Cat no. 226516

British Cinema History Research Project Oral Histories: Hugh Stewart (film editor/producer)


Hugh Stewart (14 December 1910 - 31 May 2011)
Interviewed by John Legard

Hugh Stewart was born in Falmouth on 14th December 1910. Educated at Claysmore and then at Cambridge under F.R. Leavis, he entered the film industry in the early 1930s at Gaumont-British under the apprenticeship scheme run by Ian Dalrymple. He trained as a film editor, initially cutting together out-takes from 'Marry Me' (1932). He was assembly cutter on Basil Dean’s 1932 adaptation of 'The Constant Nymph', and his first film as Editor was 'Forbidden Territory' (1934). He cut several important films for Gaumont, including Saville’s 'Evergreen' (1934) and Hitchcock’s 'The Man Who Knew Too Much' (1934) before moving to Beaconsfield to work on quota productions. He also gained experience with John Dighton writing comedy scripts for Naughton and Gold shorts. During the late 1930s he edited a series of films for Korda and Saville including 'Dark Journey' (1937), 'Action for Slander' (1937), and 'South Riding' (1938), and for Eric Pommer in 'St Martin’s Lane' (1938). Having worked for Michael Powell on 'The Spy in Black' (1939) he was engaged for '49th Parrallel' (1941) but was unable get a discharge from the Army before the unit sailed. Keen to go oversees, Stewart joined the Army film Unit, filming in Algeria and Tunisia and he helped Roy Boulting edit this footage into 'Africa Freed'. After this film was shelved due to difficulties with the Americans he worked on 'Tunisian Victory' (1944). After the War, Stewart became a film producer, beginning with 'Trottie True' (1949) the novel of which he’d read while ill. Generally under Rank at Pinewood, he made a series of commercially successful films, most notably taking over from Maurice Cowan as the producer of the long running Norman Wisdom series, starting with 'Man of the Moment' (1955). Stewart also produced films starring Leslie Phillips and Morecombe & Wise. By the late 1960s, he was in semi-retirement, teaching English but also finding time to produce several films for the Children’s Film Foundation, notably 'All At Sea' (1970) and 'Mr Horatio Knibbles' (1971).

In this excellent interview with John Legard, Stewart discusses his apprenticeship at Gaumont and the influence a film editor can exert on the quality of a film, and on a particular actor’s performance. He talks in detail about the difficulties of his time at the Army Film Unit, particularly the tension between British and American film-makers over 'Africa Freed' and 'Tunisian Victory'. He remembers colleagues, including Alfred Hitchcock, Ian Dalrymple, Roy Boulting, Frank Capra, Conrad Veidt, Victor Saville, Maurice Cowan, John Paddy Carstairs, Robert Asher, Anthony Newley, and of course, Norman Wisdom. There is a fascinating account of Wisdom’s working practice and his desire to gain increasing control
over his material throughout the 1960s.