29.12.1909 – 31.1.2008
Bryan started in the business in 1927, as a trainee in silent film production, and moved to Elstree in 1930, becoming Jack Cox’s assistant on many films including four ‘Hitchcock’s’ following which he operated for Otto Kanturek. Otto fell ill on Blossom Time (1934 Directed by Paul Stein) and insisted Bryan finish the film. He ‘did it like Otto’ and was promoted to DoP in 1935; his first credit being Doctor’s Orders (1934 Directed by Norman Lee). For a later credit he shot Student’s Romance (1935 directed by his old boss, Otto Kanturek).
Soon after, he left Elstree to freelance, working on many films, culminating in an Amsterdam studio in August 1939. Midway through production German troops began amassing on the Polish border. Dutch reaction was to call up its reservists. English newspapers screamed ‘WAR’. The producer urged all possible speed and maximum overtime. For Bryan, in a foreign country, it was a scarifying period. He was heartily glad to depart from Amsterdam and returned home just in time to hear the declaration of war. Film production ceased till end of year but slowly returned in 1940. The evacuation from Dunkirk in May 1940 was followed by Churchill’s speeches, for example, “The enemy is at the gates and are preparing for invasion.” He urged that all who could should offer their services.
Partly, because of his Amsterdam experience, he offered his services as a cameraman and was duly interviewed and accepted, told that no cameras were available and advised to continue with normal work until called. In December 1940, he began shooting a James Mason film at Welwyn Studios, Welwyn Garden City, The Patient Vanishes (1941 Directed by Lawrence Huntingdon). The War Office phoned to say that cameras had arrived and asked when he could start? The film was scheduled to end the first week of January. Unfortunately, due to the night-time bombing of London, production was seriously delayed, ending in early February 1941. Within 10 days of its ending Bryan was on a Troopship sailing overseas, only returning to Britain in March 1945 and was demobilised in December 1945.
In early 1946 he returned to Welwyn Studios and spent the next two years shooting second units and models. On a social visit to Pinewood he was asked, out of the blue, if he would like to become Pinewood’s Special Effects Cameraman? He was delighted and spent the next ten years at Pinewood, much of it shooting Travelling Matte sequences in many studios with films such as: The Lavender Hill Mob (1951 directed by Charles Crichton, photographed by Douglas Slocombe OBE BSC), Angels One Five (1952 Directed by George More O’Ferrall, photographed by Christopher Challis BSC) and Beat the Devil (1953 Directed by John Huston, photographed by Oswald Morris OBE BSC).
After Pinewood he spent two years with the BBC’s film unit at Ealing Studios working on filmed television series, followed by seven years as the International Film Technician for UNWRA in Beirut (United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East), from where he was evacuated during the Six Day War.
Back in the UK he became a freelance cameraman, with camera, and as such spent much time overseas in remote and grubby places shooting fund raising films in aid of disadvantaged peoples, which he found very satisfying.
The most important period of his life was at the BBC’s film unit where he became accustomed to working for female directors and rubbing shoulders with some of those that appear on ‘The Box’. Had he not been at the BBC he would not have been headhunted for the job of International Film Technician. He regarded his time at the BBC as equal to being at a university because it certainly broadened his horizons. In all, he enjoyed a long and happy career and was proud to be a member of the BSC.