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Katharine Hepburn tested the director of On Golden Pond


Spencer Tracy's hat
Billy Williams Film-maker
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We had a rehearsal day and Kate and Henry Fonda had never worked together before. And we rehearsed the first scene of... of the car arriving where they get out and start to prepare for their holiday. And she came on set with a brown trilby hat and in front of the whole unit, she went up to Hank, as we called him and said, ‘Oh Hank’, she said, ‘I'd like to have... you to have this as a... as a good luck present, it's Spencer's hat’. She gave him Spencer Tracy's hat and it was a battered brown trilby. And of course it was such a moving moment you know; the unit were in tears. And he wore the hat on the first scene when they arrive in the car and they both get out of the car and Kate says: ‘Norman, Norman, the loons, they're welcoming us back’, and Hank says: ‘I can't hear a thing’. Then he goes into the house and all the furniture is covered in dust cloths and it's sort of rather dark. And he goes over to a mirror and looks at himself in the mirror and takes off this old battered trilby of Spencer Tracy's and hangs it up and picks up a fishing hat and puts on the fishing hat. Well later in the film when the boy arrives and joins Hank, they go fishing together, he's given a fishing hat. Well when the picture ended, Henry Fonda, who was a very good painter, particularly in watercolour, did a still life of these three hats on a shelf, the Spencer Tracy hat and the two fishing hats. And he gave the original to Miss Hepburn and he gave a signed copy to every member of the crew which I still have and treasure. It was just a lovely moment... a lovely, lovely thing to do.

Billy Williams, London-born cinematographer Billy Williams gained his first two Oscar nominations for the acclaimed “Women in Love” and “On Golden Pond”. His third nomination, which was successful, was for the epic “Gandhi”. He was President of the British Society of Cinematographers, and was awarded the Camera Image Festival’s Lifetime Achievement Award in 2000.

Listeners: Neil Binney

Neil Binney began working as a 'clapper boy' in 1946 on spin-off films from steam radio such as "Dick Barton". Between 1948-1950 he served as a Royal Air Force photographer. From 1950 he was a Technicolor assistant technician working on films such as John Ford's "Mogambo" (photographed by Freddie Young), Hitchcock's "The Man Who Knew Too Much" (Bob Burke), and Visconti's "Senso" (G.R. Aldo/B. Cracker). As a camera assistant he worked on "Mind Benders", "Billy Liar" and "This Sporting Life". Niel Binney became a camera operator in 1963 and worked with, among others, Jack Cardiff, Fred Tammes and Billy Williams. He was elected associate member of the British Society of Cinematographers in 1981 and his most recent credits include "A Fish Called Wanda" and "Fierce Creatures".

Duration: 2 minutes, 10 seconds

Date story recorded: September 2003

Date story went live: 24 January 2008