A Very Mary Christmas, 1979

When Mary was busy celebrating Christmas Day in 1978 nobody had any idea what terrible – and entirely preventable – tragedy would befall her just eight months later. But Mary’s memory did not immediately fade from view after her death in August 1979; in fact, quite the opposite happened. In London’s West End Mary’s posthumous popularity soared, and screenings of her movies reached unprecedented levels. At Mary’s ‘spiritual’ home – the Moulin cinema complex in Great Windmill Street – her films continued to play to packed auditoria week after week. What’s fascinating to note is just how incredibly prolific Mary’s movies were over the Christmas period of 1979, in particular.

Mary Millington Christmas 1979

During the week of 21-28 December the Moulin was tempting cinema-goers with separate programmes of The Playbirds (1978), I’m Not Feeling Myself Tonight! (1975) and Come Play with Me (1977) each five times per day, as well as Queen of the Blues (1979) six times every day. Maths has never been my strongest point, but minus a lunchtime showing on Sunday 23rd, a Christmas Eve late-night screening and the fact that the cinema was closed on Christmas Day, that’s still a colossal tally of 118 screenings over the space of just one week in a single cinema. Elsewhere in London, Mary’s 1975 film Erotic Inferno was playing nightly at the Granada chain, and her Swedish-made drama Private Pleasures was showing every evening at the Curzon in Haringay. In total, Mary’s movies played some 130 times over a mere six days.

Looking at these statistics today it seems that the public’s fascination with X-rated material was undimmed even after Mary’s untimely death, and undiluted by December’s more traditional festivities. Christmas 1979 was an especially poignant time for Mary’s family and friends; a time of reflection and celebration, as well as bringing a close to a decade of tumultuous social change for Great Britain.

 All words strictly © Simon Sheridan 2015

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