Stewart Darby’s memories of Sidney Bernstein

Let me give you, while it’s on my mind, a few Sidney stories, can I? This is fairly early days and Jack Smith (producer) had come across a very rare stamp and I was going to photograph him with this stamp with a glass, you know the sort of thing. The stamp die would be bigger than the stamp sort of thing. So I get in the lift, it must have been at the second floor because I used to have my bag in there and stuff, with, in those days, a Mamiya camera which was a twin lens. So it had a twin lens, one was for viewing, the other was for taking, with a flash on. And the door opens, the lift door, and I get in and there’s Sidney, Cecil, Alex, down to Denis, Julian Amyes – the top six. Joyce Wooller also. Sidney said to me, “Who are you going to photograph?” I said, “I’m going to photograph Jack Smith, Sir, with a rare stamp.” “Oh, and what’s that camera for?” And I explained that this is for viewing, that’s for taking. “And what do you need the flash for?” And he’s having, you know, a little nibble! I got out the fifth floor, it seemed like forever, and he’s challenging me. Anyway, I think I’ve answered everything and as I get out Norman gets in, Norman Frisby, my boss and I saw Norman later and I said, “What was that all about? Sidney was asking me about the camera, what I was doing, what was that for, what was that for?” He said, “Well, he looked at me and winked. He said, ‘I’ve just been taking a bit out of your man!'”

The other lovely story with Sidney, with Sir. I’d got a phone call from Norman Frisby. “Sidney wants to see you in London tomorrow in Golden Square. “What’s that about?” “No idea.” So I go to Golden Square and I go in and see Miss Hazelwood, Sidney’s secretary, sit in the reception and eventually I get shown into his office, leather chairs, and sit there and there’s another couple of guys and he said, “Thank you, gentlemen, for coming.” He said, “Stewart, I want you to know you’ve volunteered to do my daughter’s wedding!” What! Jane, she was called. I had met her. I said, “Oh, OK Sir.” And the other guy was, I think, sound and lighting. Gave me a date. This is a hiding to nothing, this! Long story short, the day comes along. Nick Plowright’s going to film it. It’s outside of Brighton somewhere he lived so I’d gone to the house, I’d made contact and it was gonna be horse and cart to the Registrars and then back to a marquee in the grounds. Well, I’m there early doors like you do and it’s the one day I didn’t eat me breakfast. I had 2 or 3 cups of coffee! Not that I ever show nerves. I’d never shown I could ever do anything, no, no. It might be in there but I’ve always been a confident person. So, OK I do the pictures outside, the horse and cart and the carriage and I’ve now got to beat the carriage to the Registrars, which I did, and there they arrive, bang, bang, bang, do the wedding and I’ve now got to beat them back, which I did, we go in the gardens – fortunately a nice day – and one word was said to me, “Everything that moves, photograph it!” Really. I went around doing groups and then Sidney saying, “You’ve got enough of me now” and I thought, ‘I just need more of him’ but you wouldn’t go and say, “I really do need you here, please, Sir” so I went through his daughter, saying, “I need your Dad on this picture” so everything went smoothly and I shot a dozen rolls of film I think and, as I say, everything went extremely smooth and well. I drove back that night, drove to the labs the next morning and said, “Whatever you do, make sure the dev’s fresh! Everything! Because if these go up the wall you won’t get the blame, it will be, ‘Did you hear Stew Darby made a mess of Sidney’s daughter’s wedding?!'” 25 years up the swanny, if you see what I mean! Anyway, everything was perfect which produced a dozen albums and I got a lovely letter from Sidney saying, ‘You made the day in the Bernstein’s family’ etc etc so you couldn’t ask for more than that really.


And the other nice story with Sidney. Graeme Kay and I went to London. Sidney had been honoured with an Oscar, a plaque, whatever it was, it was a face I think, for services to Television if I’m not mistaken. That would have been in the eighties I would say. Richard Attenborough presented him with this on stage and he came off stage and he gave it to me and he said, “Look after that for me.” I slept with it under my pillow I think. Great times!


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