The England of Elizabeth, 1957 for BTF

“Edgar promised Ritchie, who was getting restless, a break to direct and so I took over The England of Elizabeth with John Taylor again. It is nice to have one’s name on the same picture as Vaughan Williams although on the only occasion when I should have met the great man I was sent off to get a shot of a train at Woking. Par for the course (I don’t play golf but learned this expression from my electricians who all do), but VW was one of my heroes. It is part of the price one pays for going up in the world; if I’d still been chauffeuring people to music recordings I’d have seen him. It appears to have been quite a session as at one point the old man, who was no lightweight, tipped too far back in his chair and was only saved from disaster by Edgar making a dive and grabbing him.

ElizabethSomebody that I did meet on the film was the founding father of documentary himself. John Grierson was married to John Taylor’s sister and we drove down to their farm, Tog Hill in Wiltshire, to shoot a fiery beacon for the Spanish Armada. I remember sitting in a very spacious room, a converted barn I think, with a staircase at one end at the top of which was a door. Grierson came in through this door talking, descended the stairs talking, shook hands, sat down opposite and continued talking for about an hour and a half then retired up the stairs talking and disappeared through the door.

My first ever lit interior turned out quietly enough to be the nave of King’s College Chapel in Cambridge. There was a fair sprinkling of deans, proctors etc but their attention was soon diverted away from me by the sight of Arthur Green and Fat Mac (Donald) of Mole Richardson proceeding down the aisle arm in arm as bride and groom, Arthur making a very camp bride as I remember.

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1Another aspect of John was that of the naturalist and I remember one halcyon day during The England of Elizabeth, on a remote sea shore on the west coast, John, in no hurry about shooting, wandering at low tide and looking into rock pools, described a traditional way to catch lobsters by poking a stick into their lairs; because lobsters combine stupidity with stubbornness, they never let go once they have laid hold, and are pulled out of the water supplying their own hook as it were. It is called diddling, with the first “i” pronounced long.” (Clara)

5(with John Taylor)

On Arthur and Fat Mac from Clara,

Except for the studios, who had their own people, all the electricians were supplied by Mole Richardsons. The Moley Men as they were called were a remarkable breed, Olympian drinkers (whose work remained unaffected by it) and unique humorists who adorned the set like a chorus of silent clowns.

Two Moley Men of particular note were Fat Mac and Arthur Green. Arthur had curly auburn hair and eyes like a 9.8 lens, and Mac was a truly remarkable man. The adjective was there to distinguish between him and another MacDonald less sturdily built. Also fat in those days did not mean obese. He would think nothing of picking up a 150 amp arc and stand, sling it over his shoulder and walk off with it. It was not a good idea, the human back is not designed for that sort of thing and he probably paid for it later in life. But then there was another side, for at the same time he was one of the most literate widely read men I’ve ever known, sitting quietly in a corner reading Jane Austen or Sir Thomas Browne.

With a decline in the fortunes of Mole Richardson and a rise in those of the Lee brothers, the Moley Men became an extinct species, drifting and dispersing like the morning mist. It was probably as well.

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