Granada! I Am Under Your Spell
A Memory of Battersea.
I was born in Battersea in 1938. We lived at 28 Forthbridge Rd near Clapham Common. With my mum and sister, I went to the Granada cinema loads of times on a Saturday night. Often you had to line up to get in and they had these men dressed up in uniforms, even with 3 stripes or 2 on their arms, who used to bawl at you as if you were on a parade ground. We could only afford the 1/6 pence seats but kids were less. Waiting in line on a cold winter's night was often freezing. When you were able to get in a girl with a flashlight showed you to your seat. My mum would sit down until the girl went away then get up to find a better seat, but it had to be in the 1/6 pence seats. Everybody smoked through the movie and there were even little ashtrays on the back of the seats so one was in front of you.
The show seemed to last for ages. There was movie tone news, read by a guy who spoke upbeat and rapidly, commenting on the war news - Britain was always winning. Then trailers of upcoming films, cartoons, adverts for British cars, followed by a B Movie, which was often quite good. Believe it or not this was followed by some guy playing a huge organ that used to rise up in the front, playing old favourites - I always got bored with this and was glad when he went down again! A girl selling ice cream then came down the front. I liked the strawberry/vanilla covered in chocolate. Finally you got to the main film, either a drama with James Mason, or a Western with John Wayne, or a comedy with Bing Crosby, Bob Hope and Dorothy Lamour. Laurel and Hardy also were great favourites, but I did not care much for Bud Abbot and Lou Costello. I absolutely hated the musicals that came along, like I'll be your sweet heart' starring Margaret Lockwood. They gave me a headache and in my opinion were 'stupid'. I thought nobody suddenly bursts into song in a middle of a conversation unless they were daft.
British war movies like 'the Cruel Sea' were the best as far as I was concerned. Of course the British always won and put the despicable German Nazis in their place. Grudgingly, we supposed the Americans had some part to play in this too. American war movies like 'the Halls of Montezuma' and 'US Marines' were really good - I wanted to go off and join the Marines after seeing this. I got put off going to war though after seeing the horrific 'All Quiet On The Western Front'. After watching this I think I ended up with PTSD.
All this came to a crashing halt when one day my Dad came home with a TV he had bought in a pub. He set it down on a table, plugged it in and switched it on. To our amazement we could now watch John Wayne in the comfort of our home. There were only 2 channels in black and white, but who wanted to go and be yelled at by some commissionaire while standing in line? No more shivering at a bus stop either.
With the coming of TV, all the movie houses crashed and often became Bingo Halls. Later, some cinemas divided their space up to become 4 or 5 smaller ones. Cinemascope also gave some new life to big cinemas like the one in Leicester Square. This Granada hung on gamely but in the end was turned into offices.
I now live in Maryland, USA where the same thing happened. There are still movie theaters around but I never go to them since all the shootings have happened. Anyway, I have a huge TV flat screen with umpteen channels and I can watch Humphrey Bogart any time I want with Netflix. Still, I will admit there is nothing like seeing a movie on a big cinema screen and eating pop corn. Above all, nothing has ever been able to beat the Saturday morning shows for kids they had at this Granada - 'Hopalong Cassidy rides again', to the ecstatic screams of me and my friends. Yes, he did rescue the daughter of the bumbling old sherif and deal with those dirty dog villains in their black hats. Roy Roger's? Nah! too soppy and did not use his pearl handed guns enough, and would keep on bursting into song.
King of the cowboys and greatest Western ever was, 'Shane', starring the one, the only, Alan Ladd!
One final note about the Granada. When the movie of Bill Haley and his Comets came, the place was packed. The atmosphere was electric. When they started singing 'We are goin' to Rock around the clock tonight', the place exploded. Kids simply got up and started dancing the Jive all over the cinema. The commissionaires in their coats with stripes on were impotent, red faced with rage. Announcements by the management fell on deaf ears. Even the police came and could not do anything. Nothing was gonna stop those kids Rocking and Rolling. A new age had come. The old world of a 'short back and sides' haircut, girls in long skirts, Mario Lanza singing 'I'm Yours', crotchety old colonels tut tutting, was over.
Enter the Rolling Stones!