11.6.1915 to 7.7.1998
Tribute by Paul Wilson, BSC
He started work in 1933 as a camera assistant at Gaumont-British Studios, Lime Grove, known to most from that era as 'The Bush'. Sometime between then and 1939, he and fellow camera assistant Jimmy Bawden, a great friend, joined the Territorial Army. This being so, as soon as war broke out, they were called to the colours and went straight into the Royal Artillery. Dudley received special training in the use of Radar, then in its infancy.
As a consequence of this he was given a motorbike so that he could take his knowledge to various sites around the country to familiarise gun-crews with the use of the new device. During one of these trips he had a very serious accident on his bike. Amongst other injuries, the handle bar had pierced his left shoulder taking away most of his shoulder blade. His chief worry, he told his wife Margot whilst recovering in hospital, was that that he wouldn't be able to operate a camera when he resumed his career after the war. This wasn't to be the case for he turned out to be a remarkably good operator despite severely restricted use of his left arm.
[His first post-war credit as operator was the aptly named “George in Civvy Street” (1945 directed by Marcel Varnel photographed by Phil Grindrod) he followed that with several films for Gainsborough Pictures before “The Bush” was sold to BBC Television in 1949. P.M.]
Though I knew him at the Bush, I didn't have the pleasure of working with him until after its closure when free-lancing became the norm. With Gil Taylor photographing, Dudley operating and myself the focus-puller we worked on such films as "Single-handed" (1953 Directed by Roy Boulting), "Front Page Story" (1954 Directed by Gordon Parry), and "Seagulls over Sorrento" (1954 Directed by the Boulting Brothers). It was only during this time that I was able to observe how he overcame his disability. He had an extraordinary action with a geared head that defies written description, but the results on the screen were impeccable. Not only that but on the many locations we did together we had great fun as well as doing a good job.
Whilst at Gainsborough's Islington Studios - a subsidiary of Gaumont he met with director, Ken Annakin and operated for him on "Miranda" (1948 photographed by Ray Elton). This association was to continue for many years. I believe he worked on nine pictures for Ken including "Those Magnificent Men in their Flying Machines" (1965 Photographed by Chris Challis BSC), "The Battle of the Bulge" (1965 Photographed by Jack Hildyard BSC), and "The Long Duel" (1967 Photographed by Jack Hildyard BSC). At one point Ken offered him the chance to photograph a film, but he turned it down as his financial liabilities (he had just moved house) were worrying him at the time. In those days one didn't jump up and down between lighting and operating - if you moved up you stayed. At that time he was continuously at work as an operator, so he stuck at it working on films such as "Cockleshell Heroes" (1955 Directed by José Ferrer photographed by Ted Moore BSC & John Wilcox BSC), "Zulu" (1964 directed by Cy Endfield photographed by Stephen Dade BSC), "The Battle of Britain" (1969 Directed by Guy Hamilton photographed by Freddie Young OBE BSC), and "The Go between" (1971 Directed by Joseph Losey photographed by Gerry Fisher BSC) amongst the many.
He did eventually make the break and photographed many 2nd units, some shorts and a few small features, but I feel his heart was in operating. It is so easy to forget these days with a plethora of aides like video-assist , that in Dudley's years an operator was the director's eyes, the only person on the set to have seen the rushes as they were shot. Personally I have always felt that at that time it was the most satisfying job in our business.