Monday 25 April 2016

Carry On Hero of the Week: Ernest Steward


This blog forms part of an occasional series looking at important yet little known or publicly appreciated contibutors to the Carry On series. So far I've included a range of very talented people from both in front and behind the camera. Today we're going back behind the camera with a little look at the career of Ernest Steward.

Ernest Steward is a name many of you will recognise from the opening credits of many a British film and indeed many a Carry On film but as far as I can locate, there is little recorded about the man himself. Born in London in 1910, he began his career in film in the late 1940s as a camera operator. His early credits included David Lean's Great Expectations starring John Mills (1946) and London Belongs To Me (1948) which starred the likes of Alastair Sim and Richard Attenborough.

As a Director of Photography he tended to specialise in light comedy films. Relatively early on in his career he formed a productive relationship with legendary female film producer Betty Box (Peter Rogers' wife) and worked prolifically with both Box and her director, Gerald's brother Ralph Thomas. This working relationship included each of the Doctor comedies starring the likes of Dirk Bogarde and Leslie Phillips (seven films in total from Doctor in the House in 1954 through to Doctor in Trouble in 1970). 

Other familiar titles Ernest worked on at around this time included Upstairs and Downstairs (1959); A Pair of Briefs (1962); Crooks Anonymous (1962); The Wrong Arm of the Law (1963); I've Gotta Horse in 1965 (starring Amanda Barrie) and Deadlier Than The Male in 1967, with future Carry On Behind star Elke Sommer. Ernest began his association with the Carry On films with one of the best loved classics of the entire series, Carry On Up The Khyber in 1968. He went on to work as Director of Photography on a further nine Carry On adventures including the likes of Camping, Up The Jungle, At Your Convenience, Matron and Dick. His last credit with the Carry Ons was for England in 1976. During this period he seemed to alternate with that other renowned Director of Photography, the late great Alan Hume.


Following the completion of his last Carry On in 1976 Ernest then moved into television. For two years in the late 1970s he struck up a fruitful relationship with Mark 1 Productions. If that name doesn't ring a bell, the titles that company produced will. Ernest first worked on seven episodes of The New Avengers in late 1976 and into 1977. This was a reboot of the original, classic swinging sixties adventure series. This seventies remake starred Patrick Macnee as the legendary John Steed with co-starring roles for Joanna Lumley as Purdey and Gareth Hunt as Gambit. Following on from this came a run of eleven episodes as lighting cameraman on the classic crime fighting series The Professionals. Ernest was a regular fixture for much of the first series. 


After all this dabbling in television, Ernest Steward returned to the world of film for his last ever job as Director of Photography. This was a reboot of the classic St Trinian's film series in 1980. The Wildcats of St Trinian's, despite starring the likes of Sheila Hancock, Maureen Lipman, Michael Hodern, Julia McKenzie and Rosalind Knight. After this film was completed, Steward chose to retire from the industry. 

Ernest Steward died in Yorkshire at the age of 79 in 1990. Little else is known about the man who helped bring so many of our favourite comedy films to life. Ernest was responsible for the photography in the classic dining room sequence at the end of Carry On Up The Khyber. That alone gives him legendary status in my eyes. 


If anyone knows anything more about the late Ernest Steward, please do get in touch as I'd love to hear from you. 

You can follow me on Twitter @CarryOnJoan and also on Facebook

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