Having watched a long interview with Cliff Robertson – one of my favourite actors, on youtube, I find I still have a lot of questions which it would be nice to hear him answer. He has a huge interest in aircraft and blogs regularly on the subject so I have decided to email him a list of questions. Of course there is only the very slimmest chance he will ever get them as I have to email the webmaster of the site but I think it’s worth a try. If anybody wants to add a question of change one slightly let me know before next Wednesday (20 October). This is what I intend to send in an email.
633 Squadron is the film in which I first saw Cliff and made me a fan of his. Ever since then I have sought out any film with you in it and recently at last I managed to see Charly (which I have never seen scheduled in England on TV).
633 Squadron has always been a very popular movie in England – it was regularly shown on TV during my childhood and is my favourite film. Today I think the film has entered the national psyche and is even the subject of contemporary adverts. The theme music is one of the best-loved pieces of music here and for myself, I never tire of watching your performance as the laconic Roy Grant. I think, more than any other film (certainly on flying or war), it has come to represent best something fundamental about the British character. Many fans would love to know more about the film and about your part: you only have to look at the posts on youtube alongside excerpts (illegal I am sure) of the movie to see how popular it is, and yet you have been almost silent on it. Please Cliff would you be so kind as to try and find time to answer the following questions for your fans in England (I cannot speak for Wales, Ireland and Scotland but I am sure they feel the same).
A movie and aviation buff.
1. Did you get to fly in any of the Mosquitos during the filming (which incidentally was at Bovingdon, only 2 miles from my house at the time) and if so, did you manage to take the controls?
2. What was it like working with Walter Grauman? I understand he is a big fan of aeroplanes too.
3. I think only a real pilot could pull off the scenes of dialogue by your character in the cockpit, because of the understated movement which seems so realistic. Do you think your passion for flying and dedication to the part helped to lift the film from a B-movie to a classic?
4. I know you are a modest guy and might not find the last question so easy to answer so what are your memories of the other actors in the movie?
5. Did you ever meet Steve McQueen, another actor and pilot?
6. Incidentally he filmed The War Lover at Bovingdon too. Would you have like to fly a B-17 or are you more interested in lighter aircraft?
7. I have seen 633 squadron at least ten times as I cannot resist watching both you and the Mosquitos. I have heard that it was filmed very briskly and that the English actors were paid by the day and the higher-paid ones, for instance, were the ones who crashed during the raid (although I have never been able to make the numbers of shot down planes add up during the attack on the Fjord). Do you remember it being filmed quickly (if you remember the filming at all)?
8. Somehow the tension is as tight as any film I can think of and watching it is like being on a rack: the tension just builds and builds. Is this down to taught direction, the subject, constraints of filming on a tight budget or something else?
9. Having listened to the long (2 1/2 hours?) Archive interview on youtube, there were many questions left, hence this questionnaire. Another interviewee was Bill Shatner. Have you ever worked with him and if not, are there any actors or parts you would love to have played with/played?
10. Do you remember any of the local landmarks at Bovingdon? For instance did you visit The Swan pub at Ley Hill, where Clark Gable James Stewart and Glen Miller used to drink while based at Bovingdon?
If you don’t have time for these questions Cliff, perhaps they might appear in your autobiography which I know is due out soon.