The Amazing Radio London Adventure
Ben makes a 'B Movie'.
Although I didn't always see eye-to-eye with Harold Shampan, our man at Pall Mall Music, I found him to be quite a decent person, a gentleman of the old school. In May of 1965, because of my political activities in Texas, Governor Connally commissioned me as an admiral of the Texas Navy. Harold got hold of this news, and knowing that all admirals in the British Navy are knighted, he began calling me 'Sir Benjamin'. Of course this inflated my ego a bit and made me think more kindly of Harold.
Like most of the pluggers in the music business Harold had a special way of buttering one up to the point of saturation. I knew that I was good at my job; statistics bore that out. However, the accolades that were passed to me by the pluggers were of monumental proportions. To believe in these flowery remarks in their entirety, would be like believing in your own press. Therefore, I was always on guard and didn't allow myself to be pulled into this tangled web of gamesmanship.
Another of Harold's little ploys was that of telling me that I reminded him of his old friend Gary Cooper. Years before, Cooper had made several films in England and Harold knew him from that time. I suppose the fact that I am tall and have rather slow speech reminded Harold of the actor, but as far as I can tell, that is where the likeness ended. However, Harold brought up this analogy quite often.
Left, Ben with Harold Shampan at Pinewood Studios, Iver Heath, Bucks
Our friend Harold came up with a much better idea than his earlier one concerning the formation of Pall Mall Music. He had worked for many years with the Rank Organisation, one of Britain's major motion picture studios. Harold had many connections there, so he got together with a few of his cohorts and raised about £35,000 for the production of a B-rated film called 'Dateline Diamonds'.
The film's storyline was based on Radio London being used as a means for smuggling diamonds between the UK and Holland.
(Editor's note: Aside from aboard the Galaxy, exterior locations included Parkestone Quay and Harwich in Essex, and the Rank Ballroom in Watford, Herts. 'Dateline Diamonds' was shot in the autumn of 1965. Although it did not go on general release till the following April, there was a private screening on December 8th for the cast, press, Radio London staff and guests, some of whom had won an on-air competition to attend.
In the memo, right, dated Nov 16th, 1965, Godfrey Morrow refers to 'Dateline Diamonds' being released to support to the latest Norman Wisdom movie. The Wisdom film 'The Sandwich Man' written by Michael Bentine, came out in 1966 and may have been considered the first choice to partner 'Dateline Diamonds' because of its Swinging London backdrop. However, for whatever reason, the main feature eventually partnered by 'Dateline Diamonds' was 'Doctor in Clover' which premiered April 3rd 1966.
Godfrey Morrow outlines the proposed competition and how he perceives the film's importance as a Radio London promotional vehicle - Particularly 'in the Midlands'. There were just three weeks left before the screening of the cast and press preview, so the listener competition had to be launched without delay. Even more urgent was a request for a recording of the news introduction and 'blips' to be made for inclusion in the film. )
Right, click on the memo to read a legible version. Image courtesy of Hans Knot.
The plot was very predictable, but the film served the purpose of showcasing both Radio London and a number of virtually unknown artists. The stars of the film were William Lucas and Kenneth Cope. Lucas was a recognisable actor who had appeared in numerous films and TV dramas. Cope was largely known as a regular on the very popular TV soap opera 'Coronation Street'. It was not likely that either of these gentlemen would go down in the annals of film history for their roles in 'Dateline Diamonds'.
Philip Birch and I were credited as Technical Advisors to the film and had a couple of walk-on shots. Kenny Everett got to speak a line or two and Tony Windsor, Earl Richmond and our super chef, Mich were seen in the background in a few frames.
One scene was quite laughable. They showed Philip and me inside the studio grooving to the song being performed by the Chantelles. Then they cut away to the main deck of the ship, and there I was again. I was in two places at the same time! At the first screening of the film, I called Harold's attention to this odd situation. He just laughed and said, "Never mind, Ben, we'll just pretend you had a twin brother."
|Radlon MD Philip Birch (left - standing) watches through the glass with Ben in Pinewood's somewhat fanciful interpretation of Radio London's onboard studios. In reality, the studios aboard the Galaxy were nothing like this, and in any case would never have been sufficiently large to have accommodated three singers and a film crew. On the other side of the glass...
|...Ben peers through the glass as The Chantelles are supposedly singing a live number. The set-maker has thoughtfully added a background porthole for authenticity.
|Philip Birch and Ben Toney are credited as Technical Advisors. As Continuity person, Kay Mander should have been the one to spot Ben appearing in two places at once!
The artists who performed in the film were The Small Faces, Ray Anton, Kiki Dee, Mark Richardson, and the Chantelles. Of these, only the Small Faces were to find major chart success in the Sixties, but ten years later in 1976, Kiki Dee had a smash hit with Elton John when they recorded the duet 'Don't Go Breaking My Heart'.
The radio studio scene was filmed at Pinewood Studios, where a mock control room had been constructed. Philip Birch, Kenny Everett, and I had to go to Pinewood to record our bits. It didn't take long to make it a wrap, so we had plenty of time to go to the adjoining studio and watch Sean Connery go through his James Bond routine in a movie called 'Thunderball'. We had no idea at the time that we were observing the making of one of the all time great James Bond films.
See our two-page feature about 'Dateline Diamonds' here.