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Silver screen scenes
This glossy chronicle of movie-making in Yorkshire complements an earlier work by the late Geoff Mellor: Movie Makers and Pictures Palaces: a Century of Cinema in Yorkshire: 1896-1996.
Mellor’s book, published by Bradford Central Library 12 years ago – when that worthy institution still commissioned and distributed books – is longer at 323 pages and differs in several important respects.
It is primarily a history of the techniques and technicalities of movie-making, its pioneers and impresarios, how theatres became cinemas (Bradford had more than 40 in the 1950s). Actors and the movies they made in Yorkshire take second place.
In Tony Earnshaw’s book – Made In Yorkshire (published by Guerilla Books at £25), the reverse is the case. The actors, movies and locations take the spotlight; the history of how movie making came about in Yorkshire is confined to the opening nine pages – many of the location stills are by photographer Jim Moran.
Both books contain a veritable archive of fascinating and rarely-seen photographs. Ideally, they should be perused and admired in conjunction. If anyone in UNESCO has a doubt about Bradford’s claim to be World City of Film these two volumes should be despatched pronto to that organisation. What other city could rightfully claim such a central place in the history of British cinema?
If after receipt of the books there is further hesitation, doubters should be reminded of Bradford’s three annual film festivals covering everything from wide screen, Bollywood, short films and animation. Not even Cannes puts on three annual film festivals.
Over ten years, Geoff Mellor lovingly compiled a comprehensive chronicle of every cinema in Yorkshire – his index at the back lists them. Tony’s book also has back-pages, listing some 138 movies made in Yorkshire from 1920 to 2007.
The bulk of the book, concentrate on 38 of these movies including the obvious ones, Billy Liar, Yanks, Room at the Top, The Dresser, A Private Function, This Sporting Life, Kes and Brassed Off; but along the way there are surprises.
For example, did you know that in 1951 Hollywood legend Bette Davis arrived in Malhamdale, North Yorkshire, to star in Another Man’s Poison, described by Earnshaw as a “murky murder/mystery melodrama.” She brought with her as her co-star her fourth husband Gary Merrill.
Bette Davis, who had just completed All About Eve, was a big star.
When asked about nosy locals she said: “They have the good sense to know when to leave.” By the way, Earnshaw discloses that Davis may have seen the finished version of All About Eve at Skipton’s Plaza cinema.
Had she still been alive to interview I’m sure he would had a go. As a professional film critic, Tony Earnshaw has the opportunity of talking to the stars.
Some of those conversations are in this book. Morgan Freeman, for example, remembers travelling through North Yorkshire in the winter of 1990 for Robin Hood: Prince Of Thieves.
In another chapter Alan Bennett recalls why he spent so much time on location in Ben Rhydding, Ilkley and Bradford during the shooting of his film A private Function.
“I was there to chat to Maggie Smith in her dressing room – a kind of social cement. She’s very well behaved but she has a reputation, If she gets bored she behaves very badly.”