IT HAS BEEN my privilege to examine a collection of programmes for Lyme Regis’ very own Regent cinema; coincidentally in the month (October) when it would have been celebrating its 80th birthday. They are in fine condition, too, which is quite remarkable when you consider that they date (1948 to 1955) from the time of the Marshall Plan, the Berlin airlift and the cold war. So, what did I discover?
Well, the most expensive seats in the circle would have cost you 3/6 (2/- plus 1/6 tax); the least expensive in the stalls . . . 10d (8d plus 2d tax). The main attractions, for the entire month, were set out on the centre pages with the stars billed above the title and, perhaps, a brief description below as to the content of the film. (“Two lively ghosts having the time of their second lives.”) Also noticeable immediately, is the fact that films did not come on a two week booking as is often the case today. A feature would be shown for 3 nights starting Monday, and then there would be a different one for 3 nights from Thursday. Then there would be another film – for one night only – on Sunday. There were very few exceptions to this rule (not even a re-release of Gone with the Wind in April 1949), but notable ones included Lyme’s own All Over the Town (6 nights in May 1949), A Queen is Crowned (June 1953) and Doctor in the House (June 1954).
Certain patterns can also be seen, even on a superficial level. A lot of emphasis was placed on homegrown product, so there are often references to “a superb British picture” or “all English cast”. Indeed, there would seem to be a preponderance of British films shown in Lyme at this time. There were major Hollywood films, too, such as Duel in the Sun and Shane, but usually they arrived about two years after their initial release. In fact, very few films appeared quickly; both this and the promotion of British titles shouldn’t surprise us, in a small provincial town. Re-releases were also much more common and were sometimes programmed at peak times of the year. So, Monday July 5th 1948 you could have seen the 1937 production Elephant Boy and, a year later, 1942’s Bambi. Few opportunities were missed to announce that the film was in Technicolor, that there was a strong musical content or that it was based on a famous novel or play; Lyme’s artistic traditions were clearly established some time ago!
Occasionally there was a support with the main feature, but this was much more likely to be a part of the Sunday programmes. Largely because these consisted of much older classics – film lovers could catch up with The Old Dark House (1932) and The Long Voyage Home (1940) – or because the attraction was a modest one (Gale Storm in Swing Parade, anyone?). It would appear that Roy Rogers was a popular option – and if anyone was co-billed, it was Trigger not the leading lady! Were subtitled films shown? The answer is yes, but very few, and two of them heralded the appearance of – surely not? – the X feature; the films in question being La Ronde and Clochemerle. The latter had this wonderful piece of publicity attached, in November 1951: ‘I stand amazed and delighted that the censor should have passed this film’ News of the World.
So there we are, a brief look at the Regent’s offerings long ago; a more innocent time when Wilfred Pickles starred in The Gay Dog, and Pink String and Sealing Wax was anything but a precursor to Fifty Shades of Grey; a time when we could have seen The Quiet Man and The Prisoner of Zenda on consecutive evenings and then Mystery Street, a forensic thriller, on the Sunday. What joy!
Deborah Watling (69): English actor – Take Me High with Cliff Richard and a regular in Doctor Who.
Hywel Bennett (73): Welsh actor big in The Virgin Soldiers, bigger in Percy; popular on TV as Shelley.
Robert Hardy (91): All Creatures Great and Small and a very fine Churchill.
Jeanne Moreau (89): so many great performances, including in Jules et Jim.
Ty Hardin (87): moderately successful in supporting roles (Battle of the Bulge); most fondly remembered as the star of Bronco.
Glen Campbell (81): talented musician who co-starred in 1969’s True Grit.
Richard Gordon (95): author of the popular Doctor books, adapted for film and television.
Jerry Lewis (91): humanitarian and hugely successful star with or without Dean Martin. Of most interest to film buffs, is his 1971 project The Day the Clown Cried which he locked in a vault and refused to release. Rumours have circulated for a couple of years now that he would permit it after his death, but not before 2024 at the earliest.
Tobe Hooper (74): director who changed the horror genre forever with The Texas Chainsaw Massacre.
Helli Stehle (109): Swiss actress and radio presenter.
Richard Anderson (91): very familiar face (Paths of Glory) who guest starred in just about every American TV series of note between 1959 and 1979; a regular in The Six Million Dollar Man.
THE FAR HORIZONS
I know what you are thinking . . . ‘ah yes, Charlton Heston and Fred MacMurray, 1955, directed by Rudolph Maté’ . . . sorry to disappoint you all, but it just seemed an appropriate heading as we peer into our crystal ball and see what wonderful films we can look forward to. All things considered it has been a pretty poor summer for good films (not unusual – it’s family blockbuster time), but the United States has also seen its poorest box office returns for about 10 years, in regard to the more commercial fare. Fear not, however, there are some good films on the way as autumn approaches and events such as the London Film Festival, and regional and national viewing sessions, get under way. So, what can Cinema for All and film society members look forward to?
By the time you read this article, you will be aware of the new Stephen Frears film Victoria and Abdul, starring Judy Dench; if you miss it on first release don’t worry, as it is likely to be playing in community cinemas and village halls for many months after! Equally, don’t overlook Wind River which has had very good reviews. If you are off to see Goodbye Christopher Robin at the end of September, make it the perfect evening out and play the Kenny Loggins song House at Pooh Corner on your in-car music system as you travel to the cinema. October sees the release of The Mountain Between Us with Kate Winslet and Idris Elba, from the director of Omar; Marshall, the story of the first African-American Supreme Court Justice; and Armando Iannucci’s new film The Death of Stalin. More modest releases, of particular interest to us, are I Am Not a Witch a satirical fairy tale set in Zambia; Buena Vista Social Club: Adios; The Square, a much anticipated release from ICO; and the new Sally Potter film The Party, a satire on the British political elite which boasts a phenomenal cast.
Several of the films being shown at October’s LFF are due to be released in November. These include Andy Serkis’s directorial debut Breathe (starring Andrew Garfield, most recently in 99 Homes and Hacksaw Ridge) – the Opening Night Gala; Battle of the Sexes (remember the Billy Jean King/Bobby Riggs challenge match?); and The Killing of the Sacred Deer, from the director of The Lobster. Arguably even more interesting are the Italian-set coming-of-age drama Call Me by Your Name (quite a change of pace for Armie Hammer) and the wonderfully titled Film Stars Don’t Die in Liverpool. This stars Annette Bening, Jamie Bell and Julie Walters, and is the story of Hollywood siren Gloria Grahame’s theatrical visit to the UK in the early 1980s. Then there is the not-so-small matter of Takashi Miike’s new film Blade of the Immortal; the 45 minute battle sequence in 13 Assassins still resonates with this viewer some seven years on!
As we get to December and Christmas, if the big commercial releases due are not quite your cup of tea, fear not. Look to catch Michael Haneke’s Happy End (released 1 December) and wait for January 2018. Then there will be Benedict Cumberbatch in The Current War (with, no doubt, timely DVD releases of Mickey Rooney’s Young Tom Edison and Spencer Tracy in Edison the Man); Frances McDormand and an Oscar®-buzz Sam Rockwell in Three Billboards Outside Ebbing Missouri (the LFF’s Closing Night Gala) and On Chesil Beach. The same day (19 January) sees the release of Steven Spielberg’s The Post – commercial perhaps, but politically the timing is just about perfect! It does, however, look like a February release for the new Journey’s End.
There will be other releases of interest, of course. At least two westerns - Brimstone and Christian Bale’s latest Hostiles - and Lynne Ramsay’s You Were Never Really Here, but not all of them have UK release dates as yet. The film Tulip Fever has still to appear, although it has been released in the US. Similarly, a very promising award-winning Norwegian film The King’s Choice was shown at the DC Film Festival earlier this year but, at the time of writing, doesn’t appear to be on British schedules. There are also some welcome re-releases due, including a 4K digital print of Close Encounters of the Third Kind, the Coen brothers’ Blood Simple (through the combined efforts of Studio Canal and the ICO), Hitchcock’s North by North West and, unsurprisingly, two of Gloria Grahame’s best, In a Lonely Place and The Big Heat. Finally, whilst it is very difficult to predict which of the new films will have that something extra that will eventually see them compared with these classics, here are three to look out for – the racial tension drama Mudbound, del Toro’s intoxicating The Shape of Water and Lucky. This has the great Harry Dean Stanton in what some are declaring is his best performance since Paris, Texas; James Darren, a long way from The Time Tunnel, makes a welcome appearance in support.
The key issue, for those of us in the south west NOT in a sizeable urban area, is – will we have an opportunity to see them? Just a few days ago I checked out local cinemas looking for a ‘good film’ and it’s not an exaggeration to say that they were all running the same few titles – the new Tom Cruise; Logan Lucky; the new Ryan Reynolds; and now It. No surprises if I say that It isn’t the 1927 delight in which Clara Bow created a whole new style! So, and to conclude, it might just be down to all of us to ensure that these films get the audiences they deserve.
WOMEN BEHIND THE CAMERA
“The studios were always reluctant to acknowledge women who were behind the camera. They claimed a man’s name on the screen is always more impressive to the public.” – Marion Mack, who co-starred with Buster Keaton in The General (1927), in a 1988 interview about her early career.
So, if we fast forward 90 years and despite some honourable exceptions along the way (Dorothy Spencer was one of the editors of Stagecoach in 1939, Ida Lupino directed some good low budget thrillers in the early 1950s, Diana Morgan was the one woman in the Ealing ‘writers room’ and later worked on Emergency Ward 10, and so on), have things really changed? Well, it’s probably fair to say that, in 2017, we can be a little more optimistic. Lone Scherfig has just directed Gemma Arterton in Their Finest (based, at least in part, on the early career of Diana Morgan) and Sofia Coppola’s The Beguiled has just been released in the UK.
Money (or, more specifically, profit) still talks loudest, of course, so the $750 million taken (so far) by Wonder Woman, directed by Patty Jenkins (thereby becoming the first woman to direct a superhero movie), is likely to open some very large doors. Indeed just announced by Eon productions, the controllers of the male god franchise James Bond, is a new Stephanie Patrick franchise, to be inaugurated by an adaptation of the novel The Rhythm Section that will star Blake Lively. And, if you still haven’t heard, the new Doctor Who will be played by Jodie Whittaker in Broadchurch. Estimates are not yet available, as to how many male viewers might feel unable to tune in!
If you wish to consider the issue of gender balance when planning your film seasons, do make use of the three F system pioneered here in the south west and now recognised internationally.
Sir Roger Moore: James Bond, Simon Templar and the author of two entertaining memoirs My Word is My Bond and Last Man Standing.
Skip Homeier (86): weaselly character actor who shot Gregory Peck in The Gunfighter.
Adam West (88): Batman on TV and Roger Smith (84): star of 77 Sunset Strip.
John G. Alvidsen: director of the hugely successful Rocky.
Loren James (85): stuntman and one of the commentary team on the DVD of How the West Was Won.
Elsa Martinelli (82): who fell in love with a baby elephant in Hatari!.
Barry Norman (83): the doyen of British film critics.
George A. Romero (77): noted director of horror films including the seminal Night of the Living Dead.
Martin Landau (89): an Oscar for Ed Wood and prominent on TV (Mission Impossible, Space 1999).
LYME REGIS FILM SOCIETY is sad to report the deaths of two stalwart committee members. John Warren was our publicity officer for some 25 years before he retired. Peter Westoby was our current membership secretary. Both will be greatly missed for their love of film, hard work and good companionship.
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