I was very pleased when Andrew Wilde agreed to an interview about his role as film editor on Last of the Summer Wine, the World’s longest running comedy series, and his late father’s career. Brian Wilde, who was born 90 years ago this month, is remembered with great affection for his roles of Foggy in Last of the Summer Wine and Mr Barrowclough in Porridge.
1. How did you become a film editor and what does the role entail?
I started helping out in the film cutting room at BBC TV Centre where ‘Summer Wine’ was edited and then a few months later began working as an assistant film editor in nearby Shepherd’s Bush, at one of the edit facilities that took overspill work from the BBC.
The job entails organising all the picture and sound shot each day from location, and cutting it into the scenes as per the script. This will include all the notes from the director relating to actors’ performances and technical notes from camera/lighting and sound.
2. How did you get the job working on Last of the Summer Wine and did you work on location or just at the studios?
The BBC staff editor on ‘Summer Wine’ wanted to move onto other projects, and at the time I was contacted by the producer, to see if I would like to take over – the answer was ‘yes’. All the editing was done back in London, the footage from location and sound stage shooting sent back daily and edited daily.
3. Did you work directly with your father on Last of the Summer Wine and if so what was that like?
As all the editing took place away from the location/studio I rarely worked directly with my father. However when we needed to re-record dialogue that was affected by intrusive background noise I was then involved in these post-sync recording sessions and then worked with him directly. Also I did visit location and sound stage during each series and would observe the shooting and setting up, and see everyone involved then.
4. Did you get to know many of the cast from Last of the Summer Wine?
I spoke to Peter Sallis (Clegg) a fair bit when visiting the set, he was always very kind and I remember had a very wry sense of humour. Robert Fyfe who played Howard was also great company and interested in what went on back in the edit room.
5. Do you have a favourite memory from your time working on the series?
I can’t say I have a favourite memory. The whole cast and crew worked well together and I had a lot of fun doing my ‘bit’. I think I edited over 150 episodes.
6. How did your father get in to acting and did he intend to focus on comedy?
He started acting in school plays in his mid to late teens, and got really keen on acting so that he ended up applying to RADA to get professional training. He had three years there and said it was an amazing experience.
He worked in the theatre a great deal once he graduated. I think he began at Liverpool Rep. and had roles in the West End quite early in his career in the 50s. Television roles didn’t really become commonplace until the 60s, small parts in things like ‘The Avengers’. I don’t think he ever intended to get into comedy, it just happened that way – if you’re offered a part and it looks decent you take it. Much of his work in the early years would have been straight drama.
7. He played two very well known roles, but very different, Mr Barrowclough in Porridge and Foggy in Last of the Summer Wine. Did he have a favourite role and what other roles did he particularly enjoy playing?
He never said if he preferred Barrowclough or Foggy more. I suppose all actors have a little bit of themselves in the part they play, but the rest of the character is grafted on from other people and situations they’ve seen.
8. Was he surprised at the popularity of both series and the longevity of Last of the Summer Wine and what were his favourite episodes?
I don’t know if he was surprised at how popular the series became. The quality of the writing in both ‘Porridge’ and ‘Summer Wine’ underpins everything else. I imagine he was happy that the two programmes were popular as everyone wants to be involved in something that’s successful.
‘Last of the Summer Wine’ did I think finish up being the longest running comedy series in the World when it ended in 2010, and it was still pulling in strong viewing figures for the day then. My father was not involved throughout its run, as he finally departed in 1997. I do remember him liking the Loxley Lozenge episode.
9. Compo, Clegg and Foggy were the most famous and for many best loved trio in Last of the Summer Wine. What made them so special?
Again the writing underpins the whole show, the characters all develop from that. Compo, the naughty schoolboy, with his youthful mischievous nature. And in his scruffy pocket a matchbox, containing something unspeakable, which, of course, we never see. Clegg, with his wry quirky observations on the world, and often the character most likely to voice the writer, Roy Clarke’s views on the world. Foggy, deluded and pompous, but well meaning – always trying to make something happen. We probably all know people a bit like one, or more of them!
10. 90 years after his birth, your father is still remembered with much affection and continues to bring pleasure to many through TV repeats and DVD releases. Presumably he’d be chuffed with that legacy?
I expect he would be.
My thanks to Andy for this interview and for supply of the accompanying photographs.