Sir Paul McCartney with Colin Corby operating on GIVE MY REGARDS TO BROAD STREET (1984 Dir: Peter Webb) Honorary Associate.
Born in 1935 in Hendon Middlesex, Colin (aka The Silver Fox) like most children of his generation spent a lot of time in the cinema growing up. He joined Kodak in 1958 in their production laboratories where he learned all about the mechanics of emulsions.
Before long he also learned about the product they were making and what magic the cinematographers were conjuring with it. In 1960, he met Wally Fairweather, who was then working as a freelance focus puller and ‘cheekily’ asked him if he could get into the film business? The bold question paid off and two days later he walked into a job as a 2nd Assistant on a TV series The Cheaters at the Danziger Studios in Stanmore. Alex Thomson BSC was the operator for DP Walter J. Harvey BSC and after that, thanks to Alex, he went on to do more sophisticated productions.
The first major production he worked on as a clapper-loader was Those Magnificent Men in Their Flying Machines or How I Flew from London to Paris in 25 hours 11 minutes in 1964 (d. Ken Annakin) with a ‘hugely talented’ crew of Johnny Jordan as focus puller, Dudley Lovell Associate BSC operator and cinematographer Christopher Challis BSC – Challis was nominated for a BAFTA award for his photography. Later, Christopher was directly responsible for upgrading him on Chitty Chitty Bang Bang (1967 d. Ken Hughes), which was his first film as a focus puller. Eventually he upgraded to camera operator once more with Alex Thomson, on Death Line (1972 d. Gary Sherman). He continued his work on such classics as the Steven Spielberg production of Young Sherlock Holmes (1985 d. Barry Levinson, ph. Stephen Goldblatt ASC BSC), Labyrinth (1986 d. Jim Henson, ph. Alex Thomson) and Good Morning, Vietnam (1987 d. Barry Levinson, ph. Peter Sova ASC).
Working at MGM, Pinewood, Shepperton and Elstree studios for most of his career, he stayed in the business till the early 2000s and along the way also became rather heavily involved with television commercials, where he became ‘first call’ with several major production companies and their directors and producers such as Peter Webb and Hugh Hudson. But feature films were always his first love.
He was invited to become an Associate member of the BSC in 1985.
OTHER CREDITS: Event Horizon, Give My Regards to Broad Street, Buddy’s Song, The Saint, Raw Deal, Heart of Darkness, The Golden Bowl, Surviving Picasso, Muppet Treasure Island.
Obituary notice from the BSC
Courtesy of Phil Meheux BSC
Obituary by Jerry Sandler ACO
I first met Colin when I was a very young and very green clapper loader. I had a call to do some second camera on “Those magnificent men in their flying machines.” The location was at Booker airfield, miles from where I lived with my parents, I didn’t even have a car. The production office arranged for the legendary Johnny Jordan to give me a lift as he lived relatively close(incidentally Johnny had some wonderful stories to tell but that’s for another time maybe). Johnny was pulling focus on the picture and Colin was loading.
Despite our difference in years, we hit it off and i became good friends with him, and his wife June.
I worked with Colin on several pictures as his loader when he went up to focus and continued to work with him many times when he was operating and I was focusing.
He was also the master of the wind up, he always managed to get away with it, no one else would have been able to do get away with it like he did!
I remember one film we did “Charlie Bubbles” directed by Albert Finney, Liza Minelli probably had one of her first serious roles, Colin always used to manage to get a laugh out of her.
He had a striking resemblance to Stuart Granger and would often convince the more gullible that he was the illegitimate son!
I’m sure all those that knew him have a story or several to tell.
It was never a dull moment in his company, which I for one will certainly miss.
RIP dear friend.
My condolences to his daughter Samantha and son Joel.
Jerry Sandler ACO
An Introduction to Colin Corby by Martin Foley ACO
This is not an obituary, still less a eulogy, you will find those elsewhere and they’ll tell you more than I can about Colin Corby’s career and achievements. For those who didn’t know him, let me introduce Colin. Many, or even most of you are younger than me and while you have the advantage of youth and the best years of your career ahead, you have the disadvantage of not having known Colin Corby. What a joy you missed.
It was early February 1985 and I was running late. A mis-timed late night and a dodgy alarm clock had meant that, waking up at 9.30 in Tooting and being expected at Elstree studios for an 8.00 call, I was destined to be almost three hours late for my first day as Loader on Barry Levinson’s “Young Sherlock Holmes and the Pyramid of Fear”. No one believed my story about a breakdown, the long walk to a phone box, a call to the AA and a mad rush through traffic, not Barry Levinson nor DP Stephen Goldblatt nor Focus Puller Tony Jackson, covering Rawdon Hayne for the day (thanks again for loading the mags Tony!). Operator Colin Corby, aware of my torment and embarrassment simply said “You’re getting almost as good as me at telling those little porky pies.”
I had known Colin for a few years at that time and looking back that remark sums him up. He made light of it where I could have expected, and would have got from many others, an enormous bollocking. Colin saw it as an opportunity for humour and a smile. The mid 80s was perhaps towards the end of an era of the “old school” hierarchy in the camera department. There were some who used that hierarchy to belittle and humiliate their juniors rather than encourage and train the lower ranks. Not Colin.
I first met Colin after I’d persuaded Mike Brewster to take me on as trainee on ”Give My Regards To Broad Street” in 1982. I barely spoke to anyone for several weeks, nervous of course, and knowing so little I couldn’t even work out what questions to ask. Having spent a few years driving camera trucks on commercials and seen the worst of the hierarchy at work, I was keeping my head down for fear of having it torn off by the old school… none of whom were on that film of course. I had found myself among the good guys, particularly Colin.
Watching Colin at work on three more films, and eventually asking him questions taught me what a camera operator does and also how to be a camera operator, readers here will understand that these are two different things. He was highly skilled and precise as you’d expect but he also created a calm, friendly and good humoured atmosphere on the set. At that time the operator was the fulcrum of the set and everything went through him (not so true today when everyone has a monitor and an opinion). Colin was relaxed, friendly and funny as he plotted out the set ups and put the scenes together. He could gently steer a director or DP in the right direction if their plans were not working, if the shots might not cut well, or if a quicker simpler route should be taken. He was so subtle that they barely knew he’d done it, and his way was never to seek praise or thanks for his help, no ego needing a massage. Most important of all the
actors all trusted and liked him and this enabled them to relax and perform, the only reason we were all there after all.
I will remember him mostly for the stories, the constant funny, usually unbelievable and, as it turns out, almost all untrue stories. He would start with “When I was on ‘Lawrence’” or “When I was working with”… (insert name of great Hollywood actress) or “My uncle Stewart Granger said to me…” (younger colleagues look him up, Colin’s double). None of the stories were true but all were just on the fringe of credibility so you never really knew but loved to hear him tell them. All were hilarious.
Back in those trainee days I asked our DP Ian McMillan about all this storytelling. He said, with a wonderful smile, “Never believe a single word Colin says to you. If he walks onto the set and says “Good Morning” don’t believe him”.
I told Colin this and he just said “I don’t tell lies, I tell stories.” Well Colin, thank you for all the lessons and the stories. Your own story will carry on and I shall never forget it. Many thanks for everything.
Martin Foley ACO