Cat no. 226505

British Cinema History Research Project Oral Histories: Erica Masters (production manager/assistant director)

1995

Recorded 2 August 1995

Erica Masters (1917 - ?)
Interviewed by Sydney Samuelson

Erica Masters was born in Guatemala in 1917, and educated variously in Jamaica, France and Germany. Originally she hoped to be a dancer and actress, and she enrolled in the Max Reinhardt school in Vienna, but decided not to attend in the light of the Anschluss. Coming to England she studied film under William Hunter at Dartington College in Devon, before going into documentary production She worked for Paul Rotha for a brief period, and later for Greenpark and various other documentary producers during the late 1940s. In 1953, Masters was employed by Harry Kratz to work on 'The Titfield Thunderbolt' at Ealing Studios. She worked on the surprise success 'Genevieve' with Henry Cornelius, and was involved in all of Cornelius's later films, including 'I Am A Camera', and 'Next To No Time'. Masters worked on a variety of film and television productions in the 1950s, including the 'Robin Hood' series with Richard Greene, 'The Man Who Never Was', with Clifton Webb, and 'Bonjour Tristesse' for Otto Preminger. Later in her career she worked with Ronnie Spencer, producing documentary films at Shepperton under the title 'Littleton Park Film Productions'.

In this interview, conducted in 1995, Erica Masters discusses her career with Sydney Samuelson. She gives an interesting account of her early years, and of her experience travelling to Vienna. She discusses the atmosphere at Ealing Studios during the 1950s in some detail, observing its peculiarly rigid class structure Masters gives detailed accounts of the production of both 'Genevieve' and 'Bonjour Tristesse'. She remembers particularly the economic difficulties of 'Genevieve' and its precarious position as an independent production at Pinewood. She discusses many of the difficulties of Anglo-French co-production she experienced while working on 'Bonjour Tristesse'. Masters also touches on the problems of being a woman in control of a largely male dominated crew. Masters was unlucky enough to be one of the foreign nationals stranded in Kuwait when it was invaded by Iraq in 1990. The final part of this interview is devoted to her detailed account of this experience.

(Lawrence Napper, BCHRP)