Recommended Reading: Glasgow’s Grand Central Hotel

20130312_231800In my “Glasgow’s Global Visitors” posts to date I’ve focused pretty much exclusively on stars of my lifetime but rest assured I have every intention of going further into history and looking at visits from some of the older generations of silver screen stars.

It is with pleasure that I dip briefly into this past era in writing about a 2012 book I recently picked up – Glasgow’s Grand Central Hotel. The Grand Central Hotel, formerly simply the Central Hotel, is joined to Glasgow Central Station and has been a city landmark since 1883. By the early 2000s the hotel was falling into some disrepair (I personally recall staying in a room there after a 2001 work Christmas night out and a leg falling off the bed!) and what should have been a vibrant part of one of the city’s main gateways was in a sorry state. However hotel chain Principal Hayley acquired the hotel, gave it a dramatic makeover and re-opened it in early 2011 as the Grand Central Hotel. I have since visited the hotel for meetings, charity dinners and a pint in the impressive Champagne Central bar and it certainly now appears like a fitting welcome to Glasgow – glamorous and friendly in equal measures.

It was following the re-launch of the hotel that Principal Hayley commissioned Bill Hicks (obviously not the late American comedian, but a journalist with over 40 years experience at The Sunday Post) and Jill Scott, also a newspaper journalist and formerly a librarian at the University of Glasgow to write a book about its past and present.

Of particular interest to Glasgow on Film is the chapter “Hollywood on Hope Street”. Spanning 40 pages this chapter features some of the highlights of the Central Hotel’s impressive list of musical, sporting and acting guests over the years. It is well illustrated too with some fantastic pictures from the archives. Among the film stars recorded in the book as having stayed at or visited the Central Hotel are Jimmy Durante, Nat King Cole, Bud Abbott and Lou Costello, Frank Sinatra, Bing Crosby, Fred Astaire, Danny Kaye, Stan Laurel and Oliver Hardy, Guy Mitchell, Sammy Davis Junior, Roy Rogers, Paul Douglas, Billy Daniels, Broderick Crawford, Frankie Laine, Dale Evans, Mae West, Howard Keel, Gene Kelly, Douglas Fairbanks Junior, Dorothy Lamour, Larry Parks, Betty Garrett, Lena Horne, Dean Martin, Jerry Lewis, Chico Marx, Margaret O’Brien, Ella Fitzgerald… and that’s just the Americans (and Stan Laurel)… all 30 of them!

I’ve only listed the names above, but the book adds another dimension with some genuinely interesting anecdotes including charming recollections from former staff and autograph hunters. What I love about this book, and in particular this chapter, is that it is further evidence of the strong and historic ties between Glasgow and Hollywood – the city was clearly an important place for film stars to be in the mid 20th century and while not always accompanied by the same degree of ceremony as yesteryear we are continuing to see this to some extent today through film-making, festivals, promotional visits and even straightforward holidays to Glasgow by the current stars.

Glasgow’s Grand Central Hotel is available at various outlets in Glasgow, including Waterstones and Papyrus.

Recommended Reading: World Film Locations: Glasgow

world film locationsA couple of weeks ago I mentioned that I had received my copy of World Film Locations: Glasgow, edited by Nicola Balkind. Having finished reading it recently I’m pleased to say it’s a great read.

We are very lucky that our city has such a rich history and that is reflected on the shelves of Glasgow’s book stores – not every city in Britain or indeed Europe will have as many tomes devoted to its sporting achievements, its architecture, its musical heritage, its dialect, its public transport… But until fairly recently there’s not been a huge amount published about Glasgow’s significant place in the world of cinema. World Film Locations: Glasgow helps ensure that this important chapter in Glasgow’s history is recorded in book form and as a bonus its own recommended reading section has pointed me in the direction of some other books on the matter which I look forward to sourcing and reading.

The joy of the book is being reminded how many movies have been made in Glasgow – there are brilliant two-page features on 38 films, each consisting of concise and interesting summaries of the plots and locations, and illustrated with captures from those productions. The films featured span the decades from O Lucky Man! in 1973 to Perfect Sense in 2011 and in addition to these features many more films are referenced, such as 1996’s Small Faces and the recently released Cloud Atlas.

Alongside the individual movie features sits a series of essays, opening nicely with Paul Gallagher’s Glasgow: City of the Imagination and concluding with Nicola Balkind’s Glasgow: Hollywood’s Film Set, which itself concludes with a stirring opinion on the potential of Glasgow’s film-making future. The other essays are Cinema City: Glasgow’s Passion for Cinema by Neil Johnson-Symington; Glaswegian Comedy: A Distinct Sense of Humour by Keir Hind; The Gift of Constraint: Danish-Scottish Collaboration and the Advance Party by Pasquale Iannone; Glasgow’s Kitchen Sink: The Cinema of Ken Loach and Peter Mullan by David Archibald; Dear Green Shoots: Underground Film-Making In Glasgow by Sean Welsh. All essays both educate and entertain.

It was particularly nice to see the former Toledo cinema in Muirend discussed in Neil Johnson-Symington’s essay – as a child of the 1980s this was my local cinema as the Cannon initially and then taking on the ABC and Odeon names before its sad closure. This was where I made my first cinema visit aged five- to see Superman IV: The Quest For Peace!

World Film Locations: Glasgow is available to order on Amazon.