The late Freddie Francis was a first class cinematographer and director. He started his film career as a clapper boy on the film The Marriage of Corbal. He went on to be a camera operator before becoming a director of photography (dop) on a number of top class films. He told me he was in the Army Kinematograph Service Film Unit during WW2 shooting 35mm film for them. He added that is where I really started operating and becoming a dop.
His first feature film as a director of photography was A Hill In Korea. He went on to photograph Sons And Lovers directed by legendary cinematographer Jack Cardiff. Other offerings included Room At The Top and Saturday Night And Sunday Morning starring Shirley Anne Field. Jack Clayton directed Room At The Top. Francis told me he would often watch Clayton, who was a good friend, editing the picture. Field, who I interviewed for a newspaper article was a good friend of Freddie and his wife and spoke highly of them.
Asked where his favourite location was Francis said: “Anywhere, I just loved making movies.” One of Frances’s favourite directors was the American Robert Mulligan. He worked with Mulligan on Man In The Moon and Clara’s Heart starring Whoopee Goldberg.
Francis broke away from cinematography and directed his first feature Two And Two Make Six (1961). He went on to direct several British Hammer horror films at Bray studios. His first horror offering was Paranoiac (1963). It took around six weeks to shoot a Hammer film. He told me they usually worked from eight am until six pm Monday – Friday. He also directed pictures for Amicus and Tigon
He also directed film for television, working on several episodes of The Saint and Man In A Suitcase. He told me he didn’t care too much for television work – only really feeling at home on a feature film set.
After directing several films he went back to cinematography. He worked on the re-make of Cape Fear. The original version was released in 1962 and the re-make in 1991. Martin Scorsese directed it; Freddie says he and Scorsese got on extremely well.
Francis won Oscars for Sons And Lovers (1960) and Glory (1989). His last film was The Straight Story (1999). He passed away on 17 March 2007 aged 89.
David A Ellis
Following on from the success of last year’s Movie Night Event, and the numerous requests received for a repeat, the date has been fixed.
The classic comedy horror has been selected as it is a movie that is enjoyed most when viewed within an audience. The ticket price remains the same as last year.
There will be a new short video about Chester’s cinemas. Displays of photographs and posters will be exhibited too. Complimentary ice creams will be available from the trays, together with hot refreshments served before the film starts.
To book tickets either use our secure PayPal link (which can also be used for normal card payments). Click on this link to access the booking page.
A few years ago Gladys Barnes from Blacon related to me her fond memories of working at the Gaumont restaurant, which was part of the Gaumont cinema, now bingo in Brook Street. The restaurant was called the ‘Oak’, and was open to everyone.
Gladys started working there in 1941 at the age of seventeen. Her weekly wage came to seventeen shillings and sixpence. (eighty-seven and a half pence). When Gladys first went there, the restaurant was open from 10am – 9pm, later closing at 8pm. A three-course meal could be had for one shilling and sixpence (seven and a half pence). When the price was put up to two shillings, people complained, so a small coffee was added.
On 4 April 1960 there was a charity film performance for the NSPCC, organised by the Duchess of Westminster. The film chosen was ‘Conspiracy of Hearts’. The star Sylvia Syms made a personal stage appearance. Before the film commenced, there was a short stage show. Reginald Dixon, the famous Blackpool Tower organist played to the full house. The Duchess wrote Gladys a thank you note on a card, which she has kept.
Gladys was in the restaurant cash desk for thirteen years, and eventually became assistant manageress.
In the kitchen, a Mrs Sumpter and a Mrs Pinchers carried out the cooking. After the war a Mr Cotgreave, known as chef Cotgreave returned to the Gaumont. Unlike today, tea, which was silver service, would be served to the cinema patrons. ‘Sugar was in cubes, not the packet type you get today,’said Gladys.
When Gladys first went to the cinema, the manageress was a Mrs Pointon and her assistant a Mrs Morton. A good word put in by Gladys’s sister Eileen Coventry, got Gladys the job. She says, many people worked there over the years, and remembers a Nancy Lloyd and Betty Malee as waitresses.
As for food, Gladys recalls the delicious cream cakes that were on offer. Gladys tells me that she served tea to several stars that performed at the cinema, including: Adam Faith, Billy Fury and Cliff Richard, who sang to her. ‘I have often thought about writing to him to see if he remembers,’ she said.
The restaurant closed at the time of the cinema’s closure in December 1961, with Bill Clarke as the last chef. Gladys continued until early 1962. She says she loved every minute of it and feels that the restaurant should never have closed.
David A Ellischestercinemas.co.uk