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Stills photography and children’s books


The Bespoke Overcoat
Wolfgang Suschitzky Film-maker
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Another well known film I worked on was a short film called The Bespoke Overcoat. That was made in 1950, I believe. Hang on. 1955. Oh. The Bespoke Overcoat was made in 1955. It was Jack Clayton who was given £5000 by his company. He was a producer for Romulus Films, and wanted to do a bit of directing... directing experience, so they gave him £5000 to make a short film, and it was Gogol’s Bespoke Overcoat transposed into a Jewish milieu, and it was shot in a disused church in the Marylebone Road... very primitive equipment, very primitive dolly we had for tracking shots, and not much lighting, wonderful actors, Alfie Bass and Kossoff... David Kossoff. David Kossoff. We got on very well with both of them. I had a wonderful operator, and we had much fun with Alfie Bass who kept us laughing.  We... for instance, he was made up as an old man, and on tea break we went out to the bus stop and queued up in costume, David Kossoff as well. Nobody took any notice, nobody looked at us. We were queued up at a bus stop. It was very difficult to work. There was an upstairs room, a small room, where David...where Clayton wanted to do a tracking shot around the death bed of... of Alfie Bass. He is lying and we had this very clumsy Winton dolly, which was... the room was so small that he wanted to start at the back of his head, go all the way around and ending up at the profile on the other side. We had to move furniture while the dolly was moving, and the sound man had a terrible job because it made noises of course. But Ron Robson, the operator, had to climb over the arm of the dolly, but he succeeded in getting the shot. It was very, very difficult, and we were next to another church which was still in use, and when the organ player next door wanted to practice, we had to stop and send somebody over to prevent him from playing because we could hear it through the walls. The film was very successful. It got an Oscar as the best short film in the next year, and then the following year, and it is still being shown now and then on television and now and then at the National Film Theatre. So, after 50 years, it’s quite an achievement, I think.

Born in Austria, Wolfgang Suschitzky (1912-2016) trained as a photographer and became one of the first in his field to take portraits of animals. After coming to England he worked with Paul Rotha as the cameraman on various documentaries and films such as “No Resting Place”, “Ulysses” and “Get Carter”.

Listeners: Misha Donat

Misha Donat is the son of Wolfgang Suschitzky. He has composed music for the theatre and the cinema (including films directed by Lindsay Anderson, and by Albert Finney). For more than 25 years he was a senior music producer for BBC Radio 3, where he planned and produced the prestigious lunchtime concerts at St John’s, Smith Square, at which many of the world’s leading artists appeared on a regular basis, and also instigated a Young Artists’ Forum as a showcase for musicians of the coming generation. As a broadcaster himself, he has given many radio talks. Misha Donat has contributed a large number of programme notes to the Wigmore Hall, Carnegie Hall, South Bank, Aldeburgh Festival, Edinburgh Festival, Brighton Festival and other venues, and he has written CD booklets for such labels as Decca, DG, RCA, Philips and Hyperion. He has been a regular contributor to BBC Music Magazine since its inception more than 10 years ago, and has written articles for The London Review of Books, The Guardian, The Musical Times, The Listener, Opera, and other publications. He has taught at the University of California in Los Angeles, and has given lectures and seminars at Vassar College and Bard College in New York State, Johns Hopkins University (Baltimore), and in the UK at Durham University, the Barbican Centre, the Royal Festival Hall, and the Norwich Music festival. He is currently working as a producer for the Philharmonia Orchestra.

Tags: The Bespoke Overcoat, Romulus Films, Marylebone Road, National Film Theatre, Oscar, Academy Award, Jack Clayton, Nikolai Gogol, Alfie Bass, David Kossoff, Ron Robson

Duration: 4 minutes, 50 seconds

Date story recorded: March 2008

Date story went live: 06 August 2009