Ken Westbury

photo by Brian Tufano
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Speaker 1  0:00  
Okay, my name is Ken Westbury, and I was born on the fifth of January 1927. And my place of birth was Woodley Shepherds Bush, just a few 100 yards from the Television Centre, which wasn't there in those days.

Unknown Speaker  0:20  
You English,

Unknown Speaker  0:20  
I'm English as you

Speaker 2  0:24  
got older. Um, what awards Have you won through your lifetime?

Speaker 1  0:33  
Well, I've run three BAFTA nominations, one for Dr. Fisher of Geneva, one for sugar detective, a one for tenders tonight. And I've got one award for for services to television over the years for the Royal Television Society. And I've got an award for special photography for a film called The Black Velvet gun from the beffta. Northeast. Wow.

Unknown Speaker  1:05  
What about honours?

Unknown Speaker  1:07  
No. Excellent.

Speaker 2  1:09  
Well, um, what started you off in the industry? What was your interest? How did you become interested?

Speaker 1  1:18  
Well, it's quite accidental, really, because I left school at 15 Not having a very good education because the war came and I was evacuated for three years. So didn't have a very good schooling. And I decided to leave at 15 and had no idea what I wanted to do. And I had an uncle who works in the garage eating film studios. He was a mechanic. And he said, well back get your bike get your job there, you as a boy, you know, they might require somebody and inquire, they said, well come on over and see us. There came along and saw that, but I didn't do too well, because I didn't know much about sound or questions about sound. And I didn't know much about that. And it just so happened, he mentioned this me to the head of camera department at the time. So we could do with a boiler workshop. So I started work in the capital workshops. That was just after Eastern IG 42. And my job there was very lonely, sweeping up every morning, sweeping all the keeping the worktops clean, going up for the shopping, taking people's checks to the bank, buying things for the weekend, and all sorts of things like that getting their favourite tobacco, and gradually worked along with their ad guy that worked on rear projection, rather, sort of took a shine to me, you know, rather got got to, and he sort of ran partly ran the department. And he got me working with him on backprojection behind the by the projector. So my job would be to make sure that the workshop of the rewinder was clean. So we didn't scratch the plates and things like that and helping clean windows. That worked out fine. Or I should do that every now and again. Not not very often, but during the game. And as it was water and people will, you know, camera boys were getting caught up as soon as they were at that there's sort of a natural flow up from the from the bottom. And I was on the floor for as a clever boy for the odd day here and there. And I'd learned how to load magazines and all that job. And before long are you completely the job of the clapper boy. And one day, this guy that was head of department said Look, I need to clap, avoid the stage. Get over there. Don't let me see you back at this workshop ever again. So that that was the start of why that was started by Korea. And it went on like this. It wasn't too long before I was pulling focus. That was about 70s and it like film called Fiddler three, which is a comedy with Tommy trender and Sadie Howe. And there's some extra shooting required. And I found myself as focus puller for quite a few weeks. And this went on off off a lot for quite a few number of years. And but before I was at ease, I was putting focus on odd couple of films, complete feature films and then my turn came to do my duty. And I served three years in the military in the Household Cavalry, not on horses but armoured cars. I was at the lifeguards and shore service in Africa after the war this was and Palestine and then back after the war. All the people that have been before me and He started to come back because they had to take them for six months. And lots of guys who came in as, like be and worked up to focus puller, there was a cold cure people focus puller. So they were short of saying, oh, I want to be your focus, but I'm gonna leave. I'm not going to stay on this. And when I came back, I said, Well, I'll take a chance. I stayed at the clapper loader and got got lots of experience on various films and I don't know. About seven years I was working like that, and checking a lot of information which I never realised I was taking it in at the time, and worked with a director called Sanjay mackendrick, who was absolutely brilliant film called Whiskey hero. And I was clapper loader. And it was the operator's first full feature film. And the assistant focus puller was his first full feature film. And so it'd be my first feature film back after the war. And it was very good Saturday is very visual, one of the most visual directors I've ever seen, you know, and I must have learned a lot an awful lot from him there, which I didn't even realise I was taking it in. And several films like The Blue lamp and the Krushi a film called The Maggie was another centre mackendrick film. And I stayed like that actually working it odds and sods and I was loaned out down again for the odd picture to another studio when they loaned out the camera. So there's just about to go with it. So it was a B. And then suddenly, I was focused for the very last feature film made by more Balkan at Ealing studios. And I was focused on record but the long arm story Jack Hawkins and detective story. And after that, it was announced at the end of that was announced that the studio was closing, being sold to the BBC. And we were tipped off. So you boys are okay, you will come with us to MGM. And that's great, got no problem. And I was the only person left in the camera department to hand over stuff that was being auctioned, and hand over stuff that was being bought by the BBC. And ourselves stuck around the studio. And we still had a small room, we stored all our gear, we will keep it and the guys there I do quite well from work with his brother before. And he started to interest me so so quickly come work for us. You know, it's been a bit of work outside of us. That's right. One, day one, you can recommend you enjoy it up, enjoy this. And he said well out, I'll share what I'm due for your ranger interview. And that morning, he he rang up guy named Adam Lawson, who ran the film department camera side at no growth. And he said we're shutting him down to see me and I have a chat as I went down that afternoon, and he dragged me into his office and encoded the assistant head of the film department into the office as well. That was why I interview for the free PC. And the next day, right? You You got a job if you want it. And I was taken on as an assistant cameraman. And during the people who actually work at the BBC, there were a lot many people had film experience or a feature film experience. And I've gotten all the things I've learned I was able to put the practices and so don't do it this way. Why don't you do it this way? I got on quite well. People said I like working with how do you know if it's the camera that you're working with is not available? I'd say that I'd like kid to say take over. And within a year, I was promoted to camera. And I worked quite well on that at the very first film was a documentary about Chinese community in London. That's when there were very few Chinese restaurants around very few. And things like that. Gradually went on to think did a big big documentary for the BBC from Richard Costa, called the just the BBC 24 hours in the life of the BBC. Right from the start, Midnight's and Dr. Thread through the day. Excerpts from various programmes so from talks to News to variety programmes, finishing up with experimental after they closed the main station down on Got a range of colour film. So that that was why introducing the colour at the time. And I've did a whole series of all on film drama, and series drama series like Bergerac, and things like that. And the last big sessions on tenco, which was quite nice for me, because it was two, it was two or three weeks in Singapore for about three years. You know, or even more, I think, Mr. Singapore, I think it was four trips to Singapore. And then finally, we did a normal old film chenko reunion. That was another trip to Singapore as well. And that, and that worked out quite well. And then

Speaker 1  10:48  
the next thing I did was a big dot drama, a big got a series of called singing in the rain, which started Bob Hoskins and Dennis Potter story. And it was very sort of unusual of faith for because because the actors would be acting away and suddenly burst into song. And it was the old owl Bowie, music from the 30s. You know, that sort of caused a sensation, it was quite unheard of, and introduced Bob Hoskins to the audience, he went on great things after that. And did another big series called tenders to date, Scott Fitzgerald tenders right with with American actors and all over Europe. And after sigma detective, which was another Dennis Potter thing was directed by John Avial, who was very good. And that worked out quite well. And practically after that, I was 60. So the BBC threw you out at 60. So then I went on straight onto a feature film, and sort of saw life in the raw, because the hours we work should be on the set up or something for breakfast. And I usually get home to about harpaz level at night. And that went on for about six seven weeks. And that was my learning what it was like in the outside of the BBC how lucky we were there. And that I all told I'd 15 years freelance doing various films and drama series and things like that, like pie in the sky. And then I went on let's see that is about 2000 The Queen's silver jubilee. And I was one of the three cameras. I was on the bow with one camera and just shooting the parade go by. And after that, that was why a lot I said that I've had enough now 60 years and I've had my hunger metres up

Unknown Speaker  13:16  
or it's quite quite a long

Speaker 1  13:19  
quite a long career. It was just did an awful lot of I've got a whole list of films and series I've worked on like Berger, I can find the sky or various issues. So I've got it written down so

Unknown Speaker  13:41  
anytime you want to break just to say

Unknown Speaker  13:45  
um, what did you enjoy most about your work?

Speaker 3  13:49  
Wasn't Singing in the Rain candles? No, you got the IMDB sugar to the right. It wasn't singing in the rain that Bob Hoskins it was a punishment isn't

Unknown Speaker  14:03  
just rehab news. It was it was rigged.

Speaker 3  14:07  
It was printed out but that's fine. And this is all Yeah. I mean, yes. You want to stay down? Wow, what would you say I've seen in a rain

Unknown Speaker  14:25  
no blow. I think we can just I mean, I remember it a family sitting with a few more than I have to write yet. And just haven't

Unknown Speaker  14:39  
answered most of these questions here. I mean

Unknown Speaker  14:45  
doesn't have to be two hours long. Yeah,

Speaker 2  14:47  
but I mean, what did you enjoy most about your work?

Speaker 1  14:51  
Well, sometimes, you know, I was working. I thought, I'm getting paid for the show. I really enjoy it. You know, I couldn't believe I was being paid for it. If you lie to various sets that various people around you, and another enjoyable film, I did the world safari with prejudice and to East Africa. And that was lovely. She was beautiful when a very nice person. She knew it all by our Christian names. There was no sort of high and mighty about it at all. She was straight down to earth. And very often, she would invite us over to her bungalow where she was staying with her party and have a chat, we chat with a beer and a chat on the veranda, as the press secretary came out to be a part of shoe lock, bugger off. And we can't, we can't eat until essentially you've got it. She comes with choices, that sort of thing. And I really enjoyed working on that. And then two or three years later, I was one of the cameras on the balcony room on her first marriage, and shooting on that. And then next time I came to work with it did a piece she was living then at Sandhurst, with her first husband, who was a instructor there. And we were doing a pitch to Canberra, about the Queen's horses. And we did all that, and we will pack it up our camera in the front yard. And the butler came out and said You're invited in fatigue. All right, don't bother to worry about that. We were quite happy. It's not afraid. That's our order. So we went and sat down, and how she was pouring the tea. She said, How's she legs kid? And she said, Well, my father in law, my father and I were watching the warship series last night. We were telling which sailors were actors and who who were the act of the real estate is by the way they saluted so she must have actually watched the title was at the end of it and said all kid Westby I don't know. That's amazing. Just

Unknown Speaker  17:27  
just occasionally, it was fine. As I mentioned, particular jobs.

Speaker 2  17:38  
And whether any difficulties where you thought like this is a tricky job or tricky people to work with

Speaker 1  17:49  
one particular film that I didn't get over the direction, and I was most unhappy all the way through it. And in the end, I sort of said, we both agreed that I should retire from that film. But I don't think it was me. I nearly 60 years without any problems. But just find the odd one in

Speaker 2  18:19  
LA must come at that. And so for a very long time you were BBC staff

Speaker 1  18:26  
a shot Yeah. for surgery. 31 years. 31 years in the BBC. Yeah.

Speaker 2  18:41  
First, the questions that you had pretty much covered most of the stuff if you want to just stop for

Unknown Speaker  18:51  
a second. And work with John Amy on the

Speaker 1  18:57  
twin Charlotte twins. The Originals for you on the detective? Yes, right. You could talk about that because they're doing a feature film. There's a feature film out now about twins. Same story. Yeah, it's just same story, I'm sure. That was original silent twins. But the two girls who were so close together but never talked to anybody else. And I think they committed a murder and it was a true story brought to life. And John Emile is very good direct. I like to I like working with John. And some years, just a few years later, he asked for me to do the second detective with him. Which which I think was a great field to work on, you know, with the the music and things like that. And the camera movements we used to pen rounds are to a shoal and we have to pad completely 180 degrees round the ward and finish up exactly the right moment on the nurse at the desk as the shoot ended. And it was great to work on that sort of thing. And the whole range of Michael Gambon was great to work with your whole risk of actors who worked on it, too, were great. It was something out of this world. And when it came to the awards time, it was up for everybody was saying it's going to take the awards, it's going to take the awards, but for some reason it didn't know there was a backlash suffered. And we we didn't get I think the only person that got it was the was a designer who who who designed the poster. So So Apps The idea would the fool God, maybe the makeup I don't know quite but but but certainly the director never got anything.

Speaker 2  20:48  
And you said earlier that you worked mostly on film all your life. I

Speaker 1  20:53  
never worked at all really on video. It was completely before my time. So I started black and white went into colour and off to things like that. And I'd feel pretty good trading. I mean, I I was sent to Africa with Douglas Slocum, who's one of the top cameras as his assistant, we would, we were just doing game photography and the odd shots around. It wasn't Doug's point to as a cameraman, but he liked the sunshine and it was it was subject to do and we had six weeks together. And at one time we were at the hotel in Mombasa just finishing off shooting the odd shot around the pickup shots around loading. And we was nice and sunny and we just packed out gear up in the car and Dougie Sarah will have a swim before we go back. So we had a swim that led to lunch. A distributor phoned the hotel and tell them we're going to be late just in case they get worried about us. The woman at the hotel said I wouldn't bother if you could just pull over right here. And the road would be washed out. And we were there seven days waiting for it to clear up. When we went back to the to the bush again to start filberg Elephants, the whole place is different because it was looked around the trees were dead before we left. And when we got back there all started to go into leaf. So so we had the elephants have very wise creatures they and you drink into standing water first, they used to stay water first and then the permanent water they keep as emergency. So we've worked around for weeks, trying to find herds of elephants. So it worked out quite nicely for us.

Speaker 2  22:46  
So so it sounds like you travelled a lot with your work,

Speaker 1  22:52  
or did quite well that did a series called television of the world. And we filmed first of all in England, you know television breed big broadcast in England. Yeah, did a variety show I stick my camera on the camera, Craig and re reproduced the last shot of the thing. And then we went from there to Italy did a whole section a couple of weeks or 10 days in Italy filming various programmes and not only the programmes being made, but people watching them as well. And then from there, we went to Egypt did the same there in Egypt. And then from Egypt, we went on to Singapore, and Singapore. We did some of that. Then a couple of days off in Hong Kong. And then on to Japan did the same again in Japan. And then from Japan, we flew to Los Angeles did the same in Hollywood and around there. And then from there, we flew over to New York did the New York side. And then down to Brazil. Down to set to to Rio de Janeiro to film there as a people in the favelas, shacks watching TV. And then from there, we flew to West Africa, do a bit in the West Africa. And then from there back to England for a few days off, then on to Poland. And then on to Moscow. And that was that was television of the world. That was quite a bit and I did lots of documentaries in East Africa. And did one feature feature film for BBC all on film drama called the hunt for the bad trapper. And the crew for that was director. His wife was continuity. We had a guy from the Scots from Scottish TV from BBC Scotland. He was like acting as the prop band. His sister directs the Brexit manager. And there was just myself and my wife I said stunt and the sound bad with one assistant. And that was the crew that was watching it. And it was a film shot in the Antarctic. It was winter. And it was minus 40. On some some days filming this guy that we killed a, he was trapping on Indian saw on somebody else's trap lines and to avoid any trouble that the police went to interview him to tilt toward him off. And he shot the policeman. So then he was a man is a true story. A man hunt over the mountains. He crossed the mountains which nobody's ever done in the winter, which we filled from helicopters and things like that. And then down to a big lake. He was going down a river frozen river and took the wrong turn and started heading back. And he was heading back he views the posture he was chasing you. That was a good story that was never got much showing, apart from it. Never seen it again. That was that was an interesting film to welcome.

Speaker 2  26:09  
Can you tell us a bit more about whisky galore? Because that's a very famous film.

Speaker 1  26:14  
Yeah, whiskey law. We shot your honour the bearer and the whole crew over there. We must have been there for about 12 weeks. It was quite quite a long time. And we were all sort of but we were the house it was I think our carpet has actually put put the rules together upstairs. It was just rebuilt. And we stayed there for the time and it was good because Sadie mackendrick was, was a commercial artist at one stage of his life and he would describe something Chikmagalur simple the operator would and he will describe a setup he wanted you know, like I think this one involves a spinning wheel couldn't quite get the right angle. So he's said he just picks up his script on the back page and actually draws it absolutely perfectly. As you know, it was able to sit straight away. It was that sort of bad as it was chick chick chick Morrison's first full feature film you know, I was able to listen to what what he was being taught and things like that and the same with a focus puller I've got a very nice camera you got general Gibbs It was very nice man to work with. was a good guy was good good good thing with basil Radford's. The actors are

Unknown Speaker  27:43  
very Can you tell us about a cruel see? Yeah,

Speaker 1  27:51  
well, we were my crew I worked with allocated crochet with with a character called head of department called Golden diamonds. They were all ex naval men. You know, it's from watch RM Gordon was left handed commander in the film department as a Navy. And so we were they were all good, good ground for what they were doing. And it was good. We were had a Corvette, which was, I think when eventually went from the Turkish Navy to Malta Dockyard, and it was really, you know, made sea worthy again. And we use that as as the real film in the real film. So we're based on the other score vet for the, for the most, most of this shooting against the Portland of rough is a rough sea area, just south of Portland bill would go through that the waves breaking over the ship and things like that. And that was interested to work on and funnily enough years afterwards, we were doing the warship series and with float out sheets of water to do the shots shots with the way the main frigate we were using for the series at that time. And we sailed back on board the whole crew I bought our crew I bought the frigate sailed back to to Portsmouth. And on the way back, we go through the Bay of Biscay, the ship was rolling like mad. It rolls from side to side. And I think I don't know about to she weren't seasick on that. And they got the call to cupboard shoot the title of the ship breaking through the waves and did it from the helicopter. And we were fulfilling the ship from its front on and as it went down, it could see us as it came up. We didn't know they didn't know where we were, oh, they weren't crashing into us. As I was so glad to get on set off Ship didn't buy the helicopter. It was a backhaul again, that was that was quite a nice to you though. That was we'll get back to portraits. All right one piece.

Speaker 2  30:11  
Wow. Yeah. Black and white and then colour film Yes. Right.

Speaker 3  30:22  
Just how they may be described as a BBC as a clapper loader. I think people are quite curious about how the day to day runnings of these things actually what are some of these shots? 711 years what were the hours? The hours a lot less in those days? Was it nine was how do you start your fighter?

Unknown Speaker  30:47  
That was good filled.

Speaker 2  30:48  
That was when the tea breaks and stuff. Oh, yeah,

Speaker 1  30:51  
you got a 20 minute shape right. morning and afternoon. First lunch

Unknown Speaker  30:58  
well, that's definitely different today.

Speaker 1  31:00  
Oh, certainly. I think we're on the stage at the BBC. If you're working in the stage, they sent the teeth running over so you didn't have to break through. You had to the run. It was it was a nice life. But compared with nowadays or when I was working, the hours are phenomenal. But for BBC life you were protected. If you can play Do you don't can't work goes out

Speaker 2  31:34  
and talking about tea breaks and food and stuff. Britain wasn't very well known for the variety of food after the war and you were exposed with your travel and work to probably a lot of different foods in other countries. Have you got any memories or stories about that?

Speaker 1  31:55  
Not really. We don't have much problem it we're lucky Yeah. I did it by eating trips to the old trip to Dublin when meat food was rushing wrap my head around we steak It's unbelievable to be tutorial steak for dinner and they will lovely Chinese restaurants around in those days either you know we did other Chinese community for almost did we shot at a Chinese restaurant somewhere in Knightsbridge opposite the oratory somewhere alone. And it was the first time but it was it's been a Chinese restaurant. It was a high class restaurant. But the food was suddenly it was unbelievable. I don't I've never tasted Chinese food as good ever since I did. But that was something that but but overseas. I tended not to go too far. I know at one stage we were in Italy on film called His Excellency stayed at Palermo in Sicily. We're all staying at the hotel the whole crew though electricians everybody else like that. And it was some of the best Italian food you could eat as parts quite a few of the crew you know that's electricians are staged as people don't complain about the food it was it was spaghetti or dessert but as one stays on one film they don't complain it and the head waiter bought some fish and chips for somebody one of the one of the electricians or something wrapped up in newspaper and put it on the desk is as as sort of voodoo simple like you

Speaker 2  33:42  
did you How was your crew once you started working outside the BBC. Was there any difference? Would you have an operator?

Speaker 1  33:50  
Oh a full crew. An operator clapper loader grips people like that and add the best. I worked with some very good people

Unknown Speaker  34:07  
yes, let's have a quick break.

Unknown Speaker  34:14  
JV how

Unknown Speaker  34:20  
you should probably go for

Speaker 2  34:23  
right. Can we start to get into question 35 mil film to 16 mil film

Speaker 1  34:30  
156 When I joined the BBC was 35 and 35. Since we started until I must have been in the early 70s. We started to switch mainly for documentary styles for travelling because it's easy to take this cameras with us on the aeroplane and the batteries which weighed a tonne and equipment would weigh a tonne. So it must have saved an awful lot of money. So As freight charges for, for for for for the getting equipment but when we turned 16 It gradually worked on to drama as well. But drama was the last thing to go into into into 60 mil but because surely more but other camera a bill reflects BL camera that got very noisy and I kept putting into workshops to sold out and I complained to the department so I've always get in trouble with cover noise as I said my cameras in and out all the time was getting sorted out so something's got to be done, you know, other new cameras so they worked it out. They worked out the time I had the camera from you until that date or they checked all the film I'd actually use good I could actually tell by what a drawn out the stores and it turned out in a few years it was over a million feet unfilled.

Speaker 2  36:12  
Yeah. Can you diversity story again? The birthday, everybody sang your birthday? Oh, yeah.

Speaker 1  36:20  
Wonderful film I was actually working on it is a piece of show Michael Tippett, the conductor, conducting and training the Leicester schools orchestra. And it happened to be the fourth of January, which was his birthday. And a couple of the mothers gave him cake See, so he had two birthday cakes. And somebody says Ken's birthday tomorrow. So I said well, you better take one of these cases I can't eat to them. And the next day we were filming Alfred Deller who's a countertenor? Brilliant countertenor, and his consort, which is about eight ladies who shagging harmony. And when it came to tea time, and cut the cake, I had Happy Birthday sang to me by the Alfred della consort, which was very moving for me for that time, but some that you could never ever happen again.

Unknown Speaker  37:16  
And then you met another famous singer. Oh,

Speaker 1  37:19  
yes. But other time is, I was in parish to film an interview with Maria calash as I went a day in advance, just so we could chat to what she looked like where we were to shoot it as just rehearsal and come to evening. We put Barry Gavin, who was the producer and myself, revise you to go out and enjoy her. Oh Harwood, who's the Queen's cousin, or the late Queens cousin. And we went to a fish restaurant near the comedy francais in parish. Other for us sitting at the table. And opposite me was Maria Callas. And she was talking to Oh Hallward. About who was the director of this or who was the music director on that, going back over the years, as Barry Gavin was able to chat in now and again, America says, Ken, you are very quiet. You don't seem to talk. I said. I said Batum callous. I can't contribute to this conversation. But there's the most interesting conversations I've had for years. At summit, I will never forget, I had the honour of it. And we went out the next day to film it. Good, good relationship there.

Speaker 3  38:39  
Why don't you explain to the audience, just give me this list and then you just work through it. Okay.

Speaker 2  38:48  
Okay, the list I've got as hungry as I can list. And a couple of jobs on here is, if you could tell us a bit more is that cars,

Speaker 1  39:00  
such cars. When it first started, it was about five main actors. And none of them could actually drive. They've never had never had a licence to drive. Never heard of Drive. So very often, if you're running a car, the guy that looked after the cars which you should be laying on the floor, operating the clutch and the brake. And that went on for quite a long time. Like that before they all started to do it. And then I did one episode, did several episodes of that. But then they did one feature film of it. So one complete episode complete film of programme of the ticket, which I did with Greta named John McGrath, which we shot a little in full area, which was quite fun to work on.

Speaker 2  39:56  
And you probably did one of the first time To hosts,

Speaker 1  40:00  
I did one of the first talk to us. I keep getting asked about it. But I was only on it for about three or four days just off Ramsgate. And we'll do we can remember we did some filming on the edge aircraft towers, it used to be the channel out there, which I think one became revenue Carolina's, I think, or something like that. And we were out there filming all news and on the shore. And we had a mad helicopter pilot was trying to loop it, which which helicopters never meant to do. And that's about all I remember about nothing particular. But it's one thing I keep getting asked about it. As if I was whole how to talk to who camera did not do too much on it. I did one in the wild west Wild West version episode, which I was able to contribute because you know, big Western fan was able to sort of do a few things. It set me up to to make it look a real Western.

Unknown Speaker  41:12  
How did you make it look like a Western

Speaker 1  41:15  
fridges, the designers had tumbleweeds sort of laying around the side rather set. So let's let's get a fan in and play a bit of Tumbleweed over the road as they walk in past and the way they walked and things like that wasn't great technical thing. But it was it was helpful to the whole look at the film. And the angles, we shot it out as well.

Speaker 2  41:39  
What angles were these? What camera angles were the Western ones?

Speaker 1  41:45  
Well show low angles or sort of slightly tilted cameras and things like that. It was a very big sequence. It was just a small sequence but nothing great about it. But it was had it was nice to do you.

Unknown Speaker  42:00  
Have you got a favourite film or documentary that you worked on?

Unknown Speaker  42:08  
Can't think of any favourites but

Unknown Speaker  42:11  
just just read out a few titles and see what comes to mind.

Unknown Speaker  42:14  
10 days the night.

Speaker 1  42:18  
Tender is the night No, that was nice, because when Hollywood covered Peter Strauss was the main lead. Lady, I forget the leader, the leading lady was America I forgotten her name. Very happy. And that was quite nice. We shot that in France and Switzerland and all over the place. I know on one stage, we had a van to carry out we'd asked for instead of ever a station waggon to carry camera equipment. We asked if we could have a little van you know, it's only a 50 underweight less than a transit smaller than transit, which we sort of put a racket in and able to get to the gear easily because we used to have to carry two cameras. And this went on for time and the union side of the BBC in the transport department will laugh at arms about that we will driving a van you know not not not having a driver. And I think they were threatening to go on strike. And to save the situation. We had to we had a van I think the Saudi popular little van and the lady probably had an overhead so that to replace three vans. And they sent then nine cars were delivered from Ely from from London down to the south of France to replace Revans. That's

Unknown Speaker  43:49  
not very efficient

Unknown Speaker  43:58  
because we don't know what stories are the

Speaker 1  44:05  
lighthouse, the lighthouse lighthouse, it was colleague Greg. Colin Greg goes direction that it was it was a story of Michael Golf was a an ag professional, you know, from a university. And he was sort of his memory was slightly going and things like that. And what man was killed his brother was your very first film. He just left drama. He just left a drama school with the Bancroft award. And it was firstly and he was rather the cameras and asking questions about what we do this for what we're doing that for will teach you how to go by and he learned an awful lot from us because for years afterwards he was talking about his career and it always mentioned be healthy, how I sort of introduced him to the whole technique of filming and things like that. And Michael Golf was an old actor I'd worked with as a clapper loader many years before head on various healing films

Unknown Speaker  45:27  
sometimes mentioned champagne Charlie,

Unknown Speaker  45:32  
can you tell us anything about champagne? Charlie?

Speaker 1  45:34  
Yes, I'm Charlie was about the old musicals. Various chubby trender was was was the lead. Stanley Holloway played somebody else. And that was good. That was Dougie Slocum was it was hit with a documentary Cameron and seconded stuff as one man camera on various on the outfield. And they said, well, we'd like you to be a covered Douglas, you've got your bite. But we think you should have experienced as an operator autofill before you sort of go directly over to so you've got to show you though what it's all about. And he shall show you operate the cab. And I wasn't actually on the whole film. But I took the old day here the other day there this particular day. We were shooting from the back of the theatre they'd built in the studio. And the next day in rushes don't really actually notice this but the next day rushes it wasn't just the booming shop, it was the boom operator and the whole concert hall mobile console. And it must have been rushed it pushed it at the last moment. So that was a retake. But I was surprised that nobody don't just did not know Not a soul noticed it through.

Speaker 2  47:05  
Um, what about Sherlock Holmes? Hands off murder.

Speaker 1  47:09  
Had you heard that? That was lovely. It was a couple of American producers who bought that who brought that over? And I forget who he was actually, actually, but it was quite a hectic shoot. I know there was a Haley at some stage where the guys hug but escapes. Can't goes on. But it was quite I can't remember too much about it, but it was good. chenko Yeah.

Unknown Speaker  47:43  
Revolution is all

Speaker 1  47:47  
about Yeah, well check TEDCO was a whole series of did about three or four series of chenko. And some of it they built the camp in the New Forest. And that was mainly done by outside broadcasts rather than film. And part of the thing was shot in Singapore, you know, show you that there. So we did each each episode each series we did a couple two or three weeks in Singapore, during the during the film exteriors it may be three weeks for one trip in but up the east coast of Malaysia, Malaysia as well. And that was quite good for us good, gave us a nice treat every I was able to take my wife out. Raffles Hotel we filled in and things like that. That was that was quite a nice shirt. And then eventually we did the Tanko reunion which was sort of after the war, they all meet up and which was all on film a complete film one, which we gain returned to Singapore even includes a little trip on taxi, fry boat, Philby loved the old empire flying boats out to Singapore,

Speaker 2  49:08  
doing all the animal documentaries and stuff. Was there any time ever where you felt it was dangerous?

Speaker 1  49:16  
Oh, yeah. There was one stage we were filming in East Africa. And we were doing a teacher teaching the African Rangers about trackies and Harry. And he used to use a cigar cigar and blow out the wood. See which way the wind was blowing. And all I kept getting was the backside of the elephant disappeared behind the bush. And they were never quite get it. So after retiring, I said How you doing? I said well, I've tried to still try to get an elephant face up. When you can only get in parts of the sun will come with the will will will sort you out here. And we went up just just to yourself and he went forward There was an elephant by a tree just browsing the tree. And Sunday was great. He snuck out of the elephant's trunk here. And bellowed out and, and something that somebody said Ron. And I sort of quickly turned around, I was. And I started to run out and sort of cook gently dropped the camera. And I ran through a narrow lane of trees. And I still hear this bloody elephant behind me. And I quickly dive to my right right through thorn bush. And it went past me and I got got away with that was the nearest I'd got but I couldn't move my fingers for about two days, my assistant had to feed me and tie my shoe laces up. Wow. And also a film called west of Zanzibar, which which, which lovely Director Dave Harry watch, which was directed and wished we went out in January time, because the winds have blown all the dials.

Speaker 2  51:09  
So hot winds from Africa. Yeah,

Speaker 1  51:12  
we would fill me with the dollars that come down from from from Arabia down to East Africa. And we will still be on board. And it wasn't quite as easy as that because the toilet on on these dials was a barrel that hung on the site with the holies. And I'd also if you sort of set bought the sailors down, it's a great ceremony involved or you know, clapping, jumping up and down and things like that. He's take quite a few minutes to just what they called throwing away the wind. And that was that that had to be done. It was no, there was no question you couldn't say well forget that it was done. And that would that would take quite a few years. And there were times when Harry what was waiting for something to happen like that. And he would have his Sunday, Sunday Times paper or something like that ad he'd be shown in the in the barrel the size and he's referred you to this morning business

Unknown Speaker  52:23  
any other time so you sort of had to camp in areas you wouldn't normally go be in situations where unfamiliar

Speaker 1  52:37  
nothing particularly, nothing becomes unfamiliar, really, but I don't know, can't recall or did a piece on called I camp in India, just near Jai poor. And that was what they should do cataract operations on people and limbs artificial limbs used to make artificial limbs filled actually on the spot. And for the operations for the cataract was was a classroom and had a straw roof and there was always a gap between the roof and the walls to let the air circulate and birds could fly in. And during these operations that perhaps the operating table would be a couple of desks strung together with a plank over the top or later I think they had one very old operating table and that those to do this these cataract operations with birds flying around the building as people just bad to stop putting into a tent overnight next morning they were looked at and passed offered good scores and the Sabre the Dallas visual limbs face to face that measure them up for tape at artificial leg and the first thing I do is walk around without any trouble you still this Douglas bother of going through all the motions of learning to walk and these guys they jumped out of a tree the first day where they were there for their artificial limbs unbelievable

Unknown Speaker  54:25  
working with directors because you mentioned they all work the same way.

Unknown Speaker  54:33  
We come up with a couple of very sad delivery

Unknown Speaker  54:38  
I think that's

Speaker 1  54:47  
running running okay shoot after I started working at Ely in the days the first days that the film on the on the floor at the time was filled with will pay the old committee, comedian, and Claude Holbert. And a few just a few years earlier, I've been reading a story I have a comic every week called film fund. And I used to follow these two guys, quite conservative fully like cartoons and story, little story each week. And here I am, four years later, actually on the set in a very junior capacity, working with these two people that I sort of thought the world of met just as a kid. Another person I got to know quite well was Jack Warner. I used to listen to him. I think a call Monday night he was talking about that a radio, this is talking about radio go before television. And he used to have a Saturday night to do a variety show. A Jack was always part of it, someone else needs to come in, sort of as the programme had started, as is catchphrase was my MOBIKE. And that became quite a phrase that everybody used in the country, everybody sort of said, my my record if they pass somebody or something like that. And it was just a few years later, I was working on the blue lamp with Jack and got to know him quite well. And then in my BBC days, I worked with him on dicksons dot green. And we got to know each other quite well. So if he had any job in the studio, he was used to ask me to come because you select to work with somebody he knew. So it was good.

Speaker 2  56:46  
Now you said that that was before television when? What happened with when When did television come in? How did it change your life

Speaker 1  56:58  
didn't change my life at all? Really, I suppose it was because the days of eating was still gay when television was started up on. And I suppose I came into television just about the right time, but it was really blowing up. It was started the television was being built as I first joined them because we used to go out every now and again and shoot a bit of stock to show it going up. And so I grew up with it really. I was never Alexandra Palace, but most of our stuff was based before he was based at Lime Grove. And then when it moved to here to get sort of really started to go. Jesus does wrath was the first film I shot in 56 That was the first thing I think they took over the studio on the on the Sunday and on the Monday was shooting on the stage.

Unknown Speaker  57:52  
Any other changes throughout the years?

Unknown Speaker  57:53  
Any changes throughout the years?

Speaker 1  57:58  
No, not really. I don't think working conditions were as good after I left the BBC. You know we had a very good life you know there. I think our hours were 930 to 530 which included lunch. Sorry,

Speaker 2  58:13  
can you set your told us about the working hours at the BBC? Oh, yeah. Okay.

Speaker 1  58:22  
To work it out at the BBC, with 930 in the morning till 530 At night which included an hour for lunch, and a 20 minute tea break morning and afternoon and around half past five that if you're in the studio that was a bang, out go the lights and poem we go. But great to kick in the teeth. When you left me we sit at the stent 12 hour days, 14 hour days.

Speaker 2  58:49  
What was when he was still with the BBC on location where the hours the same? Or was that a different pattern?

Speaker 1  58:56  
Sub branches go slightly over but not not bad. We might say cool half our state instead of harpaz dying, but we got paid overtime.

Unknown Speaker  59:09  
golden days off.

Speaker 1  59:12  
But not never a long time. You know, seven o'clock at night, things like that. Because you got to Chevron you got to have a tea break. We'll break it as well as strict Bill break times.

Speaker 2  59:28  
Do you think you worked in the best times? In regards to filmmaking into conditions? I

Speaker 1  59:35  
certainly did. Yes. I mean, even in the old ad studios days, day star 830 till till six o'clock. And I think if we were doing a shot just copy up to six. As you still haven't got the shot in the can. I think you're allowed to take take take five minutes overtime. and that was it. There was no question of going beyond that, if they wanted to go beyond that at a special negotiation, but as a very rarely circuited as you did you work beyond six. But when I first started it was it was five and a half day week. It was it was 830 to six o'clock. And on site on Saturdays, you have to work up till midday. But if you're shooting on the floor on the stage, I think it was up or seven at night you finished every night. And you're the early night the week was was a Wednesday you finished at six and Saturdays instead of finished you got to 12 or whatever it was. You went on to at least six o'clock. I know if if I wanted to go and see a film when I was working actually on the stage. I just have to go Saturday night straight from work to catch it

Speaker 2  1:01:00  
same people different people. Did you have crew that you work with a lot or did you have like different people?

Speaker 1  1:01:10  
Mostly the BBC you'd like to change the crews around a bit give the people your assistants a chance to get to look around them. But I kept the crew guy they notice latter was wife operator for for free films as well. We kept crew even when he was an assistant as a cameraman himself. You know cable helps you about a second unit definitely good. But that's good people with me.

Transcribed by


Ken Westbury was born on 5 January 1927 in Hammersmith, London, England, UK. He is a cinematographer, known for The Singing Detective (1986), Anna Karenina (1977) and Dr. Fischer of Geneva (1984).

Ken Westbury – Cinematographer.

 Born in 1927 in London England.

BAFTA “Singing Detective”

BAFTA “Dr Fisher of Geneva”

BAFTA “Tender is the Night”

BAFTA Northeast “The Black Velvet Gown” Special Photography

Royal Television Society Award for Services to Television


Ken is a Cinematographer whose career spanned over sixty years both as a BBC staff Cameraman as well as a freelance Director of Photography.

His IMDB entry lists 109 credits under camera and electrical department and 59 as Cinematographer.


After leaving school at the age of 15 an uncle who worked a motor mechanic in the garage at Ealing studios told him there was a vacancy at the BBC camera department for a trainee in the workshop, which Ken thought might be quite interesting. This proved to be very much the case. Initially this involved a lot of sweeping up but eventually somebody thought Ken might be useful in the back projection department and thus Ken’s involvement with Cinematography started.


World War II was raging and every man of 18 years and over was called up for war duty.

Ken leaving School at 15 turned out to be a fortuitous decision as he was too young to be called up but had the necessary experience to become a Clapper Boy, so as the Ealing technicians were called up to fight Ken was rapidly promoted to keep the studio working.


A career as varied as it long with credits as variable as Blue Peter to the famous Ealing Comedies including “Kind Hearts and Coronets” and “Whiskey Galore” (apparently the only film with a wholly Gallic title)


Starting as a Clapper Boy on 35mm Black and White film, Ken progressed through the grades to become one of the country’s most sought-after cameraman.

He worked as a Focus Puller (1st AC) and then progressed to work as a Camera Operator for some very influential Cinematographers including Paul Beeson and Dougie Slocomb and Ken MacGregor.


As a side note Ken’s daughter was seeing a young man called John Daly, who was a keen amateur Cinematographer but wasn’t sure how to get into the business. One day John’s friend mentioned that the girl he was seeing’s father was a BBC Cameraman. Eventually John got to meet Ken and Ken was so impressed by John’s enthusiasm he managed to take John on a few jobs. So impressed in fact that when a new applicant dropped out at the last-minute Ken suggested John for the role of trainee camera assistant.


A good decision as it turned out as John Daly has to date, 2 BAFTAS as a Cinematographer.

His interview is also on this site.