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Standard 10 in filming of "Upstairs, Downstairs"

The cars on the set with the mock hotel entrance behind

As Len Barr's subscription to the Performing Arts Society had expired, I recently took his 1935 Ten to South Wales for the filming of the new BBC series of Upstairs Downstairs.


Having to be at the film base at 7.00am meant leaving Bristol at 4.45am on the coldest Monday morning for many months. I took a gentle run over the bridge, and then followed the A48 through Newport and Cardiff, before heading off to Penarth. While trying to find the appointed place, I spotted an Austin 20 on a trailer and followed it, hoping it was heading for the same place. Fortunately it was, and we arrived at a busy location in plenty of time to unload the Austin and get kitted out in the wardrobe department. This was where we discovered that the filming was being done as a summer scene and we had to wear shirt and tie without the nice thick coats we were wearing. Here we also met the owner of the Jaguar SS convertible and saloon that were also being used.


After a quick cup of tea it was time to head down to the film set on Penarth promenade which could accurately be described as bloody cold! Not being needed in the first scene we sheltered in the rowing club until the Austin and Standard were called for. I lost count of the number of times we drove through the set and were reversed back to do it all again.


The next scene called for just the Standard and the same routine of driving forward and back repeatedly past a mock up of a hotel entrance that had been erected on the promenade. At one point I went to pull away on my cue and stalled the engine, with an irate shout of "cut" echoeing in my radio. I think I managed to redeem myself before filming stopped for lunch.


The afternoon was spent sheltering from rain and cold while scenes involving the Austin and Jaguars were being shot. We were kept on set until 7.15pm despite not being involved in the last scene. At last we headed back to base where it was time to get changed, return radios and depart.


I had booked a hotel in Newport and set off in that direction. Just entering the outskirts of Newport, I was apprehended by an officer of the law as there was only one headlight working. After I tried to convince her that it was meant to be that way, she told me to get it fixed and carried on her way. A short while later I was parked under a street light peering at the A-Z when there was a tap on the window and there stood the same WPC. After ascertaining where I was trying to get to, she gave me a police escort to the hotel. On arrival I threw my bag in the room and headed out to find a nice warm pub and a pint or three.


Don't let anyone tell you that filming is glamorous or fun - it is not! I was on the go for 16 hours before getting to the pub, much of the time waiting about in the cold and wet.


Steve Smeltzer


January 2012

Thanks for giving us an insight into the exciting world of  of a film extra Steve!

Phil Homer