old Hospital Hut as a Studio.
They raised the roof higher to accommodate sets. We even shot
the inside the coach turning over after it had been attacked —
and moving shots from the train at night — also the odd night
exterior of the jungle.
GAMES LOVERS PLAY: Director Malcolm Leigh. Joanna Lumley — Richard Wattis.
This was a sex comedy — Shot at Pinewood.
One problem I had on this picture was shooting on a set which was supposed to be a high-class brothel — all the walls and floor and ceiling were composed of mirrors
I had cut out portions of the ceiling and lit through gauge.
At about this time I was also doing commercials- — working with Joe McGrath.
One Saturday he rang me (he was one of the many Directors working on Casino Royale) he wanted me to take over from Jack Hildyard who was lighting the picture. He said that the artists were complaining of the heat on the set and Joe thought he was too slow.
I was very dubious about this — but was assured that Jack would be paid for the whole picture. He persuaded me to go onto the set at Pinewood. I rang my Agent prior to this and Pat Shard of London management said that Harry Waxman had also been approached but there was no harm in going.
I met Joe on the set and noticed there were several brutes on the rails so thought I would change them to 10K's. Joe said I would be shown the previous rushes before starting. However, to cut a long story short Joe vas fired over the weekend and Jack continued on the picture much to my relief.
JULIUS CAESAR: Director Stuart Burge — Producer Peter Snell.
Starred Charlton Heston, John Gielgud, Dianna Rigg, Richard Chamberlain and Jason Robards.
This film was shot very quickly — five/six weeks.
I first went on a recce to Romania with Peter Snell and Stuart.
They intended to shoot the film there as they thought they could get a good deal for some of the equipment — like a Transatlantic Crane or similar and the horses
It was a very pleasant spree — going all over the place looking for locations etc.- and went down the coast, but the deal in Bucharest didn’t happen. The main location for the Picture was just outside Madrid. We had Spanish extras and the horses had Spanish stunt riders. They had an American Stunt Director (for the horses — Joe Canutt). He had pits dug for the horses to fall — but unfortunately where the ground had been disturbed it showed, so the standby painters were spraying them with green paint. One thing I remember was a panning shot across the hills as all the horses charged down with the sun glinting on the armour — ending up with a M.S.[medium shot] of Richard Chamberlain on a horse under a tree. There were three other cameras set—up all with walkie talkies — it took hours to set the shot up.
It was like an April day with fast moving clouds. I wanted the sun glinting on the armour so I gave the turnover. I was with the main camera. Half way through the shot the Focus Puller said “God I haven't stopped down”. We had to set it up all over again. We shot a lot of plates on Super Panavision for the front projection in the studio. This was on Stage 3 at M.G.M. (one of the largest in Europe). We had a front projection screen built outside the stage, on the set was the archway to the City. The elephants and procession came from both sides of the screen and through the arch and onto the set.
It was a big mistake that the set had not been built exterior in Spain. The set was practically up against the backing, also there were three cranes including the Transatlantic on the set.
I don’t think the picture was much of a success — it certainly didn’t make any money.
ON HER MAJESTY'S SECRET SERVICE – Director: Peter Hunt -Main Unit; 2nd Unit Tony Squire.
Pat Shard, my Agent, asked if I would like to do a Second Unit for the Picture — I was a bit doubtful, but was told there was a big lighting job involved. I had never done second unit before. I didn't take a credit as I wanted to remain a main unit Director of Photography —silly, looking back.
I went out to Switzerland with Jimmy Swan, Gaffer from Pinewood,
Mike Reed, the main unit Cameraman had made some arrangements for the night shoot, It was a stock car race on ice. Mike had ordered some towers to be built for lamps and two cherry pickers. The tracks had some practical floodlights (Mallan Lamps) but I arranged to have more. I didn't know when I went out there that the second unit cameraman had been given his notice. They didn’t think he could handle the night shooting. It was a very embarrassing situation as he was still out at Murren when I arrived.
I went back and organised my crew.
When I returned I met Tony Squire the second unit Director and Terry Marcel.
I also met Johnny Jordon and his assistant Robin Browne. They had a complete camera workshop with camera engineers (all the cameras were electrically heated because of the temperature).
They had a radio system linking all the units, whether you were in a helicopter or on the ground. All had a call sign — ours was “Bondo Lima”
The workshop was situated in the cable ear building, next to our helicopter pad.
Johnny only had one leg — he lost one in a helicopter accident on a Bond film in Japan. He used to fly suspended under the helicopter on a special rig he designed.
There was a German skier who could ski backwards holding a camera— Willie Bogner.
On the first day I got the feeling that they didn’t want to shoot, they said the weather would change etc. (I found out afterwards that they hoped to go to Canada to finish).
We did several day and day for night scenes before we came to shoot the stock car race.
The night before the shoot Cubby Broccoli arrived to see a rehearsal. The stunt drivers were Italians. We had 8 generators. A German gaffer — Jimmy and about 26 sparks, English and Swiss.
We went to put the lights up, but one of the generators had packed up so none of the floodlighting over the track was on.
The sparks overnight put all the lights of Murren out and managed to bring a big transformer up on the cable car and restored the practicals.[?]
For the next few nights we were filming in temperatures 16 below, and then we had a snowstorm and the sparks had difficulty with the brutes on the cherry pickers.
16 Metros were badly dented, one Merc blown up and one of the big American Cougar cars in the film didn’t look too good.
We did a tracking shot of Diana Rigg driving a car — which we shot from a big American vehicle which came from Germany.
Johnny Jordon did a tracking shot suspended from the helicopter at dusk, rising above any cables across the road. After the stock car sequence whichwent well, we filmed an avalanche which didn’t go so well. The constructionboys had rigged wires across a gulley (in the path of the avalanche) in which articulated dummies would slide. Blofeld's men (Telly Savalas) chasing Bond, gets swept by the avalanche.
We had a remote camera in a steel dustbin with streamers so that we could locate it placed in the gulley. 5 cameras were covering this event. It took a long time to set up (everyone had to travel by helicopter and drop out into the snow).
Then one had to dig a platform for the gear. The equipment was slung under helicopters (I nearly got killed on one occasion by approaching the helicopter from the rear, towards the back rotor
blade. Fortunately, the helicopter engineer brought me down in a rugby tackle before I became mincemeat).
The ridge above the gulley had explosives planted by the special effects.
We had an expert on the Unit who was supposed to inform us when the avalanche was imminent — unfortunately we missed it so the special effects turned out to be a damp squib. I think the footage used in the film was intercut with library material.
One morning after getting all the ski gear on, arrived with my operator at the helipad to be met by the 3rd assistant saying the Director had been fired also the 1st and 2nd — and we were on our own. We had to filmone of the Blofeld’s men who had his ski shot away going over a gulley.
We got into the cable car and stopped it half way — put a plank out of the door so that my operator could stand on it, with a safety line attached to him, with a hand-held camera, and threw the articulated dummy from the roof of the cable car down into the gulley about 2000ft below. Eventually John Glen arrived and took over as 2nd Unit Director.
YOU CAN'T WIN ‘EM ALL. Director Peter Collinson. 2nd Unit Director —Skeets Kelly, Camera: Frank Kingston,
Charles Bronson, Tony Curtis.
I went out to Turkey to do a recce. The Director at the time was an American — Burt Kennedy. He was a charming man, he used to call me Kenny.
We visited the locations in Istanbul, mainly the interiors of large palaces etc. He would give me the area he wanted to use, so I based my requirements on that, the amount of filters for the large windows, lamps, generators etc.
I went back to England and did a few camera tests etc.
When I returned to Turkey to start the picture the Director had been changed. The American had had a disagreement with Columbia. He wanted a fight sequence (at the beginning of the film) on a set built over water, so that the fight would go through the floor into the water. Columbia turned the idea down, saying the set would be too expensive for the budget.
It was quite a tough picture to make.
Peter was very demanding — I felt sorry for the second unit they had some very tough filming to do — having to film the string of horses (the mercenaries) on top of inaccessible ridges etc. We filmed across Turkey, Istanbul to Izmir. Accommodation was quite difficult.
One hotel in the middle of Turkey said they would fill the swimming pool for the Unit — the only ones to use it was Charles Bronson's Alsatian dogs which he brought with him plus his family, nannies etc. Charles didn't seem to go much on the Limeys Tony Curtis was quite pleasant.
The film had plenty of action. First world war planes (replicas which were
out) with stunt pilots. Lots of explosions on land and at sea; at of the day we looked like [blacked up] minstrels from the smoke oftyres• The sparks seemed to be very well organised. They had
with them concentrated tonic water, which was not obtainable in
They had driven three generators across from the U.K. On the night of their arrival they were having a few drinks in the Hotel bar — Peter's wife was there with Peter and because of their flowery language in front of Peter's wife, he wanted to send them back. Peter was playing the “bug” director and would not do close-ups of the fight. Called to a meeting: “I won’t direct by committee” We finished the film in Izmir – a lot of smoke and special effects. The film was shot entirely on location.
On the journey across Turkey one of the generator drivers had an accident —a cart pulled out in front of him - he was promptly put in jail. It took ages to get him out and he managed to get a flight back to the U.K. Whilst out there the Production Office put out a letter to the Unit warning of the danger of being caught using cannabis which was easily obtainable. Ending up in a Turkish prison was not a pleasant thought. Several New Zealand actors were using it. On the whole it was a tough picture — very hot and long hours and a lot of travelling.
AIRCRAFT CARRIER: Terry Lenns, the Production Manager
This was a disaster of a film. An American Producer (whose name I can't remember) conned us into it. It was to be a film about American aircraft carrier pilots. As it involved a lot of aerial work I asked Robin Browne who
I met on the Bond film, if he would like to be my operator — he was a puller at the time. He agreed. Terry Lenns, Robin and myself went out
a recce — we took a camera with us mainly to do some tests, having to
on the flight deck at night with available light. Phantom jets taking
etc. Went to Naples and met an American Naval P.R. Officer. Early the following morning we took off in a small plane. We were all facing towards the tail. We flew out towards the Aircraft Carrier Forrestal. After circling for what seemed like hours, as there was an exercise on, we finally landed on the flight deck, the catapult wires stopped us. As the American ship was supposed to be 'dry' we took the precaution of having a few bottles with us.
We met the Captain and then some of the pilots. They immediately offered us a drink!
After some days on board in which we had shot quite a bit of material which could be used, we returned to England. There was a long delay before the film was given the O.K. to go ahead, we were all at Sammy’splace picking up the gear, 3 Panavision cameras and all the lighting plus 3 sparks. We couldn’t leave until some money had been paid.
We were a very small Unit of about 12. The so-called Director was something to do with Mole-Richardson [lighting company], in fact there was no Director — Robin Browne organised all the aerial shooting with the Pilots (Red Rippers). We did a lot of shooting on the flight deck during the day and night.
We filmed the artists in Barcelona, the Director vas hopeless, John Shirley the editor flew out to direct some of the scenes.
To cut a long story short we landed in Majorca. The Producer had taken off to the States trying to set up another film with the money from this one. We were all stranded in the Hotel without a penny.
Fortunately, Sammy chartered a flight to get us and his gear out. Denham Labs have still got the negative. I was lucky to be paid through London Management but some of the crew were not so fortunate. Robin who had been flying over some Russian ships found out that he hadn't been insured: luck is the film business!
I was then lucky enough to do the Black Beauty series.
The Producers Sydney Cole and Paul Knight for London Weekend.
This series was mainly shot on a farm at Rickmansworth with various locations in the area. There were several Directors, each one directed a
different episode. I had Robin [Browne] with me on the first series and Wally Byatt on the second. Frank Heeney was my gaffer, a great guy with a very dry sense of humour.
One of the main things on these T.V. series is to get it completed on schedule — one was always under pressure to get it shot regardless of the weather etc. I used the standby painter a lot to help me — when we first started the farm buildings were black creosoted. I got the painter to lighten them up, on some very dull mornings he sprayed the tree trunks lighter — this helped a lot — he also painted the interiors of the barns lighter.
On one or two occasions filming at the end of the day the light having gone — I lit the scene with Tungsten light (filtering the Brutes) and managed to turn a grey sky blue.
I think I liked Charles Crichton, the best director to work with on the series — he had a terrible temper but a great humour.
Nothing would persuade him to hurry — he was always a bit over.
One of the actors was given a chance to direct one episode — he came on the set dressed like the old Hollywood directors —cowboy hat and boots —much to the amusement of the sparks.
One of the Directors of the Black Beauty series asked me to work with him on this. He was a very nice person, a Canadian.
Most of the filming was in Normandy. I had to light the interior of one of the large ferries and film the scene during the crossing. It was a very large area. We had generators with us. We only just managed to complete the filming before docking, in France.
We had a very pleasant time on this series, some of the locations in England were on the River Hamble. The only bad thing were the Southern T.V. electricians — they didn’t like work, and moaned the whole time. On a night location Alan Gibson told them what he thought of them.
GANGSTERS for BBC Birmingham. Director Philip Saville.
Between 74 — 77 did several small films and T.V. series,
You’re a Good Boy Son! Scottish T.V. Worked a lot with Joe McGrath. One film shot at Pinewood.
The Strange Case Director Joe McGrath. Producer: Ken Harper. John Cleese — Arthur Lowe, Connie Booth.
This was a comedy about Sherlock Holmes.
A lot of split screen used — there were two Dr Watsons (Arthur Lowe) one an impersonator. Quite fun to work on but unfortunately not a success.
A lot of Commercials — Boris Karloff at Twickenham Studios, American 2-day shoot. Paid in dollars. 1-day lights.
Chewits Commercial (King Kong) A. B.P.C. This won an award. Commercial in Hamburg (Floor Polish)
Top Deck Shandy (Cricket Match). This also won an award.
Several Italian commercials Arrigoni — Cynthia Moody.
Quick Brew Tea(Roy Hudd) etc. etc.
Joe and I worked on some dubious sex films for Malcolm Faney [?] we didn't have our names on the credits. Joe has some comic French name)
GOLDEN RENDEZVOUS: Director Ashley Lazarus. Production: Andre Pieterse, Bob [Robert] Porter.
Richard Harris, Ann Turkell, David Janssen, John Vernon, Dorothy Burgess Meredith, Gordon Jackson, Robert Flemyng, Robert Beatty.
The film was shot in South Africa with South African finance, it series of disasters. The film was set at sea — a complicated plot, a gambling ship, gold bullion, time bomb, man in a coffin, raiders at sea etc.
The unit were accommodated in a Motel in Mussel Bay near the Cape. We had chalets, swimming pool, sauna, first class food etc.
All the interiors of the ship and various sets were there, the engine room set was a few miles away — a disused power station. The unit called it 'The Biscuit Factory' — it used to get very hot as all the interiors did.
A big party was held prior to shooting for Richard Harris and his wife Ann Turkel to meet all the local 'Big Wigs.
The first setback occurred when Richard Harris decided that Christopher Lee, who had been cast, should be replaced, as he would give the plot away— he being cast as the villain. This caused quite an uproar. Lee threatening to sue etc. etc. He was replaced by an American actor John Vernon. I was the only British Camera technician — my operator and crew were South African. Ashley Lazarus had never directed anything big — he was a South African commercial cameraman — he owned a few lights with which I was expected to light the picture.
The first thing I did was to send for the very fast Panavision lenses
I left the crew to do some lens tests while I went into the small harbour village to buy some waterproofs for the nightwork on the ship. When I returned there was panic. Some of the electrics on the Panaflex had blown up — we managed to get a replacement from Sammy’s in Joburg, a delay of two days.
On the first night shoot I could see that neither the Director nor my operator had a clue. Richard Harris more or less took over.
I mentioned about the operator to Bob Porter, we got Freddy Cooper out—I was pleased to see him.
The electricians I had were good. The gaffer was English he had emigrated out there. He was first class.
I managed to get a couple of Brutes they were essential against the light there.
The boys used by some miraculous way transformers to hook them up from the street lighting. They really saved my life.
The film developed into a series of re—writes. American artists keep appearing.
A Unit of about 100 hanging around. Playing football etc.
The first three weeks were all night shooting. Ann Turkel was being a prima donna encouraged by Richard Harris. She wouldn't have a close—up because of a spot on her face I assured her it would be alright. I had to use a Brute against that intense light. It was well spun down with a “diff” [?] on the camera — she looked great. Richard had to look through the camera and shout out she looked fine.
One scene, a tip tank with thousands of gallons of water knocked Ann down on the deck — on seeing the rushes she said “you can’t use
the close up — her hair was streaming down (she was fine) and insisted on a retake.
I did the retake — she had the hairdresser give a little spray of water on her face— I made it look like a thirties glamour C.U.[Close up] back light, diffusion, everything. On seeing the rushes, she said “Ken that was a wonderful CU”. We were at the bar at the time I said “they won’t use it love” - they didn’t.
Another row blew up because of Richard and Ann’s house — they insisted on the furniture being changed.
Richard was drinking a lot and there were fights between he—and his wife.
One morning he came onto the set with his hand all bandaged up. Anne had locked him out - he had smashed the window with his fist.
I had an accident on the picture whilst filming in the hold of the ship —a hatch cover fell down and caught me a glancing blow on the head. I managed to carry on filming after first aid.
One night, half of the Unit had to spend on the Italian ship — they couldn't get off because of the weather. I managed to get onto the cutter.
Bob Porter was directing a second unit — he asked if I would operate a camera — I had worked all night and then all day without a break, 24 hours.
The Producer Andre Pieterse and Ashley were having a row — it was an impossible situation. Richard and Anne went on strike because their expenses had not been paid into their account.
We had to shoot on the back of doubles.
The Italian ship which we were filming had a great character in the Captain, and the Harbour Master of Mossell Bay played the Captain in the film.
Gradually the white ship became grey ag 1 had had bits when we were filming sprayed down because of the glare. After a series of traumas the people from Film Finance arrived to take over — they asked me to direct it — we managed to muddle through with Bob Porter directing.
The final film looked great. It is the first and only time I have had my name on the London buses.
They had a poster of Golden Rendezvous and at the bottom was my credit. 1976:
DICK TURPIN: I did this series as my “swan song”.[Summary Transcript Ends here. DS 2018]