Michael Klinger and Tony Tenser, who ran the Compton Cinema Club in Soho, approached George about making a feature film. The only way to include nudity was to push the Naturist movement. Thus, whatever we did, providing we finished in a Nudist camp, the censor would allow it.
The working title of the film was ‘Cornish Holiday’. Compton Films were to be the Distributors. The Production Company was Compass Films with John Brason as Production Manager. The Lighting Cameraman was Roy Pointer and Doug Webb was booked to do the stills photography. George was to direct.
The film was to feature five girls escaping the routine of their everyday jobs. I was to play the lead. Four other girls were eventually chosen. Large bosomed girls were out. They had to be modest. Stuart was cast in a series of ‘cameo’ roles as a re-occurring in-joke.
The Associate Producer and the Art Director had supposedly done a ‘recce’ of the various locations. Hotels were meant to have been booked and the catering sorted. We were assured everything had been taken care of.
The story was, to say the least, flimsy. Five girls escape the routine of their everyday jobs and travel down to Cornwall. Three friends - Pam, a dancer in the theatre, Petrina, a secretary in a solicitor’s office and Jacky, an assistant in a shoe shop - hire a car for a motoring holiday in Devon and Cornwall. They are not Nudists. The other two girls, Bridget and Angela work as garage attendants, and they decide on a hiking holiday which will culminate in a Nudist Camp in Cornwall. They are both Nudists.
The film follows the girls through Somerset, Devon and Cornwall, capturing the beauty of the English countryside, taking in such sites as Stonehenge, Tintagel, Clovelly, the Minnack Open Air Theatre, Bedruthan Steps and Lands End.
While investigating the beaches at Bedruthan, Pam’s character unknowingly stumbles onto a private beach belonging to a Naturist Club, and finds Angela and Bridget, both naked, lying on the sand. Shock, Horror! However, they convince her that there is nothing wrong with the nude body. She calls to her two companions to come over and join the two girls. They talk to their new friends and are soon persuaded to join the club. Pam, Petrina and Jacky throw away their bikinis. The girls then get a tour of the nudist camp, in this case Spielplatz Sun Club in St. Albans - hardly Cornwall.
On 4 September, at 7am, we all met in Old Compton Street, outside the Compton Cinema. Doug took me, Daphne the hairdresser and the make-up man, Gerry, and all our gear.
Stonehenge - our first stop
The scene - Petrina, Jacky and I arriving by car, George’s green Buick, with Petrina at the wheel, she being the only one of us that could drive. We were instructed to get out and walk around the stones. There was much girlish laughter when I attempt to squeeze between the stones.
As the day progressed, it became clear that George was unfamiliar with working with a crew and the 35mm Movie Camera. Fortunately Roy was an experienced cinematographer, so we at least had a film to show at the end of the day.
We had no script! There never was a script. There was a “Rough Shooting Script”, which meant precisely nothing. The first day of shooting was outlined as “Shots of Stonehenge and girls as available”. We finished the scene the next day, after which we drove smartly through Somerset and on to Ilfracombe, our second night’s stop.
Woolacombe Beach had not been checked out in the recce. It proved totally unsuitable. The day was wasted.
Tapely Park Hotel
A magnificent house set in a large park, which was advertised in the Royal Opera Programme only and was most certainly not the place for a film unit and five nubile girls. We discovered that the Associate Producer and the Art Director were Opera buffs, hence the booking.
We walked through the immense hall and into the main drawing room, all magnificently furnished. A butler brought us tea and cucumber sandwiches on a silver tray.
At dinner that night, in the resplendent dining room, an elderly gentleman came in and took his place at the head of the table. At precisely 8pm, he rose and raised his glass to the Queen. Dinner was then served. We were puzzled about this, but Doug twigged it. At 8pm the curtain goes up at Glyndebourne opera house! The gentleman was none other than John Christie who founded the Glyndebourne Opera Festival way back in 1934.
That night I slept in a magnificent bedroom, spacious enough to accommodate the make-up and hairdressing department as well.
Clovelly and Tintagel Castle
The following day, Clovelly, an ancient fishing village mentioned in the Doomsday Book. Stuart was to play a fisherman with a clay pipe, leaning against the harbour wall. We were to wear our summer dresses. “Ooops! Did I have to bring a frock?” a round-eyed Petrina asked. Fortunately, I had brought two.
That afternoon, when we had finished filming, I boarded the train to London. The next scene involved Bridget and Angela only, clumping up and down Tintagel Castle, a place of ‘magic casements’, opening on the foam of perilous seas. Petrina, Jacky and I had the day off.
It had been arranged that I could have my hair bleached and my switches set the following morning by Eileen, and return on the night train to Penzance for the location at the Minnack Theatre. “Book your return when you arrive at Paddington”, I was told, it would be the night train leaving around 11pm. At the booking office, I discovered that there were two trains; one a non-sleeper at 11pm, arriving at Penzance about 8am and a sleeper which left at midnight and arrived at Penzance half an hour after the other train. I booked the sleeper, as a good night’s rest was preferable to sitting up in a carriage all night. Doug rang me that evening at my flat and I explained what I had done. The next night with my hair bleached and the two switches in place ready for the next morning, I boarded the sleeper.
A frieze of angry heads looked down at me as I walked down the platform at Penzance. “Where had I been? I was late, why wasn’t I on the earlier train?” My hair, I told them, was ready; all I needed was Make-up. I also pointed out that I was rested, which I certainly would not have been sitting up in a carriage all night. Somewhat mollified, Brason gave the order to move off.
At the Minnack Theatre at Porthcurno, with its backdrop of clouds and the Atlantic, we stood so that the wind blew our skirts up. George’s idea to get a glimpse of bare thigh and knickers. Stuart dressed in black tights and a blonde wig was instructed to do an “Oliver”. We climbed yet another set of stairs, high above the camera; more flashes of knickers. I am told to stop and do a ‘windswept pose’. With my hair blowing across my face and my skirts billowing around my ears, they saw a lot more than a glimpse of the G-String I was wearing. A frown from Brason. “I don’t think that sort of shot would go down well with the Naturist Movement, George”
We then all drove off to Lands End, leaving the camera crew to do some “Pretty [topographical] shots to round off sequence”.
Lands End and out to sea at Falmouth
At Lands End the three of us ran around in shorts clutching ice creams, buying postcards and waving. That night we stayed at Helston. As far as locations specified in the shooting script were concerned, we had lost Exmoor, Hunters Inn at Coombe Martin, Jamaica Inn and Princetown.
George, however, came up with the bright idea that the three of us on a boat might be fun. At Falmouth Brason found a fishing boat for hire – a fair sized craft that took people out shark fishing.
Stuart was to be the fisherman. In the stern it was somewhat cramped with the camera and the crew. George worked out the action with his normal flair. One of us could fall overboard. Jacky volunteered. At the given moment, George told her to fall in, which she did, except that in her enthusiasm, she leapt rather than fell. Stuart the shark fisher dropped his line and came staggering along. I tripped over the main hatch cover, banging my head on the boom. Petrina hopping up and down delivers the line “Ooo, Jacky’s fallen in!” It was rather stating the obvious.
Like a drowned puppy, hair all over her face, Jacky was hauled up. “Rub her down! ” came the instructions. We all did. By now, Jacky was shaking with cold and we weren’t much better.
“They won’t wear it, George”, John Brason said. “Women rubbing each other down!” All you see in the film is Jacky standing on the edge of the boat. The next minute she appears unaccountably wet and bedraggled.
Bedruthan Steps is a truly spectacular landscape on the north Cornish coastline, a few miles east of Newquay. The cliffs at Bedruthan have been systematically eroded over the years, leaving a series of impressive volcanic rock stacks. Theses pillars of detached cliff rise from Bedruthan Beach, forming a series of columns that stretch across the bay from Pendarves Island to Diggory’s Island. This was to be the location for the major nude scenes. To get to the beach one has negotiated 100 step steps down a precipitous cliff face.
The opening title was me walking from the edge of the sea across the beach and into camera. Roy had marked a line on the sand; I was to stop here. In the long shot, there would be no problem with showing the pubic area, but if I could walk in such a way that nothing could be seen to alarm the censors. This I could do by swivelling the hips so that the leg always cut across the offending area. For safety’s sake, I was to carry a towel in one hand. Casually placing it across my stomach as I stopped in front of the camera. This was to be in one take. There was no rehearsal, so as not to leave footprints in the sand. I stood in the sea and waited for the signal. From the edge of the surf I walked across the sand towards a small pool, George wanted me to walk through. I stepped into it expecting it to be shallow. At the deepest point, it was nearly six feet! I could hardly disappear in the opening shot and somehow I managed to pull myself out. I walked round the op and into camera, stopping on the mark. “What was all that kerfuffle by the pool?” George came bustling up. “Next time” I said, “Measure it. ”
George had bought an enormous beach ball and we were told to chase about with considerable spirit. The wind kept catching the wretched thing. All five of us were now stripped off. Petrina, standing on a rock, suddenly became coy, covering herself with her hands exclaiming that everyone could see her “Biscuit”. Cold and wet, my patience at an end, I told her to take her hands from her blasted “biscuit”: and threw her the beach ball, “Catch!” Still muttering “Oooo my biscuit”, under her breath, she ran awkwardly with her legs prudishly clamped together.
Apart from locations not seen, we were finding Hotels not booked or unable to accommodate a unit of some twenty people. At Bedruthan, having cancelled the previous booking at Wadebridge, they put us in an unsuitable hotel full of Mums and screaming children. Half the crew found themselves without a room and had to search locally for accommodation. The five of us had to share one smallish room. Extra beds had been moved in and put up dormitory style.
Brason roused us the next morning, army fashion. “Out of bed, all of you, and be quick about it. ” Standing there in his khaki jacket and cap, he bore a strong resemblance to Castro, which became his nickname for the rest of the film.
At Bedruthan Steps, the tide was out when we began the second day’s shooting on the beach.
A long sequence of me swimming nude in a rock pool. Roy filmed me while I swam slowly into camera, and around the pool. I had left my towel on the sand between the op and the sea. Doug taking pictures noticed that the beach was disappearing and the rocks were being covered by the apparently incoming tide. He alerted Brason, who had the tide table . He assured us that the tide was not due to turn for some hours yet.
Almost too late, I saw my towel disappearing as the tide started to come in. I looked anxiously at Roy. “Keep smiling as you swim into camera, look ha… “He now suddenly noticed the water starting to swirl over his feet and around the legs of the tripod holding the Arriflex. “CUT. Run for it!” he screamed.
They struggled to get the equipment off the beach. The tide was racing in and we knew that it would completely cover the whole area right up to the cliff face and a good way up the steps. Soaked to the skin and exhausted, we finally reached the top. It was a close run thing. A severe storm in the Atlantic had turned the tide early than usual.
For me, one night at the Hotel, unable to dry clothing, have a decent meal and a bit of peace and quiet was enough. I moved out and stayed with Doug in an old pub in Padstow.
Brason decided that filming on the beach was much too dangerous. George found an alternative; the hotel had a swimming pool. The three of us, Bikini clad, could frolic in the pool, come out and sit on a swinging hammock, drinking lemonade. Stuart dressed up as an elderly waiter with a drinks would fall into the pool, then cut to the three of us laughing at him. We spent a day just doing that. Jacky was told at one point, to jump into the pool. This she did, splashing around with considerable verve until Roy noticed bits of white cotton wool floating in the water around her and stopped filming. “What the hell’s that?”. It was Jacky’s bust, she had filled the cups with cotton wool, and it had floated out.
With Bedruthan Steps out, another location was needed. Watergate Bay was equally spectacular and much easier to reach. This then would be the setting for the scene where I discover Angela and Bridget in the nude.
A somewhat shaky sign reading “Terwyn Sun Club” was stuck in the sand; Bridget and Angela ensconced behind a windbreak, me in a Bikini. I walk round the rocks and find two naked women. Shock, horror and embarrassment! We made the dialogue up as we went along, Roy was not shooting sound, except as a guide track. Although they are nudists, I find them friendly. I climb the nearest chunk of rock and wave to my two friends to come over. The weather was not good that day. A brisk wind was blowing and it was overcast.
We went through the motions, for it would have to be re-shot on a better day. Bridget standing in the surf was told to turn left and run up the beach. She turned right and ran straight into the sea. Roy, by now had also had enough, “Oh, let her go” he said wearily, “She doesn’t know her left from her right”.
Two apparitions were spotted making their way across the beach. Klinger and Tenser had arrived to see us working. Nattily dressed in matching blazers and sporting colourful ties, trousers with knife sharp creases and highly polished shoes, they surveyed the scene of five blue skinned girls shivering with cold and a fed-up looking crew. The sand blew in their faces and the spray soaked their shiny shoes. George came panting up clutching his beach ball. They gazed at all this, then remembering an appointment with a large Gin and Tonic. They left and retired to the nearest pub before returning to London and civilisation.
The beach scene was finally re-created at Presburys Studios in Dean Street . A bright blue backing with the windbreak and some sand on the floor. It didn’t match the outdoor sequence in any way, shape or form.
George wanted to film more footage of us on the boat, so we went back to Falmouth. George wanting to get some long distance shoots filmed us from another boat. Doug was in our boat to take stills of me, Petrina, Jacky and Stuart As our boats drifted apart, George shouted through the loudhailer. “Run up and down the boat”. “Wave, all of you!”, “Stuart, pretend you’ve caught a shark”. George’s voice grew fainter over the ever-widening gap. We could just about hear him bellow out “If you knew Susie as I know Susie… ”. Brason sat in the stern of the boat with his back to them, gloomily watching Falmouth disappearing aft.
We had to return to London the next day as we were to start shooting the scenes at Spielplatz Sun club the following week, and we were already behind schedule.
The final shots, according to the rough-shooting schedule were “A fairly long pictorial sequence of sand, sea and nude shots”. Then with a note of pessimism creeping in “entirely dictated by conditions as available… “, ending hopefully with, “Underwater nude swimming shots. If POSSIBLE.”
Both crew and cast rejected that one straight out of hand. The weather had closed in North Cornwall beaches are the most spectacular in the country, but can also is the coldest. Now with the wind whipping up the surf, the flying sand stinging our bare flesh, we raced into a distinctly unfriendly Atlantic. “Splash about and swim”. George was still attached to his beloved loudhailer. Numbly we splashed, swim we dare not, even Jacky’s customary enthusiasm seemed to have left her.”
Come out and run back to your towels” hailed George. This was a long shot showing an empty beach and five nude girls running towards the camera. Ever mindful of the censors, the shot had to be as far away as possible. In the finished results we appear so small, we could have been wearing woolly hats and long-johns.
A cloak of mist finally eclipsed the light. So the “pretty-pretty shot of sunset to end sequence”, joined the legion of the lost: Jamaica Inn, Woolacombe beach and Exmoor.
Spielplatz was just the same as when I first went there with fellow art student Fay Smith, to get an even tan. I recognised the very place where I stood and posed for the Miss Venus Beauty Competition, which I won eleven years before.
In the script, the Naturist Club is meant to be near the beach in Cornwall. The sequences shot here were constricted by the lack of scenery. The wooden huts, the small pool with its’ murky water, a few trees and the worn grass area (used for tennis, badminton, or any other game involving a net) didn’t readily lend themselves to people that wanted to paint with light.
The members were all nice people and helpful, but photographically it was poor. As far as Trevellyan was concerned this was the grand finale, the whole point of the film. We were to be introduced to the President of the club who was to give us a guided tour of the camp. Charles Macaskie, however, was elderly and frail and lived in a heated caravan, so appearances with him were naturally brief. His wife who seemed impervious to the elements and jauntily wearing a blue satin sash and two rows of beads, took his place.
With the censors in mind we all had towels and baskets held firmly across our fronts as if they were glued to us – least we didn’t have to wave. A personable young male actor was hired to walk about with us. The actual members were asked to stand around discreetly in-groups and with the ubiquitous towels to hand, held fore or aft depending on the camera angle. In make-up the first day, I noticed that our male actor, apart from having shaved off all his pubic hair, was making up his ‘dangly bits’ with Max Factor Pancake make-up!
Although armed with a towel and instructions to keep his “bits” covered, he had a tendency to forget and let the towel drop. In the publicity shots there he was, offending “bits” in full view. They were standing behind an open wire fence which came up to their waists, a rose was climbing up one side of the wire, so I extended the rose and incorporated the offending parts into the leaves.
The final shots were a 15-minute sequences of naturist camp activities, as available. We quickly exhausted the table tennis, the swimming and the quoits. Doug did a series of stills of me on a swing. We were filmed talking to the residents and admiring their gardens.
After that we all left, getting into the Buick and drive off, waving, supposedly silhouetted against the sunset. George seemed to be very fond of sunsets, it was his misfortune that they were never any.
As seems normal in filming, we began in the middle and worked our way to either end. We now went back to the beginning of the film, the bit that establishes the various characters.
Pam, the dancer, and Petrina, who works in a solicitor’s office, share a flat. The opening shot shows the two of us examining a map of Cornwall. I have just been filmed coming out of the shower. Petrina, in a Baby-Doll negligee, and me wrapped up in a bath towel, discuss our route. The hour is obviously late. The censors, however, maintained that two girls sharing a flat could be lesbians and cut out that entire scene. The film starts with us driving off with no explanation.
Next the scenes of me rehearsing on stage and leaving the theatre and getting into the Buick. The theatre chosen was the Golders Green Hippodrome – I am seen leaving their stage door. The actual dance sequence was shot in the Gargoyle Club in Soho.
The re-shoot of the beach with the windbreak.
We sat on the studio floor, on yellow sand in front of the windbreak. Behind, a bright blue backing. Our make-up perfect and not a hair out of place, and so it stayed as the tight budget could not stretch to a wind machine.
All in place, Roy lit us. This is where we were to discuss Naturism. We all looked blank. By now, it was 1pm, the unit broke for lunch, and all went to the pub in Macclesfield Street. “Not you lot”. Brason called us back”. You can spend your lunch hour learning your dialogue”. “John”, I said, “There is no dialogue, there never has been any dialogue. Further more, he who should have written it is at this moment stuffing himself with smoked salmon sandwiches and enjoying a large drink. I suggest that instead of nagging us, you go and find him”. Grimly Brason left the studio, hauled George away from his lunch and bid him write.
That afternoon we received our few lines, each on separate pieces of paper. the four girls learnt the lines they had to say, but not when or in what order. After endless, “Oh, is it me now?” and ” I’ve forgotten, what do I say?”, patience was exhausted.
Slowly and laboriously, we toiled on. We now came to the part where we are converted to Naturism, and throw away our Bikini tops. Petrina and I dropped ours somewhat indifferently but Jacky threw hers away with a wild “Whey!”, disclosing her extremely small bust. She was the only one with any animation or enthusiasm in the entire film.
In the script, we collect Jacky from her home, so a location was needed for that, plus someone to take the part of Jacky’s mother. George’s mother unwittingly remarked one day that her neighbour had a smiling dog. This then was the location for Jacky’s departure. The owner of the dog was cast in the role of Jacky’s mother. We all arrived in Wembley with the Buick. George’s mother had the sense to keep well out of the way, but Bert, her better half was cast as the nosy neighbour. Jacky came out of the house followed by her Mum. The dog sat up and smiled. Jacky got into the car with Petrina and me and waving, we all drove off. And that was the end of Naked as Nature Intended.