The Palace Cinema
I got the "cinema bug" very early indeed, at the same time as I got the "books bug". I grew up on a diet of American and British classic movies. The only TV I watched - apart from a few cartoons - was a programme called "La Dernière Séance" (Read about the programme HERE Sorry, the Wiki page linked here is in French!) which was on Tuesday evenings - I was allowed to stay up because children didn't go to school on Wednesdays in those days.
Somewhere in Paris, in a recreated classic old cinema and surrounded by a dressed up audience, a presenter would introduce the evening with a few anecdotes about the making of the evening's features and the actors starring in them. There was always one feature film dubbed in French, then some news and cartoons in original English version, and then the second feature film in its original English version with French subtitles - the latter one I was not allowed to watch because it was shown after my bedtime, but those films fascinated me and I sometimes managed to catch the first 5 minutes... People speaking in English! It was so very intriguing and exciting...
By the age of 10, the walls around my bunk bed were plastered with pictures of Marilyn Monroe and I was reading obsessively about the Golden Age of Hollywood, Alfred Hitchcock's movies, Gone With the Wind and all that. My teenage years were spent reading books - including some cinema related ones - and watching old movies. I have never stopped since!
I was strangely reminded of this last week: we had three wonderful evenings of cinematic experience thanks to the excellent Southend-based The White Bus Ltd and The Palace Theatre in Southend, who had recreated the Palace Cinema as it had been during its 1932-1933 season, as part of the 2012 Palace Theatre's centenary celebrations.
So every evening between 13th and 15th September, we made our way to the theatre - conveniently located about 15 minutes walk from our house! - to enjoy three hours of classic entertainment: a full hour of supporting programme, including Laurel and Hardy shorts, some Pathé newsreels, Betty Boop and Popeye cartoons and the last three episodes of the serial The Whispering Shadow with Bela Lugosi - I want to watch the whole thing now, I wonder whether I can find the DVD somewhere?
There was piano playing in the lobby, quite a few people had made an effort to dress up, the theatre itself had been decorated in 30s style and there was even a cocktail bar! Of course, the programme was an absolute delight.
We have been told that there might be some more themed evenings like these, ie recreating cinemas from the 40s, 50s, etc. We wholeheartedly support these projects and simply cannot wait for more! Who knows, it might even lead to a full-blown Vintage Festival in Southend!
Before I go, I wish to make one or two comments about the audience. Without wanting to appear snobbish - and if I do, well, what the hell - I have to say that I would have thought that an audience who make the effort to turn up at a theatre to watch 1930s movies would be slightly more clued up on a few things than your average cinema-going crowd - Oh, I know, silly me...
So I was not expecting so much rubbish littering the theatre carpet after the entertainment had ended - is it really too much of an effort to wait and throw it into the bins provided to this effect at the end of the evening?
Also, the atmosphere got somewhat slightly spoilt by people giggling and laughing out loud at dramatic moments, especially during the episodes of The Whispering Shadow and during the first feature film The Mysterious Doctor Fu Manchu.
Yes, those movies have a very different pace to our often overdone 21st Century films. If one knows about the history of Hollywood and cinema and has half a brain, one can perfectly appreciate the masterful artistry of these early film makers: the talkies had just started, and everyone, from the director to the sound technicians to the cameramen to the scriptwriters to the actors had to adapt to this brand new, exhilarating way of making movies. I think these people deserve a little bit more respect from modern audiences. We shouldn't really patronise them. We owe them so much!
But then again, it might just be me...
Photos: Matt ArtPix.
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