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Peter Pan

J.M. Barrie's classic tale Peter Pan had been a regular Christmas Special diet in the United States. Starring Mary Martin and originally made in the 1950s the production was considered good enough to continually repeat year after year. Top American producers Gary Smith and Dwight Hemion decided to break with tradition and update the show sponsored by Hallmark Cards. It would star Mia Farrow as Peter Pan, Danny Kaye as Mr. Darling and Captain Hook, Paula Kelly at Tiger Lily, Virginia McKenna as Mrs. Darling and Briony McRoberts as Wendy.

John Gielgud would narrate the two-hour production. Anthony Newley and Leslie Bricusse would write an original composition of songs. Ian Fraser would be musical director while the choreography would be in the capable hands of Oscar winner Michael Kidd (Seven Brides for Seven Brothers).

Dwight Hemion and Gary Smith would be the producer/director ace team. A big challenge for me was that for the first time ever, we would be involved in a stereo production. The first task was to record the music. This entailed a large orchestra recorded onto 16-track machines with sufficient tracks left blank to add artistes' voices later. The arrangements, by Dave Lindup and Peter Knight were top class

.Before shooting began, artists would be called in to add their voice tracks. Danny Kaye was one of the last to arrive. It was a quiet Saturday afternoon. He was due at around 5:00 pm in the Studio C band room. To our surprise, he arrived at 2:00 pm. No other production staff was present so we arranged to play his tracks for him to listen to before going for a voice recording. Anthony Newley and Ian Fraser had previously recorded a rough track of the lyrics for the artistes to learn. Danny Kaye seemed a quiet, almost studious man and Roger Banks, the sound technician in the band room, ensured that he was happy with his headphone playback level, microphone position, stool and music stand height, etc. In the sound control we had two TV monitors looking at the band room. One long shot and one close on Danny. This often enabled us to foresee a problem or a request before the event.

During a pause, Roger decided to talk to Danny. He related how several fans in the sound department were looking forward to seeing him. In his enthusiasm, Roger even ventured to relay the lyrics of one particular item concerning "The Vessel With The Pestle" (from the film The Court Jester). After several bad attempts to remember the lyrics, Danny finally exploded and said to Roger, ‘If you must sing my songs get them right! It goes like this.....". He then proceeded to sing the song at breakneck speed. Roger looked on in admiration and at the end remarked ‘that's the one.'

This would have been the end of Roger's audio career, but Danny took a strange liking to Roger calling him Stringbean for the rest of the entire production. .

Later, the entire crew gathered in the band room for a playback of the first ever production to come out of Elstree in stereo. The show went out in the States with the option for viewers to tune in to their local radio stations to hear the stereo mix while watching their mono televisions. This was 1975, long before television transmission could handle stereo sound. Regretfully, after just a two-year run, the networks reverted to the Mary Martin version. Hey Ho! That's Show Business!

There is much more on PETER PAN in CUE TAPE PLEASE, TED.



This portion of the sound script describes how we mixed between takes of Mia's vocals to produce the final mix.  All sixteen tracks were occupied when shooting the song.  therefore, the mix between tracks had to be accomplished as we went along. I believe the final shoot of the song was achieved in two takes?

Gary Smith, much happier with TV interviews than Dwight, here talks about Peter Pan and ATV's technical staff talents, union problems and other productions.


Dwight Hemion died in Palm Springs in 2008.  Incredibly, he was nominated for Emmys and Oscars 71 times, of which 42 were successful.  Surely a feat never again to be repeated?  Of all the time I knew Dwight, he never mentioned this.  A quiet, lovely, talented man.