After two solid days in the garden making it clean and ready for the late Spring I sat down and for the 47th time watched The Great Escape on Virgin 1 on Sky. A whole Sunday evening devoted to a film I've seen so many times I remember some of the script lines - "Next time you escape Squadron Leader Bartlett, you will not be so lucky, " said in a dangerous and threatening German accent. It must have been hell sitting on uncomfortable cinema seats watching that when it first came out - the seats are so much more comfortable and luxurious now with tons of leg room and a holder for the Diet Coke.
My mother and grandmother took me to the pictures regularly when I was a kid in Hull and there were a number we went to. However the trip to the pictures, often during the day always stared with a fish and chip supper at Gainsboroughs 'restaurant' - an elaborate cafe really, in Carr Lane with plastic chequered table cloths and delicious bread and butter to go with the best fish and chips around. I cried at Bambi, one of my first ever films and have never watched it since. Lassie always got shot or injured during her missions and was always so sad and I've never seen one of those again either.
"If your wife and your lawyer were drowning and you had to choose, would you go to lunch or to the cinema?"
The most popular one in the city centre was the ABC or otherwise known as the Regal where there were live acts as well such as the Rolling Stones (watch it on YouTube courtesy of British Pathe news) and the Beatles. I saw Morecambe and Wise there. This was the cinema that we paid 9d (in old money) the equivalent today of 4 pence for the Saturday morning matinee which was usually a Children's Film Foundation film, Pearl and Dean advertising, Pathe News and a cartoon.
The Cecil cinema just down the road from the ABC was the bee's knees with an organ that used to arise majestically through the floor playing the popular songs of the day. The decor was very art nouveau as you climbed the wide long red carpeted stairs to the theatre. The other two I remember was the Tower cinema, a flea pit, narrow, small and too intimate unless that's what you went for! I'm told they had unisex toilets there but I don't remember those and a cinema across the road of the same ilk.
Historically there were dozens of cinemas in Hull pre-war and tales from my late grandfather, a 'Hessle Road-er' told of paying for entry with jam jars and jam jar lids and other re-usables during the war. He recounted that if they were quick enough, someone who paid to get in would open the emergency exits for dozens of kids to rush in before the over zealous usherettes grabbed you sneaking in, took you by the collar and hoofed you out the way you came in.
There was a gap for many years when I never visited the cinema, probably in the late seventies, through the eighties and nineties unless for a very exceptional trip. Money and time, or lack of, (working shifts) made it harder and then bringing up kids changed it really. We started to take them to see the kids films and my love with the cinema (the pictures) took off again and I have not turned my back on it yet.
My top ten films (but not necessarily in order):
- The Shawshank Redemption;
- Any Harry Potter film - HP and the Order of the Phoenix was the best;
- Lord of the Rings - the Two Towers and Return of the King;
- The Great Escape;
- Star Wars (original - 1977);
- Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade;
- The Departed;
- Some Like it Hot;
- Life of Brian.