Home » ‘Sweet and quirky’: memories of the Everyman in the mid 1990s: Marianne Gray

‘Sweet and quirky’: memories of the Everyman in the mid 1990s: Marianne Gray

Posted April 2024

Marianne Gray is a freelance film journalist and author. She is from South Africa but has been a Londoner from the late 60s. She was president of the British Critics Circle and is a director of Peckhamplex, an independent multiplex cinema. We chatted on the phone about her connections with the Everyman.

Marianne started her London life in a dormitory with a leaky roof in the YWCA, Downshire Avenue, Hampstead. She describes London as wonderful at that time. She had a big circle of friends with whom she sampled the cultural delights of alternative London, especially the cinemas where prices compared favourably to the theatre She became a regular attender at independent cinemas, including the rundown Coronet in Notting Hill and, later on in the 80s, the notorious all night screenings at the Scala Kings Cross. She has vivid memories of the Everyman, particularly when she was promoting her biographies of French actors Depardieu and Moreau in the early 1990s. By this time, like other repertory cinemas in the capital, the Everyman was struggling to survive and, on reflection, Marianne thinks, was carrying on after its time. She described the cinema as old fashioned, but sweet and quirky, an ‘old wooden barn, not chic but charming and lovely’, with a superb bistro and live jazz.

Marianne eventually established herself as a successful film journalist, also publishing popular biographies on two major European stars, Gerard Depardieu and Jeanne Moreau. The books were both honoured by seasons at the Everyman. Marianne particularly remembers the 1994 Moreau season when she was allocated a dining table in the basement café, in order to sell signed copies of her newly published book La Moreau. The actress had started her long acting career in theatre but by the 1960s had become the darling of European art cinema with films like Les Amants, La Notte and Jules et Jim. Unusually for a female star she was still acting in films and prominent in cinema culture in her 80s. During the course of her research for the biography Marianne interviewed Moreau twice in London and also went to Paris for tea with her in her flat where she was given contact details for several of her friends, her ex-husband and agent.

Marianne recalls the afternoon audience for the season as consisting mainly of elderly regulars who were attracted to the cheap tickets and perhaps the memory of Moreau as a symbol of sexual freedom. But the audience was mixed and also included a contingent of Hampstead au pairs and younger London cinephiles who were catching up on their film history.

Her happy memories of this period are partly to do with the staff she met at the Everyman. The programming manager was Peter Howden, a stalwart of independent cinema, and one of the original collective who set up the Electric in Notting Hill in 1968. He was the creative force behind the programming but she didn’t have a lot to do with him. She mainly dealt with Michael Brooke, Peter’s young assistant and the Everyman’s allround administrator who did everything from dealing with distributors to liaising with the projectionists and writing the programme notes. He had got the job at the age of 22 on the basis of his enthusiasm for film rather than any relevant work experience. Marianne describes him as an extraordinary film person who was ‘energy itself and knew everything he needed to and more about film’. They became lifelong friends. Marianne was also enchanted by June Carroll who took over the cinema in 1993. She was an ex Olympic running champion who had married pop singer Ronnie Carroll. After failing in the hotel business in Grenada the couple came back to London and June ran a highly successful hamburger stall in Camden Lock. She took over the Everyman restaurant and then the cinema in 1993. Marianne remembers her as lively, gorgeous and bright, and always busy and energetic. She was Incredibly glamorous with a magnificent tan which might be set off by a strapless Dior number. She was well connected and had a string of admirers, but film was not her expertise.

The Everyman, one of the longest surviving repertory independents, was taken over and renovated by Pullmans in 1998. But audiences continued to dwindle until in 2000 it became the first in what has become the successful Everyman chain which, in total contrast to its independent history, relies on its boutique image, high ticket prices and expensive eating and drinking. Meanwhile, film continues to be central to Marianne’s life. She edits the film site Movies 1 (www.movies1.co.uk) and is active as a director of Peckhamplex, a six screen independent cinema, firmly rooted in its local community and offering the cheapest seats in London.