Things were looking up at the Palace Cinema, Dunstable, nearly 80 years ago

Palace Cinema, High Street North, Dunstable.
Palace Cinema, High Street North, Dunstable.

The Palace Cinema in High Street North, Dunstable, pulled out all the publicity stops for its screenings of a Cicely Courtneidge comedy, Things Are Looking Up, in 1935.

Miss Courtneidge was at the height of her fame and crowds of Dunstablians turned up to see her in a dual role as twin sisters, one a circus owner and the other the lover of a no-good wrestler!

Site of Palace Cinema, High Street North, Dunstable.

Site of Palace Cinema, High Street North, Dunstable.

Music hall star Max Miller appeared in a small role but now the film is best remembered for introducing Vivien Leigh, the later Lady Olivier, to the screen.

Today there’s a block of shops, including the Clowns fancy dress store (pictured), on the old Palace site.

Local showman Fred Marchant built the cinema in 1919/20 to replace his earlier venue, also called the Palace, which stood next door.

This land was later used to build another cinema, the Union, which has now been converted into the Dunstable Community Church.

Cicely Courtneidge, born in 1893, starred with her husband Jack Hulbert in numerous stage shows and made many successful films.

Her career blossomed again in the 1950s when an Ivor Novello musical, Gays The Word, gave her a show-stopping song called Vitality, which she performed repeatedly on TV with an energy which belied her age. She died in 1980.

> Yesteryear is compiled by John Buckledee, chairman of Dunstable and District Local History Society.