in the 1950s
`THE PAST IS a foreign country.' This magical ﬁrst sentence from The Go-Between (1953) was the opening line of the ﬁrst novel I was ever sent to review. The Manchester Guardian, as it was then, had sent me a parcel of books and after reading L. P. Hartley's masterly tale of love and snobbery and guile and much else I felt that if this was reviewing, it was a wonderful way of earning, not perhaps a living, but at least a crust. Soon afterwards I was asked, out of the blue, to be ﬁlm critic of the Spectator, and entered what now seems a very foreign country indeed, the ﬁlm world of the 1950s, in which I stayed for ten years. It was a past separated from us today not just by the changes in ﬁlms and ﬁlm-making, but by the social upheavals between then and now; its climate altogether different from ours, with attitudes and behaviour unrecognisable now, a past closer to the world of The Go-Between (which was set at the turn of the nineteenth century, just a hundred years ago) than to our world today. Foreign, even exotic, that 1950s world now seems.
My time in the ﬁlm world spanned the crucial decade of change, from the mid-1950s to the mid-1960s (so that some of the ﬁlms and events I mention will go a little beyond the 1950s). I said I was asked out of the blue by the Spectator, and this was the amateurish way things were done in those days. It would never happen now. All they knew of my tastes and interests and knowledge came from an article I had sent in (again out of the blue), which____________________