Obituary: Freddie Young
Brownlow, Kevin, The Independent (London, England)
THE WORLD'S greatest cameraman, by general consent, and winner of no less than three Academy Awards, Freddie Young was one of the last links with the silent era. He had the longest career of any cameraman.
He was born in 1902, and lived in Shepherd's Bush. As a boy, he was fascinated by films, and he and his brother Bill went to the cinema at least twice a week. His favourite actress was Mary Pickford - probably because of the exquisite lighting she received from the cinematographer Charles Rosher.
He also went regularly to the Lime Grove swimming baths. Opposite was a vast greenhouse of a building which aroused Freddie's curiosity. He was told it was a film studio. He thought how marvellous it would be to work in such a romantic place, and he knocked on the door. He was very surprised to be taken on at once. It was 1917, and most of the workers had gone to France. Freddie himself, at 14 too young to join up, had been doing war work, drilling hand grenades in a munition factory - a job he hated, and which he quickly abandoned. His first position at the Gaumont Studio, Lime Grove (later occupied by the BBC) was in the laboratory, the best possible training for a cameraman. A year later, he was left entirely in charge of the lab, and he was able to experiment with tinting and toning. By 1919 he was lab manager, and when Gaumont closed the lab he was made assistant cameraman - he did "all the jobs nobody else felt like doing". He drove the studio car, took the stills, projected the rushes and even cut the film - in addition to helping the cameraman six days a week and often Sundays as well. During the making of features like Rob Roy (1922), he volunteered to do dangerous stunts - falling 50 feet for instance, from a castle wall into a sheet which looked the size of a pocket-handkerchief, held by members of the crew. The director, William Kellino, rewarded him with 10 shillings. Young was as handsome as any leading man and as a young man he looked like a tougher version of Ivor Novello. He doubled Novello in Triumph of the Rat (1926), dodging through the Paris traffic so the company wouldn't have to risk their expensive star. During the Twenties his most ambitious film would have been a version of Lawrence of Arabia which M.A. Wetherell was planning in 1927, but which fell through. However, he had already been on a location trip to the Egyptian desert for Fires of Fate (1923) - and he was present when Howard Carter uncovered Tutankhamun's tomb. Back in England, he did a lot of newsreel work and he photographed an elaborate recreation of the Somme in documentary style as well as a feature film set in the last weeks of the Great War, Victory (1927). During the making of Victory, Young married Marjorie Gaffney, an assistant director with Victor Saville and Alfred Hitchcock. He worked for Hitchcock on Blackmail (1929), doing the elaborate series of dissolves (in the camera) for the montage which opens the picture. Blackmail is famous for being the first British talkie. Young had, however, already converted a silent into a talkie - White Cargo (1929), using a hastily converted studio at Elstree. He had to work incredibly hard - 72 hours non-stop - under miserably hot conditions so that carpenters could come in and start building the sets for Hitchcock's picture. Young subsequently joined Herbert Wilcox. He worked out a system of multiple cameras, rather like the technique used in television, and could complete a talkie in a couple of weeks. He and Wilcox formed a partnership which was to result in some memorable pictures. Goodnight Vienna (1932), for instance, made a star of Anna Neagle (and Wilcox married her). During the Thirties, Young trained many of the men who would become the great cameramen of the future - such as Jack Cardiff and Freddie Francis. He first met the director David Lean on Major Barbara (1941), adapted from the play by Shaw, which …
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Publication information: Article title: Obituary: Freddie Young. Contributors: Brownlow, Kevin - Author. Newspaper title: The Independent (London, England). Publication date: December 4, 1998. Page number: 6. © 2009 The Independent - London. Provided by ProQuest LLC. All Rights Reserved.
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