Salvador Dali by George Elam, 5th May 1959, The Daily Mail

 By Alan Sparrow

 This wonderful photograph of Salvador Dali was taken by George Elam, a career photographer for the Daily Mail who joined them as a messenger boy in 1934 and retired as deputy picture editor in 1985. Apart from the war years which he served in the Royal Navy he worked for the Mail for fifty-one years.

Among his career highlights was the evening he gate-crashed the stag part for Prince Philip. The party was intended to be a secret (as always) but the secret leaked to the press (as always).

In November 1947 Elam and Daily Mail reporter Harry Procter were sent to the Dorchester where the stag party was in full flow. As other newsmen got news of the event, a small crowd of journalists gathered at the front door and were allowed no further by the security at The Dorchester, Procter decided to use the direct approach and phoned Lord Mountbatten to see if they would welcome the Daily Mail to take some photographs of the event, and much to their surprise permission was granted.

Elam was delighted to have access and what he assumed would be a world exclusive, but annoyingly other newsmen were given access. Harry Procter tells us in his book The Street of Disillusion ''a jolly time was had by all – particularly when Prince Philip, in a playful mood, took hold of one of the photographer’s cameras, pushed them all onto a settee and insisted on taking a photo of the press. “You’ve had your fun” he said. “Now let me have a go!”

In May 1959 Elam was sent to photograph the artist Salvador Domingo Felipe Jacinto Dalí i Domènech, Marquis of Dalí de Púbol, aka Salvador Dali.

Dali was travelling by the continental boat train, The Maid of Orleans, to London to promote a book The Case of Salvador Dali by Fleur Fenton Cowles.

Dali hammed up the journey across the channel even telling the captain of the steamer that he was carrying a bomb - a joke that might result in a sense of humour failure today.

Dali adopted many poses for Elam, no doubt to the delight of the Mail picture desk who were able to steal a march on other papers who would be attending the book party later at the London Planetarium.

On 23 January 1989 Dali died of heart failure in the city of his birth Figueres, in Catalonia, Spain. He is buried in a crypt at the Dali theatre and museum.

George Elam died at his Orpington home in 1997, aged 77.


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