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Rejoining Movietone 1961

22 Soho Square, London - home of Movietone and Kay Laboratories

Having worked in Australia for over four years, we decided to return to England.

We left on board the R.M.S. Orcades.  We boarded the ship and we were followed on board by my wife, Janet’s sister and her family and also a large number of my colleagues from ABV2.   We had a party on board, but eventually. They all had to get off the ship and we set sail and 11pm on January 5th 1961.

Travelling with us were Dennis Wahren and his bride Mary.  They had married a few days before departure and they were coming to England with us.  Dennis was an accomplished film editor and had worked at ABV2 for over two years.  He came from New Zealand and he thought that, by going to England, he might find a job that would enhance his prospects back in Australia.

We arrived at Tilbury in the first week of February 1961. Janet and I, with infant son Mark, would stay with her parents in Bromley in Kent.

Now, I had to get down to the business of finding work.

I started off by making a courtesy visit to Movietonews.  The boss now was E.T. Adams, former News Editor, Sir Gordon Craig and Robin Gibbon had gone into retirement, Gerald Sanger had gone back to the Daily Mail where he had been instrumental in setting up Rediffusion within ITV.

Dennis Wahren, Terry Gallacher, Mary Wahren, Nandor Jenes.

Dennis Wahren, Terry Gallacher, Mary Wahren, Nandor Jenes.

I did not go to Movietone looking for a job, but I thought they might know someone.  Ted Adams was most affable and said that he knew someone at Ealing Studios, Jack Mewett, Head of B.B.C. Films Division,  who might have some openings of Film Editors.  He gave me the name and even made the appointment for me.  He said that, in the meantime, he would speak to members of the Movietone staff to see if there was something going in the company.

I travelled to Ealing and saw the Appointments Officer and not Jack Mewett.  We had a lengthy discussion, but finally, he said that I was over qualified for any position that he might offer me.  He wished me luck and off I went back to Bromley.

I went to ITN and spoke with Raymond Perrin, who was head of film and formerly an editor at Movietone, he had no vacancies and, I suspect, he didn’t think I would be good enough anyway.  He would probably have always remembered me as the General Office boy of 1945.  I took the opportunity to mention to him that Max Anderson worked with me at the A.B.C.  I said “I’ve been working with one of your editors in Australia”.  “Who’s that?” he said.  “Max Anderson” I said.  He replied “Max was never an editor here, he was an assistant, he used to join up film”.  Well that explained a lot.  Max had emigrated to Melbourne and sold himself to A.B.V. as a film editor.

Dennis and I had come up against what was then a major problem in terms of obtaining work in the film industry.  The Association of Cine, Television an Allied Technicians had a stranglehold on the industry.  No-one could obtain work, in a technical grade, without a union ticket.  One could not obtain a ticket unless one had a job.  Dennis and I had been members of the Institute of Motion Picture Technicians of Victoria, who had provided us with letters of introduction to the ACTT.  It appears the Australian Union were under the impression that there was a reciprocal arrangement regarding membership. They were wrong, the ACTT denied all knowledge of such an agreement.

The B.B.C. were not affected by ACTT and were still a possible entry to the industry in England.  Other companies could take on non-union labour if they could prove that they had exhausted their search through the available union members.

Dennis Wahren was beavering away looking for work.  We both knew that we would each look out for the other if the chance came along.  Dennis and Mary were in a rented flat in Fulham.

Dennis wrote dated 21st February, 1961.

8, Emperors Gate,

London S.W.7.

Dear Terry,

Just in case I do not hear from you in time, we have an appointment with Mr. Trevor Campbell, NZ House at 10.30 am Thursday 23rd.

I received my note of regrets from the B.B.C. this morning but somehow I expected it.  I had the feeling at the interview that they do not like to employ anyone new to the country.

I am having some trouble finding World-Wide Films but shall try the exchange and if that doesn’t work call in and see them.

Tonight I see Mr. Gordon Button at the B.B.C. Club but do not think that he will be useful as far as work goes.  However, that doesn’t really matter for from all Russell (Hurley) (Russell was a fellow editor working with us in Melbourne, but who had travelled to England loo king for work) tells me I would much prefer to work outside the B.B.C. if I can get a job.

I am writing to Anglia Television Norwich just on the off chance there may be something although that will probably get me away from the centre of things so I am just making polite enquiries at the moment.

If I don’t hear from you before I shall see you Thursday just inside NZ House between 10 and 10.40 am.

Kindest regards to all,

Dennis

Dennis and I had planned to meet up regularly while we were both looking for work.  Dennis had had the same sort of problems as I had.  We used to meet up at the Long Bar at the entrance to the Savoy Hotel.  It wasn’t that we wanted to meet somewhere posh, but Dennis, somehow, had made the acquaintance of two gentlemen involved in the film industry.  Gerry O’Halloran was a writer and what one might call an “Enabler” he arranged for things to happen to get a film started.  The other was Bernard Coote, who was the series producer of “Ivanhoe” with Roger Moore, and later would produce the “Third Man” Television series with Michael Rennie in the lead, playing Harry Lime.

Bernard Coote

Bernard Coote

They had from time to time made a number of suggestions that we had followed up without success until, one day, Bernard came to me and said “There’s a vacancy for a dubbing editor, which should suit you, it’s on a feature film at Shepperton.  You can have it if you want it, but think about it and  let me know next week”.

I thought long and hard.  Having never done anything more than lay tracks for a whole load of documentaries, I had never been involved in a feature film.

As they say, I “chickened out”.  I thought that it would have been obvious to any observer that I had not done the work before, even though I could have done it.

Denis Wahren was to be offered a chance of a job by Gerry O’Halloran.  It was to be Assistant and Film Editor to John Grierson.  John Grierson was the “Father” of the documentary film.  He made his name in the mid thirties with “Drifters” a film about the Scottish fishing fleets. He was a contemporary of Edgar Anstey and Barry Norman’s father.  Grierson had been invited to Canada, during the war, where he set up the famous Canadian Film Unit which produced some of the greatest documentaries ever made.

In 1960, he made “Seaward the Great Ships” which won the academy award for best documentary.  The cameraman was Robert-Riddell Black of Templar Films who was a Movietonews freelance cameraman in Glasgow.

Now, Grierson was making a weekly programme for Scottish TV.  What was odd about this operation was that he was based in Cardiff.  A Scotsman in Wales.

Dennis jumped at the chance .  His thinking was that, although the job itself might be menial and would teach him nothing, he would first of all learn a lot from Grierson and having returned to the Antipodes, he would be able to say that he worked with Grierson whose name was known world-wide within the film and television industries.

In March, Dennis went off to Cardiff with Mary seeking to meet with Grierson .   He had all sorts of troubles and he wrote to me on April 14th.

32, Hamilton Road

Cardiff,

Wales.

Dear Terry, Janet and Tiger,

We have a small flat on a semi permanent basis and are quickly settling into Welsh citizenship.  The house owners are trying to sell so we may have to move in a month or two.

I spent Thursday evening with Doctor Grierson in the hotel he was staying in and found him, as I expected, a most interesting man but I did not expect so much fire and energy in one man.  He would put to shame any man half his age with his boundless energy, retentive memory, agile brain, he is not satisfied with discussing a subject, he strips it and lays it bare.

I met him apparently in one of his best moods and I am told that at times he can be black and vengeful.  I certainly hope that I am able to work for him, for here is a man who by mere contact can consciously, or perhaps, sub-consciously affect all my future thoughts on film making.  I say I hope I work for him as there is still some doubt on the union situation.

However last night I met socially John Ormond from the B.B.C. Film Department and one of the board which I attended.  He is sure that they want me here but considers I would be better off not taking the news cutting job.  I have not yet been to TWW but am trying on Monday to get a temporary job doing anything.

Give my regards to Bernard and Gerry, I trust that in the not too distant future we may have another evening together,

Kindest regards, Dennis and Mary.

I discovered that Movietonews were also desperate for an editor, so I sent a telegram to Dennis.

I wrote:

DEFINITE OFFER EDITOR POSITION MOVIETONE START MONDAY NO A.C.T. PROBLEM.  RING HOME AFTER 8 PM OR LANGHAM 7251 BUSINESS HOURS

T. GALLACHER.

By now Dennis was sure that he would be working for Grierson.  He rang later to say that he had got the job, he thanked me for the offer, but he thought that his long term career would benefit more from his association with Grierson.

After a while, he would be writing to me saying that the job was more menial than he anticipated and that he might have made a mistake.  However, all this was a couple of months away.

What Grierson’s “This Wonderful World” programme did was to show documentary film from around the world.  It is described as a programme that showed “outstanding documentaries”.

With his extreme left-wing tendency, he found it easy to get propaganda films from the likes of Russia, China, North Korea and the Eastern Bloc countries.   Mostly, almost by definition, they were too long for his half-hour programme so that they had to be reduced in length. He tended to show excerpts from two or three films. The Doctor would tell Dennis what parts he wanted and it was up to Dennis to cut out the required scenes for the broadcast and them re-assemble the scenes to be able to return the film to its owner.  Not much of a job for an experienced editor, but Dennis was prepared to do it.

Grierson had a French lady in a French Pub in London who acted as procurer and storer of his films.  On one occasion Dennis came to London and we both went to meet her at the pub.  She took us upstairs to a large room which was filled to the ceiling with 16mm films.

Grierson was well known for coaching young men into the film industry.  In the early fifties, with considerable foresight, he registered a whole host of company names suitable for the film industry.  These names would include such words as “International”, “Film”, “Television”, “Productions”, “Associates”, and other words which would become prominent in the burgeoning industry.  He had a reason.  As his prodigy blossomed and became ready to launch himself on the film and television production industry, he would give them an appropriate company name to work under.

Some of the films themselves, shown on “Wonderful World”, were brilliant and the programme was very popular on ITV.  One day, his programme would give me a considerable boost, but more of that later.

A week after I was offered the job at Shepperton, I met up with Gerry O’Halleron and Bertnard Coote at the Savoy.  We talked about various projects we might become involved in, sometime in the future.

I told them that I could not take the dubbing job because it was essential that I got a long-term job.   If I had taken the job, I might have been looking for something else in a few months time.

We had a nice drink together and as we were leaving, I said to Bernard “The dubbing editor’s job, what’s the feature film about ?

He said ”It’s a film about Lawrence, the director is David Lean”.

The more I see “Lawrence of Arabia” the more I know that I could have done the job and done it well.  What might have become of me if I had done that job ?.

On March 8th, Ted Adams wrote to me:

Dear Terry,

Mr. Jack Mewett, the Head of Films division at the B.B.C. telephoned me yesterday afternoon and I explained what happened when you  saw the B.B.C. Appointments Officer.  He said that if you would telephone him at EALing 6761 he would make an appointment to see you personally and discuss the possibility of your employment by the B.B.C.

Since seeing you yesterday morning, I have spoken to Paul Wyand regarding the suggestion I threw out, of offering you a job in our News and Production Department and Paul said that he would be glad to have you as an assistant, provided you could start immediately, as he is short-handed due to the fact that Mr. Ramsden is sick and Paul is now running the Department.

Accordingly, I herewith offer you an appoiontment as Assistant to the News and Production Manager, at a salary of £28 per wek and should be glad if you would telephone me tomorrow as to whether this offer is acceptable, in which case, we would like you to take up your duties next Monday.

Yours sincerely,

E.T. Adams – General Manager

On Monday March 13th, I arrived at No. 5 Great Russell Street, where the News and Production Office of Movietone was housed.

I received a letter from Jack Ramsden, writing from his sick bed:

Little Copthall,

Chipperfield,

Hertfordshire

12th March, 1961

My dear Terry,

I am sorry I am not able to give you a personal welcome opn your return to Movietone on Monday.

Having always held you in high esteem, I can only say how delighted I am, and hope you will remain with us for many years to come.

You will be working with my greatest  friend Paul, and undoubtedly one of the greatest men in the business.

Keep your feet on the ground, whilst always remembering you can move’em fast when need demands – as in the old days at Wembley !

Good luck,

Yours sincerely,

(Jack)

J.L. Ramsden.

I was off to a good start. I was Assignments Manager with British Movietone News Ltd.

© Terence Gallacher and terencegallacher.com, 2013.  Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Terence Gallacher and terencegallacher.com with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

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