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A Taste of Honey: the dinner jacket and tie incident

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A Taste of Honey: working with the weather
Walter Lassally Film-maker
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In the Blackpool sequence, which was all shot in one day, we had a severe weather change. It started fine and- and then it clouded over and- and became rainy. And, we- we could see this about to happen, so we decided to- to shoot the- the first part of the sequence is shown- is shot second. So the- the first thing we shot was all the hand-held stuff of them- of them walking along the- the Promenade in Blackpool, and we just had a few extras who we put behind the- or crowd artistes, I should say, whom we put behind the main players. But it was used in the technique of insinuating players into the real- into the real background, which I'd already used in Morocco and in other documentaries. So that all came in very handy for "Taste of Honey", and it's a very effective sequence, which is largely improvised, and which is shot very quickly. Also we- we came across that extraordinary performance where they- they show a woman being garrotted and that sort of strange stage show where the- a half-nude girl is on the bed and- and the- and the commentary, actually, was faked. It was done afterwards because they didn't want to use the original voice, and used a rather gravelly, sort of, funny sort of woman's voice for the commentary. But that- he stumbled upon that and he said- oh let's- let's do that, let's grab that. As is, of course, the hall of mirrors which isn't easy for camera, again. But it- it was managed. I managed that. And then, the rest of the- the sequence, which in the movie comes first, is- is on the pier and was actually filmed in the rain, well, drizzle. And there's a line put in somewhere about, you know, it's going to rain again in a minute. Do come on, it's going to rain again in a minute, something like that. Which they often did- that kind of dialogue is often inserted in movies to cover a weather change. But there's one other interesting weather change happens in that film where I made use of the- of the weather change. We were shooting in a place which is called Under the Arches, which is a disused railway bridge and there's a huge brick arch- very tall brick arch, with landscape behind. On one side there's a sort of rubbish dump, but on the other side is open landscape. And, Murray and Rita are off on their excursion into the Pennines and, the scene starts in greyness. So the bit where she's leaning against the arch and she says, I don't want to have this baby and all that, you know, this baby's going to be born deaf and daft, and stuff like that, and it's a bit of depressing dialogue was- the scenery was depressing and the light was depressing, and there was one instance where she had to be silhouetted against the background, and it was impossible in that particular situation, even if you put the camera right in the ground, right on the ground, it was impossible to get a silhouette against sky. Sky being at the other- at the other end of the arch. But I couldn't silhouette her entire figure. I could only si- silhouette her up to about the knees. So below the knees I needed something light so that she would pick up in silhouette against that. So I had a lot of light-coloured sand put down. So that's a piece of lighting with sand. Instead of lighting with light or with lamps, that's a bit of lighting with sand. So she appears as a- as a whole silhouette. And then the weather came to our rescue, or rather we adapted. I could see the weather was breaking so there's a scene where her mood changes and, and she says, We're extraordinary people, you and I, and they run through the arch. And when they come out the other end the sun is shining, and that transition is beautifully managed. They always say, well, scenes like that you may have to re-shoot the whole thing because you can't go suddenly from in the middle of a scene from- from grey light to sunlight. Which is untrue in reality, because with- with- on a day where those clouds are scudding by- scudding by, you go continuously from- from sunlight into cloud. But there, in that particular instance it was- it was nicely incorporated into the story.

Born in Germany, cinematographer Walter Lassally (1926-2017) was best known for his Oscar-winning work on 'Zorba the Greek'. He was greatly respected in the film industry for his ability to take the best of his work in one area and apply it to another, from mainstream to international art films to documentary. He was associated with the Free Cinema movement in the 1950s, and the British New Wave in the early 1960s. In 1987 he published his autobiography called 'Itinerant Cameraman'.

Listeners: Peter Bowen

Peter Bowen is a Canadian who came to Europe to study and never got round to heading back home. He did his undergraduate work at Carleton University (in Biology) in Ottawa, and then did graduate work at the University of Western Ontario (in Zoology). After completing his doctorate at Oxford (in the Department of Zoology), followed with a year of postdoc at the University of London, he moved to the University's newly-established Audio-Visual Centre (under the direction of Michael Clarke) where he spent four years in production (of primarily science programs) and began to teach film. In 1974 Bowden became Director of the new Audio-Visual Centre at the University of Warwick, which was then in the process of introducing film studies into the curriculum and where his interest in the academic study of film was promoted and encouraged by scholars such as Victor Perkins, Robin Wood, and Richard Dyer. In 1983, his partner and he moved to Greece, and the following year he began to teach for the University of Maryland (European Division), for which he has taught (and continues to teach) biology and film courses in Crete, Bosnia, and the Middle East.

Duration: 4 minutes, 8 seconds

Date story recorded: June 2004

Date story went live: 24 January 2008