Here is a further instalment of the continuing saga of my relatively brief experience working in the film industry, carrying on from my gazing in wonder at Jeanne Moreau’s feet elegantly clad in battered old gymn shoes as she busily worked away at seducing one of her guards officers in the filming of Catherine the Great. (follow this link to discover what that was all about).
I finished that post by mentioning the fact that I was also on the sound stage of the filming of Half a Sixpence, starring Tommy Steele (now there is a name to conjure with!! Remember him?), and much as with the Catherine film, I spent my days being “on call”, which meant effectively doing nothing all day long…. The only thing worth mentioning about the set of Half A Sixpence was that they had constructed a vast old fashioned Sea-side pier, with a full size, fully functioning roundabout on the end of it, and surrounded all of this with a sort of fabric back drop that went around the end of the pier, was about 40 feet high and consisted of a gigantic colour photo of the sea and clouds… All of this having been built in order for them to be able to film a dance number lasting all of three minutes on the pier…
Exciting stuff I think you will agree..
Money no object
On the topic of expense, I was continually boggled out by the way that money was thrown around in film making. As an example of this, while I was there they were making some film or other about spies, and in it a Rolls Royce has to be blown up (no idea why, or even what the film was called). So rather than doing what you or I would probably do, which is to go out and buy an old non-working Rolls Royce, they instead bought 4 brand new, never driven Rolls Royces, and then one by one, using different camera angles, blew them up on the back lot of the studio…
Many years later, while I was Production manager at the Roundhouse Theatre in London, a film crew hired the place for a couple of weeks to shoot a part of a film staring Maria Schneider, who had just become famous for the sex scenes in Last Tango in Paris. I can’t remember what that film was either, but the expense side of it impressed me. According to the current Union rules, every worker from the film company had to have an equivalent theatre worker beside him or her being paid double time but absolutely forbidden to do any work. We of course loved it, standing around, watching the film slowly and painfully happening on double time for 10 to 12 hours a day… Neat idea we all thought.
Oh, and we could also use the meal caravan the film company had parked behind the theatre… the meals were free!!!
In passing I should mention that Maria Schneider turned out to be a truly pleasant and friendly young girl (I think she was about 20 years old), but sadly deeply disturbed as well, stoned out of her skull almost the entire time she was there. But in spite of that, we liked her enormously.
However,there was one thing that was great fun about my time in Shepperton Studios, and that was our lunch time Dalek football matches.
A feature film of Dr Who had been made there some time earlier, and the Daleks they had made for the film had been dumped on the back lot when the film company departed, so all us workers there used to sit in them and play noisy and hilarious games of football in them… They had lost their heads somewhere along the line, and were actually nothing more than Dalek bodies fixed onto kid’s tricycles. So we sat in them and pedalling like mad things, sort of pushed a football around the field… This was fun.