Godfrey Chin’s article on the Metropole cinema in the December 12 edition of Sunday Stabroek, was a welcome addition to his Nostalgia series. Though I am not of his generation I did catch some of the best films of the ’30s, ’40s, ’50s, and ’60s at Metropole between the late ’50s and ’60s. It was an eye-opener to hear that he was the one who chose the 60 films for Metropole’s anniversary Film Festival in 1960, when some of the most brilliant Hollywood classic films were shown, advertised on an entire page of the Chronicle, in what was without doubt the greatest film festival BritishGuiana/Guyana has ever known. Some of those films, like Nick Ray’s Party Girl, with Cyd Charisse and Robert Taylor, is regarded today as one of the forerunners of new cinematic styles, by one of Hollywood’s most original and touching directors.
Chin mentions the ‘Doren’ cinema, but wasn’t sure when it burnt. But I rememember that night in 1962 very well; It was about 1o’clock in the morning actually, and I woke up to the sound of a man riding through the street shouting “Doreen bunning down!” My father was in the BG Volunteer Force barracks due to the terrible national events at that time, and my mother and I saw the sky above the trees in our nearby street like an inferno; I ran out to Vlissengen Road against her orders, and found a traffic jam all the way past Sandy Babb Street. Incidentally, that same day I had been to Doren’s 1 pm show; I was the only one in Pit, and my elder sister was one of two patrons in House. The film, ironically, was Maracaibo with Cornel Wilde, where he is a firefighter in Venezuela’s oilfields. The other film with Wilde as well, one of my favourite actors, was , I think, Devil’s Hairpin, a film I saw over and over, with Wilde as the playboy racing driver who knew how to manoeuvre Monte Carlo’s famous trecherous corner called ‘The Devil’s Hairpin.’.
Finally Chin’s mentioning of the famous excellent restaurants of the area, was very important, because those restaurants, like many other nightlife spots of Georgetown, only thrived because of the essential cinemas available then. Cinema-going was a major part of city life; in Georgetown the cinemas deposited at least a thousand people into the social environment from 1pm to midnight each day, and this helped to make both restaurants and cafés before and after shows flourish. The idea in Guyana that cinemas are a thing of the past is total rubbish, I repeat: total rubbish. Cities of importance around the world thrive on cinemas; Montreal alone has over 300 cinemas! They also have all the latest and classic DVDs in countless stores, yet people attend the cinema. Why? Because of the films from around the world one can only see there easily, and better than on small screens, plus the social atmosphere and business and culture it gives to civic life.
Mr Chin’s unique articles should not be regarded as just ‘nostalgia’; they should be practical eye-openers for those who wish to make Guyana a better place to live.