Bill Kerr, back in the hot seat

Australian actor Bill Kerr, a sprightly 86 years old, recently recalled his part playing Flt Lt ‘Mick’ Martin in The Dam Busters. Sitting in the restored Lancaster in the Aviation Heritage Museum in Bull Creek, near Perth, WA, he told a reporter from the West Australian that it had been an honour to play the Australian Dambuster:

“But it took two hours of make up, a wig and a moustache before I really looked like Micky Martin,” he said.
A sprightly Kerr, who calls Perth home, took a trip down memory lane this week sitting in the pilot’s seat of the Avro Lancaster housed at the Aviation Heritage Museum in Bull Creek.
“You know the attention to detail in this Lancaster is incredible — they have done a marvellous job restoring her,” he said. “And the attention to detail in the original film was extraordinary. They even put chocks behind my ears so they stood out to look just like Micky Martin’s.”

Kerr also told the paper that he got the job straight off the boat from Australia when his agent drove him directly to Pinewood Studios for a casting session. However, this might be a slight exaggeration since by 1954 he had already been in a number of films, including the only film about Bomber Command to predate The Dam Busters, the under-rated Appointment in London. This was released in 1952 and starred a young Dirk Bogarde. It was written by John Woolridge, who had served as a flight commander in 106 Squadron when Guy Gibson was its commanding officer. Some commentators think that the Bogarde character is based on Gibson.
Bill Kerr’s role in Appointment in London, according to IMDB, was Flt Lt Bill Brown. The cast included other actors on the cusp of a successful career, including Bryan Forbes, Sam Kydd and Richard Wattis, with the female lead played by the well-established Dinah Sheridan.
John Woolridge not only wrote the script for this film but also, in an unusual combination, its musical score. He was to write more film music over the next few years, before his death in a car crash in 1958. His daughter is the actress Susan Woolridge, well known (in Britain at least) for many TV and film roles.

But it took two hours of make up, a wig and a moustache before I really looked like Micky Martin,” he said.
A sprightly Kerr, who calls Perth home, took a trip down memory lane this week sitting in the pilot’s seat of the Avro Lancaster housed at the Aviation Heritage Museum in Bull Creek.
“You know the attention to detail in this Lancaster is incredible — they have done a marvellous job restoring her,” he said. “And the attention to detail in the original film was extraordinary. They even put chocks behind my ears so they stood out to look just like Micky Martin’s.”
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On this day…

On this day 66 years ago nineteen Lancasters of 617 Squadron took off from a grass aerodrome in Lincolnshire on an operation which would change the lives of everyone who took part. Fifty-three of the aircrew died that night, and the destruction of the Möhne and Eder Dams led to the loss of 1341 other lives, many of them civilians or forced labourers. 
In contrast to last year, when various flypasts and other events marked the 65th anniversary, there will be no official ceremonies marking today’s date.
Let’s just remember all those who died that night, and the millions more who died during the Second World War, and hope that we never see destruction on this scale again.
In commemoration of those who died, here are some pictures of the plaques marking the crash site of the aircraft AJ-M, piloted by Flt Lt John Hopgood. His efforts to keep his plane aloft let three of his crew bale out. Two, John Fraser and Anthony Burcher survived. Those who died at the site were Charles Brennan, Kenneth Earnshaw, John Minchin, George Gregory and Hopgood himself. The site is about 6km from the Möhne Dam.
The pictures were taken last month by a reader of this blog, Steve Gough, who has kindly let me use them.

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mohne1 mohne3

Steady, steady – bomb gone, skipper!

I’m told, because I’m not yet lucky or rich enough to have one, that one of the coolest things about the iPhone is the thousands of applications (apps) that you can download – often free and if not, costing just a few pence. If I had one, then what would be one of the first things I would download? Why, this game of course!
Afficianados amongst you will spot the game’s errors pretty quickly… A forward-spinning mine, a Lanc with a mid-upper turret. Tsk, tsk!

Clever Jackson stokes up anticipation

 

It would seem that the arrival of a replica Lancaster in New Zealand earlier this week is all part of Peter Jackson’s clever publicity strategy – keep everyone guessing, and then let information dribble out bit by bit. It seems that the superstar producer himself turned up at Hood aerodrome in Masterton, New Zealand, to test some of the technology that his company is going to use in the remake of the Dambusters. There have been two separate reports in Wellington’s Dominion Post newspaper, here and here.
The casting and actual production is still some way off Jackson’s spokesperson confirmed:
Matthew Dravitzki, a spokesman for Jackson, confirmed the movie was still in development stages, with work focusing on building the Lancasters and writing scripts.
Just when shooting will start is still under wraps and the movie is yet to be cast.
‘Right now we are having fun working on a number of different projects and have the luxury to make things at our own speed. We are yet to choose the location for the film’s shooting, and that is going to come down to wherever is most suitable for our needs.’
Yesterday’s mockup was also a chance to test new camera technology. ‘We are not shooting any scenes that are project-specific; this is about just keeping up with technology and trying new things.’
This relaxed atttitude would indicate that my prediction last year that the film won’t hit our screens till 2011 is almost certain to come true. 

It would seem that the arrival of a replica Lancaster in New Zealand earlier this week is all part of Peter Jackson’s clever publicity strategy – keep everyone guessing, and then let information dribble out bit by bit. The superstar producer himself turned up at Hood aerodrome in Masterton, New Zealand, to see testing of some of the technology that his company is going to use in the remake of the Dambusters. There have been two separate reports in Wellington’s Dominion Post newspaper, here and here.
Jackson’s spokesperson confirmed that the casting and actual production is still some way off :

Matthew Dravitzki, a spokesman for Jackson, confirmed the movie was still in development stages, with work focusing on building the Lancasters and writing scripts.
Just when shooting will start is still under wraps and the movie is yet to be cast.
‘Right now we are having fun working on a number of different projects and have the luxury to make things at our own speed. We are yet to choose the location for the film’s shooting, and that is going to come down to wherever is most suitable for our needs.’
Yesterday’s mockup was also a chance to test new camera technology. ‘We are not shooting any scenes that are project-specific; this is about just keeping up with technology and trying new things.’

This relaxed atttitude would indicate that my prediction last year, that the film won’t hit our screens till 2011, is almost certain to come true.

Gibson in tears exclusive

For some reason a Lincolnshire newspaper has decided that the Dambusters remake is likely to be postponed, or even cancelled. They have no evidence for this, other than the fact that no one from Peter Jackson’s production company has recently been in touch with a few local enthusiasts. More reliable information comes from scriptwriter Stephen Fry in a Radio 5 interview last week. 
Podcast of interview here, talking about the responsibility he feels working on the remake, and revealing something of Guy Gibson’s sensitive side. It’s about 7 minutes in. (Hat tip Aviation Forum.)