AJFF: ‘Park’ Accommodates Sweet British Memories

AJFF: ‘Park’ Accommodates Sweet British Memories

Kevin C. Madigan

Kevin Madigan is a senior reporter for the Atlanta Jewish Times.

Above: You can learn all about a former center of Anglo-Jewish life in “The Green Park,” being shown Feb. 2 and 13.

For more than 40 years, the Green Park Hotel in Bournemouth was a central point for Anglo-Jewish activity in Great Britain. Shot over 12 years, the documentary “The Green Park” lets us inside its art-deco environs to see why it was such a quintessential place to be and be seen.

“It became a nexus of Anglo-Jewish social life,” says one of many former guests interviewed for the film.

Glamour prevailed during its heyday as successful Jews came to the seaside town for vacations, lured by top-notch kosher food and a return to their roots. Women danced with gigolos while their husbands played cards, another guest says, and American soldiers stationed in England came to celebrate Passover. Celebrities such as the Beatles’ manager, Brian Epstein, made frequent visits.

It was a great place for mixing and matching, another guest recalls. Parents sent their kids there to meet future spouses, so the Green Park became the preferred location to make a shidduch — an introduction that could lead to matrimony.

The film addresses the many changes British Jews went through during the period the hotel was in business: identity, integration, assimilation and the difficulty of keeping traditions.

The owner, Ruby Marriott, bought the place in 1943 with borrowed money after failing to enlist in the war effort because of poor eyesight. He ran it with help from his wife and her four sisters and closed it in 1986 as the advent of cheap foreign travel took hold.

The beautiful building was torn down and replaced with a generic block of flats.

Archival footage is plentiful and used well, and the narration is succinct and informative. The weak link in the film is a series of contrived re-enactments by some rather stiff actors that does nothing to enhance this otherwise fascinating bit of history.

Click here for screening details and tickets.

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