Saturday, May 15, 2010

Saturday Matinée

OK, it's Saturday.  As a kid growing up in Glenside, PA, I would walk to the Keswick Theatre every Saturday for the 50 cent matinée.  It didn't really matter what the feature was, it was always fun.

The Keswick was originally built for vaudeville and burlesque shows.  It is a large place, seating about 1,350, as per their web site.  There is no balcony, but the restrooms are in an upstairs lounge area.  It was quite an ornate place before it was modernized.  I only have memories of it with a drop ceiling, which hid the beautiful (but water damaged) plaster work.  The walls in the auditorium had fabric over the old walls, and huge, star shaped lights.  Everything was dark red in color.  Maybe they are working to bring back the original splendor.  There is nothing as thrilling as a completely restored old theater.

I understand that the original dressing rooms were downstairs, under the large stage.  There was plenty of room above the stage to fly canvas backdrops and curtains for the live shows, but a perforated aluminum screen was put downstage (to the front) when they added air conditioning and turned it into a movie house.  The air conditioning unit and the speaker system was then located on the stage, behind the screen.  That was the end of live shows.

One of my most memorable movies at the Keswick was Alfred Hitchcock's thriller, The Birds.  It was 1963, so I was thirteen.  I remember being so scared that I watched the movie from the aisle in the back of the theater, behind a glass partition!  I have The Birds on DVD, and it just isn't as scary now!

I took a look at IMDB and noticed that Doodles Weaver was cast as a fisherman in The Birds.  He had a very recognizable voice, and when he was with Spike Jones' Orchestra, he was everyone's favorite.  They show that he had 132 acting parts (movies and TV) in his career.  Fifteen of them were in 1944 alone!  It would be fun to put together all the movies and shows of one of these prolific bit part actors and watch them over the course of a year.

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