Joe Drinkeld shares his memories of working with the stars

Joe with his signed picture of John Wayne

Members of the cast and crew from Killing Dad with Denholm Elliot and Julie Walters

Left: Joe, right, with John Wayne (centre)

First published in News by

BIG in body and big in soul. That’s one of Joe Drinkeld’s memories of “The Duke”, John Wayne.

Joe, who retired to Ibsley near Ringwood 16 years ago with wife June, spent most of his working life in the film industry, providing transport, trailers and generally catering to the needs of the stars.

He started off almost by accident when a friend asked him if he wanted to do some Pinewood Studios driving jobs early in 1969.

Then Peter Cushing asked him to do another stint as his driver and his response was: “Yes”.

At first he was employed, but when his second boss decided to quit, Joe saw an opening and, with £500 bought his first lorry, a costume truck. JD Transport Film and TV Teamsters was born.

He was well-liked, his staff were well-dressed, polite and efficient and before long Joe had 52 vehicles ranging from buses, camera cars, set construction vehicles and those motorhomes that epitomise film sets the world over.

Back in 1969 his first job was on Spike Milligan’s Adolf Hitler: My Part in His Downfall.

It was his first brush with the stars.

Now framed signed photographs adorn the walls of his “clubhouse”.

He worked on Tommy with The Who, and was a regular with Peter Sellers as Inspector Clouseau on the Pink Panther films.

In fact Joe plays a bit part – as a driver, of course – in the opening sequence of The Pink Panther Returns.

He has worked with Richard Burton, Glenda Jackson and Walter Matthieu.

He was with David Niven in Candleshoe with Jodie Foster, and with Meryl Streep and Jeremy Irons when they filmed The French Lieutenant’s Woman.

Other photos show Clint Eastwood, Robbie Coltrane, the Minder team, Julie Walters and Denholm Elliott from Killing Dad.

He worked with John Wayne for six weeks in 1975 while Brannigan was filmed in London.

Playing an American Irish detective, it was to be one of the craggy star’s last movies before the return of the cancer that was to lead to his death, aged 71, in June 1979.

Joe – who had a bit part as a detective – remembers a big man with a chest measurement of something like 54in, standing 6ft 4in tall and dwarfing him.

The Duke, he says, was actually balding and had his own personal hairdresser, “Dave”, who maintained the toupées he wore for every scene.

Joe was in charge of the costume truck and provided outfits for John Wayne.

“It was a lovely film, a lovely crew and The Man was a complete gentleman,” he said.

“It was one of my best really, though I looked after a lot of other stars.”

Brannigan was filmed in Soho. John Wayne felt for the down-and-outs dossing down in doorways and sent out for bottles of wine which he and two minders handed out.

“He said: ‘None of these people are born to live like that’.

“And I don’t believe they ever knew who he was,” said Joe.

“I’ve got a lot of memorabilia and I’ve got a lot of wonderful stories about all the films I worked on.”

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