|From John Summers
It was May 6th 1946, my first day in the Television Service. I had taken the little single decker red bus from Wood Green Station, up the hill to Ally Pally, hurried up the steps, through those heavy metal doors to report to reception.
I then ascended to the sixth floor in the little lift, to report to Mr Baker, E.i.C. After a short lecture from him, he told me to report to Mr Whiting, S.Tel.E. in charge of Studio A. Mr. Whiting said to me, "Well Summers, what do you want to do - sound or cameras?" Full of excitement I replied "Cameras please Mr Whiting". "There's a boom - you're on sound!" was his reply.
Up I climbed, was quickly shown the controls, and donning a pair of "cans", my operational experience of television began. Very soon a distraught voice came over the cans "I can't hear a word - for Christ sake get the mike closer!" This was followed almost immediately afterwards by a somewhat annoyed Director - "Get that mike out of shot!".....
So it went on - for the rest of the afternoon - either the Sound Supervisor couldn't hear what was being said - or I was being told off for having the mike in shot. I felt boom operating was not really for me.
The following morning, before rehearsals started, Mr Whiting came up to me and said, "Report to Ted Langley, Summers. You're on Cameras!"
|And more from John...
I joined the Television Service in 1946, and became a "dolly operator on crew 2, under Senior Cameraman, Ted Langley. He was a really macho type, and did much to create the prestige of camera operation in TV.
He demanded 101% concentration from his trackers, and big close ups and fast tracks were his hallmark. He was a scourge to incompetent directors, and would sometimes become exasperated with them. Once in a while he would get so annoyed that he would throw off his cans, and rush up the stairs to the control room, to give a luckless director a piece of his mind. We lads on the floor would push our headphones a bit closer to our ears so that we didn't miss a word!
We were in Studio A rehearsing a variety programme. A knife-throwing act had just finished on camera and we were waiting for the next turn to arrive. Ted leaned forward from his camera, and asked the knife thrower if he would throw at him. He agreed, and Ted replaced the lovely girl in front of the target and had five knives thrown at him – all landing behind Ted jolly close to his body. Can you imagine this happening today in T/V? Well nothing untoward occurred, and afterwards Ted got back on his camera, and we carried on rehearsing. Of course we lads were all very impressed with Ted.
The next day we were rehearsing a play. The action took place in a hospital with a blood donor, and Ted set up on a still shot of blood dripping into the bottle. Although the scene in the viewfinder was up side down - it was in colour. After a while it proved to be too much for Ted - he fainted!