Photoplay 10/63, Vol. 14, No. 10, p. 24


Around the Studios with Ken Ferguson


Booth Hits the Big Time

The flames soared towards the roof--it was quite a blaze.  Bunks were burning fiercely.  Rafters fell to the floor.  In the middle of this inferno at Twickenham Studios stood actor James Booth.

I was on the set of Zulu, a spectacular production which is being produced by Stanley Baker and Cy Endfield, with Stanley playing a leading role.  Zulu tells the story of a fantastic day during the struggles against Zulu warriors, in which eleven Englishmen were awarded the V.C. for courageous action.

Jimmy Booth plays Hook, a soldier who rescues his sergeant who is trapped in the flames when a hospital is attacked by Zulus.

Before the cameras rolled on this tricky sequence, firemen and technicians made last minute preparations in order to avert a real studio fire.  Jimmy Booth stood watching them.

"By the time I've finished my part in this picture I reckon I'll deserve the V.C.," he said.  "I've never done anything like this before."  "Nervous?" I asked.

"I'll let you know when I'm in the middle of that little lot!" he smiled.

He was assured all would be well.  The burning rafter, which was to fall within inches of him, would fall within inches of him.

"I only hope they're right," he said.

"If it gets too hot in there for you, Jimmy, you know what to do!" shouted director Endfield.

"Don't worry, mate, I'll know what to do," he replied.  "Get the hell out of there--and fast!"

"Close the studio doors," yelled a first assistant director. 
"We're ready to go!"

The cameras rolled.  On the word "action" the bunks were set alight.  Within seconds the set was on fire.  Down came the burning rafter, almost smashing against Booth.  But all as well.  It was a great scene.

"We'll do it again," called Endfield.  "Too much flame that time.  We couldn't see Jimmy."

He had been there all right.  But the flames between him and the camera had obscured him from view.  Next time the shot was perfect.

Later I talked with Booth in his dressing-room.  Big things are happening to him since he stared in Sparrows Can't Sing.  For a long time, he had proved his talent in second, third and even fourth billed parts.

"Sparrows was my first real opportunity," he said.  "And I took it.  The trouble was, in the past, I don't think people knew what to do with me."  "It was the same with Anthony Quinn earlier in his career," I said.

"In some ways we are alike," he agreed. "Not physically, but in that we're not obvious leading men.  I think , with Quinn, people were frightened of using him in a leading role.  Then he got his break and he took it from there."

I can see the same thing happening to Booth.  I've always thought him one of the most versatile actors in the country.

'It 's about time I started blowing my own trumpet," he said.  "After all, everyone else does.  Take this part in Zulu, for instance.  I'm told it was written in specially for me.  The Americans apparently liked me in Sparrows and, because of this, I was asked to play this role in Zulu.  I was committed to a new film, French Dressing, at the time and I'm told they held up Zulu to wait for me."

In French Dressing Booth plays a deck-chair attendant who plans to put a small seaside resort on the map by arranging for a film festival to take place there.

"Personally I can't stand film festivals," he said.  "I've never been to one, but the thought of them leaves me cold.  So many people all fighting for attention and publicity.  Not for me.  I'd much rather stay at home with my family."

Following his work on Zulu, Jimmy went straight into Rosebud, with Sarah Miles, which is directed by Sidney Furie.

"It's a marvellous part for me," he said.  "I play a press photographer who takes portraits of beautiful rich girls.  He tries to seduce them all and, when he succeeds, he puts a little cross on the huge photographs he has in  his flat.

"Then he meets a beautiful girl who is broke.  That's Sarah's part.  The film tells the story of these two people."

Following this there is a chance Booth will appear as a guest star in the new Cliff Richard musical.

"I'm supposed to be playing a Mexican bandit," he explained.  "My men are The Shadows.  When I capture Cliff we sing together.  Sounds fun, doesn't it?  After that it's on to Hollywood for the first time.  I'm hoping to make a picture there called Other People's Babies.  So, you see, I've got plenty lined up.  I'll really have to work hard."