Saturday 19 March 2011

52 Weeks of Personal Genealogy and History - Movies

The first time I remember being taken to the cinema as a child was a double bill (yes, you used to get two films). My mother thought I'd enjoy the cartoon 'Hoppity Goes to Town', but I hated it. I have no idea why. But the other film was 'Tom Thumb' with Russ Tamblyn, and I loved that one.

When I was older, about 8, I think, I was allowed to go to that great British institution 'the Saturday morning pictures' at Gillingham Odeon. It cost sixpence for a seat in the stalls and ninepence for the balcony. The great advantage of the ninepenny seats was that you could throw your sweet wrappers, lolly sticks and other confectionery detritus onto the peasants in the cheap seats below. To be honest, I remember more about the sweets than any of the films, and every kid in the place seemed to have handfuls of them In retrospect, the only job in the cinema worse than working on the confectionery stand must have been cleaning up the mess ready for the respectable paying customers on Saturday afternoon.

The only film I remember was a black-and-white serial called 'The Valley of the Vanishing Men', and all I remember about that was the opening credits, which featured men, presumably of the vanishing variety, toiling round a capstan, in a cave, to music that I later discovered was The Ride of the Valkyries'. To this day I can't hear it without conjuring up the same image. What would Wagner think?

At the end of each Saturday's show the Odeon would unleash hundreds of excitable children, hyped-up on sugar and pretending to be cowboys, spacemen or whatever onto the High Street. The cinema was just off the High Street, and while we could have walked (or run) the short distance down the street and around the corner, it was much more fun to take the short cut through Lefevres department store. Every week the staff tried to intercept the swarm of miniature delinquents, and every week they failed. My cousin Ron was particularly good at this, being small, fast, and lippy with it.

Like many people growing up in the TV age, I first saw many of my favourite movies on TV. I recall laughing until it hurt one Christmas the first time I saw 'Some Like It Hot', and no matter how often I see it, it still cracks me up. I was still taken to the movies as a treat occasionally, the best of which was when my mother took me to see 'A Hard Day's Night' the day I sat my 11-plus exam.

Now I am much more likely to buy a DVD than to go to the cinema, although getting round to watching them is another matter. I tend to watch films on long plane journeys - I see that 'The King's Speech' is now on the Virgin Atlantic in-flight programme, so that's my next flight sorted!

1 comment:

  1. Hi Audrey,

    Nice post. But The King's Speech is far too good a film to watch on an aeroplane. I watched it at the cinema before it was officially released and there was a standing ovation at the end!! A proper cinema experience, just like the good old Saturday morning cinema clubs at the Odeon. I suggest you find a friendly local cinema (we have The Screen at Walton near us) and go along. You won't regret it!