Thursday, July 16, 2015

Bio #28 - Old Movies - 1928

Movies as we know them today never existed when we were kids. I must have been in my late teens when I saw my first movie, "The Singing Fool" it was called, with Al Jolson in it. We thought it was a marvel. Before that, there was no sound, just words printed at the bottom of each picture. And the pictures were all black and white, no color. Sometimes there was an orchestra in the pit, to play music to go with the action, and it was very thrilling. We knew two men who played in one theatre, Joe Leonard (violin) and Johnny Dickinson (flute.) The cost to get in was ten cents for kids up to sixteen years old, and twenty five cents for adults. If it was a wild west show, sometimes my brothers would sit through it three times. No-one seemed to mind this. Saturday afternoons were the only times we could go. Seems such a long time ago.

Al Jolson sings in "The Singing Fool"

Of course, by the time I was old enough to go to movies, they were an accepted part of life; however the experience was much different than it is now. There were no advertisements and no warnings to turn off your cell phone, since they didn't exist, but a matronly woman named Hannah Smith who later became my Grade 8 teacher, warned on the PA (public address) system of dire threats to anyone who acted up during the Saturday afternoon matinee, peopled mostly by kids and teens without parents.

Onscreen, as now, the feature attraction was the last thing to see, but patrons were not prevented from entering the theatre while the show was in progress, so if you arrived during the middle of the performance, you'd just sit through until you hit the same spot in the next showing.  Before the feature, we watched cartoons, a short film, often a nature clip, and the Movie-Tone News, which was always outdated since everyone had a radio by that time, and many families had televisions. I think we saw previews of coming movies, too. Eventually the feature played and we hunkered down with our popcorn. A few movies I recall seeing from my youth are Hayley Mills in "The Parent Trap," and "Snow White," which terrified me.

A clip from "The Parent Trap," where the two girls discover they are twins.