Roy Pembrooke

Family name: 
Work area/craft/role: 
Interview Number: 
Interview Date(s): 
17 Apr 1997
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As we all know, in the 1930’s jobs were very scarce and hard to come by. My father was a painter in the industry working at Shepperton and lie informed [me] of a vacancy. After an interview, I was accepted. In those so called Good Old Days, the studios were known as Sound City and men waiting for work had to wait outside the gate in all weathers. They were owned by a Mr. Lowden, with Percy Bell, an ex-electrician as Studio Manager who ran the whole studios with a very small administration staff but, of course, there were only five stages in operation. If it had not been for World War II, Mr. Lowden had planned to turn the lot and river area into a zoo but at the same time to keep the studios in use. Inside ’L’ Stage, there was a complete floor model of the intended zoo.


The Old House, which is now in use as offices, was at that time a Hotel, Restaurant and Bar, and the stars, when working at Shepperton, stayed there until completion of their pictures. Part of the ex-lot area where there are now houses, were the scenes of many early films such as Sanders of  the River, starring Paul Robeson, Mill on the Floss and some of the great Will Hay films. In those days, the river flowing through the grounds was kept very clean and many scenes were shot in and around that area. The Mermaid Statue, sitting in the middle of the river, was used in several films, and can still be seen from the road bridge.


After starting work at Sound City in 1938, I worked there until joining HM Forces in 1941. The four stages, A, B, C, and D were taken over by the Government as a food emergency supply depot. Tate and Lyle Limited then fiIIed the four stages with sugar. During the early part of the War, the studios were bombed during daylight hours and two 14-year-old boys evacuated from London and who had not long started work there were killed. One of the bombs hit the corner of C stage where they happened to be standing. One night later on in the War, a time bomb buried itself under D stage and had to be dug out by the Army Royal Engineers. The Queen Mary Reservoir next to the studios had many bombs and mines dropped in it. At the top of the Old House, there was a man on due during working hours whose job it was to put a flag up and blow a whistle as a warning of German aircraft approaching whilst all personnel dashed to cover as quickly as possible until the raid was over and the ‘All Clear’ given.


When the Vickers Aircraft Works at Weybridge was bombed, A and B stages were emptied of the sugar and Vickers moved in to make parts for Wellington bombers, etc.


Whilst all this was going on, Mr Lowden and Percy Bell were organising the manufacture of dummy tanks, guns and airplanes made out of canvas and wood and then camouflaged. These were used in the Middle East to deceive the Germans and Italians that they were real. In fact, they played a very big part in winning the Middle East conflict.


Every night of the War, there were at least ten members of the staff on all night fire duty, when, as you might guess. the hotel bar was a useful haven between air raids. When the Americans came into the War, the guns of an Ack-Ack site at Addlestone were taken to help defend New York and they were replaced by dummy guns made at Shepperton Studios. Many of our aircraft flying over enemy territory were nominated and given the names of film stars who had worked at the studios.


One of the last pictures to be filmed there before the War was a comedy starring Dougie Wakefield and during filming, some of the crowd artists dressed in German uniforms, very foolishly walked down Shepperton High Street during their lunchtime and you can well imagine what a stir that caused!


Once the War was over, I and many others who had served in the Armed Forces returned to carry on working in our old jobs we left at Shepperton and the studios then moved into the Alexander Korda era, but that is another story........



Roy Pembrooke


[Roy’s partial filmography, and other cv details, follow]

[Material which accompanied the log-sheet of Roy Pembrooke’s interview; unfortunately, the titles and names are in no particular order. DS]

Films and Television companies [?] I have been associated with:

Far from The Madding Crowd.

Here we go round the Mulberry Bush.

The Touchables.

Before Winter Comes. (All Austria Location.)

A Nice Girl Like Me.

Futtocks End.

Cry of the Banshee.

Straw Dogs.

Au Pair.

Last of Mrs Anderson.

The Amorous Milkman.

Blind Terror.

The Ruling Class.

Sitting Target.

To Sir with Love.

Black Beauty. TV series 1/2.


Chimp Mates.


Aces High.

The Eagle Has Landed.

A Tale of two cities.


The Big Sleep.

The Professionals. TV series.

The Odd Job.



A Nightingale Sang in Berkley Square.

Minder TV series.

Robin Hood.   (US Cable TV.)



Ragtime. (James Cagney's last film).

Pirates of Penzance.

Britannia Hospital.

Lords of Discipline.

Priest of Love.

The Shooting Party.


Paradise Postponed. TV series.

Hope & Glory.

Inspector Morse. TV Series 1/2/3/5.

Dr Jekyll & Mr Hyde.

Double X.

She'll be Wearing Pink Pyjamas.          

Stick with me Kid.

Thief Takers.

London Suite.



Some of the Film Actors [and other personalities. DS] I have worked with since 1938.


George Raft; Richard Greene; John Hurt; Dan Daley; Victor Desaka; [?] Kevin Whately; Shelley Winters; Julie Walters; Sir Michael Hordern; Gemma Craven; Richard Beckinsale; Terence Stamp; Peter O'Toole; Pat O’Brien; Dennis Price; Michael Caine; Trevor Howard; Judy Bowker; Bert Weedon; William Lucas; John Mortimer; Robert Hardy; Ann Baxter;  Bonar Colleano; Roy Kinnear; Malcolm McDowell; Denholm Elliott;  Jane Seymour; Lewis Collins; Ian McKellen; Iain Cuthbertson; Oliver Tobias; Dame Flora Robson; Kenneth Moore; Cliff Richard; Vincent Price; Terry Wogan; Paul Carpenter; Fulton McKay; Stanley Baxter; Edward Heath (PM); Carrol Ladd;  Frankie Howard; Eve Mitchell; Arthur Haynes;  Diana Quick; Marius Goring; Alastair Sim; George Cole; Donald Pleasance; Tom Conti; Margaret Lockwood; Dennis Waterman; Lorne Greene; William Katt; Simon Ward; Dustin Hoffman; Peter Finch; Anthony Quayle; Robert Mitcham; James Cagney; Annette Crosby; Zoe Wanamaker; Richard Gere; Stacey Dorning; Jill Bennett; Eleanor David; Edward Fox Topol; Donald Sutherland;

Kenny Everett; Tom  Baker; Janet Suzman; Glenda Jackson; Bob Hoskins; David Threlfall; Sarah Miles; Martin Shaw; Richard Johnson; Billie Whitelaw; Simon Callow; Kim Novak; Susan George; Diana Dors; Barbara Ferris; Patricia Brake; Stanley Baker; Brian Forbes; Tony Selby; Peter Finch; Frank Thornton; Margaret Courtney; Diane Keene; Ava Gardner; Sir John Mills; David Niven; Jack Hawkins; Honor Blackman; John Thaw; Bruce Forsyth; Norman Wisdom; Ronnie Barker; Peter Egan; Gordon Jackson; Julie Christie; Alan Bates; James Mason; Joanna Lumley; Tom Selleck; Mia Farrow; Robert Shaw; Mohammed Ali; Peter Shelley; Chloë [DS1] Annett; Frank Windsor; Peter Cushing; Ronald Shiner; George Segal; Leonard Rossiter; Sir John Gielgud; Pauline Yates; Maurice Denham; Claire Oberman; Ian Richardson; Richard Vernon; Edward Peel; Nigel Hawthorne; Oliver Reed; Jeremy Beadle; Terry-Thomas; Harry Secombe; Peter Vaughan; Judy Loe; Scobie Breasley; Nanette Newman; John Collins; Vivien Leigh; Ursula Howells; Irma Brook; James Hayter; David Jason; Frank Muir; Juliet Mills; Harry Fowler; Dora Bryan; Tom Courtenay;  Shirley Anne Field;  Richard Briers; Charlie Chaplin; Dennis Norden; Peggy Mount; Brian Glover; Bernard Miles; Sidney Tafler; Leslie Howard; Paul Eddington; Jean Simmons; Patricia Hodge; Sabrina; George Benson; Thora Hird; Eva Bartok; Herbert Lom; Leigh Lawson.