The Edinburgh Film School was fortunate indeed in 1963, when the legendary Hollywood foley artist Dusty Horne, a professional who practiced her craft alongside the great Jack Foley himself, gave a masterclass in cinema sound. “The picture informs us what is taking place; the sound tells us how to feel: dialogue, music and sound effects.”
A former actress, the glamourous and ageless star now prefers to work behind the cameras, having been poached by no less a giant of the cinema than Alfred Hitchcock himself to double the footsteps of Margaret Lockwood in the aptly named The Lady Vanishes, a process which Ms Horne demonstrates for her eager students with some selected attendees invited on stage for individual hands-on mentoring.
Yet despite her obvious talent and insight into the work of the foley artist, the creativity and imagination in crafting the sounds worthless if they are not perfectly synchronised with the visuals to complete the illusion, it is a man’s world and too often she was overlooked and marginalised, never receiving the recognition she was due.
Or was there another reason for her fall, the lady who travelled from Borehamwood to Hollywood, then came back again to work on low budget independent pictures, she who worked with Hitchcock four times? Hell hath no fury like a sound lady scorned and cut off from the work which she loves to which she devoted her life…
Inspired by the life of Beryl Mortimer but within a heavily fictionalised framework, Dusty Horne is the creation of writer/director Frank Tamburin and performer Natasha Pring whose own research in the archives of the BFI revealed that Mortimer herself was genuinely an unsung heroine of the film industry with involvement in many projects beyond that on which she was credited or are now listed on her paltry IMDB profile.
The set elaborately laid out even before the audience enter giving only a hint of what is to come, the selection of clips and techniques is diverse though the most enjoyable are the more bizarre, among them Roger Corman’s Attack of the Crab Monsters, Dusty commenting that “working with Corman has taken me places (David) Lean or (Stanley) Kubrick could never have dreamed of,” with only six minutes of studio time to wrangle a giant slug and reminiscing that the prolific producer/director was “an equal opportunity exploiter.”
Offstage, Ms Pring confirms that Corman, a guest of the Edinburgh International Film Festival in 2009, was approachable and generous to the production in allowing them use of the archive clips from the extensive back catalogue which he controls, raising the question of whether the Hitchcock estate were as immediately accommodating with the footage of a crucial scene from The Birds which closes the show.
With the story of Horne herself driven by the sound and fury of the title, it is a hugely creative and enjoyable show which deserves and requires a larger audience than on this particular day, Pring herself giving a marginally overwrought performance in order to maintain the energy which should be sustained by the crowd, but regardless it is a fascinating insight into one of the least publicised roles in moviemaking which when done well is as unnoticed as any other technician waiting in the wings.