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Remembering Muriel, Norfolk's own movie star

PUBLISHED: 18:14 22 February 2019 | UPDATED: 18:14 22 February 2019

Muriel with John Gregson at Hickling Broad in Conflict of Wings.

Muriel with John Gregson at Hickling Broad in Conflict of Wings.

Archant

From wrestlers to The Beatles, the movie makers love this part of the country. Let's turn the clock back even further. Derek James remembers another film made in Norfolk and pays tribute to a queen of the movies we took to our hearts

Muriel with John Gregson at Hickling Broad in Conflict of WingsMuriel with John Gregson at Hickling Broad in Conflict of Wings

“I feel the real star of the film was Norfolk itself. It is such a beautiful part of England and I was thrilled to see again all the lovely areas in which we had worked.” The words of 1940s and 50s film favourite Muriel Pavlow, pictured inset below, who died last month at the age of 97.

She was speaking to film historian and member of the marvellous Regal Experience at Wymondham, Philip Yaxley,
about the movie Conflict of Wings based in Norfolk and released in 1954.

Many movie stars have been brought to Wymondham by the group who stage much-loved Sunday afternoon film shows back in the old Regal which is now the Ex-Services Club.

They include the late, great June Whitfield, Virginia McKenna, Sylvia Sims, Susan Hampshire, Dora Bryan, Shirley Anne Field, Melvyn Hayes, Jean Kent, Rita Tushingham and they also visited Julie Christie, Richard Todd and Michael Craig.

Anglia TV filming Muriel at the Pleasure Boat Inn's staithe at Hickling BroadAnglia TV filming Muriel at the Pleasure Boat Inn's staithe at Hickling Broad

It was dear Muriel they had a special place in their hearts for...and how she loved Norfolk.

“We have lost a good friend,” said Philip.

In a lifetime on stage and screen she starred in movies opposite the likes of Alec Guinness, Dirk Bogarde, Robert Newton, Jack Hawkins and Kenneth More.

In Reach for the Sky with More she played Thelma, the wife of the legendary fight pilot Douglas Bader, who was at RAF Coltishall for a while.

Muriel walks to the Regal's stage for an interview before the screening of Conflict of Wings, followed by group secretary Maureen DodmanMuriel walks to the Regal's stage for an interview before the screening of Conflict of Wings, followed by group secretary Maureen Dodman

It was in 2003 when Muriel first visited Wymondham for a screening of Conflict of Wings, a quintessential Norfolk film, when she first visited the Regal Experience Group. It was a sell-out and the people loved listening to her talk about her life and times.

“The film, in which she appeared alongside John Gregson, Kieron Moore and Harry Fowler, revolved round the struggle of Norfolk villagers with the Air Ministry to prevent the RAF taking over a nature reserve for
a rocket-firing range,” said Philip.

“Muriel came for the weekend and we took her on a nostalgic trip to beautiful Broadland locations, particularly Ludham and Hickling where scenes for the movie were shot 50 years earlier,” he explained.

The television cameras were there to film and Muriel re-enacted a scene at the Pleasure Boat Inn’s staithe at Hickling.

The relationship between members of the Wymondham Experience and Muriel grew stronger over the years. She invited them as her VIP’s guests for a special event at the Imperial War Museum’s show at Duxford when the film the Malta Story, in which she starred opposite Alec Guinness, was shown.

They visited her Kensington home and then she was back in Wymondham in 2005 for a screening of the film Doctor in the House with Dirk Bogarde.

A few years later she returned to the town again, staying with group chairman Michael Armstrong where she loved his very own replica mini Regal cinema.

The highlight of the visit was a trip to the Playhouse in Norwich where she surprised her old friend and co-star Sir Donald Sinden who was performing there. “It was a truly joyous reunion for both actors and a memorable one for us,” said Philip.

Muriel had an extraordinary film career which lasted for no less than 75 years.

It began it 1934 when she appearance with Gracie Fields in Sing As We Go and ended with a cameo role in the star-studded Glorious 39 in 2009 with Bill Nighy, David Tennant, Eddie Redmayne, Christopher Lee, Julie Christie, Corin Redgrave and Jenny Agutter.

And where was it filmed? Norfolk was course, all around Castle Acre Priory, Walsingham, Cley, the Holkham Estate, Houghton Hall, Salthouse and in London.



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