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My Early Film Memories in England

In 1941, when I was 3 years old and still living in my native England, I had tonsillitis. My mother took me to the Cornelia Hospital in Poole, Dorset. I can still remember being prepped for the tonsillectomy operation—not a bit scary—and the surgeon and nurse asking me if I had any brothers or sisters (yes, one of each) and then the smell of chloroform as the mask was put over my mouth. It all went well and I woke up in the children’s ward and was given ice cream to eat and a Rupert Bear picture book to look at. But the exciting thing came the following December when all the child patients of the year were invited to a special party. There, we were given a lovely Christmas tea, and then a movie! They had a 16mm projector and a film, a Laurel and Hardy! This was wonderful, and it was my very first film!

  • icon Updated: October 27

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Saturday 06/30/2012
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    Every now and then a curious reader will ask me what initially sparked my passion for the Golden Age, so I suppose the occasion of CI’s 50th anniversary would be an ideal time to share some (mercifully brief!) personal background.  I was fortunate to be born in Rockford, which in the early 1950s was the second largest city in Illinois, as well as home to no less than seven downtown movie palaces.  The Coronado, the only one remaining today, was built in 1927 and recently underwent a major renovation.  When Vincent Price delivered an art lecture there in the early 1970s, he looked around at the ornate Moorish décor—complete with a faux outdoor ceiling filled with stars—and exclaimed, “This building is beautiful.  Don’t ever let them tear it down.”  I saw my first movie at the Coronado, Disney's Lady and the Tramp, and dozens more in the years that followed.  (Sadly, the theater now hosts only concerts and Broadway musicals.)  In the summer, kids could see a movie every Tuesday for only a quarter.  Every Wednesday, for a dime more, I could get into the Midway Theater.  Other theaters included the Times, the State, the Family (where I caught a few of the last Bowery Boys films), and another, whose name I truly cannot remember, but which regularly screened Golden Age classics (such as the original Tarzan the Ape Man, Dracula, Frankenstein, King Kong, etc.) before closing toward the end of the 1960s.

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