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On Golden Pond: a success for everyone but Lew Grade


On Golden Pond: the 80th birthday scene
Billy Williams Film-maker
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There's a scene where Henry Fonda is 80 and Kate Hepburn had to come from the kitchen with this large cake with... with 80 candles burning on it and move from the kitchen through the living room into the dining area where her husband Henry Fonda, daughter and boyfriend and young boy are all waiting to celebrate this birthday and Mark Rydell came to me, he said, ‘I don't know how to shoot this scene’ and I said, ’Well why don't we put the camera on a track and start by the kitchen area, Kate comes out of the kitchen with these 80 candles burning so we've got this lovely warm light glowing onto her face and we track with her for a little while and then let it go past her so we've follow on her back and we reveal the dining area with the others waiting for her, she joins Henry Fonda who makes a little speech about the joys of becoming 80 and then they all lean forward and help him blow out the candles and the... the camera tilts down, they blow out the candles and it goes dark and that's the cut and it worked beautifully and we did it in one, we never... we didn't do a single cutaway or... no coverage at all, we just did a couple of takes and it’s a great scene. But I've... I’ve found there are many times when you can be working with a director who’s got plenty of confidence, knows what he wants and then suddenly one day there's a blank, you know, he can't sort of work out what he wants and these are the time I think when... when you know, the cinematographer and the operator have to come forward a bit more and find a way of doing things.

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, 6 seconds

Date story recorded: September 2003

Date story went live: 24 January 2008