|Tyrone Power, screen idol|
For this week's Sepia Saturday Alan has presented us with a picture of film actor Claude Rains. The most obvious theme to be taken from this is the cinema. I have no appropriate photographs, sepia or otherwise, in my family albums, but for those who missed it first time round, let me point you in the direction of a previous post, 'Not Rhett and Scarlett' where you can see an original 1943 cinema ticket (The Ritz, Leicester Square) for 'Gone With the Wind' and read about the part it played in my parents' early courtship. I asked them both this week what other memories they had of picture-going in the the thirties and forties. They told me that when embarking on a new romance, a second date was usually to the cinema. When Dad, aged barely eighteen, asked Mum out she said she'd like to see 'Suez’, (1938) with Tyrone Power. Mum was already head over heels in love with Tyrone and it was just as well that Dad could see what he was up against. Being the considerate chap he was, he readily agreed, not letting on until much later, that he had already seen the film the previous night. Tickets cost sixpence and ninepence and courting couples would usually gravitate towards the back rows. Some way into the screening of 'Suez' Dad felt brave enough to put his arm nonchalantly around Mum's shoulder whilst she was either absorbed in the plot, or having romantic fantasies about Tyrone, and Mum pretended not to notice. Having already seen the film of course, Dad was free to put his mind to planning his campaign to woo his sweetheart. This July they will have been married for seventy years, so it must have been a good plan.
|Dad, Mum's idol|
We are the boys and girls all known as
Minors of the ABC
And every Saturday all line up
To see the films we like and shout aloud with glee
We love to laugh and have a sing-song
Such a happy crowd are we - ee
We're all pals together
We're Minors of the ABC
My parents recall that ice-cream 'wafer sandwiches' were available during the interval and young men would buy their girls a box of Cadbury's Milk Tray or Dairy Box before the performance. Things hadn't changed much by the time I was attending 'Minors', when Paynes's Poppets were the confection of choice. Mum reminded me that during the intervening war years and those immediately following, sweets and chocolates were rationed and even hard to come by. She remembers being in a local sweetshop when a young man, hoping to impress his ladyfriend, left crestfallen and empty-handed. The next customer, however, being a regular, was rewarded with his confection of choice. At that time cinema-goers would stand respectfully for the National Anthem and behave with decorum. These days a trip to the cinema is not complete without a bucket sized tub of popcorn, and a litre of Coke, whilst audiences munch and slurp their way noisily through the performance. The cinema would be packed to capacity, Mum tells me, and as people left, the commissionaire (usher) would allow in more of those in the queue. You often had to watch the tail end of the film's first showing if you wanted to be sure of a place for the 'second house' and in-between you endured trailers for films 'coming soon' and adverts for predominantly local businesses. In the sixties these seemed to be mainly Indian restaurants.
As Mum's vivid recollection proves, a cinema date back in those early days must have been eagerly anticipated and talked about for long after. These days many of us can't even remember whether we've seen a particular film before, let alone recall the plot. We often see the film for the first time through television or other media; I wonder if some of the magic is lost.
So, ladies and gentlemen, form an orderly queue please, and take your seats for Sepia Saturday. I can promise you a varied programme of dramas, shorts and comedies, thanks to our genial commissionnaire, Alan.