27.7.1924 – 28.10.2015
DAVID SAMUELSON BSC FRPS MBKS Assoc ASC
David Samuelson was given the name of Baroch by his parents, this could not have been a more appropriate name as translated from the Hebrew means Blessed. Despite a difficult up bringing, David was determined to succeed in his chosen career.
He was the eldest of four brothers whose Jewish Grand Parents had emigrated from Poland to England in 1840, having changed their name along the way from Metzenberg to Samuelson. His Film producing father born in Southport England in 1889, played an important role in his son’s life and at the age of nine taught him to develop a print roll film, on this thirteenth birthday he was given 9.5mm movie camera. His father also taught him how to string together a series of shots to give some sort of continuity to the story. There was absolutely no doubt in David’s mind what he wanted in his chosen career.
Then, as now, the best way to get into the film industry in the UK was to know someone who was in a position to help you get started, with this in mind David’s father wrote to his ex-partner, Sir Gordon Craig who was then the Managing Director of British Movietonews.
Sir Gordon promptly wrote back to David’s father suggesting his son should write back on reaching the age of sixteen.
Early in 1941 David applied for a job at Movietone and was accepted starting off as a rewind boy in the projection room, this lasted for six months before he was moved onto another department. In those days cinema newsreels were a constituent of every cinema in the UK. Newsreels ran for ten minutes and changed twice weekly.
The Movietone production offices situated in Soho Square London meant David had to commute 60 miles each way, every day from the south coast. The cost of commuting was at least as much as he was earning, but he felt with his future career in mind that it was well worth it.
Six months after his time in the projection box he was transferred to the editing room winding up the short lengths of film left over from the cameramen’s negative after the editors had cut and assembled it into the story that was going into the next edition of the newsreel.
Having served in the Royal Airforce during World War II as a Flight Engineer, he returned to Movietonews after he was demobilised in 1947, this time as a Newsreel cameraman. He could not have been in better company working alongside some of the greatest newsreel cameramen of the time, these Davids mentor Paul Wyand.
Paul Wyand went onto become Assignments Manager at Movietonews having previously served as a war correspondent/cameraman during WWII, he was involved in filming many assignments alongside his soundman Martin Grey, most of Paul’s materials has since become historic footage such as the bombing of the Monastery at Cassini, The Liberation of Rome, The German Surrender at Luneburg Heath and the horrific footage he filmed at Belsen Concentration Camp which incidentally was used as evidence during the trail of the Nazi thugs.
David recalled that working as a newsreel cameraman was unlike a feature film cameraman, where there is a recognised structure of progress, you start at the bottom, loading film magazines, holding in the clapper board, progressing to the job of keeping the lens clean and in focus, to operating the camera, to becoming a DOP/Lighting cameraman who is responsible for the look of the image.
Cinema newsreel cameraman work on their own, do their own research, direct and organise their own transport, move the camera around and set up and position the lights.
In the newsreel world, unless you are filming a major event where there are a number of assigned positions, immediately you go out of the office door you are on your own. You make your way out to the location suss out what its all about, decide how you are going to cover the event, set up your camera, shoot how and when and where you decide, get your exposed negative back to the laboratories, make your way back to the office, to write a report (dope sheet) on what you have shot, and then wait and prepare for your next assignment.
The staple diet of cinema newsreels cameraman was sporting events as well as royal occasions, disasters, fashion shows, beauty contests and many more subjects.
David had the opportunity in meeting a varied bunch of people from all walks of life as well as royalty, covered many state occasions including Princess Elizabeth’s Wedding and Coronation, The marriages of Princess Margaret, Princess Alexandra, Princess Ann and Charles to Diana.
One of his more vivid memories was his coverage of the funeral of Sir Winston Churchill, it was like no other he had covered before, more like a State Funeral.
David had the knack of being in the right place at the right time when it came to disasters, he would modestly put it down to common sense associated with a little luck. One such disaster was the sinking of the ‘Flying Enterprise’ off the UK Cornish coast. Captain Carlson refused to abandon his ship carrying a cargo of pig iron until the very last moment.
This was quite a big story at the time with the media hailing Carlson as a Hero. David was the only cameraman to have captured the sinking of the Enterprise with the 90 foot of film left in his Newman Sinclair camera, his competitors failed to being home the story, their camera’s had either jammed or had run out of film at the crucial moment.
Several decades later it was revealed in a documentary film made about the ‘Flying Enterprise’ that Captain Carlson was in fact carrying a cargo of nuclear weapon parts destined for the USA.
Other disasters included the John Derry air crash at the Farnborough Air show were his exploding aircraft killed more than 40 people.
David was on the scene by accident having filmed sequences earlier that week. The Editor decided to send David back to capture more crowd scenes, so returning to Farnborough on the publics admission day, he heard the crowd gasp which prompted him to swing his camera skyward to capture the aircraft exploding.
Other aeronautical occasions were when David talked his way into flying with the Red Arrows Aerobatic Team, he was to fly in the last aircraft often referred to as ‘Tail Gate Charlie’ from this position he would be able to capture in close up the after burn of the aircrafts ahead of him and tight formation shots, operating a heavy 35mm camera was not easy mainly due to size and particularly due to gravitation problems, pulling some 7G, David overcame this problem and came home with spectacular footage.
Other events covered by David were known and referred to as Hardy Annuals
“FA Football Cup Finals”
“Queen Elizabeths’ Birthday - Trooping the Colour”
“Henley Royal Regatta”
“University Boat Race”
The period of David’s life at British Movietone was I believe the most enjoyable time of his life. He would always reflect when socialising whilst in the company of his colleagues, friends and family, how much he enjoyed his Cinema Newsreel Days, he was never short of a story.
During the early sixties David’s brother Sydney invited him to join his newly formed company Samuelsons Film Services as Technical Director where he contributed to many innovations and designs of equipment winning many awards.
Samuelsons Film Services eventually became the world largest motion picture camera and lighting rental company.
The rest as they say is history.
One of David’s last ambitions had yet to come, having missed his Barmitzvah (Jewish confirmation) at the age of thirteen, he eventually achieved his goal at the age of Eighty at a ceremony at the West London Synagogue on 10th July 2004 London, David got a great sense of joy and achievement of being a member of the Jewish faith which prepared him for the next stage of destiny.
He was a respected author of a number of technical books covering all apsects of film cameras and lenses. He was a past President of the BKSTS – The moving Image Society
1981 Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences : Scientific and Engineering Award: For the engineering and development of the Louma Camera Crane and remote control system for motion picture production.
Shared with: Jean-Marie Lavalou (Samuelson Alga Cinema S.A./Samuelson Film Service, Ltd.) and Alain Masseron (Samuelson Alga Cinema S.A./Samuelson Film Service, Ltd.)
1995 Society of Camera Operators Technical Achievement Award: First portable modular crane with remotely controlled camera head
Shared with: Jean-Marie Lavalou, Alain Masseron and Hervé Theys
2005 Academy Award of Merit: For the engineering and development of the Louma Camera Crane and remote system for motion picture production.
Shared with: Jean-Marie Lavalou and Alain Masseron.
Author Ron E Collins
Ex Cameraman British Movietonews
Edited: Phil Méheux