British Universities Film & Video Council

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Norman William Roper

Profile

Born
c.1912
Death
6 January 2000
Dates
1931-1978
Role
Cameraman, Film editor
Newsreels / Cinemagazines
British Paramount News; Warwork News; Pathe News; British Movietone News
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Notes
Norman Roper was interviewed for the BECTU History Project, recording no. 209 (1991). The Pathé footage is in canisters No.2542D and No.3817B. There is a photograph of Roper editing with a Moviola in Film Review, April 1957, p.22.

Career

Norman Roper joined the shipping department of British Paramount News in 1931, recalling later that ‘I would have liked to be a cameraman’: ‘That’s what I intended when I went for my job interview in 1931. I was a lad then, stayed for two years, earned £163;1.50 a week, and never did get camera training...I used to rise at 4am and, travelling by tube or bus, I had to collect all the film that our regional cameramen had sent to London stations, Paddington, Kings Cross and Victoria and deliver the cans at our North Acton laboratories by 8am.' However, Roper was also sent out as a cameraman’s assistant on some stories, and helped Fred Wilson pirate the cup final in about 1931. In 1933 Roper moved to the cutting rooms as assistant film editor, but still did some work as cameraman’s assistant, helping to pirate one Test Match with Jimmy Gemmell [qv]. In September 1939 Roper was called in to compile an issue for the outbreak of war, using library footage of Hitler and Chamberlain. As he recalled, ‘it was a nerve shattering experience, nobody knew exactly what was going to happen.' The result was ‘WAR!!!' in British Paramount News No.889. Roper claimed that within months he was effectively editing British Paramount News - presumably as assistant to Tommy Cummins [qv], and perhaps later as replacement for the assistant editor Jim Wright [qv]. Roper remained in this post throughout the war, noting later that ‘the hours were horrendous’: ‘I was working night and day on newsreels and hardly ever saw my wife.'

In 1942 Roper also became editor of Lord Beaverbrook’s new Warwork News, which was edited at British Paramount News and ensured that he would not be called up. In September 1944 Roper edited the newsreel of the Arnhem drop, working through the night and cutting 5,000 feet of film down to 900 feet in just six hours. The editing was finished by 8.00 am, and the reel was dispatched to cinemas in the evening.' The item appeared as ‘GREATEST AIRBORNE OPERATION’ in British Paramount News No.1416. In 1948 Roper left Paramount, transferring to the Pathe News as chief film editor, rising to become successively deputy editor, editor, and general manager. In July 1953 Roper appeared in Pathe’s own footage of ‘Pathe Newsreel Staff at Work,' in the News Cutting Room with Ted Bilsdon [qv] and Eric Marr [qv]. He even provided the commentary for ‘THE AIR SHOW’ in Pathe News No.56/72 - a story that he also edited and cut. Roper was filmed again in 1962, in the cutting room with Bob Risk [qv] and John Stagg [qv]. In 1963 Roper won a newsreel industry award for his editing of the Pathe News item on President Kennedy’s assassination. With the close of the Pathe newsreel in February 1970 Roper became chief film editor of British Movietone News, remaining with the company until his retirement in March 1978.

Sources

E. Walbridge ‘A Life in the News,' Saga Magazine, October 1992, pp.44-47: The Veteran: Magazine of the Cinema and Television Veterans,' Winter 1994, pp.19-20; Spring 1995, pp.16-17: N. Roper to M. Weston, 10/11/1995; e-mails from his daughter Wendy Channing, November 2000.

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