A unique collection of rarely seen photographs showing stars making some of British Cinema’s most-loved films can now be seen for the first time after being donated to the museum.
The collection of pictures belonged to Pamela Davies, one of the foremost continuity supervisors in the British film industry, who worked from the late 1940s to the mid-1980s on dozens of movies. The pictures were taken by photographers who were part of the crew and then used by Pamela in her work to ensure continuity, augmenting the sketches and notes she made on set in her position sat next to the director. Pamela worked in the industry from the late 1940s to her death in 1986, following her graduation from RADA in the late 1930s and war service in the ATS.
The photographs include shots of some of the biggest stars of the post-war era.
The featured photograph shows Sophia Loren on set in 1965 filming Judith, an epic about the beginnings of the state of Israel. It is taken from a contact sheet from photographer Bob Penn and shows Loren with Pamela (seated left). Other shots in the contact sheets show Loren relaxing between takes and being doused with water by the crew ready for a scene.
The picture above is one of a number from the set of Oliver!, one of the best loved British films of the 1960s. They were probably also taken by Bob Penn, who was stills photographer on this film too. Here child stars Mark Lester and Jack Wild are rehearsing the “Consider Yourself” musical number. Jack is wearing fashionable clothing of the time, while Mark has a school blazer over his Oliver Twist costume. Other pictures show dancers, also in their Carnaby Street finery, practise their dance routines for the number on a set of a Dickensian London market.
This picture, taken from a contact sheets of images by renowned stills photographer Bob Willoughby, shows Judy Garland on set at I Could Go on Singing, her last ever film, made in Britain in 1962. The film co-starred her great friend Dirk Bogarde, who is seen here - Pamela is seated . In the shots Judy is seen rehearsing for her musical numbers and on location in Canterbury, laughing and joking with Bogarde and the crew while filming at Canterbury Cathedral and at a schoolboy rugby match. Despite the difficulties she found making the film, which was not a hit, Garland's performance is powerful. in his memoir Snakes and Ladders Bogarde talks about their intense friendship and work together on the film. He felt that Garland gave the “most perfect moments of supreme screen-acting I have ever witnessed”.
In this picture from Laurence Olivier's film of Richard III in 1955, probably taken by stills photographer Norman Hapgood, we can see co-star Stanley Baker in rehearsal with Pamela seated close by. The photos from the film show location shooting in Spain, bizarrely standing in for Leicestershire, with the actors, including Olivier and Baker sweltering in full armour while the production crew go shirtless.
Continuity was one of the few jobs in the film industry that was predominantly female and Pamela was a respected figure at the top of her profession for over 30 years, working with directors such as Joseph Losey (in many films), Sam Peckinpah and Michael Powell. Continuity workers made sure that shots were consistent and were always present on set watching the actors and working closely with the director. They kept a record of each take as well as dialogue, direction of movement, characters’ positions, props and furniture so the next shot will follow exactly, even if filmed some time later. In later years as technology enabled more instant recording of scenes, continuity supervisors took Polaroids on set. In the donation are Polaroids from the last film Pamela worked on, Steaming, directed by Joseph Losey.
The collection, which also features many more films that Ms Davies made in her long career, was kindly donated to The Bill Douglas Cinema Museum by her sister, Gillean Slade, who said: “I am so pleased that the photos are in The Bill Douglas Cinema Museum where they can be seen and appreciated by others”. Dr Phil Wickham, curator of The Bill Douglas Cinema Museum, said: “We are absolutely delighted and grateful to have been gifted these photographs belonging to Pamela Davies, who was a key figure on film sets for so long. Many of the pictures have rarely been seen before. They reveal the process of making films in this period, as well as showing some of cinema’s biggest stars as they worked. They are another important element in the story of the moving image that The Bill Douglas Museum tells to our visitors and researchers.”
The pictures can be accessed by researchers visiting the museum and a display of some of the images can be seen from Wednesday 4 October in the exhibition case just outside our upper gallery. The museum now owns the physical photographs but copyright will be held by the photographers or the companies that employed them.