BSC Members Roster – Past Full Accredited

Tubby Englander BSC FRPS

Category: Past Full Accredited

Role: BBC Cameraman

15.7.1915 – 29.1.2004

Photo caption: A. A. “Tubby” Englander BSC at the controls of his personally owned Éclair Cameflex CM3 camera.



AA "Tubby" Englander was widely regarded as the father of BBC Television's corps of film cameramen, who had to be ready to handle any assignment, from a cup-tie to classic drama. His credits included the epic science-fiction serial Quatermass And The Pit (1958-59), and Sir Kenneth Clark's equally ambitious documentary series Civilisation, 10 years later.

Though purists maintained - and, to some extent, still do - that television should have remained true to its roots as a live, or spontaneously recorded, medium, the need to make use of film became increasingly apparent when the service resumed after the second world war. How else to amass the harmless picture stories for Television Newsreel, the only form of news, in those straitlaced days, that TV was trusted to dispense? How else to manage the obligatory car chases in crime fiction?

Englander was one of the first film cameramen to be recruited, in 1952. He was born in London during a first world war Zeppelin raid, and given the names Adolf Arthur, the first of which he understandably rejected in the 1930s. "Arthur" did not appeal to him very much either, so he settled for initials, or the nickname he acquired when he left school, at 15, to start as a clapper-boy at the Stoll film studios in Cricklewood. He had carried a bit of puppy-fat then, and the other apprentices called him "Barrel". That was rather unkind, he told them, so they amended it to Tubby.

Englander worked his way up to magazine-loader, then assistant cameraman. During the war, he served in the Royal Fusiliers (a London regiment) before being seconded to the army's film and photographic unit. After demobilisation, he worked in the documentary field until joining the BBC. Throughout his subsequent career, he sported a military moustache, and was always immaculately dressed in a jacket and trousers, and collar and tie, contemptuous of the "sea of jeans" he saw all around him.

Quatermass And The Pit was the third of Nigel Kneale's serials featuring the intrepid scientist of that name, and the most demanding in its special effects and sequences, culminating in the depiction of the destruction of a large part of London in a giant explosion.

The producer, Rudolph Cartier, had acquired very high standards from his time in the German UFA studios, but evidently approved of Englander's skills, because he sought him out again for a 1960 production of Anna Karenina, starring Claire Bloom and the then little-known Sean Connery. Here, the challenge was to match the film footage to the studio pictures in a brooding, closely focused drama.

With the BBC's acquisition of the famous Ealing Studios as its film studios, production entirely on film became an option for the television programme-makers. The department expanded, eventually employing more than 60 cameramen.

Englander began to act more and more as a lighting cameraman, as it was termed in the movie business. He would be in overall charge of the look of the film, though behind the camera itself would be one of the outstanding young operators he had helped to bring on. On Civilisation (1969), this was Ken MacMillan BSC, who went on to film most of Alistair Cooke's America - a great success on both sides of the Atlantic two years later - with Englander only taking on a few instalments.

Another of his protégés was Paul Wheeler BSC, who, like MacMillan, is still busy today. Both remember Englander as an absolute master of his craft, a hard taskmaster but generous in his praise and appreciation of good work.

Wheeler was a colleague on the long-running Colditz series (1972-73). As reconstructed at Ealing, the infamous prison yard originally had plastic cobbles. The sound recordists complained that these made it impossible to get the proper clatter of the German guards' jackboots, so the yard was resurfaced with concrete cobbles. These turned out to be so hard and painful to work on that for once - and once only - Englander abandoned his stern dress code for baggy trousers and stout walking boots.

Under the BBC's still inflexible rules, Englander retired on reaching the age of 60. Sadly, his wife Doris died suddenly and unexpectedly shortly afterwards. There were no children. Englander could not bear to remain in their house in Maida Vale, and moved into a flat in Sheen, near Richmond, a dormitory for many BBC employees. There, he took on freelance lighting work, and resumed one of the great pleasures of his life, an annual drive down to the Bergerac region of France to savour the food and wine.

Looking back, he would sometimes compare his career with that of his great contemporary, Freddie Young OBE BSC. Young had gone into feature films to win plaudits and awards; Englander had gone into television, but he had no doubt that he had chosen the more important and more rewarding world.


Philip Purser – The Guardian