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Namespaces Article Talk. I had to go up to Shaftesbury Avenue where he was rehearsing a play. I had to wait in the stalls while he completed what he was doing and I was absolutely amazed to hear the way he addressed star artists, people like Edna Best.

He treated his stars like dirt. AL: Going back to the early days what were production techniques like?

How much did they change over the years? SC: They changed a great deal. In the period since 1 S35 the technological development of film is equivalent to the kind of development there's been to the aeroplane.

They've gone from the Wright Brothers flying a yards to the Concord and outer space. Development before the Second World War was at a slower rate.

Of course you had sound being freed from the tyranny of everything having to be recorded at once and the idea taking its place that Sound could be put on afterwards or even recorded beforehand.

Post syn and pre sync was fairly well developed by the time the Second World War started. In editing — my own field — there were considerable advances.

Synchronisation of the sound record and the visual record only existed in my early days in a very basic form. When I started.

It was some time before rubber numbering — which Thorold Dickinson was one of the pioneers based on ideas from America.

This was an elaborate code so that edge numbers could be printed on every foot of both sound and picture so you knew every single frame.

Otherwise it could be very difficult when you started cutting things and then wanted to put bit back; your assistant had to write on every single frame and there was always one little frame you could not find and it was always the vital piece.

SC: I don't think they were very great. We still went on using the upright moviola machine which made a considering clattering noise and with take up spools which fed the thing off through a synchroniser through the moviola back on to the synchroniser with a foot pedal release and starter and everything was wound on by hand.

We used them right up to the War. What do you think was the difference between them? SC: The interesting thing about working at Ealing was that in its day it was the most up to date studio in Britain because it had been built, although much smaller, on the model of RKO.

It was connected with RKO to begin with and therefore had oeen planned. It hadn't just grown like most of the older studios including Elstree which had just been added to bit by bit.

It was really designed e. It was the first place to have mechanical operated doors to the stages and to have a console control for almost everything happening on the floor.

I don't remember much about Wembley. In those days, on a shot like that the microphone boom would be stuck on top of the camera.

And I remember Gunther Krampf, the cameraman, refusing to allow this to happen. He wasn't going to make any concession to sound.

Consequently, instead of having one continuous shot, it had to be done with an off-scene microphone boom hanging over the set.

The tracking shot had to be substituted by a series of movements and stopping, and then the dialogue and moving on and dialogue and moving on and dialogue which was a very bad thing.

The sound always seemed to have a chip on its shoulder in those days since it was made to feel an intruder into the sacrosanct world of the silent movie.

SC: No, I came in as a sound editor although I had been brought up as a viewer on the silent cinema, when I came to learn the technique of editing, it was the technique of Sound editing so it didn't constitute any difficulty.

Later on I did found it hard to take to tape, as did many editors of my generation, because on sound on film you had a visual signal to see as well an aural one to hear.

Consequently especially with variable area recording, which was RCA rather than Western Electric which was variable density, you could read the soundtrack once you'd mark it up.

When one was having post-synching done, one could take the original track and the post-synched track and provided coth were marked up, you could wind them together through the synchroniser and match the peaks and valleys.

You couldn't do that with tape — you had to do it purely by sound. AL: In those early days of your career, which technician gave you the most help and encouragement?

SC: Well the name has come up several times already, it was Thorold Dickinson who I met at Stoll and I worked for him quite a lot on and off as an assistant.

He encouraged ille very ouch as an editor. After the years 34—35 at BIP, he sent for me to cut 'Midshipman Easy' and gave me a great deal of encouragement.

Then he got me involved in ACT, like he did with a number of other people. AL: That first film you edited, did it establish you as an editor or did you have to revert back to being an assis tant?

SC: No, once I started editing, I went on editing with varying degrees of success. But I just liked doing the job and sometimes it's almost more interesting to work on a film which isn't very good because its more challenging than working on one that is good because there are so many things to be put right, like the thing I mentioned, the quota quicky I clid for which I earned the notice about being totally incomprehensible.

But that was because it was such an awful film anyhow I just decided to cross cut everything in sight in order to try and make it lock shore interesting.

Incidentally it had an actor in it called Noah Beery, Wallace Beery's brother. Quota quickies were shot back to back and they were needed so quickly that my time schedule in the cutting room got totally reversed and my assistant, Julian Wintle, who became a director himself, and I finally got to the point that we were coming into the studio just as the shooting crew was going home.

In those circumstances all what one could do was to try and jazz it up which I did with disastrous results in the case of 'The Avenging Hand.

It means quota quickies were shot continuously, two weeks each, and One Was finished on Saturday night at midnight and the next started Monday morning at eight.

SC: I don't know if I could pick out one particularly before the War. It was interesting observing different methods of working.

Thorold Dickinson, for instance, with his background of editing, Was Very interested in making a film which could be edited interestingly.

Carol Read, with his theatre background, concen— trated on the direction of the acting and relied a great deal on his cameraman for his set-ups.

Although iater on Carol must have learnt a great deal about this. I remember Carol telling me that when he was directing 'Midshipman Easy' that he looked on the floor and Basil Dean was directing something at that tisse; he had been Basil's assistant director for many years — he had been his assistant in the theatre too.

He had had to put up for many years with Dean's brusque way of talking and bad temper and authoritarian manner and he said thank God I don't have to worry whether the chandelier is the right size or shape or not.

Marcel Varnel was interesting because he told me that when he became a film director in Hollywood — this was after he had a career in the American theatre — he realised he didn't know in practice much about film.

So he told the company that he was working for that before he started directing he wanted to spend a few weeks in the cutting room to see how films were put together.

And when I came to cut pictures for Varnel, I found he understood the editors problem and what an editor could contribute to a film.

The Spanish Civil War broke out in It was another of the advance of fascism in Europe during those desperate years in the Thirties. On the whole the democracies were letti Spanish republican government down by creating a thing called non intervention.

It was meant to suggest that nobody si. For people of liberal to left beliefs in this country this was a very traumatic time and increasingly I was one of those people who felt one Ought to make a gesture against this ominous rise of fascism.

Ivor Montagu, who I'd known for many years from when I'd worked with him on the Film Society was very involved in making films.

He'd already been out there and made some films e. Defence of Madrid. In he had this project for making more films out there and assembled a group of people which included Arthur Graham, Alan Lawson, Thorold Dickinson and Philip Leacock, who afterwards became a well-known direct, and off we went to Spain.

Originally we were going to make three films but eventually we only made two because of problems of having to get away from Spain with what material we'd got.

We made two films. The set up was that Alan and Arthur were filming. Philip and Ray Pitt were editing and Thorold and I were co-directing.

One felt one was doing something. It was our first experience of warfare, out first experience of bombing from the air which would seem very small and trivial nowadays but was frightening enough.

I remember one morning in our hotel in Barcelona, we were both shaving and the Italian planes came over and the first time I realised what the phrase meant frozen with fear.

I stopped in my place, lathered up and my razor blade in my hand and was actually rooted to the floor as one heard the sound of these bombs coming down.

They weren't very big but they hit the building next door to us and we went out into the street and we saw some bodies being carried out.

We went to Madrid and went into the trenches but I don't remember any heavy heavy shelling there. Ivor compared the official accounts in the newspaper with the map and we realised that the fascist forces were getting very near to cutting the road back through Valencia which would take up up the coast to Barcelona.

We decided the sensible thing to do was to get back to Barcelona and not find ourselves cut off in Madrid where the material we shot would not have been much use.

So we did that and came back and edited the films and, of course, particularly 'Spanish ABC lmas passed into documentary history. I saw it quite recently and it stands up very well.

SC : He was an intellectual maverick. A fascinating person, so skilful and accomplished in so many ways. I admired his speaking ability.

He would launch on the most elaborate paragraph with sixteen subordinate clauses, all of which were gramatically correct, and just when you thought he'd lost his way in this verbal labyrinth, he would triumphantly come out out at the end with the correct tense and the appropriate verb.

He was a great enthusiast for films and a great enthusiast for films meaning something. He worked on a film on which I was associate producer, 'Scott of the Antartic'.

He managed to get a script out of a mass of material which other writers like H. Bates had tried to do and had failed. He was a great man.

He founded the Film Society which in those days was the only way you could see a lot of films, particularly Russian films and films which would never have any kind of chance of being shown commercially.

It was largely Ivors idea. He also founded the world table tennis federation which was the first sporting organisation to put in its constitution that nobody should be barred from play on the basis of creed or colour or belief.

He could have had a longer career as a filmmaker — he was an associate producer for Micky Balcon on some of the early Hitchcock films at Shepherds Bush and he made some very entertaining short films himself but his main interest in life was political, working for causes, particularly in the thirties the anti fascist cause.

He devoted his life much more to politics than to movies. He had so many interests He had so many interests and so much energy, he managed several careers simultaneously.

Perhaps he did not do as much as he could of done if he had been less interested in other matters. SC : At the beginning of the war — just before it broke out — I worked on a couple of reels of 'Jamaica Inn'.

The editor was Robert Hamer and I was called in because they were in a rush to get it out. I didn't get a credit on it. I'd worked on a couple of films with Erich Pommer who was the producer.

He wanted to change the ending which was difficult to do with a Hitchcock film — Hitch had gone off to the United States.

He found he couldn't change the editing because Hitch used to shoot in such a tight way. It was always said that if he wanted to say yes he would give a signal to start and as soon as the actor had said yes he would say cut and in effect saying muck around with that if you can.

So Pommer found that he had to reshoot some scenes at the end of 'Jamaica Inn'. I remember that because I was cutting that particular sequence and I said to Pommer how long will you be doing these shots and he said they'd ce through about half past five and at midnight I was still sitting at the side of the set because Laughton just did everything differently every time.

Finally Pommer said we will print takes 1, 7, 11, 15 and 19 and through the whole lot into my lap. He probably used take one.

During the war period there was the call up but it didn't affect people unless they wanted to volunteer or people over 30 and there were reserved operations, a list of technical people deemed necessary to the war effort.

They'd realised for every armed person in the forces you needed around 13 or 14 people in civilian life as a back up to that.

Partly, no largely, because of the efforts of the union the authorities didn't make the mistake that they made in the First World War which was virtually to kill the British film industry which had been fairly thriving up to that time.

This time it was realised that entertainment was needed for the public in Wartime and that films, even entertainment films, could make a contribution to the war effort by encouraging people and making them aware of what was going on.

Consequently you needed the technicians to do this so various technicians were a reserved occupation. This meant one went on making films during the War.

It was an interesting period apart from the external events such as being in the home gua and travelling miles to throw a single hand grenade which frightened the life out of me and I never wanted to see a hand grenade again and spending in training I think the Word was used travelling miles and miles and mile to fire ten rounds of ammunition on some rifle range.

I worked on a series of interesting films, perhaps the most outstanding was working with Leslie Howard on "Pimpernel Smith' in at Denham.

Leslie Howard had a great sense of style. He was starring, producing and directing. He was a Very pleasant man to work with.

He was also very practical and down to earth. He had not directed much before so he liked to surround himself With all the technical aid he could summon.

I was made supervising editor on the picture and he asked me to be on the floor all the time so he could ask my advise. Even when he was directing a sequence which involved music he had the music director there.

I found it very stimulating to work with Leslie I think that picture and another which he later did, 'The First of the Few' on which I was also supervising editor, I found very rewarding because Leslie had considerable style both as an actor and a director, you took this as the keynote of the way you edit the film.

If you took the rhythm of Leslie's performance that was the rhythm you did as an editor to carry the whole stylistic approach into the final film.

And that was a contribution to the war effort because it was about a modern Scarlet Pimpernel rescuing people from the Nazis.

I was also supervising editor of 'First of the Few'. But in-between I'd been approached to become editor at Ealing. I did this and then Leslie Howard was about to make 'First of the Few' so he rang up Balcon and asked for me to be supervising editor on First of the Few.

I was commuting between Ealing and Denham for a time. On 'First of the Few', when the film was finally edited, William Walton was doing the music. Leslie, for some reason, could not be at the running of the film for Walton so he told me very elaborately what he wanted from the music.

So after we had the viewing I went up to Walton and repeated what Leslie had said as accurately as I could. Walton listened very carefully and said Oh I see, Leslie wants a lot of notes and he went away and wrote The Spitfire Fugue.

I was now on what was to turn out to be a 11 year stint at Ealing Studios. I worked in various capacities on a number of pictures.

To begin with I did a film Cavalcanti directed called 'Tient the Day Well" which still pops up from time to time on the Fox. This is a story originally written by Graham Green about what seems to a platoon of British soldiers going into a quiet English village.

These turn out to be a lot of Germans who for: the advance guard of a possible invasion of the country. I's known Cavalcanti slightly before but that was the first time I'd worked with him.

Cav had an amazing sense of structure in film and. I still find it. It is very tightly shot by Cav and very tightly edited by me.

Rather like I said about Howard, he had this sense of style — he had been an art director in France before he started directing and he had that kind of stylistic approach to the way films were made.

SC: Cav was interesting. I admired him very much as a director. He was a great encourager which people who very good at their job tend to be.

There are some people who are fairly skilled at what they do yet seem to be afraid to encourage people and hand on their skill and experience but the really top people are never like.

I've mentioned Thorold before who taught me a great deal about editing. Cav was always appreciative and critical — one doesn't want indiscriminate praise all the time.

Cav, I always thought, in relation to his earlier career when he first came to Britain and was working in documentary with Grierson, Cav's contribution to the British documentary movement has always been grossly undervalued.

Grierson was a great promoter; he sold the idea of documentary. But despite 'Drifters' I never thought he was a very good director.

Cav's enormous contribution was to contribute his sense of style, his knowledge of sound filmmaking — what you could do with sound — his experience with editing and his ability to encourage and bring out the best in younger people.

All this was an enormous contribution to documetary filmmaking which has not been fully appreciated yet.

SC: In the early days, it was called realist film; that was the real nature of documentary. Documentary is probably not a good term.

It meant trying to represent reality. This is what the British documentary movement did with different types of approaches.

It did things which have now become common place. One of the early documentaries used the technique of the deliberate straight face to face camera, face to face with the people whose life it was examining.

That was a film called 'Housing Problems ' which was quite remarkable in its day because nobody had really done that people speaking directly into Camera as far as I remember, I don't think it had any narration on it — it just let people speak for themselves.

That was the kind of thing documentary did at its best. That sort of approach has become common place especially in television.

SC : Yes, that's true. I had an on and off relation with documentary. I can't remember when I first went along but it was in the early days when they were working under the title of the Empire Marketing Board Film Unit where I met various people who were very young then.

Particularly, I met Harry Watt. He narrates an exagerated version in his own biography but it makes such a good story I'm going to consider that's what happened.

I was working on a script for Grierson in a back passage of the offices in Oxford Street and there was a young man white-washing a ceiling.

Harry's story is that we got talking I said to him that's no way to whitewash a ceiling, took the brush out of his hand and proceeded to whitewash the ceiling and show him how it should be done.

It was totally untrue but it makes a good story that that's the way I'm going to tell it in future. But that was the first time I met Harry.

We had a lot of discussion while he was doing that and I knew him a great deal later. The thing about Harry was that he always wanted to bring more of narrative and more sense of dramatisation into documentary which he did fairly successfully in films like 'North Sea' and create some kind of story value instead of it being a straightfoward documentary without any narrative element to it.

SC: Cav did but that was later on at Ealing. My involvement was on and off. I did a film with John Taylor called 'Smoke Menace' which was about pollution from the amount of smoke being pumped into the atmosphere.

There's a story which John and I always remind each other of. We got to the stage of recording the commentary and suddenly realised there was blank where the script said blank tons of soot were deposited on London every year.

So we invented a figure and put it in and recorded it and the film went out and its been solemnly quoted ever since in official documents. Nobody ever corrected it.

So much for reality. It was very amateur in many ways, agreeable so. I did a film called 'Roads Across Britain' and I remember when I was cutting some archival material together I got a lovely shot of a train going down that underground place in Kingsway and Grierson saying that's a nice shot I hope you can find the negative — we've been looking for it for years.

I never was with them for a long time. He was the most amazing raconteur. He told stories which got wilder and wilder.

Grierson was a promoter He had this ability to go round different people in different government organisations and different public utility companies and point out what wonderful propaganda it was for theil if they just sponsored a film unit or individual films.

Then there was a film Ivor directed for the OI called 'Iolan One Family' which was part of the denazification programme that was introduced into Germany.

It was to expose the fallacy of Nazi racist philosophy and show that all race theories were total nonsense. We had Julian Huxly as an adviser and it was a very interesting film to work on.

I know John well. But didn't work on that number of films. I knew Grierson to some extent from working with the Film Society because he was on the Board.

I didn't work much with Grierson but knew him quite well. But first of all, what was the task of a supervising editor? SC: I was in charge of the cutting room.

Ealing was making a number of films at the same time. One would look at the rushes and discuss the approach to the editing.

Sometimes take a sequence and do the final cut oneself. Generally overseeing everything that went on. I've got some notes that I was supervising editor of 'Went the day Well" as supervising editor but I actually cut that film myself.

Sometimes although supervising editor, you would occasionally edit a film yourself. SC: I can't recall when I first met him.

My first working acquaintance with was when in I went to Ealing and I stayed there for 11 years. I came to know him very well — I liked him as person.

I liked initi for a number of reasons. One was that he was obviously someone prepared to learn in all sorts of ways from experience.

The War itself in a way helped because the War crytallised a good many people's attitudes about things like the Nazis, it concentrated people's attention very forcibly — they had realise what was going on in the world and secondly they had to understand what if anything they could do about it.

And I think Balcon learned something along those lines from the people he employed. Also he had a talent which fairly successful people in his position have to have which is to have some skill at selecting the people who worked for him.

And as an editor myself one particularly appreciated that so many of the people who became directors and associate producers at Ealing started as editors — Charles Frend, Charles Crighton, myself, Robert Hamer — which showed that Micky was pretty astute in selecting people.

The other quality which followed from that was that within reason he was prepared to give people their head and do the kind of subject that they wanted — he kept a tight control over it.

He developed a kind of family thing at Ealing which I suppose like all family situations had its good points and its bad points.

Perhaps to some extent we got too involved in our own little world. But it did mean there was a great deal of co-operation and one did feel you were all pretty united — we would see each other's rushes and rough cut and rushes, and talk, not necessarily together, but nobody kept what film they were doing totally secret and away from the other people working there.

The defects I suppose were that we were a bit parochial, Micky himself was a little parochial. In terms of subject matter one of his failings was that he distrusted any approach in story values to what might be called sexual themes and when that kind of material came up he was very inclined to soft pedal and play it down in a rather genteel attitude to things which meant he would come in conflict with a director like Robert Hamer, for instance.

Robert had a great ability at his best to handle relations between the sexes in an amusing way as in 'Kind Hearts' and Coronets or a tougher way as in ' It Always Rains on Sunday' 1.

That was the defects. But compared with Korda for instance, Korda is historically regarded as the man who put British films on the Liap which has some truth to it, but I lick's contribution to British films was much greater because it was consistant, because it dealt specifically with British themes not in a narrows nationalistic way but because that was the native soil from which subjects ought to come.

In any country the importance of national culture in films is very strong and I lick believed in that, not in a flag waving Way. Although one is a little taken aback when one sees the old Ealing films with the background with the Union Jack fluttering away.

But he did make during the War years the kind of films such as 'Went the Day Well', 'Nine Men' which was Harry Watt's film about the fight in the desert, 'The Bells Go Down' which was about the fire service, 'Undercover' was a slightly different thing and that was interesting politically.

It wasn't a very successful film. So we abandoned the idea. While at Ealing We were approaching a period when the War was coming to an end and Priestly had written a play which was liberal, vaguely socialist look into the future of what might be called 'They Came to a City' which was very successful in the theatre.

I saw it and thought it might be a good idea to film it. Balcon immediately agreed. Partly because it was a successful play but also because he had learned a great deal and thought it was a good idea to make the play anyway.

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