Hooked to the Silver Screen…The King’s Speech – my Vue!

3 02 2011

There aren’t too many claims to fame in the town of my birth, but it is the final resting place of the Romantic poet Lord Byron (1788-1824) – “She walks in beauty, like the night …” et al.

Byron’s former ancestral home, Newstead Abbey (well worth a visit if you’re ever passing), is close by although at the time of his death, from a fever – whilst fighting in the Greek War of Independence, he had already sold it to pay off his enormous debts!

Byron was, and remains, a national hero in Greece but, when his body was returned to England, internment was denied him at Westminster Abbey, due to his ‘questionable morality’, but there was no such pomposity from the good townsfolk of Hucknall who turned out in droves to see him buried in the parish Church of St Mary Magdalene, where, as it happens, I was baptized some years later.

Lady Caroline Lamb, a former lover, famously described Byron as ‘mad, bad and dangerous to know,’ and by all accounts he didn’t die wondering. He was famed not only for his poetry but for the eccentric, flamboyant and controversial lifestyle that led him to become the cult personality of his generation. 

So where is this extended prologue leading, you might well ask?

As a young pupil at Spring Street Junior School, I knew nothing of Byron’s poetry nor of his tendency to bat for both sides, and that is nothing to do with the little known fact that he appears on the scorecard of the very first Eton v Harrow cricket match, held at Lord’s in 1805! 

But what I did know was that the local picture house bore his name. The Byron cinema, sadly now just a bingo hall, played a formative part in my early childhood.

Chris still marvels at the fact that I can recall movies and movie stars with reasonable alacrity (although, rather  worryingly, I’m at that stage where I can remember films from a bygone age more readily than recent releases!) and much of it derives from a childhood ‘hooked to the silver screen’ (lyrics courtesy of David Bowie – Life on Mars…) 

The 50’s was an era of Saturday morning outings to the ‘flicks’ for me and my schoolmates. The chattering queue would stretch around the curved façade of the Art Deco edifice that was The Byron. Entering the foyer we would spend our pocket-money, agonising over choices – sherbet fountains, gob stoppers, licorice pipes, jelly babies and Rowntrees fruit gums (to name but a few) before finally reaching the ticket kiosk and excitedly entering the auditorium.

The morning’s entertainment included a medley of cartoons, frequently our favourite spinach eating sailorman Popeye, followed by the latest Pathé Pictorial newsreel (heralded by a crowing cockerel), and serialised episodes of our matinée heroes:

Flash Gordon, conquering the universe, or the masked men – the Lone Ranger with his faithful red indian sidekick Tonto (‘quimo sabe’, ‘Hi-yo Silver!’ and all that) and Zorro with his flashing rapier, slashing that trademark Z with three swift cuts.

The atmosphere was always lively, the heroes were cheered and the villains soundly booed, while the usherettes flashed their torches along the rows in an attempt to keep a semblance  of control. 

At the interval choc-ices, iced lollies (we called them ‘suckers’ in Hucknall) and ice cream tubs (with a wooden spoon) were sold from a tray.

Occasionally the film reel action would be supplemented by a live act such as the Brooke Bond, PG chimps, which always went down well.  Perhaps that’s why I’m still so fond of ‘Monkey’!

For a while, in order to make ends meet, my Mum was as an usherette at The Byron. She didn’t like the night shifts but it was great for me as she received a weekly entitlement of complementary tickets. On one occasion I was even allowed to visit the holy of holies, the projector room!

Westerns were always my preferred genre as, regardless of the plot, there was always shoot out at the end.

I remember seeing, for the first time, one of my all-time favourites, a classic – The Magnificent Seven, and after its run at the Byron, Mum managed to get hold of the original movie poster and the promotional stills. They had pride of place on my bedroom wall for some time but mysteriously disappeared when we moved house.

I wish I still had them now as they are collectable items and worth quite a few bob!

I’m not a regular cinema goer any more, content to sit by the fireside with Sky Movies or a DVD, but occasionally a new release captures my interest and I take myself off to ‘Vue’ it at the local multiplex.Whenever I do I’m always impressed and leave thinking, I should really do this more often!

Things have changed a bit since my days at the Byron. For starters, it’s no longer 6d to get in but £8.50! But the whole movie going experience is so much more up market these days and the widescreen, surround sound format cannot be replicated at home.  

So it was, last weekend, that having already selected and paid for the tickets on-line, Chris and I set off to Vue in Worcester to see the much publicised and critically acclaimed The King’s Speech. I am pleased to say it lived up to the hype.

The storyline is that of a reluctant King George VI (Colin Firth), thrust upon the throne following an abdication crisis, brought about by the Edward VIII and Mrs Simpson affair, and his personal battle to overcome a debilitating stutter, at a time when live BBC radio broadcasts were in their infancy and a nation, at war, was hanging on his every word.        

The main action surrounds the working relationshp between King George, ‘Bertie’, and his unqualified Australian speech therapist, Lionel Logue (Geoffrey Rush), whose somewhat unconventional methods ultimately enable the monarch to control his stammer and cope with increased public exposure and the daunting demands of live radio.   

An improbable blockbuster in many ways, but evocatively filmed in 1930s style, cleverly scripted and beautifully acted, not only by the two principals but a whole supporting cast of notables including: 

Helena ‘crazy mismatched shoes’ Bonham Carter  – excellent as Princess/Queen Elizabeth, Michael Gambon (George V), Anthony Andrews (Stanley Baldwin) Timothy Spall (Winston Churchill) and Derek Jacobi (the Archbishop of Canterbury); it richly deserves its twelve Academy Award nominations.      

Prior to this performance I have to admit to being less than impressed by Colin Firth as a Hollywood Star (perhaps I’ve been forced to sit through Bridget Jones and Mama Mia too many times!) but his performance as George VI is well worth the Golden Globe he recently picked up, and I suspect there may be an Oscar to come.   

As a film it is great, and to make it work there obviously has to be a degree of poetic licence such as the, perhaps, over familiar stance adopted by Logue towards his royal client.

And then there is also the big historical question mark over whether George VI was actually pro appeasement, as supposedly indicated by his private  letters and diaries, which  isn’t actually addressed as an issue in the film.                  

It did cross my mind as to what the Queen might make of this portrayal of her father, whether she was consulted about its content in any way, and what she thought of young Freya Wilson’s engaging performance as the young Princess Elizabeth.

I guess Liz and Phil  have had their own private viewing by now, but I bet it wasn’t as good as our ‘Vue’ experience – no bargain buckets of popcorn at the palace!

And now as the sun begins to slowly sink, it is time to sign off in the time honoured fashion of all great westerns…

Cue Action… ‘Hi-yo Silver! Away!’

…’ But who is that masked man anyway?’

…’That was the Lone Ranger!’

Fade in  theme music – the William Tell Overture- and roll the credits, as our hero gallops into the sunset…    

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7 responses

3 02 2011
Another Phil

Ah Saturday’s watching The Lone Ranger & Tonto……..if it was shown today everyone would be questionning their relationship!

Do you remember Hop along Cassidy, Wagon Train and ‘Rawhide’ – one of the first records I bought for 6s and 9d. Loved the westerns and ‘The Magnificent Seven’ is still in my top 20 all time great films.

Then I remember watching ‘Soldier Blue’ late 60’s and feeling so embarrassed at always feeling pleased in the past when the cavalry arrived. It started to make me question American wholesomeness, a view solidified by Vietnam and joining the protests. There were mant discussions at this time about which side of the barricades you would be if the revolution came. I never could decide……..easier for the Egyptians today I guess

Ayway thanks for stimulating the memories Phil……I enjoyed the King’s Speech as well, but it may just rank outside the top 20!!

I suspect you have noticed SIPS R.I.P. after March!!

3 02 2011
outofafrica2010

Remember having very similar awakening of conscience about – Soldier Blue – great movie though!
Not sure about the SIPs. I think it would been better and cheaper to keep the SIPs, and cut the Ofsted inspections, back to the days of the occasional HMI visit!
Chris has had Ofsted yesterday and today at QM. Glad I’m out of it!
Are you doing anything else apart from SIP work at the moment?

4 02 2011
Another Phil

Song was good from Soldier Blue as well

Yes cheaper to have SIPS but not inspectoral/threatening enough. Some authorities are keeping them as they reckon they give early warnings of schools in trouble and this is preferable and cheaper to a school going into an OFSTED category
Some schools still want me in for performance management and I’ll still have NPQH work, although the format of this will change as well. But definitely no regrets………my life has not changed as much as yours but it has still given me more time, control and far less hassle.
Hope Chris has come through it all with flying colours again. Wkd to recover with TLC from hubi

3 02 2011
Eve.

I also enjoyed The King’s Speech and yours which reminded me of visiting Broadstais in Kent and asking for a sucker. I recieved a very puzzled look but order was soon restored and they sold me “an iced lolly”. I’m not quite over this but it did happen in 1962.
Note to Another Phil – singles cost 6/8d you could buy 3 for a pound.

3 02 2011
outofafrica2010

Hi Eve, Yes, it’s funny, I’ve never heard ‘sucker’ used anywhere else – at least not in the iced lolly context. Will definitely be in touch soon about meeting up. Chris has got Ofsted this week so once she’s recovered I’ll get back to you.

4 02 2011
Another Phil

Yes 6/8d, that should have been ingrained like tanners, bobs and tuppence! Amazing none of our new ( well 37 years old) coins have managed nicknames

20 11 2011
The Adventures of ‘Tintindiana Jones’ « Pipedreams from the Shire

[…] in February, following my first outing to the cinema for some time (Hooked to the Silver Screen…The King’s Speech – my Vue! ) I promised I would treat myself to the big screen, surround sound, luxury armchair with bargain […]

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