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About A Week: The Magic Kingdom

Peter Hinchliffe still ventures into the Magic Kingdom.

10.50am. Schools and factories are buzzing. Huge lorries jostle shoulder-to-shoulder on the M62. The world is at work.

And here I am. slinking into the Showcase cinema, bent on pleasure. Picture-going on a workaday morning makes me feel deliciously wicked, convinces me that I really am retired.

No waiting for an extra-large coffee. Only a few pensioners here this morning, revelling in the thought that they don't have to go out to work. Ease back into a comfortable chair, sip the comforting coffee, and wait for the main feature to begin.

After seventy years as a film-goer there's still the thrill of anticipation. Excitement flares as the lights dim.

Allthose films... All those stars... Hundreds of memories.

Johnny Weissmuller, my first hero. John Wayne, Bogart, Lamour and Garland, Fred Astaire and Gene Kelly. Frequent film-going made it seem as though you knew those folk up there on the screen.

There was a time when I went to the cinema twice a week. The programmes always included two films, an A and a B, with two cartoons and a news-reel thrown in as bonuses. Cinemas were always packed in those pre-tv days. Shows ran coninuously. Sometimes we queued for more than an hour, often in the rain, before being admitted half¬way through the main feature. It was a case of having to wait for seats to be vacated before being admitted to the magic kingdom.
People were constantly arriving and departing throughout the show.

Damply, blissfully, in semi-darkness, while smoke from Woodbines, Senior Service and John Players' curled through the silver beam above our heads, we allowed ourselves to be transported to places far more exotic than the grey-grit mill streets of the West Riding of Yorkshire.

When very young, we emerged into the daylight so affected by the fictions we had just seen that we were impelled to imitate our heroes. After watching Weissmuller in a Tarzan adventure, we swung on ropes and climbed trees. Thrilled by the deeds of John Wayne in Red River, and umpteen other Wild West adventures, we imagined our fists as Colt 45 s, aiming a forefinger while staging tongue-clicking shoot-outs.

Boys talked only of action films, Tarzan and westerns, pirates, war stories and Robin Hood. Soppy love stories, anything involving singing and dancing, such stuff was for girls. Secretly though we were enchanted by almost everything that Hollywood had to offer. We relished those lavish musicals. Astaire in the Ziegfeld Follies, Blue Skies, Easter Parade. Gene Kelly in On The Town, An Amer¬ican In Paris, Invitation To The Dance.

Kelly took an umbrella as a dancing partner in Singin' In The Rain back in 1952, creating one of the most wonderful sequences ever filmed.

Happy memories of Kelly singing and dancing in a wet street sent me thumbing through a film-goer's companion. On every page there were names to conjour up the past.
Spencer Tracy: Bad Day At Black Rock (1955), The Old Man And The Sea (1958), Inherit The Wind(1960).
Doris Day: Calamity Jane (1953), Young At Heart (1955), Love Me Or Leave Me (1955).

June Allyson: The Three Musketeers (1948), Too Young To Kiss (1951), The Glenn Miller Story (1954).

In 1954, during national service in the RAF, almost every lad in our billet had a picture of girl-next-door Doris Day pinned to the inside of his locker door. Not me. My choice was June Allyson. She was not quite so good looking as Doris, but her voice .. . Oh that voice!

Memories, memories with every turn of the page. But that was then, and this is now. I am in the Showcase, still unashamedly addicted after all these years, and the biggest film of the moment is under way...


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