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After Work: Favourite Films

Hazel Dracup tells of the films which have enchanted her down the years.

Having watched more than the usual amount of films over the Christmas period, I realised that I had seen quite a few of them more than once. Some of them I have been seen for the third or fourth time.

I especially enjoyed the children's films such as Miracle at 34th Street and the Santa Claus Movies. New films to me were The Pirates of the Caribbean, which I had heard about but not seen. This made me ask myself what types of films do I enjoy most? Do I pick them because they are the film of the year, or is it because I like the actors or the storylines in these films?

Growing up I used to go to the pictures with family members. I cannot remember most of the films I saw as a child although I have been told I had seen this film or that film by my parents. My father liked western films, something I never really took to. The sort of films I grew to like were those with plenty of action with a good and easy to follow storyline. Having some of my favourite heart throbs in the starring roles was an added bonus.

When I was at boarding school we had a film show once a fortnight on a Saturday after tea, for which we paid sixpence in advance. The film was shown in the large assembly hall. At the front of the hall was a stage. The back wall of this stage (which was normally obscured by the stage curtains) was painted white. The outline of the screen was painted black. At the back of the hall was a balcony, where the projector was situated and operated by a staff member.

Quite a few movies starring Richard Attenborough and John Mills were shown, along with prisoner of war films such as The Wooden Horse and The Colditz Story. Others included films which were made at Pinewood Studios.

One of the boys in my class had a much older stepbrother who had worked on the sets of some of these films. Also the Rank Organisation Films (remember the big gong!!). Most were black and white at the beginning, but gradually we got more colour films.

One of Paul Newman's early films The Silver Chalice was shown, and the film about the sinking of the Titanic, A Night to Remember, was another I can recall.

When we reached the senior classes at school, we were allowed to go to the local cinema instead of attending the school film - to the Forum Cinema in nearby Newbury - and would go about once a month. We had to fill in an Exeat form which had to be signed by the Principal. We had to state the reason we wanted to see the film and would more often than not have the Principal coming during suppertime Friday evening telling us whether could go or not.

Obviously we had to be selective about the type of films we wanted see and often tried pushing the boundaries and sometimes got refused permission in the process. The films I can remember seeing during these three years were the first two James Bond films and West Side Story.

On leaving school, outings to the cinema with friends followed more or less without restriction. First dates were nearly all to the cinema! Having several picture houses in Huddersfield meant that you could scan the 'Examiner' beforehand and take your pick.

What films did I see? Well, I enjoyed musicals. The big blockbusters were usually must-see films and most were well worth watching.

So to get back to the question ... 'What is my favourite film?' Admittedly I have not been to the cinema for nearly twenty years. I have watched the occasional films by means of video tapes or more recently DVD's. I tend to watch films these days as and when they appear on television.

I have managed to pin all the films I have seen down to two that I can definitely call my favourites. These are the ones that I enjoy the most and that for me have stood the test of time. These two films were made in the years 1953 and 1959 respectively. I am not ashamed to admit to watching them for the umpteenth time on television when they appear, and have watched both during the past eight months or so.

So what films are they? Well the first is the musical Calamity Jane. I love the stars Howard Keel and Doris Day. The storyline is wonderful and the songs are fantastic. What more could I ask out of a film?

The other one was one of the big blockbusters of the day, Ben Hur, starring Charlton Heston (another of my heart throbs) and Stephen Boyd. The chariot race is absolutely fantastic and the story line is wonderful, leaving me reaching for my hanky each time.

All in all to qualify for the title of my favourite film, it has to be one that holds me spellbound for the whole of the film, and that is what these two films do each time I watch. No matter how many times I have seen them previously or the fact that I know what is happening next, I can watch them afresh each time and never tire of watching them.

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