Les Hilling (LH)
Laboratory, Props, Rigger, Printer (Technicolor, Twickenham Studios, Pinewood)
Interviewers: Alan Lawson (AL), Syd Wilson (SW)
00:00:00 – 00:12:50 Introductions; born in Castelnau, Barnes, August 1914; school at Brackenbury Road, Hammersmith; left school at 14; took a job at a gents outfitters Charles Baker & Co, King Street, Hammersmith; put on the cash desk at 17; after being laid off in 1931/2 he was given a new job at Clapham Junction; he lived at Northfields, Ealing, at the time; stayed in the job at Clapham for 2 years.
00:12:50 – 00:21:30 LH had a lot of relatives working in the studios (12 Hillings in total) – mostly Gaumont British working as an electrician, wardrobe master & mistress, stagehands, or in the wood mill/timber store; an uncle was killed on location of a Jesse Matthews film; LH’s uncle Alfred (Lofty) Hilling worked in the camera department at Technicolor and worked on silent films at Lime Grove Studios; LH began at Gaumont when he was 19 when he had a number of jobs throughout the studio; LH remembers working on special effects for King Solomon’s Mines.
00:21:30 – 00:27:00 At 21 he took the job as stage hand; there was always a lot of overtime; LH met Paul Robeson, George Arliss, Margaret Lockwood at this time; other jobs were available at some of the other studios; the situation was bad in the studios at this point; started to work on the buses.
00:27:00 – 00:45:35 Married in September 1939 and was called up to the army a few months later; LH was in the army until 1946 – King Shropshire light infantry, training at Church Stretton; posted on the coast at Deal before the Battle of Britain; then moved to Yorkshire for brigade training; King Shropshire light infantry were changed over to artillery, moving to Harlech in Wales; LH moved to the Warwickshire barracks, Leicestershire regiment; LH began training small arms; became a five-point instructor 1944/5 due to suffering from bunions; demobbed in 1946 and went back to London transport as a bus driver.
00:45:35 – 00:48:00 After 6 months back on the buses, he met a friend [Ernest Steward?] who worked at Southall Studios; started out as camera grip/operator.
00:00:00 – 00:04:30 LH continues a conversation started during the interval (mentions being a prop man at Pinewood and an unnamed French director); his next role was at Twickenham; then a period at Riverside Studios; then on to Pinewood where he got the role of charge hand prop; long hours and lived at Heston; left home at 6:20am finished work at 8pm; worked weekends also; LH also worked at Denham in his career; LH explains his journey into Pinewood.
00:04:30 – 00:18:00 LH started at Technicolor because it was closer to home; started there in 1952 working in the solutions department dealing with all the chemicals they need for the three dyes; requested a transfer to the print department; LH talks about job security and getting a mortgage on his home.
00:18:00 – 00:22:45 LH talks about his experiences in the print department; 16mm, 35mm and 70mm required different machines each had to be doubled up due to the print quantities; LH moved into his new house in 1959; LH received a gold watch for 25 years’ service (27 in total) and remained in printing for the remainder of his career.
00:22:45 – 00:23:40 Things changed when Eastmancolor was brought in; Technicolor had to have both systems operating in tandem; LH’s job didn’t change a great deal – easier in fact if you had knowledge of printing processes.
00:23:30 – 00: LH talks about his retirement – 18 months early in 1977; atmosphere had completely changed in the plant over the years; machines were running at much faster speeds; SW talks about how things changed in 1971 when Bill Ingram came into the plant; LH talks about his dissatisfaction with the Technicolor pension scheme. [Tape ends here with AL pausing the tape for a moment but no further audio is recorded]