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Colleagues: Victor Mardon – Movietone

Victor Mardon first joined Pathe at the age of 21 in 1921.  Movietone produced the first sound newsreel in 1929 and in the following year, Victor joined them as an engineer working out of a workshop in Conway Street, close to Fitzroy Square.

Victor Mardon was a brilliant engineer and proved that he was, on more than one occasion, during his long career with the company.

Long before it became a popular occupation, Victor became interested in his family tree and travelled the country examining parish records and local newspapers in his search for his ancestors.

Victor had a very strong Dorsetshire accent and was sometimes mistaken for an American.  He told me once that he visited a village in Dorset where he expected to find exciting information about his family.  He said “I was walking down the street when I saw myself coming towards me”.  The two men stopped, somewhat bewildered, and talked.  The man’s name was not Mardon, but it turned out that he was a distant relative.  Together they went of to examine the parish records.

Victor appears in a Movietone story from 1940, available at movietone.com: “There was some snow last year”, he is seen thawing out water pipes with a candle.

Soon after Movietone, together with United Press International, began to supply the B.B.C. with newsfilm, he went to Alexandra Palace with a Wall camera and set it up in front of a television monitor.  He produced  an excellent telerecording complete with sound.

He was able to re-produce camera parts that had become unobtainable as spares.

In 1953, when Paul Wyand was about to embark on his great assignment to film “The Flight of The White Heron”.  Victor made the lens mounts to take the anamorphic CinemaScope lens.

In 1961, a Cameflex camera was knocked off the top of our camera platform at Tattenham Corner.  It fell fifty feet and was smashed.  Movietone were recompensed by their insurance company and the insurance company allowed Movietone to keep the Cameflex for spares.  Victor had other ideas and, over the next year or so, he completely re-built the camera which was then put back into service.

In May 1963, it was decided to use a telephoto lens for one of the positions at the Derby.  A few hundred yards from the start, the course takes a turn to the right.  This meant that a camera could be placed inside the course and obtain a head-on shot of the horses as they came up from the start.  It was an excellent position but a very difficult one because  it was necessary to pull focus.  Victor Mardon volunteered and we accepted his offer.

The resulting pictures were outstanding.  Of course Victor had used cameras for years while servicing them  – he always tried them out before returning them to the cameramen.

Winston Churchill, Prime Minister of the Unite...

Winston Churchill(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

In January 1965, one of his final pieces of action was on the occasion of the funeral of Winston Churchill.

Victor set himself up at Heathrow at the offices of our shipping agents Shand Air Cargo. There he was equipped with a Pro-600 Auricon 16mm sound camera.  He set the camera up in front of a television set which was showing the progress of the Churchill funeral.

Victor had a 1,200 foot magazine fitted to the camera.  On the take-up side, he used one hundred and two hundred foot daylight loading spools.  His aim was to provide material on the funeral that could be sent to our clients around the world by the next available flight.

Of course, all these flights had been worked out in advance and Victor knew when to break off shooting, open the take-up side of the magazine, remove the spool, replace it with another and carry on shooting.   Each small can containing the daylight loading spools were handed over the staff of Shands who, with pre-prepared waybills, took them off to meet their allotted flights.

All that was comparatively easy, but what Victor also ensured was that the camera was synchronous with the television.  If he had not done this, he would have been filming a rising black bar from the television screen.

Later that year Victor retired after 35 years with British Movietone News.

© 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 Colleagues series click here.

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