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In November, Granada theatres       The Granada Wandsworth Road     themselves on their backs looking up
          suffered their most grievous casualty.  was fated never to re-open. When  at the searchlights through the remains
          The lie of the land behind the     repairs had been almost completed, it  of the roof, while from inside the
          Granada Wandsworth Road slopes     was hit again and this time the end of  theatre 50 voices sang at the top of
          down towards a power station, a gas  the theatre was wiped out. It was  their voices. Many of them were killed
          works, the railway and the river. The  fortunate for audiences that it did not  in the street on the way home that
          manager knew that any near misses on  re-open. Later, two flying bombs were  night. The theatre was closed for a
          those objectives would make the stage  to fall within 20 yards of the shell. It  fortnight, and when it opened West
          end of the building the most dangerous  was also hit by one of our own shells.   Ham patrons were back. It was not
          part of his theatre. He made it a     At the beginning of December    long before the same set of doors was
          standing request to patrons to sit as far  1940, a new danger threatened -  lost again, the organ chamber smashed
          back in the stalls as possible. Events  incendiaries - by which the Luftwaffe  and a theatre pillar split. The roof was
          proved him right. For several weeks  hoped to burn London down. With  badly holed. The theatre opened as
          Wandsworth Road had been in the    their enormous flat roofs Granada  usual without doors and only part of a
          thick of it. Audiences had accepted  Theatres were particularly vulnerable,  roof. The workmen did the noisy
          with stoicism that bombs kept falling  and operators had to divide their time  repairs in the morning and the quiet
          around the theatre. In few cinemas  between their machines and the open  jobs in the afternoon, so that shows
          were staff and patrons brought so close  roof during raids. The sleeping staff of  might continue, but until the roof was
          together by the blitz. The refuge  the Granada Tooting, which had one  mended they had to close the theatre at
          behind the lobby was open to any   of the great roof expanses in London,  blackout time.
          patron who was bombed out; many old  was awakened by what sounded like   By May 1941 the worst of the blitz
          people took up regular quarters there;  the clatter of a thousand tin cans  was over. Nineteen forty two was a
          supplies of blankets were kept in the  dropped on the roof. When they looked  quiet year - not even the Kinema, West
          theatre for the homeless; people who  out incendiaries were lighting up the  Ham was hit. There was a boom in
          had been buried and dug out would  neighbourhood. Playgrounds, car    attendances and many house records
          come to the theatre in the middle of  parks, offices and shops were all  were broken. American soldiers made
          the night knowing that they would find  alight. The incendiaries failed to  their appearance. They were not over-
          a welcome and a refuge. The Manager  penetrate the concrete roof but  appreciative of British films. Films
          attended all funerals in the district.  throughout the night people rang the  from home often had them laughing at
            On 12 November 1940 the worst    manager at the theatre to tell him his  jokes the locals failed to see. Smoking
          happened. At 8 p.m. with 500 people  theatre was on fire. On the roof the  in cinemas – not permitted in America -
          in the house, a bomb came through the  night watchman was trying to put  did not meet with their approval. They
          roof and exploded in mid-air in front  incendiaries out with his feet.  did not care how much they paid for a
          of the screen. Ten people were killed  On a Sunday evening at the     seat but preferred to sit down stairs. The
          and thirty-five injured, some losing  Granada Welling the chief operator  Americans brought with them a new
          arms and legs. Everyone was covered  on the roof telephoned “Stand by to  question; it was not unusual for the
          in debris, but the calm was remarkable.  abandon cinema. Everything’s alight  manager to be asked if the blonde
          Everyone tried to help. There was  but us.” Looking down on the fires that  usherette had gone home yet.
          never a hint of panic, even though the  ringed the theatre, he saw what he took
          lights had to stay off because of the  to be a new weapon – little balls of fire
          gaping hole in the roof. Of the staff,  darting about; they were backyard hens
          the fireman was killed, the foreman  burning. Even through that night of
          and one of the attendants injured. In  fire the film never left the screen and
          the projection room the windows were  the audience sat it out.
          shattered and the steel shutters blown  At the Granada Willesden an
          across the room. Two of the projectors  usherette struck lucky. She had
          were blown over and the film caught  mentioned to another staff member
          fire, but before it could get a hold,  how she wanted a hat in a shop
          debris from the roof extinguished it.  window nearby more than anything in
          The chief projectionist, although  the world. A parachute mine blew out
          injured, left the box and went to help  the windows of most of the shops, and
          the audience. The usherettes had   when the usherette came out of the
          calmly opened the exits and got people  theatre, there was the hat she wanted
          out, then went back and groped in the  perched on the rubble. She came back
          darkness for survivors, tearing their  in wearing it, and it was greatly
          underclothes into strips for bandages.  admired.
          The manager who was taking his first                                  Bombed stage of the Granada
                                                At the Kinema West Ham bombs
          days off for months at a farm, reached                                Wandsworth Road. Hit, repaired, hit again
                                             were raining down but inside the
          the theatre first thing in the morning                                and two more hits while derelict, this
                                             theatre 50 diehards were enjoying
          and found his staff, near tears, standing                             theatre did not re-open.
                                             Dancing On a Dime. There was an
          forlornly in the wreckage. He took
                                             explosion; in came part of the foyer
          them across the road and bought them
                                             roof and three doors; manager,
          stiff drinks at a public house.
                                             doorman and page boy found
                                                                                       CINEMARECORD 2003     9
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