Leslie Norman

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23 Jan 1990
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[Leslie Norman has had his larynx removed, so that his speech has been impaired, similar to Jack Hawkins]

Born in Shepherds Bush, London, 1911. Started work in a Wardour Street laboratory, the name of which he has forgotten, but it was at no 90. They processed newsreels and he describes how after development of the negative it was washed, then soaked in Meths, put on a drying drum and set alight [?].

He left when Ted Richards suggested that he go and work for Lee de Forest Phonofilms in Denmark Street. At the age of 16 he became their Despatch Manager. His salary was £2-15-0 [£2.75p] a week. Ted Richards went to work as an editor and Leslie went with him as his assistant. He describes how they had three cameras all with their own sound heads, which had different retard or advance positions: two Bell & Howell which had sound in advance, either 16 or 21 [frames?] and an Ackley which had 22 frame retard. All editing was done by sight reading the track and cutting on ‘mods’, ‘blooping’ was invented, that is to say painting the join to Indian ink.[?] De Forest moved from their studio in Clapham to Wembley, changing their name to British Sound Film Industries. He said that Dark Red Roses (Sinclair Hill) was the very first English sound film to be completed BUT because of a fire at Wembley the negative held in the vaults got soaked and had to be treated in the laboratories [so] it was delayed. He talks about the first introduction of the movieola. He talks about cutting two films for Elinor Glyn, which he cut at her daughter’s flat. The films, Knowing Men, with Carl Brisson, and The Price of Things, with Stewart Rome, Elissa Landy and the Dennyson Twins. He became an editor at BIP at £7 a week, he taught Bert Bates, Charlie Friend, Ted Jarvis and Phyllis ? (he forgot her name). He talks about the film Men Like These, Maid of the Mountains, Red Wagon, directed by Paul Stein, with Paul Graetz. He talks about the use of ‘play-back’ which was used for the first time on Heart’s Desire. After failing to get a pay rise he moves to Warners at Teddington, having been asked to join by Bert Bates: he now gets a contract for a £1000 a year. He also talks about a ‘strike’ by the BIP editors over money.


Deals with Warners up to the outbreak of war, he then talks about his experiences in sonic warfare, a branch of the Army that appears to be unknown even to the Imperial War Museum. The basic idea was to record sounds of various army activities which were played over ‘loud-speakers’ to confuse and mislead the enemy. He has a very nice story about this which brings in Captain (US Navy) Douglas Fairbanks Jnr. After the war, he started at Ealing, to cut The Overlanders. Hal Mason, Charlie Friend and Sid Cole saw him and he became Supervising Editor; he talks about Harry Watt, with whom he became great friends and an admirer. He ranges over Ealing productions and then goes back to talk about Arthur Wood, who directed They Drive by Night. He then comes back to talking about Ealing, which he says were the happiest days of his working life. There are some very interesting remarks about working with [Michael] Balcon.



Father of Barry Norman