CINEMA MEMORIES: A review of our May event.
We had a very interesting talk by Clive Garner, who broadcasts regularly on Radio Merseyside. He brought with him slides and film sequences, and talked to us for nearly 2 hours about Merseyside cinemas, cinema organs and organists.
His first cinema memory was going into the Plaza foyer, Allerton Road, as a small child and seeing the goldfish pond while his mother booked seats. He loved the luxurious atmosphere, the uniforms of the staff, and the big cut-outs advertising future attractions. His first visit to a performance was an evening one with an aunt to see Shirley Temple. He loved the curtains, the lights, the Wurlitzer organ (the best part) - and, of course, the film seen through a haze of cigarette smoke!
Our readers will know many of the cinemas he showed us: the Grand, Smithdown Road; the Victoria, Walton; the Empress, Tuebrook; the Capitol, Overton Street; and many more. We saw the Astoria, the first 'super cinema'; the Rio, Fazakerley, the first to have colour changes in auditorium lighting; the Regal, Norris Green, the first with Cinemascope; the Curzon, Prescot Road, with its Art Deco styling, Compton organ and two sets of curtains; the Rialto with its cafe and dance floor; the Carlton, Tuebrook, with its organist James Bell who eventually went on to the Odeon Leicester Square. We saw several cinemas designed by the Liverpool architect Alfred Ernest Shennan: the Granada, Dovecot; the Mayfair, Aigburth Road; the Abbey, Wavertree (later to be first with Cinerama); and the Plaza, Crosby (last to open before war broke out).
We were treated to Gaumont trailers of 1930s films with Jessie Matthews, John Mills and Betty Balfour - a Wallasey girl. We saw film sequences of Reginald Foort at the organ. Finally, we saw a 'command performance' at the Ritz, Birkenhead (which is shortly to be demolished) graced by the Mayor and Mayoress, Margaret Lockwood, Valerie Hobson and Gregory Peck in 1949.
A wonderful evening, in the company of an expert. MSC