The very first film I ever saw in the cinema was called Cimarron. It was at the King's Cinema, down near the bottom of town in Ilkeston, Derbyshire. I can remember the occasion, and heading towards the cinema, and having an ice cream in the interval, but all I remember about the film was that it was a western.
Having just googled it, I'm not surprised the actual film didn't make much of an impact; the story is so complicated I completely lost the will to follow it after the first few lines, and it certainly wasn't directed at children. I'm not sure if many were in those days. (Isn't it odd how that happens? When I was little, I used to love hearing about the 'olden days'. And now the days of my childhood are the olden days. Sigh. Oh well, never mind.)
Anyway, back to Cimarron. It must have been my mother's choice. She loved westerns, and watched them all on the television: Tenderfoot, Wells Fargo, The Lone Ranger. The second film we went to see was also a sort of western, but a musical one; it was Oklahoma. I liked that: I liked it a lot. We bought the long-playing record and I learnt the songs pretty much off by heart. I still do remember a lot of the words; if you don't watch out, next time we meet I may very well start singing them. I was particularly fond of 'Poor Jud is dead,/A candle lights his head;/He's looking oh so peaceful and se-rene (Chorus, sung soulfully: And se-rene!')' Though there was also a lot to be said for 'I'm just a gal who cain't say no'.
After that, the next cinema experience I recall was going to the Saturday matinee to see the children's programme. This was at a different cinema, the Ritz, in the town centre. I think I used to meet my friend Susan Lawrence there. There were two or three different elements to the programme, but the only one I remember was the serial, which was also a western. Westerns were very big in those days. We might have been stuck in a pit town surrounded by slag heaps, but we dreamed of the open spaces.
The next individual film that made an impact must have been a few years later. It was The Sound of Music. I think Mum was there, and maybe another mum, and several friends, and we went to a cinema - probably the Odeon - in Nottingham which had - gasp - several screens in the same building. I loved that film. To be honest, I still do. Though I would have been only fourteen going on fifteen, I wasn't Liesl or any of the children: I was Maria, weird haircut, very loud voice and all. (Actually, all of a sudden, I begin to see exactly why I identified with Maria...) I was the heroine who saved the day at the end, and valiantly led my merry crew over the Alps to escape the Nazis.
Then the epic triumvirate - Dr Zhivago, Lawrence of Arabia and Far From the Madding Crowd. By this time, I wasn't a child any more, but I was still at school so I think it counts. Oh, the swoop and the sweep of those films! Peter O'Toole in his white robes with those glittering blue eyes, staring out into a vast desert; Omar Sharif and Julie Christie in a sleigh bowling through snowy wastes; Terence Stamp mesmerising Julie Christie among the ancient hills of Dorset - fantastic stuff!
Ironically, the only cinema I don't remember going to in Ilkeston is the only one that remains, and it's quite a significant building. A hundred years old, it's listed, it's the second oldest working cinema in the country, and it's probably the only bit of Ilkeston which quite often features as a television backdrop. The others are all long gone.
Which are the films that stick in your mind from those you saw as a child?