A View From the Stalls, November 2015

Michael Rowan, a member of Chiltern Film Society's committee, provides personal musings about his cinema experiences.

Going to the cinema as child was always a great treat and I suspect that those childhood memories linger forever

I can recall my father taking me to see Swiss Family Robinson, just the two of us, which was an unusual treat. The trip was to make up for me being too ill to go and see Father Christmas that year, but to my mind this was way better.

In the film there is a scene where some of the cast have to wade waist deep through a river whilst intercut with the scene is a snake wrapped around a tree branch overhanging the river.

I lived each second in terror in case the reptile slipped into the water and attacked the stars of the film. However, overriding my fear was the thought that my father must never know how scared I truly was as I was a big boy now and a great slimy snake, huge up on the screen, whilst I sat in the darkness, was nothing of which to be afraid.

I had a similar growing up epiphany when we went with my mother to see Mary Poppins. I loved every second of that film and then came the ending (spoiler alert) when she said goodbye to the children and takes off to up into the sky. Tears began to form as Mother gathered up our belongings and dragged us to the exit and worse, daylight. Hastily I blew my nose and wiped my eye of the speck of dust that had caused my eyes to water. That was to be the last children’s film I would see for several decades.

More recently whilst undertaking family history research, I had cause to engage an elderly aunt in conversation. I listened politely to stories of her childhood. She told me of the time when my father, who was 7 or 8 years older than her, returned on leave from the war to witness his sister crying because she had to go to the dentist.

My father, the hero of her story, told her that if she was brave and stopped crying he would accompany her to the dentist and take her to the cinema afterwards. Aunt Ann duly visited the dentist and was apparently brave enough to be rewarded with the promised cinema visit.

A warm glow suffused my body as I considered the inherent kindness of my father. However the story didn’t end there as my aunt went on to recall how she got a fit of the giggles much to the embarrassment of my father. In the end he hissed at my aunt that if she didn’t stop laughing so loudly and making a show of him, they would have to leave.

What was the film? I asked, intrigued at how badly behaved my aunt must have been to warrant such an admonishment.

‘Oh I can’t remember the title’, she said, ‘but I know it was a Laurel and Hardy film.’

Sometimes it’s better to leave before the end.