Came the dawn : memories of a film pioneer (1951)

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Of the few people from the actual theatrical world who floated into our company one of the very best was 'Billy' Saunders. I think his main experience at the theatre was in the 'front of the house*—in the box-office or some similar capacity—not on the stage. When he came to us he acted occasionally, as did everyone else at some time or another, but his greatest ability was more in the nature of what would today be called Art Director. For he was very clever in arranging and setting scenery, making sure of its suitability in every way and decorating and furnishing it appropriately. He was very fond of little 'accents'—a bunch of flowers or similar effective touch right down in the foreground at the corner of the picture. I used to laugh at him and call them 'Billyisms,' but I seldom removed them. Lulworth Cove was visited again in 1912 and several films were made. We all liked that place for it was good for filming and very enjoyable between whiles. Like many of our contemporaries, we had a stock comic individual—in our case he was called 'Hawk- eye' and played by Plumb. Hawkeye Swims the Channel was one of his efforts, and he remembers that on arrival he found he had no passport and was turned back by a gendarme. One of our fellows was very nearly drowned at the Durdle Door and was dragged ashore by Alma and first-aided by the rest of the company. In an exciting cliff-chase picture Fitz had a bad giddiness attack and couldn't get down, until rescued by the coastguards. Plumb stood beneath him as a support. He says he could scarcely avoid this kind office as Fitz began it by standing on his fingers. One of the first of my important pictures was when I was commissioned by the Gaumont Company to make a film of Sir Johnston Forbes-Robertson's production of Hamlet. This was a considerable undertaking for those days. I was given a price to work to—I have forgotten how much it was but I believe I kept within it, which was in itself rather unusual. Hamlet as a play is almost all interiors and these were staged without much difficulty with Hay Plumb as producer, in our studio at Walton, to which the great actor and Lady Forbes-Robertson and all the other actors in the company made such daily excursions as were neces- sary. But I wanted something more than that and I decided before- hand to build the Castle of Elsinore on the sea coast. I went with a few helpers down to Lulworth Cove and there, among the rugged little hills and rocks overlooking the sea, we found a spot on which it was sufficiendy flat to build the castle. 116