A window on the past
I was pleased the 60th anniversary of The Titfield Thunderbolt movie was marked by Sunday's screening at the Little Theatre cinema.
Filmed around Monkton Combe, Limpley Stoke and Freshford, it gives a window on a sunny, post-war rural idyll – the way we were before cars invaded villages.
Some of the themes remain relevant today, such as volunteers' heroic efforts to run branch lines like the West Somerset Railway to Minehead and Swanage Railway via Corfe Castle.
As lines closed in the 1950s and 1960s, buses were meant to be the new trains, but the fragility of rural services is increasingly worrying in today's age of local authority cuts. Villages cut off is as big a threat as ever.
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Another Bath-based film's birthday should also be remembered – happy 50th to 80,000 Suspects. Centred on a smallpox epidemic and the hunt for the lethal carrier, it's not a great film, despite strong lead actors in Richard Johnson and the forever young Claire Bloom.
But the plentiful location shots, filmed during the notorious Big Freeze winter of 1963, provide nostalgic vistas frozen in time.
There's the strikingly bare riverside pre-sports centre, a car driving down Union Street to Stall Street, historic crescents smoke-stained by coal fires and factory chimneys, the Chronicle's presses running in Westgate Street and greasy spoon cafes.
In real-life, one such cafe in pre-gentrified Margaret's Buildings rang with the silly voices of Dudley Moore during the filming of The Wrong Box in 1965. It would be hard to imagine today's millionaire stand-up comics entertaining folk over a breakfast cuppa.
Michael Caine, also in the sadly disappointing, movie, returned to Bath in 2010 for a book promotion event, noting a momentous chance meeting by the Royal Crescent Hotel.
Bumping into legendary Hollywood smoothie, Cary Grant, one of his actor heroes, Caine was awe-struck. "You're Cary Grant," was all he could say. "I know," replied the typically droll Grant, the former Bristol boy in Bath to see his ageing mother at a nursing home.