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A Shout From The Attic: Silver Screen Stars

...The biggest and plushest cinema in town was the Ritz. This was later renamed the ABC which told you nothing about this super theatre. It housed a Wurlitzer cinema organ and we sang along to songs projected on screen. Even self-conscious cinemagoers sang a bit. The Ritz occupied the site of the former cloth hall where my great grandfather sold the cloth he manufactured at his premises in Deighton. I did not know that when I was a devotee of the nearest thing to a palace that most Huddersfieldonians ever entered. The management team was uniformed, authoritative, visibly in charge, and not to be trifled with...

Ronnie Bray tells of being entranced from boyhood by the Silver Screen.

To read more slices of Ronnie's life story please click on A Shout From The Attic in the menu on this page.

What’s Hollywood to him, or he to Hollywood? Well might this question be asked. My love affair with Hollywood has no beginning in my memory. Hollywood and the cinema were facts of life, as timeless as the earth, as mysterious as the dark realms of Pluto, and as seductive as a warm bed on a cold night.

The Huddersfield of my childhood was well served with cinemas, many of them having changes of programme midweek and some with Saturday morning programmes for the young. I was young and one of my delights was to go to the Lounge up Newsome Road to see a short ‘B’ western which could be Johnny Mack Brown or Hopalong Cassidy or Eddy Dean or Roy Rogers or Gene Autry, or any other well-dressed, square-jawed, upright, no-nonsense, and no romance heroe of the Old West. I knew their horses as well as I knew them, could describe their guns, hats, boots, and spurs. These were real heroes. Everyone knows that the camera cannot lie.

The programme would include a variety of comic shorts and a serial. My favourite was Flash Gordon. I can visualise the tin can space ships, spitting fewer sparks than a dud Standard Fireworks "Little Demon.” Up and away, they went, into the clutches of Ming the Merciless, the evil one whose aim was universal and galactic domination. He was aided and abetted by a woman who was too beautiful for her own good, who peered through half-closed eyes. I did that, but glasses cured it for me. Maybe there were no opticians on Mars.

I especially liked the Clay Men, who slithered out of the walls to help Flash Gordon and his outnumbered party just when it seemed as if Ming and his base minions would triumph. Oh, the agony of the closing weekly episode which showed Flash at the mercy of the merciless one. Why was that woman always smiling at Flash? He had a younger, more human, girl permanently attached to him. Larry ‘Buster’ Crabbe, who played the eponymous hero of the serial, wore his underpants outside his tights and no one thought it strange. At least, I did not. That may have been because I did not wear them, so did not realise the incongruity of the hero’s sartorial error.

The biggest and plushest cinema in town was the Ritz. This was later renamed the ABC which told you nothing about this super theatre. It housed a Wurlitzer cinema organ and we sang along to songs projected on screen. Even self-conscious cinemagoers sang a bit. The Ritz occupied the site of the former cloth hall where my great grandfather sold the cloth he manufactured at his premises in Deighton. I did not know that when I was a devotee of the nearest thing to a palace that most Huddersfieldonians ever entered. The management team was uniformed, authoritative, visibly in charge, and not to be trifled with.

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