Cat no. 226523

British Cinema History Research Project Oral Histories: Charles Wilder (production accountant)


Charles Wilder (1910 - ?)
Interviewed by Margaret Thompson and John Taylor

Charles Wilder joined the studios at Shepherd’s Bush in 1924 as an office boy. He stayed at Shepherd’s Bush until he was called up in 1943, just after the completion of 'The Man In Grey' (1943). Wilder worked in the cash office, responsible for day-to-day production finance tasks such as the paying of crowd artists, and casual labour. After his period of active service, he returned to production accounting, working freelance throughout the postwar period until his retirement in the early 1980s. Among the post-war film he was involved with, are 'The Green Scarf' (1954), and 'The March Hare' (1955) for the Ostrers, 'Mary Queen of Scots' (1971), 'Becket' (1964) and 'Anne of a Thousand Days' (1969) for Hal Wallis, 'I Could Go On Singing' (1963) and 'The Horses Mouth' (1958) for Ronald Neame. Wilder gives a detailed account of working on 'Those Magnificent Men in their Flying Machines' (1965). Later in his career he worked on several films for Michael Winner and Eliott Kastner, including 'North Sea Hijack' (1980).

In this interview, conducted in 1990, Charles Wilder talks to Margaret Thompson and John Taylor about his career in production accountancy. He has some vivid memories of the atmosphere at Shepherd’s Bush in the late 1920s and after the studios were re-built in the early 1930s, when they were at their busiest. He discusses personalities such as Michael Balcon, Hitchcock and the Ostrers. Wilder talks in detail throughout this interview about the particular skills needed to keep financial control of a film, and the various pitfalls that can occur if his job is not properly done. He uses examples from throughout his career, notably from particularly problematic films such as 'Those Magnificent Men in their Flying Machines' and 'I Could Go on Singing'. He offers some brief memories of the development of ACT at Shepherd’s Bush. Wilder also discusses the process of raising finance for a film, particularly in the post war period, highlighting the role of organisations such as the NFFC and the Film Finances Company. Among the producers Wilder remembers are Michael Balcon, Hal Wallis, Ivan Foxwell and Elliot Kastner. Finally, he gives a brief account of his war service training as a driver-operator Signals, operating anti-aircraft guns against Doodlebugs, and going over to Normandy on D-78. This is a fascinating interview, rich in practical detail about the day-to-day operation of film finance both in a large studio in the 1930s and on independent productions during the 1960-70s.