Leslie Halliwell.com
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- Half a Lifetime at the Movies -

ISBN 0684183862
Scribner (US Version)

‘I think
would have liked to read
this book’


An autobiographical work from which most of the quotes used in the Biography page of this website were taken.  It documents LH’s early life in Bolton, his public school and national service years, and his Cambridge education and stint as manager of the Rex Cinema.





            There have been Halliwells in Bolton for many hundreds of years: it is the one town where I don’t have to spell my name a dozen times a day.  You see it on the destination board of the bus which takes you to a rather grubby industrial district on the edge of the moors: a place full of pubs, and chip shops, and six-storey mills which no longer fulfil their original function of processing cotton.  There is still a Halliwell Road, a Halliwell Lodge, a Halliwell House.  Those prepared to do a little scrambling may even find traces of the original holy well.  But accept no imitations.  Helliwell is an imposter from Yorkshire, Hallowell comes from Cumberland, and Hallewell is thoroughly confused.
            If there were any rich Halliwells, I didn’t know them.  Not in the early 1930s.  The other Halliwells we mixed with were mill folk like us, though the boys and girls my age may have been sitting for grammar school scholarships.  Their parents had just put the clogs-and-shawl atmosphere behind them, and wanted something better for the next generation than the constant oily smell of cottonseed.  One of the saving graces of these extremely hard times was the Lancashire sense of humour.  Another was the enthusiasm for various forms of public entertainment: not only for Handel’s Messiah and the Amateur Operatic but for the church concert and the palais de danse and the music hall and above all the cinema.  The cinema was the most conveniently and constantly available, and it took people furthest out of themselves, into a wondrous and beautiful world which became their Shangri-La, though they would willingly queue for hours; besides, it was cheaper than lighting the fire.
In preparing these reminiscences I have been grateful to all who shared those far-off years with me.  The book is above all a tribute to my indefatigably crusading mother, though there may also be a little social history in it.  Additional thanks are due to my meticulous editors, Anne Charvet and John Bright-Holmes; and to three photo libraries, those of the Bolton Evening News (Gordon Readyhough), the Rank Organisation and the Cambridgeshire Collection.

LH, Summer 1984


The book finishes rather abruptly with Halliwell leaving the Rex in 1955.  His mother died soon after (as the dedication hints at) and maybe Halliwell was reluctant to record this particular period in print.  Perhaps he intended to one day tell the rest of the story?


Biography | Bibliography | The Four Star Films | A Four-Star History | Brief History of the Guide
The Editions | Favourite Reviews | The Boltonian | Cambridge | TV & Film Buyer | Obituaries | Modern Times | Top Tens | Decline & Fall of the Movie | Universal Monster Movies | A Word on Shape | Old vs New | My Guide