Tina Peters (nee Corder)

Forename/s: 
Tina
Family name: 
Peters (nee Corder)
Work area/craft/role: 
Industry: 
Interview Number: 
252
Interview Date(s): 
26 May 1992
Interviewer/s: 
Production Media: 
Duration (mins): 
126

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Interview notes

behp0252-tina-peters-summary

[Transcribed from David Robson’s handwritten notes. DS]

SIDE ONE

Born in Cape Town, South Africa, around 1912, where her parents had settled. Family name was Corder; she remained there until [she was] ten years old. The family moved about endlessly in S.A because of her father’s ill health. (He represented the family umbrella firm); she received little schooling because the family were constantly on the move, as a consequence she developed a passion for open-topped cars.

The family did well financially and started to spend holidays in France, Italy and England, mainly due to father’s ill health. Childhood rather unstable due to a mother who was almost 30 years younger than her husband. They got to know all the captains of the Union Castle ships!

Her father died when she was 17, she then returned to England, but was too old to go to school, and her main ambition was to play tennis and get to Wimbledon – she was that good (1929-30). Her mother said this could not continue and that she must earn some money. So, she was enrolled in a secretarial college in Bedford Square for training. First job was with a Charles Pieston of Mayfair whose firm refurbished theatres – he re-seated the Apollo Theatre in Shaftesbury Avenue. Salary was £3 a week with time off to play tennis. As a teenager she [had] received some education at a famous in Grahamstown, S.A. where she learned to drive (she is still mad about cars) and where she met many people who subsequently became well-known. She was at school with Valerie Hobson’s sister Patricia and knew the family well. (Anthony Havelock-Allen etc.).

She married Eric Peters who was an intellectual who taught her a great deal about music and poetry; they lived in Hampstead where her children were born. When war seemed inevitable, they moved to Chalfont St Giles, purchasing a large house in 4 acres. She lived a very ordered life with two Swedish maids and a nanny, playing tennis and going to London. Theatre was her passion.

Several people from Denham Studios lived nearby: mention is made of Nora Lee (Jack Lee’s ex-wife). It was Nora Lee {BEHP Interview 335] who persuaded her to work at Denham, Tina’s children having been evacuated to South Africa. First film was 49th Parallel, as Production Secretary. Denham was bombed during making of Major Barbara, but the negative was undamaged (1941).

With the differing lifestyles, she at Denham, her husband at BBC Evesham, the marriage was coming to an end. George Brown, a Production Manager at Denham, trained her; her salary was £4 a week.  Production details of 49th Parallel. She recalls her first serious ‘cock-up’. Next picture was First of the Few (Rank), director Leslie Howard, 1942. Production details and recollections of various personalities. She recalls being with Eric Portman in Jermyn street when the Café de Paris was bombed and how they were propelled by the blast into a nearby bar and noted the gruesome details.

Eventually she joined George Brown in the Middle East, sailing in convoy from Liverpool: the slower ships were torpedoed. Interesting account of the five-week voyage and onward journey by train and Sunderland flying-boat. She eventually arrived in Cairo to work on War Pictorial News as the Eighth Army pushed on in the Western desert.

SIDE TWO

Details of the work with War Pictorial News in Cairo and the social life. In 1944 she also worked on Today and Tomorrow and Contour Ploughing with a unit headed by Robin Carruthers and Cliff Hornby for the Ministry of Information (MOI).

Because Tina had contacts in the Middle East, they asked her to get them round the various countries and she worked with them as a team driving a large utility truck across the desert. They stayed in all the major cities on the tour and had a wonderful time. Description of their travels. This was for Worldwide Films and the processing was done in the UK – all 35mm black and white. After that she worked on Star in the Sand, for Gilbert Gunn (UNRRA 1944), although still employed by the MOI. In 1945 she became involved with Caesar and Cleopatra (Gabriel Pascal) in Cairo. Production details and crew (Jack Cardiff and Freddie Young). Some material was shot in Alexandria and she had to arrange for extras with the Egyptian generals. It was a large unit of about 40 people. Pascal and Young were at loggerheads due to a broken promise over the directing of location work. A ‘double’ was employed for Vivien Leigh. The whole production was a nightmare: Pascal, an odd character but very powerful – he had the rights of all the {George Bernard] Shaw plays. Slow, ponderous and difficult to work with. [Dave Robson writes:] (I was also personally involved with this epic, having to run three performances a day for nine months at the Odeon, Marble Arch.). After that she returned home in 1945. The Middle East had changed her life and she didn’t really want to leave.

In 1946 she joined up with the Carruthers team again to make Cotton in the Sudan. This was the start of the Middle East ‘troubles’ which set Jew against Arab, and both against the British! The unit had a hair-raising time in Palestine – very tricky. Modern Age operated from Saville Row in London, and she was involved with some great ‘scoops’ while with the company, including one with the so-called father of the Jewish movement in Palestine. The King David Hotel explosion and its aftermath is vividly described. After that she did Open Cast Mining and various bits and pieces for Modern Age. In 1947 she worked on Steps of the Ballet, part of which was shot at the Hackney Empire, for Crown.

SIDE THREE

The Magic Thread (or a title similar to this about nylon [rayon DS]) was another film she did for Crown during this period as Unit Manager. Another was Life in Her Hands (dir: Philip Leacock), shot at Watford Hospital with interiors at Beaconsfield. She also worked on Mental Health, again with Leacock. She also did a film about the Balkans with the object of keeping them ‘thinking British’ during the Communist occupation – all done in the UK.

Her next picture was directed by Burgess Meredith: A Yank Comes Back. Colin Dean was the ACT nominal Director. Production details. Tina didn’t see eye to eye with Meredith over money constraints. She used to drive everybody around in her Morris 8. She also did Festival of Britain coverage with Phil Leacock. This was the last film she worked on for Crown before she left to return to South Africa to be with her family.

In 1951 she worked on a film in Johannesburg about Paul Kruger, which was murder to do (ACT conditions were not recognised in S.A.) How not to make films! Production details: some of them were pretty grim and heartless. Her next work was in connection with live theatre productions in S.A. but the political situation was deteriorating. So, she returned to the UK and bought the house she now lives in. She is currently [1992] involved with a hospice project.

Finally, she gives advice on entering the film industry today. She joined ACT in 1946, and summed up her career by saying “they were great years”.

[END]

[Dave Robson writes: it seems to me that less than a quarter of Tina’s working life was actually taken up with film making. But what a life of travel, excitement and adventure she managed to pack into it and she loved every second. I make the usual disclaimer about the correct spelling of some names which should be verified.]

Transcript