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Reviews of Bill Paton

Bill (centre) with Powell (right) and H. Grant Sutherland (left) at tea in the Caledonian Hotel, Aberdeen.
Published in the Aberdeen Press & Journal, 21 Oct 1938
William "Bill" Paton (14 October 1914 - 21 September 1997) was Michael Powell's Right Hand Man and friend. Born in the Shetland Isles they first met up during the filming of The Edge of the World (1937).

Bill acted as Michael Powell's personal assistant on all of the films he made from The Edge of the World to Peeping Tom (1960).

Kevin Powell tells us:

Myrtle, his wife was my nanny and lived on the top floor of 2 Ilchester Place, Kensington till we all moved to 8 Melbury Road. The Powell's has flat 3 and the Paton's flat 2.

When Captain T.W Powell died my father took me to his inn outside Paris at Chantelle and then down to The Voile D'or. Dad asked me which one I'd like to keep and I said La Voile D'or. A bad decision as Chantelle was closer to London and Paris and would have been far more practical in the long run as a base. When the hotel was being revamped Bill painted most of the shutters and dining room, bar and lounge as my mother and father bought new furniture and crockery for the operation.

When the hotel opened one of the first visitors was [Ludmilla] Tchérina and her husband. She was beautiful and an aunt to me during her short stays and when dad and I visited Paris.

Extract from "Michael Powell's The Edge of the World - Then & Now" by David W. Earl (with permission of the author)

William Jamieson Paton - Production Staff

Born in Lerwick, Shetland on 14th October 1907, son of Arthur James and Charlotte Jane Paton. He was known as Bill Paton throughout his three decades of working with Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger on twelve of their movies. His job on Foula sounded less glamorous than most, but was one of the most important on set, that of unit caterer. Bill worked under Mrs Rutherford, the film crew's housekeeper and together with a small contingent of the local populace who had been employed by the company, had to source, prepare and provide all the meals for the film unit. A mammoth task! Also, aside from the catering, he was recruited as an extra for the Foula reel, a dance sequence in the movie.

Largely uncredited in Michael Powell's movies, Bill was Michael's personal assistant and a good friend, who would join him on most of his movie expeditions. Once an aspiring young footballer, he had intended to play professionally but a knee injury soon ended that dream. Instead he went into the bakery and confectionery business before being spotted by Powell and recruited for The Edge of the World. Bill finally got a credit in Peeping Tom 1960. The pair stayed friends for years and no doubt shared many fond memories of hiking trips in the mountains of the Scottish Highlands, a place they both loved to escape to. Bill, who had married Myrtle Horton in the summer of 1945, sadly passed away on 29th September 1997 in the hospital at Canterbury.

I reminded Kevin of the time recounted in Powell's autobiographies when they were filming outside and a crowd had gathered and was being a bit noisy. Micky told Bill who said that he would sort them out -- the crowd remained "sorted".
Bill was generally a gentle man but when he had to be he was a tough little Shetlander.

Kevin also tells us:

Dad told a wonderful story about how on the film 'Honeymoon' they were on location in Spain and staying at some Spanish town, after wrap some of the crew went down to the local bar (cantina for the evening). Along comes Anthony Steele the actor who as the evening progressed started to get a trifle out of line. Naturally none of the crew could do anything, however Bill stepped in, picked Steel up by the seat of his pants and ejected him through the bars swinging doors into the street.

Not a word was heard of the incident next day or ever again. Bill was Michael Powell's right hand and fixer and not to be messed with. Also a member of "The Masons" which came in handy many times .

Everyone liked and loved Bill as I experienced first-hand when on set with dad or doing the rounds of the departments alone with Bill.

Bill & Myrtle
Bill was in the Navy while The Archers were filming A Canterbury Tale but he came back to join them for the end of shooting party.

Myrtle Horton was the daughter of Neville Horton, the blacksmith portrayed in A Canterbury Tale (Neville appears as the man operating the bellows). Myrtle was a nurse who had been working away during the filming but she came home for the end of shooting party. Where she met Bill and they fell in love.

Bill & Myrtle married in May 1945 and lived happily together until Bill's death in September 1997. Myrtle died on June 19th, 2006.

As Kevin relates above they acted as nanny & housekeeper for the Powell boys, Kevin & Columba, in London and in France. They retired to Rose Cottage, Shottenden, just around the corner from the real blacksmiths and wheelwrights shop portrayed in A Canterbury Tale.

See also:

Other P&P reviews