As mentioned in Part 1, I went to the cinema with my mother and my dad, as well as my grandma. Other people have mentioned things that I had forgotten and films that I too saw as a child. My father developed a tradition of taking my older brother and me to the cinema on a Saturday evening as that was when my grandma would visit and he wanted to get out of the house. The pictures we went to were very different to those that my grandma or mum would take us to. My dad loved an adventure film, but he would go far and wide to find something that both he and we would enjoy.
I believe that we had changed cars from the Ford Prefect at this time and I think it was the Ford Anglia, a blue one, that we had then. At this time cars were still very different and there were no seat belts and even when they were introduced they were only for the front seats. The outward sloping rear window of the Anglia made it unusual at the time. The seats were quite bare and slippy and the dashboard was a hard metal that would have provided no cushioning in the event of an accident. Dad always ensured we sat in the back and we would head off to whatever film he had chosen. We never complained or questioned his choices and we saw some wonderful adventure films at a range of cinemas. Apart from The Clock and The Dominion, we would go to the Shaftsbury, The Lyric in Armley, The Cottage Road in Headingly, The Gaumont on Cookridge Street, The Hyde Park, The Lounge and even the Lyceum in Bradford. I have probably missed some, but he was prepared to travel to find the right sort of film. He loved a western, but also had a passion for adventure of any sort. Sometimes it was a war film, but more so as we got a little older. Knights in armour and historical films were some of my favourite memories, and one that stands out to me was The Vikings, 1958 with Kirk Douglas, Tony Curtis, Janet Leigh and Ernest Borgnine. I went to see this film more than once and every time I left the cinema I was in a state of elation. I would sweep my imaginary sword, cutting the legs from attacking Vikings, thrusting and parrying the fantasy foes. My brother was similarly lost in his imagination and we must have looked a right pair following my dad back to the car. It had everything I liked: adventure, tension, the hero almost being eaten by crabs and nearly drowned. It was Fantastic, brutal and wonderfully exciting. Looking back it was probably not the best choice for a young boy, but my dad loved it and so did my brother and I. The next big Viking saga I remember was the Long Ships with Sydney Poitier and Richard Widmark, released in 1964. This involved the search for a giant golden bell. Loved it!
Because my father never seemed to plan these outings in advance, we would often arrive after the films had started. This didn’t seem to worry him and we would just find a seat and somehow seem to pick up what had already happened. We would watch the film to the end, stand for the national anthem and then sit back down and wait for the film to start again. We then proceeded to watch the section of the film that we had missed. I do remember the feeling of embarrassment as we entered during the movie and shuffled along rows, making people stand to let us pass as we found our seats. In these days there were often A and B films and sometimes we had to watch one and then part of the other to catch up with what we missed.
There was smoking in cinemas in these times and it was before segregation where smokers sat on one side. The air was heavy with smoke, but it was so common that I never noticed it, apart from when the projected light would catch the smoky air as it made its way to the screen. Attitudes were very different with regard to smoking and health, but I know the damage that smoking Players Navy Cut did to my father’s health and shortened his life. Certainly things have got much better in this regard.
John Wayne was another star that my father loved and The Alamo, 1960, was another film that stood out. It was different to most of the films that we watched at the time as the heroes died in the end. Probably my favourite film as it had no ‘luvvy duvvy’, as I used to call it at the time, was Zulu. I would have been nine when this came out and I had no interest in such things as romance. This film catered for the three of us as it was all action. Heroes were heroes and despite overwhelming odds, they won out in the end. Michael Caine and Stanley Baker were wonderful and the film seems to have been shown on television every Christmas ever since.
The reality was that I loved these times and my dad seemed happy to be with us. We would usually be allowed one treat: a drink, ice cream or bag of popcorn, and were returned home very tired and excited and my dad would then drop us off and take grandma back to her home in Chapel Allerton. We always behaved in the cinema and no one would have dared to have their feet on the seats in front and we took all our rubbish out with us. Time has not improved behaviour in cinemas where everything is just dropped on the floor.
My mother would less frequently take me to the cinema. The films she took me to were not really my thing, but I remember The Pajama Game at The Clock Cinema. It was released in 1957 so it wasn’t a new film when I saw it. I don’t think I would have been three, but maybe I was. I also think we saw South Pacific which was released in 1958, so I guess I was taken along to get her out of the house. My older brother would have been in school as it was during the day. I am not surprised that I didn’t really like the films, but I am surprised that I can even remember them. I also think I went with mum to see My Fair Lady in 1964 so I would then have been nine, Half a Sixpence in 1967 and Thoroughly Modern Millie the same year. Mum loved the songs from the shows and would always sing them around the house, but she never knew all the words and would run out of steam after the first verse and chorus.
As I got older I used to love looking at the photographs on display of upcoming films. I remember clearly the pictures from Hitchcock’s The Birds, outside the Cottage Road and Dr. No and Gypsy displayed in a case outside the Clock Cinema. It was the scantily dressed ladies that caught my attention as I got a little older. The posters for the films were also works of art and they were often more interesting than the films. A visit to the cinema was always a memorable occasion and I can’t remember ever being disappointed.
Many of the cinemas started closing after the arrival of television, before the advent of the multiplex cinemas saw a new era for film and cinemas. The pictures were the place to take your girlfriend as you became a teenager, as I am sure they still are.