Val Guest

Family name: 
Work area/craft/role: 
Interview Number: 
Interview Date(s): 
17 Aug 1988
23 Aug 1988
30 Aug 1988
6 Sep 1988
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Sides 1-4 recorded on 17 Aug 1988, sides 5-6 on 23 Aug 1988, sides 7-11 on 30 Aug 1988, and sides 12-15 on 6 Sep 1988.


BEHP 0048 T Val Guest

Tape 1 of 8

Please note that the use of the Val Guest tapes is restricted and the copyright remains with Val Guest.

Interview with Val Guest, writer, producer, director, at his house, in Eaton Mews South, on 17th August 1988.
RF: Let us start with when and where you were born.
VG: I was born in London in Maida Vale, a long time ago. RF: Are you going to be more specific than that.
VG: I was born 1911. December 11.

RF: Did you parents have any connection with show business at all.

VG: My mother did, my mother was a principal girl in pantomime and wrote poems and things. He had nothing to do with it whatsoever, he was in the jute and gunney business in India.
RF: Where did you go to school.,in London.

VG: Yes I went to school at Seaford College, which was then down in Sussex and now I believe has moved to Worthing and is part of Stowe Public School.

RF: Did you enjoy school. VG: Not a lot.
RF: Did you have any special subjects you were good at or loathed.

VG: Not particularly, but what I do remember doing at school, I used to sneak down very early in the morning, to the masters common room where there was an old typewriter and I slowly with two fingers learnt to type and typed out odd stories.
RF: So writing was an early motivation. VG: Yes.
RF: Was also acting.

VG: No.
RF: Not even in school plays.
VG: That came later in my teens when I went into, I went on stage to start with and then I did odd things in films for WArner Brothers and BIP and I worked a lot with Lupino Lane.

RF: Just to wrap up on school did you have any encouragement on writing there.

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VG: Not specifically,· except- from my mother who did on the odd times I saw her, because my parents were divorced, and I wasn't really supposed to know my mother at all, my father would have been horrified if he'd known I'd seen her, she gave me quite a lot of encouragement in that and in acting too.

RF: The ambition, if there was an ambition, was it towards dramatic writing, did you plan to be a novelist perhaps.

VG: No, in the early days, in my very early teens I drifted into writing for newspapers and I was in Fleet St where I used to do the film page for the Sphere and the London Illustrated News, and all the fan magazines of those days, Film Weekly and things like that.

RF: We'er now in the 20s are we.

VG: I suppose we must be. But it was a great grounding of writing for all types and writing quickly, ghosting Mae West's life story, and Marlene Dietrich's life story.
RF: This is for fan magazines in England. VG: Yes and for newspapers.
RF: Any particular newspaper.

VG: News of the World, I did the Marlene Dietrich for, and it was the Sunday Dispatch that I did the Mae West for. And then i did the odd thing like there was an English director director at BIP called Paul Stein, and he had quite a life story and I wrote his for him, I used to do a lot of stuff like that. At the other end of the scale I used to do children's poem's for Everybody's Weekly. so it was quite a spectrum.

RF: Everybody's Weekly, I remember, that was a very popular household magazine. Was Paul Stein the reason you went into the film business.

VG: No, the reason I went into acting was through my mother, from the stage, odd stage things and tours that I did, the reason that I first went into filming was through Lupino Lane, and Lupino Lane was working at BIP and I did my first bits and pieces in screenplays I had written for him and then a little later on I did the same thing down at Warner Brothers.
RF: How exactly did that come about, they came to you for a polish job or dialogue,
VG: No I did the whole script.
RF: They commissioned the script from you.
VG: I used to work with Lupino Lane very closely, we were friends RF: Had you done anything for his act.
VG: No. What happened then was that I would do the screenplays and Nip would put his name on it. So I was ghosting screenplays too,·for Walter Mycroft and so on.

RF: Is it worth a side light on Lupino Lane and the Lupino family:

VG: The Lupino family was a vast family. They lived in Maida Vale, or rather Nip lived in Maida Vale, he had an enormous career in Hollywood in comedies and things like The Love Parade with Maurice Chevalier. And he'd done a lot in Hollywood and he came back over here and he was doing a lot of direction and he wasn't doing acting, it was a little later he did The Lambeth Walk, For Me and My Girl, he went back again onto the stage, but he'd given all that up and gone into film directing. He was a nice little man, a very good worker.
RF: Looking back do you rate him as a comedian, as a performer.

VG: As a performer yes, as a director there was nothing outstanding, workmanlike, professional.

RF: Would it be fair to say that a lot of people such as he, Jack Hulbert comes to mind, Basil Dean was another, who were directing at that period and yet their disciplines were still very much stage disciplines, theatrical disciplines.

VG: Yes. I think you're right on that. I knew Basil Dean vaguely, but I know from people who worked with Basil Dean he was a very strict disciplinarian, he was a tough rough cookie. I think he had much more on the ball for direction than Jack Hulbert, Jack was just a review musical guy who came in, and a very difficult person to work with too.

RF: Yes I worked with him too. Nice guy, well meaning but lost.

VG: Jack when he was doing his reviews at the Vaudeville Theatre and the Adelphi and things like that, they did all those Clowns in Clover with Cis Courtneidge, he used to rehearse the chorus girls solidly through the day, through the night and if one fainted, he would just step right over her and continue. He was just that sort of person, he had a one track mind of getting the thing done.

RF: I experienced that, in fact the show I did with him, the chorus had a song, it was the time of Oklahoma, oh what a beautiful morning, oh what a beautiful day, I've got a terrible feeling, Hulbert's rehearsing today. Can we maybe try to precise the year you started to work for films.
VG: 1932 was the time I first got together with Lupino Lane on Britain's largest musical in those days, Maid of the Mountains, and I did the screenplay for him on that and he took credit but he paid me and not BIP, so I was on sort of unwritten contract with Lupino Lane. Then I followed that with a movie for him called Innocents of Chicago and those were the two main ones we did. Then afterwards I was pulled on by BIP onto a couple of Leslie Fuller comedies.

RF: A couple of questions, was that a typical procedure, that someone such as Lane would ghost for him and then he'd take the credi.t

VG: I really would'nt know, I wouldn't think so, Nip really was acting on the thing he was doing me a favour and this was a way in if I wanted to help him with his script, and helping him with his script meant doing his script.
RF: Do you remember what he paid you.

VG: I honestly don't remember but I would have thought if I got £50 I would have been very very lucky.

RF: And this was taking the stage production, the book of the stage show and adapting it.
VG: Yes.
RF: Did you stay with it for the shoot.
VG: I was in it, I played one of the juvenile bit in there. RF: That was a major film for BIP.
VG: It was the biggest film they'd ever made. And then following that The Innocents of Chicago I did the same thing, and I also played in that too, and then I played in a couple of Leslie Fuller things too.
RF: Do you remember how it all went at Elstree in those days.

VG: It all seemed to be an awful lot of fun, I don't know whether it's just my memories of those days, but everybody seemed to have fun making movies, there was no specific hours we had to work. And although at times it could be hell it was fun hell. You'd say christ hell I'm so tired, but you all felt you · were achieving something. That's my memories of those days. And at the old BIP Studios we had people who went onto bigger things, the accountant behind the window was Robert Clark, and I used to have my cheques paid, he used to shove them through the window at me, and his assistant was Vaughn Ding, they were to go onto bigger and better things.
RF: Did you envisage that Robert Clark would end up as the boss.

VG: No, I never thought anything about him, he was just the guy who pushed the thing at me. I used to talk to him about it in later days, remind him.

RF: He was part of Maxwell's Scottish mafia was he not.
VG: That's right, and Vaughn Ding was, later on one picture of mine, I can't remember what it was, he was production accountant before he became the head of the studio.
RF: As a writer and actor were you aware of studio politics.

VG: The only thing we were aware of then was that there was big things about the A and B Maxwell shares and there was some great big thing which was almost a scandal and that's the only thing I can recall. At BIP one of the resident writers was frank Launder and Frank and his first wife owned the Dutch Oven in the High Street, it was a patisserie shop and they used to run that as a side business. But Frank was there, Hitch was there, Hitchcock was doing Number 17, and he'd built and entire over head railway, minatures and everything which he built up in the silent stage which we all used to go and look at in wonder. And I had connections with BIP for a long time, I can remember Anthony Bushell and Marion Marsh, the star brought from Hollywood, and Bobby Howes was the big name there too, in those early BIP days and we really did have- a lot of fun making movies. The extras there, we had a fellow who afterwards went to Hollywood called Patrick Knowles, a stand in, Michael Rennie, a stand in and extra, Stewart Grainger, a stand in, Michael Wilding, a stand in and

extra, not Jimmy Grainger. But there were a gang of us that u'sed to be there, whether were were working or writing or doing extra work.

RF: It sounds rather like a club. RF: It was.
RF: And even if you weren't working on something would you hand out at the studio.

VG: No, you'd meet some of the people from the studio. Weston Drury was the casting director. And I remember exactly what I got for my parts in both Innocents of Chicago and Maid of the Mountains, I got £3/15 a day.
RF: Unlimited hours.
VG: Yes, oh another strange character was called Michael Carr, he was one of our big song writers here, he's dead now, he wrote South of the Border, he was song writer, and his real name was Maurice Beresford, and when we were making Innocents of Chicago, which was a gangster thing, Michael Carr was one of the gangsters, I was one of the gangsters which is where I first met up with him. And he was one of the most inveterate liars you could ever hope to meet, he used to tell us how he was Legs Diamond's bodyguard, absolute nonsense, he came from Ireland, although he had an American accent. And Nipper Lane one day gave him a loaded gun and he was absolutely terrified, Nip says there goes your bodyguard, but he was another character there. Joe Grossman, the studio manager, he was a most incredible character this Cockney. I was actually on the set the day the King of Greece was being shown around by Joe and he was in his full fireman's uniform and I was on the set when he said, the first time the king of Greece had come onto a set, this is a French kafe and these are all habitats of the kafe, the extras, and that's, the thing the microphone is on is called the boom, and in the middle of this long tour he suddenly said to the king of Greece of course this is all Greek to you but I'm trying to make it as simple as I can your majesty, this was a classic, and became a classic.
RF: A portrait of Joe Grossman.
VG: A little guy, always bustling, very full of life, very Cockney. RF: Tough
VG: Oh yes, he ran that studio very well, he also ran the firebrigade there, a nice guy.
RF: Would you say the studio was efficiently run.

VG: I would say so from what I could tell. I really wasn't into that side of it then, but as far as I could tell it was efficiently run. Mycroft, Walter Mycroft, was the most hated man there'd ever been at Elstree.
RF: By whom

VG: Everybody, an absolute horror, he was a little hunchback. He was devious, his secretaries left one by one because they couldn't take all the fumbling which went on, and he would fire them. There was an edict at one time when Walter Mycroft had all the lavatories rewhitewashed because they were covered in grafitti, and he issued an edict that anyone found

defacing any of those walls again would be instantly fired, and about 2 weeks after all this had been done,·in one of the loos there someone had scored into the walls with black pencil, Mycroft is a shit, and there was a long line drawn by a pencil with an arrow to it to about 2' 6rr off the floor and someone had written I'm not. That's how much he was not liked.
RF: Did you have any dealings with him.

VG: Yes indeed I did. I used to go up with Nip Lane. One time when he had commissioned me to write a script, I know it all went in on quarto, they used to do all the scripts on foolscap and Mycroft looked at it and said it's far too long. So I simply had the entire thing types out again on foolscap and he said that's better, without even reading it.

RF: Along with this dark and unpleasant side of his character did he have talents.

VG: I think he must have had, otherwise he wouldn't have been there for so long.
RF: He survived a long time.

VG: Also they were making money with their movies, and no movie was make without his yes or no. He was a petty Louis B. Mayer.

RF: Did he answer to Maxwell that you know of.
VG: Yes. But I don't think Maxwell knew much about films.

RF: I want to ask you about Maid of the Mountains generally, but was there a location trip on that picture.
VG: Yes, Cheddar Gorge. RF: Not to Spain.
VG: No such luxury.
RF: The reason is Harry Miller was talking about a location trip to Spain and the things that happened on it but it seemed by unlikely.

VG: It was Cheddar Gorge, this was on the Shenley Bypass, all our galloping.

RF: Was it a contemporary piece.

VG: No, it had been resurrected. Ruritanian. It had been an old thing, Josie Collins was the original star on stage and she'd been dead a long time.
RF: Did you work with Harry Welch

VG: Harry was in it, Garry Marsh, Renee Gadd, Betty Stockfield, Pat Patterson who finally went to Hollywood and married Charles Boyer. Quite a good cast, and Wally Lupino. A trouble free production, it just rolled on.
RF: An actor was he paid weekly in those days, or by the day.

VG: I was paid by the day. Because I wasn't on a weekly contract.

RF: What kind of hold did they have on you if you were in a picture and on a daily rate, how did they call you.

VG: They had first call on you, the same as today, so if you did do another job, you had to let the other people know you were on first call.
RF: An this was for an indefinite period.
VG: This would be for the period of the film.

RF: No matter how long the film ran, they wouldn't give you a closing date.

VG: If you had an agent, they'd work it out, I didn't have an agent, I did it direct.

RF: I was just curious to the extent the artist was at the mercy of the production company, probably totally.

VG: I would.have thought if you were in any kind of position as an actor you wouldn't have had problems. You'd have had a stop date and all sorts of things. As a daily artist there was nothing.

RF: The extent to which casts in those days came from the West End. Is that a truism, for was a mixture of people specifically working for films.

VG: No, I'd say the majority did come from the West End. You had the film starts, the people who were films stars of those days who didn't do stage. But people like Henry Kendall, who was one of their big stars, was a stage actor. Leslie Fuller of course came from concert party and he was a film man, not a stage man. Then you got people like Anthony Bushell, who also did stage, Ivor Novello who also did stage, the Houston Sisters. But there were also a lot of people from films. The big star who was just finishing then was Henry Edwards, he was entirely film, Betty Balfour and people like that were entirely film.
RF: And they'd come up through film had they. VG: I should imagine so.
RF: Any further memories of BIP.

VG: It was a great big barn of a place and they had the sound stages. Our cameras of course were all in little rollable booths.

rf: Still in 1932.
VG: Yes, they were inside these little booths and they were pushed here and there, and all the booms were on telescopic, like the telephone thing that you pushed up, and you wound it up and it all collapsed, it wasn't tube in tube.

RF: Maid of the Mountains was a musical, how did they handle the numbers, was it yet to playback or were they live on stage.
VG: I think it was playback but i couldn't be sure of that. I can't

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remember any orchestra on stage. But it was a very hit and miss affair, because they were on disc, and getting syncs must have been very difficult.

RF: I'm curious if you remember generally how sound was working in those days, it was very crude presumably.

VG: I can't remember being told to do anything specific, to speak up or not to speak up, I can't remember any of that, it all seemed to go alright.

RF: And was there more than one camera.

VG: On some shots, only on some, otherwise it was mostly one camera. RF: And it was conventional set ups.
VG: Yes.

RF: Were you bitten by films by that stage. VG: Yes I was.
In 1935 I was working on the Hollywood Reporter doing their London column and I reviewed a film by a man called Marcel Varnel. He directed in Hollywood, and he'd directed a film, and in the brashness of youth I said if I couldn't write a better film than this with one hand tied behind my back I'd give up the business. And Marcel got in touch with Billy Wilkinson, who edited and published it, and said if your reporter is so goddam clever let him write my next. It was a challenge, I said to Billy Wildinosn, I can't, it's silly, he said you made the challenge, you're going to make the paper look stupid, you go and take up the challengeor you don't have a job here anyway.

RF: Where did this take place, London.

VG: No, Los Angeles·. So I went to Marcel hat in hand and said I was
sorry, I shouldn't have said that. He said I don't agree, I think you can write, because I've been reading your column, I'd been doing a column in there for a long time, he said would you like to write my next. I said yes. And that started a, we had an unwritten contract that he couldn't direct anything I didn't write and I didn't write anything he didn't direct. So that launched us in 35.

RF: Can I clear something. You were writing for the Hollywood Reporter in Los Angeles.

VG: No I was writing here but the paper went to press there, and doing guest columinist and thing like that. There were times when Billy Wilkinson's wife, Edith who did the column, had offended so many people she was bared from all the studios, so they used to get other columnists to take over and I used to write a weekly column, it was called Rambling Around.

RF: Your recollections of the Wilkinsons would be rather useful.

VG: Billy Wilkinson was an extraordinary man, he never had any money, when he decided to open the·Vendome, which was going to be the big big thing in Hollywood, the in restaurant to top them all, Billy didn't have


one cent and he called all the people he knew, and said it's going to be a fantastic opening, will you book a table. There's a guaranteed minimum of so and so. And that way he got his prebooking before the place was done. He got most of his money before a penny was put down, and he opened it entirely on spec, he got all the food people and the provision people saying look I've got 500 people want to come to the opening night, and this was the guy who owned and ran the Hollywood reporter, a brilliant man, brilliant wheeler dealer.

RF: Did the advertising department influence editorial as far as you know.

VG: Yes it did. And when I was doing the London column from Grosvenor House, we took an office in Grosvenor House, in return for a quarter page add for Grosvenor House in Hollywood Reporter. Billy would send me a cable, have everybody wish me happy birthday. And I would go to Alex Korda and all those people and say it's Willy Wilkinson's birthday will you take a page. Ah yes, no argument, no argument because he was a very powerful man.
RF: Is this immediately post BIP, after Maid of the Mountains. VG: After. That was 34, somewhere round there.
RF: Your recollections of Korda at that stage.

VG: Alex was always very kind to me. get an interview with him. He always was very kind to me indeed. I liked man. I never worked with him.

RF: Had he made Henry VIII.

As a newspaper man I would always gave me page adds and things. He him very much indeed. Brilliant

VG: Around that time he was making Henry VIII. And running out of money. London Films time. The I started in 1935 with Varnel. And we went on right up until 1942, up to about 1941/2.
RF: These pictures are now rightly regarded as British comedy classics. But they weren't always perceived so.
VG: No, they weren't, indeed I remember the reviews we got of Oh Mr
Porter were nothing. They all said can do better.
RF: It would be interesting if we could talk about these features in detail. We've interviewed Alfie Roome.

VG: Alfie was at Gainsborough when I was there. Bob Dearing and Alfie Roome.

RF: And Alfie claims Bob Dearing had very little to do with editing the picture, the cutter who is credited.

VG: He'd right. He's absolutely right. That's for posterity.
RF: That was Alfie's sumation, more or less.

He was a pompous old fart.

RF: Varnel is a neglected director, almost forgotten, but in the process

of being rediscovered.

VG: I learnt all my trade from Marcel. When I joined Marcel, I went on every picture, I was sort of general gagman, perhaps the odd second unit shot here and there he let me do, and I went through all those pictures which was invaluable training.

RF: Let's talk about him and then move onto the pictures.

VG: Marcel was a very excitable little Frenchman, who was a demon for work, an absolute professional, the one thing which was an anathema to him was to even think that he might go over schedule. And if something happened which was not his fault which had put something behind he would get in an absolute frenzy, but he was great to work with.

RF: How would he cope. script.

Would he speed up. Or tear pages out of the

VG: He would speed up somehow, no he wouldn't take pages out of the script. That was a thing in those days. There were four of us under contract as writers at Gainsborough. Frank Launder, Sidney Gilliat, myself and Marriott Edgar, and we wrote everything which came out of those studios, between us one way or another.
RF: How about Orton.

VG: I don't know, I think he did come in as a contract but he was, they brought him in once the script had been done, they'd say give it to Joe, see if he's got any ideas. But he was never really in our writing team. That wasn't at Poole St Islington. Joe wasn't there, he didn't come till the Bush. Leslie Arliss was there, but he was doing his own thing, odd
bits an.d pieces.

RF: Was he classed as a comedy writer.

VG: No, he was a writer. Then he went to Hollywood, and he didn't have much luck there, and he came back to try and get into Gainsborough, and they didn't take him.

RF: This was in the 3Os still. VG: Yes
RF: What were Varnel's strengths. What made his films so effective.

VG: Pace to start with, in those days when everything was desperately slow most of the time, Marcel had got an enormous pace. He also knew how far a scene could go in length. And many times he said about a scene which George Edgar and myself had written, he would say it's too long, you're losing you're momentum, telescope it more. But once those scripts were written, he never changed.
RF: Was he a gagster.

VG: No, he had a great sense of fun and comedy but he wasn't, no he didn't think but any gags and things like that.
RF: Was he an amusing man.

VG: Yes, he was very good company. He was a thorough professional man and I think they've forgotten him too easily. When he left Gainsborough and he joined, I think it was Columbia with Formby, Marcel said to me I know you're under contract to Gainsborough but let's use another name and write the Formbys for me. And I must say I did, to be honest. I used to do them at weekends and things, I was living down at Sunningdale at the time, I did two or three of them, I didn't do them all.
RF: What was your pseudenym.

VG: A different one every time, I honestly can't remember. A normal name. We thought together. We had survived all the Crazy Gang pictures and survived all that chaotic time.

RF: When he presented you this challenge how did you set about it, what was the first film.

VG: The first film that I did was called All In, it was for Gainsborough, he'd come over.

RF: Did they contract you or were you freelance.

VG: I was freelance, and then I was put under contract with Marcel. And All In the big star was Ralph Lynn, and we had a very cheeky page boy who used to come in with our bacon sandwiches in the morning, a cheeky little bastard, and when we were doing all in, the little bastard was given a part, Graham Moffatt, and from then on we wrote him into all the scripts. But All In was Gina Malo.

RF: Was it your original story.
VG: No, I can't remember what it came from.

RF: I wondered if they said we've got Ralph Lynn, write a book.

VG: No. I can't remember what the original came from at all. I did the screenplay, but I can't remember whether it came from a play or a book or story or something Launder and Gilliat had scribbled out as a story line. I can't remember that at all.

RF: It sounds like a duck to water, you took to it instantly,writnig scripts.

VG: I think so yes, mind you I had the ground work with Nipper Lane, but somehow when you don't have your name on it you don't have the confidence that what is up there you did. Once you've had your name on it you're an entity, before that I was a ghost.

RF: Your awareness of technique, had that been from being a movie goer.

VG: Yes, I was an ardent movie goer, and also from reading scripts. I had seen scripts that other people had, and I'd looked at them, and I'd looked at published versions of some of the big films, I used to get those too.

RF: Then how did it develop.

VG: During those days Edward Black who was our producer and one of the brilliant men in our industry, and there's a man who has just disappeared,

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he died after he left Gainsborough, but he was responsible for the big success of Gainsborough in those days, 100% responsible, there was a man who could handle every single kind of picture as far as being a producer was concerned, he could think in terms of Crazy gang or Will Hay, he could think in terms of Tudor Rose or the Carol Reed thing, Hitchcock, and Ted sent me, or George Black his brother, who had the Palladium, asked Ted if he could borrow me, let me go and do some writing for George Black, in between my films, which I did and wrote an awful lot of those Palladium shows for George and the Hippodrome. The shows were reviews, I did one book show, George Black said I want you to come and have lunch with a fel}ow who's quite a good writer in his style and he took me to lunch with James Hadley Chase

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VG: It was a gangster thing set in Chicago and for the first time George Black turned his theatre, tables and chairs thing that it ended up with in Talk of the Town but in those days he made it a big night club for the whole thing, the play, it was written in a Chicago nightclub and one of the acts in there was little Julie Andrews twisting her handkerchief and singing with dad at the piano.
RF: When would that be, 40s. VG: Something like that.
RF: Did you find much of a difference working for the stage.
VG: Not really. And I then dramatised No orchids with James and George put it on at the Prince of Wales theatre.

RF: Yes it was a great succes de scadal as it was.

VG: But the Palladium shows. I did a whole gang of those. Bebe Daniels and Ben and Vic Oliver.

RF: Is that where you first be_gan to write for them or that you written to them in films.

VG: The films came after that because Marcel did the film of Hi Gang and I did the script. But the Palladium with the Crazy Gang and George Black saying one day I'm going to bring in a fellow called Tommy Trinder he's very good. He's been around the country, and I'm going to put him in a show at the Palladium, write his material for him. So I had to write Tommy's launching material. And then there was Happy and Glorious, a lot of Palladium shows. At the same time I was doing musicals for a nether man called Furst Shepherd, I was doing the score with Manning Sherwin, we used to right all the musical scores together, he wrote A Nightingale Sang and a lot of musical reviews. When I finally started directing musicals, he did the score. But the Palladium days were great fund, Bob Nesbitt used to direct then, and George used to say take all the boys upstairs, Bob is not very good at comedy, take the comedy over and do it upstairs in the bar and let him get on with the show, and that's how we used to do it.
RF: How did they work the shows up, they didn't tour them, they didn't open out of town.

VG: No they didn't, the only show I ever did which opened out of town was for Jack Hilton, a thing called, I can't even remember what it was called.

RF: Was there a lot of rewriting.
VG: Not there wasn't. It was all pretty streamlined, odd gags of course crept in, you tried them out each night, they either stayed or dido't stay. The only problem then was the censor, we had the Lord Chamberlain then, all sorts of things you got up to to get by the Lord Chamberlain. I can remember one thing whcih we did with Bebe and Ben. I wrote a script and it was called Nurse Killbear. And we had a woman's dummy on the stage which lit up as she was giving her lecture and. the breasts used to light up and this that and the other. And we got into terrible trouble about

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this, because he read the script, the Lord Chamberlain, and it said the left breast rights up, and he said absolutely out, no way, so we sent the thing in again and we said we'd rewritten it and called it Ducts of Isabella, the left ducts of Isabella lights up and they passed it.
RF: Did no one come from his department to sea the show.

VG: Yes they did, very often, but once they'd seen something in which people were laughing at warmly, then you got away with it. You got an odd letter now and again saying that you must delete so and so - things which had crept in.

RF: How was the script written, did you sit in a room with collaborators.

VG: No I did it myself. If I worked with a collaborator yes, if I worked with George Edgar or Will Hays we used to sit in a room, or the Crazy Gang, we'd just sit in our office.

RF: Were some people good at one thing such as construction, and others good at sight gags, other good at dialogue, or was it very much a community effort.

VG: It was very much a team e_f fort. Once we had done our script, say a Will Hays or Crazy Gang, George Edgar and I would go down and read it to Ted Black adn Frank who was the script editor there at -Gainsborough. We'd read it and have a lot of laughs going through, there would be odd things suggested, and odd things which didn't come off and then we'd go back and do the rewrites.

RF: So the rewrites were done at script stage and not shooting.
VG: Never in shooting. There were no changes whatsoever unless a location demanded a change because of this that and the other. Usually I was on location with them. otherwise it was absolutely written. The same, people might find it very difficult, but the Crazy Gang they were all written, right from the start. Those things, the very first time
they were going to do a Crazy gang show was one they had a t the Palladium called bK for Sound and Ted Black said let's do a film of it. So we did a script from OK for Sound and it was shot just like that. Now the 2nd Crazy Gang film, I don't know if it was Alf's Button Afloat or Frozen Limits, whatever it was, George said we ought to get the gang in,
lets get the gang in, have a day with them and kick it around. It was a complete and utter waste of time. Because they they could do was what we did up in Wigan when we opened the case and the geese and this the whole day. After that we.didn't bother with the gang at all.

RF: Were they disciplined performers on the set.

VG: Absolutely. A bit of business would creep in which was very good, but absolutely 100% discipline.

RF: I would be curious to find out what you thing what the secret of their success was, because much of their seems very basic.

VG: They were warm hearted clowns, there was a thing in America called Hellsapopin wliich was a very big thing which really this stemmed from. But they were all very warm comis and they had an enormous cohesion together and they bounced off each other, it was quite fantastic.

e VAL GUEST Tape 1 of 8

RF: Were they perceived as skating close to the wind. VG: Yes.
RF: There was a certain amount of double entendre, less so than Max
· Miller.

VG: Yes, this was very gentle, for the family, it was very difficult writing for them because you had 6 of them, because you had Ches then too. And yo.u'd be writing the script and you'd say suddenly Christ, we haven't had Charlie Naughton on for 3 pages, so we used to keep a chart and when each one had a line we used to tick them off so we could see that they were reasonably, we knew Ches was alaright, he was the straight man he could have less. But we kept them level.
RF: Was it verbal humour or sight humour.

VG: Verbal more than sight. Sight obviously came into it because of the movies, but it was mostly verbal, and character, Tedd Knox was an incredible man for getting characters. He could be a char lady, a very elegant man about town, a lisping cockney. Whereas Jimmy Nervo was the acrobat, he could do more falls than anyone.
RF: These were what Vaudeville stereotypes .

VG: Yes. There were 3 separate acts which the brilliance of George Black said let I s put them together. Because they were all top acts on their own. And he got these 3 top acts and flung a crazy show around them.

RF: They were London acts.

VG: No they weren't actually. They had been touring, they had done London as well, but they had been a touring countrywide act. Nervo and Knox, Flanagan and Allen, Naughton and Gold.

RF: As individual acts did they top the bill. VG: Yes.
RF: But they became very very big when they became the crazy Gang. VG: That's right.
RF: You say that was George Black

VG: Yes, brilliant, brilliant man. So the writing of these scripts were done, George and I would bash them out. George had a wonderful music hall background, because he wrote all the Stanley Holloway pick up the muskett stuff.

RF: The two brothers were born into the business.

VG: I didn't mean George Black, I meant George Edgar, Marriott Edgar. He had been in pantomine, he had been in concert party, he'd been in everything, he'd written all these monologues for Stanley Holloway. So he had an enormous grounding in comedy, that sort of approach.

RF: Again was it remembered material.

VG: No, a lot of iot stemmed from remembered material. George would say to me, there used to be a routine where so and so did so and so. We'd say we can't do that but what about if we did this this and this. It sparked from that. So the old ones sparked, an awful lot of new stuff as well.
RF: But he was an original creative writer.

VG: Yes. And then we would come to a sequence, and he'd say I think I know how to go with this and I'd leave him. And I'd go on with the next sequence and then we'd gell them together.

RF: Did you originally construct an outline script. Or did it just develop.
VG: It just developed.
RF: But you were working from sort of story line.

VG: Mostly we would have a story line which we had jotted down on 2 or 3 pages. Just one line story things. Or we'd go down and sell the idea to Ted Black or Frank, or Frank and Sidney had got an idea for a story and then we'd all go down and kick it around and go on. Many times we would go up and write without having a full story line.

RF: How did these films interlock with these performers' other professional life. Now the Crazy Gang were at the Palladium very regularly and Will Hay toured a great deal.

VG: No, not once he did films.

RF: He gave up music hall totally, I hadn't realised that. So films was his only endeavour, so there was no problems about deadlines.
VG: None at all.
RF: How about the Crazy Gang.
VG: They did shows, they didn't tour, or if they did tour it was something like the Palace Manchester, 2 big dates and then the end.

RF: What I'm fumbling towards is how the studio constructed a schedule for the year. They knew availabities did they.

VG: Yes.
RF: And how much time did you have to prepare a script and how long did it take you to write one.

VG: I would say it took us probably 4 or 5 weeks, and then with the poslishing another couple of weeks. But certainly not more.

RF: Were you suddenly commissioned to do it or were you aware at a certain date.

VG: No, we'd generally be told, or what would happen. We knew we would have to do another Will Hay, and someone would think up a story line and that would be flung at us after we finished the Crazy Gang or after we

finished what ever we'd been doing.

RF: So it was the writers responsibility to come up with ideas.

VG: Yes. But the producer, TEd Black could easily say what about a prison. And we got out of that Convict 99.
RF: They were all original scripts.

VG: Yes. Every single one of the Will Hay were original stories, they weren't from books or anything. They were created in the studio. The Crazy Gang every one was an original except Alf's Button Afloat which vaguely took the premise of the famous book.
RF: Did you write to a budget.

VG: Yes, we knew what all our films roughly had to cost. So you couldn't go too mad. If we did go too mad, when we went and did our thing with Ted Black he would say out.

RF: Did you find it limiting or did you find it useful to have that kind of restrain.t

VG: I think it was very good ground work for not being self indulgent. RF: So that was useful when you subsequently became a producer.
VG: Yes. I didn't find it limiting at all. In those days none of us ever thought there was any likelihood of anything being filmed abroad. So you were tied to what you would film here or what you could build here. Whereas in later years you could write in all sorts of wonderful locations, and then you'd find you had to do it in Torquay rather than the south of France.

RF: There was quite a lot of location work on these Will Hay films.

VG: All in and around. Basingstoke was Oh Mr Porter. On that there was a lot of location.

RF: Where was it done, a derelict branch line.

VG: Yes it was a branch line, it was rather dicey because they were pulling it up as we moved, they were pulling it up behind us, so we were moving along it every day.

RF: The station was on the line.

VG: Yes. It was prettied up and we built the -si gnal box. RF: Let's talk about Will Hay.
VG: He was a brilliant man, he was an astronomer. He discovered his own star and had books written about him and he wrote a book on astronomy. And he had his own telescope which he built himself, to a millionth of an inch, he would make his own machinery and the cogs. The had it at the bottom of his garden which is now the North Circular road. He was a brilliant man. Very serious, a great sense of humour but a very serious man.

RF: A moody man.

VG: No, easy to work with, superb timing.

very easy, a complete pro with the most

RF: You were writing for him, did he also contribute to the script. VG: No. Not in the slightest.
RF: But he knew what was good for him presumably.
VG: Yes. We knew him. and he knew what was good. He'd say I'd like to do this instead of that or do it this way or that way. He started, the very picture he did at Gainsborough was directed by William Beaudine, an American director, and he, Will Hay and Bill Beaudine tried to do a thing together and it didn't work out at all. And Bill didn't want any part of it. He said you do it, he said the boys know how to do it.

RF: They tried to write a script, Bill Beaudine and Will Hay. They brought Bill Beaudine over. Ted Black said put them together. Will and Bill Beaudine and the scriptwriter who ever it was, probably Frank, and it was a complete waste of time. The didn't gell. Bill Hay was not, as long as he felt confident he would say go ahead. He was not a creative man as far as that was concerned. He knew his act. He could create his act, but he couldn't create a film as such.

RF: Were there connections between the act and the character you created for him.

VG: Yes indeed. The first one was a Beachcomber character from the Daily Express. They did a thing called Narkover, and they did that in Boys will be Boys, in which he played the schoolmaster with all his horrible children. That came from his stage act. After that the schoolmaster stuck for Good Morning Boys which I did. After that he said we've got to shake him, we've got to get rid of it.
RF: What else do you remember about him
VG: Charming man, a great sense of humour. Notoriously mean. RF: How did that manifest itself, never buying a drink.
VG: Nothing like that, at Christmas nothing for the unit which worked for him, not even Christmas cards.

RF: Was he greedy, did he expect a great deal himself.

VG: No, he just didn't think, he just kept all his pennies. One day, he got a Norwegian girlfriend called Randy, and she got to know he never gave anything, and she said what are we going to give the boys for Chrismas, the unit, buy them a drink, give them a party, he'd never thought of it. And she instilled in him he had to give presents. After all he'd been created there, all this was being done, the least he could do was give a party. Anyway she instilled this in him. So that Christmas we were astounded we all got presents, all astounded. And Bill Kellina who was the studio manager got a big chunky solid silver thing for his desk which was an inkwell, a cigar cigarette lighter and an cigarette box, all in one thing. And this was. great except that he didn't smoke. At lunch,· we all used to lunch together, Bill said I don't know what to

do about this, it's great but, so we all went and had a look at this and underneath it was Maping and Ware. I said simple, go to Maping and.. Ware, say Bill Hay gave me this, I don't smoke, can I change it for something else. What a good idea. So Bill Kellina went down tQ Maping and Ware in REgent St. And said his little piece and the assistant looked at it and said I 1 11 have a word with the manager. The manager comes out holding this thing and says we're terribly sorry we can't do much about this thing because it was bought 25 years ago. Bill came back to the studio. This was the most wonderful story of Bill's meanness, he'd gone into all his old things and he'd found this thing. But we all got silver pencil. I changed mine for a cigarette case because I smoked in those days. But we all did get presents which was thanks to his Norwegian girlfriend.

RF: How long had you worked for him before this.
VG: I would say this must have been our 4th or 5th picture.
RF: He does seem on screen to be a partly enigmatic, partly remote character.

VG: He was, but we used to have him to a lot of our parties and he would thoroughly enjoy himself, he I d be very quiet. He would laugh, he would chat, but he wasn't outgoing, he wasn't an outgoing person.

RF: Was he at all diffident in terms of performing. can't do that.

Would he say I

VG: No. Not really. I'm sure he would say that if something came up which wasn't him or couldn't be done, or he didn't feel he could do, I'm sure he would have said it, but I can't remember him every refusing. But then as happens, when we had Moore Marriott and Graham Moffatt and Will Hay as our trio who we wrote for, came the day when Will Hay said I don't want to be a trio any more. And so the other two went and we had to do one with Bill without them. Hey Hey USA. Edgar Kennedy came over to star with him and it was the least successful picture.

RF: During this time you're based at Poole St Yes.
RF: Did you have any dealings with the Bush.

VG: No. At Poole St we were always very proud of the fact that we were keeping the Bush going, because the Bush was not making any money. And we were making packets. Then came the day when Bush moved and Gainsborough went over to the Bush, the that was after Bill Hay.

RF: So Michael Balcon had nothing to do with_this. VG: No. We were saving Micky's skin.
RF: About Ted Black.
VG: A brilliant man. Fun, an enormous sense of humour, great to work with, you always knew were you were with Ted, and he could handle any kind of subject and knew what he was talking about. And it was a very sad day when he left Gainsborough. And went to MGM. I think he regretted it afterwards because at MGM he did nothing. They gave him nothing to do.

RF: It was their way, they did the same thing with Balcon did they not. I think a lot of international film politics were involved at that stage, it had to do with the quota act.
RF: What was Ted Black's strength as a producer.

VG: His strength was, he knew his business, he knew what he wanted, he knew what he thought was right for people, for audience, he knew the budget and the shooting time, he knew all the ends of that business.

RF: It as he at some time who had picked on the Crazy Gang and Willy Hay.

VG: No, that was George, his brother. RF: For films.
VG: It was his brother who said, I think, why don't you do one with the boys. Because they were very close Ted and G eorge. Because Ted sent me to George. And George would say why don't you do. And I think it was George who suggested to Ted why don't you use the boys because they were enormous draw in London, big big stars, they were one of the biggest pulling box office people then. That I think was when Ted said to George Edgar and myself go and see the Crazy Gang show. That was the first thing they ever did in films.

RF: We were talking about how the films got made. The script is commissioned and then written, you're writing to a budget, how long a schedule.

VG: About 5 or 6 weeks.

RF: Was that average for a British feature of the time, these weren't B features were they.

VG: 5 OR 6 weeks. Unless, I did a thing which was called Old Bob, about a sheep dog, Will Fyfe and directed by Bob Stevenson. That because the shooting.and the dogs and the trials was longer.

RF: Do you remember what the budgets were in the late 30s. VG: Will Hays were around £90,000-£95,000.
RF: As much as that.

VG: I don't know what the first ones were. I know when we started on Oh Mr Porter there was a· lot of location and props and things, it was a round about that.
VG: And would that have been gotten back in this country. VG: Yes it would.
RF: Did they get much of an overseas release.

VG: They got quite a good overseas release, not in America no, but Australia was always good, and strangely enough so was Japan and Germany.

RF: How about Russia. The reason I ask is because I remember hearing once that George Formby was the best known English performer in Russia.

VG: I don't know. But I'11 tell you one thing which was ·awfully good in those days, we could all learn our jobs without any barriers. I don't mean this anti union. But I'm just pointing what I did, for instance, I was able to go and work in the cutting room, being a writer, being gag man on the set. I could watch I could learn, I could do odd bits and pieces, I could do all sorts of prop jobs while we were shooting, it was a family, a sort of a family. The same sort of family in much later years was at Bray, Hammer. So we all learned our ground work. You could work on cameras too. Then you· knew in later life why a camera man can't do this or would like it this, why the editor would want it this, it was an enormous groundwork.

RF: Was there much communication between the cutting room and the floor on the Will Hays.

VG: Very occasionally someone would come down having seen the rushes. Come down and say we could do with an insert on this particular thing, because you don't see it clear enough.
RF: With Alfie.

VG: No Alfie would be kept up there, it would be Bob Dearing, Bob Dearing flung his weight around .with Ted Black. Being indispensable.

RF: Did the unit go from one film to another.

VG: On the Will Hays yes. We had a band of merry battlers. Jack Cox and Arthur Crabtree and when I started directing there I upgraded Phil Grindrod who was our operator and he became a lighting cameraman and he did several for me. They all knew their job. Basil Emmott was another one. He was a terror. He'd been so used to photographing wild animals from an aeroplane with Alan Cobham, on his first flight to Africa, he used to put on every light there was, they used to talk about the Emmott forests. It's difficult to get on the set because there were so many lights, they threw shadows everywhere, he was not a good cameraman. He was there for I don't know how many years.

RF: Can we touch on some of the other writers.

VG: Sidney Gilliat and Frank Launder who later became a team. And they were there, Frank I'd known since BIP days, very clever guy. Also very professional, no bloody nonsense about him. Just professional writers.

RF: There was so much talent, it seems to me looking back, and yet it wasn't always made use of in an effective fashion. Ted Black seems to be a very effective producer, but is it a fair comment that one of the great problems of the British film industry then was the lack of producing talent.

VG: I wouldn't have known any producers then other than Micky Balcon by name. I didn't know him at all.

RF: I think that he was a very gifted producer, and Ted Black also.

VG: I would have said of all the producers I worked for Ted Black was streets ahead of anybody. There could be no worries with Ted, you knew

if you had any worry of any kind, location or whatever, you could give it to him and he would solve it. So you had an enormous confidence going into movies that you had this backing.

RF: Who did he answer to, the 0strers.

VG: Mark 0strer, not Mark, Maurice was the head. We used to play poker that's all, he didn't know anything about films.

RF: Isidore was the brains I believe.

VG: I never knew him. Maurice, Bill 0strer we got very friendly with, a nice guy, we used to play poker in the dressing rooms during the airraid, he and Bert Ambrose the bandleader were great chums and they were always around playing poker, they use to lose fortunes.
RF: What was considered a fortune then.

VG: They'd be £500 on a card. Bert Ambrose, he died broke, he gambled it all away, but Bill 0strer was a charming guy, good company and good fun and knew nothing about films except whether they made money.

RF: Did he interfere.

VG: Never. He left it to TEd Black. And Bill never interfered. I don't know what Ted Black went -through,maybe he had some interference, but I never knew of Maurice 0strer making any
RF: What did they pay you as a contract writer. VG: I think it was something like £25 a week.
RF: Was that good or bad.
VG: Medium. I'm talking about the old Gainsborough days, pre war. RF: Was that a general wage for contract writers.

VG: I wish I could tell you I knew.
- I was never curious what Sidney got. I got that every week.
RF: Did you do freelance in addition.

I was never curious what Frank got I really never knew. I only knew

VG: Yes, because I was allowed to go and do the Palladium shows. RF: How about other things, were you still doing journalism.
VG: No.

RF: Were you writing books of any kind. VG: No.

RF: Were there any anecdotes worth recording.

VG: There were so many with the Crazy Gang and Hitch too, he was a terrible practical joker.

RF: Did you work on any of his scripts.

VG: No, but I was there all the way through the Lady Vanishes, because Hitch's office was next door to Marriott Edgar's and mine. And his secretary who later became a producer in her own right, Joan Harrison, we used to have a lot of laughs, and Hitch was making The Lady Vanishes. And I used to spend alot of time on the set. Joan came in one day and said can you let Hitch have a fiver, but he will give it back won't he, I'll see he won't forget, this is on a Wednesday, and a fiver was a lot of money, £25 a week, there's trouble, he can't get to the bank. Come the end of the week there's no fiver back so I call Joanie and say he hasn't forgotten, he said no he hasn't, he's stepped down to the bank now. So before we leave that night there's a tap on the door, and there's the page boy with a sack of money, it's £5 worth of farthings, and he said Mr Hitchcock asked me to give this to you, and this was his idea of a joke. It was a heavy thing, I now have to go to a bank, I'11 tell you what I did on that. Everybody in the studio, you know how you always have a lot of keys and things in drawers, you've got them and they don't fit. I got all the keys I could get from everyone in the studio, and I had a lot at home and spent the whole week writing little labels out and tying them to these keys saying, Hitchcock, 143 Brampton Rd, finder will be rewarded. I spent a further week dropping them in undergrounds, buses, parks, everywhere we went we dropped keys, and George Marriott Edgar would drop some, and we waited for a reaction. And it was about 3 weeks later that Hitch came into my office and said how many fuckin keys did you drop. And he'd been paying out 5 bobs to people bringing keys, eventually he realised they weren't his keys, and he never played another gag on me.
RF: The stories which are told to me about his sense of humour indicate to me on the one hand they're so puerile, childish, on the other there was always an element of cruelty.

VG: Very much so.
RF: Did that manifest itself in friendships.

VG: I wasn't that much of a friend, Frank Launder was far much more of a friend, he did the script for the Lady Vanishes, but it never manifested itself to me. He had always been perfectly regular. He always had this sadistic sense of humour,

RF: Some quite horrendous, because two people have told us he would persuade his prop man to be handcufffed and then take a laxative and was handcuffed over night.

VG: He would go to great lengths. There was a script writer called Angus McPhail, and Angus lived somewhere down Croydon way and was coming up to a script meeting with Hitch who lived in Brompton Rd, and Hitch said to him it's easy to get to me, right outside Croydon Airport there's a bus stop there, you get a bus there and whatever it· is, no 14, it brings you right to my door. And so that was that. Angus arrived at the time he was supposed to catch the bus and along comes a 14 bus and he says Brompton Rd., Harrods, and he's got all his scripts and he's busy with his scripts and he never looks at anything until finally they have arrived at Harrods, and the conductor said Mr Hitchcock's residence, and Angus who was always in the clouds said thank you very much, got off the bus, it never registered at all, he went and rang Hitch's bell, and Hitch is dying for him to say something and he doesn't say anything at all, he just goes on I've done the things.w·e. And Hitch says did you get the bus alright. He says yes, it was fine, now what I've done here. And Hitch

e VAL GUEST Tape 1 of 8 \
never mentioned it but he told us all afterwards, he never fucking hell realised it, I spent all that money. That wasn't sadistic, it was a fun thing, but he would go to those lengths. He was a child too but a sadistic child.
RF: A very insecure man it would seem.

S I DE 3, TAPE 2

RF: Do you have anything more to say about Hitch, because he is now regarded as the greatest of the English directors.

VG: He was a very good director. Hitch hated making films. Hitch's joy was preparnig them. And getting them written, and drawing his thumb nail sketches at the side of his scenes, at the side of his pages, and once he'd done all that he'd say shit I've got to make it.

RF: Probably accounts for some of the pranks, they were just a way of passing the time.

VG: He did not like making movies, he'd already written all his shots, drawn all his shots, and then to have to do it. He was a great character.

RF: People intervened too. Were they happy pictures that you know of, observing them being made.

VG: I think so. He was terribly rude to actors. But it was like daddy being rude.

rf: How about the technicians, was he equally rude to them.
VG: No, I don't think there were any problems. I think they just accepted him for what he was, what he asked for, what he did. I don't think there were any bad feelings or anything.

RF: Are we now at a stage where Islington being abandoned, and how it fits in with your transition from being a writer to a director.

VG: That was at the Bush. In 1938 everything moved over the the Bush as far as I was concerned, Hey Hey USA in 1938, Old Bones of the River 39, all those were Gainsborough Islington. Bandwagon and Gas Bags, Bandwagon was 1938 and that was at the Bush. At that time I was in the fire brigage.
RF: The studio firebrigade.

VG: No the real one for the war, we had signed that if war broke out we were in the NFS, the National Fire SErvice, so I had to spend some time learning my trade there and I was still at the studio, I was still under contract. And then came Bandwagon and 39 war broke out, I didn't do a lot except do the Fire Brigade stuff. And 1940 we were back in the studio for Charley's Big Hearted Aunt and the Gas Bags Crazy Gang and Inspector Hornleigh which was 41. My, I really moved to the Bush in 38 I think.

RF: Do you know what the reason for that was.
VG: Gaumont, or the Bush, had not been making money, Gainsborough was

the one which was. Mick Baleen left and that left a big enormous"" place almost empty for production and that's why I think they moved Gainsborough over.
RF: Did Poole st go dark.

VG: I don't remember. We all tried to settle in. It was no where near the family atmosphere and it got a lot of getting that family atmosphere back which eventually Ted Black did.
RF: Were these the days of the Polish corridor

VG: Yes. And the Polish Corridor which had Ted Black's office and Maurice Ostrers, and a character called Godfrey Lewis, that's where all the poker took place, especially during the fire watching nights. During the actual war, the Blitz. A lot of poker went on.

RF: Did you also have studio duties as a fireman.

VG: Yes. And a lot of times, I was then living in Sunningdale, and a lot of times we stayed at the studio overnight while we were shooting. And the actors stayed. Cyril Cusack and myself shared a room and did firewatching on the roof in between times.

RF: Before we move into the 40s do you have any final memories of the Will Hay films.

VG: I remember one line which was one of the biggest laughs in Oh Mr Porter, but when we were writing it was when the runaway train was going on one line, Harbottle, Moore Marriott said don't look now but there's a train coming, that's one of the biggest laughs in it because there's on this single line. And when we were reading the script through to Ted Black he said oh you can get a better line than that. I said Ted I'm sure it's a big laugh, any way think about it. We went away and we didn't think about it, we let it go. The final script was going through for printing and Ted called up on the phone and said you've still left that line in. So I said yes, why do you want to take it out. You really mean it's a big laugh. I said I'm sure it's a big laugh. He said I'll bet you 10 sh it isn't, I said alright fine. It went through, and the press show, the trade show was at what was then in the Strand a place called the Tivoli, and we all went and we're in the front row of the circle and Ted's sitting next to me and up comes the line and it gets a belly laugh. Ted reaches into his pocket and hands me 10 sh there in the darkness of the cinema. That was Ted, he'd come prepared with the 10 sh ready. He didn't have to find it, it was in his jacket pocket just in case.
RF: Am I right in thinking there's a spectaculra train wreck in Oh Mr Porter.
VG: It runs into the buffers in the station.
RF: There is a parody in that series, Old Bones of the River, whose idea

was it to make a parody.
VG: I think it came from Ted Black, I don't know it may have come from Frank. But we always assumed it came from Ted. The Edgar Wallace book.
RF: And the Korda film. I wondered if that was an inside joke, an industry joke.

VG: I don't think it was meant as that at all they just thought it would be a bloody funny vehicle for Will Hay. And we certainly weren't shown the film, it wasn't a question of let's take the film and send it up, we just worked from the book. That is if my remember serves me correctly, that is the only thing for Will Hay which ever came from a book. And we worked from scratch on that, the routines.
RF: Are there non Will Hay and non Crazy Gang films that you chose to remember from that particular period when you're still writing.

VG: I have to correct myself, Gainsborough was still going in 1942, RF: Islington.
VG: Because I did a picture there called Back Room Boy there for Arthur Askey. So I'm not sure when they closed. 1943 I did my first full directing job Miss London and that was at Gainsborough.
RF: I think the studio maybe closed temporarily during the war.

VG: Bandwagon was certainly done at the Bush and Charley's Big Hearted Aunt, but I was still working at Gainsborough, in 1943 anyway.

RF: Arthur Askey is part of your life since 1938. VG: I'm afraid so.
RF: Why do you say afraid so.

VG: I was never a fan of Arthur Askey. I never thought he was very funny, it was a cross that I bore. We tried to make him funny, some people thought he was funny, I wrote films for him, sophistocate him a little, you take the rough with the smooth. I was never an Askey fan, he was a pleasant enough little man. I did my best but I wasn't a fan.

RF: But the great British public took him to their heart.

VG: They did indeed, Miss London Ltd was a big success. singing and dancing and everything in that.
RF: Bandwagon was based on the radio show.

I had him

VG: I had very little to do with that, I drafted a script and polished a final script but I was really doing my fire training then,that was made at the Bush definitely, Pat Kirkwood and Vic Oliver, Jack Hylton, Dickie Murdoch.

I have practically all the films I ever made down stairs in my garage, the only ones I haven't are the Arthur Askeys.

ACTT, Wardour St, 23rd August.

VG: The Wagon, I with the again, I memories,

next Arthur Askey was Charley's Big Hearted Aunt, after Band remember very little about that, I was spending a lot of time firebrigade. I wrote it, I think with George Marriott Edgar have very little memories of that at all, I have very little it was just a credit that passed in the night.

RF: I remember seeing it as a boy and enjoying it.

VG: It's a very difficult story to go wrong with. I remember doing the Ghost Train with him. Early 40s, which Walter Forde directed, that again I remember but was busy with my hoses.

RF: Who's idea would it have been to do these rewrites for Askey, VG: Ted Black.
RF: Was it the feeling he needed strong theatrical material.
VG: Yes. They felt they had two, with Charley's Aunt and the Ghost Train, they had 2 enormous pulling vehicles, whoever they put in them. I think they thought they would try tried and proved stories, it was a terrific plus when they were trying to push Askey into screen stardom.

rf: That indicates they didn't have much confidence with him as a performer.

VG: They did alright his pictures, but he didn't turn out what they hoped he was going to turn out to be, and that was another big comedy star on their books like the Crazy Gang and Will Hay.

RF: You subsequently directed him and he had an enormously long career,he was working until he died.

VG: Not in films he wasn't, he had a reasonably short career in films, I think they eventually just didn't take up his contract.
RF: But he had an attraction with the public, I wonder if you could account for what his appeal was.

VG: His appeal was being the funny little man. He had enormous projection of warmth and fun and humour and bubble which was not him. It showed at least he was good in his acting at that, but I think that was what they went for.

RF: What was the real man.

VG: Very very mean. That was why he was nick named big hearted. He was

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always very effusive and pleasant. I can't say he wasn't pleasi'lnt. I think he had an enormous opinion of himself which sometimes you had to fight in a nice way. But very professional, I never had any problems with him at all.

RF: To what extent was his partner essential to what he did.

VG: Dickie, we had him in Ghost Train and Band Wagon. Originally Dickie was an enormous help, in the same way that Dickie Murdoch was essential to Arthur's whole being in the· way that Jerry Desmond was essential to Sid Field, which was another person I wrote for, London Town, it was essential, he was the side kick, the stooge, like Martin and Lewis. Very essential. Up as Arthur moved on, Dickie moved out.
RF: Was Where's that Fire the last Will Hay film.

VG: No the last one was Hey Hey USA, that was the last one he did for gainsborough. Then he moved on to Ealing, I don't think the contract was picked up, that was when he had said I don't want to be a trio, I want to be me. So we had to lose Hardbottle, Moore Marriott, and lose Graham Moffatt and bring in Edgar Kennedy from the States.
RF: That must have been a very dangerous move audiencewise.

VG: It was, because hey Hey USA was not a success. And they said either we go back to a 3some where we know we're alright, or we don't do any more. And Will Hay said I'm going to move on.

RF: Hey Hey is listed as being 20th Century Fox.

VG: That was the time all our contracts were signed over to 20th Century. And I think at that time they were doing Gracie Fields Sally, and Monte Banks directing and that was for 20th Century Fox, we writers were all pulled in to see if we could goose up the script. And we went to their offices at Soho Sq and sat for days in there, kicking the script around, and I think Where's that Fire, Ask a Policeman we did with MGM.

RF: Now I've got a gap between 1939 and those based on your directing career in 1942.

VG: I could tell you if I had my list but I cant tell you off hand. RF: Can you tell us about your transition into directing.
VG: That was in the ear1 y war period, when I was also doing my fire brigade stints, The Ministry of Information approached me through the studio to write a script, a little 10 minute short about colds spreading deseases, sneezes and diseases.

RF: Is that your line. sneezes spreads diseases.

I remember again from the time coughs and

VG: That's right. And they asked me if I would write a little 10
minute thing about this in a humorous way for Arthur Askey to do. I

found out that 8 other writers had been asked before me so I pul: on a great Academy Award act that I was furious, insulted that they'd come to me no 8 on the list, and said I will only do this if you accept it that I direct it. They agreed. And I wrote The Nose Has It for Askey and they accepted it and I directed it. I was very lucky it went into the Leicester Sq Theatre with a Victor Mature, Rita Hayworth film called My Gal Sal, and the critic gave hell to My Gal Sal, and to be smart and snide about the picture they said the best thing on the programme was a Ministry of Information short called the Nose Has It, which was shear luck. So I went into Maurice Ostrer and said look, how about me writing and directing now, and so I got my contract.

RF: Did you have a desire to direct before this.

VG: Yes, because going through with Marcel who always used to let me direct second unit stuff and odd little pick ups, and I'd learnt so much watching him all those years, I was dying
RF: HOw long had you been nurturing this wish.

VG: I think from after my first film with Marcel, when I was on the Floor With Him, which was Monkey Business. From Monkey Business and Public Nuisance I thought I'm sure I can do this.
RF: Had you been making efforts.

VG: No, and this was the only way I made blackmailing the Ministry of Information. wanted to but I always concentrated on the one day it will happen.

this transition, by virtually I had never tried, I always writing. And I thought maybe

RF: I was wondering how receptive Ted Black would have been.

VG: I don't think Ted Black would have been very receptive to that because he would have thought he was losing a writer. Because Frank and Sidney were in the same position, and it was only after I did my Miss London that they talked him into letting them do, I think it was 2,00 Women, I think that was their first one as directors. I never beat the desk or anything but I don't think he would have taken too kindly to that.
RF: Why was that. Was there a tendency to compartmentailse.

VG: I think if you had shown no, I'm going to put so muh Gainsborough money up for someone who has no directing experience at all, very dicey. The other person in those Gainsborough days was Leslie Arliss who was a part time writer, he came in with things and then went out after them. He came with the Man in Grey book, and he somehow managed to get them say OK make it, he'd done the screeplay, alright direct it, but they were very careful to give him Arthur Crabtree who was one of the most senior photographers there to watch over him, and they called Arthur down and said to Arthur, you look after him and make sure it goes alright and we'll give you a picture to direct. Because Arthur had always wanted to direct, that's how Leslie went in, with Arthur Crabtree helping him like

hell. And I remember later they did the same thing with Jack Cox who was also a senior camera man there, they said if you go and help, and I think that was on Leslie's second picture, we'll give you a picture, Jack didn't want to know about a picture, Christ I don't want to direct, I'm a cameraman, so Leslie rather fell down because he wasn't terribly popular with Cox and Cox just gave the minimum thing. That's the way other people got into directing through Ted, really being an insurance for something not going wrong.

RF: You had been writing specifically for comedy star talent,would they have been receptive to a new director or would they have said my god no, such as Will Hay.

VG: I think he would have said yes. And the Crazy Gang, we were all buddies, in fact Bud was my son's godfather. And Fracis Day his godmother. I don't know what would have happened if they said that to James Mason. What they did say to James Mason, when he was in The Wicked Lady, James Mason was told don't worry you've got Arthur looking after you and he'd done a lot of pictures with Arthur Crabtree, but whether Jimmy Mason would have said yes to me right away I don't know.

RF: Were cameramen specifically cast or was it a matter of availability.

VG: They were contract people and they were told what pictures. I would go to Ted and say please give me Arthur and they'd say no he's busy on this or the other, but you've got Jack.
RF: What are your memories of these people.

VG: Arthur Crabtree was a giant of a genius, the same Jack was, two different personalities. Arthur Crabtree was sweet charming quiet, a sense of humour and Arthur taught me all I learnt about camera angles before i did Miss London. And to this day I can't tell you who photographed that, I really am not sure whether it was Phil or Jack or Phil Grindrod. But he drew on paper for me the imaginery line between people and the people looking left, and you must always show a change of angel. And he taught me an awful lot just sitting in the restaurant,in the canteen, at Gainsborough.
RF: IN one quick lesson.

VG: Yes, that was very good, that was Arthur. Jack Cox was a wonderful character, solid as a rock, had a very biting sense of humour. We had a new girl called Maggie Lockwood who had just been signed by the studio, terribly inexperienced, she was a stage actress, she'd been seen on the stage and brought under contract. And she was terribly unsophisticated and lived with two maiden aunts in West Norwood I think it was. I remember Maurice Ostrer said take her out for an evening, teach her something, I though I'll take her to the Olympia and Bertram Mills Circus and Funfair. Outside Poole St, Islington, the kids were real horrors, not horrors, they were earning their pennies, look after your car for a bob, otherwise they had been known to light bonfires under your car. And one time Maggie had a very dirty tiny little car, like a FIAT, it was an Austin, very dirty, and one day one of the kids had written in the

windscreen fuck off , and she was saying I've got written all over my car, someone said what have they written clean it, and she said no fuck, and she said to Jack Cox what's fuck, and he said well my dear you've got to learn it some time or other, it's the Indian word for love. I will never forget that, it became a classic story around the studio.

RF: She was the daughter of the Raj, was she not born in India.

VG: I don't know. I now she lived in Godolphin Sq. She married Rupert Delyon. We used to to go and play poker there at night. And Rupert was always saying when we say what games will we play tonight, Margaret will chose, she's the star. I remember later they used to tease her on Night Train to Munich, Rex Harrison, we know they had separate rooms, and he used to say how many times does he come and tap on, and all this, and long johns, it was a hidious thing, anyway she got rid of him. That was Jack Cox, he had a very dry sense of humour, nothing phased him.

RF: He must have been very compatible with Hitchcock because they did an enormous amount together in this country.
VG: Yes, I think Hitch liked his dry humour. RF: Was Godolphin Sq terribly smart in the 30s.
VG: Yes, it was. It was one of the new blocks. In the beginning Mount Royal was a very smart place, as rooms, more people lived there. A lot of people lived there, Will Hay lived there for a long time, I lived there. There was an awful lot of stars lived there. In introduced David Lean to Kay Walch his first wife there, because I think David lived there for a while. And Billy Wilder's brother, Bob Wilder. Bud Flanagan. Marcus Thief, Lord Marks and Spencers.
RF: Where they large flats.
VG: All I had there was one room and a bathroom.
RF: And you lived in it or it was just a pied a terre. VG: No I lived in it. I had a little dressing room.
RF: YOU think of film people in those days being comparatively grand. Larry Adler lived there, Cochran brought him over for a review.

We're now on the early 40s which was a transitional time for the country and the film industry too, do you have any memories of the life and times, there was seemingly a different air, more opportunities.

VG: Quite a few of us were launching out. It could be that people were leaving to go into the army or the navy or the airforce, the product had to go along, and the propaganda was terribly important, to keep making entertainment, in those days a lot of newcomers came into the theatre, maybe for the same reason, or the stars used to go with the ENSA lot overseas, so the London variety theatres still had to be filled, so I think more people had to be filled like that.

RF: It was a very important profession, the home front moral,
VG: Yes you were a reserved occupation as a screenwriter, and director, some of the directors went and joined the film unit, like Carol Reed.
RF: You've got very good notices with your coughs and sneezes film

VG: And then I sat down and wrote Miss London Ltd which was the first feature that I wrote which I directed, with Marriott Edgar,
RF: Which you wrote on the understanding you would direct that.

VG: No I had a contract for that and the contract came after the Nose Has it which is the MOI short, I then said to Bill Ostrer at Gainsborough here are the reviews of this, I want to write and direct my own here will you let me do it, and he said yes. He talked to Ted Black and Ted Black said yes and I then had a writer director contract with Gainsborough, I had almost written Miss London Ltd for Marcel Varnel, and I said I want to do it myself, and I had done the story and the screenplay, and the score with Manning Sherwin

He was my partner for years, we did a lot of musicals together, a lot of stage musicals and films.
RF: Do you remember the terms of the deal, did they try and squeeze an advantage

VG: I'm absolutely certain they did but I can't remember, they'd squeeze everything they could out of you, but I would have done it for nothing. ·which in point of fact Frank and Sidney they did their first think, 2,000 women, they said we won't take any salary but we will have a piece of the picture, but you needn't lay out any money, I think that was their bargaining point to get the picture direction.
RF: What are your memories of the first film.
VG: I was very lucky because as an outsider who might come in and make
....-...., it his first picture in a strange place, I was virtually at home, I'd been there with them all these years, and so the unit was all chums, I'd worked with this unit under Marcel and they were all rooting for me, it made the task very much easier. I can't remember any problems on it, I knew exactly what I wanted to do and I had plotted it all out, in fact that was the first time I used what I use don every picture I ever make, I have a blackboard there with all the scenes worked out so the whole unit knows where you're going to be and what you can pick up from this angle.

RF: tHAT WAS right from the very start.

VG: Yes, that was easier for me, than me going onto the set and getting inspired, I would inspire myself and do my homework,

RF: I was talking to Andy Worker just the other day and he remembered the way you worked, very good preparation.

VG: Well I was never one of these genius boys, I could go on and get inspired like that. It didn't mean you stuck to it religiously, because many times things happened and you had to change, but at least the basic was there on that board and everybody knew where they were.

RF: Did the mechanics of directing come easily to you.
VG: Yes, strangely enough very easily and I'd seen Marcel and I'd seen exactly what Marcel did with group shots and this and that and gradually I started with his style of things and gradually evolved it into my own style.
RF: I think also as an actor previously you'd take direction.
i VG: It was very much easier for me too, being an actor I knew what their i problems where, and I knew if I saw a guy hesitating because I said do I this and this and this, I'd think what's the problem with him, oh yes, I
I 34

can see the problem with him, it's very much easier in that way-. The thing I learnt from Marcel was pace, just keep things moving, the faster you move on somethings, if you do have to stop it's twice as effective.

RF: How do you define pace in this context.

VG: Pace is in general cutting the pauses out between speeches. The old way of doing it was you spoke with the beat on the first accent, whereas in real life you don't wait for me to finish the sentence, you pick it up on the word that you know the sentence ends on, that's pace, getting a rhythm of light and shade. The fast sequences which go, things which can really click along and then you can suddenly stop dead and get and enormous effect by stopping and pausing and taking the next bit slower. Different light and shade.

RF: So you think it's more delivery than actual physical movement. VG: It's not movement at all.
RF: You can't do it at all with cutting either.

VG: You can speed something up with cutting but you can't get what is pace, because you can't cut out the pauses between two people speaking without going from close up to close up so that's a ping pong thing. But to keep pace going it's a question of joining up the sentences,not to the effect that you spoil the dramatic thing, because when it's not dramatic it can join up so that people are sitting there waiting next, when it is dramatic you can then pause, but if there are pauses all the way through you have a deadly slow picture.

rf: It's very stagey to have those pauses.

VG: I'll tell you a very interesting thing, when scripts use to go to the Film Finance people who gave you your bond of completion, they had someone there who sat and timed your script, and your script would come back which you figured as an hour and a half as anything up to and hour and 50 minutes, and you say how can that be, and they'd read it to me and I'd he_ar.them read, and they would read the speech, beat, answer, beat, and you'd be amazed how many minutes that puts on a picture and people don't speak like that.

RF: It makes them very difficult to watch nowadays because many of them are ponderous, that were made in that style, very slow.

VG: I think, and this sound awfully grand of me to say this, and I don't mean it this way, I think a lot of my films which are shown on the box today, made way back then, have pace, they move.

RF: Is that something you discovered for yourself or did you have any masters.

VG: No, I learnt that from Marcel.
RF: Do you think he learnt it from anyone. Because it was very much a 35

Hollywood thing, those prewar films of the 30s.
VG: Yes, I think he learnt it in Hollywood. Because he was always on about things. He was on about scenes, that we had written, they'll never sit through this in Mansfield he used to say, which was where his common law wife came from, but he had a great thing about pace.

RF: What do you think audiences got out of this, because it's difficult, and this maybe unfair, to see British provincial audiences in the 30s to be concerned about movement.

VG: I don't think they were aware of it at all, it was just a matter of their looking at a film where they fidget and cough or they're looking at a film were they don't fidget. I don't think there's any more than that, you just keep them in their seats interested. It keeps the popcorn bag quiet a little more.
RF: And their yardstick would have been Hollywood films.

VG: By that time they'd really been inundated and brainwashed and conditioned by that sort of films.

RF: Miss London Ltd was made at Bush.

VG: No, Gainsborough. Bees in Paradise, the next one was made at the Bush. And Give us the Moon, the next one was made at Gainsborough. It's really extraordinary, I cannot recall moving backwards and forwards.
RF: What did you have to move, your office. VG: Yes.
RF: Presumably you were quite well at home in either place by this time.
VG: I remember Miss London as being 43 made at Gainsborough, but I do recall doing the editing at the Bush.
In Miss London we had a big Waterloo Station set and that was built at Gainsborough, Islington, so maybe we did some of it there and some of it at the Bush.
Give me the Moon was definitely made at Gainsborough, Maggie Lockwood, Vic Oliver, Roland Culver and Peter Graves, and Jean Simmons, her first film.

RF: Your forte was very much comedy and cheering up the home front. What kind of budgets did they give you, can you recall.
VG: I can't remember, I wouldn't have a clue. RF: Were they produced by Ted Black.
VG: Yes, a very helpful producer.


RF: What would he bring to the relationship.

VG: You had an enormous feeling of being backed up whatever you did. If any problem arose Ted would solve it. In all the producers that I have had in my knarled career, only two producers have given me the feeling I am completely backed up no matter what happened, one was Ted Black and the other was Michael Carreras. You felt absolutely safe no matter what.
RF: What were the problems a director would be experiencing.

VG: Typically would be that your location did not turn out right for this or the other reason or the location manager had not found out for you, if you came back and went back into a studio, was a set ready, what was there to do, should we sit and wait for the rain to go, they were the problems, they happened today still.

RF: Was there any interference from the money people, from the distributors.

VG: None at all. Ted would see the rushes and a note would probably come down, we could do with more of this type of thing which Askey is doing or don't let him do too much of this, or the ever present Bob Dearing would send a note down which was usually ignored that I needed more cover.

RF: Who effectively was cutting the films.

VG: Mostly Alfie, although Bob would have his heavy hand, Bob would do quite a lot of it and Alfie would salvage it for us, because Bob Dearing had the uncanny knack of leaving the build up and cutting the gag. And we would get it round to Alfie afterwards, I'd work late in the cutting rooms sometimes with Alfie, even on the Will Hays.
RF: Do you know where Dearing had come from

VG: I don't know, I know when it all folded there, he joined 20th Century Fox as a casting director, unbelievable, he was harmless enough except, I don't know, I suppose he wasn't really harmless because he caused a lot of trouble. Being asked to do this or that because Bob thinks or Bob feels, he was really the one who used to fuck them up and Alfie used to put them right.

RF: Is it fair to think of him as an empire builder that he had his little and he was determined to preserve it and for that reason he had to be vocal.

VG: Absolutely. He was desperately old fashioned, and anything you did which wasn't back to the Chrissie White days or the Betty Balfour days, it took an awful lot of getting into him. I know in Miss London Ltd, several times I had people talking over each other. And we got big notes down from Bob Dearing you will have to redo this scene because people will not understand. And I remember having to go to Ted Black and saying for God sake, you can understand exactly what A is saying and what B answers, the fact you don't hear every word, Bob Dearing's edict was that

you must hear every word, otherwise why write them, how old fashioned can you get.
RF: One watches British films of the early 30s and they do have an air of creaking very often. Would it be fair to say this is the root cause.
VG: Very much so.

RF: And also in terms of narrative construction there are often narrative inbalances.

VG: It could be. There I wouldn't be so sure of unless I saw a specific example of that. The general feeling is that writers too had a terrible habit of stating the obvious and using 3 lines where 2 words could have answered that question, they were mostly verbose. And allowing, getting to be allowed to cut that down and make it more colloquial. How to point that out in a small way, in my very early scripts I used to put it's a fine days, IT ' S, and invariably when that was directed and put on the screen someone would say it is a fine day. And that's what made things stilted. Also I used to put in to scripts prefixes like well I don't know instead of I don't know, it just made it a little more talkable, real, and I used to pull them in whenever I could, and what happened is the dialogue became a little more real.

RF: And less influence on the

stagey too, because British stage

there was always this Went End

VG: Sure. Now I said yes, sure sure while you said on the British stage that's what I mean by overlapping. And that's what Bob Dearing was horrified by, you must hear every word.

RF: There is very good example, recently when I was watching Inspector Hornleigh and suddenly there was a British picture which was working, there was pace and there was characterisation, and it was neatly plotted. It was a very respectable job.

VG: On Give Us the Moon, Maggie Lockwood had been dying to do comedy and I had a big fight to get, even Ted, to get her to do Give us the Moon, it was a comedy part, sophisticated comedy, it was from a book by Carol Brahms, it was called The White Elephant, and there was another film called The White Elephant so we called it Give us the Moon. Maggie was dying to do it and I finally got them to let me put Maggie in, it was a great departure for her, it opened her up, it wasn't a successful picture, perhaps too sophisticated for what they wanted, the whole idea of a club of people who didn't want to work, they became a club, a white elephant club, and were earning by their wits.

RF: Was she up to it.
VG: I think so, she had an enormous sense of fun, real lavatory laugh, raucous, and the ideal partner for her, and a real charmer, and I wrote him into every film I did as a juvenile lead was Peter Graves who had this great Niven like quality, in fact he looked like Niven in those days, gret throwaway charm and sophistication, so I wrote him into all

those movies. Even with Askey. RF: Not as a mascot.
VG: No, he was very good. Later I developed my rep company who I pulled into every movie
RF: Which was because I respected them
VG: Because I respected them and I thought they were excellent and i would never have anyonein if they were a pain in the arse, no matter how good they were, because once is good enough. We always had a good family unit and I usually carried the same people.
RF: I should imagine you were very sympathetic with actors as well as your crew.
VG: Yes.

RF: There's a bit of a gap, there's I'll be your sweetheart in 45, and the next one is Just William's Luck. What·was going on around that time, the middle 40s.

VG: I'll Be Your Sweetheart I shot in the height of the Blitz, and I had been removed from the Fire Brigade to go back to the film, and that was the time I was sleeping downstairs in the dressing room, I lived in Sunningdale at that time.

RF: Was it the Blitz or the flying bombs.

VG: Flying bombs. Most of us one way or other lived down there, even during Ghost Train we were living down there, in the basement. Great cameraderie then, there always is during the war. We muddled through. We used to have to do tours if we weren't staying, drive around holes in the road, the house at the end of the road had gone when you got there in the morning, it was a day of surprises each day.

RF: Did you have a direct experience of either a VI or a V2.
VG: No, I didn't of that. In the fire brigade I have everything in the Blitz. The only experience I had was I was living at that time in Virginia Water, at the time of Vls or V2s, I don't know which one it was, but one flew over our house and dropped just by the river, so close that I heard it go over and I went to the front door and I got blown back in. That is the only thing I've had with a flying bomb. I've seen them go over, I've seen them drop from the Lime Grove Studios, the roof, we've seen them drop in Putney and places like that.
RF: They were terrifying things.
VG: It as when they cut out, you'd hear them going and that was alright and then suddenly the engine would cut and oh
RF: And with the V2s, suddenly there would be this explosion and you'd

hear the bloody things coming down.
Shall we talk about your fire brigade experiences.
VG: There were too many of them. I remember they bombed Delarue the printers and I went on a search that night, it was in the City and they printed all the bank notes for everyone around the world, and we went there and all the printing presses had come right down in the middle of the building and we were wading in there and risking our lives and stuffing our boots with pockets of bank notes, it was pitch dark. And we all went back stuffed with bank notes after we put that thing out. We got back and discovered they were the Northern Bank of China. So then the thing was to find out, we put this under our mattresses, we were all sleeping, in St Pauls school, we used to sleep on the floor , that was were we were based, and we wanted to find out what these notes were worth. We all had visions of retiring after the war. Some one was brave enough to go. At Charing Cross there was one of those cash bureauswhere you could go in and find out various currencies,and I think 10,000 was worth a halfpenny. So we had all these things, apart from this some bright spark said they hadn't been numbered yet, there was no numbers on these things so it was all wasted.

But the most terrifyign thing was working on the docks when they bombed
the docks and the whole London was alight and we were on one side of the Thames with everything there. There was a barge on our side which was alight and we turned hoses on it to push it to the other side. And in the middle of the thing it blew up, it was an ammunition barge and we didn't know it. That was very frightening. So the following morning having to go down and hose friends and things off walls was pretty awful. Mates and colleagues who coped it, I do remember standing among all this in the middle of the night, on the side of the Thames with the hose, 3 of us on a hose with everything coming down still, because they just fallowed the fires and we were trying to put them out before they got there thinking dear god if I ever get through this i will never ever worry about anything in my life as long as I live, because nothing will ever be, and many times when a crisis has arrived in my life, this that
or the other thing I've been able to recall what wouldn't I have given for this problem, and I remember standing there thinking what wouldn't I give·at this moment to be in a cell in Dartmoor, those lucky bastards there locked up, it gave you an entirely different set of priorities.

RF: Which have lasted the rest of your life. VG: Yes.
RF: Inevitably, anyone who was part of those times looks back in some fashion or other.
VG: In a way its a very good thing to be able to hold it, because how many things turn up in your life and this has gone wrong, that has gone wrong, that has fallen through, what am I going to do. I think now wait a minute there are far worse things than this.

RF: And also I don't thing the adrenalin ever pumped quite so rapidly.

VG: And in many cases where you've been commended for bravery, it hasn't been bravery it's been you just don't think, you do whatever comes into you head. You don't think that man over there is in trouble I'm going to be brave and help him, you think shit get him out, you don't think, you don't think brave ever, afterwards you say what an ass I was, what did I go and do a thing like that for.

RF: Were you as a fire man ever involved in any of the fire pictures, there was the Humphrey Jennings picture Fires Were Started.
VG: No.

RF: There seems to be a gap of a year in 46, were you still under contract to Gainsborough.
VG: No, I 1 11 Be Your Sweetheart was the last film I did under my contract and I think in 46, that was after I'11 Be Your Sweetheart, I took a year in which I did little but write. That was the period when Gainsborough went over to Sidney Box, so there was a brand new regime there, ted Black had gone,
RF: Do you know the ins and outs of that , the politics of that.

VG: No. I'm afraid I don't but I know Sidney and his family moved in and took over. And a lot of us left. Frank and Sidney left. I don't think there were any of the originals left because Sidney brought in all his own people. So it was during that period between leaving Gainsborough and starting up with United Artists, that I spent most of the year writing or in California having a break.
rf: What are you memories of California in 46.

VG: I had a lot of chums over there, and my old Hollywood Reporter friends, and Los Angeles Times, it was a very bustling place. A lot of the big stars had gone off into the war effort and a lot of new stars were coming up. Everybody was very immersed in making amunitions and things for people,

RF: The war was still on.
VG: The war didn't finish until 45

RF: The bombs were dropped on Japan in August 45.

VG: I'11 Be Your Sweetheart the, I think we probably did it the year before, the end of the year before. I think it was around Christmas time because there were long nights which we didn't like at all. Because of those things dropping, we used to have to stop shooting every now and then because of bombs dropping. The airriad sound has gone. I think it was around then, it was the last big Blitz.

RF: That was late 44, early 45. When you went to California was it specifically as a break, you weren't endeavouringto set anything up.

VG: No.
RF: Just out of curiosity did you see Hitchcock out there.

VG: No. I wasn't there an awful long time, at the most a couple of months and then I came back. It was just to get some sun and to get some food.
RF: Then you were writing scripts.

VG: Yes, I was doing odd things which later I pulled out, sold or discarded or made.

RF: You mentioned United Artists, you made a connection with them.

VG: Yes. I made the two William films for them, just Williams Luck and William Comes to Town, with Dave Copeland who was the head of United Artist over here, and William Collier Jnr, Buster Collier, and we made two films, the two Wiliam films, from the Richmal Compton books.

RF: Were they successful. VG: Very successful.
RF: I didn't meant commercially successful, were you happy with them. VG: Yes
RF: What memories do you have of this period.

VG: Very uneventful. There were those two films I did which were no problem except for working with kids is always a problem, otherwise we had no problems on that. We shot the second William in the Bertram Mills Circus and funfare, which brough memories of Maggie, but we had problems shooting that amongst all the people. We got ourselves in a little booth, with all sort of circus posters around it on wheels with a hole for the lens so we could push- ourselves around amongst the public and have our scenes played among the public and I would walk it through with my actress and say here and there and get on that and that, and we would stand by and push the box around to follow them, and you'd bang on things like the old silent booth days when we did early silent talkies, and we did alright till they cottoned on. The store holders and started to create like mad, because when we were there people couldn't get to their stalls, and they realiesd there was a camera inside and we were filming and they got very upperty about this. And they used to go to George Fowler my assistant director and say who'i the boss, they'd seen that th e boss was the guy who smoked the cigar, I was a big cigar smoker then, so what I did was get the props to go and buy a box of cheap Jamaican cigars and I gave everyone on the unit a cigar and everyone who smoked smoked cigars. We got by finally but that was the hazards. But I don't remember that period very much. There was nothing terribly outstanding. They were all fun.

RF: Have you ever been aware particularly of the wider context of the film business, because that would have been the high spot of the Rank organisation and then the sudden collapse. I was wondering what if anything you recall of that time.

VG: All I recall of the Rank Organisation is that from the day Sidney Box went in I never did any thing for them at all.
rf: Never again.

VG: No, I had to sue him once, because they made a film which was from a story which I had submitted and had never been returned and they made a film with someone else's name on it. And I sued them and they settled out of court,

RF: Had you known him before he came into VG: No I hadn't.
RF: Did you have any dealings with him at all.

VG: After that I met him, because I went to see him then, because he said come dm-m let's talk about this. And what had happened is that I had given the story to read, another writer who's dead now a long time, a would be writer who had taken it to Sidney with his name on and sold it to Sidney and Sidney had made the film called Once Upon a Dream I think it was called, with Maggie Lockwood.

RF: Was Sidney known for sharp practice.

VG: That I wouldn't know, I didn't have that much to do with him. I don't think this was Sidney's fault. He'd just been sold something and went ahead and made it. Luckily I had the screenplay I had written and the screenplay this man had sold.

RF: There are other indications that he could be a bit slip pery.

VG: That's quite possible but in all honesty I can't say because I never had any other deal ings with him. He was very generous, he knew he hadn't go a leg to stand on so he had to be. The Rank Organisationat that time I wasn't particularly interested in because I had severed my bays with them, and I didn't particularly regime which had gone in, I didn't like them because I don't like any regime which brings the family in, however good they may be, Betty turned out to be a very clever lady.

RF: They all had a talent of arts, Peter Rogers, Betty Box

VG: Otherwise I never went back to the Bush again till the BBC did a thing on me. And I had to go back to the Bush and film on the very stage we worked on and my god that brought back memories, this is where the TV breakfast time is done, they had me standing on the stage with my chair, incidentally that might be an interesting thing. During the making of Oh Mr Porter, when I went on with Marcel on location as odd gag man, I never had any seat to sit in, and I was always sitting in other people's

chairs until I was kicked out of them or I was sitting on boxes or whatever. And about a month after we finished Oh Mr Porter there was a knock on my door, and whenever there was a little tap on the door we always got a little rigid because we thought it was hitch up to something again. This time it was the page boy with a pig package addressed to me and inside was a chair, a canvas chair with my name painted on the back, and it was a note from Bill Hay saying I thing you've earned a chair. And this chair went with me on every film I ever made and has gone with me on every film I've ever made and it's home in my garage waiting for the next one. I've got the same chair, the only thing which has been repaired is the seat, but the back is still there, you can just about see the name, it looks like an old Rembrandt now, cracked and peeling, with a cover over that, it has been everywhere with me, all over the world, I've never made a film without taking that chair. The first time the seat had to be repaired, when we were making OK for Sound who were inveterate pranksters, Teddy Knox, while he was sitting in my chair lit a candle under it, and they waited it for burn, and finally I yelled and jumped up, they'd burnt a hole in my pants and a hole in my chair, so the seat had to be repaired, although over the years the seat has been repaired several times. Because it pulls away from the nails but nothing else has been repaired, it's as solid as ever. I've often thought there's a story in that chair, because I've got stills of that chair all through the years, stars sitting in it, and people sitting in it, in various locations, they took a picture of it, I didn't know they were taking in the middle of Bal bec k ,_ the ruins, we were filming over there in the Lebanon in the middle of the desert.
RF: I have next Murder at the Windmill.
VG: That was very interesting because I knew Vivian Van Dam who ran the Windmill because I had written quite a quite few things for his shows and I had written a numbers and things, musicals, for his shows, sketches and things so I was always at the Windmill and up at the canteen, and everyone throughout the industry had tried to get permission to make a film about the windmill.


VG: Get permission to make a picture about the Windmill but Van Dam had always said no, flatly no. As I knew them I never thought about pursuing this at all until Danny Angel, Major Danny Angel, whose wife Betty Angel was one of the original nudes in the Windmill, Betty Talbot she was, Danny came to see me and said I can get the rights to do a film about the windmill, because the old man is his father in law and he thinks he would let you do it, because I'd worked with them all, so I said alright fine, when do I make it. He said you've got to write the story. You're going to producer it, oh no I don't want to get into anything like that, he'd made a few documentaries Danny, I don't want to be a producer, nothing to do with it, and I talked him into producing it, if I direct it and write it will you produce it, and I finally talked him into producing his first movie. And I sat up that night and I wrote Murder at the Windmill overnight, the story which had to be OKd by Van Dam, it was OKd, and we went on the floor, we built the Windmill in the studio, we did a few things at the Windmill but not a lot, we built it all in the studio, we did it with numbers, shot it with production numbers and everything in 17 days and it went out and made a fortune.
RF: ·which studio were you in.

VG: I would imagine Nettlefold, Walton on Thames. On the other hand I can remember doing a picture but i don't know what it was but I was at Merton Studios.

RF: It was an enjoyable film.

VG: Yes, we had a lot of fun and worked like absolute slaves to get it done and I wrote all the numbers too.

RF: From here on its a prodigeously prolific list of titles. this time you met your wife, Miss Pilgrim's Progress.


VG: I met her when I was making William Comes to Town. She was staring in Now Yesterday at the Garrick which was Laurence Olivier I s first production on his own, and Larry brought her over from America to do this. And one of the small part players in Born Yesterday was an actor called Michael Balfour, who was a character actor, and he was playing one of the heavies in William comes to Town and one night we were shooting on Engleford Green, in the pouring rain, and we were all sitting in our big limousines waiting for the rain to stop and there were four of us, Michael Balfour, Leslie Bradley who finally went to Hollywood and did quite a lot over there and myself and John Pertwee, because I started JOhn off, his very first thing was Just William's Luck, and we were sitting in this car waiting for the rain and Michael Balfour started talking about Born Yesterday, he said you must come and see it, it's a wonderful show and there's a wonderful girl in it you've got to meet her. I said ok fix me some tickets. He fixed me a ticket. I went to see the show, and afterwards I went round and he introduced me to Yo and that was when we first met. And at that time she was the toast of the town, you couldn't get near her for dates for anything, and I finally managed to get a date and I always say the only reason she cottoned on to me was because that time, after the war when everything was difficult, I was the only person she knew who had central heatign, it was that very cold winter. This is where we got together.

RF: A long and successful marriage.

VG: I must say we lived together for I don't know how many years and people thought we were married and I kept saying lets get married and she said no no no, when the church and state get together and incomes can be not lumped together but separate , I said look this is the last day of this astounding offer, shall we get married, she said yes and we got married. We got married when we were making a thing for Hammer in Hamburg, Breaking the Circle, 1955.
rf: She was in Miss Pilgrim's Progress.

RF: I wrote that for her specially. I was terribly lucky because Fox were trying to test her, every American company wanted her to test over here because she made such an enormous success in that play, everybody came and said we want to do a film test. Danny Angel came to me and said can't you talk her into doing a picture for us, Yo had done all this in Hollywood, she'd been in movies, she was under contract to MGM as a young contract dancer, they had danced and learnt with Micky Rooney and Gene Kelly, they'd practised all together,she'd done all that. I did manage to say if I write a picture you like will you do it for us. And I wrote a picture called Miss Pilgrim's Progress, which we made for Danny Angel.
RF: Were you associated with him now.
VG: I hadn't set up a company·with him, I just worked for him. There was another youngster, because Danny these days always talks how he discovered two of the best directors and when he's asked who he always says Val Guest and Lewis Gilbert, Lewis and I always kid between ourselves how Danny discovered us, as a point of fact I discovered Danny.
RF: Is Bob Angel his son.

VG: No. Danny was Maurice Angel, the theatrical costumier. His brother, he loathed Danny, Danny was also late on pay, you haven't got it, I can't undersatnd that, oh I'm sorry it was under some papers on the desk. We all had this problem with Danny , he paid eventually. One time he came to see me about his new picture and I'd seen him down to his car, because he was walking with his stick still then, I said Danny I always have trouble with this thing, I would like in future for you to pay in advance, you know I always deliver. He turned to me and said I don't know why you distrust me like this, I treat you like my own brother, and he'd forgottenhe'd told me what a complete shit his brother was and how he couldn't stand him and hated him.

RF: Producers are a race apart. Did Yolande ever go up against Judy Holliday for the part in the film.

VG: No she didn't. Gar having written it originally for Jean Arthur and they'd played it originally on Broadway and they had so much trouble with her, she was pushed out and Judy went in, Garr always wanted to make it with Judy if it was made into a film. Becauseshe'd made the big hit and was a big name. She understudied Judy and Gar saw her play in I think New Jersey and said you're a star and when Larry Olivier came over to buy the rights for London Gar said you have to come and see this girl, so Yo didn't know but Larry took her back to London.

RF: Shall we continue along the list, The Body Said NO.

VG: Another one for Yo, incidentally, in Pilgrim's Progress, perhaps I 1 11 go back a little bit to I@ll be Your Sweetheart, when we were getting ready to make I'll be you Sweetheart, there was a knock on my office door at the Bush and I said come in and in comes a very tall guy who says I understand you're going to make the film I'll be you Sweetheart and I wonder if there is any small part I can do in it, and he was Michael Rennie. I said how tall are you and he quickly sat down. He said I'm just about 6 ft, not quite, I said you're taller than that. He said no, I said stand up and he stood up and I knew he was much taller that that, and at that time we hadn't got a leading man for Maggie Lockw6od, he told me he'd done bits and pieces, not very much, he was a stand in too, I said I would like to test you for the part opposite Maggie Lockwood, and there were two, he and Peter Graves, I see yes, thank you, can you test on Wednesday morning and he went away. I knew he was staying at the White House, we had his address, so we arranged the test for Wednesday morning, Maggie was not too happy about having an unknown but she came to the test and we sat and waited and waited, no Michael Rennie so I called the White House and he was still there, and I said what happened, he said my god you weren't serious, I said yes I was, I said it's too late now, I'll have to try and set up another test, and Maggie wouldn't test again, we had to set him up with someone else, he really thought it was a brush off. Then he came down, they all thought he looked too much like a red Indian and his clothes didn't fit, so I sent him down for another test, Sidney Fisher was the tailor then who did all the film people's things, so I sent him down to have a sports jacket done, Sidney Fisher did it very quickly. We did another test with somebody else, and that was the start of Michael as a leading man.

When we were doing Pilgrim I s Progress, Michael had already gone to Hollywood and he was quite a name out there, I said why don't we see if we can get Michael back, and we got him back, at that time I think he was living with Margaret Graham and he came back and we made two of them, Pilgrim's Progress and the Body said No, because Pilgrim's Progress was a big success with Yo and Mike so we did Yo and Mike again on The Body said No.

RF: They got international distribution had they.

VG: Yes. Through Eros who either went through Universal or RKO. They were both originals I wrote for Yo mainly. And a lot of our rep company were in them, Peter Butterworth and Wilfred Hyde White and Pertwee. A whole lot of them we used to pull into every picture, I used to write bits for them.

RF: How generally did you build up your company, did you see them in plays· or films

VG: A. E. Matthews used to go through everything, I never did any thing without writing a part for him. And Arthur Hill who later went over to become quite a big television name in America.
RF: You must have some stories about A. E. Matthews,

VG: Yes, Matty was a fabulous character, a lovable old man, he became a very close friend. Always had a very wicked sense of humour. He was finding things tough on lines towards the end, but a great guy to have a round, he was always in a state of bemuzement or puzzlement but was always fabulous. There was one time when I had planned a thing called

VAL GUEST Tape 3 of 8 Carry on Admiral which is where Peter Rogers stole his titles from, that
was my original title, and nobody has ever said thank you or come to the opening night or anything.

RF: It's on the list, it's not one of the Carry ons.

VG: Nothing to do with them at all. It is a film of a farce by a writer called Ian Hay who is a very well know playwright in those days and had hit after hit after hit in London and it was called Off the Record and George Minter bought it and asked me to make a film of it and Off the Record was a terrible title, and I thought around and why not Carry on Admiral, it was all about the navy, and then George never registered that title so they just stole it. But on that particular thing, Matty, we had one particular scene which I had planned as a long moving shot with the camera ending up on Matty who had to say go stand by the window, he was telling his aide de camp, we do this many times and he never got the right thing, so I said don't worry, the moment I get off the window we'll put the board in there, the guy holding the board which says go stand by the window, just look there and there it is for you, he said this is terrible, it's just like John Barrymore having to have it all written down, awful. We did the take and I went through the whole thing, the guy went in with the board and we came to Matty and he went Willy, go and stand by that man with the board, the whole set was in hysterics, nobody could keep a straight face, and to this day I'm convinced Matty did it purposely, he was a very wicked old man, wicked sense of humour. When we did Drake's Duck he always pretended never to remember his name, when I went to see Matty about playing a part in this thing, as head of the war office, he said who's in it, Douglas Fairbanks Jnr, later when we met him another time he said is this Fairfax man anygood, and he any good and he always called him Fairfax, always pretended he couldn't remember. Another classic story at one of the Royal Command Film Performances, Matty who in his day was a matinee idol, here and in America on stage, he was there and Larry Olivier came over to him, Larry said you probably won't remember me, Matty said yes I do, yes I do, don't tell me, and he thought for a moment and said yes you used to play double bass on the Berengeria. That was the sort of humour he had, he swore he really thought that but I don't believe it for a second. Very sharp up there.
RF: He was a legend in his own time.

VG: When he was in a thing called The Chiltern Hundreds, in between shows he would lie down flat, he liked his tiple of course, he would like flat, and one day the call boy came down and he knocked on the door and said half an hour please Mr Matthews and instead of the usual fuck off which would come from Matty nothing, he knocked again and still no sound, he opened the door and there's Matty lying on the floor. He shuts the door, races back to the stage manager and said Mr Matthews is dead, panic in the theatre, call the understudy, call the doctor, they all burst in and as they burst in Matty sits up, are you alright, of course I'm alright, can't I sleep in my own dressing room, can't I have a nap. Matty heard what had happened afterwards from a member of the cast. And after the show he called for the call boy and the call boy came down looking rather sheepish, Matty said next time you call and there's no reply you open it very quietly, if I'm lying on the floor you go to the stage manager and say I think Mr Matthews is dead.

RF: Ive heard that story, it actually happened.
VG: Yes it did. Matty told me himself. What an impertinence to assume


VAL GUEST Tape 3 of 8
I am dead.
RF: What about Mr Drake's Duck.

VG: I heard a very short sketch on the radio by a writer called Ian Massiter which was called the atomic egg and I thought it was a very cut idea. It was a very short thing, about 3 pages, out of which I expanded it and turned it into Mr Drake's Duck, it was originally called Mrs Drake's Duck because I'd written it for Yo. And then we got Doug, this was again with Danny Angel, and he through his agent said he'd like it to be Mr Drake's Duck, and so it became Mr Drake's Duck.
RF: What sort of career did Douglas Fairbanks have at that point.

VG: He was very big, a big big name. He'd done one for Launder and Gilliat before that which they'd shot somewhere in Austria with Glynis Johns, it was a spy thing. Apart from the fact that the old days with Bergner and Marlene when I knew him then. But this was the first one he'd done in England for a long long time, the Launder and Gilliat. And he read the script of this and he liked it very much and so we got Doug. They got on very well Yo and Doug and we had a lot of laughs.
RF: Is he easy to live with.

VG: An absolute pro to his fingertips. He was very much emersed at the time with Buck House, the Royal Family, but it was his wife who was the social climber, not him, he just fell in with it, a terrible social snob his wife, Mary Lee, but at that time he thought he had a reallife millionairess, her first husband had been Hartford Davis, who was, Garfield who was head of Western Biscuits, very socially minded, but he didn't mind, we used to send him up and he didn't mind being sent up.

RF: No conflict between this social life of his and being a jobbing actor.
VG: None at all. He used to say be a chum and get me off early on Friday afternoon because I've got to be at Buck House Friday evening, we were shooting down in Worthing, a farm, he enjoyed being sent up too, he used to drive in in the morning, and there was long muddy drive on the farm we were on and he used to come on Fridays, when he was going to London, he used to come in with his uniform on a hangar, with all the medals on it, because he was going to some social function. On the 3rd Friday he was called on, I got the entire unit to line up both side of this drive, all of us lined up, and as this car drove up from the hotel we all stood and saluted. He pissed himself, he could take it.

RF: God knows it's bad enough now, but the sycophancy then must have been quite extraordinary.

VG: He had just had his knighthood, his American knighthood, and my assistant director, George Fowler who had been on all the pictures all the way through, later becoming associate producer, George came to me and said what are we going to call him guv, are we going to call him Sir Douglas or what, I said I don't know, you better go and ask him, so George went to Doug and sa:i:: 49

without this, he said do we put Douglas Fairbanks or Sir Douglas Fairbanks on the chair, I said I think you should put Douglas FaiTbanks and if he objects he'11 say so. Yo heard all this going on and said I've never heard such nonsense in my life. And we were going to dinner with Doug that night, and she said I want to say one thing, if you have Sir Douglas on your chair, I want Dame Donlan on mine. And he collapsed, and that became a thing, she was always known as Dame Donlan. He took all that , he'd great to work with and we had a lot of laughs and a lot of fun.

RF: He is still working, he's still writing anyway.

VG: He'd like to work very much, he'd like another film. Do you know in America he's been taking around My Fair Lady.

RF: Is there anything more to be said about that particular film.

VG: I'll tell you what might be interesting. I think it was Drake's Duck. Danny Angel said to me there's a fellow going, who we might we able to talk into putting some money into it, he sells cars, and he took me around to meet Nat Cohen, and Nat had never been involved in films or anything
RF: Had he not.

VG: Nothing at all. And Danny made me tell the story, I sat and told him the story of Drake's Duck and Nat put some money in it.

RF: And that was the beginning of his career.

VG: I think it was that, if it wasn't it was Pilgrim's Progress or the Body Said no. One of the Danny Angel ones.

RF: And he was in the motor business as a salesman.

VG: I don't know what he was, I just know he was in the car business•. RF: Were films still that quixotically financed.
VG: Yes. Danny was a great wheeler dealer and the more money he could get together the less he would have to give to the distributor. That's the way he worked, so he would own more of the picture.

RF: Was he straight in his dealings, I suppose you would have points in his pictures.

VG: I never did. He was tardy shall we say. RF: But finally he'd come through.
VG: He'd keep the interest as long as he could. RF: The cheque's in the mail.
VG: Or Betty forgot to sign it.

RF: It's interestign water.

about Nat Cohen, he took to it like a duck to

VG: He did. It took him alittle while to get going on his own. He put money in a couple of other things in the meantime. Very pleasant busines:slike,a bit gruff.
RF: Did you work with him later.

VG: No, I once went to Nat when I was trying to get a film called Expresso Bongo off the ground and I was having a terrible time and I went to Nat with it and Nat said I don't want to know about this, do they want to know about this, all this rock and roll stuff, and he turne.dit down. Later when it not only was a big success but we got awards for it both here and in America, I met Nat one day and he held out his hands and said shake hands with the cunt who turned down Bongo. I never worked with him, he was a great chum of Jimmy Carreras, so I met him with Jimmy because I did an awful lot for Jimmy.

RF: Moving on, 52 you did Penny Princess.

VG: That was Rank. That was the first time I moved to Rank. I set up this deal through Earl St John, he said OK then it had to go to the board, and oh, that Rank board,
RF: John Davis is the chairman of the board now.

VG: He never did anything about anything, he was the business man and if he didn't like someone he'd say know, but the gneral board was really a series of people there who were accountants, and you had to pass those, they had to read the script, and so on, and finally we got it off the ground, but we only got it off the ground provided I deferred christ knows what, and I did, and we got Derek who was under contract, Bogarde who was under contract to to Rank, and they wanted to turn Dirk, in fact Earl said do you think you could make a comedian out of him. Light comedy. Again it was a part which strangely enough I went to Montgomery Clift first about playing the lead in it and Monty Clift was tied up, he said I'd love to do it, then we went to Michael Wilding, he turned it down, he said I ant to get out of that vein of thing, and then we went to,. you'11 die, Frank Sinatra, we flew to the coast and Sinatra was having a very tough time, this was before From here to Eternity, and he was opening the Coconut Grove to try and do a singing act, and we were given ringside tables, he wanted as many friendly faces as possible around him; I remember Martin and Lewis were there, and he did this very good act, at the time he said I would do anything to do the movie, I would love to do the movie, and he would come over and make Penny Princess, come back and Earl St John said Frank Sinatra, come on, he's nothing, turned down. Robert Cummings was the other one, Yo had been friends with him, she was chums with his wife, but Bob Cummings was so tied up we couldn't get him. He was doing a tv series. So we had Dirk, can you teach him to be a light comedian Earl asked me. I tested him in one scene and it wasn't very good, he knew it wasn't very good, he couldn't really handle that, we finally cut it from the film. He was very good in the other stuff and after that he did all the Doctor series. But in one of his books he says poor Val he wanted Cary Grant and he had to take me. I didn't want Cary Grant, he wouldn't have been right at that time, but I did want several of the other people.
RF: Monty Clift I'm not sure he had a light deft touch

VG: Oh yes, as a person he had that camp humour, he never showed it in anything he played because he was always the neurotic this that or the

other or straight love interest, but he had waspish sense of fun and a very funny guy and was am sing to have around.
RF: Would he have played that.

VG: I think he would because it was so different from anything he'd played. And he was always dying to show that he could do something else. Anthony Perkins has to be Psycho for the rest of his life, he would love to do something different. They get into a rut.
RF: Any other memories of the Earl.

VG: It was a bit disturbing at first when you went to see Earl because he was always in full makeup. He used to wear pancake all the time. I got on, very well with Earl. I was told when you went to Pinewood Mrs St John likes to go shopping. I thought how do you handle this. I can either blot my copy book by not or blot my copy book more by even suggesting it. That was the sort of thing which at Pinewood was very much a closed shop, and very much abide by the rules.

RF: How did you handle that particular one.

VG: I decided to ignore it. To presume it wasn't true, I never know whether I did the right thing or not, it didn't rebound, I gave Earl some cigars because he was a mad cigar thing, but strangelyenough way back I had met Tris St John who was a singing trio, a very well know trio of singers like the Green sisters, she was one of 3
RF: Had he met her here or brought her over.

VG: I think he'd met her here because they were an English group and I think we had them in OK for Sound.

RF: Was it a very corrupt business.
VG: There was quite a lot of dropsy one way or the other. RF: It's a bit forbidding thinking the head of the studio.
VG: I'm only telling you what was said, and the fact that I only gave Earl one box of cigars and I worked for him a long time doesn't really bear that out, I'm not saying they were against anything, but it didn't hold you back if you didn't, one box of cigars doesn't really last all those years.

RF: No that's not corruption, but there are other people, Sidney Box arranged it to the best benefit of the family. And there were ramifications there. Del Guidice was notorious, things charged to the production ended up in his house,

VG: So was Alex Korda. But no, there was quite a bit going on in various departments, to have someone pass your budget or bond of completion, but luckily I must say I was never drawn into it, I was warned many times and I did nothing about it, quite honestly it was too uncomfortable to even accept the fact that it existed.
RF: How did the picture do.
VG: It didn't make a fortune but it did very nicely.

I VAL GUEST Tape 3 of 8

RF: Were you sorry you h d Dirk Bogarde,

VG: No he was no problem. I would have liked an international star, he certainly wasn't then. That's why I wanted someone different. It was the first of our own productions because I produced it as well and we formed out own production company while Yo was in For Dorothy A Son, they had a twosome for I don't know how many year, Yo left it to do this, left the play, which I directed as well in the theatre. It was successsful but it didn't make a fortune. It just about covered itself. They said we need another vehicle for Yo, another vehicle, dream up another vehicle, and then Yo got herself very busy and had to go back to California for something or other, so we let that go, and for the next thing we got was Runaway Bus.

RF: Life with the Lyons is listed for 53, but I have a question prior to that. You say Penny Princess was your first film as a producer,

VG: We formed our own production company called Conquest Productions RF: Who's we
VG: Yo, myself and an actor called Reginald Beckworth who was also part of my rep company and a dear close friend. He was in every picture we ever did. We formed out own company and this was the first time I ever set anything up as a producer.
RF: Did Rank finance it wholly.

VG: Rank financed the whole thing for us provided I deferred. rf: Did you get that eventually.
VG: Yes.
RF: How did you enjoy taking on this entrepreneurial role.

VG: I loved it, you were your own boss, and you could make your own decisions, it didn't depend on that office saying yes or consulting this office, you could make on the spot decisions. We had terrible troubles with that at first because first of all we were only give a little bit of money to pay units for a week or two weeks, they didn't want us to travel with too much cash, and as it was up in the mountains it was a 2 hour drive to Barcelona to get money.


' VAL GUEST Tape 3 of 8

to get money from the banks and then it had to be put in the banks. And all our equipment was held up at the French Spanish border and we couldn't get it in at all and this entire unit was sitting up in this little village we'd taken over and we were there a week and we had
. torrential rain, and no cameras and no nothing, and Rank sent someone to see us, getting through on the telephone was almost impossible, it was like trying to phone the moon, I finally got through to Earl I said Oh god we're in trouble, we haven't got our cameras and so forth and I don't have enough money to pay the unit till when this week's finished, so they sent this man from Barcelona up, English but smart What Makes Sammy Run character who was obviously doing things for Rank over there, finegling this and that, and he came up with a whole bagload of hot money, it was hot money because it couldn't be taken out of Spain because of currency and ie we'd paid it we had to say to the unit if you take it you're taking a chance if you want to take any of this back or exchange it, it was too hot, very uncomfortable, so we were there for well over a week without being able to shoot a film.

RF: As an independent, once Rank had given you the OK, did you get any interference.

VG: No interference at all, I must say this in all fairness, once the script had been, they knew I had a reputation once a script had been agreed it wouldn't change except if on location there was no gate where you say he goes over the gate so he climbs over the wall.

RF: The next thing you delivered a picture to them. We had to come back and finish it off at Pinewood of course.

Then we went over to New York for the American premiere with Earl and got very good reviews for it.

RF: Life with the Lyons is that something you'd care to expand on.

VG: Life with the Lyons was a very big radio show. And so casual the way some things happened, I met Ben Lyon in the street one day and Ben EJaid hey what are you doing. I don't know what I was doing, I can't remember now, I said why, and he said Hammer want us to do a picture of Life with the Lyons, would you like to do it with us. So I said fine. They hadn't thought of me at all, but having passed me in the street and having worked with me of course, on one of the George Black stage shows,

RF: That reminds me, you said you worked with Sid Fields on London Town, is there anythign to be said about London Town and Sid Field.

VG: I didn't do the script of London Town, what I did do was the script of all Sid's stuff because we'd worked together on his very first show, introduction to London called New Faces, at the Prince of Wales theatre,
so I knew Sid. And I worked on all his sketches and I wrote some 6£ the
material, that was the start of Kay Kendall, she was a little girl in
that, she was the kid in it. RF: Was Petula Clark
VG: She was the kid and the teenager was Kay. It was his first venture into films, He was worried about it all - it was not a good script at all, and they .got two top songsmiths over from Broadway to write the

I VAL GUEST Tape 3 of 8
score and it wasn't a very good score, Wes Ruggles was a great director, he had some fabulous credits, he directed it, it just didn't go at all, a big flop, they had everyone, the band, Tuts Camerata, came over to do the arrangements who later did all Sinatra arrangements,
RF: Do you know what went wrong with it. VG: I think it was just a very bad script.
RF: But it was in production for so long, it wasn't as if they just shot a script, they kept reshooting.

VG: Wes Ruggels needed someone firm on top of him and he didn't have anyone. I think they were overawed by his weight, because his biography read l; movie history. It didn't hang together, it was a very bad script! After it folded in America they took all Sid's routine's out of the picture and put them together and issued it as a comedy half hour and that became the rage in Hollywood, everyone had it at their parties, they
all thought he was quite fabulous. And Sinatra had special showings, it became a cult thing.

RF: It's the only watchable part of the film now.

VG: I spent and awful lot of time down there trying to hot things up it was heart breaking. Sid was also doing a show at the same time, having slight drinking problems, not a lot,
RF: Was Ruggles also sober.

VG: Wes was sober during shooting. But absolutely paralytic at night. He used to spend a lot of time with us. We became chums, then we went to the South of france on holiday and had the most terrifying nerve racking drive I've ever had in my life, was when we were staying at the Hotel de Cap, Cap d'Antibbes, and we'd been to dinner in Cannes in Wes' car, it was great going but he had so much to drink at dinner that he drove us back to Antibbes in a car on that coast road and you know how that, the most terrifying drive I've ever had in my life, I kept saying Wes let me drive, what do you mean, I'm not capable of driving, he was a great guy. I like him enormously. He had a great sense of humour too.
RF: How did he take the total failure of London Town.

VG: By the time it was a total failure Wes had gone back so don't know. We were going to follow London Town, Wes was going to do an undertaking of mine, my agent then Chris Mann, we'd had all the business talks and it was something interestingly enough Eddie Dryhurst became interested in later, the story of Rolls Royce, and I had done 2 years research, I had met all the Royce family and had all their permissions, I had everything there was to have to do this and Wes was mad about this and couldn't wait to follow London Town, but they didn't want any follow for London Town from Wes, I think Ives too was very self indulgent on that, I think he took his time, there was noone at the top saying get on with it.
RF: I think it destroyed his career, it was the last he did. VG: I think so.
RF: For some reason it was the time some directorsjust got out of hand, Caesar and Cleopatra.

VG: I don't know it. it destroyed his career because what hap ens in England really doesn't matter in America. All you do, is yes fucking awful picture, but you should have seen the units, the script they gave me, they have a million alibis, even if the people over there know about it.

RF: Maybe his career ended because of something in himself, rather than what happened here.

VG: I don't know how long after that he died, but I can't believe he didn't go back and do more movies.
The fact that a guy made a flop over here wouldn I t mean an iota of anything in America, if he made a flop over there, I don't know what his last f.ilm was before London Town, that makes sense, but what he does outside the country nobody gives a shit about, they really don I t. It wouldn't have finished his career, it might have finished it here but it wouldn't have finished it over there.

RF: Did you do any other work with Sid Field, how about Cardboard Cavalier,

VG: No. I worked with him at the Prince of Wales Theatre.

RF: Did you contribute to the classic sketches, the photographer and the golfing sketch.

VG: Yes I did. Odd bits and pieces, I didn't write them. remember to breath. He would start a speech and never stop and through, I must remember to breath, that was one. And his stop used to walk and catch his foot behind his heel, odd lines things.

RF: That was a side track, back now to Life with the Lyons.

I must go right trip, he and odd

VG: So I went and met all the Hammer boys, the first time I met the Hammer boys, the first time I met Jimmy, Mike was there but he wasn't doing much at that time. We struck up a friendship which went on a long time through a lot of films, 14 I think.
RF: lfould you like to look back on the Carreras family.

VG: James was an incredible salesman, James one day called me into his office and showed me a poster he'd got up, perhaps a dinasaur picture, wonderful thing with a girl in it's mouth, he said are you interesetd, I said yes, that will be a lot of fun, he said well write it. We've got the goahead. I said how did you get the goahead without a story. On the poster. I always sell a poster and that's exactly what he used to do. He used to have these fabulous posters, send them to America, and they'd come back and say yes. Incredible salesman. He said to me I don't· know anything about comedy, I'm no good about comedy so I'll Leave it to you. I said you don't have to leave it to me, there are 3 people you've got, Bebe, Dan and Vic Oliver, they know more about comedy than I'11 every know. That's why they lurched into comedy, because they'd never done
anything which was comedy.
RF: What had they been doing up to that point.


VG: They'd been getting an odd star, the Dane Clarks, one for each B picture they made, and they used to get them over and make them at Bray, they were then exclusive films, I never worked for Exclusive, when they became Hammer, that was the first time I joined them. They had done a lot of these things, they were programme pictures,, they hadn't really got into the horror stuff.

RF: Both Bebe and Dan went back in terms of the motion picture business. What do remember of Bebe Daniels.

VG: Bebe was the driving force of that thing, she was a very clever busines woman, she drove that whole family, she wrote the scripts, I'm talking about the radio and tv things, she had files and files that she'd brought from Hollywood of old programmes she'd bought the scripts from, I've never seen such a file of gags and routines, so she deviced all these things from all that plus what they put in themselves. She was the driving force, very stimulating lady. In the end she drove so much, it's what gave her the heart attack. She had a stroke. Because she was always very tense. Great sense of fun. Very professional.

RF: With all that drive a pleasant woman to be with.

VG: Yo and I used to go over there every Sunday and they used to have canasta parties and everybody you could meet at those parties, from the Spanish ambassador to Jeanette Macdonald, Gene Raymond, everyone who used to come to town used to come to the canasta parties, it was like a Hollywood commissary plus a St James Court, so many people there, she ran a running buffet.

RF: At

that point was there a pretty sizeable American colony in There were shortly to be the McCarthyte refugees.

VG: I don't think there was. Ben and Bebe were the two who were famous for staying here, they were here during the Blitz too, I don't think there was a big colony, not then. Ben had a terrifying temper, he had the shortest fuse of anyone I know.

RF: He always played laid back. Was he working at Fox at this time. VG: No, he was over here, he and Bebe had been doing a show.
RF: Didn't he have a job at Fox before he went back to the coast.

VG: This was after all this because he'd originallybeen with Fox, when Zanuck was there in the early days, during the Monroe period he was casting at Fox. When we made Life with the Lyons we had a lot of fun, no proble!lls unless Ben lost his temper about something. We had a producer, Bob Dunbar, I don't know what happened between them but Ben really let fly, we had to hold him back, Ben didn't take to him at all, there was bad feeling, I don't know what it was about, something which wasn'.t done or was done. I kept out of it, we would try and simmer him down, he had a big temper.

On the second one, The Lyons in Paris, we went over there, we weren't allowed to take our lamps at all, we had to shoot the whole thing without lamps, night as well, we'd get every car we had in the unit and turn the headlamps on and that was the light.

RF: Do you remember your budgets.

' VAL GUEST Tape 3 of 8

VG: I don't but they were very very tiny. It was literally a 14 day shoot or something like that, 2 weeks, 3 weeks at the most including location.
RF: They were very popular with the British public.

VG: Yes they were. I shouldn't have thought they did much abroad, curiosity pieces. But they were very cheap to make, very quick to make and we ha a lot of fun making them.

RF: Films of that type weren't made to survive, they were fodder just churned out.

VG: I,wouldn't be surprised if one of those turns up on television one day. I go through the TV Times and Radio Times, the films in them, every day and I say we're alright this week, no problems this week, some weeks you feel I better put a yashmak on and leave the country for that week.

RF: You get embarassed.

VG: Yes I do sometimes. Because some of them don't live up, and you think gosh why haven't they lost the negative. And a lot of things I would like to see again they don't put on, probably because they haven't any records. It took an awful long time to find Penny Princess. Because that went out of circulation and I wanted to get a cassette of that from Rank and all Rank had was our original 3 strip Technicolor negative, and to make a print of that would cost about £60,000 because you'd have to make a combined and a matrix and it wasn't worth it, so the Rank boys said when we do a whole lot together, eventually we'11 get that done, then i found a distribution firm in America, it had a lot of showings over there in black and white, the late night shows, and I wrote to them, Janus, to see if they'd give me a black and white copy, and they said ask Rank, they have to write to us and ask us, by the time I'd done it, it's out of their catalogue and it's gone. And then one day, I asked everybody I knew, I had people all over the world looking at film marts and things, one day Leslie Halliwell called me and said I have a feeling Grampian are oing to do it, they've got a colour print because Rank have now done a ·proper print, and I got onto Grampian and they say they are going to show it, I said can I buy a copy once you show it, I own all the copyright and I wrote and directed it and produced it, so I have a reason for wanting it, they said we've got to show it first, and they did the screening and they had so much reaction in it, they called me up and said it went down so well we're going to give you a copy. They sent us a copy, so we got our Penny Princess after, I think I I d been trying 12 years.
rf: They had a mint print off the neg.
VG: They had the best print there was. they just had a new one. A little later it's going to be shown in London.
RF: How about the Runaway Bus 54. You've got 3 for 54, Runaway Bus, Men of Sherwood Forest and Dance Little Lady.

VG: I have Life with the Lyons after Runaway Bus. 52 Penny Princess, 54 Runaway Bus, 54 Life with the Lyons, 54 Men of Sherwood Forest, 54 Dance Little Lady. This is the French rented one but it may have been a year earlier, because I couldn't believe I didn't do anything in 1953

I VAL GUEST Tape 3 of 8

RF: Since we talked about Life with the Lyons, what about Runaway 13us. VG: That was back with Danny Angel
RF: He was very active in those years.

VG: Yes, he didn't make anything that I didn't do for him at that time, having pulled him into it he rather clung to my coat tails, not because he wanted me but because he didn't dare, I remember going back a bit to Drake's Duck, Yo and I were in the South of France having a holiday and Danny called us up, the hotel, I'd written Drake's Duck then and we were trying various leading men and I'd gone away on holiday, and we were at Du Cap and Danny phoned up and said we can get Fairbanks, I said that's terrific, great, I said yes, I said that's fine, but he's flying over this cciming week and I don't want to meet him on my own, I don't know what to say to him, I need you back here, get the next plane back, so I hung up, and we tal this over and think this is nonsense spoil our holiday, he can handle it, he's the producer, let him talk to Fairbanks, I sent a telegram to Danny saying can't get flight back, all flights booked until so and so date, the next thing I know I get Danny on the phone I'm sending Zita down for you, Zita was the woman who flew Vivian van Dam's plane, they had a little plane, a tiny 1i ttle moth, a de Havilland moth, she used to be a ferry pilot during the war, she was good, I'm sending the plane to bring you back, it will be there tomorrow, so we'd done ourselves in the eye, we weren't going to go back by regular airline, we were going to go back by a tiny little plane with its canvas wings. And it landed at Cannes airport, but who was having a holiday with us but Peter Butterworth who was another one of our chums, I started off out of the airforce, he came back as an ex prisoner of war, anyway Peter was with us on holiday there, I said we've got to go there's nothing we can do, we packed out bags and Peter drove us to the airport, and we saw this plane where we were going to take off on, and this was the airport where Merle Oberon's husband had been killed on takeoff earlier, and we saw this plane, and this tiny little thing to go back to England on. And we met Zita and she was in high heels, summer dress and this was how she was flying. It was all very worrying. We got to the plane and she said come forward and hang onto the seats for takeoff, I don't want the tail too heavy. The mountains you have to get over. And as we took off Peter was standing there with a broad smile on his face, standing down below us waving. That was a hairraising trip back, we had to stop half way back and fill up with petrol at some little local airport where they were having a flying gala on a sunday, and there were little planes and we had to get down and the control tower just wasn't coming down on the intercom, there were singing. When we came down, they came along the tarmac with a big bouquet of flowers for Zita. That was just a questiron of Danny not being able to face a star, he'd never come face to face with a star before.
Where were we.
RF: The Runaway Bus.

VG: Strangely enough it was Peter Noble who has been a chum of ours for god knows how long, It was Peter who said to me what about doing a film with Frankie Howard, he was playing at the Palladium at the time, a very funny man, I said yes, he is funny, I ' ve heard him, what about a film, he's refused to do films, why don't you have a word with him. So I spoke to Danny and said what about if I can get Frankie Howard make a film, I'd

, VAL GUEST Tape 3 of 8

never met him in my life. He s a i d that's a very good i de a . See if you can. I went to see Frankie and i nt r od uc e d mys e l f . He di dn ' t want to know about doing a f i l m. He· s a i d I've seen too many of them, they've come
from radio or stage and sudde nl y your' e up there and you' re a flop, I
don't want to know about it. So I sai d if I write something specially for you and you ha ve the OK on it. He s a i d yes if it were a comedy thriller and the thriller we r e more i mpor t a nt t ha n t he comedy, I; 11 do it. Then the thriller carries the story. Also ant he r thing is I will not take s t ar billing, that's one of my c o nt r ac t ua l t hi ngs , I do n ' t want to t ake s t a r billing. I don ' t wa nt to take the can for anything which might go wrong. And I wa nt to do a picture wit h Ma r ga r e t Rut e hr f or d , of whom he was a g r e a t fan of. Apparently He gg i e Rut her f or d wa s a g r e a t fan Of Frankies. I then chased up Maggie Rut he r f or d . I said I'm going to write a story for Frankie, are you in, are you i nt e r e s t e d , oh yes , love to do a pi c t ur e . So we had t ho s e t wo . Danny t a l ke d to the di s tr i but o r s , r i ght go ahead. Tha t wa s they Hya ms Br o t he r s who were di s tr i but i ng it. I wrote Runawa y Bus a nd we s t a r t e d to make the pi c t ur e . Wh i c h we made at Southall Studios and the whole t hi ng t ake s place in a fog. An a i r por t bus gets lost in a fog and ends up in an army live ammuni t i o n training camp. It was a thriller because there were bodies and someone gets mur de r ed on the wa y . After the 2nd days s hoot i ng , we had been to the r ushes and Ma gg i e Ru t he r f o r d ha dn ' t come to t he first da ys r us hes f or some reason or other, and she came to the 2nd day and after the rushes she came u p to me and said I 1 d l i ke a word Val, I t houg h t oh Christ, she's wo r i e d a bout what she's done or hasn't done,
she said look on no condi t i on ca n I star above that man because hes' very
very funny, he is t he star of the picture. I said Maggie my contract says that you have first billing, I don't care about your contract, I'm not goi ng to al l ow my na me to g o above his. Sohere we ha ve an unhe a r d of t hi ng of the star who didn't want to be on top, and the one on top wa nt ed to be under the s t ar , we did finally work it out, I convi nc e d Frankie having got a r oug h t cut together that he wasalright t o take star bi ll i ng on it.

RF: Wha t had he done at that stage.

VG: He was a bi g radio name, and also he was in a very success£ul Palladium show in the West End .

RF : He'd also been one of t hose who'd r eal l y got h i s e xper i e nc e du r i ng the war, in ser vi c e pa r t i e s .

VG: That started a friendship, from t hat day on he s' been one of our
ver y c l os e s t friends, has been t hr ough hi s ups and downs and depressions and ups again. In fact last Sat ur da y he called up and sai d why don't we go to Hi mbl e do n Dogs so we went and had dinner t her e. That was Ru na wa y Bus, anot he r i nt er es t i ng thing wa s t ha t we had Pet Clark and it was the f i r st t i me Pe t had not played a little girl, shepl a ye d an a i r hostess in i t , she said I wa nt to grow up. I said we'11 do t hat , but t he first thing , if you want to gr ow up, is bar daddy from the set. And she didn't seer:1 to mind that, so we bar e d hi m f r om the studio, he' d always bee n he r do mi na t i ng f ac t or . And so we g r ew her up in t ha t , she was very good, at t r act i ve. That was her s t ar t .

RF : Dld the pi c t ur e do we l l .

RF : Enor mo us l y . Eve r yon e made a lot

You too, you had a pe r c e nt a ge . of mo ne y out of that.

' VAL GUEST Tape 3 of 8

VG: Yes. It comes back t_imes and time again, and it was re released and rereleaesd again.

RF: Men of Sherwood Forest.

-VG: That was a romp. Who produced that. I think it Tony Hinds. It was at Bray and Bodman Castle, that was a send up of all the Robin Hood things.

RF: Was there the television series.

VG: No that came later, no the only one which had been done was Richard Todd's, where they first called him Disney's 8th dwarf. It was fun.
RF: Ii was a time for historical pageant.

VG: I had Don Taylor who's since become a big director, Don was Robin Hood. Leslie Lindo who went on to be a big promoter, he became a packager, he played Friar Tuck, Reginald Beckworth, and another guy who became one of the heads of Columbia, very dapper man, became the head here and then went to New York and Hollywood. nd I can't remember what his name was. Nothing particularly historical about it.
RF: Dance Little Lady.

VG: That was for George Minter, a great character, Renown Pictures. Mai Zetterling, Guy Rolfe, and a big kid star of the time Mandy Miller. It was a ballet story, and we had some top ballet stars of the time xxxxxxxx, that was a rather run of the mill story that had drama.

RF: Mai Zetterling was a difficult person to cast. Was she a strong personality to work with.

VG: She was very good, we never had any problems at all. professional, never any problems.

RF: How about George Minter.


VG: He was a very strange little man, I had a great admiration for him, he had made a lot of pictures and had acertain street intelligence which he brought to movies, and was very good, as a producer once he'd said yes he didn't do much else but he had an associate producer or production manager that he'd leave it all to to be the production side. He was a very dapper little man, always had a flower in his button hole, quiet. I imagine an extremely schrewd business man. I think it was then that I met two people, one's become a life long friend until she died, the other ones always been a chum but not a close friend, Maud Spectre the casting lady, but the other one was Beatrice Dawson the costume designer, she had done A Tale of Two Cities with Dirk, I met her and she became one of our closest friends, brilliant, designed for Vivien Leigh, did the Marilyn Monroe thing, did all Larry and Vivien clothes, did I don't know how many pictures, but every star who came here from Bergman up and down would ah:ays ask for Bumble Dawson and she'd done every sort of picture, she even did the Crazy Gang pictures, and they got on famously because she was a very sophisticated lady who wherever we were in the world she knew someone. She did all our clothes except the early ones when an up and coming lady called Julie Harris who later won an Academy award for Darlign, used to do our clothes, Miss Pilgrim and all that stuff.

VAL GUEST Tape 3 of 8

RF: Where had she started.

VG: I think she had started in the film business.

VAL GUEST Tape 4 of 8


RF: Do you know where she had started, in the film business

VG: Yes I think she had started in the film business. early in stage, I know she went to the stage, she used stage productions, but she was a wonderful character. George Minter for the first time and Maud Spectre.

Unless she was to love the big I met her with

RF: It's one of the great British strengths, design, costume.

VG: We seem to have missed one, 1951, somewhere round there I wrote a thing called Happy go Lovely for Vera Ellen and David Niven, Marcel Hellmad produced it. It was a big success, they brought Vera Ellen from Hollywood, Bruce Humberston directed it, that was made at what was then ABP, because that was their biggest, it was the years biggest musical.
rf: That was sole screenplay credit.

VG: That was sole screenplay credit and I went up to Edinburgh and did all the Edinburgh sequences, I directed them for Marcel, with Geoff Unsworth, who became the Academy Award cameraman.
30th August 1988

RF: You want to go back briefly to Give us the Moon.

VG: Two things, the most important thing, when we were casting Give Us the Moon I was trying to find someone to play Maggie Lockwood's daughter who had to be an angelic looking girl but a real tearaway. I'd tested about 20 girls and Maurice Ostrer said to me you cant do any more, go back and see all the tests again and choose one of them, I wasn't really happy with any of them, and on the way back to see the tests I passed Weston Drury's office, he was the casting director for Gainsborough, and sitting in the office was a young angelic looking girl with her mother and I stepped in and said have you come about Give Us the If' oon, the mother said no we've come to see Mr Drury, he's not here and we're waiting for him. And she introduced me to the daughter, I said have you done anything before, the mother said yes, she's done little bits here and danced a little piece on that, and she gave me about 3 or 4 tiny bits she's done in movies, so I grabbed the girl by the hand and took her down to Maurice Ostrer's office and I said this girl I want, she looks absolutely right, she's done 2 or 3 little things and she sound intelligent, Maurcie Ostrer said you're not testing any more, if you take her you take her on your own risk, I said OK I'll take it, and that was Jean Simmons. After the first day's shooting Jean's mother came to me and said are you happy with what Jean has done, I said very happey, she said when will the other people see it, I said they'll see it at lunch time, she said can I come and have a word with you after lunch, I said yes of course, afterwards I forgot all about it, we had lunch and came back and during the afternoon Mrs Simmons came to me and said did the other people like Jean and I said yes fine, I said right I've got to tell you, I've got to confess, Jean has never done anything in her life before and I lied, I hope you forgive me, I said of course I forgive you. Another nice thing about that , we had a staircase on one of the sets and I used to sit on the staircase with Jean and we used to talk about filming and acting and I said one day you are going to be a star, I'm sure of that, because I was terribly impressed by what she did. She said


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I'll make a deal with you, if ever I'm a star I will always work for you for half, I said that's a great thing and I shook hands with this ittle teenager. Many years later we were casting on a film over here and we couldn't thing about who to cast and somebody said how about Jean Simmons, I said my god what a wonderful idea, although I'd seen Jean, just in passing, we hadn't really spoken for all these years, she was now
.at the top in Hollywood and we cabled her agent saying what price Jean Simmons, and availability, and a cable came back available so and so, price whatever it was, and she was at that time pregnant but the dates seemed to be alright. Less than 48 hours later I got another cable saying correrction, price so and so and it was exactly half. And they'd gone and spoken with Jean and said somebody's asked for you in England , after all those years. It was quite a thing to do. As it happened she didn't
make the movie because her pregnancy had gotten away and she was too far gone.

Now Give Us the Moon was Maggie Lockwood's first attempt at comedy, and the powers that be were very worried that she couldn't carry comedy so having brought Peter Graves in again as her leading man who is a wonderful light comedian and a great sense of fun, I knew he would jolly her along and help her through, and Maggie was very good in it, I don't know what happened to that Movie, they must have lost the print, it has never ever come up again, but it had her and it had Vic Oliver and it had Roland Culver and it had a very good cast, of very solid British character actors well known at that time, it was also the very first appearance on film of a rather strange young lady who later became very famous and that was Irene Handl, she appeared as a school mistress who was trying to take this tearaway girl in, very strange lady, even in those days she was a very strange character. She had never done a film ever and she had a tiny part, a day's work at the most.

RF: Was Jean Simmon's mum a stage mother.

VG: She wasn't actually, Jean Kent's mother was a stage mother, my god yes, but Jean's, she only came the very first day of shooting, just to see her alright and make her big confession, but I never saw her, I did afterwards, taking Jean home sometimes, I took Jean out to her first theatre, during the Blitz and then I took her back during an airraid to Golders Green where they lived and met mum, but otherwise not at all.

RF: So it was Jean Simmon's ambition rather than her mothers.

VG: It may have been mum's ambition, mum certainly helped her into that first thing, but once Jean had been launched she retired.

RF: What do you perceive in a very young inexperienced girl.

VG: First of all she had an enormous quality, secondly every bit of direction I gave her she did as if she'd done it all her life, there was a scene where she had to cry, I said don't worry we'll put tears in, she said oh I can cry if you want me to, and she did, she did a most moving scene where she cried, just out of the blue. She had such a quality which came across that you knew this girl was going somewhere if she didn't foul it up herself, a lot of them foul it up. But she had that quality that you knew she was going to be a star, she looked absolutely angelic. And as she was playing a part who was an absolute tomboy tearaway who smoke and drank and swore when she wasn't with her mother, it was a bit of acting to do that and she was excellent.

It wa s n ' t a ve r y good film, it wa s passable, I don't know if it was too sophisticated, a li tt l e way out for those da ys . Ther e was one book called Bullet in the Ba l i e t which I wanted to make a long l ong time to make but nobody would do it because the other one wasn't a succ es s , i ns t ead of blaming me they blamed the book .

. RF: Is there anything more to be said about Jean Kent.

VG: When I was doing my Askey penance, that first one, which was my first film, Miss London Ltd, Walter Forde was making a couple of stages down ITMA with Tommy Handley, and they had some singing sisters in it who were the Green Sisters who were not phot og e ni c , putting it mi l dl y , so they cast 3 girls to mime it, and Walter Forde poped into the office and said come and look at this girl on the set, she's oneof the mimers, she seems to have an awful lot of life, I went on the set and watched and it was Jehn who was miming with two other characters, and she had an enormous amount of life, andI metherafterwards and talked to her, and she was so full of ambition, she made herself disliked in the studio later because she was so ambitious, she said why don't they put the Lockwoods and Cal verts out to grass and give us newcomers a break and that sort of talk went around. I was i mpr e s s ed by Jean and I wrote a special part for her in Miss London Ltd who sells encyclopaedias to people, comedy part, and she was excellent in it, and I went to Bill Os tr e r afterwards and said I think you ought to gra b this girl, you've got something here, and finally, because he had slipped up on the other thing I t al ke d to him about, he signed her and gave her a contract. So I wrote her as leading l ady in Bees i n Paradise with Askey. I think Jean is rather inclined to say she starred in dancing things but this was actually her beginning. I know we did a very long test of her si ngi ng and dancing before we gave her the ma i n one, the Askey thing, but later wh e n we' re getting to Give Us the Moon, a f t e r the film I begged Bill Ostrer to si gn up Jean Simmons, he said what are we goi ng to do with a kid, I sai d she's not always goi ng to be a kid, she ' s gr owi ng now. He said she' s good but we ' l l never be able to use a kid. I think a little later after that she did the Gabby Pa s ca l t hi ng , Cleopatra from which she got a contract with someone els e .
RF: We're i n 1955 and the one I've got for tha t i s They Ca n ' t Hang Me . VG: It was a book by Le o na r d :1os l e y , a nd a c o upl e called t he Proudlot
br o t he r s , t he y used to go a lot of t hi ngs then, Ro ge r a nd his br o t he r had
bought the book and had got t he ms e l ves i nt o terrible trouble one way or the o t he r , financially or the di r e c t or t he y ' d got had pulled out or fired, something had gone wr o ng and they call ed me in a panic and sai d will you take this over. I looked at it and I didn't like the script and they let me r e do the script and we took it over at very short no t i ce , it was not anything I had sat down and said I must ma ke . I ca n ' t say anything else about t hat .

RF: Wh a t memories of Andre Morrell.

VG: He wa s great to work with. He was in t ha t one and later I used him in Camp on Blood Island, al so Terence Mo r ga n who never went a nywhe r e . Terry was a ve r y good actor, but somehow you could never rattle him , he was a l wa ys i ma c ul a t e , a nd often I us e d to say to him role your sleeves up, it was difficult to casualise him a nd for s uc h a good l ooki ng guy who could have got a way with any dress, it wasdifficult to br ea k him do wn . He's now a very we a l t h y property owne r , l i ve s in Br i gh t o n a nd has property all over.

RF: We're back to Lyons in Paris which we've covered. Break in the Circle.

VG: That was the first time I'd worked with Michael Carrera,s and it was the, he'd done a few odd jazz shorts, he was mad about jazz and he'd done
.a few shorts for Hammer and I thing the old man had let him do them to keep him quiet, and this was his first feature and I remember Michael saying to me, Val I look to you to help me make my first feature, what makes a feature. I said the first thing you don't do is put picture postcards on everything, because we were going to Hamburg, you don't put beautiful views of this that and the other because this is a thriller and that's not a way to make a big picture. But wehad a lot of fun on that, it was hard work. We had Eva Bartok of whom I was very fond of, she wasn't very bright, she was a big femme fatale then, she had the Marquis of Milford Haven, she was quite the thing then, she got by alright and we had Forest Tucker who was a wonderful character, also very professional.

RF: He spent a lot of time here.

VG: I did 2 with him, I did that and I did the Abominable Snowman. But Tuck had never grown up, he was a schoolboy and I remember one day in a cafe in the docks in Hamburg in between chaing set ups we had a wonderful mittel European actor called Arnold Marle, wonderful old professor type, I remember sitting in the cafe and tuck was telling us about the girls which went for him and this and that and about his daughter and we just sat there and he turned to Arnold and said you're very quiet, haven't you anything to say about this and Arnold said it is difficult to speak to you, you are a child, and this became the gag on the set, Tuck would say something to me, OK I'm a child but answer me in childish language, We did a lot of hard work and a lot of location stuff around Hamburg.

We had terrible trouble with our unit because there's all the clubs and whorehouses and we had to get our 2nd director to go out every morning and winkle out our unit from the xxxxxxxxx and in the early hours there used to be a find the unit posse which used to go out

RF: Was there just the one crew at Bray.

VG: There were two production managers, 2 1st assistants , 2 or 3 editors under the main editor, there was a double up part of the way but most of them just worked right through.

RF: Was there a house cinematographer

VG: Jimmy Harvey, Lilian Harvey's brother was the original photographer, then he left and we had Arthur Grant who was fast and great and Moray Grant was one of the operators, no relation. And the other, we had two other operators who alternatde.

RF: Budgets at Hammer were presumably very stringent.

VG: Yes, everything was done on a wing and a prayer and you just had to have your imagination shot in the morning pull it out of the bag, but itwas a wonderful place to work,

RF: Wasn't it unusual to have a foreign location.

VG: It was, they'd never done it with a big picture, they'd sent us over

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3 or 4 days on the Lyons in Paris, only because there was no way to get away with this anywhere e se. And I think Mike banged the drum to get our Hamburg location, he said we're making our first big picture, it's got to be bigger than Hammer, so he got away with that on that. Otherwise I can't remember us going away.

. RF: Were you shooting interiors in Hamburg as well as exteriors.

VG: We did shoot a few interiors but only interiors which needed the docks behind. We did the rest of the stuff at Bray.

RF: The tendency was still to build in the studio.

VG: Yes. Bray did a lot of shooting, the place next door to Bray which is now.a hotel Oakley Court, we used to be moved into there for all the spookef stuff. But working in the house, and this was before they built that 2nd stage, they only had one little stage there, working in that house was quite something because you shot back to back, that end of the room was a set and this end of the room was a set so you just turned your cameras around, time and time again the poor operator had his arse in the fireplace to get a long shot, but you certainly learned an awful lot about movie making and what can be done.

RF: Can you remember anything about he equipment which was in use. What would you have taken on location, a BNC

VG: Yes

RF: Or blimped Ari.

VG: No, not yet. Or Mitchell, blimped Mitchell. RF: Was it magnetic sound
VG: I think it was optical. But I couldn't swear to this. Also lamps in those days were big, great big arcs. You didn't have the smaller lamps, we had these great big arcs which we got from Hamburg Studios,

RF: Was it in colour. Eastman

VG: Yes they were using Eastman color because Men of Sherwood Forest was Eastmancolor.

RF: It is interesting to reflect how techniques have changed because of changes in the equipment itself.

VG: The other thing I remember Break in the Circle for is, that Yo and I had very secretly got married, and we'd been living together for so long that everybody thought we were married, so we did it very quietly, and we were married at Marylebone Registry Office and everybody was hushed to secrecey and we left for Hamburg on the day of the marriage. We· had a car that took us, no photographers because Yo was a big name then, we got ourselves to Hamburg and we were in the Hotel and it was at something like 3 or 4 o'clock in the morning, could they send a photographer down there, it had broken, it had broken because Eve Ferrick who used to be the big columinist in the Express had gone to our house in Montague Sq and had seen a whole lot of telegrams lying on the mat and had sussed it·out and this blew our cover, it was my honeymoon trip.


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RF: Co-habiting was then frowned on.

VG: Very much so. It w sn't too long before that that Ingrid Bergman had gone through all her troubles with Rossellini and had been blackballed. She had to leave America. It was quite a thing, it wasn't illegal, you couldn't get into trouble for it but it coul

RF: That brings us to the Quatermass Experiment also in 1955,

VG: I remember that we were going to Tangiers for a holiday, we used to go at the drop of a hat, it was our favourite place, and tony Hinds called me and said Val did you see the Quatermass Experiment on television which had run for 9 or 10 weeks, I said no, he said right, we'd ljke you to do it for us, adapt these 19 or so episodes and make a film or it - I said fine. We went from Northolt airport and Tony arrived with an enormous bundle of all these TV scripts, so I took them on the plane and took them to Tangiers. And on the top of the bundle was a precis, a treatment of the story, and I glanced through it one day and put it at the bottom of the bundle at the side of the bed and that was that. About half way through the holiday Yo said what about that Quatermass Experiment, I said I don't want to do that. Why not, it's a science fiction thing, I'm not mad about it. She said to me since when have you been so grand that you don't want to do stuff. She read it and said I think you should do it. So I ploughed through and did it. I would never have done it if she hadn't said that.

RF: You regarded yourself in what light, your genre.

VG: I didn't have a genre at all because I was desperately keen to do what Noel Coward said to me, never come out of the same trap twice, unfortunately he didn't follow his own advice. But it was a thing which stuck in my mind, you have to switch around otherwise you get pigeonholed, and many times I had got pigeonholed and had a terrible job getting out of it because people would say why don't you do comedy, you do comedy so well, I said I've done comedy, I want to do drama. I didn't figure this as drama, I thought it's a fun and games thing, not mad about it. Afterwards Yo told me to read it and I got immersed in it and she was right.

RF: It had been a very famous television serious so you had potentially a very large audience already.

VG: There was a big audience, but I've never made pictures because there was a big audiece, I've always done it because I like it. And many times I've been wrong, and many times I haven't been wrong but I've never done it because I thought this ought to be box office.

RF: Did you do the adaptation. VG: Yes.
RF: And did you make many changes .

VG: Yes, I had to condense it enormously, you opened it up for screen a little bit.

RF: It's by way of. being a cult film, what sort of success did it have at the. time.

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VG: Very big.
RF: And lead to sequels,

VG: I only did one Quatermass II. Brian Donlevy was in it who had been a big big heart-throb star in Hollywood, Brian was no trouble except that he could never remember what the story was about and after lunch he could barely remember anything else b.ut he was perfectly pliable. He used to say what's the gimmick here, what have I just done. I'd say just press the bell, just press it.
RF: Why was he over here, was his career on the skids in Hollywood.

VG: I: don't know, I think at that time Hammer had a deal with Lipart, Bob Lipart, and the idea was that they in everything they did should have one American name which was known so they brought him over for that, that was part of the deal.
rf: What I notice is that you were c edited with 5 productions in 54 and
4 in 55, they're all script and direction, that's some going, how do you sustain that pace.
VG: I don't know, looking back on it I don't know, I never stopped to think about it, that's all.
RF: Do you remember the kind of schedule you were on.

VG: They were very short schedules. Not like today when you take 8 10 weeks. How the hell can you do 5 pictures that take that plus the preparation. But invariably we were preparing the next one while we were doing the one we were on.

RF: I clidn't mean the shooting schedule, I mean your own personal schedule.

VG: I used to do a lot of work. I didn't think there was anything astounding in it, I was a reasonably quick writer, so it didn't take that long. I think when you enjoy your work you can do a hell of a lot more than if it's like pulling teeth.

RF: How did you write on an original subject, did you have a long gestation period or did it come and you sat down and bashed out the script.
VG No if i had to write something, most of these times they would give me a book or Life with the Lyons they just slung 65 radio scripts and
things, and all you had to do was find a story line which could encompass a lot of these things. But for original stories you have an idea, I jot it down and one day I'm going to do a story about that, and there comes a
times when someone says have you got a thriller or this, and you dig back and say yes I've got an idea, let's sit down and rough it out, and get to work on it, times like Murder at the Windmill you just sit down and concoct it over night, various other things where you just thought fast.

RF: It might be interesting to compare then and now, in the sense people sat down and wrote a script and with minor alterations it became a shooting script, whereas now other's so much agonising over a script, it

VAL GUEST Tape 4 of 8 goes back and forth and you have to change it,
VG: I have been very lucky because I have never shot a script which was not final and which was not all on paper, that doesn't mean to say that when you come to shoot it you cannot possibly do it's as it's written because the distance from a to b or it's indoor rather than outdoor because where the location is, things like that of course you change, but
· basically the script is there. I used to put a fly leaf on the front of the script, on my own productions which said, it is not a waste of time to learn these words they will be shot. So that actors were inclined, I don't know if they still are, to kick it around when we get there, not really learn them, but we put that at the beginning of the script that people realised that we meant what we said. And of course there were odd changes, only very minor changes, or you needed extra dialogue because you couldn't travel from a to b with those few lines, or there were too many lines, or an actor said I can't say it that way, can I say it this way, they are normal changes. Basically the script was there.

RF: How long would a script take you on average.

VG: To write, there are many times that you have to burn all the oil that you've got and get it out in a week, a full shooting script from scratch,

RF: And that you could do.

VG: Yes, that would be the first draft. Then you'd maybe take another week slogging at it, I've just done a script last year of a film we're going to do a little later of a Dennis Wheatley book called the Haunting of Toby Judd, two other companies took an option on the book and couldn't get a script out of it, the most difficult thing I have ever had to write in my life, to get a script out of this book, the story's there but as it all happened inside the guys mind and the guy is in a wheel chair and you can't tell any story he doesn't see as it's his story, it took me 9 months before I liked that, some things take longer. But normally, in the old days we used to do a script in 4 to 5 weeks at the most. Later you got perhaps 6 to 8 weeks to do a script, Boys in Blue I think I did in 5 weeks.

RF: How long would you like ideally to prep a picture.

VG: 3 months, that's if there are location abroad, but a couple of months should be enough. Unless they're very difficult locations.

RF: And then afterwards you pretty well prepared and Like Hitchcock shooting is a formality.
VG: Except that I loved to do it and Hitch didn't.

RF: Even on that schedule which is quite tight by present standards especially getting the thing off the ground, 5 pictures I would have though was enormously pressurised, it indicates too that you were in demand.

VG: Yes I was I'm glad to say. been started then and not done might have been the tail end.

But when you say 5 the last one may have till the following year or the first one

RF: But even so it's a lot of movies.

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VG: I counted up actually, the number of movies I've done, either written, .or directed and produced, the Dennis Wheatley one will .be 95. These are features, I ' m not counting any of the other things, and that's without the Formbys which were done under cover and various odd t hi ngs like that.

RF: There after you let up a little. 56It's a Wo nd e r fu l \vo rl d .

VG: Yes, where George Cole first hadto learn to dance. With Ted Heath and his Band, the only film he ever made playing himself in it, I did the score with Ted and his wife Moira, and it was quite an experience, it featured their band and the people in it. I wrote some of the point numbers. It was originally called It's a Gr e a t Life but then we found there was an American film called that

RF: 57. Carry on Admiral.

VG: It was originally a play by a very famous playwrite called Ian Hay who always had hits on in the West End, indeed the first time I met a young girl called Joan Hickson, Joan was then playing the same age as she's playing now, she was always the elderly lady. And was a very funny Margaret Dupont from the Marx brothers that type of foil, in al l those Ian Hay farces. And this onewascalled Off the Record and George Minter approached me to see if we could make a film of it and we knew we c oul dn ' t used the title Offthe Record and it was a bout the navy and I came up with a series of titles about which we agreed we all liked Carry on Admiral. It was pilfered Willy Nilly when they came the Carry on Series.

I had a wonderful old guy, Matty. I remember we were shooting down in Portsmouth on the docks and Matty used to go to lunch in his admi r a l ' s uniform and everybody was s t andi ng to attention and saluting all over the place, and I said you musn't do that. He said why, you know, this is a naval centre and everyone is saluting you, he said I can't take my uniform off just to go to lunch. I was terrified we were going to get into trouble,

RF: How old was he

VG: I don't kno w. Next was Quatermass II, I' 11 tell you someone else who I used to give small parts to to help him a l ong , Bryan Forbes, and Bryan said I don't know why you cast me, he became like the rep company.

RF: What did he play in Quatermass II.

VG: I think he played a security gua r d . We had terrible trouble on that because we were supposed to have a whirlwind and we were shooting it up on a hill and we had every known aeroplane engine there and I very carefully had to plot every scene that Brian Donlevy was facing the machine otherwise his toupe would have blown off, so he always had to face it, it made a lot of shooting difficulties, because it took off once and they were trying to catch it like a bat. He was never worried about it, he wasn't worried he wore one, he wasn't embarassed or self conscious.

RF: Was Bryan For be s then also manifesting desires to move on,

VG: He used to write, he used to do the odd screen plays here and _ there, he wasn't the well know s c r e e np l a y writer he became before he became a

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director. He was an actor who was trying to make some pennies writing. He was a very good actor, first rate,I have seen him in so many different kinds of parts excellent n all of them.

RF: John Longden, is an interesting name what are your memories from this film.

· vG: Not a lot, I remember him from way back, he was a big big star, very nice. I think he was having a tough time then, and our casting department said if you can use him do, another one like that was John Stewart, he was the heartthrob of all times in silent movies, Roses Of Piccady, and I used him as a small bit. Moore Marriott, who was a bloody good character actor, he was a big heart throb, he was a matinee idol in silents, and the early talkies which is difficult to put with Hardbottle. I remember Moore Marriott and John Stewart on cigarette cards.

RF: The Abominable Snowman. Then again Hammer went abroad, we went for one week, one week only into the French Pyrenees to do a thing with doubles, we never had any of our characters there, as half our characters had not been cast at the time we had to do some quick thinking and take an average height. That again was Forest Tucker and Peter Cushing, I adored Peter Cushing and that was the only film I made with him. I wish I'd made 100 more. He was more fun to work with because he has an enormous sense of the ridiculous and fun and after a very dramatic scene he'd do knees up mother brown, a wonderful character who always had a million props which he'd worked out and we used to call him prop Cushing, because he always had so much business to do which when you said action would suddenly happen during the scene, it din't change the scene but it gave him something to do,

RF: Kept him fresh.

VG: Yes, brilliant at that he was. He would only do them when he was talking he would only do them in his scene. I remember we had a scene in a monastery up in Tibet and we had what was supposed to be a jeti's tooth which the grand lama of the monastery had brought out from their sacred shrine and Peter played a natural history guy, who had come out with the American to search for the yeti, and he's given this tooth to look at and he inspects it and it's fine and then he has to do a lot of talking while he's inspecting it, when we came to do the take once he had got this in his hand he brought out a magnifying glass which he looked at the end, and put that down, and brought out a nail file and just scratched a little bit of it, he had worked this all out and he had a tape measure to measure it, that was not in the script, that was Peter who had worked it out to make it more interesting. After I said cut we all went into histerics, we knew Peter but we weren't expecting the tape measure which was the crowning touch.

RF: Had the horror films started at Hammer.

VG: I was not connected with the Horror films, that was the nearest I got to a horror film, written again by Nigel Kneale who wrote the Quatermass.

RF: Was he one of the regular writers. VG: No.
RF: Was Peter Cushing under contract to Hammer.

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VG: 1 don't know.
RF: How did the picture do. VG: I believe it did very well.
RF: Did they ever give percentages.

VG: No they never did that, the first time I got a percentage was up the Creek, I mean from Hammer, I had percentages on early things like Mr Drake's Duck, but not from Hammer.
RF: Does that bring us to Camp on Blood Island.

VG: When I read the original story, the reason that this came to being was that someone had met the manager of the Lyric Theatre, who had been a prisoner of war and had some odd bits of diary that he'd written on toilet paper, everything he could find, and they had one or two things in them, they weren't a publishable diary, I think it was Tony Hinds who said what a terrific idea to do a Jap prisoner of war camp. So from the odd notes of this thing we wrote, I think Jimmy Carreras got a poster up to sell the whole thing and we had to write to· the poster. And it started from that. I thought we've got to go to Burma, no sand pits, Maidenhead. We built the camp on the Bray lot with a lot of palm trees.

RF: Was it by their standards a high budget film VG: It was.
RF: Were you producer on that. VG: No
RF: Did you always have a hammer producer assigned to you.

VG: Always. That was Tony Hinds. Tony used to do a lot of writing under a strange name so a lot of these Draculas and Frankensteins who'll see strange names up there which are really Tony Hinds, Tony was very quiet, very quietly adamant about things, it was very difficult to talk Tony round to something, he was always there, I never felt Tony was there on my side, I felt he was there on his side, and it was very difficult to find a meeting ground. Going back to Quatermass in the very last scene in Westminster Abbey and the monster is in the rafters being televised and Jack Warner he was in charge of this terrifying case and when I saw the call sheets for the following day Jack Warner wasn't on it, and I said to the assistant who was then Jimmy Sangster, now the writer, I said you haven't got Jack WArner down, he said no, Tony Hinds won't have him. I said why. He said because he's gone over, too much money. I said this is the last scene in the pictures, he's been following the monster all the way through, we've seen him go into Westminster Abbey, we've got to finish with him. He said sorry guv, he's £200 a day and it's gone over, and the budget will go over. I said this is absolute nonsense. Go now on my authority and call Jack Warner to be here tomorrow morning and I will
personally pay the £200, and if anybody says anythign tell Tony Hinds I
am personally paying for Jack Warner to be there. I was in the middle of shooting and I didn't have time to go and talk to Tony and I knew once Tony had made his mind up he'd made his mind up, but you couldn't


I VAL GUEST Tape 4 of 8
for £200. Mind you that was quite a good day's salary. So Jack Warner was called, and I said don't forget to give me his slip. I'11 send a cheque to his agent. An nothing ever arrived. And sometime later, it wasn't the end of shooting the film, I said you havne't given me that chit, he said no, Tony's paid it. And Tony didn't talk to me for nearly two months. I didn't want to broach it myself. I said let it wear

off, one day we were going on location to some other picture and Tony said I 1 11 give you a lift, and on the way there he said I I ve enjoyed working with you Val but you're a stuborn bastard, I said you're a
stuborn bastard, I'm not stuborn, I'm just trying to do the best picture I can, anyway we made it all up. And we were chums thereafter.

RF: It makes you wonder why he would do a thing like that, was he scared for his job.

VG: You have to realise that Hammer films were a religion, you make them in so many weeks, you did not go over, you make them for so much money, you did not go over. That was you catechism, those were the commandments. Yes Warner had gone over and we had gone over by a day, and one way or other Tony was trying to keep to the catechism

RF: It's an extraordinary decision not to work with the principal at the climax of the picture.

VG: That's true in one way but in another way I can see Tony not going into it, he didn't go into it very closely in those days, I can see him not going into very closely the fact that does it matter, the big thing is the monster and the monster being burned, does it matter if you don't see one of the actors. I would imagine that.

RF: Were they serious or were they playing.

VG: Jimmy didn't, it was a big business to him, he was a great salesman, Mike took it terribly terribly seriously, so did Tony Hinds, they were pros. Mike Carreras could again be as tough as hell but Mike Carreras was one of the best producers I've ever worked under. You always knew that the backing was there, you knew he was one your side, yes he was on the company's side but he knew you were also trying to be on the company's side and he would try and help you to do that.

RF: It seems you were on a good Hammer wavelength because you speak of Michael Carreras in such good times, whereas others couldn't stand the man and despised him as a producer.

VG: I have never met a producer in all my career who sat down and worked out on paper every single move I'd be likely to make. And have his entire cast down, even to the bit players so he could work out a schedule of the dates that we could call them and not call them, or save money by not calling .them here and having them on that day, and then coming to me as a director saying is this going to work. On Hell is a City,·being up in Manchester and working with the police and things on the moor, terrifying difficult things, we had to work in with the police on days when we couldn't have the cars, on days we couldn't have the 100 police we needed for the raid, and I never had one worry about that, Mike on every single morning would have it on paper for you.

RF: Did he also have a creative input.


'VAL GUEST Tape 4 of 8
VG: Yes. On scripts Mike was very good at saying I don't think that's as strong as you think it is, and you would look at it and say )ou're right, it needs goosing up or taking out.
RF: Did the director stay with the film on post production.
.VG: I did always, I've always done that, I've always delivered my own cut and then gone through with the producer to see what other ideas he had.
RF; Would you cut substantially be the final version.
VG: Yes. Because I shoot very much, I cut very much as I shoot, not in the cutting room, my angles, I know what I want in that scene to- be and I know w ere I want to use my close ups and overs, and I don't cover a
lot o·f stuff. I always give myself enough cover.- A lot of·people·just
have 3 cameras going or they do it 18 times with different lenses and throw it at the editor and say it's all yours and·if it doesn't·turn·out right it's the editor's fault.
RF: What you regard as your cover.
VG: I would shoot a master, but not necessarily the whole scene because I know I could never use the· rest of the· master', I wo;ld do a major proportion of it. · And then do· overshoulders and pick up the odd spots which dramatically needed close ups. You had to do it, with that sort of shooting ratio.
RF: It wasn't just time, you also had a stock allowance did you.
VG: No, they were very good with that, but I've always been very lucky I've always come in under my allowance because of that. I didn't have to worry about the allowance, if I needed more I needed more, too bad. Over the years, the Gainsborough years and seeing how Marcel never over covered and learning basically from that what was needed, I planned things out, I had my blackboard and I'd drawn my overshoulders in there and I knew what lines I was going to use these for.

RF: oN any occasion when you might have got behind did this cause pressure on you or anybody on the set, the assistant director, or production manager.

VG: The production manager would have been told by the producer come on push him on, see what's the problem, but I can't remember, sometimes I was in a position to say I know I've gone over on that but we can pick it up on this thing here, don't worry, because you've given me a day on that and I only need half a day.
RF: So what you call the discipline was in essence inviolable. Very good discipline

VG: I'm not saying none of the Hammer picture ever went over budget, but they went over budget but they went over in as much that every Hammer film was budgetted at less than they expected the actual budget to be. So they always had something in hadn. It was a contingency as such. But never put down as a contingency.
RF: But you were aware that a contingency existed in somebody's mind.

, VAL GUEST Tape 4 of 8
VG: You had an idea, you weren't ever told.
RF: Camp on Blood Island·was a considerable success.

VG: An enormous success. Funny because I found myself for the first time playing against myself with two enormous successes, because Camp on Blood Island was playing at the London Pavillion, I had up the Creek at the Warners, and that was an absolute smash smash, Up the Creek, and we were playing against each other. And I thought of all times to have 2 pictures on doing enormous business, you'd give anything for one to be on only so you're not pulling each other's crowds.

RF: This was the time when one could walk from Piccadilly Circus down to Leicester Sq and see quite a number of British films on the marquee.

VG: I suppose so.
RF: We now come to Up the Cree.k

VG: The original story was written by two guys who'd done a lot of television, they came to me with this idea of a movie and I liked it enormously, so I sat down on spec and wrote this script. I took it first of all, having written the script I had seen a comedian on the television called Peter Sellars who was doing a thing called Son of Fred, I thought he was a terribly funny guy, at the time my mother in law had a flat in Montagu Sq and she was going back to California and she came to me there's an actor called Peter Sellars who wants to rent the flat is he all right. I said yes let him have it. So we knew Peter not well but vaguely, and I thought he was a brilliant comic, so I wrote this thing for Peter Sellars and as I'd worked with David Tomlinson I thought this would be a great combination. Peter Sellars had done a bit but he'd never played one character throughout the whole thing, I wasn't sure if he was capable of doing it, he wasn't sure himself. With the script I went to George Minter first, he didn't want to know about it, unknown actor, peter Sellars, and I hawked Peter all round Wardour St, I went to British Lion, nobody wanted to know. So I went to Jimmy Carreras and Jimmy said we're not very good at comedy, which is what he said about Life with the Lyons, but there he had a known thing to sell, he said alright if you think so, but Peter Sellars, you've got to get another name in there because he doesn'tmean a thing. So we packed him round with Tomlinson and all the old stand bys, Tomlinson, and so we made the picture and it was a bombshell of a success. And I remember before I started what kind of character shall I play, I don't know how to h old the character, so we drove round London and we stopped behind the Shaftesbury Theatre, it's now a fire station, there was Peabody buildings there where now the big garage is and there were tenements and there was a guy, Paddy who ran the car park and was always very gruff and rude, and I said Pete try this, I drove Peter there, and we got to the barriers, no room, no room, and I kept him arguing for quite a long time, then said OK and we drove away. And I said is that a character for you. He said yes.
RF: Is that what Sellars always needed.

VG: Yes, he needed to see somebody or hear somebody and he wasn't sure if he could keep this character up the whole film, he was so used to doing odd characters and throwing them a way and doing another character.

VAL GUEST Tape 4 of 8 RF: Peter at that point was relatively uncomplicated.
VG: No he was complicated then but he hadn't got quite so complicated and he'd come and cry his eyes out. And his wife then, Ann, was a real dolly girl, wonderful person, sweet, looked after him, put up with it all, she put up with a lot, he had very highs and very lows, he was a manic depressive then and you had to hold his hand every now and then. We were very sad when that all broke up.
RF: You presumably had to keep an ear on the accent.

VG: Yes. But we had a lot of laughs on the picture. through all right.

RF: }fuen did you have an idea you had such a success.

It all went

VG: I always thought it was a very funny picture, when we'd done it, I thought every one in it was funny. I thought the situation was terribly funny, we had great hopes for it. But I never expected it to take of like it took off. I expected it to be a success. But not that it would be a box office wham bang thing.

RF: How did Carreras handle a thing like that, as a salesman he must have got behind his product.

VG: When he saw the film he got his advertising people, he saw it and thought it was a funny film, so they went out and sold it. But the main advertising came after the critics and the first week at the WArners, when he saw the receipts at the Warners, he doubled his advertising.

RF: What about Tomlinson.

VG: Everybody told me what a difficult character Tomlinson was and I remember going back a bit to Up the Creek, he would be wonderful to be given a destroyer to take over without realising it was in mothballs and I called him up one day , the other difficult person was Nigel Patrick, I said I have a fabulous part for you, he said when are you going to send it, I said it's a great part and I'm sure it will be a wonderful picture but I'm terrified to send it to you, why, I said because I've been told it's toss up whether you or Paddy Patrick are the biggest shits in the business, there was a terrible silence, they don't say that, they do David, I can only tell you I'm professioanl, I always know my lines, I'm always there on time, the only thing I cannot stand is intoleranec, I said people intolerant of you, he said no I'm intolerant of people who don't know their job and don't know their lines. I said alright, I'11 send it to you. No problems on that picture at all, he was wonderful all the way through, and on one of the last days in Weymouth, the ship we were working on had to be in S ez, it had to leave for Suez by noon or the followign morning and we only had the one day and the sun was going down and we had two shots to get on it before it got dark and we lpst the shot forever. I said to David come up out of there , go stand on there, he'll give you a mark there and you go and stand there and you play the scene across there. He said oh, I thought it would be better if I went there, I said what did you say Paddy, he said you bastard, I said let's do it and we did it. He was one of my close chums David, adored him, never had any problems, probably because we got on the right footing.
RF: 1959 Life is a Circu,s back to Bud Flanagan and Jimmy Nervo.


, VA L GUEST Tape 4 of 8
VG: The whole gang
RF: Were they all in it. ·


VAL GUEST Tape 5 of 8

RF: 1959, Life is a Circus
VG: That was British Lion and a chap called Smedley Ashton called me up and said we want to make a picture with the Crazy Gang are you interested. A said yes. He said that they'd mentioned me. So the whole idea was to write a picture for the Crazy Gang, so there we were writing again for the Crazy Gang and all the boys got together again and we put up this big tent in Windsor, near the Castle, and they were exactly the same, they'd not changed. We had Shirley Eaton in it, Michael Holliday who was then a top singer who sounded exactly like Crosby. I wrote sketches for them, and I think that is the only thing in existence of Bu and Ches singing Underneath the Arches, because I wrote a sequence in where Bud with his rag and bone cart, because the circus folded, going down by the arches and seeing Ches in that and they meet, they say how's things, fine, and they sing Underneath the Arches. It was a very moving little piece.
RF: Did the film work.
VG: It worked but had become dated. I think no matter how much you try

to update it it's difficult, it wasn't a succes.s money but it certianly didn't make anything.
RF: Was that the last time they were together.

I don't think it lost

VG: They probably did a show together, but it was certainly the last time on film. In fact they started to drop off after that, they were all falling off their perches one after the other. There was one very funny thing when my assistant came to me and said Bud's not going to work on Wednesday, I'll tell it the other way round, we wanted to do a chase out of the circus with a red indian Buffalo Bill Cody coaches running amuck and going right through Windsor Park and we couldn't get permission from Windsor Park, I said to Bu you know Philip, you're old buddies, can't you pull a few strings, so Bud phoned up, got Philip who pulled the strings his end and we were allowed to shoot. Then when the guy came to me and said Bud say he's not going to work, it's Yon Kippur, and he doesn't work on Jewish holidays, since when for Christ sake, anyway he's not going to work, I spoke to Bud, he said on any other day I'll work extra. So there was a big production meeting what are we going to do, had I got enough shots to shoot around him, somebody said, my assistant, why doesn't someone ring Philip and ask him to do it. As it had been done the other way round. I went to Bud the following day, I said did you get a call from the castle, no, why, never mind you'11 be getting it probably, what's this, Prince Philip was going to call you, what about, Yon Kippur, he gave you Windsor Park, now he's going to ask if you'll give us Yon Kippur, he laughed so much about this he gave it us..

RF: Was the that serious, was he a practising Jew.
VG: No , I don't know what he was going through then, whether at some later date he said I was kidding, because they were terrible practical jokers.
RF: Yesterday's Enemies.


VG: That was from a television play, a very strong play which I scripted and opened it out and made it into a film. Again the whole thing n the Burma jungle, the whole fi'lm took place in the Burma jungle.
RF: Are you being typecast now.

VG: Maybe, except I really did want to make this picture. It was a Hammer picture, I think it was Mike who had seen the television play, I hadn't seen it. But Mike was the producer and said will you do it with me. It was a very strong story. And we never got away anywhere for that either. I said can't you talk the old man going even for just a week to somewhere tropical. So we built it all in a sand pit and the river was built inside Bray studios, swar.ip, and the jungle was a brilliant piece of work by Bernard Robinson who was the resident art director at Hammer. He built us a jungle on the big stage at Shepperton which was all on revolve so you I could change your setting by just swinging this piece and that piece. So there was a village which swung around and became jungle the other side. Terrificpiece of work and we shot the entire thing, we had a little bit that we went out and shot in a sand quarry somewhere near Bray where we planted a million palm trees, Brian Forbes again was in it playing one of the soldiesr, we had a big premiere for the Burm Star Association at the Odeon Empire, and Mountbatten was guest of honour and I sat next to him during the screening and he kept saying to me I know that piece of jungle, that was North of Penang or South,I said I'll tell you afterwadrs, after the film he said I must know where you shot that film because I know that whole local, I know I've been there and I can't place it, and I broke it too him very gentlyit was Shepperton Studios. And he was astounded. He felt he had made a fool of himself. I said no it was a great compliment to us that we'd made it real. We got all sorts of awards for that too. Mike Carreras at his absolute best with his charts and logarithms of that jungle set, what we should need each day and which soldiers we would need, unbelievable worked out and wonderfully worked out. We would say there were 3 soldiers, a sergeant and 3 soldiers who had no s peaking part, and he would say let's number them or name them which we did and he would put this down on his complete list so you didn't have 3 soldiers. You knew the 3 soldiers which saved an awful lot of trouble with casting. Very meticulous.

RF: Did he ever pull Rank, not as a producer but son of the house.

VG: Never. The relationship between the two of them was non existent, utter hatred, it was very sad that. When Michael finally broke away from Jimmy, Michael swears that Jimmy pulled every stop to stop him getting his pictures off the ground. Jimmy may have another story, Michael fucked up the whole thing. But they were never in cahoots, very sad. How Jimmy is getting on, and when Jimmy has been in the hospital and Mike and Jo goes and stays in Henley in the house and stay occasionally, they're there but there no It was always a well known thing in the Hammer thing that there was always great friction between the two and not a creative friction. A lack of respect, which made nike even more want to show his father he can really do it, which is why he put so·rnuch work into it.

RF: I have on the French list, after Expresso Bongo, Id, what does that mean.

VG: I don't know. It was called Expresso Bongo all over Europe. I

r emem be r seeing it in Venice one t i me , we went over a br i dge , and I said to Yo we have to look in on this, andeve r yon e speaking I tal i an , e v-e n Yo, quite ext raordi na r y . But-it was still Expresso Bongo . Bongo was wr i t t e n by Wolf Ma n kowi t z for the s t a g e . And nobody had done anything about making a film of it. I hadn't thought of it, I'd gone to see it and thought a fun, i nt e r es t i ng t hi ng , but I didn't i mme di a t e l y think wh a t a film.

RF : It was a cult musical of the 50s.

VG: Yes, Johnny Scof_ield, Millicent Ma r t i n and Susan Hampshire. And there wa s one ni ght we were a t a party at Peter No bl es and Wolf was there and we were cha t t i ng , I'd known Wolf for ye a r s , and he said can ' t you ma k e a film of Bongo . I said I don't know , I haven't t hough t about it, well think about it for Christ's sake . Make a film of it. Eve r yo ne s t a r t e d to join in and Peter No bl e said it's a bloody good idea, ha s n ' t someone bought the film ri ght s . \folf said no they haven't, I don ' t unde r s t a nd why. And it was about t o come off because it ha nd ' t bee n that much of a s uc c e s s . And I s a i d I' 11 come a nd see it a ga i n so we went t o
see it on the last night. I saw it a ga i n and thought it's a good idea, it's cont e mpo r a r y , but we don't want to go t o t he South of Fr anc e , the last act we nt to the So ut h of Fr a nc e . Keep it all in Soho. We went
backstage af t er wa r ds , and I thought Hampshire was terrific in it, just a little bit , shewas nobod y . And I we nt to saw her at t he back and said would you l i ke to do t he film if we do a film of this, and she said oh yes, she had never done a film. If this comes off you can have your original pa r t in i t . Wolf and I did the s c r i pt and we went ahead . Larry Harvey, again we had an accent trouble. Larry said how do you s ee this guy , he ' s par t American, his accent is part American, part Jewi s h , part Soho, part Cockney, it's a mixture. And he said like Wolf, I said abs ol u t e l y right, like Wo lf . So this is the accent, we ha d meals together and Larry l i s t ene d to Wolf, and Wolf never knew this to this day he doesn't know t hi s . La r r y said watch me for god sake don't let me l os e it, a nd a c o upl e of t i me s I said to La r r y watch it, you've lost it. And we would call up Wolf whe r e ve r he was and La r r y wo ul d talk to him a bout some fictitious thing l i ke ma ki ng a date, and he ' d come back again and say al r i ght I've 3 o t it.

RF : You we r e t he producer, how did you set up the pr oduc t i o n .

VG: I went to Stephen Balosh 1., ho I had worked with and >li c ke y 13alcon, Br i t i s h Lion came in, there was no t r o u bl e in getting the mo ne y . We had La rr y and Yo a nd Cl i ff Ri c ha r ds . I must have seen every rock singer
there wa s , t r yi ng to cast Bongo , I ' d seen Mra t y Wilde and Billy Fur y and
s ome body called me up on day a nd said do you know the Two Eyes Bar i n Soho . I said no I don ' t . We l l go to the Two Eyes Bar and down in the bas e me n t is a yo ung guy singing t here and the guy who runs the pl a ce i s Tom Li t t l e woo d , so I rang up Tom Littlewood and sai rl i s he o n . He said yes he's on this we e k . So I went down there, this tiny cel l ar , not much bigger than this r1nd there was Cliff and the Shadows who were then called the Dr if t e r s , tattily dr e s s ed in jeans, and I l ook ed at him and thought this is our gu y . So we go t Cliff with hi s mo t he r , he was unde r a ge so his mother had to sign his contract. So I asked him to come and see me and I said do you think you can do this and he said oh yes. He ha d pl e nt y of confidence and we s i g ned him up and I think we paid him

RF : As much as t ha t .


VAL GUEST Tape 5 of 8
VG: He had to do all the singing, he had a lot of numbers, it was a musical and prices as up on that. So this was the st rt of Cliff. Cliff said to me could my mates be in it too. I said oh e'll find something for them, so I wrote them into one of the coffee bar numbers playing behind him. As there was a thing called the Drifters they had to rename themselves the Shadows. Cliff was wonderful because he was only a kid them but every day he wasn't working he would say can I come down and watch and he would come down and sit on that set and watch.

RF: Was he as wholesome then. VG: Yes.
RF: Unlike Mr Harvey.
VG: But Larry was a lot of fun, a great character, but he could be very bitchy too.

RF: Where did this figure in his career.

VG: He'd done Room at the Top. And I think he'd done Butterfield 8 in Hollywood. And when he finished, on the last day shooting of Bongo he was flying off to do the Alamo. Bongo became a cult thing in Hollywood and Frank Sinatra had a copy and showed it at a party for Larry's arrival. I never had any problems with Larry Harvey. I think an awful lot of thing about people having problems with actors is because the actors don't have confidence, actors and actresses are the most lack of confidence people you could ever hope to meet and no matter no big, every star as such working with someone new their thought psychologically is that I've got to watch this guy because he is liable to fuck up everything I've spent
30 years building and until you get their confidence you have a lot of problems. Mind you there are people who are born problems as well, people like Steve Cochran when we made The Weapon, he was a born problem. There are certain people who are problems. I was told Lizabeth Scott was a great problem but I didn't have any problem with her at all, in fact she used to come and confide all her problems to me and she had enough problems because her name had just been found in the call girl's book, in New York, in that big trial, I'm sure it's a matter of confidence.

RF: One you understood actors because you'd been and actor yourself, secondly it sound as if you had very congenial sets, it sound as if you've enjoyed yourself.

VG: We always have done. 1ainly because I'm always working with a lot of people who've always worked with me before. So a lot of them I think are ahead of me.

RF: And a lot doesn't have to be established in terms of relationships.

VG: Larry had no problems and Larry was a difficult character. I know when he was married with Maggie Leighton, we'd go for lunch to the Caprice, the four of us and we'd be in absolute agonies because they['d pick on each other, insult each other, tear each other down, they got their kicks that way. But Larry had a terrific sense of humour, you could kid Larry out of things. You just had to know the button to press.

RF: But at heart was he the Sammy Glick character

VG: Yes, the wide boy. He certainly was. His whole relationship with


VAL GUEST Tape 5 of 8
Jimmy Woolf, it was good for him. I never forget on the last day of shooting on Bongo, we were in the bedroom scene, and there was a VE;_netian blind, it was Maisie's bedroom, they shared, a filing cabinet and on the cabinet was a vase with some fake flowers, and I took his last shot, and he wasn't flying for two days, and he was terribly unhappy about it, and he came to see the rushes the next day. It was perfectly alright, he said I don't like that we've got to do that again. I can't do that again now and you're off in two days, you've got to find some time to do it. I
said look leave it with me , if we get time I' 11 call you at Grosvenor House, 1,ihere he lived, and he said you bastard, you won't call me, I said if we have the time we'11 do it, don't worry. Off he goes. The pietures finished. When he went to the Alamo, when he got there in the de s er t I sent him a telegram am holding Venetian blinds, filing cabinet
and vase of flowers, what shall I do with them, and back came the answer up Jimmy Woolf's.

That was the first time movie that moving nudes had ever been used on film, because we had our nudes in the strip show sequences, we had two versions, continental and English, which we always had to do in those days. Where the English had to have tastles on the nudes which made them far more indecent. The girls thought it was quite indecent to have to wear these tastles.

RF: Who was the censor.

VG: John Trevelyan. I used to invite him down to look at it, this is not badis it.

RF:That was a very effective way of nobbling him was it not.

VG: Yes. I had a shot of two people nude in bed a nd the guy was very romantically and gently running his hand down her body, and I had the censor down to show this scene, I said come and see this, he said don't mind it at all but you've got to cut be f or e it r eac hes the pubics, and I said John, you've got a thing about pubics, he said we don't have a thing but we don't like t hem touched. I've never forgotten that and I had to cut, that was Au Pair.

RF: That was in more enlightened times. Because to give him his due he did try to enlighten things, if slowly.

VG: The great thing about John is that he'd love to be called down to watch a scene whi c h might be dicey, he used to get a great kick out of t ha t .

RF: Have you ha d much trouble with censorship.

VG: Not here, we once had a fairly funny letter from the American censor, on one wi t h Diane Cilento, The Full Treatment. In that Diane Cilento swam nude because she had a very traumatic experience and she wanted to swim to cleanse herself, we got a letter from Breen whicti said the scene where Denise goes swimming is completely unacceptable, she must be fully clothed. So we had visions of her and her had and long white gl ove s . And s he ' d just taken her swe a t e r off and jeans of f , that's all. We i g nor e d it.

RF: He'd done that from the script.

VG: Yes, we always had to submit the script in advance. I must say

VAL GUEST Tape 5 of 8
because Bongo which went through with all these bits of nudity, the tableau were all nude, the dancing girls had to wear nipple coveFs but everything else was nude,·and· I remember shortly after that Olivier made the Entertainer in which there was a nude Britannia and they wouldn't allow it throught, it had to be tastled, and Larry was furious, he kept citing Expresso Bongo, while do you allow Expresso Bongo and not me.

RF: Did it affect the certificate.

VG: A certificate. We didn't get an X. We got an A which was an adult subject in those days, I din't want an X.
RF: Is that one of your favourite films.

VG: Yes. I have two Hammers, Bongo, the Day the Earth Caught Fire and Jigsaw tare the favourites of mine, that I'm not ashamed of, when I see them coming up I don't have to leave the country.

RF: How about Further Up the Creek.

VG: We couldn't get Sellars and they particularly wanted to do a sequel, I got David and I got my old friend Frankie in, it wasn't a big success. Today you can do Police Academy 2, 3, 4, I don't think up the Creek 2 was, the gag had been blown somehow. Again we went down to Weymouth and did the bits with the boats.

Hell is a City, again is another of my favourites, again Mike Carreras. The one he had everything to work out, when to produce the police and not to produce the police, and we had an enormous cast in that, practically all on location in Manchester, we did a few insides on that which we built in the studio, but the majority was on location, very difficult filming too.

RF: What is the genesis of the film.

VG: It was about the Manchester police force, it was a book by Harry Procter, who wrote a lot about a chap called Detective Inspector Martineau, a wonderful character, and I would loved to have made more pictures on that character. And I think that Associated British at that time had the rights to it, and Mike Carreras fell for the book, he liked it very much and gave to me to read, then he bought the rights from ABP and we made it on location, and the whole thing was this Det Insp Martineau and this very human detective, tough, rough, human with his own problems at home, with a wife who nagged, falling for a barmaid who was part of his investigation, it was a real slice of life, putting the police down as human beings.

RF: Was that one of the leaders of that particular genre, predated Z
Cars on television.

VG: Yes.
asked me Baker is

I think it was a good picture, and seen it several once to go to the National Film Theatre to see it, very good in it. They're all good, it's a very good

times; they and Stanley cast.

RF: Who was your cameraman

VG: Arthur Grant. He was used to working on location by this time and getting it done in no time too. I weaned him away from Hammer, I put him under contract when I made my own films, he and i'-lo r ay Grant both of them,

infallible team.

VAL GUEST Tape 5 of 8

RF: Who was your favourite cameraman.

VG: Diffiuclt one. Arthur Grant has to be my all time favourite, he's dead now, he was ready for any situation no matter what, if you said I know it's night but I've got to shoot it for sun now, he would find someway.

RF: Was he an old timer.

VG: Yes, he'd been with Hammer a long time, and he was very very good, another one was Ted Moore who went on to do the Bond movies, a difficult character, Harry Waxman was another one, another difficult character but good c9meraman. Not the pleasantest of persons to work with, he'd get himself in a tizzy, he'd wind himself up about something. And instead of saying alright see what we can do he would get himself in a big tizzy.
RF: Disgruntled.

VG: Yes. That's why, I got on with him alright, but I wouldn't say oh I must get Harry again.

RF: But delving beneath that he was a very decent man and by god he knew his craft. He joined up with some of my regulars when I did The Day the Earth Caught Fire


'VAL GUEST Tape 5 of 8

- he was working with my gang so I don't know if that helped or didn't help.

It shows you how the police have their own little mafia, dossier and things, because I got on very well with the Manchester police and so did Mike, he said what he didn't like and I said what I didn't like and we were very closely knit, and we didn't do anything which we weren't supposed to do and we did everything we said we would do. And years later, Hell is a City was 60, and in 63 I did Jigsaw which is about the Brighton police and they said we've had good vibes from Manchester about you. Now we hadn't said we'd made a picture in Manchester, so they obviously circultated what about so and so. Following that I made 80,000 Suspects in Bath where I had to go and see the chief constable because we wanted· to take over the whole town, as I came in he said it's nice to meet you, and he got out a big dossier from his desk and opened it up and said now, Guest, I thought Christ, he's got Manchester, Brighton, all the reports for the other police, and he said in view of this yes.

RF: I find this rather frightening because it does mean there are those computers underground somewhere.

VG: I have to say it was for filming purposes, whether you've blotted your copybook filming, that's all it was. Should we be given facilities, did we take liberties, had we done anything against what had been agreed. It's like me calling up someone who's had their house used as a film, this particular person, there are a lot of people who won't have Michael Winner anywhere near them again, when they've been on location, villages. This get around because of the chaos, liberties. And I think the police did the same thing, and don't forget in each case this was a film about their police force. I said we have a good reputation in Manchester and Brighton, and he said yes I know, and that's when he brought it out, Guest, and he had the thing.
RF: Next The Full Treatment.

VG: That is from a book by Ronald Scott Thorn, who strangely enough was our insurance Dr and put us all through the mill before, when we got our film insuranecs, he was the film industry's insurance doctor, or one of them and he wrote this book. It was a psychological thriller about a psychiatrist and we got Francoies Rosay and Claud Dauphin and shot it in the South of France.

RF: Madame Rosay would be interesting to hear about.

VG: Again a real pro and no problems. Mucked in with everybody, fabulous actress. There were no special facilities granted. Claud Dauphin a great character, a great ladies man, very suave and smooth.
RF: Were you shooting just locations.

VG: All locations, were based in
was on several.

in xxxxxx, in Cannes, Nice, all round there, we
, and Tony Master was my art director on that, he

RF: The Weapon. With you favourite actor Steve Cochran.
VG: That was the one I worked with him on and we had all the problems.

'VAL GUEST Tape 5 of 8
Also another actress in that. I can't remember her name, she did Little Boy Lost with Crosby. TJ:lis we made with a very strange little producer called Hal Chester who really knew more about nothing than anyone else. And he had come from poverty row, full of noises of what he'd done and he was actually one of the Bowery Boys, he really knew very little about anything, anyway I did that for him, I believe it was for Eros. I'm not
.sure about that. He, we shot all round the bomb sites around St Paul's Cathedral, and some of it on Waterloo Bridge and Lambeth, it wasn't a very startling film, it was a good thriller. George Cole he played the villain and Herbert Marshall, a wonderful character.
RF: Was he coming towards the end of his career.
VG: Yes he was. And it was very clever how he worked it all out, he had a wood n leg, at the beginning he said to me I can do everything except turn quickly and get up from a chair in one. I can practically get up and then if you take me on another angle I'm up, but everything else he could do. If he had to turn suddenly, if I just turned his top and cut away, he was round when I got there, he gave me these little tips about his disability. Charming guy, his wife Boots Mallory who also used to be a film star in Westerns.
RF: Why was Steve Cochran such a pain.
VG: Steve Cochran had always been a difficult character, he was under contract to Warner Brothers until Jack WArner found his sleeping with his wife. And there was hell, he was not only barred from Warners but every other studio in Hollywood, so he came over to Europe. He was a bad tempered surly guy and he was having a fling with Sabrina, Askey used to have her on the show, great big boobs and no talent, he ended up not talking to each other, they used to pass notes to people to tell each other fuck off.
RF: Did he not drink.
VG: I was never aware of his being drunk. I know he died very strangely in a boat full of women. He wasn't the easiest of guy.
RF: \fuat was Chester's role in the thing, he just set it up. VG: Yes. l!e wheeler dealered his way into being a producer.
RF: I think he made quite a few films in Britain during this period.
VG: He did. He went on to make more films, and I think this was the first one. I understood that he had been a production manager and odd things, but not that he had produced at all. Our cameraman was a wonderful cameraman called Ernie, forget, Hal used to be· around like a bothersome knat, get him away, get him our of our hair. My third assistant on that was Johnnie Goodman. I remember our poor cameraman, we were shooting in a bombsite just by St Pauls and Hal came on and wh'en the cameraman said we're ready, Hal said what do you mean you're ready, he said there's no light on the dome of St Paul's, our cameraman said you haven't given me enough lights for that, I don't have enough lights, that's half a mile away, he said shit you kn6w what in Hollywood we would do, and all this was going on. It was desperately cold, we were all in mufflers and track suits and there was snow on the ground, on this bomb si e and the cameraman tapped him on the arm and said Hal do you believe in Christmas, and Hal said of course I do, well fuck off and have a merry

1 VAL GUEST Tape 5 of 8

one. And Hal never came near us again while we were on that location. He was a pest.

RF: That brings us onto probably your favourite film, The Day the Earth Caught Fire.

VG: Strangely enough I'd written that story about 8 years before I made it because nobody would ever let me make it. Everybody said no you do these other things so well.
RF: Who turned it down.
VG: Practically everybody. British Lion, Minter, Rank, Columbia. RF: Wl1at would they say.
VG: Nobody wants to know about the bombs. Who's going to go and see a picture about the bombs. Anyway everytime some producer said to me is there somethign you want to do next, I'd say yes, read this, and it would come back each time don't joke, nobody's going to see it.
RF: It existed in full script form.

VG: No, story form. I had about a 20 page treatment. Then I went to Stephen Pallas, he said alright I'll do it. British Lion didn't want to know at that time so they weren't going to put any money into it, so Mickey Baleen, Stephen Pallos, and another guy, Max Setton, they started a productioncompany called Pax and Pax got the money together. It was the only film which has ever been made for the Pax Production Company, it was a Val Guest Production for Pax. And we finally made it. That entire film was made for under £200,000 which was desperately cheap, even in those days. We made it at Shepperton. Tony Masters was my art director. That was a very difficult picture to make because it was a bout London deserted and breaking down with lack of water and the heat, and I had to clear the whole of Fleet St and put rubble and dirt and dust, and using the Daily Express Building, their windows, and make them look as if they were broken.
RF: When was that on Sundays.
VG: We didn't do it on Sunday. He did it on midweek and we were allowed to clear Fleet St for 2 minutes at a time. A whistle would blow and we could have 2 minutes.
RF: And the police would cooperate with that.
VG: They had a stop by the law courts and a stop at Ludgate Circus. And what we would do is we would have a truck full of Fullers earth and rubble at our end, and the police put no parking signs all the way along Fleet St, both sides, for a deserted Fleet St., and we had one car which we had overturned and put on the sidewalk, outside I think the Yorkshire Post, and when we were ready to go, and our actors had rehearsed, we'd say right ready and the truck with fuller's earth would go up Fleet St towards the law courts, with all the props shovelling fullers all over so there was dust all over Fleet St and as the truck went up, two motor cycle cops followed, one each side of the road, kickign these signs down, and the moment it got to the law courts the whistle went and I had two
.minutes to do my scene,and then another whistle would go and all the
: stuff would come again.


';1AL GUEST Tape 5 of 8

RF: That was astonishing cooperation from the authorities. Do yo think that was partly because you got such good marks from before.

VG: It could be. Also, the Metropolitan Police have always been more difficult than the City police and we came under the City police. In Battersea Park we had to have this terrifying fog which descended over
· London and we had our fog machines in Battersea Park, and we hadn't said anything about fog machines, we just got permission to shoot there, and it happened that it was the opening day of the Chelsea Flower Show, we'd cut off Chelsea Bridge, they'd allowed us to do that, to have queues lining up for the water rations, and the fog was drifting over Chelsea Flower Show, so we had about 200 crowd there trying to grope through the fog, so of course the police were sent because of Chelsea Flower Show. And I still had two more, one tracking shot and one very important shot to do ,in this fog. So the police were there saying this must stop immediately, so I sent my assistant, my production manager, my location manager to talk to the police, to argue with the police while we got on, to keep them busy while we finished the shots. And eventually we did finish the shots and they said take them out at once. And we did. The whole of that picture was brought with those kind of difficulties.
RF: How many times did you have to close Fleet St.

VG: One day, two minutes at a time, and after each two minutes we had to allow at least a quarter of an hour. And they usually demanded 20 minutes of free traffic. That was worked out like a battle.

RF: You were asking for trouble scripting it like that. VG: I had high hopes and ever an optimist.
RF: Christiansenstood out.

VG: The strange thing about Chris, some people said what a brilliant off beat performance, others said how fucking awful. We had terrible trouble with him, not trouble, the poor guy could not remember a line, I wrote them everywhere for him, and we went to enormous amount of editing and i took a lot of cover in that scene so I could cover up a blip or a cut, and we finally did it almost line by line. But we had been lumbered, I lumbered myself, I said here come, play yourself, he did all our clearance for us, he was the one who got Beaverbrook to give over the whole thing, he was also on my press guy on the film keeping me on the right lines, although I'd been in Fleet ST, I didn't know that much about it, and being hris's own office he was invaluable as my technical adviser.

RF: It was something you devised, or did he want to do it.

VG: I talked him into it. Talking to Chris he was an intelligent guy, I never knew what would happen to him once I got him on screen. I didn't expect him to be in such terror and he was. The first day he wasn't in terror and we'd gone so far by then, he started to get the terror when he realised what he'd bitten off, then it was too late. And I couldn't really recast by that time.

RF: Other than those predictable problems, was it a relatively trouble free film.

VG: It wasn't worry free, and I don't think it was trouble free because


VAL GUEST Tape 5 of 8

our locations were trouble. There were no people who were trouble. Eddie Judd it was .his first big break, so he was edgy, he wasn't the easiest of persons, but I can see why. It was a big thing to carry, and again the guy had a sense of humour. At Battersea Park, doing a scene where he's saying goodbye to his kid who's in a baseball cap, Renee Asherson was his wife, and the kid forgot his lines twice, and Eddie just blew up. Why can't the fucking kid, this was not a thing you do, he used to do it with Christiansen too when Chris blew, and that just makes people worse. I said to the kid, will you do something for me, if ever Mr Judd forgets his lines will you throw your baseball cap on the floor and kick it out of the shot, whether I've said cut or not, I said I mean this, and I did it, that finished Eddie, I never had any problems with him. Leo was wonderful in it, again part of my rep company, he was one of my favourites. Again a man with a photographic memory, he said his script through once and knew what it was, when we came to shootnig he would look at the page and he would look at it for no more than five minutes and have it indelibly in his head, he never fluffed a line and knew everybody else's, and incredibly memory, I've never seen that on anybody else.

RF: Was there any trick work.
VG: There was quite a lot of special effects. Les Bowie, my effects
_man, he did them for us. They were a little late coming through, but we were still clear of our budgets. There was trick stuff like fog coming down the Thames, the Thames dried up, the trickle, Trafalga Sq completely and utterly empty at midnight with hundreds of people in there listening to the prime minister's broadcast. All the various capitals of the world on the countdown of the atomic explosion, we had shots of every capital, Red Square, all these had been absolutely emptied and speakers put in there, those sort of shots.

That year, later that year, I had been nominated by BAFTA, it was then the British Film Academy, it was one of the nominatiosn for the best screenplya, I had so many other pictures for which there had been nominations,Hell is a City, and Yesterday's Enemy, and each time I had been to these awards, and I am not an award person, I said to Yo I'm not going to go this year, and we really weren't going to go and Theo Cowan who must have known, because Theo always does the publicity, he called me up and said you are coming Val aren't you. I said I'm not. He said you know what it's going to look like. I said what. That you're pissed off that you never got anything. It's going to look bad for you, people will say why didn't he turn up. I said do you honestly thing that do you. He said yes I do. In the industry it's a mark of respect. So I got dressed and at the last moment I went. And I sat at a table with John Schlesinger next to me. And John had been nominated for Terminus, a short he'd done. Suddenly the nominations come up and I'm announced. We've got it. I go up and get it from Prince Philip. And I race back and call Yo and say I've got it, get up. She got up, and somehow she got to the Dorchester, John got it too, and he said he nearly didn't go. And it

was only because Theo had very carefull,y
going that we were there at all.

very cleverly shamed up into

RF: Going back to the special effects were they as a craft in fairly rudimentary form, 30 years ago.
VG: No, I think we were pretty good at it. In view of what the Americans had spent on it e were rudimentary. But I had some pretty good

'VAL GUEST Tape 5 of 8
effects. There are a couple of effects in The Day the Earth Caught Fire that look like effects, but a lot of it is very good. And is up today's standards, except a couple. Les Bowie was wonderful. He worked with Hammer too, in fact he did Quatermass, he did the monster.

RF: Who released the picture.

VG: Universal in America and British Lion here. RF: And did they get behind it.
VG: Yes. And it did very good business. We're still getting cheques from it, theatrical and television. And also from cassette. It's funny the things which keep coming in in residuasl. You think Christ, I thought everyo9e had buried that.

RF: You can see why the libraries are so valuable nowadays, why they change hands at so much money. Did you ever regard it as having any political statement.

VG: Yes I did, but my politics were always terribly wide. I always wanted to make that story, because the only politics in it were to say the only war that mankind couldn't fight was god, the elements and the only way to defeat that was if mankind got together to fight a common enemy, the elements. That was what we'd done to the elements, the bomb. So it was probably the first anti bomb thing. It was not anti us bomb, it was anti the world, it was saying mankind can do this so why doesn't mankind get together and see some sense. And that's why the end of the film you have this boiling hot almost melting machine room of the Daily Express, two editions waiting to be put through, one saying world saved, the other saying world doomed, and they were waiting for which front page to put on, waiting for the countdown of these bombs, the idea being that Russia was putting up 8 of their biggest bombs in a row across the Siberian desert, and the West had put up the same amount at the North Pole and they were going to be detonated at the same time hoping it would shift the earth's orbit in some way away from the sun, the end of the picture is will mankind come to its senses or not, we never resolved it.
RF: Isn't it resolved.

VG: No. I had a terrible fight about that. Everybody said you've got to, I said I don't want choirs singing over St Pauls. What we did do is we did go to St Pauls and the cross for the countdown, we had the countdown go off and then we came .back to Eddie Judd dictating this last story with the two things, saying and we don't know whether mankind has solved the thing, and I went into the cross at the end at St Paul's.

Jigsaw was from a book by Hilary Waugh, a Canadian writer, set in a small tow-n in Canada and I thought I would make it in Brighton, and this is when I went down for my permissions, because instead of the Canadian police I wanted to make it about the Brighton police. And as Jack Warner had been very tied up with the best side of the police, with his television things, that went for us, and he actually was very very good in that picture as the plodding cop who finally gets there. That's another one of our favourites. I tried a lot of stuff out in there, which hadn't been done, the back and forward cutting in time, without
having to explain it, I tried to write it so you would understand what had happened.

VAL GUEST Tape 5 of S
RF: Had you been influenced by someone.
VG: No, I'd always wanted to try an experiment of this kind. RF; Did you script it that way.
VG: Yes it's all in the script. We did an awful lot of shooting on location, the Cuty Sark and Brighton Station, and the whole of Brighton.
RF: You must have enjoyed working on location.
VG: I always did because I thought it gave you so much more reality. RF: No matter how marvellous a set is its always a set.
VG: Nbw there I gave an art director a break who had been my assistant art director, Tony Masters' assistant, and Tony Masters had gone to Hollywood, a fellow called Geoffrey Tozer, and I used Geoff a lot after that. That was his first break as a full scale art director. And I used
-----, him on Boys in Blue, as latterly as that.
RF: You're independent. Who was that made for.
VG: Pallos, Britannia, his own company, but I produced it.

Britannia was his own production campany and he used to make his deal with whoever,

RF: He seems to have been a very active producer. VG: He was.
RF: What sort of man. He was a wonderful character, he's now retired to Spain. He was Hungarian and he used to work with Korda and he was one of Alex Korda's third right hand man. He idolised Korda, Alex, there was a wonderful story about Stephen, he said to Korda one day after Korda had made some great pronouncement which was a brilliant pronouncement, Stephen said to Alex, sometimes when I'm with you I feel inferior, and Alex said you know why Stephen, because you are inferior. That was a classic st ry. But he was a brilliant businessman, artistically, he knew what he liked and what he didn't like. He was prepared to have a go, he was prepared to have a go at Bongo, he was prepared to have a go at The Day the Earth Caught Fire. He was prepared to have a go at Jigsaw. He didn't want me to do Jigsaw. After the Day the Earth Caught Fire he said to me make a little picture like this, I said I'm dying to make this picture, he said but, I told him Harold Lloyd, who was a family friend, a great friend of Yo's, Harold said after he made his famous Safety Last somebody said to him, don't try and outdo it, do a small one and they cannot say it's not as small as, they can say it's not as big as, then go back and do a big one. He gave this advise after I did The Day the Earth Caught Fire, everybody was saying what are you going to do next, he said don't attempt to do anything that size, don't attempt to do a weighty subject, do something small and then you can bounce back again, which is why I did Jigsaw, but I was very keen to do Jigsaw because I liked the story enormously and thought it was very clever and very amusing to show the police working and not getting anywhere. The awful dead ends they come up against which is what that picture shows. Stephen didn't want me to do that, but I did.

'VAL GUEST Tape 5 of 8
RF: Jigsaw did what sort of business.

VG: Reasonable. It did enormous business on the continent. It got very good reviews, in the main, which is the best part of that.

RF: These were still good years in the cinema. VG: And Yo did a small part for me in Jigsaw. RF: 1963 80,000 Suspects.
VG: That was based on Pillars of Midnight by Ellaston Trevor, which was not a very good title was the screen, so I dreamt up the title 80,000 Suspects. I did it for Rank. Again we had a good cast and we literally took oyer the city of Bath, the main idea was a smallpox epidemic was going :i.n Bath and therefore it had to be isolated from the rest of the country. The entire city was isolated and the doctors, there was a terrific strain with their wives and families, it was a thriller too in a strange way, it was a piece of life,

I VAL GUEST Tape 6 of 8


RF: Was it all filmed in Bath

VG: I would say say 75% of it. And the rest Pinewood. We hit
· the day, the day we started was the coldest temperature in living memory and there was snow everywhere and we had to say is this going to last because either I had to shoot in snow for three weeks or wait till it thaws, what am I going to do. So I called Earl St John about it, we start now, we kick off in snow, but send us however many tru ck s our location manager wants to be able to be put our own snow down, salts, we'll have them standing by so we can duplicate, which is what we did. And not only did we never,use it, we had to get know ploughs to where we were shooting and Yo had to go to the Roman baths on the coldest night of the year, we had to jump in in her Dior evening dress because she was supposed to be tidly, we had to shoot this thing like an army, because once she was in she said she'd rather stay in for all the other shots and then get out. So while she paddled, it was warm water, steam was coming up, but nevertheless on the coldest night in living memory. We had the Ex press down there and they were taking all the pictures and we just moved around that pool and shot as quick as we could, over shoulder, this way, that way, we just got it all done before we was brought out. Shootin g in the sts. when we had tracking shots, we had just under the camera braziers burning all the way down that st because you couldn't walk it was so cold, so they were walking past braziers which wasn't shown by the camera, but all that breath was coming, it was desperately cold, and we had 100s of crowds there too. One day Rod Steiger came down, because he was married to Claire, and Claire said please keep him off the set, so we did everything to keep him off the set, take him on tours of Bath,

RF : Why did s he not want him on the set. VG: It inhibited her.
RF: Kay ,1lalsh was also in the film.

VG: She had just come out of a terrible depression, break down, and I gave her this little bit to try and break her back, she was terribly insecure. She had a rough ride one way or another. We had a very good actor in that '·. lic hael Goodliffe, again an actor from my rep who I used a lot. Ive had one sequence where the whole town had to come and be vaccinatde, mass vaccination because of this smallpox thing, and
_ everybody had to line up in the snow. And somebody had told me when I got down there that Graham Moffat ran a pub just outside bath, on a hill, and I said I've got to go and see him. So we drove up one night o the pub and there1 s Graham, now losing all his hair, with this little monk's fringe, fat, and I went up to the bar, and he had his back to me and said
2 tizers please, and this thing froze, he turned round, to say who is
this twit and he suddenly saw me, and it was quite a moment, I hadn't seen him for 30 years, I said do you want to do a bit, I'11 write something for you. So I wrote in a piece in the vaccination line. The cameo was fat man in the line waiting to be vaccinated and when he got there, just he sight of the needle he fainted. It was probably Graham's last film appearance because shortly after that he died of a heart


VAL GU EST Tape 6 of 8
attack. Ire had a terrible thing a few years before that, J:!e had niccups which couldn't be cured. and he was just hiccuping the whole time, they even took him up in a plane, finally I don't know how they did stop it. But it must have put a terrific strain on his heart that because it went on for a long long time. And carrying that weight.

· RF: And being a publican isn't the healthiest of lives.

VG: I'll tell you another think which is rather sad about Graham, from a fat cheeky boy who everybody loved, he became a fat balding man and found it very difficult to get parts, very sad, because he had all that joie de vivre still there but it somehow didn't fit.

rf: His range as an actor was limited too.

VG: But there were all these parts he could play. He could play a barge owners, a cabbie, he could still be cheeky, but somehow it all fell away. But he was a happy person, never seemed to be worried about anything very much, but then I didn't know him when he was a grown man. I went once, the National Film Theatre, they did a week of 1,000 clowns, and they had Oh Hr Porter on and they found Graham and they asked Graham and me if we'd go along and chat, and that was the first ti e I'd seen Graham for
20 or 30 years, and I'd taken my young son to see the film, he was quite
young, to see the film, see if you think it's funny, it's a film I wrote many years a go, me meet Graham in the bar there and I introduce Chris my son and I say he's going to be the funny fat boy on the screen, and Chris said yes, and we went in and saw the thing, and afterwards Chris was very silent on our drive home, and I said didn't you like it, he said yes I did, what's a matter, he said were you a grown man when that old man was a little boy, he couldn't figure this at all.

September 6, 1988
RF: We're now onto the Beauty Jungle, 1964.
VG: When the press found out I was doing a film about the beauty jungle in 1964 and it was printed in odd press coverage I got a letter first of all from Eric Morley who demanded to see the script and pointed out to be I couldn't use Miss England, I couldn't used Miss Great Britain, World, any of that. I didn't answer that, it didn't call for nn answer, later we got a letter from his solicitor wanting to see the script. I said no way could they see the script but I'd be delighted to invite them to the premiere. There was all niggling going on there so we called it Miss English Rose and Miss Globe instead of Miss Universe. An enormous number of people were tested for that from Nyree Dawn Porter, Susan Hampshire, for the girl who started on the beach on Weston super Mare ,.,rho went on not to become Miss Globe and all the machinations of beauty contests. I didn't pull any punches, I didn't name any names but we didn't pull any punches. But to find the girl was a great problem, and I had an idea that Janette Scott had a lot more to her· than had been thought, so having tested Janette, and Earl St John was not impressed by that, or by any of the other tests, so we got Janette a wig, a blond Marilyn Monroe wig, and I put her down under a fictiousness name for a test, and I did a test
\vith her made up Monroe type, we did a silent test, and the test went into the rushes the next day, and Earl said who the hell is that, and I said someone we'd like you to see, she can act, she's done acting before, he said that's fine by me, and this is how Janette Scott got it. And she was very good in it.


' VAL GUEST Tape 6 of 8
RF: To what extent could Earl St John influence casting and script.

VG: He could, very much· so. Earl was a great power there. It was Earl who said no to Frank Sinatra when he was willing to come over and do a film. I remember another film we were doing when we had Paul Douglas very excited, at that time he was very big, after he'd done Born Yesterday, and Earl said no.

RF: These were contractual rights he was operating on behalf of the Rank Organisation.

VG: That's right. Beauty Jungle was a Val Guest Production but it was made for the Rank Organisation, and as such he had a say in what our budget was and our main character casting.
RF: Add he in term was directly responsible to John Davis.
VG: Yes. John Davis as far as films were concerned didn't know anything about films,

RF: On balance what do you think his decisions indicated, an ability.

VG: His decisions indicated the fact that he had once been a barker outside a circus, he was a very good showman, EArl, and his mind worked in things which could be used in showmanship.
RF: And things the public would pay to see.

VG: I don't think creatively, I might be maligning creatively a poor dead man, but I never found creatively an executive producer who was creative. His whole mind was channeled into what was showmanship, not what was good movie necessarily, what was showmanship.
RF: Who else was at Rank.

VG: There had the accounts department there, Robbie Robinson, Jack Fallon who did your budgets for you, they sim ply did a budget which put a lot of money on your picture, which needn't have been there, simply to protect Rank. Your location contingencies, whatever your budget used to be they'd say put a third on again. Your location contengency fund was something which bu ped your budget right up and also safeguarded them, if they were doing a bond of completion. You always had the battle of the budget.
RF: Did you have a studio overhead assigned to your picture.

VG: Yes, but I can't remember what the percentage was. A picture like beauty jungle, which was not inexpensive because we had all the south of France locations and Miss Globe final contest was held in Cannes, we had quite a lot of expenses on that, but the cover they gave themselves on that was enormou.s

1 L • And you took a full British crew down to the South of France.

VG: Yes we did. And at that time you had to take a french crew, a minimum French crew to balance your English crew, that was a union thing in France. So you always found a productionmanager, we had a fabulous productionmc;J.nger that I've used all over the years called Louis Fleury who had been in the resistance during the war, and along the whole of the

I VAL GUEST Tape 6 of 8
south of France they knew him, and he got all sorts of incredible things done as a French executive production manager, and he used to run his own company through which we hired, so I give you the minimum he, he'd help
you, so if you went out you'd have to take a minimum which was more than a minimum.

RF: Did you find the municipalities down there corrupt, were there a lot of backhanders.

VG: Yes. Dut not just the South of France, the backhanders in Spain were unbelievable. To the highest that you could go in Spain. I can't think o f any officialdom in any part of the world where there hasn't been dropsy, wherever I've filmed.

RF: Including this country.
VG: Yes, but not as much as abroad.

RF: You'd be paying out for what, permissions.

VG: I never found any dropsy with the police over here, never, and I've done 3 very solid pdlice pictures, and I've never had any suggestion of that. No it's municipalities people, the people who are town clerk for one year and want to make the most of it.

RF: How did the Beauty Jungle fare.

VG: We got our money back but we didn't break any records. It was a shame because I thought it was a good entertaining picture, but I think we suffered from not having any top names. Because we only had Ian Henry and Janette Scott and a few guest appearances like Norl!lan !Iartnoll and Duchess of Bedford and Edmund Purdom. That's one thing about Rank, they never insisted you had names.

RF: How many of those were contract artists.

VG: Of the people in Beauty Jungle. None. A wide open brief. The idea was to get an unknown girl and give her a star vehicle in which case Rank would have wanted some sort of ·tic, but when they found out it was Janette Scott they didn't want the unknown girl tie. I think if we'd had SOf:ie s tronger names to pull them in it would have done much better. Ian Hendry was a brilliant actor but l'!lOSt impossible man to work with. He was trouble. He had a great drink problem, and he would get very obstreperous with his drink, v,hereas Ronnie Fraser who also had a drink problem and was in that, but that was a benign one, in fact I remember one scene, we were shooting in the London Hippodrome as it was then, one of the finals of something and I had a scene with Ronnie Fraser who was a publicity man in the picture, and Ian sitting at a table watching the finals go through, and both of them were falling off their chairs, and I
tied, '. hear action, he couldn't hear anything, when I do that speak, 16vable guy, doesn't drink now, has been off that for a long long time.

RF: It is an affliction. impatient.

I think people then were inclined to be very

VG: But there you have two people affected completely different, Ian got very out of hand, very argumentative, in fact was an unpleasant drinker, whereas Ronnie was a darling, everybody adored him.

, VAL GUEST Tape 6 of 8

RF: We come on now to Where the Spies are, we're now in the swinging
RF: We bought R James Leasor book and adapted it from Tehran to Beirut,

VG: There was a Bond influence, it's not generally known, I don't know if Sean knows it but I was partly responsible for getting him cast. Harry Salzman and Cubby Broccoli, Harry asked me to come and see him in his South Audley St office, he said I'm going to give you some books you're off to Venice, take them with you, they're Ja□es Bond books, Dr No, Thunderball and one other. Take then with you and see which you'd like to make. So I went away and I read them all and I said I'd like to make Thunderball. Cubby said we've got trouble with Thunderball because Kevin McClory is suing, he has the rights, they had a lot of litigation, we're
thinkirlg this end of making Dr No, I remember distinctly saying to Harry it's a B picture, it's a little story, the other one has scope but Dr No, you're out of your mind. At that time I was about to do something else with Harry and Cubby. They said we're going to do this and if it's a hit we'll do a few more. So they were then talking about who to get and they were talking about Tom Conway's brother, the younger one, then IIarry had someone else I finally had to use in Casino Royale, he was terrible, I said there's a guy called Sean Connery and he'd just made an army comedy clown at Shepperton and he was rather good, have him up to see you, don't take any notice of the film, and that was the first time Sean had been mentioned to the two, so I like the think I sowed a seed anyway. I'm the idiot who didn't make Dr No. And when they'd made it they didn't know what to do with it because they made it seriouslyand they finally got it shown, everybody started to laugh at places they didn't expect and it was only then they decided to make them tongue in check, they found the reaction built and built which started them on the way to handle Bond movies. That was a no which -,as wrong to me.

\./here the Spies Are, James Leasor had written a lot of books about Dr Jason Love who was always getting involved, because he once in the war worked in espionage and was now a country doctor, but they kept
inveiglign him in things he didn't want to be inveigled into, it was a
very good character, and I liked the book, the first one i read was called Passport to Oblivion, I went to :-IG·! and David Niven was interested in doing it, and we went into a sort of partnershpi. The head was Reg Silverstone and he said alright we'll cto it but you can't possibly call it Passport to Oblivion because nobody knows what oblivion is, I came up with several titles and :•!Gl-l cat:ie up with this title, they'd had it on their files a long time, they'd bought it and were dying to use it on something.
We had terrible trouble on that, we went to Beirut, and because they never had an international film there they turned the works on for us, it was in the eood ol troubl.e So I got hold of David, and told him this, I said you have got
to pull out every stop in the book, whether it's your honour, whether you go to bed with one night, two nights, with the Paris Soir correspondent this hasn't got to appear, it didn't appear, she got another story in its place. I had to go to the Lebanese embassy here and see the consul. He

VAL GUEST Tape 6 of 8

said to me you will have forms to fill in about the unit, of course you have no Jewish people on your unit, we were loaded with them, he said you will put down Christian Scientist, Third Adventist, all that, he was very helpful. .

When we got there to the facilities which had been given for nothing, like the army, there were little hints that the men didn't get up early, we can't guarantee you that they'11 get there at the time you want, I
· said oh yes you can.
RF: Has it a questionof being ripped off or just gently. VG: Gently.
RF: It was a high budget film.

VG: It was. We had darling Francois Dorleac in it who got burned in a car, terrible thing, she was great fun, very professional, I remember in Beirut she said to me Catherine, Cathreine Deneuve her sister, has been let down again by that bastard, she's very depressed can I invite her over, I said sure, about the same time I had engaged David Bailey to come and do special layouts for Francois, they met and got married. T
RF: Is this the biggest picture you've made so far in terms of size. VG: I think it probably was.
RF: How did you enjoy working for Metro.

VG: Fine. TI1ey had certain fixtures, for instance we had taken a real battered old taxi in Beirut which was part of our plot and it was in an old garage and on the bumpers they stick adds, Camel, Maxwell House, they cover their bumpers with this, and there was this car, absolute chaos in Culver City when they saw this, advertising, every one of those has got to come off. I said impossible, I can't go back and shoot all that again, we're no in England. So they spent an awful lot of special effects to matte thel'l out. That was the sort of expense they'd go to. And they were so minute, you know the size of a bumper, they were about the SR e size as a ciagarette pack would be. It was the code then that you did not advertise, you had special cigarette packs which you userl on all their films, when you had cigarettes th y were an unknown brand, made
in the prop room. ive had a pack of cigarettes on a coffee table which
Nigel Davenport used, and they said don't your prop people have these. I said no. Things like that you went through Metro.

RF: Where was the film controlled from
VG: I controlled it from ;J.G,[ I3orehamwood. RF: And did you have a lot of interferenc.e
VG: No, not at all. Jack Smith was there takingcare of the studi6 side for NG ! but nothing. The money was paid to Jack Smith, ?·lG>!, who paid it to Val Guest productions. When the film was finished that wonderful '.·!G- 1 editor Maggie Booth, she flew over and sat with me, I was really thrilleci to be working with her, she I d done all the Garbos, she'd done Ben Hur
even, been on the original. She was a fabulous characte.r 117e sat
throughit and it was incredible the suggestions she made, I learnt quite a lot from her, ecii ting, then my editor on that was Bill Lenny too. I


did 3 films with David, I found him a great character,great fun to work with, no problem, full of merry quiffs, all he was worried about i,s that you will take care of my t rkey gullet,
RF: He was self deprecating as an actor.
.VG: I think that was a front. He knew very well what he was doing, he knew very well what he shouldn I t be doing, he always said don't let me overdo it son, don't let me overdo it. I think this was part of the Niven character, charm.

RF: Did he have enough of a range to be called an actor or was he just a personality.

VG: He won an award for Separate Tables and that was an acting part. He was a Jery good actor. He got saddled with the lightness, because this is what he was superb at but he could do dra1:1atic stuff too. He was a delight to work with, we had many laughs we were partners. I would have not mad if he hadn't been all the way through Casino Royale. I wrote 2 of my chums into that.


RF: Is it just nostalgia·or were the 60s more happy times.
VG: I have to be honest about this, but I seldom have not had a happy time filmmaking. The 30s were just as happy a time filmmaking.

RF: I was wondering if it was easier to set up a picture in England in the 60s when there was so much American money

VG: Definitely, there was a lot of money and it was much easier to set things up. I don't know what we reaped from that, whether it was over optimism, it was a great time to be living. I honestly can't say as far as filmmaking was concerned it was a happier time that most of the other things, maybe i've been very lucky.
RF: This probably brings us to Casino Royale.
VG: This is a film in itself, the making of that, the legendary Charlie Feldr.1an who was the producer on that called me to go and see him, I had many long days and nights with Charlie Hho said we want to make, he'd bought the only Bond book which had got out of the stable, there Hasn't even one single sequence that he could used because they'd all be pilfered, there was nothing in there except the card game, even that had been used in one way or another in the Bond films, so he really had nothing. Ile said I've got a script by Ben Hecht. I said that should be good. It's too serious but anyway read it, so I got another script by Terry Southon, that's no good either. There was a third one, I can't remember what. He gave me these 3 scripts to read, I read these 3 scripts, there Here odd things in them, finally he said what do you think. I said let me pull in Wolf Hankowitz again, and Wolf did some sort of a treatment and went off. It finally ended up with Charlie Feldman saying make it a Kaleidoscopic picture, we don't want just want one James Bond, we'11 have 18 James Bonds, everybody will be calling themselves James Bond which is how we launched into it.
RF: ·=!c1s that a considered decision.

VG: It was a considered decision, he wanted some gimmick, he said I'm going to have 18 James Bonds and 6 different directors. a 100 years ago Rene Clair did a film called If I had A Millionand each had a segment and somebody had taken that theme, each had a seg□ent and they got all
the top directors each to do a segment.
F: It doesn't seem then a top of the head decision, does it now looking back.

VG: h7hat it seeE1ed then was that he was going to send it all up. You couldn't make a serious James Bond picture so you had to send it up. A story line was got up, a full story line which had pieces of the script and he said to me I want you to be the coordinating director, you take your segment which I think was the last third of the picture, with 1{oody Allen, take that ancl be the coordinating director as well. I then became the writer of bits and pieces which I didn't get paid for just to try and keep the thing to ether, and then the chaos started. He spent a fortune on sets, he spent a fortune on clothes. Incidentally I said to Charlie you can't just have segments, you've got to have a linking story all the way through, I'll write the linking story if you let me have my two chums
to link it with, who, David iven and Ursula Andress, because I knew with

VAL GUEST Tape 6 of 8
those two I could giggle my way out of anythign. He said you've got your chums. So I wrote Ursula and David as a link through that just to keep me sane. The sets would suddenly be changed before anything was shot on them, because Charlie who couldn't sleep would look at all the magazines and he would suddenly see a bedroom suite in some magazine and say 01rist we want that, the money wasted on changing, then he didn't like the colour of the drapes, and all the dresses had been made to go with the drapes and as the drapes were changed the dresses had to be changed, I can't tell you what went on. I think he was going to outdo every other Bond which had ever been done, that was his thing. I had been with Charlie when he was on the telephone to stars, he was on the telephone to Bill Holden saying you've got to come in just for a cameo, George Raft, the number of people he called, they all said no, but sor.iehow Charlie's charm got everybody, the only person he didn't was Belmondo who said no flatly, So Charlie got hold of Ursula, who was his girlfriend at the time, nd said you've got to get him. ·

RF: Was he paying their full rate.

VG: Yes, indeed afterwards we needed some voice overs or some dubbing from Ursula and he called her in Switzerladn, he said I can't, because by then he was millions over budget, he said I can't pay you, I really can't pay you, just come and do the thing, I'll pay the fare. Ursulawho has a mind which ticks up dollars all the time said no, and finally Charlie got her over, and Ursula and came over and did all the bits I needed her for, and when she was finished Charlie gave her a white Rolls Royce. It cost I don't know how many times more than it would have cost just to pay her. But that was Charli.e
RF: It was Columbia's money what were they doing in the meantime.

VG: They were going bezerk. They sent a fellow called Jerry Bresler over to hold things down, as Charlie's hatchet man, he was a complete waste of time. They were going bezerk and people used to fly in and fly out. And one day when some Colunbia head was coming in they went to enormous trouble to get Hugh lleffner,because we had a whole sequence in the Playboy club which was supposed to be the underground head, and the day the Colwnbia people arrived Charlie put on a big show of all our playboy girls plus Hugh Heffner, he got Hugh on the set, it was all on to cafuffle a few people. Charlie would ring me up in the niddle of the bloody night and say Val, we can get Bardot next ednesday what set are we on, and we were films at MGM and Pinewood and Shepperton, we had set on all 3 of them, and I'd say we were on the Casino set and he would say write her in, and odd stars would turn up, say George aft, write something in.
RF: Do you thing Around the Horld in 80 Days was on his mind where '.1 lixe Todd had done roughly the same thing and got away with it.
VG: Possible. But it was murder making it. If I didn't have. some gigglers I would have gone bezerk. Because not only as I doing my last sequence, Woody Allen, who is t_he most morose person you could ever meet, a nice guy, but you'd have to hold his hand and say you can do it, don't worry Woody , you can do it. And Woody and I would sit up into the middle of the night rewriting their script, and Woody would come in with different things, very funny things, which we Hould write into script form, he wasn't very sure of that at that time, and we would sit the two of us writing and Hoody would say, the executioner \.;ill take all these lines out, we'd go to Charlie and say it's funny let's shoot it, Charlie
102 U?: COR I;EC T:. D

' VAL GU ES T Tape 6 of 8

ma i me d an awful lot of the stuff, and poor Woody was in an awful state, he's a mu r de r er , he's a mur der e r . And I had t o sooth him down a ncl a lot of the stuff we put back fn whe n we g o on the floor, which i s not l i ke me bu t I knew it was funny s t uf f . \foody was very unhappy wi t h Charlie, Cha r l i e was a man one day you wanted to hug him, the ne xt day you wanted to gar ot t e him. He r e a l l y brought out the absolute ext r eme s . He was ne ve r sharp but h is compl e t e befuddleraent and he befuddled yo u by changing his mi nd on the ho ur a l mo s t on the ho ur a bout t hi s that and the ot her , so it was i pos s i bl e to make a nyt hi ng to s c hed ul e be c a us e Charlie changed t he whole schedule.

RF: In t he r e wr i t e s wer e you a bl e to keep any r ef er ence to wha t had gone before and what might come a f t e r .

VG: YJs, a li t t l e bit, but it wasn't easy. Then t he r e came the time when John Huston said to me t hi s is a l oa d of crap i sn ' t i t . He s a i d I don ' t think I can take any more of this, if I fuck of f the Ireland and play some poker if there are any odd t hings will you pick them up f o r me . Off he went. That was the way things went. There was a di r e c t or , Joe McGr a t h , who came in and went out straight awa y .. Sel l ar s wanted ni m in and Sellars wanted him out aga i n . Bec a us e Pe t e r was going through one of his manic depressives, he came on the set and somebody had to be on the s e t that day, he would crucify somebody, then t he next day he'd be in deep depression bec a us e what he'd done, Orson We l l es could not tolerate
Peter Sellars at all. And because of Pet er who had a he ar t thing, he used to play on t hi s , I've got to go by 4, I can I t come in till noon, depending on his whi ms , and Orson got very angry about this, andsuddenly one day Cha r li e c a ll e d me and said Pet er has gone to Ma r bell a , I said why, he decided he needs the rest, someone has to tell Orson this and Orson said r bel l a , so he went t o his dr e s s i ng roo , took al l hi s ma ke ­ up off, went to the pr o duc t i on office and said I' !J going to Spa i n , my s e c r e t a r y will l et me know wher e I ' m go i ng to, and when that fucking ama t e ur is r e a dy t o come back to work, I'll come bac too. My s e cr e t ar y wi l l l e t yo u know whe r e I' '.TI go i ng , so i n a major cas i no card pl a yi ng sequence we had both of them gone . Eve nt ua ll y Or s o:1 was talked out of that, and the whole seque nc e was s ho t with onl y one of them pr e s e nt , it was ove r a double s hou l de r , be c a us e Or s o n wouldn't ·.wrk wi t h hi □ , those ki nd of things made l i f e di f f i c ul t .

:ff : :Iow lonz did it take.

VG: Nearly a year, it would ha ve taken m or e but finally I said to Cha r l i e , I've given you a lot of l i f e , I've got to ge t on with my life, my e d i t o r Bi l l Lenny he went on wi t h it, a not he r 6 mo nt hs .

RF : 1.Je r e you with it for t he f i na l cut.

VG : I di d all my s e que nc e . Ano t he r thing whi c h ha ppe ne d , a f t e r Peter's thi ng of go i ng to Spain, Charlie Feldman ca l l ed me on the set one da y , whe n you've finished shoot i ng c a n you come and s e e me, I go back to'South Audl e y St and Cha r l i e says have we go t e noug h of Peter Sellars to finish pr i nc i pa l pho t og r a phy , which means we cut h i s c on t r a c t as fr om now. I don ' t know. Go and look i t t hr ough . So I s pe nc the whole we e ke nd l oo ki ng at e ve r y s e que nc e with Pet er Sel l ar s ;na ki ng not e s of what we nee ded s t i l l . Wh e n I went t hr ough what we needed I thought we c o ul d ge t
a r o und to it e xc e pt the f i na l scene, when t he y ' r e all in heaven, we ... needed Pe t e r , Cha r l i e said yo u ' re t hi nk of s ome t hi ng , he ' s f i ni s he d .
Throw hi m o f f . So they cancelled pr i nc i pa l pho t o3r e hy which was one of


VAL GUEST Tape 6 of 8
the biggest shocks Peter ever had and almost gave him another heart attach, so I had to join up and do odd shots, I had odd shots for John to do with Deborah Kerr, it was a shambles.
RF; There were units working in paralle.l

VG: At Shepperton, Pinewood and i'iGM. \·:e were working at all those place, we had standing sets there, the Casino set was at Shepperton and stood the entire year. \fo moved around and said which studio are we in tomorrow and theyd tell you at the end of the day. There were several
units shooting simultaneousl.y Then when Huston bowed out I had to juop
around. At the end we got away with Sellars of doing a blow up shot, a cut out shot of Peter, at the back of these things with heavenly clouds whirling around. They were all in the same shot so you didn't necessarily pick out one person.

RF: Do you know what the cost was.

VG: Around 18 million dollars which in those days was an awful lot of money. It almost broke Columbia. I used to keep saying to Charlie, you're mad, you've got to stick to what we1 ve got written, you can I t suddenly see something in the Saturday evening post and say I want to write something around this bidee. The picture opened in 18 places at once around New York, maybe not 1 8 but an enormous amount of cinemas, and at the end of that week his takings were colossal for the first week, and Charlie called me at 4 o'clock in the morning from New York, do you want to know what we've taken this week, what Charlie, now who's fucking mad, have a good night and then hung up. The next week went down a bit, and down a bit and by a miracle I think last year or the year before it had got it's money back. When it was finally finished none of us were sura whether he'd say to us no I've got another week, I've got another idea. Charlie said to me I can never thank you enough for what you've done for me on this picture, I'□ going to give you not just your director's credit, but on the opening sequence I'm going to give you a sole credit for the overall directing of the film, directorial supervision, I said Charlie I love you but if that appears on the screen I'll sue you, you'll get a law suit from me. He thought I was made. I said don't you dare do that, I'm serious. At the end of 9 months the whole thing was ready and
had been dubbed and Charlie Feld□an said to me I want you come come with
me to San Francisco where 1-:e're going to sneak t e preview, I said I cannot, I've go to et on with my life, I had another movie, so Bill went and bill told me afterwards Charlie □ade notes all the way through and when they had their meal at night Charlie had worked it out that in the first reel there were 2 belly laughs, in the second reel there were no belly laughs in the third reel there 5 belly laughs, and so on through the picture, so in the 5 belly laughs take two of them out and put them in the reel where t ere aren't any, seriously. -He died not long aften;ards, e was aL,ays complaining about his pains, he had cancer. 'This guy was a myth, even as an agent. I'm sure this was going to be the last big splurge that he did. He kept saying this is a psychodellic movie.
RF: \fuat kept you with it, it must have sorely tried you patienc.e

VG: Yes it did, except that you get onto a thing like that and you know there are some good things in it. There were so:ne fabulous sets apart from anything else. ichael Stringer did some brilliant stuff. It was a challenge and every time I would say look, he had the charm of the devil which had made him what he was, and he tal ed you out of it, you went

on, come on let's lick it. Another thing which kept me on it wer David and Ursula, we could send it up, getting paid aren't you churn, David would say, write it down as a great experience. We went to the South of
£ranee at one time to photograph everyone coming out of the sea in sorkels, but they were doubles, and we were filming in Nice, and I got back to the hotel and was told there's a call for you from Miss Andress in Berne whatever, I called her and she said what are you doin3 there, I said we're shooting, she said what are you shooting, and I told her and she said don't you love me anymore, I said of course, well why ara I not
there, why are you using a bloody double, she thought at least she could get a little bit more out of this crazy picture.
RF: So everybody got out of it extremely rich.
VG: E erybody made a lot of money out of it. Except Columbia.
RF: Did you somewhere at the back of your mind have hopes for it.
VG: Yes I did. Several times I though I think we've licked it and then
.---... Charlie would come up with another brain wave, more ways of spending money.

RF: Orson Welles, what do you remember about him.
VG: I never directed him, I can't remember if Joe McGrath had left or not Bob Parish was brought in to take over from him.
RF: It was a strange mix of directors.
VG: Yes, and we didn't know at the beginning who he'd got. John he 1 ,j got and he got me, we were the only two who had contracts signed. John called me one day and said who else have we got, I said I didn't know. I know we had got Richard Talmadge who was there to do all the chase sequences and stunts and direct all that. He was Hollywood famous for it. Other than that I didn't know. Then Ken Hughes was pulled in. And Bob who too! John's sequences spilled into anything else, it was a complete sequence on it's own, but the cnsino did because I brought in as part of the link,
I can't rer.1en:ber how He linked John's sequence .1-:i th the rest. I can
remember going to the premiere , and John uston HAS about 3 seats down, we were in the circle, I waved to hi□ and then he leant right out across the rail and said are we Hise to be here.

rf: Is it worth asking about John uston.

VG: I'd known him before, a wonderful character, a law until hi:.1self. Ile too!


.1-l'hat fuelled Huston's disdain for authority.

VG: I think he'd seen so much what arrant nonsense authority mostly was about, he didn't tolerate fools gladly , I think he treated then with the contempt he felt for them. It was contempt. John just to pack it up, I've had enough of this. His attitude was if a producer was not behaving professionalylHhy should he.



t : Shall we now move onto Assignment K.
VG: He shot it all out in Munich, Leo >lcKern, and Michael Redgrave who was a very sick man, had terrible difficulties with his lines, he wrote me a wonderful letter which I still have after the picture.
RF: Stephen Boyd was also in the picture.

VG: Ile was a great gigler, a great professional, very nice guy. In the script he was supposed to be a great skier, Camilla Sparv, who was also dying, she was a top skier where she'd come from, she was skiing all the time, so Stephen went to Aspen, Colorado to take some lessons, and on his way he saw 3 ambulances speeding past him, and he drove into the club, went up to the desk and said my name's Boyd, Stephen Boyd, I have a room here for a week, I won't be needing it. And went out into the car and came back. In London he said I have a terrible confessio,nI can't ski, so we put him through a crash course of just being able to start and stop, a very gentle guy. He had a top Czechoslovakian actor, I can't remember his name, and he was dying to get some money paid outside, because being Czech it all had to go back, he's dead now, so I can tell that. Also the first thing of Catherine Schell, she was Catherine von Schell then. It was a couple of days work. It was also the start of John Alderton, I'd seen him on the stage so I wrote him a bit in. IIe used to say I don't know what to do in films so just turn me and point me in the directionyou want me to walk.

RF: Who \vas the production company. VG: Columbia.
VG: They forgiven you for Casino Royale. They never blamed □ e for that, they were very nice about it, they said if it hand't been for me it would have been a lot worse.
RF: \.!hen Dinosaurs Ruled the Earth.

VG: That was a gigle, that was Hammer and they asked me if I could rio a prehistoric one, as I'd never done a prehistoricone I said yes, why not, let's have a go, and we went out to the Canary Islands. As there was no language in it, it was all made up language, nobody had to learn their
lines, it was interestign with Jim Danforth who was Ray Harryhausen's
sidekick and it was the first big things he was doing on his own, and nominated for an Academy Award, but Bedknobs and Broomsticks pipped us.

RF: Fas it rigorously planned.
VG:· Yes, I have the whole storybook at home, \ve went to an island called on which the foot of white man had almost never stood, there was one enormous German hotel and practically nothing else on the island,. there was one awful road, and we stayed at this hotel and then up into the ountains and lava beds.

RF: What were the production logistics like when you were so isolated.

VG: We planned very very carefully, we couldn't see rushes, there was a place inland where the main telegram and post office place, we couldn't phone London from the hotel, we had to go into the town. Aida Young was the producer on that. It was just a romp. Robin Hawdon played the
1 0 6 U'.-;CORRECT :.D

, VAL GUEST Tape 6 of 8

office boy in the Day the Ea r t h Cnught Fi r e , he 1-,as a stage actor, I though t he looked pr e t t y good and I brought him in to be t he l ea di ng man o ppos i t e t hi s strange · Victoria Ve tr i , she was a playboy gi r l , cent r es pr ead .


Toomorrow, Toomor r ow.

VG: Tha t wa s the first space mus i c a l . Ol i vi a Ne wt o n John was playing i n
a cabaret and Ha r r y had seen hre and had asked me to me e t h e r and we ha d
a chat and I t hough t she's a br i ght g i r l , a cute pe r s o na l i t y , l r r y ha d to a g r ou p together and put her in. this group, none of 1-,hich ever di d anything, and they made records, and LP, I was very t ake n wi t h Livy, I thought she had everything goi ng in t hi s fresh bubbl y wa y , Kershner wanted Livy to have a love seen in i t , and Ha r r y came to tell me a bo u t this andI spoke to Livy a nd s he went bezerk,

RF: What s or t of love scene.
VG: J us t a ki s s and cuddle, f i na ll y we never did the l ove scene. I3ut
all t hr o ug h it
bubbl y , bounc y , was qui t e
lookerl as obvious t hat she
cute as a button, was goi ng pl a ce s , s he was


1 0 7 U -!C0 1 R ECTED

,VAL GUEST Tape 7 of 8

Th young guy in it Bengy Thomas, nothing ever happened to him, I don't know 1•1hy he had a very good voice, the last time I saw him was in an American Express ad in Rome. I thought he had great talent. Livvy never thought she would do anything much more her except sing. And after we'd done the thing, Cliff Richards helped by putting her on his show, that took her up a little bit. That was a madhouse.
RF: Mainly because Harry Salzman. VG: Yes.
RF: \'Jhat period is this during his life, has he left Cubby yet, have they split. He's go t all this money and doesn't know what to do with it.

RF: I don't know how much money he had. Because Harry and Cubby broke off with acri□ony. He was paid off but not well as he would have been if he hadn't done what he hadn't done. The reason Toombrrow was not heavily shown was because I stopped it because I was not paid for the last bit of the film and I took Harry to court and I won my case and my two star witnesses were Frank Launder and Carl Fore□an. And then my solicitors found out, and only then, that the company we'd signed contracts with , Sweet usic in Geneva had absolutely no money, and Harry's name was on
none of the papers, so he never paid, so I was stuck with court fees as well, his lawyers Harbottle and Lewis bowed out before the court case,
because they said we haven't got a leg to stand on, he got away with it. As I had one of the top lawyers. Tne office had not checked we were suing a company with no money. So it was shown at Leicester Sq and I had written to Harry saying, no London Pavillion, I'm allowing this to open because all the publicity but I have to tell you I will injunct it after the opening if I have not be paid,
RF: Could you attach it.
VG: '.o, his S;Jiss coriipany had borrowed I don't know how many million dollarsfrom the Swiss Dank, Bank of Switzerland,and as collateral Harry had put up the bond, now :iarry and Cubby's joint agreement that nobody else could be partners in their deal, now Cubby finds he's got a Swiss bank as a partner, it was all sticky and messy and to this day I've never got a penny, £75,000 as still owing, a lot of money in those days. And I had to pay our legal costs which had been awarded against Sweet Music. That was United Artists. It was never shown.

RF: ffi 10 took the loss.
VG: Sweet:,fusic, the Swiss bank had to try and get the r.1oney back from Sweet l-iusic.
RF: Au pair Gir1

VG: That was a romp, it was my first nudie, I did it because Guido Cohen was an old friend of mine, who also used to be with Korda, called □e down to lunch, we're going to do a send up of all the nude pictures, it needs a very light touch, comedy, without any way being porno3raphic, I said why not that's another thing I'd never done, let's try it. It had a very

Ni\L GUEST Tape 7 of 8
good cast. It made an awful lot of mone y , we're still getting cheques in fr:om it.

RF: The same is probably true of the next one, Confessions of a liindow Cleaner

VG: Guido called me down again and when I got there I found he had a young guy called Greg Smith who was tr yi ng to make his way in the film business, and Mi c ha e l Kl i n g e r . And they pounced on me, they said t he r e is a man c a l l e d Christopher Lee who has written a whole load of confession books, we've got a confession book, confessions of a windowcleaner and we'd like to make a film of it. Guido said as you've done Au Pair, you might want to step one up and do a comedy series, so we go t together and chatted and I said fine, I made a deal with them i f I wrote and directed the fifst one, and I had a piece of it, if it came to a series I would a ls o have a piece in all the other ones whether I directed it or not.
That was how we s t ar t e d , that wasColumbia again, they did I think G in all, I only did the first one, I launched it off, the cheques wh i c h come from Columbia even now are unbe l i e va bl e on the series, because it was sold to Home Box Of f i c e , sold to Amer i c a , after it's screenings in Ar.1erica it went on cassette and is doing a roaring trade, Confessions of
is the bl oc k buster, it made so much mo ne y when it came out here that Columbia for the first time here had to pay Cor po r a t i o n tax. Wh a t made Confessions was that I tried to walk a t i ght r ope of skin flick and comedy, we kept it bubbling, we never took anything seriously, it was always sent up, that wasthe only way I'd do it I said if you let me send it up. It had to be gossamer light, walking the tightrope all the time. Instead of being emba r r a s s e d t he y were l aughi ng at the nudity.

I've had an awful lot of stars which have done nudes for me , Ur s ul a was just a pr o a bout t he whole t hi ng . Claire Bloom was worried in 80,000 Suspects about stripping for the shower, I said al r i ght we'11 use a double, as long as I can vet the double, I got a gi r l down and I go t her undressed in the caravan and she dropped her dressing gown, to see what her figure was like, I said OK, as we Here wal!dng m,ay fros the caravan Claire put her arms t hr oug h mine and said I I ve got better boobs than that, I said what does that e a n , she said I'll doit andshedi d .

Diamond lercenaries, it Has going to be Jack Palance but we didn't use him, it -.vas Hugh O 'Drian, t'.1at h·as a t e r r i bl e picture to make, we s ot mostly in the Nanibian desert, a place called in South \·,les t Africa and flew in every r:1o r ni ng into the desert because I wanted to shoot ,-,here people hadn ' t shot, so we were dropped in ever y morning by helicopter, they flew the food in, it was tough going, but enjoyable. It had Peter Fonda, Peter was a ge nt l e pain in the arse, Telly couldn't stand him, called him the amateur. He was on the health kick and '.1e ' d asked for a blender and it hadn't ar ri ved in t e mor ni n for his breakfast of 3 bananas and an arm and a leg and he refused to come on location till it arrived, and as you had to fly to to get it, and fly back, that sort of thing.

RF: \fas it a script or adaptation

VG: It was an original script by Michael h1i nd e r , it wa s n ' t very gooLl, I took it over and they brought an American writer, Gerald Sandford, and we wrote it between us, I had writ ten the script and he ,,as brought in, AIP it was being done f or , and they brought him over to nake sure t he· script wasbeing Americanised.

109 u: rc ORRECTED

'vAL GUEST Tape 7 of 8

RF: An expensive pi c t ur e .f or AIP

VG: It was an expensive picture and produced by a vi l l a i n ca l l e e! Na t Wachsberger, another one of f i l ml a nd 1 s villains, tal k a bou t £75,000 being the wo r s e hit, this 1-ms well over 100,000 dollars, that I didn't get paid, I sued him in Amer i c a , everyone was suing him and no body could get paid, t he n he had a heart at tack . Gerald Li ps ky one of the top lawyers in Ame r i c a said 1111 t ake it on for nothing and if I ge t it we'll split, I said OK, he said you've got a hell of a case, beca us e it made a
. f o r t une , it Has in Variety top 10, and Na t j us t went on a round the wo r l d cruise with hi s wi f e . He ha d c ompa ni e s he r e , here here. There were characters f roR earlier pi c t ur es tr yi ng to ge t it too,

RF : 1·JcJ.s he bl a c kli s t e d

VG: No , he made one after that in It al y , an i nt e r gal l ac t i c s pac e t hi ng . I 6ot paid my salary, it wss my percentage he got away •.,;i t h . He had a terrible deal on production when he wouldn 1 t pay I CM who he done a pac ka ge deal wi t h t h e ir actors, he would pay t hei r actors, he wassel do□ on location with us, he was in J ohanne s bur g or So ut h of Fr a nc e where he had a house and cheques just di Even Telly said I'll goonforanother week but, then I got a call from Jack Gallardi who was one of the head men at I C:·! Hollywood, where's Na t , I 1 ve no i dea , he ' s either in Cannes or, you mean he doesn't cont ac t you, he phones in occasionally, next t i me he phones in you tell himif those cheques are not on my desk in LA by Ue dne s da y morning f i r s t post I' 11 send my men after him, that's all I have to tell Na t. Everything was pa i d suddenly, bu t a lot of people in Johannesburg were not paid, for t r uc k hi r e , it Has a t e r r i bl e j o b t r yi ng to ge t it out of hi m . I said Na t 1 s your pi c t ur e going to come to a standstill unless you pa y . And
1vh e n we l e f t the c o un tr y t he y he l d a l l t he film, the little studios they'd used t he r e , they wouldn't let it out of the country until they pa i d . Telly I f o un d won de r f ul , e a s i e s t man to work wi t h , and he'd just had some tr o u bl e in Der l i n , there wasa story about hi m being l at e on the f l oor and not kno wi ng hi s l i nes , when I first methim in J oha nne s bur g , f i r s t of all I wa nt t o tell you what you read about that is ball s , I ah1ays know :ny lines, and he showed i!le cut t i ngs a nd things, he was very good . 0 . J. Simpson ':1as t he f i r s t bl a ck s t a r t o stay in the Carlton Hotel in J o:21 nne s bu r 3 , beca us e we s a i d we' re go i ng to have blc.1c:(s and whites, he ' s one of us . And 0 . J. wh o is one of the r ever ed f oo t bal l s t a r s bef o r e he went into act i ng , he stood in t he middle of the Carlton
Hotel and sai d I'm the f ir s t fucl:ing bl a c k a c t or to be here. I was sayi ng s hus h , be qui e t , bu t they wer e all la ughi ng behind t he desk. He insisted all our uni ts , the black el ectr i c i a ns and props and heavy ga ng , wherever He were f i lmi ng t !i.e y had to come in wi t h us, and in doing so we di d an enorcous amount of good , because they accepted i t , no body had insisted before, we said no argume nt s , and whe n we filmed in Pr e t or i a in the gover noe nt bui l di ngs , the room t he y ' d gi ve n us f or t he ca n_t e e n , we s a i d they all come in he r e the who l e lot, they said al l of t hem , we said yes, t he unit and t he actors, so t hey all ca me in, no a r g ume nt .

RP : Did you find t he bl a c k peo pl e would take that chance.

VG: Th e y wer e wo r r i e d i!1 the be gi nni ng , a nd then they found out we were wi t h them and they were bei ng rb ough t in with us and they gradua l l y go t


used to it Telly was forever put t i n3 his a r m round a coupl e of the black t r uc k d r i ve r s and determined to have his picture t aken wi t h them, we did

11 0 UNC0 R1 ECT::'.D

J./AL GUEST Tape 7 of 3
an enormous amount of good, whenever we stopped in a restauarnt or coffee bar we , ould say they all come in, all of us, yes ok, it was never a question is you mind if, ,,;e just took it for granted.

RF: I've shot there and that is the attitude that the British take down with them but I wonder what happens subsequently. Sone were very loathe to be seen to participate so I wondered what happened afterwards.
VG: Hell we were ,vay out on location, they didn't stay in our hotel. \ile found the apartheid class were the upper classes, not the lower classes, a few of the middle classes but not the majority. But it was the upper classes who said come here boy.

RF : I thin it varies, we were shootins out at Clifton Beach, Cape Town, nd I had the penthouse in this hotel which had a kitchen and refrid;ferator, in the course of time we'd bought a lot of wine and foodstuff, and on the day we were leaving ,,,e gave it to the black personnel, which I suspect was seen as provocation by the white staff, one of the crew went back into the penthouse subsequently, he had to go back for something, and there was a woman who was the matron, housekeeper
of the hotel, she was a Boer to the bone, she was in the process of taking ii all back so we just piled it into the car.

VG: At that time I was under im mense pressure under Alan Sapper not to go. e don't like the Government so you musn'tgo. I said I don't like the Government here but I'm still making pictures, and if they asked me to go to Russia I would make a picture and I don't like the goverment there. So as Michael Klinger had just done his big lawcase with AC'IT about Gold, ,,e were on firmer ground, I said nobody's going to stop me making this movie. \ !e can do more good by going than not going. And I'm
sure we did. \ve weren't dealing Hit'.1 white authoritiesat all, or just
getting permission to film, we said this is what we are doing and this is how it should be handle d.

RF : Would you go now.

VG: Depending entirely on the picture, perhaps now I would think twice, but depending on 11hat the picture 1vas, I wouldn I t just go to make an adventure picture like this was, but if it was a serious picture I would. Cry Freedom, Did:y couldn't shoot it there, not because he ctictn't ,-.rant
to shoot it there 'out because t!e1 authorities wouldn't have it. , ·:ow even the news is censored, it1 s an entirely different thing.
RF: The thing I found is meeting very pleasant people, for the most part, you wouldn't !:ielieve how isolated they Here, how provincial and parochial in their outlook, and you thought there's no place to go but into the sea and it1 s bound to happen sooner or later.
We're onto Space 1999 , was that a feature.

VG: Gerry Anderson, a feature for television. And the series.

RF: Ilm, :nany of those did you do.

VG: Quite a lot. They were fun to cto. Again I had a wonderful cameraman, Frank Watts, and he'd do a lot of the special effects before your eyes, 1,hy don't \ ·! e do that guv, and even Gerry Anderson ,-muld say how the hell did you do that, you've saved me a lot of money, they were doing the special effects at Bray then, it was a crazy progra□me, Johnny
111 UlfCOTrn.ECTSD


'VAL GUEST Tape 7 of E3
Goodman was our, no, that was on the Persuaders, Frank Green who had been my production manager on. the Day the Earth Caught Fire and a hundred others, he was in charge, that was a fun series to do and · very successful. They bought a book out on that.

T;' .
l. •


An adequate budget. Never adequate on TV.

RF: My recollection of the□ is of some tawdry scripts, they seemed like the old puppet script with now live action.

VG: They weren't very good, I would like to have written some of those but they had such a pile already done, it wasn't worth it, they said you can wr te some for the second series, forget it.

RF: You seemed to move into television in a big way after Diamond Mercenaries.

VG: My launch into television was Space 1999.

RF: Were there any ostensible differences you noticed straight away other than restrictions in time and budget.

VG: I bad done the Persuaders, that was before. That was 71, going back then Bob Baker who had been a chum for a long long while, he was doing a new series with Roger Moore and Tony Curtis and asked me if I'd like to come in and start them off, I said yes, I wrote them as well, that was a great outfit, it was fun working with Roger. Tony Curtis was a handful. He had suddenly manic rages, rather like Peter Sellars, he would suddenly go off his trolley, he would pick on somebody, like he'd pick on the boom man, out of the blue. But the one thing about Tony Curtis was that he had a sense of huElour, he once went into a rage, he ,-ms screaming at everybody, I went up to him and took hi□ by the lapels and said to think those lips once kissed Piper Laurie. And he looked at me in blank

ar.1azement and suddenly burst out into hysteric.s you could kid him out of things.

It was all gone. So

RF: These black rages were instantly over and forgotten were they,
VG: No occasionally I'd say Tony go anrl have a cigarette and cool down. He was ah;ays better after his smoke. \!·hen you're working at that pressureand you're on location and trying to get things moving, you can do without the little agravations, I'm sure, we won the award that year for the best television series, and it could have gone on and on and on I'r.1 sure, but Roger didn't want to work with that aggravation. Because
Roger and Niven are two of the easiest 0uys you could ever \'fork for. He said it wasn't worth it. Tony was a pro, it was just these little flashes of rage, and they were never directed at me. Luckily. But picking on odd little things, and then it was all gone. Roger iloo r e was
great, a quiet professional actor. Johnny Goodman was associate producer on that one with Bob Baker. The daily battle to get your expenses, he was very tight on everything.

RF: These were 50 minute episodes, what did you have to shoot them. VG: On the outside 10 days.
RF: A series of 13 a year.



,VAL GUEST Tape 7 of 8

VG: Yes.
RF: Did you shoot them back to back. VG: Yes.
RF: Do you remember the budget.
VG: o, on location you tried to get more, but on studio you figured on
6 - 7 minutes a day, so your 1 0 days was an outside figure, you usually ca:ile in on 8.

RF: After making theatricalpictures was this a hardship.
VG: N , I'll tell you an extraordinary thing, Roger and Tony, I had said to Bob Baker, I don't know about television, you can get someone who did a lot of television,, there's no difference. So Roger and Tony came to see me at the house, they said what are you talking about, television, shoot it as you would a movie, there's no differenc,e never r:1ind what
they say to do for television or can't do, just shoot it as a movie and they talked me into it.

RF: You said before that you didn't do what many studio directors did which is to do the master, and medium shot etc, presumably you continued that process in televisio n.

VG: I plotted and planned very carefully. It stood me in very good stead that I had planned out everything so the cameraman could look at the board, he could say I must remember to leave the lights there because he's going round there, you'd be surprised the amount of time.
RF: Did you go into production with a full set of scripts.
VG: No , they came in at odd times. They ,1ere some scripts ahead but they didn't have all of them. The first one I wrote had sequences in the south of france, called the Girl Napoleon, Bob said in the first 6 we've
3ot some more south of France, so why don't we try and pick up anything we can, although we haven't got the actors, that way they saved time and r:1oney. 2ut very often we had to go back, or Bob woulrl have to send another u it. They had most of them, when I had Joan Collins down there, while we were shooting Joan and the guys on the movie we also picked up with tl1e g u y s i n another one which was going to be near the Italian border. It's really planning a battle.
RF: Did you find it a battle.
VG: No.
RF: But wor ing more t an regular days.
VG: I lover! i t.

RF : You're shootin:;, you're cutting the episodes behind, planning the episode in front, you I re working on scripts maybe two or three ahead, alot of activity.

VG: Good for you. Tne n I get a terrible series called The Adventurers with Gene Barry, Monty Berman was th pro ducer of that and he was a real



,VAL GUEST Tnpe 7 of 8
pain in the ass, and he went on to make a large fortune in Cage Aux Folle, he was the original in that, taking it around the country. They were absolutely awful. · Gene Barry who had an enormous opinion of himself, a nice enough guy but an enormous opinion of himself, the only guy I knO\•/ who had written into his contract that at least 85% of the ti e he must be photographed on his left side. And all doors onto sets were left to right. He was like a fussy old woman. Shillingbury Blowers, I goto an enor□ous kick out of doing that, that was a thing I did with Trevor Howard, and a whole cast with Bernie Cribbens, it -,as about a brass brand, that was courtesy of Lew Grade. It was big big success here and ah enormous successin America. That was Greg S ith again who I had worked with on Confessinos. In Blowers we thought as it was a success we would go and make some more and Francis Essex who was in charge of ATV he had written these, and they were a little unwieldy and I had to 30 over them a bit. But they were charming stories. We took over this l!ittle village called Aubrey, down near Tring, and then we shot another 12 of them. \,fe did an awful lot. Greg said do you want to do them all or we can get someone in and you can do them back to back with. I said no, christ, I'll do them all. It took like 10 days, 15 days to do each one. We did them with a different star in each one, Lionel Jeffries, John Standing


11 4

And the Frenchman, Jean Pierre Cassel.

RF : ll'e' ve s ki ppe d to the series over Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson. That was what a one off for television.

VG: No, that again was an awful lot of work. There was a s t r a nge character called Sheldon Reynolds, Shelly Reynolds, Steve Previn, Andre's br o t !le r , called me, he us e d to be with Colur:ibia and then AI P , Steve called me one day and said Val I'm 3oing to ask you a question, you may never talk to me agnin after this if you say yes, would you like to 30 and fil m in WAr s a w. I s2id yes, I ' d love to. Hha t it is. He said
Sheldo Reynolds is m aki ng a Sherlock Holmes series, they haven't got a lot oC time to shoot them, the Polish gover nme nt a r e put t i ng up their studios and payin all the hot el bills at that end, and Shelly is flyi g in units and actors all the time for each of the t hi ngs . They' re half hours and shot at the speed of l i ght . I ' ve suggested you if you want to
do it. I s ai d can't wait, sounds a terrific challenge , especially I'd never been to \:a r s a w. I r e a li s e d do i ng half hour ones and preparing I couldn't do the enti re l ot . I said to Shelly, let me do them back to back with somebody, get one guy, who, get Roy Baker, and Roy and I worked bac!

F: Hh o w.Js in the series.

VG : Sh c r l oc '.z Hol'.:'les, he Ha s a very 300d act or , J eff rey t 'hi t e:1ea d , us ed
to be Ro ya l S:ia '. e s pea r e Compa n y , Dona l d Pid , er i n6_, .;a s Ft. t s o n , L' :'.s t r a de
was a pe r s o n who's recently died, Paddy Me we l l . He h a d a wo nd e r f ul cr e l·l , a wonderful l i ght i ng ca me r am a n who ha d just shot Shoes of the Fi s he r ma n , everybody s t r ug3 l i ng not und er s t a ndi ng 1-,hat anyone , tal'.dng about, few of them spoke Engli s h .

RF : Hha t did Poland contribute by way of cast.

VG: He had the prop man and the s e t bui l der s , bi t pa r t s , our coac:1
drivers we pul l ed in and then 1,e had to revoice t he::1.

RF: You got to that stage

VG : Yes. Da nge r ous Da vi e s again t eami ng up with Gr e g Smith, it was a Leslie Thomas book and I think a good movie, a two pa r t e r for t el e vi s i on Ber ni e Cribbens, marvellous, one of our more unde r r a t e d a c t or s he r e , he would have been a bi g big character star in Hol l ywoo d , we had s o□e v e r y


goo d people in cameo parts, , ;{a ur ee n Lipmans and pe o pl e lil:e that, Joss
Ackland, that wa s very sad . Af t er t h a t we went ont o Shi l l i nbur y Tal e s to

11 5 u::CO;'(R::'.CTi i::J

do the rest of them and all that was Le•:1, an they scrubbed automaticall.y They all went by the board, they'd never
been reshown. Dangerous Davies was 3 two part cot7ledy thriller, it was really excellent.
RF: Is this the point to talk about Lew Grade
VG: The first time I met Lew he was an agent. ile used to play poker with Ambrose, he would come out to the studio with Cathy his wife, who was a singer, and they asked me to test her, I can't remember what her profes ional name was, Maurice Ostrer organised it because Dill Ostrer was al o in the poker school, so I spent all day testing her. Nothing ever came of it. That was the first time I came into contact with Lew and Lady Lew.
RF: How old was he, about 30.
VG: I don't know, age has never been a thing I've cottoned onto. I spent so much of my early life saying I was 5 years older than I was to get work, especially when I was acting, that psychologically I grew up knowing everybody was older than I was although they didn't know it. And I got conditioned with it. So today when I read things about people dying I think my god he was younger then me, always looked upon him as older, it was a strange thing which happened to me in my youth, because I was lying about my age, it's carried through, so it's hopeless to ask me about anybody's age.
RF: Did you know the other two brothers. VG: Leslie vaguely. Bernie yes, very well.
F: ere they at t is time powers in the busines.s
VG: Bernie wasn't. That came later. I never had an awful lot to do with Lew, but he I s always been very char□ing and I've always co111e away with a foot long cigar, he'd come and visit us on the set when we were doin. the Persuaders, he would wander down. I used to smoke a lot of cigars then, I used to stick a cigar on the back of □ y hand. He was fun.
F: Do you have any insights into the end of his regim.e

VG: No, the only thing I know about it is that it buggered up a lot of plans we had well in advance, we even had a finis:1ecl s cript, we had
storie.s On the follow up to Dangerous Davies, \,e''d even been on a
cruise on the Canbera so I could see what happened and try and get some icleas on the script. The Canbera paid for it all, it was agreed. they would give us facilities and then Lew gets the chop.
JF: So it wasn't a total waste
VG: lo, at leastwe reached Jadeira.
RF: It brings us to the Boys in Blue.
VG: Again Greg came to and said there's a very hot couple called
116 UNC011R:SC1'2D

,VAL GUEST Tape 7 of S
Cannon and Ball, very big in television, I'm sure they can be big in films too, their Palladiu;n shows are a sell out and everywhere they appear is a sell out. So I he took me to see several of their shows being made, and I met the boys and I liked them, and then we went down to Bournmuoth to see their show there and the kind of reaction they got round the country. And obviously they were enormously popular, and I thought no doubt about it they would be a big draw. The boy themselves, Bobby Ball
\·1a s a mad film fan, he had remembered the Will Hay picturesand that's how we came to get Ask a Policeman, and I ran Ask A Policeman for Greg and he said yes I think we can update it. This is how we came to remake Ask a Police□an as The Boys in Blue with Cannon and Ball and I thought they were very funny, althouh they are not my cup of tea. They're shows, I didn't like their television shows at all, Coronation St isn't my cup of tea which isn't to say it's no good. I thought they had potential and I lead them through their first film. e had a lot of fun making1 it. It was hard work to lead two newcomers through. But we made it and it had a certain amount of success, but not enough success to warrant another one.
F: For 1983-4 there are 3 listed.
VG: Those are films for television in the Hammer House of Hystery and Suspense series.
RF: Designed for where, here or the States.

VG: For both countries. Because each one we had to bring an American name in. We had Mary Crosby, Bing's daughter, a very good actress. We
had Carol Linley, Dirk Benedic,t the A Team, the goodlooking guy,
Cassavetes, that sort of thing. They were 10 days. The slot was an hour and 20 minutes. Jenny Seagrove we had. Chris Cassenove.

Il F : Were they studio based.

VG: /los tly location, we did an odd thing in the studio but very little, that was at Elstree, SlH , but very few and only what you couldn't do on location. :lostly we took over places and did it. They were a bis success. As near the studio as possible but we went out as far as Tring. A couple of tises we had to go and pick up so□e stuff abroad, but not with t:-ie ·.1hole unit. It was 90'. location wor'. .
I;F : \•ihat' s your feeling about these hybrid vehicles, when the strange requirements of the American audience has to be satisfied and they have to appeal to domestic audiences here, do you find that a difficult balance.
VG: I really don't think as far as we're concerned _that it makes a ha'pence of difference.The only difference it does make is that there is a whole lot of people I would like to cast fro here rather than taking bits and pieces from America. Becausethose were done entirely for the Ar;-ierican r:inrket and they were cast over there. \le had a casting director in Los Angeles giving us lists of people over there who \,ere available who we might \:•ant, all done for lLrJ.erican television
RF: !low were they scripted.
VG: They were scripted here by british writers and then sent ihere for

,VAL GUEST Ta;Je 7 of 8
an OK. In fact Roy Skeggs who produced them had to send a list of his directors as well to Hollywood and they would say yes no yes, ,fnd you would be surprised, I saw the list of names which went and you'd be surprised at the list of no no no.

?.F: \•:hat were the reasons for the nos

VG: Hever a reason given. But the reason obviouslywas their record, or their tirae record, and if they didn't know someone they'd say no, didn't want to risk it.

RF: Were they for network showin.g VG: I'm not at all sure.
RF: Did you feel the subjects were bastardised by having to satisfy those rigorous strictures.

VG: No, I didn't. I did feel the subjects could have been better. I think that soiilehow the subjects, someone had taken the easy way out, instead of saying no, let's find something, search, look, they I d just said that's not ba

RF: But don't you think that's part of the proble:,1, American television is formula, re embered rather than written and there is never a quest for the good, it's just a sausage machine.

VG: These by the way were made for Fox. When things are submitted, you send a story in, maybe the producer, or the script editor he has employed to think for hin on this will say I think you ought to do this or that, that's chan3ed here not in America. Then it goes to Hollr,rood, when it's been printed off it goes to l llywood, and the story editor on the coast can turn them down flat, no think again, or can say yes but I think you ought to have less of a local image, more of a wider one, things like that can co::ie back. But really they don I t pay enough to get the best writers \·1ho could be bothered to sit down and waste, they would feel it a waste of a story which they could make into a feature or even a televisionfil:.1 somewhere else.

RF: Or not prepared to write down to that level.

VG: It isn't really that, for instance Roy Skeggs has got a series which is 3oing on in the new year, they're ghost and mystery stories, he said if you've got any ideas bung them in, we'11 use them, I've never done them because, it sound awful, I can't be bothered to sit down and waste a good idea. That's probably terribly high handed of me. I never got the feeling on The Persudaers because I thought this is wort::-i digging deep for, because the pays not worth it, apart from anything else.
RF: Can we go back to some of the writin8 credits because we didn't initially have a full list. :-laid of the :-'.ount2in was your first' solo script, do you remember anything else.
VG: Mot really except that a lot of it was shot on the silent stage and we had the sound boys with their telescopic booms having lots of proble s because there were echoes and birds and god knows what.
RF: They had a boom by this time.

11 8 u;:COR:1ECTED


VAL GUEST Tape 7 of 8

VG: It was on one of those things you pull a telephone out on , t ha t opens up, it wasn't a tube that went into one, it was one o( those extending things. -le s_hot a lot of it on Shenley Rd which was r ough country then and r:iuch of our riding was done dmvn there, and t he brigand's lair wasshot in the Cheddar Go r ge .

R7\l .• Do you r eme mbe r what else was being shot.

VG: Yes Hi t c h was shooting No l 7, he was on the stage with his little miniature railways running round the whole thing having a ball, that was being shot. I thin!-c it was a little later that we di d , no it was probably around then, there was a director called Arthur \foo ds who was to be killed in the war, I can ' t remember.

RF: Was it to play back.
VG: If wa s , because the synchronisation problem because t he r e was always a lag, it was done to records prerecorded on di s k . Enor mo us gr e a t t hi ngs . And a question of spending hou r s and hours in the morning making sure it was up to s pee d . And many times the cutting room had to do a l ot of pulling because t her e had been a fade down or up, f l uc t a t i o n on the electricity or something. Funny too, it'sgone all the way throug my film life, I always reme ber card playing on the set , the actors used to
get t oget her behind a flap and play cards until they were called. I
don't mean the extras, they wer e always doing it of cour s e , but the actors themselves, t her e were card schools goi ng on everywhere, that's oneof my vivid memo r i e s of film studios,

RF: No Monkey Bus i ne ss , the story is credited to Joe May and Karl Not t , it that the Joe Hay fr o□ Germany who went on to Hol l ywoo d .

VG: I don't kno w , I never had much to do with him , I met Joe Hay but I never really, he Hasa little guy with a mid Eur opea n accent who was a f r i e nd of He r ma nn Fellner who was a producer who had even a worse accent, but whether that was the same Joe Ha y .

RF: I think it r:ius t have be e n .
VG: That was not my script, completely my s c r i pt , I wr ot e it with a fellow called Roger Bur t on , and that was in fact r:iy' f ir s t real screen credit, as screenplay wr i t e r .

RF : I think I asked you about Julius Heymann who is down o.s the pr o duc e r , Radius at B&D,

VG: I don't remember a n awful lot about him. I r emem be r far more Ee r ma nn Fel l ne r who was Ra di us Films, an incredible charact er . mo unt a i n of a ma n . He had a hi gh pi t c h voice too, about 6 ft 4.

6 ft

lff : Eow di d you get wo r k . Di d you Bake personal contact or di d you have an agent .

VG: Ho, the Ma i d of the -: fount a i ns from then on I went in t hr ough Hi p pe r
Lane, because I had or i gi na ll y g one to Ni ppe r L.ane to write his l if e story for the NeHs of the ;fo r l d who then wasn't just sex t hi ngs , their
feat ur es and t hi ngs were very good . I did i'.ae He s t , Di e rt i c h , Paul
Stei n , I did a l l their life stories, I ghosted all their life str ies for them, ei t he r the Sunday Di s pa t c h or Ne1vs of the Wo r l d , there was a good living to be made ou t of that, I went to Ni ppe r Lane to write his story


'VAL GUEST Tape 7 of 8

and got in with Nip and he showed me once a script or somethi ng or other and he asked me what I t ought and I made one suggestion and he was very taken by it and he gave me the next script to read, and from then on he said have a go, write them for me. I got into BIP because of NIP, I did a lot more pictures, I did a terrible thin called Toreadors Don't Care with Leslie Fuller, who was their big co!'!ledian then, I acted in it, I didn't do the script, but I did a couple of things there, Weston Drury who was the casting director I'd got to know, and inbetween doing pictures with Nip, because we did 3 pictures in a row there, one at B&D which was next door, No □onkeyBusiness, so really my initial intro there was through Nip. I'd done odd bits on stage touring but nothing on film.
Rf: Leslie Fuller again is a forgotten character. VG: He was an enormous hit, like Lucan and- fcS hane.

RF: Out of music hall.

VG: Concert party, not music hall, out of concert party which is a little different. The music hall people used to be able to go on and hold up an act, whereas with concert party they held up a concert party show with sketches, dancing, everything, music hall were all solo perfor□ers or double performers, they all came from concert party. Leslie Fuller came from concert party, he was their big money maker contract player.
RF: 1vhat were the films, a series of turns.
VG: No, they were li e the Max Sennett comedies. RF: He was knoc!:about
VG: Sort of, he had a funny looking face, his face was a sort of Frankie Howard but not as defined as Frankie's
RF: H'nat ,as his audience, in the stiks,
VG: Yes. Tl1ey raade an awful lot of money those pictures, I thought they were awful.
F: You played whnt sort of part.
VG: In Torreadors Don't Care I played a newspaper man, a reporter, I
can't remember any of the others.
1F: Did these fil!:ls co:ne under Mycroft'swing.
VG : Yes, Torreadors Dant Care was originally called An Old Spanish Customer 2nd then was changed to Torrea TIF : What did they pay you.

VG: About £4-£5 a day by then. I started at £3 I think it was £3/lOsh a day, that was '.!a i d of the '.·loutains. And then it went up to £4 or £5.

RF: \•;as it that you could estahlish a daily rate
VG: No they told you. They told you, when it came to the third picture
120 u :co nECTED


VAL GUEST Tape 7 of 8
I said can't I get more than that, I I ve done two, and one not that terrible and I don't fall over the furniture, they said alright and it
r went up. Only by pleading with the .
RF: \Je went over the rest of the writing credits, but did we do justice to the Hill Hay comedies.

VG: othing specifically comes to nind. We sat down, what happened in writing the Will I ys, we'd think up inbetween ovies or during, we would make a list of things which would make a routine t!p, so we always had a
list of things, possible routines you could drop in and you knew whatever a Will Hay picture was about you'd have to have at least half a dozen set routines which dropped into this thing, which was the way we went about that. And your story, once you got your story, and you looked up what routines you could drop in if nothing else occurred to you, you'd say let's look at our list an ........_ thought that's a hell of a good place to drop that in because you could s2-y there's a train coming, no, no this is summertime you're talkins about, this is wintertime which means it's going to be coming in an hours time, no it means it1 s here any minute because you put an hour on, you don't take it off, it actually was a very funny routine, but that again was an idea that had been worked out ahead of time and we'd stored it and we'd had to adapt it a little to fit a train. Hhereas originally it was
\ffitten down as to whether you had to leave now to get to a date or whether it meant you were late already. That's the sort of thing.

RF: So that was the genesis of all the little scenes that were developed, the comedy sequences.

VG: Not necessarily because very often in writing things developed themselves, but at the back of our r.i.ind we had this list of things and suddenly something would spark when we were writing a screenplay, we'd think christ we can bring such and such and thing here, you remember the one we've got down somewhere, those would trigger it off. You'd never sit do\-m with the routines and say now let I s write a story Hhich is the way working for Hitchcock was, Hitch would simply say find me six bumps,
6 unusual locations in unusual locals, once you got them, now let's write a story and fit them in, he used to work the other way round
RF: At Gainsborough with the contract writers was there a social, life that you were bouncing things off one another, was there cross fertilisatio,nwas there the equivalent of the writer1 s tableat lunch.

VG: Not only the writers, producers, the production manager, we'd all be at one big table.
RF: There was a commissary
VG: Yes, the unit would be at other tables, but we were always at Ted Black's table, he used to have his own table and we were all around it, the accountant, Courbishley, Bob Dearins,
RF: Talking shop
VG: o just kicking around what happened over the weekend.

VAL GUEST Tnpe 7 of 8


\ 11..:,:


I was wondering the extent to which things came out of conversation. Not really, you went to lunch and you just kicked life around.
It wa s n 1 t like the vicious circle at the Al go nqu i n

VG: No. He didn rt really kick ideas around at all. We were very compartmentalised bRcause George E RF: Of l:hc :four of you, there Here two temns, would Launder and Gilliat come to you and say we've got R problem, any ideas.

VG: \·!e could do but we didn I t. We Here rather inclined to go to Ted Illnck. Hhat \,'ould happen, Launder and Gilliat would ,-1rite a story iden, then \ie would all sit Around with Ted discussing the storv i.dea, then Tr-;d
• .1:Ll :e: y :•=--.. 6 0 o:f notes, then he1 d give it to Ted, Ted would make his notes and then we would all come into the office together. That was the only time we got together. Yes we got together socially many times but other than that we never sat around in one of those conference rooms.

RF: I r:1eant the informal get together/interchange rather than having script conferences.

VG: Strangely enough -,e never did. Because Frank and Sidney they were busy on their thing, whatever they were doing. Hhen we were doing Oh Mr Porter they were busy rloing The Lady Vanishes. And The Lady Vanishes, Fred would send the script up t o us and we might have the odd suggestion here or there, for Naughton Wayne and Basil Radford, some comedy thing, otherwise nothing. There was never a time when we all sat around in an o{fice except the first time we were racing to do the rA Y g ng thing

VAL GUEST Tape 8 of 8


We all sat around the office with the Crazy Gang which Ted thought would be a good idea, to kick over the first story, and they got all excited about what we did at Scunthorpe when we let the geese out sort of thing, this is all we got all day, we never did it again. So in those old days we used to meet in Ted;s office and then go very much our separate ways.

RF: It was just productive talents, partitions,

that there were the four of you, remarkable and somehow one expected a kind of exchange over the

VG: I'm sure we kicked things around if things got out of hand, if you really got stuck.

RF: How did Joe Orton fit into all of this.

VG: He was a charming rather boring fellow, there was nothing wrong with him, he wasn't a very creative person unless he'd sold a story and came to work on the thing, b t we never sat on a story with Joe and wrote. He was an ideas man but not a very good one. They would sometimes say to Joe Orton, how he got his credits, they'd say while we were working on something, Ted would call him or Frank see if you can get anything on the bus service, someone running a pirate bus, and Joe would go away and write a treatment, and the treatment when it came down to us, if it was one for us, we would read it and say yes it's an idea but that's fucking awful and that needs more, and Ted would say kick it around and we would take the script from there. And do the rewrites, Joe mostly did treatments of ideas they flung at him.



-------- VG:

Do you know where they found him. No idea, he was Major Joe Orton.
Was he one of those who used his rank.

Always. Then we had another wonderful character who was virtually

a gag man, a routine idea man, who was Val Valentine, he was a larger than life character who won the VC and god knows what else, he was a large lively man always brimming with ideas, some awful, some of which were very funny, many of which we used, in fact I think on one of ours he's got a credit.

RF: How were credits sorted out in those days, was it up to the dis pensationof Ted Black.

VG: Yes. Ted and Frank between them, they decided who got a credit, who deserved on, put him on.

RF: Would you say their judgement was fair by and large. VG: Yes.
RF: They were aware of what was going on in the departmen.t Joe was
known as dear old Joe, let him have a go at this or that, he was mostly at the Bush when we arrived at the Bush. Then Jack Davis came in as an apprentice writer, and at one time, I can't remember what the book was

VAL GUEST Tape 8 of 8

but they bought a story of Roland Per t wee, quite a well known a u t ho.r , they bought a novel and one of· Roland's clauses was t ha t his son should be gi ve n a job in the script department so Michael Pertwee came in, and Mi c ha e l Pe r t we e a nd Jack Davis between them were the gag men who woul d turn in a lot of gags , would be gi ve n a script and told see if you ca n t hi k a nyt hi ng up on t he s e . They were t her e f or a while, not ver y long.

RF: Was it a wild atmosphere.

VG: Not a t a l l . Sedate. Te d Black had an enormous sense of humour, you could always have a laugh with Ted Bl a c k , there was a lot of fun in the s t udi o but it was a serious studio, very friendly, a fami l y a t mos phe r e .

RF: One of the sad things is that we're inclined to pa rt onis e those
times and those films and say how quaint, but eve r yo ne wa s operating in a professional fashion.

VG: Re a l l y wo r ki ng too, the hours we put in, everybody put i n . I don ' t know if I me n t i one d it before, we used to try and get out in the sun.
-----, The r e was a place called The Ol d Ba r n a t Elstree, The Thatched Barn and we us e d to d r i ve out and take our no t e pads and typewriters and wo r k arourtd the s wi m i ng pool, and Ted Black a couple of times called our office and was told we weren't in. And he said what time do you come in.
I said we went out to t he Barn and di d some wo r k there. He said I want everybody to check in, he suddenly de c i de d we would ha ve to c hec k in.

RF: Check in meant clocking in. VG: Yes.
RF : J a c k Wa rn e r in Hollywood did that

VG: We rebelled at this, all of us rebe ll e d , we s a i d it s' awful having
to clock in , you can't do this with creative people, do you trust us, yes, r i gh t , you trust us that wh e r e ve r we are at 9 o ' c l ock we' 11 s t ar t thinking for Gainsborough. He said you bas t a r d alright. So we di dn ' t have to clock in. But he di dn ' t like us goi ng out. He like to know that we were there working so our t r i ps to the barn diminished. We would perhaps do it on a Fr i da y if it was a nice Friday.

RF: I wonder why that was, bec a us e you said he was very aware of creative production, so he mu s t h a ve known you don't get i de a s between 9 and 5 .

VG : Bu t he l i ke d to know you were there trying to get ideas between 9 and 5. He didn't want to think we were pissing off not t aki ng t hi ngs seriously.

RF: Was ther a lot of golf pl a yi ng .

VG: I don't recall it . I know Ted Bl a c k used to go campi ng , on camping hol i da ys . He wasn't a s por t s ma n , I can't t hi nk of anyone who was, not Frank or Si dne y .

RF: What was camping in those days, t aki ng a t e nt .

VG : Yes a tent and car , in this country, the Lake Di s tr i c t or somewhere
or other. I can ' t remember anyone playing gol f , or tennis ei t hre .

RF: Any long lunches.

VG: No, because you always lunched in the studio. You went and had lunch with the family every day. You got there and were with the family for the day, and we'd all lunch together always unless there was some
business thing one had to do. An hour straight lunch and after lunc·h rushes.

RF: How much on average would you hope to get of screen time. VG: 5 or 6 minutes.
RF: So it was an efficient operation.

VG: Yes, everybody at Gainsborough knew their job and if it turned out they didn't know their job they weren't there very long.

RF: And were they amply rewarded.

VG: I wouldn't know what the other people got I wouldn't bellyache about what I got.

RF: Social life.

VG: I used to go every weekend, I had a bungalow at Shoreham, and I used to go down to Shoreham every weekend.

RF: Were you married.

VG: Yes. I had no family, my wife was a dancer and we used to go down every weekend to the bungalow and come back every Friday. We rented it, in fact it was just a couple of railway carriages which had been put on the beech, and the first class carriage was the bedroom and 2nd or 3rd class was the kitchenette. It was on the beach, long ways to the sea, and the centre of these two carriages had been roofed over so you had your living room, with your veranda.

RF: And you'd rent that for the summer season. VG: Regularly.
RF: Any idea what you paid for it. VG: No, not much but it was cheap. RF: What would you do down there.
VG: I would usually take a script, I was usually typing, in fact I have pictures at home of me in the bungalow typing some script or other, working there in my swimming shorts, because I do an awful lot of writing outside. And we'd do that and in the evening we'd go to the club and play snooker.

RF: You didn't have your mates down from the studio.

VG: no. This was the late 30s and all that beach was cleared when war broke out, all those shacks went, there were shacks like Malibu except they were grander shacks, they weren't all railway carriages, there were a few that were wood. And the old lady we used to rent this from, Mrs

Robinson, she used to stay all year in her little place on the beach, but that was a little wooden bungalow and she used to make her living renting these.

That social life in London, we'd occasinoally go to the Savoy Grill which was the place to go.

RF: Was there a cross over circles and the film business.

between theatrical circles and west end Would you have gone to the Ivy.

VG: Many times. That was the in place too, the Grill and the Ivy were the ·two big places. Socially at Shoreham you'd go out cycling all day, hire a couple of cycles, Bramber Castle and so on, £2 a day for your cycle, sorry £2 a week, not at all glamorous as it was portrayed in Picturegoer. I used to do a lot of portraying, I was almost one of their resident writers.

RF: You mentioned before you were ghosting these life stories, what was the extent to which they were totally fabricated.

VG: I tried to be as honest as I could and if I used a story from the files, I would say it is said that but I would never write it as fact. I got a lot of the studio stuff, it was so studio May West I wasnt' interested in it and I got a lot from her and I got a lot from private source.s
RF: You mentioned earlier that your mother was a principle boy.

VG: Yes she was musical and it was probably where I got my music on, she used to play the violin and was principle boy in many shows Julian Wylie did.
RF: \•',hat was her professionlaname

VG: Anna Thayer. I have to be honest I never saw her on the stage at all. Because I didn 't really know my mother until much later in life.

RF: Was she still working.

VG: No, she had stopped, I did meet here when I was a little tiny child. In later years when I was in my teens I met her properly. And she had then stopped working on stage and was writing, books of poems.

RF: Julian Wylie had permanent companies.
VG: Y s, like Tom Arnold, toured round the country. RF: What kind of properties would she be in.
VG: In pantomime certainly. And various xxxxxx reviews.

RF: Can we go to the people in your life who you were close to or fond of or impressed by.

VG: Ted Black has got to be one,I've enormous respect for him. George Black, a lot of warm feelings for George, Beatrice Dawso,n who's got to be one of the most sophisticated women in the world, spoke all sorts of languages. I remember one day Yo was in Malta, we had a place in Malta at that time, and I remember Bumble calling me and saying I'm going to

VAL GUEST Tape 8 of 8
have a little dinner party tomorrow night, are you free, do you want to come a long, lovely Bumble, nothing grand, practically help you:r;.self, only small, not a big thing. I go there, and sitting around the floor in this small gathering was Judy Garland, Finney, Sean Connery, Betty Bacall, this was the little small gathering, Michael York, there were probably a dozen of us, no more, but the character of the other people there, this was Bumble who everybody adored. And the only reason Vivien and Larry weren't there was that they were working.

RF: Were they part of your life ever.

VG: In as much Larry was the person who brought Yo to England. So Larry and Viven used to come to our place, she was a manic depressive, she used to cry on the couch, we'd jolly her along. Larry was always rather an aloof person. Perspex wall around Larry even when he was being one of the boys , he was much closer to Yo than me, he knew her, they went on tours together. Vivien was one of Bumble's closest chums, in fact Bumble was one of Vivien's closest friends. She held her hand through all sorts of things, we saw a lot of Vivien.

RF: Was the turmoil of her emotional life very evident to you.

VG: Yes it was, because it was the night Vivien was missing and we found her sitting on a seat on Knightsbridge Green, the little bit of green there, she was sitting there with all her jewels craddled in her lap. Really her manic depressive states were getting more frequent, and she was in terrible state the break up with Larry, never got over that.

RF: What about Jack Merrivale.

VG: He played Yo's husband in 80,000 Suspects, a nice enough guy, he looked after her quite a lot. He now looks after Diane Sheridan, they've been together since Vivien died.

Rf: How about Carl Foreman.

VG: He was a friend, he was round at our parties. It's very difficult to get close to Carl. He was one of those characters that was close but there was. always another layer of something. I think he had so many defences after what he had gone through, he didn't open up in case you took a blow at him. I think that was it, some people close because they've been hurt on something and they never open again completely in case they get hurt again. I think that was Carl, he had a bellyful. Carl asked me if I would make films under his umbrella, he would launch them and be executive producer, stake the money for us to do it. We never got around to it but we were always chums right to the end. And Carl was my star witness against Harry Salzman, which was very good of him, I can only tell you that I called Bryan Forbes who could have been a great witness, and he chickened out, don't call me in, I like Harry, forget it.

RF: How was it that Carl Foreman could testify against Salzman.

VG: What they were trying to do, in the Salzman case what was it normal that I was asking for preproduction, I'd been payed my direction fee, but my contract ran on for predelivery. My contractual daily rate that he held me on and the recutting and the reshooting and the special effects, all of which I was asked to take care of, and on my contract the. daily rate was so much a day and he ren ged., and what he was saying, it came up

to £75,000 all in all, including trips for New York, for which I hadn't been paid, he paid the fare and the hotel, so I got people who had been in the business and worked on these things, Bryan could have come up and said that 'snot an unreasonable daily rate, they wanted to say it was an unreasonable daily rate, I wanted Bryan to say it was not an unreasonable dai ly rate, he agreed on the phone it wasn't unreasonable, Carl Foreman
.said it was very reasonable, Frank said it was very reasonable indeed, but Bryan didn't want to know, terrified, ran in case he lost a job. His attitude was I like Harry, I don't want to go into a court case which might .go against him, sometimes you think how far can that go. So I had Carl and Frank.

RF: Were you also aware of the other refugees from HUAC.

VG: Yes, Eddie Dmytryk, Yo had worked for him in Hollywood in a film, Larry Adler, Joe Losey. Larry I'd known from when he was first brought over here with his father. Losey I knew just off and on. I saw him at party. Stanley Baker, very time he gave a party Joe was there. Cy Enfield was also at those parties, you met them around the party circuit. Cy I now see at Hurlington Club, he used to play tennis, now he's not able to, he just walks around rather bent, it's rather sad.

RF: Is there anything you would like to add.

VG: The only thing is that you asked me about the output of work. I've never found output worried me, of course you say Christ I've got to get this finished by tomorrow, so you stay up all night and get on with it, there are pressures of course there are pressures in producing and being a writer and director and producer on the same picture there are pressures, but there are a lot of pressures which aren't there, you're not fighting a producer and you're not fighting a director, it's a question of putting on 3 hats and taking 2 off and getting on with the one hat till it's time for the other one to go on. I think I've been reasonably disciplined in my shooting, I don't take the bit between the teeth and say now that I've got the money and spend the lot, I have found through everything, hard work never worried me at all, it doesn't worry me now, I'm doing a lot of writing now, I'm doing a lot of preparing, I have a lot of things which are on stand by and told any minute, any minute, that's our life,

RF: No date for your retirement.

VG: No, the industry will set that day eventually, but I certainly won't do it. When I went to California I had just finished writing a Dennis Wheatley book The Haunting of Toby Judd, the most difficult script I've ever had to write from a book which is almost uonscriptable, but it's a very good story, I liked it and I did it and I said to them look I'm going to Palm Springs January February March and they said what ever you do don't come back after April 1st, end of March come back we're off, come back and we're still waiting. At the moment there is this ghost series we're waiting for the off, this Hollywood writers strike didn't help, nobody was putting out any money till that was off because they were paying too much to keep people on the payroll, things are bubbling.

RF: Can I ask you about your dealings with the ACTT, can you remember who recruited you.

VG: I would be at Gainsborough in 46 and at the 13ush and in Charlie Wheeler's area.

RF: Did the union play any kind of role in the affairs of the studio at that time.

VG: No. Not that I was aware of. I had the odd brushes with the union over the years, as a producer and director.
RF: WERE they a pain in the arse. VG: Yes.
RF: In what areas.

VG: I'll tell you one extraordinary thing, when we were shooting Jigsaw in Brighton, and Roy Baird was then my first assistant, I was producing it as well as written and directing it, and we were getting through it and finishing near as damn it 5.30 and 5.25, because I really felt it and had it all worked ou·t on my board. And Roy came to me one day and said you've got a strike on your hands guv, why, the boys are angry that you're breaking at 5.20, they're getting no overtime and they're spending money going to movies to fill in, I said you must be joking, I said no, they all want upwards to £15 for expenses because you're not working into overtime. I got onto ACTT and they backed it all up. Everybody backed it up and Arthur Watkins, I called Arthur, we're not working, they're on strike, ridiculous, don't you worry, I '11 fix this, we were three whole days of no work until it was fixect. These people who have a rule book in their pocket and are waiting to find something they might get away with. When you're on locationand you've got an unruly unit who say I'm not going to unless you've got to dig your feet in.
Another thing, when we were filming in Beirut, I took my whole unit over there and I chartered an MEA plane and we'd made a deal with them, I said I want first class food on the plane, don't skimp. Coming back on the plane we had champagne, smoke salmon, every thing I could think to give them, snacks, and I went back to go to the loo, and when I went I saw the boys filling out forms, and when I came back I could see what they were doing, they were filling in no lunch breaks. I thought they can't be serious. They had steaks, everything, but as they weren't sitting down in a place to eat they were filling that in. That isn't something you can blame the ACTT about, someone just got the idea if you're not sitting down to have a lunch you can claim no lunch break. ·

RF: Mind you the Spanish practices are still widespread, I think they have disappeared in the film side but they still prevail in television which is one of the agonies, why the television members are so desperate to keep their power.

VG: I had a rough deal with the first film for my own company Penny Princess, we went to Soho Sq, Yo and myself and Reggie Beckworth and we were going over the Spain to do this and we were being told how many people we had to take and it was over the budget and it was not really necessary, and there was a big meeting and we were asked to leave to leave the meeting and Charlie \./heeler was very eloquent, and would we mind sitting on a couch outside and we could hear everything that was going on, Charlie was saying I don't trust them, I don't trust what they're saying, we were sitting there thinking this is our first production, do we want to do a second. But finally we did get through, we had to take the people we had to take. And the time Alan Sapper didn't want us to shoot down , other than that I didn' have

any trouble.

RF: Generally a good thing or a bad thing.

VG: For me it hasn't made much difference. Does Don Mingay mean anything to you, he was a shop steward, he worked at Bray in the art department, he came on the set one day and said I was a year behind in my subscription and the guy came to see me, I said sorry I don't remember, he said all work stops until you're paid up. This is over the top, this is the few people who give it a bad name.

RF: And the union is at fault because there is supposed to bea card check before shooting starts.


Val Guest. Valmond Maurice `Grossman.  "ValGuest (11 December 1911 – 10 May 2006) was an English film director and screenwriter. Beginning as a writer (and later director) of comedy films, he is best known for his work for Hammer, for whom he directed 14 films, and science fiction films. Married to Yolande Donlan.