A Life in Film: Mary Burgess

My name is Mary Burgess and I have been a member of the CFS on and off since my youngest was 6 months old – at least 30 years, but only a member of the committee for 3 years. I have always been a huge fan of the cinema in all languages and would rather be watching films than almost anything else. In our early married life we went to watch a film every Sunday evening in Bristol where we lived then and also joined the local film club as we had when at Uni in Cardiff. Some of those films are still being shown - there is a Jean Luc Godard season at the BFI at the moment -  I am not sure whether they have stood the test of time that well, but then maybe neither have we…

1)     What was the best film of your childhood?

The very first was 'Snow White' [Snow White and the Seven Dwarves (Disney, 1937)] but my favourite was 'Dumbo' (Disney 1941) - in parts quite upsetting for an only child!  In those days there were no breaks between showings and you could sit in the cinema and watch the film round again, but eventually they dragged me out.

2)      Best date movie?

Got to be 'Doctor Zhivago' (David Lean, 1965), surely – admittedly this would be a long date!  Our first date was to see 'Cat Ballou' (Elliott Silverstein, 1965) which might explain a lot.  'Casablanca' (Michael Curtiz, 1942) or 'The Graduate' (Mike Nichols, 1967) would be great, too.  It was a long time ago!

3)      Have you ever walked out of a film and if so what and why?

No, but I have nodded off in quite a few, even some of ours!

4)      Everyone should see?

'One Flew over the Cuckoo’s Nest'.  Those who have seen it already know why – but for those who haven’t it is brilliantly directed by Milos Forman, has phenomenal acting, a perfect cast, comedy, tragedy, a gripping storyline and a terrifying ending – in fact it has everything.  Even though it was made in 1975, the battle between the “society” of the institution where it is set and one non-conforming inmate still grips today.

5)      No one should see? I have seen it so you don’t have to

Most true horror films leave me completely cold.  I don’t really like that feeling of a growing knot of fear inside.  I tried to watch 'Cape Fear' (Martin Scorsese, 1991) once from behind the sofa, but bottled out half way through. I liked 'An American Werewolf in London' (John Landis, 1981) though.

6)      Marooned on your desert island you can only save one film to watch over and over again.  What film would you choose. (We will give you a DVD of the Greatest Story Ever Told and Shakespeare in Love)

'The Third Man' (Carol Reed, 1949) I think – can I have a zither, too?  Otherwise the 'Godfather' trilogy, especially Part Two [The Godfather, Part II, Francis Ford Coppola, 1974]

7)      What film is your guilty pleasure? The film that someone with your good taste in cinema wouldn’t want anyone else to know about.

I was going to answer 'Star Wars' to this, as it has so many happy memories of when the children were little and I can’t imagine how many times we have seen them, but as it seems to be OK to admit to liking them now, probably the Blake Edwards’ Pink Panther movies, especially the one with “the Pavlova of the parallels” moment. ['The Pink Panther Striles Again' Blake Edwards, 1976 - see the clip on YouTube]

8)      What  would be the last film that you would like to see before you meet the great film maker in the sky

Rather an obvious choice -  'Cinema Paradiso' (Giuseppe Tornatore, 1988).  Italian was the subject I studied all those years ago and I have seen many wonderful Italian films – right back to the glory days of Fellini, Visconti and Antonioni – but this one has so much charm and such a wonderful setting – maybe heaven would look like Italy in the sunshine?

9)      Inheritance films. Which film did you inherit and from whom and which film would you like to pass on and why?

My mother was a huge fan of musicals, live and filmed, and we saw many together.  My absolute favourite is 'West Side Story' (Jerome Robbins/Robert Wise, 1961).  I can still remember the excitement of seeing the wonderful opening shots of New York accompanied by the overture – it was a complete culture shock and I think and hope I have passed the love of it on to my daughter, too.

10)   Who would play you in the film of your life? Two actors please, one for the younger you and one for the older version.

This is the hardest question!  If I were a fantasist, I would say Natalie Wood for my younger self, or maybe Helen Hunt.  For my older self I would like the brilliant Emma Thompson, but she is not old enough so how about Penelope Wilton (without a Downton Abbey hat!).