Richard Q McNaughton

Forename/s: 
Richard Q
Family name: 
McNaughton
Work area/craft/role: 
Industry: 
Interview Number: 
261
Interview Date(s): 
23 Sep 1992
Interviewer/s: 
Production Media: 
Duration (mins): 
157
Access restrictions: 

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Transcript

261         RICHARD McNAUGHTON         Interviewer: John Legard, Dave Robson

Synopsis

23/09/1992

TAPE 1, SIDE 1

Born 1910 in Islington, afterwards moving to Mill Hill. Father’s business was property management. Parents split up when he was 10. Received a basic education at a Hendon school.

First job was with the Aeolian Company (Aeolian Hall) in Bond Street on general duties, eventually moving up to book-keeping, where he remained for 4 years until the company went into liquidation in 1930. He was, by that time, an avid cinemagoer. Earliest experience which made a lasting impression was in 1916 when he was taken to the cinema to see a film called The Battle Of The Somme.

His cousins owned a toy 35mm projector  (he remarks at this point that ‘he’ is an exhibit at the Museum Of The Moving Image). He remembers seeing An Assembly At Hyde Park projected by the toy machine and was intrigued by the beam of light and the picture on the screen.

 

 

261         RICHARD McNAUGHTON         Interviewer: John Legard, Dave Robson

Synopsis

23/09/1992

His next job, in 1930, was with Smith’s Motor Accessories at Cricklewood where he remained for another 4 years. He hated doing correspondence and office duties. He read about Grierson and used to watch films at the Hampstead Everyman Cinema where many documentary and genre films were shown. His imagination was fired by Grierson’s work and he decided that he would like to work in that field.

He wrote to Grierson at Soho Square but received no reply, and kept on writing every week for 6 months until, one day, he received an envelope marked OHMS which he thought was from the Tax Office. So he ignored it until later in the day when it turned out to be an invitation to meet Grierson. But there was nothing for him and Grierson, it seemed, only wanted to see what sort of person would write to him “every blessed week!”.

Details of the interview. The following week he received a letter asking him to start at Blackheath (GPO Film Unit). He couldn’t believe it. 1934. The job on offer was printing stills with Barbara Flaherty; details of the work.

 

 

261         RICHARD McNAUGHTON         Interviewer: John Legard, Dave Robson

Synopsis

23/09/1992

He was more interested in editing, however, and messed around with the Moviolas at every opportunity, although strictly in the stills department. Someone asked him to join up a reel but all the splices came apart – an episode remembered by Cavalcanti; joins were handmade in those days.

He mentions some of the famous names of the period. He also mentions my [Dave Robson – who was unaware of his father’s nickname] father, who was known as ‘Doc’ Robson because of his professional duties in running training courses for mobile projectionists. He mentions my [Dave Robson] father’s experiments with 3D and stereo sound. Pat Jackson, he recalls, as being “rather superior”.

On one occasion Mac was asked to lace up the 4-way synchroniser and did it the wrong way round, with supply reels on the take-up side. Description of his first work as an editor: Spring Comes To England. Details of various films, how they were made and personalities involved, including two film fires in the cutting rooms. Everyone was employed as ad hoc postmen and his salary was about £5 a week when directing a picture. Humphries did the processing.

 

261         RICHARD McNAUGHTON         Interviewer: John Legard, Dave Robson

Synopsis

23/09/1992

An annual budget was allocated by the Post Office and used to finance the various films – there appeared to be few restrictions. Details on the making of Night Mail. Improvements in Visatone sound system discussed.

TAPE 1, SIDE 2

More on Night Mail: Cavalcanti, a remarkable man, had had the idea of dramatising sound. Harry Watt was the real director who did the donkey work. The film was a lovely thing to do, but nobody ever thought it would be a hit.

Very few pictures released theatrically. It was Grierson’s idea to maintain efficient mobile cinema systems to enable GPO films to be screened independently.  [Dave Robson comments: “They were generally to be seen in semi-permanent cinemas at museums and at national exhibitions. Mobile set-ups consisted of a pair of Philips 35mm sound projectors of the latest type, maintained at the Blackheath workshops by ‘Doc’ Robson’s boys, including me”]

Various pictures that Mac worked on are mentioned – he even helped build the sets for The Fairy Of The Phone. Most of the subjects were made for PR purposes or to provide information for the public about Post Office services.

261         RICHARD McNAUGHTON         Interviewer: John Legard, Dave Robson

Synopsis

23/09/1992

Come the War, Blackheath closed and the staff  were integrated with Crown, based at Savile Row. Nobody knew what they should be doing – they were told to do nothing. The Unit was moved because it was felt that they would be safer in London in the event of bombing. A large amount of nitrate stock was also stored at the Blackheath location which, itself, was surrounded by private dwellings which would have been at risk by fire.

Eventually, units went out and photographed anything that was going on. An early picture was First Days. Work continued at Denham. Alice In Switzerland was edited by Mac whist at Savile Row; discussion about the film, which was in Dufaycolor. London (Britain) Can Take It and Christmas Under Fire (the latter edited by Mac) are mentioned as early Crown productions in 1941.

At Denham they came under the control of the Ministry Of Information. Ferry Pilot, directed by Pat Jackson, made there – no budget restrictions. More pictures mentioned in the discussion: Merchant Seamen, directed by Jack Holmes, edited by Mac. Western Approaches, directed by Pat Jackson, is discussed and it is recounted that one of only three Technicolor cameras in the

 

261         RICHARD McNAUGHTON         Interviewer: John Legard, Dave Robson

Synopsis

23/09/1992

UK fell into the pit that had been flooded for a scene – then there were only two! Broad Fouteens was also edited by Mac; technical details – shot on location at Portland, the subject was Motor Torpedo Boats. Mac also directed some scenes for Close Quarters for Jack Lee. Some interesting observations on The Warning, a ‘dreadful’ film made by Associated British which Cavalcanti was asked to try and make something of.

TAPE 2, SIDE 1

After leaving Crown he began to work on features. First picture was The First Gentleman, directed by Cavalcanti. Production details, etc. He didn’t like the atmosphere – it was mostly second unit work.  Edward, My Son, directed by George Cukor for MGM, Borehamwood. Spencer Tracy impressive. Some observations on Cukor. Fiend Without A Face (1949), directed by Arthur Crabtree, was edited by Mac – production details and story.

He became an ACT member in 1935 and still possesses his original card. His was the next number to Ralph Bond’s. Some observations on Bessie Bond.

 

261         RICHARD McNAUGHTON         Interviewer: John Legard, Dave Robson

Synopsis

23/09/1992

Some of Mac’s tools of the trade, such as scissors, are on exhibition at the Museum Of The Moving Image. Story about the scissors. More reminiscences about the GPO Film Unit, 1935. The Saving Of Bill Blewitt is discussed, together with other GPO films. Squadron 992 (1940), directed by Harry Watt and edited by Mac, is thought to have been the last film made by the GPO Unit before it became Crown.

Discussion about Harry Watt’s films. One of Watt’s pictures was Nine Men. Another was The King’s Stamp, edited by Mac. They experimented with different colour processes, ending up with Dufay. Food in the canteen at Pinewood is discussed, together with various personalities of the period.

Another stage in Mac’s career was when he worked for Producers’ Guild on Festival Of Britain. The Guild made some prestigious films and he was given a free hand as director and editor on the whole series except Festival Of Britain, which he only edited. He liked making movies, which meant both directing and editing the product. All of these were sponsored films for which he also wrote the scripts. The Guild period covered about 6 years.

 

261         RICHARD McNAUGHTON         Interviewer: John Legard, Dave Robson

Synopsis

23/09/1992

TAPE 2, SIDE 2

He was then asked to edit a film for Shell called Frontiers Of Friction; details and history. After that, he was called to the BBC to cover the 1959 election, shooting in German, French, Italian and English with sync material; production details. All had to be worked out and scripted in 3 weeks. Out of that, he was offered a job with AEI films and he started off with a film called Ten Ten in Industry – the code name for one of the first solid state computers. He had to learn all about the subject and felt that he could have designed one, in the end.

He then went on to make a whole series of films with them over a period of 5 to 6 years. He was based in Oxford Street. Some of the work was concerned with top secret defence material. He was then asked to work on a subject for Shell, to do with polyurethane foam, which had already been partly completed. In the event, Shell scrapped the earlier work and asked him to start from scratch, with a new film on the subject, for which he was paid double the salary as director and editor.

 

 

261         RICHARD McNAUGHTON         Interviewer: John Legard, Dave Robson

Synopsis

23/09/1992

He made several other films for Shell and won a Premier Award for Oil Well; production details. He also joined British Transport Films and edited some material he found on the shelves, turning it into a one-reeler on the subject of a locomotive engineer’s job. Also for Shell, he went to Germany to do a film about road surfaces; production details.

He retired in 1974.