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Intriguing double bill at the old Regal

PUBLISHED: 12:49 12 November 2009 | UPDATED: 15:12 14 July 2010

An intriguing double bill of British crime thrillers - Waterloo Road (1944) and Dead Men Tell No Tales (1938) - will be the Regal Experience's last presentation in this year's series of classic movie screenings.

An intriguing double bill of British crime thrillers - Waterloo Road (1944) and Dead Men Tell No Tales (1938) - will be the Regal Experience's last presentation in this year's series of classic movie screenings. The show will be at the old Wymondham Regal, now part of the local Ex-Service's Club, on Sunday, November 22 (2.30pm).

Waterloo Road, set in South London during the Blitz, stars John Mills as a soldier who goes absent without leave to sort out a dastardly petty crook, played by Stewart Granger, who is having an affair with his wife. Full of wartime nostalgia, the film also features Alastair Sim and the Regal Experience's good friend Jean Kent.

The much loved John Mills, who died in 2005, never forgot his Norfolk roots. He was born at the Watts Naval Training College near North Elmham in 1908 and was educated at three schools - Belton near Yarmouth, the Sir John Leman school at Beccles and Norwich High School for Boys in Upper St Giles, which later moved to Langley.

Dead Men Tell No Tales, starring Emlyn Williams and Marius Goring, is based on a book called the Norwich Victims, published in 1935 under the authorship of Francis Beeding. The plot concerns the matron of a Norwich school, who wins a huge amount on a French lottery and is murdered on the way to collect it just one of several murders in the story.

Francis Beeding was the pseudonym of two writers - John Palmer and Hilary St George Saunders who collaborated on The Norwich Victims and about 40 other novels.

The authors, who appeared to have had no direct connection with Norfolk, seemed to have had a detailed knowledge of the county. In the Norwich victims there are references to St Peter Mancroft, the Bowthorpe cemetery, Aylsham Road, Magdalen Street and even Queen Elizabeth I's association with the Maid's Head Hotel. At the time the story was written here was a Prince's Restaurant in Castle Street and a lunch there is also mentioned.

When the book came out Saunders appeared at Jarrold's Restaurant as Francis Beeding to give a talk on the method of writing such detective tales and to sign copies. Palmer was in the audience and questioned him on how clever the hero detective was, whereupon Saunders called him up to the platform saying he ought to know that as he created him. So the collaboration was revealed!

Around the time of this event Miss Betty Jarrold was getting married at St Andrew's Parish Church in Thorpe and a copy of the book has come to hand inscribed: “To Miss Jarrold on the occasion of her marriage. With the compliments and best wishes of Francis Beeding”.

Death Walks in Eastrepps, another Francis Beeding crime caper published in 1931, was set around Cromer and North-East Norfolk. Again the authors displayed great local knowledge in a story which was once described by a critic as “one of the ten greatest detective novels of all time”.

The Francis Beeding duo were also responsible for The House of Dr Edwardes, which Alfred Hitchcock drew on for his famous psychological thriller Spellbound, starring Gregory Peck and Ingrid Bergman.

When Dead Men Tell No Tales was shown at The Regent on Prince of Wales Road at the beginning of August 1938, the reviewer in the Eastern Daily Press commented: “With such a strong local interest attaching to the story the film should be a big attraction”.

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

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