Colleagues: Charles Ridley – Movietone
Charles A. Ridley joined Movietonews before the Second World War. He was an editor and an expert in the art of manipulating movie film negative to produce a print that was totally different in its action from the original negative. The most famous of his creations was that of the German Army on parade in front of Hitler marching to the music of the Lambeth Walk. It was released by Spectator Films as “Germany Calling” and distributed by the Newsreel Association and is known today by several names, as a result. At Movietone it was titled, “Hitler Assumes Command – German Troops Do The Lambeth Walk”, and ‘Hock Der Lambeth Valk‘ in the Pathe Gazette. This has been described as “Possibly the most famous piece of newsreel of all time”.
It certainly caused a stir and was shown around the world, much to the annoyance of the German Government and Joseph Goebbels in particular, who was said to have kicked over furniture and sworn profusely as he left the screening of the film.
Using his expertise, Charles Ridley had the German troops going forwards and backwards as if they were performing some dance to the music. The footage had been taken from Leni Riefenstahl’s 1935 film “Triumph of the Will”.
The music was well-known and came from a show called “Me and My Girl” which had been performed on the London stage since 1937, written by Noel Gay.
It has been suggested that Charles Ridley completed this film in a hurry. He did no such thing, the work would have taken him weeks, if not months, of trial and error to get the effect he wanted.
He would have required a 35mm film sound track of the music which he would have marked up with a white grease pencil. This would have given him a visual indication of the rhythm of the music. He would use these markings to decide how he should handle his negative.
He has the German soldiers marching forward for about two paces, then he has them marching backwards for two paces. To achieve this, he was to ask the laboratories to do something that they might never have done before. They would print the negative forward for, say, 30 frames, then they would have to print a further 30 frames which would consist of the first 30 frames printed backwards, that is to say in reverse order.
The printing would have been done frame by frame. This manoeuvre was one of the easier to do, other sequences were extremely difficult to achieve and would have been obtained after a great deal of trial and error. Ridley would have to wait for each section to be printed to see if his calculations worked.
This production was produced by Charles Ridley for the Ministry of Information and was shown on British Movietonews at Christmas 1941.
He did other work of a similar nature which formed part of Movietone stories. In 1943, he gave similar treatment to a news story showing a greeting between Hitler and Mussolini, in the story entitled “Hitler Entertains”.
He produced a number of stories before the end of the war including tributes to the Soviet Union ‘U.S.S.R. in music and Montage‘ and The United States, “‘Honour the day“.
In the early fifties he had a “stunt” scene included in the Cup Final. This showed two supporters cheering their team on. One had a hat on, the other did not. Charles had the hat fly off the one supporter and land on the head of the other.
Charles Ridley stationed himself with the Movietonews Library and it was from there that, later, he met and married Pat Holder who was to become Movietone’s Chief Librarian.
He was a smart looking gentleman who always wore three-peace suits and had Brylcreemed black hair. Among his other attributes, Charles was a brilliant pianist and, from time to time, he would play the piano which was kept in the preview theatre of Kay Laboratories. This was on the ground floor at 22, Soho Square. Someone would always open the door of the theatre so that more people could hear him play.
Movietone had a “deep” library store, for nitrate film, at Perivale and, when Movietone moved from Soho to Denham, Charles remained at Perivale as librarian, I believe until he retired in 1965.
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