An interview with Patricia Roc conducted in May 2000 by H Jaremko
© 2000, 2004 H.Jaremko /
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Sadly, Patricia is now no longer with us - but in order to commemorate her birthday I set aside some time and worked on part two of my interview with her. I hope you all enjoy this and remember the wonderful actress and lady that Patricia Roc was...

Initials are used to represent who is talking (PR = Patricia Roc, HJ = me).

(continued from part one)

Head Shot of Patricia Roc HJ: Getting back to your early career I read that you did some time on the stage in France is that correct?

PR: No, not in France, in England.

HJ: You did spend some time in France in those early days though?

PR: I made a film test for Jean Gabin and I went with my mother, who chaperoned me. Unfortunately the result of this was that he thought I was too young for the part he had in mind. I was very disappointed because I loved France. I got my opportunity to work in France Later, after the war. I did quite a lot in Spain, Italy and other countries too... I've been all over really, but you don't hear about my foreign films so much.

HJ: Yes it's a real pity. I think that in England we tend to ignore European films and I think we really ought not to.

PR: I worked with a lot of interesting people on those films...

HJ: So in actual fact you didn't spend much time in France before the war, it was after...

PR: I only spent time in France when I was finishing my education, you might say. And then that was just in order to learn the language and acquire more sophistication ... lose some of the schoolgirl! (laughs) That was the main reason why. It was only afterwards, from forty nine onwards that I worked quite a bit over there. I would come back to England two or three times to do a film and then I went back abroad again.

HJ: Do you like England?

PR: Oh, I adore England! I mean the country especially. I love the country.

HJ: Do you have any favourite part of England?

PR: Not really... I'm crazy about Scotland, particularly the Isle of Skye, that is one of my favourite places. I got to know it very well. I love the Scottish people, I think they're lovely... wonderful. Personally though, I'm a hundred per cent Londoner, I love my London.

HJ: Did you ever come down to Brighton? I'm just personally curious as that's where I live at present...

PR: Oh I know Brighton very, very well. A lot of actors live in Brighton. And my sister's daughter, she lives in Brighton...Well she lives in Rottingdean, actually. But Brighton, I used to go down quite often on the Brighton Belle!

HJ: You mentioned you had two sisters which sister's daughter was this..?

PR: That's the middle one, the one that's still alive... Fred Perry's daughter. (Ed: one of Pat's sisters married Fred Perry the Tennis star)

HJ: I wanted to go through some of your films now, and see what memories you had of making them. The first one of course would be "Rebel Son", your first film.

PR: Yes, that was exciting, that was my first film, and it was very glamorous, marvelous clothes, very, very nice, I mean, lovely. I thoroughly enjoyed that. That was made at Denham and immediately they made me feel like a big film star. It was absolutely gorgeous! When I think about it, I really enjoyed every film I made. I mean I just loved acting. I used to go and see all the rushes and everything. ... then I did "The Gaunt Stranger", that was at Ealing Studios, with Will Fyffe, dear old Will Fyffe. I have a marvelous autograph book of every film I made, of people that I worked with. I looked through it the other day, and do you know, they're practically all dead. Its ghastly... I'll be joining them shortly (laughs). It really is rather depressing in a way! But, it also brings back so many happy memories you know. I just read them again and what they wrote is gorgeous. But to get back to the films - I did the "The Gaunt Stranger" and then "The Mind of Mr. Reeder"...

HJ: Yes, "The Gaunt Stranger" I've seen, but I haven't seen "The Rebel Son" or "The Mind of Mr. Reeder". I don't think they're shown very often unfortunately.

PR: No, they're not... you know, I learned my job by doing what you might call "B" pictures. I think if you're in films you can only learn filming by filming. So I did it that way. I took anything that came along at that time in order to learn. So there was "The Mind of Mr. Reeder"... and then there was "Missing People", that was in thirty nine again... and then, "A Window in London". Well I enjoyed that because of Michael Redgrave!

HJ: Did you like Michael Redgrave?

PR: Oh... He was a charmer! He was so nice.

HJ: ...And you were cast as his wife in that film!

PR: He was so sweet... Then I did a film called "Doctor O'Dowd", which was rather nice. I was sort of governess of a girl called Peggy Cummins... She was only a little girl in that, she was marvelous, acted beautifully... I don't know what's happened to her now, she disappeared to Hollywood and I never heard what happened to her...

HJ: Do you have any memories of Sally Gray who was in "Window in London"? She is another actress who is very elusive and information is scarce.

PR: Not especially, but she was very lovely. You see, we never had a scene together and never worked together. But she was a very beautiful girl. She married a very wealthy man and became Lady something or other. She disappeared into the aristocracy and gave acting up. But she was a lovely girl, a really lovely girl.

HJ: So then you went on to do "Doctor O'Dowd"...

PR: Yes, that was with Peggy Cummins. Then "Pack Up Your Troubles" was another picture made at Ealing, that was an army film. I had to smoke in that and I don't smoke... but my youngest sister does, or did, and she laughed every time she saw me with the cigarette. I thought I was doing very well but she thought I was absolutely rotten (laughs). I didn't enjoy it! But then came "The Farmer's Wife" which I did enjoy. That was done with Michael Wilding and Nora Swinburne who was an absolute sweetheart. I enjoyed doing that one and I sang in it ... "My Wife's Family" which came after that was also a fun picture to do and then "Let The People Sing" was nice. That was with Alastair Sim and Oliver Wakefield who was killed during the war, in the air... "Suspected Person" was another one. That was made at Rock Studios in Elstree (where part of my film name came from)... "We'll Meet Again" with Vera Lynn was a lovely film but it was also such fun to work with Vera. "Millions Like Us"... all those early films and I was still learning the job...

HJ: "Millions Like Us" seemed to be a pivotal film in your early career...

PR: It was a great,great success. I loved making it with Frank Launder and Sidney Gilliat... And I had that darling, darling man in it... Gordon Jackson

HJ: Yes, he said of you in that film; "I always held Patricia Roc as if she was a time bomb". What do you think he meant by that?

PR: (laughs) Well, he was a gunner in the war, and he was taken out to play this film, so ... Oh, he was so sweet, lovely...

HJ: Do you think he was in awe of you?

PR: I think it was still early in his career and he had hadn't done a lot of work before, you know. He was a real Scotsman, so charming!

HJ: Yes, but he did a lot of work after that! (laughs)

PR: Oh yes, he was an excellent actor, really excellent. I was very fond of him, absolutely delightful young man...

HJ: And then "Two Thousand Women".

PR: "Two Thousand Women" was another Frank Launder and Sidney Gilliat one, which I loved doing too. That was great fun. All us girls together... It was an internment camp sort of thing. Then there was "Love Story", which was another great success, this time with Stewart Granger and Maggie Lockwood. And "Madonna of the Seven Moons" which was with Phyllis Calvert...

HJ: Yes, that was a curious film, I enjoyed that one.

PR: Yes it was nice. Dear old Phyllis played my mother, I mean... we were the same age! (laughs) That was already in nineteen forty four, you see all these were all made during the war. We really worked very hard. I was doing two and sometimes three films together. I could be doing the exteriors on one, and reading out one that I was going to do and working on yet another one.

HJ: Then came "Johnny Frenchman" which was filmed in Cornwall...

PR: Yes, filmed in Cornwall. It was a super film, because we had a lovely French actress in there, Francoise Rosay. When Paris was freed we all sang the Marseillais down in Cornwall. We used a village, sometimes it was supposed to be a French village, and sometimes it was an English, or a Cornish, fishing village. And we used French fishermen in the film, as extras. There was a lovely camaraderie about it. So I loved making that film, it was great fun.

HJ: Then you went to America, to Hollywood to do "Canyon Passage"

PR: Yes, when the war ended I was sent over to Hollywood.

HJ: How did you find that. What did you think of Hollywood?

PR: Oh I thought it was quite wonderful. I mean there's not much difference working there or working anywhere, quite frankly, but of course they're very much on the ball. The sound equipment they had was marvelous... you could hear a tear fall. You could practically hear it running down your cheek! The technical side was marvelous...

HJ: What did you think of the actual film, "Canyon Passage".

PR: Oh, so-so. I had wonderful time though... I was on horseback for about six weeks, which I adored. The locations were so beautiful, everything really was wonderful, the Redwoods, you know, California, and up at Diamond Lake and Crater Lake. I was also really very spoiled. They joked, calling me a limey and everyone had great fun.

HJ: Did you collect any interesting autographs over there?

PR: Everybody from the film of course. But I didn't go round with the purpose of collecting autographs. I only collected autographs of the people I worked with. My sister was over there then too and she had a small boy at that time...

HJ: Did you stay with her when you were over in Hollywood?

PR: No I didn't stay,no, I had an apartment. Her son was only three then so she had her hands full.

HJ: You had an apartment?

PR: Yes that's right and I worked at Universal Studios. But I loved Hollywood. I was very lucky to go when I did for the simple reason that five years later, you had McCarthy and everything changed, the television came, and now... I'm quite sure I wouldn't recognise it. Everything has changed so much. I still have the memories of the glamour of Hollywood's golden era, which really doesn't exist any more. It's completely, completely changed...

HJ: Was there any opportunity offered to you after "Canyon Passage" to do more in Hollywood?

PR: Yes, but I was under contract to Rank and they wouldn't let me. I had to come back and do something straight away for them.

HJ: Do you think you would have stayed over there if you'd had the opportunity?

PR: I wanted to do another film or so, you know, so I'd have liked to. I had a wonderful reception over there. I was there for six months making "Canyon Passage" and then I stayed there for a little longer for the exteriors and so on. I went back later just to visit for a couple of months when I was between films. But I really loved Hollywood, I had a wonderful time, I can't say anything bad about it. I thought it was out of this world. But don't forget I went one week after the end of the war. Living in blackouts, collecting bits of string, you know, all that kind of thing. It was quite a contrast!

HJ: It must have seemed a different world completely.

PR: Oh... they had electric lights and everything. I was rather shaken by the waste of food, I thought it was terrible after rationing! I went over by clipper, twenty four hours it took to get to America in those days. I had to go by way of Baltimore, because they didn't have a place in New York for the old clippers to land ... It floats you see - it's a sea plane - it can't land in an normal airport. Mind you, I went all the way over thinking 'Well if it comes down into the sea at least I'm going to be safe' (laughs) ... But in reality one or two big waves and I think it would have gone under, but you didn't think of that then. But it took twenty four hours to get there. I stopped over in Baltimore and had my first night there. The first thing they gave me to eat was Maryland chicken. An oval plate the size of a house, it was enormous! Then next morning I went up by train to New York. It was on the train that I found the waste unbelievable! You know, throwing away butter, people putting it on their plates and didn't eat it. I was slightly shocked, I mean, I didn't say anything because it wasn't the thing to do, but I was shocked. When I arrived in New York the press met me and they said, 'Miss Roc, what about cheesecake?'. And I said, 'Oh yes I love it!', thinking they were going to give me some cheesecake. I didn't know what they were talking about. I knew later... (Ed: a "cheesecake" picture meant a photograph in a sexy pose - typically revealing legs or perhaps in a swimsuit) But the misunderstandings over language worked both ways - I called all the carpenters over there "Chippy" like we do in England, and they all thought it was a terrible thing, they thought I was awful. Then it was explained and then we made up and I was their friend (laughs). There were such a lot of mistakes I made at the time, but there's such a difference, you know.

HJ: Even more of a difference at that time I should think, because of the fact that communications weren't the same as they are now. Everyone talks to everyone else these days, but back then...

PR: Oh yes, it was very different then... But when the era of Hollywood finished I never went back, I wouldn't want to, I just don't think I could enjoy myself anymore there. Its no longer what it was, I don't know there was something about it back then...

HJ: Everyone who was there seems to say that about it...

PR: I also visited San Francisco. I don't think I'd enjoy San Francisco today either. But I visited almost the whole of California ... I had the most wonderful time and I have the most marvelous memories of it all. Of course going immediately after the war as well... it was just so luxurious after all the hardship in England, I can't even begin to tell you what that was like. It was simply extraordinary.

HJ: Then after you came back from Hollywood ...

PR: When I went to Hollywood I was under contract to Maurice Osterer and Gainsborough Pictures. When I came back I found out that Arthur Rank had bought out Maurice Osterer so I was suddenly under contract to Rank, you see.

HJ: I see. Then you went into "The Wicked Lady", is that correct?

PR: No... I did "The Wicked Lady" before I went to Hollywood. It came out while I was over there.

HJ: Do you remember much about "The Wicked Lady"? How did you feel about James Mason?

PR: Oh I loved "The Wicked Lady", we had such fun with that. Oh, that was just gorgeous. We did the exteriors at that wonderful house in Norfolk, Blickling Hall... Such a beautiful house... And in fact they used it when they were shooting the remake of "The Wicked Lady". I felt that film was a mistake...

HJ: Yes, I didn't think much of the remake.

PR: With Faye Dunaway. They kept saying Faye Dunaway had "Dunaway" with her career. She hadn't of course, but you know, its what they said at the time. I think it was a great mistake, it was nothing like what we'd done. They tried to make it so sexy, so this, that and the other.

HJ: No, it doesn't often work when they try and do that. I suppose they were attempting to update it.

PR: It lost everything. I think the original is now quite a classic though...

HJ: That's right. I named my website after it.

PR: Well, I thoroughly enjoyed working on it. It was a joy working with Maggie. I adored her. James Mason was terrific too.

HJ: So then you went to Hollywood, and then you came back and did "The Brothers", is that right?

PR: Yes, then I did "The Brothers" in nineteen forty seven. That of course is one of my favourite films.

HJ: It must have seemed an amazing time because you went to America and saw all that luxury and then went to Skye.

PR: Well, it was different... (laughs). I didn't mind that at all, I just loved the film so much. I just liked the whole thing. I adore the Isle of Skye and as I said I like the Scots people too. "The Brothers" was wonderful.

HJ: ... and the whisky to warm you up ...

PR: (laughs) That was only when I went swimming. I thought it was such a good film. It was really very well lit. It was made by David MacDonald who was such a darling. He produced a war documentary, "Desert Victory" which won an academy award. "The Brothers" was his first film after he came out of the army. He was a hundred per cent Scotsman. All the characters in it were Scots... Oh, it was wonderful, I was up there for six weeks.

HJ: Do you think in retrospect after all these years it is still your all time favourite film?

PR: Absolutely, yes - it's definitely my favourite... I was in "Holiday Camp" after that but it was a nothing really...

HJ: It was just a cameo part...

PR: You know, I wasn't even paid. I think they gave me a tatty bit of fur as a sort of compensation (laughs). I've never seen the film.

HJ: I didn't think it was too bad. Perhaps a little old fashioned for a film made in nineteen forty seven, it was a bit more like a nineteen thirties film but it was entertaining...

PR: I think Jack Warner was in it or something, I can't remember.

HJ: Hazel Court was in it...

PR: Hazel Court, yes. Now, she was a pretty girl. Lovely girl. Then, of course, the next film that I enjoyed very much was "So Well Remembered". That was a lovely film, with John Mills and Trevor Howard. Then came "Jassy"!

HJ: Yes, how did you feel about "Jassy"?

PR: It was quite fun. "When the Bough Breaks" I thought was a very good picture too.

HJ: I don't think I've seen that one, either unfortunately. These films are not shown very often on television or in cinemas when they have classic seasons...

PR: No, well, that's worth seeing actually. That's with Rosamund John and, er... he was called Rob Owen but he became Bill Owen. He changed his name. No, it was a good film. Another film I did enjoy very much was "One Night With You". That was delightful. It was made very near where I live now near Minusio, around this lake. It featured the opera star Nino Martini, who sang most beautifully. It was photographed by my husband. Beautiful photography too!

HJ: Ah, Andre Thomas...

PR: Yes. That was really something. That was made in nineteen forty eight, you see, and we got married in forty nine. So that was quite interesting.

HJ: You met him, then, during the filming, I presume, and things led on from there?

PR: Yes. And it was directed by Terence Young who went on to do many of the Bond films in the sixties... He has also sadly left us.

HJ: Then came "Perfect Woman"

PR: Oh yes I enjoyed making that one a lot...

HJ: It seems to be like everyone on that film is having a good time.

PR: Oh, a wonderful time... And they were so mean to me because they tried to make me laugh, you know, and they never said the same thing twice running! You know, the stage players. There I was standing there, supposedly a dumb robot and they'd go and say all sorts of things. This was just during the rehearsals though. That was Nigel Patrick and dear old Stanley Hollaway... Absolutely wonderful, a wonderful couple.

HJ: So, would you say some of the script was made up as they went along, ad hoc?

PR: Well, they added in bits and pieces. They were wicked! Absolutely wicked... unbelievable! They would make up things, but you couldn't use them in the film. But it was so funny everyone had one laugh from the beginning of the film, to the end. What came after "Perfect Woman"?

HJ: "Retour a la Vie"

PR: Ah, that's a film I made in France - very enjoyable and then came "The Man On the Eiffel Tower"...

HJ: Yes, which you said you didn't think was very good?

PR: Well, it was lovely working with dear old Charles Laughton, he was absolutely darling.

HJ: I've never seen him do anything wrong, really ... he was rather remarkable.

PR: Oh, he was so nice, I loved him. He was a sweetheart.

HJ: I really thought that in that film they should have given you a bigger part to play... just to offset the story a bit, you know...

PR: I've read the original script and the book, and the part is not much more than what I had really. They're not important in the story, the women.

HJ: Then it was "Fugitive from Montreal".

PR: Yes, I went to Canada for that.

HJ: Oh, I didn't realise you'd been in Canada.

PR: Yes, we did the film in Canada. It was nice as I hadn't been there before. We were outside Montreal, on location...

HJ: How did it turn out as I haven't seen this one...

PR: It was good in its own way. At least I thought it was... I quite enjoyed doing it... Though I don't think I've seen a finished version of it. I don't think you'll find it anywhere it's one of the more obscure ones... Then came "Circle of Danger" which I enjoyed.

HJ: Yes, with Ray Milland.

PR: Yes, I enjoyed working on that very much. Then I did "Something Money Can't Buy" which was an absolute delight and then "Blackjack" which I thoroughly enjoyed too. That was with George Sanders.

HJ: That one was so beautifully filmed ...

PR: Yes, we were six months on the isle of Majorca. The whole thing was exterior, you see. Any interiors we filmed in studios in Madrid. We used practically the whole island at various points in the film. But it has changed now. I mean, so much has grown up there now and when we were there, there was literally nothing. No hotel or anything. Now I think there are three, four hotels in that spot. It was fifty years ago, you know... and back then it really was lovely, perfect. After "Blackjack" came "My Life is Yours". I did that one in Italy.

HJ: And then "Cartouche"...

PR: Yes, with Richard Basehart. That was in Italy too and then "The Widow" again in Italy... which unfortunately I haven't seen. That was directed by Lewis Milestone. I've been trying to get a copy of it actually, It's been shown in Italy... and I believe it's been shown in America. It was a lovely story but I never saw it though I thoroughly enjoyed it when I was working on it. Then came "House in the Woods". That was nothing much, really...

HJ: That was a strange film...

PR: I haven't seen it. "The Hypnotist" too. "Bluebeards Ten Honeymoons" was just... well, I was one of the wives. George Sanders and ten wives...

HJ: Yes, it was George Sanders killing off ten wives...

PR: Well, quite a lot of films in my career really (laughs)...

HJ: Are there any of those films in particular that you are searching for and haven't seen that you would like to?

PR: The only one I would really like to see that I haven't is "The Widow"... I've got copies of all the ones that I really enjoy.

HJ: Did you manage to get a copy of "Blackjack"?

PR: Yes, I have. I was delighted to get that because that I hadn't seen either. And that really brought back a lot of memories, my goodness...

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