Stewart Darby remembers going to India for Staying On

I used to go to work in the morning, shirt and tie, suit, smart because often the phone would go at five to six – David Plowright – “Stew, got some visiting the Penthouse, can you whip up and do a quick pic?” “Absolutely.” And produce them before they went. You know what I mean? So I loved being on call. I was a Granada man 150%! Absolutely!

But then I was also fortunate. I got not all round the world but I went to India, for Staying On, which was Trevor Howard and Celia Johnson. I have a feeling that could have been their first get-together since the famous film, Brief Encounter. That was a funny story because I went for about 10 days and that was brand new to Granada, of course, and we were staying in a place called Shimla, which is in the Himalayas, about 10,000 feet up and I don’t think they’d been checked over much! They were trying to feed us raw chicken and the guys were asking for egg and chips and stuff! But I’d gone for about 10 days and Celia Johnson had slipped in the bathroom and got a black eye and I’m there to photograph them with the view of the Himalayas. And I thought, ‘Oh my God, what do I do here?!’ And Leslie Diamond (Granada General Manager) came out for a few days. You remember Leslie, of course? Anyway, I kept checking, “How’s your eye?” “Oh, I can see it!” In the end I think I had 2 days before I’m going back and ‘I’ve just gotta do something!’ and I actually turned her away from camera so her black eye was on the wrong side of me and the pictures were lovely, you know, pulled in the Himalayas and they had a dog there and fantastic. And funny story, when we got back Leslie Diamond, who was at the side of me while I was lining these pictures up, doing pictures, when I got back he said, “I don’t understand this! I was at the side of you with the same camera, yours are 30 x 40 on the wall and I can’t get mine to 10 x 8!” And I said, “That’s why I’m the photographer and you are the General Manager!” you see what I mean! But that was, again, fantastic! I mean I’d played snooker with Trevor Howard in, because we were staying, there wasn’t room at the hotel and we stayed at a Prince’s Holiday Home. Funnily enough, a couple, Mrs Hall, she was called, from Crosby. She’d actually stayed on after the Raj. Oh when I think back! What a name to be friendly with, you know, fantastic!

There was a little story there. Like you do, you take your litre of Scotch in and I’d suspected it was being stolen while I was out on location so I started taping it up and putting a mark on the bottle, on the tape! And one night I thought, ‘I’m sure it is going down!’ and I mentioned it to a couple of the guys, “No, she wouldn’t do that!” Anyway, it was Bells that I’d got. One night there was a meeting, a conference in the house and whatever I heard was, you know, between the 4 walls. And eventually somebody said, “Have you got any whisky?” and I said, “Well, I’ve got some, I’ll bring it down.” In the meantime Mrs Hall said, “I’ve got some” and it came down and it was Bells! There’s no two ways about it, it was Bells Whisky! She’d been sieving it off, I think, really! But, yeah, funny story!

Photo by Stewart Darby

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