The Right Direction
Chris Hodson`s fear for the future of the film industry, as we know it today, is the ever increasing use of computer generated images. Although these can be entertaining, the next step is to replace actors with generated scenes in an unreal series of adventures. Craft not gimmicks is required. This view should be considered seriously as Chris has spent more than 50 years in the entertainment industry starting as an actor and ending as a well-respected Director with many credits to his name. Some of the details of events during those 50 years were brilliantly described in his lecture “The Right Direction” before a large audience of club members and guests from Chichester and Haywards Heath clubs.
His first recollection of theatre was of his first visit to the pantomime at the age of five when he declared that he wanted to operate the stage curtains. As he grew up his aspirations changed; he wanted to be an actor then he wanted to be involved in the mechanics of staging a show. Experience in the latter was gained during National Service. Taking his singing duet act into Civvy Street he failed to excite the booking agents. At that time there were still a large number of small theatres that needed to survive so they tried to fill the houses with plays having saucy and titillating titles to attract the customers. Chris landed his first juvenile lead in Derby but he realized from the level of applause he received that he was not going to make it as an actor.
Lucky star No 1 now struck. “Kiss Me Kate” having been successful in London was going on tour. Chris was invited to become stage director. After giving serious thought to the offer (for 1 night!) he accepted and his career was launched. It was on this tour that he rescued one of the lady members of the cast from the nasty machinations of an unscrupulous landlady. 56 years later the lady is still his wife.
Chris was now working for Emile Littler as Stage Manager and he was involved in two flops, “Bruno and Sydney” which ran for only four nights, and “Thirteen for Dinner” which ran for one! However, Lucky Star No 2 was about to strike. This was in the form of Bobby Lewis, a famous American Director who was an advocate of the Stanislavsky Method of acting and the founder of the Actors` Studio in New York. Method acting is characterized by improvisation, spontaneity and an emphasis on psychological realism. Chris believes he learned more about acting working with Lewis than with anyone else. The play was “Teahouse of the August Moon”, presented by Williamson`s Music, which was difficult to stage, but after 6 weeks of rehearsal with Lewis (without the actors being able to take their scripts home) the play was a huge success. Chris illustrated his liking for this type of acting with an excerpt from the film “Dean Spanley” in which Peter O`Toole brilliantly demonstrated how to express raw emotion using only facial expressions.
With this knowledge and experience Chris was able to obtain work in the emerging commercial TV market.
Although there was some retrenchment as the industry struggled to take off Chris was able to retain his job at Associated Redifusion and gain more experience on Advertising Magazine programmes. He so impressed the Head of Drama that he was promoted to Director and never looked back. One of his most challenging pieces was “Hello Lola” in which a live rattlesnake was the key prop. A clip from this film demonstrated the problems encountered. The musical is one of his favourite forms of entertainment and in one episode of “Campion a dance sequence was introduced which proved difficult to film since the leading actor could not dance. Chris was able to find an ingenious solution and in spite of camera malfunction the episode hit the screen albeit with some of the frames being truncated. Chris introduced some clips from the film “Paper Moon” starring Ryan and Tatum O`Neal the latter winning an Oscar for her performance. This being his favourite film he particularly likes the ending which leaves the audience several possibilities as to the final outcome. He started off wanting to become an actor and when filming “Raffles” in Yorkshire his crew manoeuvred him into playing a small part.
It did not produce a BAFTA award but demonstrated that his forte was in directing. This presentation was worthy of an award and we look forward with anticipation to the next instalment.