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Cameraman tales: Flying Enterprise and David Samuelson

Between the end of December 1952 and early January 1953, the world witnessed an ongoing drama on the high seas.  “The Flying Enterprise” was an American Liberty ship crossing the Atlantic from west to east.  In heavy seas, its cargo shifted and caused the ship to have an uncontrollable list.  Rescue vessels arrived on the scene and Captain Carlsen ordered the crew to abandon ship.  He stayed on board trying to steer the vessel.

A tug was sent to try to tow the stricken vessel.  Several attempts were made to secure a line without success.  Eventually, a young Englishman from the tug scrambled aboard to assist the Captain.  He was Captain Dancy.  He stayed with Carlsen until January 10th when both finally left the vessel before it sank.

Movietone sent a cameraman with the rescue fleet to film the proceedings, but the sea was so rough that they could only put up with about three or four days in the heavy seas. Norman Fisher was one who lasted longer than most before being relieved by David Samuelson. Each cameraman brought back what rushes he had.  David Samuelson arrived just in time to cover the actual sinking which took place on January 10th.  He had a remarkable record of getting “scoops”.

On one occasion he went to Portsmouth to film a demonstration of a helicopter rescue.  All the camera crews were stationed on the quay side and were told that the helicopter would come over to provide the cameramen and photographers with a preview of what they would be doing during the demonstration.  It would seem that Samuelson alone filmed the “preview”.  The helicopter approached and hovered above a rowing boat, at which point one of the helicopter blades flew off, fortunately away from the quay side. The helicopter plummeted into the sea covered only by Samuelson among a whole host of opposition cameramen and Fleet Street’s finest.

In 1957, David Samuelson was driving along Oxford Street on his way into the office in Soho Square.  It was very early in the morning.  He noticed smoke coming from a gown shop in Oxford Street.  He stopped his car, took out his camera, loaded it with film and began shooting the fire.  Eventually, he was able to film the arrival of the fire brigade and their subsequent efforts to extinguish the flames and rescue the staff. The story is in the Movietone archives, entitled “Fire in Oxford Street“.

Photo of Paul Wyand’s Wall camera courtesy of the Tyneside Cinema.Each year, Movietone used to produce a documentary for The Society of British Aircraft Constructors, that is when we had a number of construction companies, in connection with The Farnborough Air Show.  Usually Norman Fisher would be given access to all the aircraft to be included in the film.  He would shoot a number of these on the ground, but he would also have access to a Bristol Beverley which was a smaller Hercules type of aircraft.  It had a drop-down back door which allowed Norman, suitably anchored as was his equipment, to stand upright with his camera on a tripod shooting out of the back door.   The Beverley would then fly around at about 5,000 feet while all the latest aircraft, one after another, would present themselves to the back door of the Beverley.  Of course, Norman obtained stunning pictures.

To complete the film, all that was required was some crowd shots from the Air Show on a Saturday when the biggest crowd was expected.  Samuelson, being then a junior cameraman, was assigned to obtain the crowd shots.  While at Farnborough, in September 1952, he got his crowd shots.  150,000 attended.  A De Havilland 110 prototype fighter flew over, piloted by John Derry.  It would break the sound barrier.  Samuelson filmed it. As it passed over, it broke up in mid air. Samuelson filmed the main piece as it came down into the crowd.  It killed 29 spectators and injured 65 others.

© 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.

For more articles in the Cameraman tales series click here.

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