Sunday, November 14, 2010

Short Cuts 8: Around the World in Eighty Days: 53 years later

Around the World in Eighty Days: 53 years later.

It was a “big ticket” date -- a bit difficult to comprehend in these times, perhaps, but Around the World in Eighty Days at New York’s Rivoli Theater in early 1957 was a big ticket date -- and an event. It had opened in late 1956, yet tickets were still hard come by, particularly at a working class salary. But there were ways.

My date and I lived in the Bronx. I do not recall, but we certainly would have taken the Independent Line “D” train at Tremont Avenue downtown to the Times Square area. And we probably had something to eat – maybe at Al Muller’s German restaurant over by the old Madison Square Garden. Or, perhaps, the Howard Johnson’s in the photograph. And then the movie. We were young and in love.

Last night, more than nineteen thousand days after that date, my wife (she of the date) and I had the film on Turner Classic Movies in our kitchen while preparing a simple Saturday night supper. (We are accustomed to using overly familiar movies as kitchen background music as we go about our culinary endeavors.)

Occasionally, she or I would remark “there’s Melville Cooper” or “there’s Buster Keaton” and as I turned the oven to broil, and moved our plates to table: “there’s Marlene Dietrich.” (Thank heaven for small kindnesses when George Raft appears only in a cameo.)

The film made a nice travelogue in spots. We sat and ate somewhere between Shirley MacLaine and the elephants. And we finished the simple repast around the time that Phileas Fogg returned to the Reform Club (with Princess Aouda in tow), entered those sacred premises, and the Empire was announced to have fallen.

Last evening, we could not remember the theatre where we originally had seen Around the World in Eighty Days. An Internet search this morning turned up the Rivoli, stately as it was around the time we saw the film. Note the Lindy’s (famous as Runyon’s Mindy’s) to the left of the theatre, as well as the men in fedoras, and a New York policeman, of course. The Rivoli is long defunct, having succumbed to modern moviedom in 1984.

Last night was November 13, 2010. So it was Around the World in Eighty Days -- 53 years later. The movie has not held up. Nor did it have a chance in a kitchen with a humming refrigerator, the sounds of supper, and on a 26 inch television screen in lieu of that on which we first saw it: some 75 by 30 feet.

So, the memory of the “big ticket event” is cast in an odd mix of mental granite and smoke. The film was not nearly as good this time as the first time, nor was it likely very good then -- but that was long ago and far away -- and films seen in our distant past are often steeped in the magic of yesterdays.

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