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Film noir for children


My granddaughter's acting debut in The Rainbow
Billy Williams Film-maker
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There was one scene right at the beginning of the picture when Glenda Jackson is on this... on location in this house in Oxfordshire and she's got... an iron bath on the table and she's washing the baby and her husband, played by Christopher Gable, comes in and the baby has to be crying and Christopher Gable, who's the father, says: ’Oh, sing little blackbird, sing’, and Glenda carries on and, you know, there's a scene that follows. But the... we had to have a very young baby. Well, my first granddaughter had just been born and she was four months old and I... I spoke to Claire and Matthew – her father – and said, ’How would you... how would you like Amy to be in a movie, and I explained what was going to happen and they were both very pleased and thrilled about it and so they came on set with... with Amy and she was put into the bathtub and Glenda was lovely with her and we started shooting. Well, what I should say here is that... in... in the years since I'd worked with Ken before, he'd become the camera operator and he operated everything on a slip head and this... this was a tracking shot, starting looking down on the... on Amy in the bath and tracking back to reveal Glenda Jackson bathing her and then Christopher Gable comes in.

Well, we did a few takes and Amy started off fine, she was gurgling away because she liked the bath and after about three or four takes she started to get a bit grumpy, and we kept on shooting and the longer we shot the more angry she became, and the problem was that Ken couldn't get the tilt up right, and he had this... I mean he was obsessed with headroom, and if he didn't get the headroom on a shot perfectly right, he would go again. He would just say, ’Oh, I'm just making an adjustment on the camera and we'd do another take, regardless of the performance. And so, we were continually doing this tracking shot, pulling back from Amy to a wider shot... it was 18 takes before Ken got the camera work right, by which time Amy was purple with rage and although it was good for the scene because she was yelling her head off, when I came to grade it, I had this problem of... of starting on a purple baby coming up and having to have the correct skin tone for Glenda but... it was my granddaughter's debut into cinema and it... it was quite a coincidence because her father was an actor and his parents were both actors so she had become a third generation actress if you like; and also, you know, my daughter, Claire, is the third generation in cinema, because Claire went to the National Film School where she graduated as a director and that's where she met Matthew. So a lot of things kind of came together there and I enjoyed doing the picture. It was a... and... and we had a lovely score by Carl Davis. And, that was... it was good fun; it was good to work with Ken again. I did some more commercials with him and another film for television, part of a series called Dusk Before Fireworks, which we shot at Shepperton and again he insisted on operating, but if he got to a shot that was a bit too difficult for him, he'd say, ’Oh well, why don't you do this one’ you see, so I'd get the geared head out — it's usually a tracking shot — I’d get the geared head out and I'd... I’d take a shot and then he'd take over again... ‘cause he didn't like relinquishing the... the operating. But he'd also in the process he'd become the writer as well as... as well as the director, and sometimes the producer, so he’s... was wearing too many hats, I'm afraid. But he was a lot of fun, a great sense of humour. I like Ken.

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: 4 minutes, 35 seconds

Date story recorded: September 2003

Date story went live: 24 January 2008