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                                               Silent films could cope with pent-up  to be threaded through the projector very
                                            audience enthusiasm, which would   precisely. Any length of film cut-out to
                                            break out as hissing, cheering and  make a repair had to be replaced with
                                            booing. Any pause for lovers’ kisses  blank film of exactly the same length.
                                            brought forth groans and moans, while  One of our repairs resulted in the
                                            the poor pianist played on regardless,  dialogue, “What a lovely day with all
                                            adding dramatic or ghostly music as  this sunshine,” spoken from a blank
                                            required.                          screen. There were many problems with
                                               The projectors at the Lyric were  this system, including scratched records.
                                            Kalee. When talkies came, silent      It was not long before I was re-
                                            projectors were often converted for  winding film, and joining the breaks. If
                                            sound. Later of course new projectors  the film broke as it ran through the
                                            came equipped for sound. The source  projector, it was repaired on the
                                            of light was an elongated light tube.  projector, the assistant hastily putting a
                                               In 1927 my memory (not always the  slide on the screen urging patience
                                            best for detail from so long ago)  from the audience. This was greeted
                                            suggests that the Wintergarden in  with much jeering.
                   By Harry Leech           Queen Street Brisbane was the first   I was helping in any way I could,
                                            cinema to show a talkie in Queensland  wanting to learn it all. By taking care of
                                            - Al Jolson in The Singing Fool. Like  some of the mundane things in the box,
            Indooroopilly, a suburb on the north
                                            everyone who saw it I was impressed,  the projectionist was free to experiment
          bank of the Brisbane River about five                    (2)
                                            but it was only a part-talkie.     with the sound. I watched as he pulled
          miles from the city, was the home of
                                               At first the word around        a transformer to pieces, then wound
          the Leech family from 1924. The
                                            Indooroopilly was that the Lyric would  many turns of fine insulated wire
          suburb lacked some of the niceties of
                                            not get talkies for many years. Falling  around the plates from its core. I
          life, but boasted its own picture theatre,
                                            attendances, with some patrons going  remember his explanation, “The more
          the Lyric.
                                            far away from home, pushed the ‘Pilly’  plates you put in the middle the more
            The auditorium had two classes of
                                            to do something about sound. They put  bass you get, and the more turns you
          seats. Those located in the centre, with                                                          (3)
                                            in synchronised sound from a record -  put on the outside the more treble”.
          the best view of the screen, were
                                            the biggest gramophone record I had   One time the projectionist invited
          ‘comfortable’ canvas deck chairs,
                                            ever seen.                         me to go with him to watch a
          fenced off from the outside seats. Those
                                               By this time I was a regular visitor to  demonstration of television. Up to this
          on the sides were like elongated garden
                                            the bio-box. On Saturdays I would do  time I had no idea - and I was not alone
          seats, the least comfortable imaginable
                                            clean-up jobs and be a willing learner  - that there was such a thing as
          and the floor under them was gravel.
                                            for anything that was available. A large  television. We had only just accepted
            Audiences had very active
                                            sound horn was now behind the screen  crystal radios as an everyday sort of
          imaginations, riding Tom Mix’s horse
                                            and the pianist had been sent on holiday,  thing. We marvelled at being able to
          Tony and chasing and booing the
                                            a long holiday. Because of the need to  have earphones on and listen to the
          baddies; no one cared about comfort.
                                            synchronise sound and film, the film had  clock at the Brisbane Town Hall striking
          On the screen Buffalo Bill might be
          tracking down outlaws and shooting
          any man who had placed a damsel in
          distress. Mass shootings on screen were
          normal. All the goodies, Hoot Gibson
          and so on, seemed blessed with the
          ability to dodge any bullet aimed at
          them. All the heroes had fine-looking
          faces and horses that could outrun any
          outlaw's horse. Baddies were always a
          scruffy lot.
            The program usually started with a
          Newsreel, and no program was
          complete without a cartoon. Mickey
          and Minnie mouse were very popular.
          Yet even as a kid I grew tired of the
          sameness of the westerns. Occasionally
          there would be a thriller or some
          outstanding adventure film.
                                            The Wintergarden, Brisbane opened in 1924. Image courtesy of Ross Thorne.

          10  2008 CINEMARECORD
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