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Hitchcock classic next up at Regal

PUBLISHED: 19:56 21 May 2008 | UPDATED: 14:32 14 July 2010

ALFRED Hitchcock's acclaimed comedy-thriller North by Northwest, starring the great Cary Grant, is the Regal Experience Group's next classic screening on Ex-Services' Club.

ALFRED Hitchcock's acclaimed comedy-thriller North by Northwest, starring the great Cary Grant, is the Regal Experience Group's next classic screening on Ex-Services' Club.

With an accompanying exhibition highlighting the iconic actor's career, the show will be of special interest to David Guy of Hethersett. Archibald Leach, who later became Cary Grant, once acted as baggage boy for David's mum, Winifred Beatrice Williams. But how did that happen?

Archie Leach was born in Bristol in 1904 and at a very early age formed a friendship with a group of acrobatic dancers and stilt walkers called the Penders. The troupe was run by Robert Lomas and his wife Margaret who adopted the stage named Bob and Margaret Pender. Born in 1891, Winifred joined the troupe as a dancer around 1910 - about the time that Archie, not quite aged seven, was also taken on by Bob Pender. Winifred, whose dad kept a florist's shop in Covent Garden and had two hotels in Bournemouth, lived in Drury Lane - right in theatre-land. She had actually auditioned for the Penders without her father knowing.

Winifred toured Europe with the troupe, but unlike Archie who sailed with the Penders for New York in 1911, never performed in the States. It was in the troupe that she met Percy Ratcliffe, Bob Pender's step-brother, and married him. Bob joined the army in the first world war and unfortunately died of war wounds in 1918. Later Winifred met David's father.

When at the height of his fame, Cary Grant was asked by one of her relatives about Winifred, he described her as one of the kindest ladies he had ever met. Winifred died in 1978.

In 1915 young Archie Leach was sent to Fairfield Secondary School near Bristol, but still managed to help backstage at the local Hippodrome when Pender's Nippy Nines were appearing there. In March 1918 Archie was expelled from school and in May of that year and then still aged only 14, he travelled 300 miles to Norwich to join the Nippy Nines - some say without his father knowing.

Pinder's Nippy Nines, with Archie on board and described in the Eastern Daily Press as “a party of the liveliest comedians and acrobatic dancers,” topped the bill at the Norwich Hippodrome from May 13 to 18, 1918, before moving on to Ipswich. It was a big step for young Archie, but basically he got on well with the Penders.

In July 1920 Archie sailed with the troupe again for New York and although the Penders returned to England for good in 1923, Archie remained in America and gradually made a name for himself on the stage.

In 1932 he arrived in Los Angeles seeking a movie career, changed his name to Cary Grant and was signed by Paramount Studios. Immediately he appeared in a number of films, mainly in bit parts, but a year later his big break came when he played opposite the legendary Mae West in She Done Him Wrong. Mae described him as “warm, dark and handsome” - and he was now a major movie star! As they say, the rest is history.

North By Northwest (1959), which also stars James Mason and Eva Marie Saint, is a clever mix of comedy, intrigue, romance and suspense.

The short supporting film will be another of those nostalgic documentaries Wymondham audiences love. Made in 1943, Summer on the Farm focuses on wartime farming.

Tickets are available from Maureen Dodman (tel: 01953 605593) or Michael Armstrong (01953 603246) and at the Wymondham Heritage Museum. They are priced at £4.50/concessions £3.50.

The Regal Experience Group are assisted by Hollywood Cinemas.

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