What do you see in this photograph from the 1950s? To me, it’s a memory of Saturdays in my childhood. Each of those days would find me and every other kid in the neighborhood using our hard earned allowance to purchase a ticket to an all day matinee filled with fun – watching the same movie at least twice – newsreels – cartoons and previews of coming attractions. The theatre was packed with kids and we always met new friends by the time the curtain closed. There was almost as much interaction going on in the theatre seats as there was on the screen.
Movie theatres in those days were masterpieces. They were decorated with gilded cherubs and frightening gargoyles. The velvet curtain was red and spanned the entire width of the theatre. There was only one room which held a thousand screaming kids, tossing popcorn and consuming lots of sugar – a perfect prescription for chaos. By the time we were finished with our Saturday adventure, we undoubtedly left the building much slower than we entered. The soles of our shoes were coated with spilled soda pop and JuJuBees as popcorn stuck in our hair. What a day of fun.
It was the perfect, cheapest way to entertain your children on a Saturday. You didn’t have to worry about them being abducted. Just give them a dollar and they’d have the time of their life while their parents attended to shopping, house cleaning, fixer upping or just spending some quiet time alone.
I learned some valuable lessons in the seats of that old theatre. I watched episodic adventures that beckoned us to return the next week to see what would happen next. I enjoyed the technicolor movies the best and when Cinemascope came along it was like being right inside the screen. Great story plots unfolded, some not so great. Musicals took us to a different world where people burst into song and dance for no particular reason. The elaborate epics led to productions that continued to outdo each other. The noir mysteries were enticing too. I learned phrases like, “you dirty rat – I wouldn’t give you the skin off a grape – Well, you’re about as romantic as a pair of handcuffs – With my brains and your looks, we could go places.” I wasn’t sure what any of those phrases meant, but they taught me how to do a good Brooklyn accent. The beginning of my actor training. Watching all those stars like, Bogart, Bacall, Cary Grant, Hedy Lamar, John Wayne and Maureen O’Hara, made me long to be a star myself one day.
When we got home from the movies, we’d spend the evening listening to the radio. I guess we were bound to entertainment as much as the kids are today. It’s just a slightly different media. Although I have to admit, I’ve returned to those old movies in this time of isolation. They give me a feeling of belonging I guess. Kind of like a security blanket. What goes around come around. I think I heard that in a movie.