Len Lawrence

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Work area/craft/role: 
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Interview Date(s): 
12 Apr 1989
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Len Lawrence 

Laboratories, Technician, Editor (Stoll, Humphries, Technicolor)


Interviewers Alf Cooper (AC) & Alan Lawson (AL)

Date: 12/04/1989

Side 1

00:00:00 – 00:03:58 Introduction; early life; schooling; 11 plus exams; first job in a fruit shop; working in an ironmongers.

00:03:58 – 00:10:44 His brother Bert Lawrence (who worked at Stoll Studios) found him a job in the labs; Syd Bailey; Ron Austin; he describes his experience of working in the drying room; he worked in negative assembly all his life; [George Allnutt?]; George Irons; working in the chemical lab – cleaning chemicals and sinks; Vic Berg – manager of the lab at Stoll, worked closely with Bert Lawrence (actually Len’s half brother – he discusses other family members); Len used to work as a scene shifter at the Richmond Theatre and Chiswick Empire for extra money.

00:10:44 – 00:14:20 Other work undertaken by the Stoll lab outside of work coming out of the studio; George Nurton; Bill Popel; the labs were only busy when the studio was busy – they didn’t do any release printing; he was laid off a few times; Dot Dooley; Jack Dooley (still photographer); 16 months at Stoll; lived in Richmond during this period.

00:14:20 – 00:26:15 He got the job in 1933 and left after they had a fire at Stoll’s while they were making the ‘racing film’; went to Best Lab (which later became Humphries) next working in the pos-room waxing the rushes using a [Moy machine?]; he joined the ACT 24/1/36; he started at Humphries in 1934; Tony Schmitz; paid extra money for working night work (which he did 6 nights a week); long hours but good working conditions; high speed sound developers; Fred Skipper (chemical mixer/chemical fades; Jim Skipper; Mr Brookes (night manager); Mr Murray started him pos-cutting on nights; Charley Jewel (neg-developer); Fred Harris (grader); grading jobs were like gold dust – needed to be in with the management; George Barker later went to Denham – Len used to drive him when he was on nights; Tom Chamberlain went to Denham too; Len reads his notice from Best Lab (Humphries) in 1939.

00:26:15 – 00:31:45 He had previously joined the AFS on a part-time basis in 1938 and was put on the riverboats on the Thames; talks about his mother and other family; in the AFS they sailed up and down the Thames from Richmond lock – never attended a fire during the war; January 1940 he got the sack from the fire service; he was called up for conscription despite a hearing problem; Royal Fusiliers Hounslow barracks; joined Gloucester regiment until 1946 when he was demobbed; 

00:31:45 – 00:41:37 When he originally joined the army he requested to work with the photographic unit; eventually he got a post at the army film unit at Pinewood as an assistant editor; Dickie Best; Bob Carrick; Len worked on Desert Victory during this time; the Americans worked at Pinewood too; Jerry Norman; they slept in the dressing rooms at Pinewood; his wife was one of the WRAF cooks at Pinewood; when he got out he used to go ‘the dogs’ and meet some of his army friends; he didn’t work for 2-3 months after the army; he then applied to Technicolor some time in 1946.

00:41:37 – 00:43:57 He choose Technicolor because he didn’t want to work in London, choosing Technicolor as it was closer to Richmond; worked there for 32 years; Mr Linsey (neg-assembly); Len started in the neg-cutting room; he was very happy working there. 

Side 2

00:00:00 – 00:09:20 Started in neg assembly at Technicolor; Ken Grey; he then became a foreman for quite a while and then a supervisor; they discuss salaries at Technicolor; Ken Llloyd in charge of neg cutting before Ken Grey; Len later looked after shorts and documentaries – titles and opticals; Ken Hicks (supervisor neg assembly); Frank Power; when he was in charge of shorts and documentaries he would often meet the filmmakers; Len and Alf Cooper discuss titling jobs which were done on the side for extra money. 

00:09:20 – 00:16:47 Len enjoyed working at Technicolor but regrets spending 32 years working there; when he left he started taking on his own titling jobs for which he earned more in 6-12 months than he would for 2 years at Technicolor; the ‘big lockout’ – he went out on strike as foreman and stood on the picket-line; they discuss the aftermath of the strike – how staff were treated as a result; features got the priority in the cutting room – shorts took second or third place.

00:16:47 – 00:25:05 Relationship with Assistant Plant Superintendent – Len says a man named Wells gave them trouble when working nights; Len was also made Assistant Plant Superintendent; he didn’t know much about the IB but if anything went wrong they would have to come to him; Bert Sibley was APS as well; he was paid extra for APS but not for overtime; George Gunn had a horse in a stable at the plant which he would ride in the mornings.

00:25:05 – 00:36:06 Len enjoyed he years in the film business but wouldn’t have stayed at Technicolor for 32 years; the day war broke out – Len put out sandbags in front of Humphries; when the sirens sounded at 11 o’clock they took shelter in the basement where the chemical labs were; discussion about Kay’s laboratories and the ACT and various members; discussion about where ACT meetings took place; 1350 people worked at Technicolor and they were all covered by one union agreement although everyone was in their own union; best job in the area before the airport came.