Ken Withers

“Cameramen need a broad list of personal attributes including tact, stamina, competence and a certain degree of artistic talent,” says Ken.

November 22, 2016 | | Over the Next Hill

Snapshot: Meet a Community Elder

Many would call it a dream job. Ken Withers, 88, and now living just north of Bolton, travelled the world with the likes of Peter O’Toole and Omar Sharif – and was paid to do it.

Ken Withers. Photo by Rosemary Hasner / Black Dog Creative Arts.

Ken Withers. Photo by Rosemary Hasner / Black Dog Creative Arts.

Born in Belgium, Ken grew up in England. His first job, in the early 1940s, was with Gainsborough Pictures, where he started at the bottom to learn the skills required to work behind the camera. A “clapper boy” at first, he moved on to become a “focus puller,” one of the most difficult jobs in the business.

After completing his mandatory British military service, Ken returned to the film industry and remained with it until retirement.

He spent a total of 21 months filming Lawrence of Arabia, including six months living in tents in the desert near Jordan. The rest of the time, he worked on location in Spain, Morocco and London.

His work on Lord Jim took him to Hong Kong and Cambodia, Doctor Zhivago to Spain and Finland, Funny Face to Paris, and the James Bond classic You Only Live Twice to Japan and London.

“Cameramen need a broad list of personal attributes including tact, stamina, competence and a certain degree of artistic talent,” says Ken.

Names such as Dame Judi Dench, Fred Astaire, Audrey Hepburn, Anthony Hopkins, Kathleen Turner, Diane Keaton, Sean Connery, Pierce Brosnan, Tony Curtis and Margaret Lockwood trip easily off his tongue. And he is happy to share delightful memories of each.

With Myra, his wife of now 61 years, Ken moved to Canada when the British film industry was in one of its periodic lulls and the Canadian industry was thriving. He continued to freelance here until well into his 70s.

“It was a challenging career, but one I look back on with a great deal of satisfaction,” he says.

If you know an elder who should be profiled, please send your suggestion to [email protected]

About the Author More by Gail Grant

Gail Grant is a freelance writer who lives in Palgrave.

Comments

1 Comment

  1. I too worked on Lawrence of Arabia during the filming in Jordan. I was connected to the Publicity Department as secretary to John Woolfenden. One of my associates here in Barrie, Beryl, was the radio operator in the desert camp.

    Janet Bonham Copeland

    Janet M. Copeland from Barrie. ON on Feb 18, 2017 at 11:42 am | Reply

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