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Obituaries - Harold Kress, Michael Samuelson and Peter Taylor

Page 1: Harold Kress, Michael Samuelson and Peter Taylor

Page 2: Dawn Steel, Alfred Roome and Leo Jaffee

Page 3: Vanda Jones and Harrison Marks


Obituary: Harold Kress From The Independent October 26th, 1999, written by Tony Sloman

VERY FEW members of the picture-going public can name a film editor. Film buffs may be able to identify a cameraman or two, or even a dress designer, but the names, and indeed the crafts, of the editor remain trade secrets. The editor's testimonial is the film itself, for no other technician stays with a film from script to premiere. In the great days of the American studios, studio style was set by the art director and the editor. The art department created the MGM gloss or the Paramount sophistication, the editor the Warner Bros pace or the 20th Century-Fox polish. Harold Kress spent over 40 years at MGM and Columbia Studios, and edited more than 50 major features. He was a tireless fighter for respect and recognition of his craft and when he himself was awarded the American Cinema Editors (ACE) Lifetime Achievement Award in 1992, he stated that it was his intention, as both a board member of ACE and as president of the Motion Picture Editors' Guild, "to get our names from the bottom of the crawl to the top, with the director, cinematographer, and the costume designer." Born in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, in 1913, but educated on Hollywood's doorstep at UCLA (the University of California at Los Angeles), Kress fetched up at MGM Culver City as assistant editor on the Joan Crawford- James Stewart film Ice Follies of 1939 and was swiftly promoted to editor on such MGM products as These Glamour Girls (1939) and It's a Wonderful World (also 1939). MGM was the glamour film factory, the Rolls-Royce of Hollywood, and they put a new movie into production every 10 days. Kress's six films of 1939 (including Richard Thorpe's The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, as supervising editor) proved he could work well under pressure and was unfazed by glamour. In 1940 he went on to edit Andy Hardy Meets Debutante, one of Louis B. Mayer's favourite series episodes, Comrade X, starring the studio's pride and joy, the king of Hollywood himself, Clark Gable, and two extremely successful Jeanette MacDonald-Nelson Eddy vehicles titled Bitter Sweet and New Moon. The success of these films thrust Kress into the top rank of MGM feature editors, a position consolidated the next year by an Academy Award nomination for Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde, wherein Spencer Tracy's transformation sequences drew industry attention to Kress, who was rapidly becoming a favoured editor on the lot. Two more Academy nominations were to follow, for the massively popular propagandist film Mrs Miniver (1942) and the long- gestating but utterly charming The Yearling (1946). Kress worked well within the MGM system, absorbing and promulgating the studio style and well able to enhance the studio talent. The titles of the movies edited by Kress rapidly became household names: Random Harvest (1942), Cabin in the Sky (the 1943 musical directing debut of Vincente Minnelli), Command Decision (1949). During the Second World War, Kress directed the five-reeler Wardcare of Psychotic Patients (1941), and the health documentary Purity Squad (1945), and, like many editors, began to get a yen to direct. As the varied likes of David Lean, Robert Wise, Terence Fisher and Dorothy Arzner have proved, the cutting rooms are easily the finest grounding for film direction. However, many editors - and Kress was no exception - proved to be more valuable to the cinema as skilled editors rather than as indifferent directors. Louis B. Mayer gave Kress his feature directing break with The Painted Hills (1951), the last MGM film of a veteran star, the 11-year-old Lassie, but this cross between a "B" western and a dog movie failed to continue Lassie's screen career, although Lassie was excellent in the role of the dogged Shep. No Questions Asked (1951) was a snappy co-feature about insurance fraud, but after directing Apache War Smoke (1952), Kress returned to the MGM cutting rooms. There his films included many of Metro's prestige successes of the 1950s and 1960s, including such famous titles as Green Fire (1954), I'll Cry Tomorrow (1955), The Teahouse of the August Moon (1956), Silk Stockings (1957), Merry Andrew (1958), Home from the Hill (1960) and King of Kings (1961). He worked with such distinguished directors as Vincente Minnelli and Mervyn Le Roy and a roster of MGM stars including Ava Gardner, Glenn Ford, Robert Taylor, Stewart Granger, Grace Kelly, Howard Keel and Paul Newman. This culminated in a well-deserved Academy Award for Kress's editing of the joint MGM-Cinerama venture, the all-star, triple-director How the West Was Won (1963). How the West Was Won was technically very complex, being the first narrative film to be photographed in three-screen Cinerama, with no covering "flat version" shot. There was a serious delay in receiving editing materials and the equipment was cumbersome and in its infancy (and would soon be replaced by single-lens 70mm). However, Kress helped bring a visual dynamism to the extremely large canvas, most notably by starting the Civil War night scene directed by John Ford with a dramatic sluice-down of the surgeon's makeshift table which recurs later on in the sequence. Its impact is greatly reduced by viewing this film in the 35mm copies available on tape and television. The three-strip Cinerama original can be seen only at the Pictureville Cinema in Bradford, the only existing public Cinerama theatre in the world. How the West Was Won and a stint on the Elvis Presley film It Happened at the World's Fair (1965) marked the end of Kress's long MGM career. He remained greatly in demand, and settled for a while at Columbia after supervising George Stevens's mammoth The Greatest Story Ever Told (1965). Kress's Columbia titles included Alvarez Kelly (1966), Cary Grant's film Walk Don't Run (also 1966) and the Matt Helm flick The Ambushers (1967), as well as a stint directing second unit on Cromwell (1970). Kress also established a profitable working relationship with the director John Frankenheimer on four key features including The Iceman Cometh (1973). The tremendous popular success of the producer Irwin Allen's The Poseidon Adventure (1972), edited by Kress, ultimately led to Kress's second Academy Award for Allen's follow-up, the definitive group jeopardy movie The Towering Inferno (1974), which Kress co-edited with his son Carl, who would go on to a separate, though less distinguished career in the cutting rooms. The Towering Inferno is superbly put together, its pyramidal star structure cleverly maintained throughout, its climax as the high-level water tanks flood the blazing glass tower genuinely riveting, but there is a single edit within that film which encapsulates the art, craft and skill of the professional editor. Fred Astaire has taken a spreadsheet-sized junk bond certificate from out of his briefcase and puts it folded into his inside pocket. Seamless, except you never see him fold the document. It's done - brilliantly on a cut, an edit that must have brought great satisfaction to whichever Kress wrought it, and a supreme example of great (and totally invisible) editing. When asked what his own most satisfying screen moments were, Harold Kress isolated three sequences from his great MGM period that have become part of Hollywood movie folklore. In Kress's own words: "From Random Harvest, where Greer Garson is trying to stimulate Ronald Colman's amnesia-affected memory; from The Yearling - the boy-deer sequences; and from Mrs Miniver, where the German soldier comes to the old lady's house and demands food at gunpoint." Tony Sloman

Harold F. Kress, film editor: born Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania 26 June 1913; married (one son); died Palm Desert, California 18 September 1999.INDEPENDENT, 26th October 1999


Obituary: Michael Samuelson From The Independent September 11th, 1998, written by Tony Sloman

THE FAR-REACHING influence and considerable activity of the Samuelson brothers, David, Sydney, Anthony and Michael, throughout the British film industry is by no means as publicly well-known or as well-documented as contributions by far lesser lights, and perhaps that's the way they'd prefer. The four offspring of the British film industry pioneer G.B. "Bertie" Samuelson, a Lancashire cinema exhibitor who became an early film producer in the days before the cinema could speak, went on to build up the Samuelson Group, the largest film equipment servicing company in the world. Founded in 1955 as the Samuelson Film Service Ltd, it grew under the control of the four brothers and was eventually acquired by Eagle Trust in 1987. At that time Michael Samuelson organised a management buy-out (funded by his own family, his two daughters and two sons) of the Lighting Division of Samuelson Group, and established himself - and the company - world- wide as Michael Samuelson Lighting Ltd. Among the many films serviced by Samuelson Lighting were Gandhi (1982), Who Framed Roger Rabbit (1988), Good Morning Vietnam (1987), Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade (1989) and Howards End (1992). Television series included Poirot, The Camomile Lawn, Jeeves and Wooster, Love Hurts, and Minder, among many, many others, before the company was taken over by the VFG group earlier this year. Michael Samuelson was born in 1951 and educated at Shoreham Grammar School. During his National Service in the Royal Air Force he received training as a photographer, but a career in film was not immediate, for he found a job with the Worthing Repertory Company, assisting the assistant stage manager. The stage manager was Andrew Sachs, now better known as the actor who played the Fawlty Towers waiter, Manuel. Samuelson toured Europe as stage director of the spectacular Holiday on Ice extravaganza from 1952 until 1956, with responsibilities including supervising the erection of the portable ice rinks and lighting rigs. In Spain, the ice rinks were often set up in bull rings; one of the difficult tasks was to prevent the ice from melting in the hot summer months. Coinciding with the launch of independent television in 1955, Sydney Samuelson founded what was to become the Samuelson Group by purchasing, for a down payment of pounds 300, a Newman Sinclair clockwork camera, which swiftly paid its way in rentals. Sydney persuaded his three brothers to stump up a further pounds 100 each to invest in another cameras and thus "Sammy's" was born. Michael Samuelson eventually secured a position in the film industry as a unit manager and joined Movietone as a cameraman, where he developed a new manner in which great sporting occasions were captured on film. Many of the sporting events he was sent to film were being photographed in the conventional manner, cameras shooting the FA Cup Final, for instance, from inevitable fixed positions. Samuelson recognised that with more flexible cameras and longer fixed focal length lenses available, football and other sporting events could be made much more exciting for the home or theatre viewer. His associate Drummond Challis recalls: "Michael had his crews drill holes around the touchline of the turf and from ball height penetrate the otherwise hidden depths of our national game." Michael eventually joined Sydney Samuelson in the family firm in 1960, and in 1965 the four brothers took the company to the London stock exchange, but executive management never stopped Michael's work behind the cameras. In 1966 he was the Director of Photography on the official film of the World Cup, Goal!, but his contribution to that was not merely in photographing tha Bafta Award-winning documentary. On the very evening before the final at Wembley, the film's producers ran out of cash and it was Samuelson who paid the technicians out of his own pocket. Unsurprisingly his craftsmanship, care and sheer professionalism began to win him world attention. The Mexican government appointed him Director of Photography for Olympiad in Mexico (1960), and he followed with a remarkable succession of theatrical features including The World at Their Feet (the 1970 World Cup film) and Visions of Eight (1972, the multi-directorial Olympic feature). He also directed another football film, Heading for Glory, and produced the 1976 Winter Olympic feature White Rock. Other features as producer and/or director included Olympic Harmony and Golden Opportunities (both 1976, Montreal Olympics) Europa 80 (1980, the European football Championship) and G'Ole! (1982, the official film of the World Cup in Spain). Samuelson built up an impressively strong team of loyal technicians who worked regularly over a 35-year period with him and with the passing of those years, became known affectionately as "Dad's Army", with Samuelson as Dad. Only eight weeks ago, he was the senior member of the team at the Stade de France for this year's World Cup Final. As though film-making in itself was not enough for one life, Samuelson also undertook tireless charity work. He regularly produced appeal films for the Variety Club of Great Britain, the Great Ormond Street Children's Hospital, and for Canterbury Cathedral and the Royal Opera House. He organised film crews to travel to Biafra, Vietnam, and Uganda, and took a controversial but admirable position in insisting that the Variety Club should take a leading role in resettling the many children among the 50,000 refugees expelled from Uganda in 1972 by Idi Amin. Samuelson had joined the Variety Club of Great Britain in 1965, and by 1974 had become their president (known as the Chief Barker). From 1989 to 1991 he was chairman of Variety Clubs International. A prolific fund- raiser, he was instrumental in the club's policy of arranging life-saving surgery for children from the Third World and, to date, over 200 children have had such operations. He was also responsible for instigating an Australian branch of the Variety Club (Chief Barker: Paul Hogan), plus new branches in both Israel and New Zealand. At the time of his death he was planning the formation of a South African branch. The biggest charity appeal ever in Great Britain, the Wishing Well Appeal, was set up in 1987 to raise money to redevelop the Great Ormond Street Children's Hospital. Samuelson was the vice-chairman of the appeal and co-chaired the special events committee. In 1989, the appeal passed its target a year early, raising a total of pounds 54m, and the hospital's Variety Club building was opened in 1994 by the Princess of Wales. Nothing indicates Samuelson's embrace of charity more than the tale of his witnessing an unknown javelin thrower create a 64-metre throw back in 1978. He found himself travelling on a plane with the young record- holder, Tessa Sanderson. Finding that there was no official support for her among the UK athletic establishment, Samuelson formed a group of fellow Variety Club members, dubbed "Tessa's Six Gentlemen Friends" who privately funded Sanderson's training. She did them all proud in 1984 by winning Gold with a world-record Olympic throw. Samuelson's influence in the film industry was far-reaching in many ways. His daughter, Emma Samms, became an actress, most notably as Fallon in the US television series Dynasty. Additionally, he was appointed to that august and secretive group, the Council of Management of the British Board of Film Classification, working with the outgoing chief censor James Ferman. A long-time lover of opera, Samuelson also supported the local Holland Park Opera Festival, entertaining many guests at each production. In a uniquely fulfilled life, his only source of constant disappointment was his undying affection for his football clubs Tottenham Hotspur and Brighton and Hove Albion.

Michael Edward Wylie Samuelson, film producer and director: born London 25 January 1951; CBE 1988; married 1957 Madeleine White (two sons, two daughters, and one son deceased; marriage dissolved 1990); died London 26 August 1998. INDEPENDENT, 11th September 1998


Obituary: Peter Taylor From The Independent January 6th, 1998, written by Tony Sloman

Peter John Brough Taylor, film editor: born Portsmouth, Hampshire 28 February 1922; married first Elizabeth Holden (three sons, one daughter; marriage dissolved), second Franca Silvi (two daughters); died Rome 17 December 1997. The 1957 Academy Award for film editing went to the British editor Peter Taylor for The Bridge on the River Kwai, David Lean's magnificently realised CinemaScope epic of the shameful building of the Siamese wartime railway by British soldiers interned by the Japanese. It is a marvellous film which won seven Academy Awards, including Best Picture, and still stands today as one of the finest ever war films, a recognised popular classic. Although film industry wags may assert that the editing Oscar came with the letter of engagement on a David Lean film - and in later years it is certainly true that Lean, a former editor, would himself dictate the precise nature of the cutting - none the less, Peter Taylor had served a long apprenticeship with Lean. His Oscar for Kwai was an honest vindication of his talent, for Taylor physically edited the film into shape, working closely with Lean only on the final cut. In fact, the first assembly was made by Teddy Darvas, since Taylor was involved as supervisor on a series of British "B" features produced by the American Danziger brothers, a position he left as soon as possible to fly to Ceylon to edit Kwai. Taylor had worked his way up through the cutting rooms, including assisting Lean when he was an editor, graduating to assembly editing on such distinguished British films as Uncle Silas (1947) with Jean Simmons, the superb Academy Award-winning Laurence Olivier version of Hamlet (1948), and Carol Reed's brilliant and now classic The Third Man (1949), assembling for the editor Oswald Hafenrichter. As assembly editor on The Sound Barrier (1952), Taylor assisted its director David Lean and his editor Geoffrey Foot by sifting through all the flying material and assembling it into rolls in order to facilitate cutting: all aircraft left-to-right, all aircraft right-to-left, and aeroplane dives, and so on. Although Taylor had already edited Cairo Road (1950) and had reverted to assembly editing for financial reasons during the 1950/51 slump in the industry, his work on The Sound Barrier proved him invaluable to Lean, and when Geoff Foot wasn't able to edit Hobson's Choice (1954) Lean offered the position of editor to Taylor. Taylor's contribution to Hobson's Choice was significant. On one occasion, the striking scene where Brenda da Banzie as Maggie proposes to John Mills as Willie Mossop, Lean was having particular difficulty securing the performance he required from a very truculent da Banzie. He asked Taylor to edit the sequence together in order to determine whether retakes would be required, and where. The sequence was screened for Lean on the scoring stage at Shepperton, and when the lights went up Lean laughed and told Taylor: "Never in a thousand years would I imagine the scene could be cut that way." Taylor's face dropped, but Lean intended his comment as a compliment. There were no retakes. After he edited a series of English features, including Guy Green's interesting Portrait of Alison (1955), Lean offered Taylor Summer Madness (1956), the Katharine Hepburn-starrer known in the US as Summertime, and inadvertently began Peter Taylor's lifelong love affair with Italy. Summer Madness was the first film in Britain to be edited entirely on magnetic film (no optical sound transfers at all during editing), and the film union the ACT gave permission for the French adviser editor Jacqueline Thiedot to work alongside Taylor, for whom she ended up as assembly editor. Taylor edited the prestigious 20th Century-Fox CinemaScope adventures The Man Who Never Was (1956) and Sea Wife (1956), a film originally begun by Roberto Rossellini, and then the call came to cut Kwai in Ceylon. Despite winning the Academy Award over the editors of Gunfight at the OK Corral, Pal Joey and Sayonara, Taylor - never pushy and without an agent - failed to consolidate his Oscar success with a comparable feature. Instead he returned to Europe to edit Michael Powell's long-delayed Honeymoon (1959) and a slew of British features, including Guy Green's notable The Mark (1961) which secured its star Stuart Whitman an Academy nomination for Best Actor. By 1963 the British New Wave had beached, and Peter Taylor edited the superb This Sporting Life, the debut feature of the cine-literate director Lindsay Anderson. It is a remarkable study of working-class angst, with a cutting style like no other British feature before it, an ever-underrated achievement by Taylor, as Anderson, received all the credit, as directors do. This Sporting Life remains, with The Bridge on the River Kwai, the supreme testament to Peter Taylor's craft and talent. Also from that period was One-Way Pendulum (1965), directed by Peter Yates from N.F. Simpson's absurdist play, allowing Taylor some bold strokes of original narrative editing. Unfortunately the film failed to find a mass audience, and has barely a cult following today. Taylor married for a second time Franca Silvi, the sister of the Italian editor Roberto Silvi, settled in Rome, and edited a series of high-budget, would-be distinguished movies: Judith (1966) with Sophia Loren, the director Edward Dmytryk's Anzio (1969) with Robert Mitchum, and the all-star comedy extravaganza Monte Carlo or Bust! (1970). More satisfactory was the period editing for Franco Zeffirelli, including the Taylor- Burton Taming of the Shrew (1967) and the opera films La Traviata (1982) and Otello (1986). Later work included Hugh Hudson's feature-length documentary Fangio (1971) and the made-for-cable Mussolini: The Decline and Fall of Il Duce (1985), with Bob Hoskins as the dictator and Anthony Hopkins as his son-in-law. There was little doubt that Taylor's self- imposed Roman exile kept him away from contemporary mainstream production. He was still called upon, though, and did salvage work for the director Terence Young when his editors (and one of his stars) decided not to return to Italy after their Christmas break, on a virtually unshown feature known either as Marathon or Run For Your Life. Taylor edited the complex Rome- set marathon sequences and finished the film for Young. Well respected, and highly regarded amongst his peers, Peter Taylor featured in Film Comment magazine's 1977 listing of the world's top film editors, scrupulously checking and correcting his own credits. This distinguished editor's legacy lives on not just in his work but in a virtual cutting- room dynasty including many fellow technicians via marriage (Taylor's daughter, for example is married to Christopher Lloyd, the son of John Huston's editor Russell Lloyd), embracing many film-industry families.

- Tony Sloman, INDEPENDENT, 6th January 1998


Page 1: Harold Kress, Michael Samuelson and Peter Taylor

Page 2: Dawn Steel, Alfred Roome and Leo Jaffee

Page 3: Vanda Jones and Harrison Marks


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