Ivor Beddoes

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Beddoes in 1974

Ivor William Gilmour Beddoes (28 April 1909 – 14 March 1981) was a British matte painter, sketch and storyboard artist, costume and set designer, painter, dancer, composer and poet. He is best known for his film work, spanning more than thirty years, from Black Narcissus and The Red Shoes to Star Wars and Superman.

Early life and education[edit]

Beddoes was born in Muswell Hill, North London, the eldest child of Rex and Helen (née Laird) Beddoes. As a child he studied the piano and joined in with his younger sister Gwen's dance classes. They performed song and dance acts at the frequent family musical evenings and later at local concert parties.

He attended Tollington School, at fifteen winning a scholarship to the Hampstead School of Art and at its closure after two years he was transferred to Hornsey College of Art. A few months after beginning his art study, Beddoes was invited by Horace (Hodge) Bryant to join his concert party, working at least two nights a week during the summer season and eventually performing on every bandstand in London. The money he earned from this enabled him to buy the art materials he needed to continue his study.

Stage career[edit]

In 1927 Beddoes was spotted by [1][2] Dick Tubb and gave up the idea of a career in art to tour as juvenile lead in The Bird's Nest. Having in his early teens taught himself to play the drums and read music, he also joined the orchestra to play jazz in the interval. In 1929 he became a drummer for the silent films until the talkies put him out of a job.

Although he still wanted to pursue an artistic career, with the financial crisis of that time it was almost impossible to find commercial art work. In 1930 he was hired for a summer seaside concert party and at the end of the season was taken by his agent to the Cone School of Dance who were looking for a male dancer to partner one of their students. So at the age of 21 he took his place in a class of young girl students to learn the elementary technique of barre and centre practice.

Beddoes worked as a chorus boy, tap dancer and singer in several revues until he was unexpectedly asked to join the [3] Camargo Society who, at the time, were recruiting male dancers and was sent to Ninette de Valois who he partnered in one of her ballets [4] Les Petits Riens as well as appearing in Rout,[5]La Creation du Monde and Job. He was subsequently invited to join the Vic-Wells Ballet, forerunner to the Royal Ballet, but had to decline the offer because he would not have been able to survive on the wages as he was hoping to get married. He went back to the commercial, musical side of theatre appearing in several shows including The Hour Glass, Helen,[6]Bow Bells and [7]The Golden Toy. During the tour of the latter show, Beddoes was asked, along with [8] Jack Spurgeon, one of the other dancers, to learn the show's existing tumbling act in two weeks, which they did, painfully. At the end of the run they were booked to take the act to the Windmill Theatre for a three week show.

Beddoes stayed at the Windmill for six years as a ballet dancer, character actor in the comedy sketches and singer/dancer in the musical ensemble scenes. Later he became choreographer for the ballets as well as set and costume designer, all while performing five shows a day. Through Mrs. Laura Henderson, Beddoes was introduced to John Ireland who accepted him as a pupil in harmony and counterpoint. He then began to compose and orchestrate his own music for the ballets and tableaux.

On 28 September 1940, at the end of six weeks of Production No.136, Beddoes walked off the stage for the last time. He became a stretcher bearer for the Ambulance Service in West Hampstead during the London Blitz and after a few months was conscripted into the British Army.

Wartime[edit]

In early 1941 Beddoes sailed for the Middle East as a draughtsman for the Royal Signals Corps. He served in the Western Desert for 18 months until the retreat to El Alamein, he was then posted to Alexandria and later to Mersa Matruh. After an appeal was sent out for theatre professionals to join the Field Entertainment Unit, he was hired by Torin Thatcher and moved on to Cairo. There he produced plays, concert parties and revues and worked with the group until his demobilisation in January 1946.

During his five years in Egypt, Beddoes made extensive studies of Egyptian life, history, costume and music, learning Arabic by studying and mixing with the local Egyptian people. He also produced a huge number of sketchbooks and[9] paintings, some of which are now owned by the Imperial War Museum, as well as writing several books of poetry.

Film career[edit]

With no prospect of returning to his stage career, Beddoes tried unsuccessfully for any job that would take him back to Egypt so that he could continue his studying. Finally, through his brother-in-law John Cox who, from the [10] Army Film Unit had taken over the sound department of Shepperton Studios, he gained a series of introductions to Art Directors. In Spring 1946 he met Alfred Junge, who, after seeing the work that he had produced in Egypt, took him on to learn to be a sketch artist. He started working on [11]Black Narcissus immediately, learning on the job, which also included painting the Indian murals and designing the titles. At the end of this film he joined Hein Heckroth to work on The Red Shoes and [12] they worked together for the next five years designing sets,[13]costumes and titles.

Whilst working on The Red Shoes they came across a technical problem and Beddoes was sent to Technicolor, along with [14][15] Józef Natanson, to learn matte painting with [16] Duggie Hague, ('Poppa' Day's technical cameraman), instructing them. It was by trial and error that they learned the process of painting on glass. At one point Heckroth brought Michael Powell over to Technicolor to see the [17] mattes that they were working on and from this meeting Beddoes was invited to become a permanent member of The Archers.

In 1952, when the slump in film making caused widespread unemployment, Technicolor invited him to join them as art director, matte painter and [18] colour consultant. In 1956 Beddoes was sent to Bombay to open an art department at [19] Technicolor/Ramnord to teach Indian film makers western methods, create a matte department and to lecture as required. He stayed for one year, training Indian painters and draughtsmen and working on the initial stages of Pakeezah.

On his return from India, Beddoes was loaned by Technicolor to Michael Powell to work in Madrid for almost a year on[20]Honeymoon . He designed sets and all of the costumes for the ballets, El Amor Brujo and Los Amantes de Teruel, as well as painting the matte shots. He collaborated twice more with Michael Powell on projected films, Hassan in 1959 and [21]The Tempest in 1973; neither of these films were made.

Beddoes left Technicolor in June 1959 when his department was closed down owing to the introduction of Eastmancolor and went on to work on more than fifty films. He assisted Ken Adam on several films including [22]Goodbye Mr. Chips, Diamonds are Forever and Barry Lyndon as well as advising on and building stage models for [23]The Girl of the Golden West (La Fanciulla del West) staged at the Royal Opera House in 1977. He continued in the film industry until just before his death, working in his latter years on the [24][25][26]Star Wars and [27]Superman films.

Personal life[edit]

Beddoes married Janet Challenger in 1933. They met while he was studying ballet at the Cone School of Dance in 1930 and she was his teacher. They lived in West Hampstead and had two children Martin (b. 1940 - d.2007) and Julia (b. 1947). Throughout his life he painted, composed music and wrote both poetry and journals on all aspects of his life, as well as creating a wonderful wildlife garden. He was a superb raconteur and continued his tumbling exploits, such as numerous comedy falls, to amuse (or shock)[28] onlookers well into his late sixties, always the performer.

Filmography[edit]

Bibliography[edit]

  • Bedells, Phyllis (1954). My Dancing Days. London: Phoenix House Ltd. p. 168. 
  • Gibbon, Monk (1948). The Red Shoes Ballet. London: Saturn Press. pp. 54, 55, 56, 81. 
  • Christie, Ian (1978). Powell, Pressburger and Others. London: British Film Institute. p. 45. ISBN 0-85170-086-1. 
  • Petrou, David (1978). The Making of Superman the Movie. London: W.H. Allen and Co. Ltd. p. 217. ISBN 0-352-304529. 
  • Titelman, Carol (1994). The Art of Star Wars - Episode IV - A New Hope. London: Titan Books Ltd. pp. 94, 95. ISBN 1-85286-583-0. 
  • Call, Deborah (1995). The Art of Star Wars - Episode V - The Empire Strikes Back. London: Titan Books Ltd. p. 175. ISBN 1-85286-584-9. 
  • Attias, Diana, Smith, Lindsay (1980). The Empire Strikes Back Notebook. New York: Ballantine Books. pp. 13, 32, 39, 40, 42, 43, 48, 49, 67, 70, 71, 72, 73, 78, 84, 85, 88, 89, 93, 98, 99. ISBN 0-345-28834-3. 

References[edit]

  1. ^ Tubb, Dick. "BFI Dick Tubb filmography". Retrieved 18 January 2013. 
  2. ^ Tubb, Dick. "Theatricalia". Retrieved 18 January 2013. 
  3. ^ Adshead-Landale, Layson, Janet, June (1994). Dance History: An Introduction. London: Routledge. p. 148. ISBN 0-203-13736-1. 
  4. ^ Ryan, June (1960). Ballet History. London: Methuen. p. 42. 
  5. ^ Bedells, Phyllis (1954). My Dancing Days. London: Phoenix House Ltd. p. 168. 
  6. ^ "Bow Belles". Retrieved 27 November 2012. 
  7. ^ "The Golden Toy". Retrieved 27 November 2012. 
  8. ^ Spurgeon, Jack (10 June 1994). "Obituary". London: The Independent. Retrieved 27 November 2012. 
  9. ^ "Imperial War Museum". Retrieved 27 November 2012. 
  10. ^ "Army Film Unit". Retrieved 27 November 2012. 
  11. ^ Street, Sarah (2005). Black Narcissus (British Film Guides). London: I.B.Tauris. p. 91. ISBN 1845110463. 
  12. ^ Gibbon, Monk (1948). The Red Shoes Ballet. London: Saturn Press. pp. 54, 55, 56, 81. 
  13. ^ Powell and Pressburger. "Powell & Pressburger Images - The Red Shoes (1948)". Retrieved 18 January 2013. 
  14. ^ Natanson, Jozef. "BFI film database". Retrieved 18 January 2013. 
  15. ^ Natanson, Jozef. "Jozef Pawel Natanson - A Fortunate Painter". Retrieved 18 January 2013. 
  16. ^ Hague, Douglas. "BFI filmography". Retrieved 18 January 2013. 
  17. ^ NZ Pete. "THE RED SHOES - Powell & Pressburger: a retrospective look at the matte shots and optical composites in this classic British film.". Retrieved 18 January 2013. 
  18. ^ "Colour consultant". Retrieved 17 January 2013. 
  19. ^ "Ramnord Research Laboratories". Retrieved 27 November 2012. 
  20. ^ Christie, Ian (1978). Powell, Pressburger and Others. London: British Film Institute. p. 45. ISBN 0-85170-086-1. 
  21. ^ "The Tempest". Retrieved 17 January 2013. 
  22. ^ Frayling, Christopher (2005). Ken Adam: And the Art of Production Design. Macmillan. p. 192. ISBN 0571220576. 
  23. ^ La Fanciulla del West. "The Royal Opera House Collections Online". Retrieved 18 January 2013. 
  24. ^ Titelman, Carol (1994). The Art of Star Wars - Episode IV - A New Hope. London: Titan Books Ltd. pp. 94, 95. ISBN 1-85286-583-0. 
  25. ^ Call, Deborah (1995). The Art of Star Wars - Episode V - The Empire Strikes Back. London: Titan Books Ltd. p. 175. ISBN 1-85286-584-9. 
  26. ^ Attias, Diana, Smith, Lindsay (1980). The Empire Strikes Back Notebook. New York: Ballantine Books. pp. 13, 32, 39, 40, 42, 43, 48, 49, 67, 70, 71, 72, 73, 78, 84, 85, 88, 89, 93, 98, 99. ISBN 0-345-28834-3. 
  27. ^ Petrou, David (1978). The Making of Superman the Movie. London: W H Allen and Co. Ltd. p. 217. ISBN 0-352-304529. 
  28. ^ Body, Martin. "Ivor Beddoes: Trick falls". 

External links[edit]