|Gilbert Taylor, director of photography on Star Wars|
Star Wars owed its huge success largely to the young people who came out to see it, but many of the those who made it were industry veterans. Some had been working for almost half a century.
Today, Episode Nothing looks back at the debuts of some of the key talents involved in the original 1977 film.
|Rookery Nook, 1930|
As far as I can tell – and I'm happy to be corrected – that film is Rookery Nook, released in 1930.
Britain had only made its first talking picture the year before. And Gilbert Taylor, the 16-year-old lad who was assistant cameraman on Rookery Nook, was an amazing 47 years away from making his biggest movie, Star Wars.
In 1932, he became a clapper-loader on an Alfred Hitchcock film, Number Seventeen. George Lucas wouldn't even be born for another 12 years.
In 1948, at the age of 34, Taylor would earn his first credit as a cinematographer, on The Guinea Pig, and would go on to work on a succession of big British movies including Front Page Story (1954), Yield to the Night (1956) and Ice Cold in Alex (1958). Then came such pioneering movies as Dr Strangelove and A Hard Day's Night (both 1964) and Repulsion (1965). He wold work for Hitchcock again on Frenzy (1972) before being hired for the horror blockbuster The Omen (1976).
In 1976, at the age of 62, Taylor would have a sometimes fractious relationship with George Lucas on the biggest movie of his career.
Here are some other Star Wars debuts, starting form the earliest.
Alex McCrindle (General Dodonna). Debut: The 39 Steps, 1935
|The 39 Steps, 1935|
This one has to count as unconfirmed, because it's not listed on IMDB or other sites. But according to some obituaries, Alex McCrindle appears as a newspaper reporter in Alfred Hitchcock's classic The 39 Steps, aged 24, a full 41 years before he would film his part as General Dodonna, briefing the Rebel pilots in Star Wars.
A member of the UK Communist Party in the 1950s and the founder of Equity in Scotland, McCrindle was 65 when he was one of only two actors in the original Star Wars to intone its catchphrase: "May the Force be with you."
Peter Cushing (Grand Moff Tarkin). Debut: The Man in the Iron Mask, 1939
|Peter Cushing working as Louis Hayward's |
stand-in in The Man in the Iron Mask
The 26-year-old Peter Cushing had just a bit part in James Whale's adventure movie, being cut down by Warren William. His main role on the film had been to stand in for star Louis Hayward in the split-screen sequences where Hayward interacted with his own twin. Star Wars was 37 years away.
The young British actor had saved for a one-way ticket to Hollywood, and would appear with Laurel and Hardy the following year, in A Chump at Oxford. But his greatest successes would be back at home: In Laurence Olivier's Hamlet (1948), as an early television star in the 1950s, and as a movie star in a cycle of horror films starting with Hammer's The Curse of Frankenstein, 19 years before his work on Star Wars.
Phil Brown (Uncle Owen). Debut: I Wanted Wings, 1941
|I Wanted Wings, 1941|
|Phil Brown in Star Wars|
Shelagh Fraser (Aunt Beru). Debut: Welcome, Mr Washington, 1944
|A shot from the rarely seen Welcome, |
Mr Washington, with Peggy Cummins
|Shelagh Fraser on the |
set of Star Wars
Welcome, Mr Washington, was thought lost for many years, but was rediscovered and stored in the British Film Institute's archive in 2016.
Its original release date was May 18, 1944 – four days after a boy named George Walton Lucas was born in Modesto, California.
Alec Guinness (Obi-Wan Kenobi). Debut: Great Expectations, 1946
|Alec Guinness, left, in Great Expectations|
Alec Guinness was on stage from the age of 20, but he did not appear in a movie until the age of 32, when he played Herbert Pocket in David Lean's Great Expectations.
A long and successful film career followed, including Ealing Studios comedies such as Kind Hearts and Coronets (1949), The Lavender Hill Mob (1951) and The Ladykillers (1955). He would win an Oscar for his role in The Bridge On the River Kwai (1957), filmed two decades before he played Obi-Wan Kenobi at the age of 62.
Eddie Byrne (General Willard): I See a Dark Stranger, 1946
|I See a Dark Stranger, 1946|
|Eddie Byrne in Star Wars|
John Williams (composer). Debut: Daddy-O, 1958.
|A young John Williams (Classic FM)|
He scored small-scale comedies and dramas for much of the 1960s before his career started to really flourish at the end of that decade. Swapping the name Johnny for John T. and then John, he would already be an Oscar-winning composer by the time he took up his baton in March 1977 to conduct the score to Star Wars at the age of 45.
Next time: We move on to the 1960s and 70s, and see the debuts of the Star Wars principal cast.