Friend to the film stars dies at 90

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A FORMER South Shields shipyard worker who went on to rub shoulders with some of the greatest stars of the silver screen has died at the age of 90.

Gordon Auty was brought up in Lytton Street, went to Dean Road School and served his time as a joiner at Readhead’s shipyard.

But a move to London led to him making sets and props for some of the biggest British film productions of the 1940s and ’50s, including Kind Hearts and Coronets and Hobson’s Choice.

The first film he worked on was Oliver Twist, starring Alex Guinness, which was made at Pinewood Studios in 1947.

He counted John Mills, Charles Laughton, James Mason and Sidney Potier among his friends, and also worked alongside Charlie Chaplin, Humphrey Bogart, Marilyn Monroe and legendary director John Huston.

And it was Huston who featured on the front cover of Mr Auty’s 2008 autobiography, Check The Gate, It’s A Wrap, which recounted his fascinating journey from shipyard worker to film producer, via Hollywood.

One of Mr Auty’s fondest film experiences came while building the sets and creating special effects for the 1954 classic Hobson’s Choice, starring pals Mills and Laughton.

He was responsible for one of the most famous scenes in British film history, when Laughton, leaving a pub drunk, chases a reflection of the moon in a pool of water. It was an effect Gordon achieved with just tracing paper and a hula-hoop.

Beat The Devil brought him into contact with hellraiser Huston, Richard III with Laurence Olivier, and Prince And The Showgirl with Monroe.

Later, Mr Auty graduated from building sets to making television adverts and short films, including a football series with George Best.

Sometimes his skills were required off screen, such as the time John Mills asked him to make a rabbit hutch for his 12-year-old daughter Hayley.

Mr Auty, who died on Saturday, moved to Cotherstone, near Barnard Castle, with his wife Sylvia and to a care home in Gateshead after his wife’s death.

His close friend, David Yeadon, said: “He was a real character who was great fun to be with. He led a very full and interesting life. He was still bouncy in spirit right up to the end.”