Posted by Adrian Turner, January 2022
Adrian worked at the Everyman from 1971 to 1977, initially as Assistant Manager, and when Fairfax Jones died in in 1973, as Programmer. A full account of his time at the cinema can be found in Guest Blogs.
The Everyman’s reputation lay in its programming of mostly foreign language films in linked seasons. I saw this as something of a limitation but certainly for the first year or two I was happy to go along with F-J’s tried and tested choices. As far as I remember he went very rarely to the cinema – in fact, I can’t recall having a serious conversation about movies with him at all. The furthest we got was at a summer party when my wife told him she had just seen François Truffaut’s Jules et Jim and adored it, especially the music. ‘Come with me,’ he said, and they walked into another room where he played the soundtrack for her.
I don’t recall him ever saying that he and his wife had gone to see a film at the local Odeon or to the West End to see the latest film at the Academy or the Curzon. All I remember is seeing The Go-Between with him at MGM’s little preview theatre in St James ’s Street.
He subscribed to the two magazines, Monthly Film Bulletin and Sight and Sound, and he read Dilys Powell in The Sunday Times and CA Lejeune in The Observer to keep track of the latest releases which one day might grace the Everyman’s screen. And then there was F-J and Tessa’s annual trip to the Venice film festival, a treat bankrolled by the Everyman. They would arrive a few days before the festival started and stay across the lagoon on the island of Torcello at a bliss-out place called the Locanda Cipriani. And then they would move across to Venice itself and stay at the Cipriani, one of three deluxe hotels in the city at the time. From there they would take the launch over to the Lido where the festival was based. He socialised, he may have seen a film or two, and came back with a list of titles destined for Hampstead in due course.
The bedrock of the Everyman year were solid seasons of old favourites. The opening film Le Million of 1933 always paid us a visit. Every year we ran The Maxim Gorky Trilogy and The Marx Brothers. There was always a season called ‘Summer Revivals’ of lighter fare and in the autumn ‘Off The Beaten Track’ which was a ragbag selection of arthouse faves like Fellini, Godard and Bunuel. All very Hampstead.
Movies were always shown from Mondays for seven days. Programmes were at 2pm, 4pm, 6pm and 8pm with an accompanying short if necessary. Problems occurred if a film ran for, say, 138 minutes because that meant programmes at 2pm, 5pm and 8pm with a longer short. It was inflexible because F-J believed our regular patrons always knew the showing times. We published little cards with a month or two month programmes and sent them out on a mailing list. We took advertisements in What’s On in London, the Evening Standard (not the Evening News), the Listener, The Lady and the New Statesman. There were also the trademark yellow quad posters at strategic Tube stations.
We survived on the goodwill of various film distributors. The arthouse films were largely owned by three companies – Connoisseur Films which was run by George Hoellering who also ran the Academy Cinemas in Oxford Street. Hoellering was a sort of legend, high and mighty, and F-J was terrified of him. Then there was Contemporary Films run by Charles and Kitty Cooper who owned the Paris-Pullman Cinema in South Kensington. And Gala, run by the glamorous Kenneth Rive who operated a small chain of Gala Cinemas. Hoellering, the Coopers and Rive were all pioneers, taking on unknown directors and films and bringing them an audience. Roger Wingate, who owned the Curzon in Mayfair, was a far too aloof for the likes of us.
Somehow F-J persuaded all these companies to rent out their films for a flat rate of £25 per week rather than the normal percentage deal. This meant that if a film was packed out the Everyman would make a lot of money and if a film flopped losses would be minimal. Amazingly, F-J did an identical deal with the major distributors such as EMI, Columbia, Fox and Warners.
Every Monday afternoon I would sit in the back row and watch the first performance. Mainly this was to check the quality of the print and very often they were quite poor, sometimes almost un-runnable. The worst tended to come from Gala which owned most of the Bergman catalogue and several key movies like Eight and a Half and Pierrot le Fou. Ken Rive worked with as few prints as possible and once a 35mm print like Pierrot le Fou had done its first run in London and then traversed the country’s arthouses and BFI Film Theatres it had become worn and scratched and shorn of a minute or two. Amazingly, our loyal patrons put up with it. I can’t recall a single incident when anyone demanded their money back.
By 1971 F-J was becoming ill. There were a few stays at the King Edward VII Hospital for Officers in Marylebone. I remember he said, ‘Isn’t it time we did Bergman again?’ So I went ahead and planned the season, making it the biggest the Everyman had ever done. I called it ‘Bergman Revisited.’ In his hospital bed he told me how much he liked that.
I remember arguing a case for a Humphrey Bogart season which F-J resisted simply because he didn’t think it fitted the Everyman ethos. But he relented and the Bogart season was a massive success. One major Bogart movie The Big Sleep was never shown outside the National Film Theatre because United Artists in London didn’t have a print. I contacted Clyde Jeavons at the National Film, Archive and arranged to have limited access to their collection, the result of which was that we ran The Big Sleep for four days and it was a full house for every single performance. It was by far the biggest money-spinner the Everyman had ever shown. And because they didn’t have a print, UA waived the £25 fee!
F-J died in April 1973. His death was marked by several affectionate obituaries. The local paper, The Ham and High, said, ‘He was the modest, occasionally irascible but always deeply caring father of Hampstead’s Everyman Cinema, a man with obstinate foresight and courage, who proved time and time again his faith in the film as a work of art. [He] earned himself a special niche in cinema history and in Hampstead’s history too.’
With the death of F-J my own role changed. F-J’s son, Martin, became Managing Director and he quickly came to see me, asking me if I would take over all the programming responsibilities, alongside Dennis who remained as manager. Martin was a graphic designer with, I thought, little interest in movies. Certainly I had hardly met him in the past few years. Nevertheless, he wanted to become involved and understand the business. He also undertook to revamp the Everyman’s little programme cards and make them visually striking. The yellow posters would not be changed.
I was keen to widen the Everyman’s programming and also make changes to its format. I thought the week-long run had had its day, so to speak, and one only had to look at the National Film Theatre and also the Electric Cinema Club in Notting Hill to see that shorter, even daily, runs was the way forward. Within a short time the Everyman had two programmes a week and Saturday late-shows were also introduced. I resisted double-bills of the sort that was the Electric’s stock-in-trade. For one thing, the logistics of all those 35mm prints would have been a great burden on our two projectionists.
I was always on the look out for fresh ideas and seasons which might give the Everyman a national profile. Somehow it happened. The BFI had a man called Ted Heath who was head of their distribution department. He offered me an amazing opportunity – a season of German Expressionist movies of the 1920s and 1930s, including Caligari, Nosferatu, Metropolis, Dr Mabuse and The Blue Angel. All in new 35mm prints, though purists might have questioned the overlaid music for the silent pictures. Ted didn’t want the season to go to the NFT. He wanted a proper commercial run and a life for these pictures. We paid I think a flat rate of £250 for all the titles and it was a colossal success, the perfect Hampstead package.
We held the British premiere of Francois Truffaut’s 1968 movie Mississippi Mermaid, even though it was dubbed. We recalled Bogart with an even bigger season. We ran as many Billy Wilder pictures as we could get in a season called, naturally enough, ‘Running Wilder.’ Around this time the NFT was having a feud with MGM so I embarrassed them a little by staging seasons of Greta Garbo and MGM musicals, sometimes using prints sent specially from Culver City.
In 1976 we did a big season called Film Noir, accompanied by a long essay for the programme written by Time Out Film Editor Chris Petit. The Big Sleep came back for that, of course. That season ran for three whole months. We held a press show to publicise it and I was surprised by some national critics who mocked the term ‘film noir.’ Now it’s part of the vocabulary.