The country town where I grew up had two cinemas. One was called the Capital and I don’t recall the name of the other as they were always referred to as ABOVE and BELOW. I guess the reason being, one was a cut above, and a tad more expensive, with softer seating. The two posters advertising Above and Below hung just inside the door of our sweet-shop, and people popped their heads in to have a look-see. Many people went to the cinema three or four times a week, including a First World War veteran neighbour of ours who lost his leg in the Judean Hills, and went to see the film” Lawrence of Arabia” a dozen times to re-live the experience.
Sunday was matinee time………..usually pronounced Mat-knee, and all the kids around got five pennies to get them out of the house for a couple of hours while their parents had a bit of a rest. Then started the rush to spend the precious penny (or sometimes two pennies if they were prepared to sit in the pit of the cinema). The queue was three deep as the youngsters made up their minds whether to buy a spearmint bar, or cough-no-more, or two squares of Cleeves toffee, which lasted a lot longer. Little brothers were told to” hurry-up” as they dashed off as fast as their little legs could carry them, racing to be first in the queue outside the cinema.
One of the first films I remember seeing was” Maytime” staring Janet McDonald and Nelson Eddie. It made quite an impression on my young mind, and to this day when I see Cherry blossoms falling I’m reliving that film all over again. I was discouraged from going to “Gone With the Wind”, being told it was” far too adult”. Of course I went, and thought it was wonderful.
As a teenager my friend and I went every Sunday night. It cost a shilling for the balcony, and we thought we were living !! The M.G.M. lion roared, and we sat back and savoured every minute of such films as” Brief Encounter” with Celia Johnson and Trevor Howard,” Roman Holiday” with the beautiful Audrey Hepburn, and of course the Musicals……….”The King and I” with handsome and baldy Yul Bryner, “Oklahoma”, and” Seven Brides for Seven Brothers”. We sang all the songs on the way home, our real favourite being “Shall We Dance” from” The King and I”. However the realisation that we hadn’t our homework done for the next day took the good out of it, and we resolved to get the ecker done in future before the cinema.
I was gobsmacked when I started working in Dublin and frequented the many cinemas there. The luxury of the Savoy where I saw” West Side Story”, and then was treated to coffee and king sized cakes in the restaurant afterwards (depending on the current boyfriend, and how flush he was !).
The Adelphi in Abbey St. was lovely as it had a cafe overlooking the foyer, but it was always a rush for the last bus home. My real favourite was the Metropole on O Connell St. Big Stars then were Sophia Loren, Elizabeth Taylor, Ingrid Bergman, and the men who set our hearts on fire were Charlton Heston, Gregory Peck, Cary Grant, and Jimmy Stewart. Pictures of there stars hung on the staircase and their beauty and glamour were envyable.
I saw” Doctor Zhivago” in the Ambassador, and Cupid struck, as I walked on air down O Connel St. afterwards. I don,t know whether it was the effects of Omar Shariff, or the handsome fella at my side that had this effect, but I,m happy to say I married him anyway, and we both enjoy the movies together nowadays.