Page 8 - RD_2015_12
P. 8

Red Roses Tonight                                                     of shrapnel that had fallen beside a
          Red Roses Tonight
                                                                                patron in the stalls; it was still hot, but
                                                                                the patron was quite cool. Another
                                                                                time a shell-cap came through the roof
               The conclusion of London Cinemas in the Blitz                    into the circle of the Granada
                                                                                Tooting, bounced from the stairs
                                   By Guy Bolton
                                                                                almost the length of the theatre and
          “I’m As Safe Inside As AnyWhere”      Audiences became conditioned to  ended up in the organ chamber.
            The Luftwaffe raided London for  the menace from the air. The threat of  Whenever a theatre suffered the
          91 nights with little respite. Thirty air  death from bombing was accepted as a  blast from a near hit, it was the policy
          raid warnings a week was usual.    normal risk. Fewer people left when  to get a man in uniform on the door at
          Cinemas audiences dwindled in      the Alert slide was flashed on the  once, to tell customers that the theatre
          heavily raided and lightly raided  screen (the slide became the       would soon be open again. Granada
          boroughs alike, but never stopped  concession to a manager’s voice);  policy was to keep open every theatre
          altogether. The regulars, well known to  nobody rushed out of the theatre; those  even if it was a 3,000 seater running at
          every suburban manager, came at their  who went left quietly and would often  a loss. “So long as we have money to
          regular times and occupied their   murmur apologetically to the manager  spend,” the Managing Director argued,
          regular seats.                     if they passed him in the foyer, as if  “We shall stay open. When people see
            Pensioners of both sexes arrived  they felt a little ashamed. Another type  theatres shut they may begin to worry,
          unfailingly for their free weekly  of slide made its appearance, ‘Mrs. So-  and say to themselves, ‘Things must
          matinee, whatever was dropping, and  and-So was wanted in the foyer’. This  be worse than we have been told.’
          the contingent of blind people from a  usually meant that her home had been  We’ll keep our cinemas open whatever
          nearby Home still turned up once a  damaged, destroyed or was on fire; but  happens.”
          week at the Granada Clapham        people appreciated the value of this  In Woolwich and Greenwich,
          Junction. Good business was still done  service, and often said that at least if  suburbs close to the river and within a
          at matinees.                       they went to the cinema the police  mile of the London docks, people were
                                             would be able to find them, and if the  target conscious. Through the worst
            The atmosphere of those long
                                             worst happened, they would know    raids it was the military from the
          nights was one of terrific tension, but
                                             soon enough. Sometimes during a bad  garrisons close by whose patronage
          there was something companionable
                                             raid half a dozen of such slides would  kept these theatres open. They crowded
          about it; a sense of comradeship, what
                                             follow in succession.              in whatever the raid, and as local orders
          might be described as a clubby feeling,
          that left audiences with a new affection  Granada Theatres always flew the  insisted on respirators being worn at the
          for their local Granada. As one lady  Union Jack. Some patrons complained  alert position during a warning, the
          said to the doorman at the Granada  about this saying that the enemy would  auditorium was often a strange sight.
          Walthamstow, when the sirens       mistake the buildings for a military  After ‘The King’ had been played there
          sounded just as she was going in,  objective. To satisfy them the flags  was a great clinking and rattling as
          “Well, I always say I’m as safe inside  were taken down. Rumour had it that  hundreds of steel helmets were put on.
          as anywhere.” People were as       Lord Haw-Haw had broadcast that the   During a matinee in mid-
          frightened in cinemas as anywhere  Lutwaffe had orders to destroy all  September, a stick of four bombs
          else, but were determined not to show  Granada theatres.              straddled the Granada Greenwich.
          it. Managers and staff were continually  Shrapnel regularly made a sieve of  One dropped at the back, shaking the
          asked, “Where did that one drop?” The  roofs. Managers carried out daily  building, another fell at the side near
          doorman at the Granada Woolwich    inspections and foremen spent hours  the stage and two more fell in a lane
          evolved a stock answer, “In the river”  patching up holes with felt and pitch.  and demolished two public houses. The
          and many a patron went back into the  Once at Granada East Ham an     organist played himself down as the
          show comforted.                    usherette brought the manager a lump  manager came on stage to reassure the
                                                                                audience. Perhaps his plea for calm
                                                                                would not have been so confidently
                                                                                given nor received had he known that
                                                                                he was standing on top of an
                                                                                unexploded bomb that had entered the
                                                                                side wall and buried itself under the
                                                                                stage beside the organ. The feature
                                                                                showing was Opened By Mistake. The
                                                                                theatre was closed for eight days while
                                                                                the bomb was dug out.
                                                                                   The Empire Edmonton was
                                                                                showing The Case of the Frightened
                                                                                Lady when a bomb burst open the exits
                                                                                at a moment of on-screen hysterics.
                                                                                The audience were on their feet, but
          A tribute to British spirit and superb wartime propaganda: Walter Pidgeon and Greer  the scream tipped the scale, they sat
          Garson in MGM’s Mrs Miniver (1942).                                   down and saw out the show.

          8   2003 CINEMARECORD
   3   4   5   6   7   8   9   10   11   12   13