Portsmouth helped Ken win fame in the film world

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Ken Russell might have been born in Southampton, but it was to Portsmouth that he turned to make two of his most famous films. Naturally.

As Remember When recalled earlier this week, shortly after his death at 84 was announced, it was for Tommy and the destruction of South Parade Pier for which Ken will be immortalised in the city’s history.

That was in 1974, but in 1971 he shot The Boyfriend, starring the model Twiggy, at the New Theatre Royal in Guildhall Walk. A year later the back of the theatre was destroyed by fire.

Last year, although very frail, he returned to the city for showings of both these films.

In May he appeared on stage at the NTR with Twiggy and other stars of The Boyfriend to talk about the making of that film. Twiggy won two Golden Globe Awards for her performance: one for best actress in a musical comedy, the other for best newcomer.

Celia Clark, the president of the Portsmouth Society, was in the front row and took this picture of Twiggy and Ken.

Four months later the man who transformed into a film The Who’s rock opera Tommy, about a deaf, dumb and blind kid who became a pinball wizard, returned to the Kings Theatre, Southsea, for a showing of his work.

Elton John and Roger Daltrey appeared in scenes with a pinball machine at the Kings.

Sandra Smith, the theatre’s promotions manager, said: ‘It was a marvellous day. Ken was so kind and thoughtful to everyone.

‘He loved it because so many of the extras who filled the Kings that day to shoot that scene were back in the audience.’