LIFE OF A CAM­ERA OP­ER­A­TOR

In a quiet road in Chal­font St Giles is a house which con­tains a trea­sure trove of me­men­tos from the past 60 years of the film in­dus­try. JACK ABELL spoke to Sheila Hume, widow of re­spected cin­e­matog­ra­pher, Alan, about her hus­band’s ca­reer and a life­time r

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WHEN talk­ing to Sheila Hume, you have to pay at­ten­tion. So lit­tle em­pha­sis does she put on the sub­ject of her sto­ries, that if you’re not care­ful, you’ll miss the fact that she’s talk­ing about some of the most fa­mous ac­tors of all time or vis­its to some of the most glam­orous lo­ca­tions in the world.

Sir Roger Moore for ex­am­ple, star of seven iconic James Bond films, is de­scribed sim­ply as “a good friend, who I hear from ev­ery now then,” while Shirley Bassey, one of the big­gest singing stars of the past 50 years, and Mrs Hume’s one time sis­ter-in-law, is spo­ken of as be­ing “very nice. She sends a Christ­mas card. I al­ways got on with her very well.”

Mrs Hume’s links to the world of film come through her hus­band Alan, a cin­e­matog­ra­pher, who died in 2010.

Dur­ing his long ca­reer, he was based at Pinewood Stu­dios where he worked on 18 Carry On films, but also trav­elled around the world where he shot some of the most fa­mous films of all time.

Among the ti­tles on his bulging fil­mog­ra­phy are Re­turn of the Jedi, A Fish Called Wanda, The Spy Who Loved Me, the tele­vi­sion se­ries of The Avengers, and David Lean’s clas­sic adap­ta­tion of Oliver Twist.

He worked with stars in­clud­ing Michael Caine, Christo­pher Walken, Har­ri­son Ford, Alec Guin­ness, Christo­pher Lee and Richard At­ten­bor­ough.

Sheila, now 89, would of­ten ac­com­pany him on his film­ing trips, and in her time trav­elled around the world to places in­clud­ing In­dia and Aus­tralia.

Her home in Chal­font St Giles is packed with me­men­tos and pic­tures from her hus­band’s ca­reer. When I went along to in­ter­view her, I was let through to her liv­ing room, where the walls are filled with pic­tures.

As­sum­ing they were pho­to­graphs of fam­ily and friends, I ini­tially didn’t take much no­tice of them, and sat down to chat to Mrs Hume.

It wasn’t un­til she in­vited me to look at the pic­tures on her stair­case that I re­alised that they were very dif­fer­ent to the ones on most fam­ily walls.

In among snaps of Mrs Hume and Alan, are pho­to­graphs of, to name but a few, An­thony Hop­kins, Liza Min­nelli and Jamie Lee-Curtis, all signed with heart­felt mes­sages to the cou­ple about the time spent with them.

“Ev­ery­one loved work­ing with Ge­orge so much,” says Sheila. “His first name was Ge­orge, but he used Alan when he was work­ing be­cause there were so many Ge­orges work­ing in the in­dus­try at the time. But I al­ways called him Ge­orge.”

Surely, I say, it must have been a stress­ful job for him at times? Work­ing with so many big stars over such a long time, he must have seen some almighty egos on dis­play and been forced to deal with some very tem­per­a­men­tal peo­ple.

“Never,” says Mrs Hume em­phat­i­cally. “It never hap­pened. He was very, very pop­u­lar with ev­ery­one he worked with. The peo­ple he worked with, the very fa­mous ac­tors, were lovely peo­ple, and very kind and friendly when­ever I would visit.

“They loved work­ing with him and he got on with all of them.”

Mr Hume’s ca­reer be­gan in the 1940s when he got jobs as a fo­cus puller on films such as Oliver Twist, be­fore be­com­ing a cam­era op­er­a­tor and work­ing on his first Carry On pic­ture, Carry On Sergeant, in 1958.

In the 1960s, he got his first job as a cin­e­matog­ra­pher, and es­tab­lished him­self as one of the best in the busi­ness, work­ing on a host of Carry On films at Pinewood, as well as sev­eral tele­vi­sion shows.

His rep­u­ta­tion grew in the 1970s with his work on Roger Moore’s Bond films, be­fore he got two of his big­gest films in the 1980s in Re­turn of the Jedi and A Fish Called Wanda.

“It was such an in­ter­est­ing time,” says Mrs Hume. “Peo­ple wanted to work with him be­cause they knew how good he was.

“He was al­ways work­ing, peo­ple al­ways wanted him. I got used to go­ing along to Pinewood Stu­dios all the time.

“I knew Cubby Bro­colli [leg­endary pro­ducer of the James Bond films], and his daugh­ter Bar­bara from when she was about eight.

“Now she’s run­ning the Bond films her­self! I still go to Pinewood some­times, and if she’s there I see her and she al­ways comes over and says hello and gives me a hug. She’s lovely.”

I ask if she misses this glam­orous film in­dus­try life.

“Some­times,” she says. “But lots of the peo­ple I knew are still around, and I still hear from them all the time. My chil­dren have all gone into the busi­ness as well so I al­ways hear about what they’re up to, so I still feel a con­nec­tion to it all.”

“It’s been a re­ally in­ter­est­ing life,” she adds. “I’ve loved it, and I couldn’t have asked for any­thing else re­ally.

“I’m very priv­i­leged that I was in­cluded in Ge­orge’s ca­reer so much. I met such a lot peo­ple be­cause of it, and I of­ten think back to that time.”

WALLOF FAME: Above, pic­tures of Mr Hume’s ca­reer line the walls of his home. Top, Charles Hawtrey as Spe­cial Con­sta­ble Ti­mothy Gorse in Carry On Con­sta­ble. Left, a signed photo of Sir An­thony Hop­kins

MEM­O­RIES: Sheila Hume Hume, at her home in Chal­font St Giles,Giles Be­low, her hus­band Cin­e­matog­ra­pher Alan Hume. Right, Amanda Bar­rie as Cleopa­tra in Carry on Cleo

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