April 9th, 2009

Alan

Close Encounter with Brief Encounter

Yesterday evening I went to a rather special showing of Brief Encounter. It was at the Tivoli Theatre, Wimborne in aid of the mayor’s charities. What made it a gala occasion was the presence of Margaret Barton, who played the part of Beryl (or 'Berril!') the tea room assistant in the film. In Wimborne, where she lives, she is better known as Mrs James.

Now in her eighties, Mrs James very much resembles The Queen in stature and hairstyle. Unlike Her Majesty, she is an excellent public speaker. Picture a diminutive figure still able to hold an audience with her lovely voice, remembering how kind David Lean was to her, how exciting it was to work with Stanley Holloway, what a lot she learned from watching Celia Johnson. When she made Brief Encounter she was nineteen but as she said, looked fourteen. Her acting career lasted twenty years before she gave it up to be a full time mother. It’s perhaps a pity for her that this one part has overshadowed the rest. Now, as I suppose the only survivor, she is much in demand and has been to Carnforth station to unveil a plaque to David Lean and also to open a visitor centre. Living history! Then we watched the film.

Is it pure nostalgia that makes people love this film so much? Mrs James doesn’t think so; for her it’s the values of the film (‘self respect matters…and loyalty’ as she quoted Laura saying) which give it its enduring appeal. Especially in Japan, apparently.



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