Amidst all the intensive work getting my pages done I have had some enjoyable outings, not least two to The Cinema Museum in Kennington. I was invited by Amran Vance who was hosting an evening of rare silent movie screenings including one of “Mantrap” starring none other than our very own Clara Bow directed by her then boyfriend and soon to be superstar director Victor Fleming. The screenings are every two weeks and are attended by a loyal following of early cinema devotees… an eclectic gathering of older men, some of whom have worked in the industry, to young film students who have stumbled on this Aladdin’s cave of film history.
The venue itself is on the site of the old Lambeth Workhouse where Charlie Chaplin spent some of his poverty stricken childhood. The lobby alone has old cameras standing like sentries at the entrance, parts of old ticket booths, lobby cards. You immediately step into a lost wonderland of the past. Volunteers lovingly run the tea bar, the screenings and the entrance fee is a ridiculously low donation of £2.00. If you like silent films or are even just curious about cinema past you should pay a visit.
By the mysterious power of Twitter and one lead leading to another I found myself in the company of Oscar winning Costume Designer Julie Harris and British and Hollywood film star Peggy Cummins at Julie’s London home. This was all thanks to my meeting Norwegian journalist Anne Leinum who is writing a coffee table memoir of Julie Harris’ incredible life and career. She started work at Gainsborough Pictures Film Studios in the forties and went on to work with major film stars including Dirk Bogarde, Diana Dors, Joan Crawford and Bette Davis. Her high point was winning the Oscar for her swinging sixties designs for Julie Christie in “Darling“. And pardon my boasting but I had the opportunity to hold that very same Oscar last week. I felt so privileged to meet her and hear some of her history and also the effervescent Miss Cummins whose beautiful blonde hair is still the colour of corn.
So it was quite poetic that I ended my week with a trip to the Cinema Museum again where they were holding a fundraising bazaar. I met Teri-Anne Scoble an actress and choreographer who has taken up painting and just been shortlisted for the BP portrait award. We of course had lots to chat about and I was very pleased to hear that she knew all about my “It Girl” comic. There was a stall with a fabulous selection of cult Hollywood films including the noir classic “Gun Crazy” starring… guess who? Peggy Cummins. I had a fabulous chat with Brian who runs the tea bar about his restoration work on antique projectors and I also met David on the Cinema Museum book stall who runs a heritage group for an historic cinema in Preston.
I also picked up wonderful memorabilia… film stills including an original James Mason, cigarette cards and a 1950 Picture-Goer magazine. I had to drag myself away.
Looking forward to my next cinematic time travel trip!
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