Friday, 29 February 2008


The first two parts of this series appeared on the Fleapit Annex blog and may still be read there by following the link from this page.

I left school in August 1962 and two weeks later began work as a messenger in the mailroom of Columbia Pictures at their London offices in Film House, Wardour Street. In those days the head of Columbia was Mike J. Frankovich. Frankovich, a former radio presenter (he can be seen briefly in the Abbott and Costello comedy BUCK PRIVATES) was every inch the classic image of the movie mogul : tall, silver haired, tinted glasses and a cigar that looked about a foot long. Working in the centre of London’s filmland was, of course, magic for me. The whole of Wardour Street was full of film companies – Paramount, Warner-Pathe, Hammer etc with others like British Lion and Twentieth Century Fox nearby. The street was situated in the middle of London’s Soho district with its strip clubs, pubs, drinking cubs, coffee bars, jazz clubs and brothels Nearby were all the big London Theatres, the Charing Cross bookshps, Chinatown. The area teemed with film people, actors, pimps, gangsters and prostitutes. I went straight from school into this environment at the age of sixteen! It was wonderland and I got free cinema tickets!!! After about a year in the mailroom I moved into the Publicity department as a general assistant and later as assistant to the Advertising Manager. The Director of Publicity in those days was a guy named Patrick M. Williamson who later went on to become Columbia’s head of production in Hollywood and later (I believe) top man in the company. My place in the mailroom was taken by a young guy named Ray. As I showed him the ropes it became apparent that Ray shared my love of the movies and we became firm friends – most of our lunch hours were spent either discussing movies while we ate or going to some of the many screenings set up in film company private screening rooms either by the companies themselves or by genuine film enthusiasts like ourselves who worked for those companies. These could be films about to be released or older films from the company’s 16mm catalogue. We saw a lot of movies! Although we now live in different towns, forty-five years later Ray and I still discuss the movies we've seen over the telephone.Then, of course, there were the people you met either as a direct result of the work or purely by accident. One day I was introduced to an elderly American who turned out to be silent comedy great Harold Lloyd. Another time I took some papers into a screening room where I discovered a very chatty George Sidney sharing coffee with the projectionst. Directors with big films about to be released sometimes moved into the Columbia offices – some like Richard Brooks (LORD JIM) were really nice and happy to talk about their older movies while some like Stanley Kubrick (DR.STRANGELOVE) were just a pain in the butt to everybody. I shared coffee a couple of times with writer Peter George who had penned DR.STRANGELOVE. He seemed a gentle kind of guy with an interest in science fiction and I was shocked and sadden when, he killed himself, supposedly because of depression brought on by the thought of the atomic accident that he spoofed so brilliantly in DR.STRANGELOVE. In the next part I will write about the fan scene that was going on parralell to my time with Columbia, the founding of Gothique magazine, the 1965 world Science Fiction Convention etc.

1 comment:

Cerpts said...

Harold Lloyd?!?!?!!!!! Cowabunga!!! Keep the stories coming!!!