June Whitfield to attend film screening

Star of stage and screen June Whitfield will be guest of honour when Wymondham cinema goers once again revel in the golden age of the musical.

They just don't make them like that any more. At the age of 82 most people are putting their feet up. Not June Whitfield. Still working in TV after a career spanning an incredible seven decades, she will be in Wymondham on Sunday April 13 for a special screening of a screen classic.

“It'll be my first visit to the town, and I'm looking forward to it,” said the veteran comedienne, probably most familiar to younger audiences from her appearances in Absolutely Fabulous, alongside Jennifer Saunders and Joanna Lumley.

She will be making a special guest appearance at The Regal Experience's showing of the 1942 MGM musical For Me and My Gal. The film, starring Judy Garland and Gene Kelly will be shown at the old Wymondham Regal, now part of the local Ex-Services' Club.

June is keen to support the cinema's revival of the classics. “It sounds such a good idea. I love all the old movies, particularly Busby Berkeley's,” she said.

June is regarded as the queen of British sit-com.

Born in London in 1925, she made her first stage appearance aged just three when her mother enrolled her in a local dance school. Graduating from the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art in 1944, her first big break came in 1953 when she replaced Joy Nichols in the popular radio comedy series Take It From Here, starring Jimmy Edwards and Dick Bentley.

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Her subsequent comedy partners read like a roll-call of British entertainment, among them Arthur Askey, Roy Hudd, Sid James, Frankie Howerd, Tony Hancock, Eric Morecambe and Ernie Wise.

Sadly, many are no longer with us, but she is still great friends with Roy Hudd, who today lives in Suffolk.

June has appeared in many television roles, including the nurse in the renowned Tony Hancock Blood Donor sketch. She also featured in long-running TV shows like Beggar My Neighbour and in the 1970s and 1980s with the late Terry Scott in Happy Ever After and Terry and June.

In recent years she played Jennifer Saunders' mother in Ab Fab, from 1992 to 2003, and is still involved in Last of the Summer Wine. She was made an OBE in 1995, upgraded to a CBE ten years ago.

Television audiences have seen her in episodes of The Royal, Midsomer Murders, Marple, New Tricks and Only Fools and Horses spin-off The Green Green Grass late last year.

At the cinema her credits include four Carry On films, including the last in the series, Carry on Columbus in 1992, in which she played Queen Isabella of Spain.

In 1996, in a rare straight dramatic role, she appeared alongside Kate Winslet and Jude Law in a version of Thomas Hardy's Jude the Obscure.

No stranger to the stage, in 1975 June played alongside Terry Scott at Norwich's Theatre Royal in A Bed Full of Foreigners. While in the city she paid a visit to the K shoe factory in Northumberland Street, at a time when the shoe industry was in a depressed state.

The visit was captured by the EDP photographer of the time.

June is still working, and has no intention of retiring, “until they throw me out!”

Her latest project is a soap opera yet to be screened, called Harley Street.

Recently she was given the accolade of a Melvyn Bragg documentary on ITV's The South Bank Show. Originally screened last summer, it was repeated last month.

The main feature at Wymondham on Sunday April 13 will be Busby Berkeley's For Me and My Gal. The film is a sentimental and colourful romp through vaudeville in the run-up to the first world war. It made Gene Kelly an international star and further enhanced the stellar reputation of Judy Garland, then aged 20. You'll easily recognise the songs; Oh You Beautiful Doll, When Johnny Comes Marching Home and The Bells are Ringing (for me and my girl).

The supporting film will be an evocative “short” familiar to Wymondham audiences.

Beside the Seaside was made in 1935 and takes a nostalgic look at the golden age of the British coastal

holiday.

The Regal Experience group is dedicated to keeping classic cinema alive in Wymondham.

The town's Regal Cinema was built in 1937 and closed in 1993. Following the closure, the main auditorium of the building was converted to a dance floor and bar for the Wymondham and District Ex-Servicemen's Club, while retaining the decorative features, stage and ambience of the old cinema.

With the aid of Cinema City Norwich, The Regal Experience group has for the past eight years held several special one-day screenings of famous old films. All films are shown on the original 1930s projection equipment.

Previous vintage offerings shown there include the Ealing favourite The Titfield Thunderbolt, wartime tale The Way to the Stars, The Glenn Miller Story, The Smallest Show on Earth, Genevieve, Reach for the Sky and Brief Encounter.

t Tickets for the 2.30pm show are available from Maureen Dodman (01953 605593) and Michael Armstrong (01953 603246) or at the Wymondham Heritage Museum.