CAST & CREW INTERVIEWS
TINA DAVIES - PRODUCTION SECRETARY
Adapted from an interview conducted by Dave Jones and transcribed by Dave Healey in 1997, with their kind permission.
DJ: You were production secretary on the show. Would you like to explain to us what the role of a production secretary would be on a series like The Prisoner?
TD: You work for the production manager, that was Bernard Williams, who I understand is doing big things in America now. It was doing the `call sheet' every day, which went out to all the various departments and the artists, telling them what time to arrive, where they had to go, what the make¬up should be, and hair dressing. Then, later in the day, doing the progress report which told the producers and directors how the shooting was going, whether it was so many days or hours under budget or late. We worked on five episodes up here so very often it was eight progress reports to do...
Eight a day!?
Yes, because sometimes there were two units shooting at the same time on, sometimes, five episodes... sometimes two units would only be on, say, three.
And then in the evening you would attend the rushes, I understand?
Well, we only had rushes a couple of times. I only went once. We had a bus to take us into Porthmadog to see the rushes, which was a little cinema in Porthmadog. That was the only time I went out of the village in the month! (laughter)
It was rotten really, wasn't it? You were employed on The Prisoner and were staying... which cottage were you in?
All the women on the crew were in the Chantry, which was all single bedrooms, and then downstairs there was a kitchen which was used for hair and make-up - the artists would go there early in the morning.
And your office was on the other side of the village.
That's right. Literally, I used to go down the hill from the Chantry, across the lane and up round by the Prisoner Shop, that is now, and into the office...
That was Government House?
Then, in the evening, you would come back the other way?
Well, when we had finished work, which was anything between eight and ten at night, we used to go down to a restaurant - I don't think it is here now...
No, the Salutation is gone, it used to be where the main gift shop is now, the Ship Shop.
It was run by an Italian and we had lovely meals there. The hotel finished dinner, usually, by about eight so, consequently, we were always too late to go there, apart from once when we had dinner there.
Was it all the big cheeses' who were allowed to eat in the hotel or were all of the crew allowed to eat there?
Oh no, we could all eat there if we wished, it was just a question of time.
Working for McGoohan, I wasn't trying to imply there that there was an upper echelon because McGoohan was very good, wasn't he, to all the crew?
He would always acknowledge them?
Yes, I used to go down to the hotel for the post in the morning and sometimes he'd be walking up to the Chantry for his make-up
or hair and he always spoke, no matter how busy he was or whatever he had on his mind. He never, ever, passed you without speaking and having some comment. He was very nice.
Was it a happy experience working in Portmeirion on The Prisoner?
I found it so, yes. I enjoyed it. It was a lovely place to be for a month. It was interesting and a very happy production.
You used to deal with contracts as well, didn't you? People would come in and out of the production office. Was
that here or prior to shooting at the MGM offices in Borehamwood?
We did pre-production in MGM. That was compiling all the stencils which we used in those days - we didn't have Xerox copies - we had to produce these stencils. Those were to do breakdowns of the script, telling all of the various departments what they had to do each day for each episode. It would say: hairdressing, or make-up: bruises on Prisoner's face or blood on his face, that sort of thing! I was nearly in tears doing that!
It sounds like a really hard job. Was it stressful?
No, I think film crews just happen to cope with their jobs quite well. You know your particular job and get on with it. It wasn't stressful at all.
Do you remember any of the personalities who were around at the time - the actors or actresses?
George Coulouris used to come into the production office quite a lot.
He played the `man with the stick' in Checkmate.
Yes, and Eric Portman used to come in a lot. Guy Doleman.
And they would have a conversation?
Yes, they would all chat about their lives...
George was making regular trips abroad wasn't he?
Oh, for his injections, yes. He told me he used to go to Switzerland for injections of monkey gland. (laughter) He said it kept him young. I'll always remember he came in wearing his dressing gown and I don't think the injections did much for his legs! (laughter) He didn't have very good legs.
He was about a hundred and twelve at the time!
That's right, I suppose he was quite old.
Anyone else ?
Virginia Maskell, of course, she was down here and had her husband with her. Ronald Radd; he stayed in the cottage which Noel Coward stayed in when he wrote Blithe Spirit and he took some of us there to show us the room because it was quite famous. It was very nice.
It's got a beautiful view of the estuary, especially with fine weather like this.
Was McGoohan a hard task master? Did you have much to do with him, because you were Bernard's secretary?
No, he just used to come into the office and have meetings.
What would you say Bernard's contribution to the series was? Was he a major player in the running of things?
Oh yes, he worked very well, worked very hard. He knew his job very well and it was his first time as production manager...
On any series?
Yes, he'd been a first assistant director, a very good one, before that and he did the job very well. He probably did it too well because he wouldn't delegate. He wanted to do it all himself...
That's interesting because McGoohan has often been mentioned as wanting to do everything himself. Was there any friction there?
No, because you had your own job, and with Patrick McGoohan, he worked so hard on it that they were very worried that he was working too hard and what would happen to the series if anything happened to him. Bernie did ask me to have a word with him once to try and ease up.
So Bernard thought he was working too hard?
They all did, the producers and Bernie Williams. So I went to Patrick, in the bar, and said: "Everyone's worried about you because you're working too hard and without you there wouldn't be a series." And he just put his hand on my shoulder and said: "Don't worry about me." And off he went. So, it didn't do much good, whatever I said - he carried on.
Any questions for Tina? Audience 1: Did you have to note down which stunts Patrick McGoohan would have to do?
No, I think they worked that out between them. I think very often Patrick wanted to do his own stunts and Frank Maher wanted to do them instead, but I think they sorted it out between themselves.
Frank was quite heavily involved. Did you see Frank much?
Oh Yes. A `call sheet' incidentally, for those who have never seen one, is a list of scenes which are going to be filmed on a particular day – sometimes it looked like hundreds because it was quite an intensive series to work on. They had driven hundreds of miles to come to Portmeirion and wanted to get as much in the can as possible. I remember one day they did 27 set ups, and that was with Patrick McGoohan doing the directing and acting! They had to run around the countryside, the poor camera crew with all their gear. They worked very, very hard from eight in the morning, usually until dark.
That would be your working day as well, Tina?
I started about eight and most nights it was nine or ten (when I finished). I think you always expect to on location because they want to get as much in as they can.
I hope you filled in your overtime sheet!
Yes, in those days I earned more than I earned ever!
Can we ask?
What, how much?
Oh, what did I get? I probably got around £25 a week which I’d been getting as a secretary.
Previously you were just a normal secretary in an office?
I worked, first, for Associated Television. I was secretary to the legal advisor. And then I worked for a man who was The Beatles accountant, he did all the Sean Connery (accounts).
You used to deal with all the noughts, did you?
No, I used to keep them talking in the office until he was ready. (laughter).
The Beatles!? Not a bad job then.
No, it was quite fun.
When is your book coming out!? (laughter)
Actually, I was daft. I never, ever, asked for their autographs. In fact when I first knew they were coming to the office I rang my mother and said: "Who are The Beatles?" She said: "Oh, they are a nice little group. Nice boys." And I'd never seen or heard of them! Then I worked freelance. I worked for Orson Welles, when he was doing Casino Royale. Then when he was doing something in Paris. He worked on You'll Never Forget What's 'Is Name; I worked for him then.
What was he like to work for? He was erratic. Was he difficult to work for?
It's unrepeatable! He was not easy.
When they say Patrick McGoohan was a hard task master...
Oh, Patrick McGoohan was the nicest actor I have ever met. He really was.
It's amazing that you say that as some people say that he was the most difficult person they have ever worked with. He must have at least two sides to him.
I suppose I just appreciated that he was working harder than anyone else and so maybe I would have made allowances, but I don't think I had to because he really was very pleasant, always courteous. Very, very nice.
Did you think at the time that we would still be enjoying The Prisoner and other sixties icons such as The Beatles thirty years on?
I don't know if in those days anyone thought about what was going to happen in the future. If only we had known then.
There can't be many people who have worked with The Beatles and on The Prisoner? It's not a bad track record.
Do you remember any other interesting stories from your time working on the series?
I do remember the difficulties they had in... the ball...
Rover... Even when they were shooting, they just hadn't worked out how it was going to be achieved. They tried all sorts of things in the production office and then the art department would go off and try to make it work. And even when they used this ball filled with gas they weren't sure that it would look frightening enough. I saw something on television the other day and I thought that would have looked as good. It really was quite frightening.
Did you get much of a chance to watch filming?
Not a lot. Really the only time I ever got out of the production office, because you
had to be there for the phone... Mostly I just went down to the set to get the previous day's stills film, however many films the continuity girl had used, and the numbers of `short ends' left.
Would you tell us what a `short end' is?
Oh, yes. The camera department would tell you better than me. Obviously when they are doing a scene, supposing it is a four hundred foot roll, then they may do some scenes that take up to, say, three hundred and sixty feet; they can't then use that forty feet for another scene so that becomes a short end. I used to have to list all the short ends that were left over and put it onto the call sheet to try to tell the camera department to use them up because otherwise it was wasted money.
So they weren't thrown away then It wasn't a case of money was no object because it was an expensive series, wasn't it?
Yes. I think it was expensive, but it was covering the five episodes for the exterior shots down here.
So they were budget conscious?
Yes. I don't know what happens now, but in all productions you think of the cost. I think once there was something wrong and they had to do another day's shooting because there was a hair in the gate. The laboratories, Technicolor, would ring the editing department, who were in MGM, and the editor would ring me and say there was something wrong with yesterday's film.
That would be an incredibly expensive mistake to have to redo a whole day's filming.
Did McGoohan go ballistic?
Well, you'd claim off the insurance.
Oh, a TV show like The Prisoner would be insured against these kind of things?
Yes, you have to be, because you might have artists that you would have to bring back and it could be very expensive.
Did that affect you or did you not have to worry about that type of occurrence? Were you involved in the budget?
No, that would be purely the accounts who would have the budget to deal with. I just had to record what actually happened and put that on the progress report - that something had gone wrong with the filming the day before.
Audience 2: Could you tell us anything about working with Orson Welles? Dave Jones: McGoohan, of course, was a great admirer of Orson Welles I understand.
A lot of people admired his work, but he had no regard for anyone other than himself, quite honestly. For example, I was working up in his dressing room, typing, and he would send a runner to come and get me down on the set, and I remember one day the red light was on - and you just don't open a door when a red light is on. When the light finally went off I went in there, and it was a casino set, there was a huge ballroom full of people, and he said: "Where have you been?" And I only came up to where his stomach went out and I used to have to stand back in order to see him and I said: "Well, the red light was on." So he said: "Never mind about the red light, if I call for you, you come through." But, of course, I didn't. You just wouldn't dare. But he thought I should have done. And his way of telling me to go home at night was to come up to the dressing room and open the door and say: "Get out." (laughter) That was saying: "Go home. I don't need you any more." But what was funny was, at the end, he wanted me to go and work for him in Spain, and I knew that he had an ex-actress, Italian wife and a ten year old child and a mynah bird, and apparently you had to like all of them. I though: "Oh God, it's bad enough getting away from him at five thirty, what would it be like being on call all the time in Spain?" And so I didn't go to Spain. And apparently he was quite hurt. He didn't mind how much he hurt other people, but he got hurt. He was particularly nasty to Peter Sellers. Everyone blamed Peter Sellers for the trouble on Casino Royale, and I just wanted to record that it wasn't Peter Sellers. Every morning Orson Welles would come in and get the script and dictate to me what his lines were going to be, so I used to have to type out new pages of the script; and, of course, when they came to shoot it poor Peter Sellers hadn't any cues because Orson had altered it all. So it was all messed up. So, in the end, Peter Sellers would only be on the set when Orson wasn't. So they shot it without them being together. I just feel it is very unfair that poor Peter Sellers has always... on the radio I've heard him blamed for the trouble between them and it really wasn't Peter Sellers. He was easy and nice.
There is a connection between Casino Royale and The Prisoner in so much as it was made at MGM and some sets were re-used from The Prisoner.
I worked for Orson Welles at Shepperton. When they were doing it there.
Yes, because it was just a sprawl. The production of Casino Royale was a complete shambles...
They kept having new directors...
New studios, new scripts... At one stage they did actually use some of the Living In Harmony sets. I think at one point Woody Allen is placed up against a wall.. a firing squad, and it is actually filmed on the `Harmony' set.
3: What did you work on when The Prisoner was finished?
I worked for a company called Viewfinder Films and they made commercials. They were in Wignall Street and that was interesting because you were doing little bits of everything. You'd sign up the crew, get all of the sets ready, and then work on it on the day. That was nice.
Then eventually, back in '68, I got a job as assistant accountant and then went up to accountant. So I changed from being production secretary.
The Prisoner was a big thing to work on though, wasn't it?
Yes, it was lovely. I had worked for a few weeks on Danger Man. That was at Shepperton.
Is that how you got the job on The Prisoner?
Yes, because I met Patrick McGoohan's secretary and he put my name forward for The Prisoner. That's how I came to get on it.
Patrick did like to re-use old colleagues. (laughter)
Yes, he was very loyal in that respect! You don't get many producers and directors and actors like him. I remember one morning, just about twenty to nine in the morning, being on the phone - this was on Danger Man - I was on the telephone and he looked in the door, saw that I was on the phone and went out. I thought: "He wants me, I'd better hurry up." I hurried off the telephone, I went out. He was standing, very discretely, a long way down the corridor. Now, any other man in his position would have just waited...
He didn't want to listen in on your phone conversation.
That's right. Yes, he was really polite and pleasant. I'd like to work on it again, if it was done now.
If this film happens you'll have to put your name down!
Yes, get back in it!
It's very kind of you to come along, thank you very much.
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