Linlithgow, the Royal Burgh situated roughly 20 miles from the Scottish capital of Edinburgh, may be best known as the birthplace of Mary Queen of Scots but its cinematic past also deserves some recognition.
The town’s Burgh Hall once held a “Town Hall Cinema”. Around the corner, the town’s Victoria Hall, originally opened in 1886, was converted to become the Ritz Cinema in 1937. This was run by the one of the biggest Scottish cinema chains – Caledonian Associated Cinemas, and could seat over 600 people.
Today just the front of the building survives, still a prominent landmark on the high street, awaiting a new use. The Ritz’s closure as a cinema led to the formation of the Linlithgow Film Society in 1973 who met and showed films on a temporary screen within the Burgh Halls. Still going strong today, and with the latest equipment, the now multiple-award winning society now meets in Linlithgow Academy Theatre.
Linlithgow is one of two Scottish places with a claim to be the future birthplace of Star Trek’s engineer, Montgomery Scott. When visiting Linlithgow Burgh Halls, look out for a Starship Enterprise hidden in the porcelain tiles in one of the fireplaces! The other place with a claim on Mr Scott is Aberdeen.
Mary, Queen of Scots’ somewhat eventful life has spawned dozens of film adaptations, including one of the very earliest known portrayals of Scotland on film, a short film from 1895 depicting her execution. Astonishingly, the film still exists, and a copy is held at the Scottish Screen Archive – watch it online here. Like many of the later, better known portrayals (including Katherine Hepburn in 1936, and Vanessa Redgrave in 1971), this was a US production!
As recently as November 2011, the Burgh Halls were also used as a filming location for BBC1’s period drama Garrow’s Law, while the Palme-Dewar 2009-winning short film Dark Shadows In The Sun was filmed in the surrounding countryside, and the nearby Union Canal featured prominently in Young Adam (2003).
Nearby Broxburn is the childhood home of Michael Caton-Jones, the now Hollywood-based director of Doc Hollywood, Memphis Belle and Rob Roy.
[Ritz image courtesy of Harry Rigby]