AP mast (2K)

DIRECT TELEVISION from ALEXANDRA PALACE

by Arthur Dungate

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Pranks and Presenters

Working in television in those early days was indeed, for most of the time, fun. There were far more "ups" than "downs". And there were several pranks that we - er, I - got up to.

Me with paper darts (5K)
paper dart (1K) paper dart (1K) paper dart (1K)

- such as - having paper-dart battles in the corridors of AP with Tom Barnes, the Chief Projectionist..... The corridors on the ground floor were quite tall and had service pipes running along the walls near the ceiling, and a lot of my darts got lodged in these. Perhaps they are still there?

Tom Barnes (5K)

And thinking of Tom Barnes reminds me of something I did to him one day.....

There had been a complaint that the projection room got too hot and stuffy so a pen recorder had been installed to check the temperature.

pen recorder (4K)

This had a cylindrical rotating graph, and one night just before going home I wrote on this graph "Death to Tom Barnes", and added a skull & crossbones.

I drew it on that part of the graph which would appear at 9am the next morning, carefully re-setting the graph when I had done so.....

modified pen recorder (5K)

The next day I was off duty, but when I came in again my boss said that Tom was most upset at what I did, but that my timing was excellent.....

So I went to Tom and started to apologise profusely, but he stopped me, saying kindly that when he found out it was me, he knew there was no malice in it and calmed down (he'd thought it was someone on the other shift...). But I was a bit more careful afterwards at possible unexpected results to my pranks.....

Cymbals (11K)

One of which was that one day I found a pair of cymbals had been left in the Dubbing Theatre at AP. And they were full orchestral cymbals - big ones! This was too good to miss!

So I got hold of them and crept along the corridor into Preview Theatre B. And there were a group of Film Editors, dozing on their chairs, waiting for the next news story to come in..... They hadn't seen me, and I took these cymbals, and WHAM! ..... I'd never before seen people literally rise up from their seats - but these editors did - must have gone a good 3 inches up.....

rising up (9K)

In Preview Theatre B just in front of the projection box was a long desk where the editors sat when watching newsfilm rushes. On it was a row of about six telephones. One day, while there was no one there I took off all the handsets and replaced them on the wrong phones..... Later, when one of the phones rang it took some time before the frustrated editor managed to match the ringing phone to the right handset.

And then there has come to light this photograph of one of the film editors, taken in the car park. Now what fiendish prank of mine is he running away from?

one of the film editors (7K)

Addition 2012

The ‘film editor' is Maurice Harley, who by the mid 1960s was a Chief Film Editor and spent a lot of his time working on 'Town & Around' which followed the early evening Nat. News. (T & A was the London/Home Counties equivalent of the regional news opt-outs which ran parallel with it.)  Maurice had been a feature film editor before he joined the BBC and when they used to run old B/W films on BBC1 (circa 1930s/40s) early afternoons in the 1970s now and again Maurice would be on the credits as 'Film Editor'.

ribbon mike (3K)

A tilted mike?
In the Dubbing Theatre at AP we used an RCA ribbon mike on the table for the commentator, which was similar to the well-known BBC AXBT. Bill Northwood, producer of "Behind the Headlines" (a Tv news programme), at times did Voice Overs for some of the stories.

He usually spoke with his head at an angle, so we thought of propping the mike up on one side to match......

tilted ribbon mike (4K)



Presenters

Some personalities come to mind.

 

One was David Attenborough coming into the Lime Grove Dubbing Theatre in 1955 to do a narration for one of his Zoo Quest films, and seeing me with an unofficial BBC disk (which actually a friend in BH had made), he called me a "Rogue" .....(but he did smile as said it!).

David Attenborough (2K)
Wallace Greenslade (8K)

Later on there was Wallace Greenslade, one of the newsreaders, sitting in the Dubbing Theatre at AP listening with huge enjoyment to a replay of one of my off-air recordings of a Goon Show in which he'd taken part. He was a nice, warm, friendly man, with a very distinctive waddle when he walked. (You can see it in a sequence near the start of Richard Cawston's 1959 film "This Is The BBC").....

Then there was Frank Philips, another of the newsreaders, whom I found bending down tying his shoelaces at the foot of the stairs leading up to the projection room. As I carefully passed him to go up, he turned and said grandly "Thank you so much for not kicking me in the arse.....". I was a bit taken aback by that.

Frank Philips (2K)

During his summer holidays he used to take his young son and travel round the coast of the UK on a merchant ship. On reaching the top of Scotland, they would return to London by train.

The BBC Natural History Unit which over the years has made so many superb programmes, is based in Bristol in the west of England. Initially with limited technical facilities, programme makers would come to London to dub their programmes. Since Natural History films required specialist sound effects recordings which the London-based Dubbing Theatres would not carry, the editors would come with their own necessary disks.

Tony Soper (9K)

Thus I came across Tony Soper, a naturalist working with the BBC at that time. As BBC sound effects records were 78rpm shellac pressings, and therefore fragile, he had devised a simple means of safe transporting using the metal boxes in which acetate blanks for direct disk recording were supplied. These incorporated a central spindle which kept the records safe. An ingenious solution I thought.

I remember one day, around 1960 we were dubbing at AP one of a series of half-hour programmes featuring Johnny Morris. These were not part of his popular 'Animal Magic' programmes, but a series in which he did various adventures, one of which was underwater diving.

Johnny Morris at the zoo (14K)

When we had finished the particular programme, there was a little time to spare so we ran the rough cut of the following week's programme (to be dubbed on another occasion). Johnny was standing at the back of the Dubbing Theatre mixer room, right next to myself and, although he had not seen the film before, he was voicing it perfectly! A true professional. (We should have recorded it!).

Johnny Morris (11K)

Johnny Morris lived near Hungerford in Berkshire, and many years later, in 1997, I was in Hungerford to take pictures and interviews for a project on the Kennet & Avon Canal, when I saw him park in the main street, to do some shopping. I thought of approaching him and saying Hello, but decided that it was most unlikely he would remember me from all those years ago.

Then, a couple of years later, I heard that he had died, and much regretted not making myself known to him. Now, of course, it was too late..... He was a kind and courteous gentleman.

Finally, Huw Wheldon in the mid-1950s. At that time he was introducing a children's programme called "All Your Own" and afterwards he came into Telecine in Lime Grove to thank in person the Telecine operator for his part in the programme - it wasn't me, but I was still touched by that kind and thoughtful action.

Huw Wheldon and All Your Own (13K)

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