“THE JOLSON STORY” PART 1 – By Des Kelly
A great movie, something that one could watch over & over again. It was 1951, the “venue” was the brand new Savoy Theatre, Bambalapitiya, practically opposite St.Peter’s College, where “your’s truly” was the monitor of the most nefarious “class”, “Junior D” & my pal, Denis Roberts(R.I.P), was the prayer-monitor.
Just a bit of “interesting-information” on my Alma-Mater before we go back to my main story, folks, and you ain’t heard nuthin yet!, St. Peter’s College was primarily a hospital, during WW2, with a huge “red-cross” covering the roof of the main building. College was right next to the Wellawatte Canal, another notorious meeting place of early drug-dealers and/or users, but this had nothing to do with College, of course. It was a “Catholic-College” for boys.
Girls were only figments of our imagination then, but what figments they were!!. The former hospital was then restructured into a much larger conglomeration of buildings, complete with a beautiful College-hall, secondary education started from what was known as “Prelim”(standard 6)-Junior-prep, Junior, Senior-prep, to Senior (year 12). The only boys, to my knowledge, to go past Senior, were Basil Ambrose & Ray Forbes, brilliant students, who could even do MATH.! There were just a few more that came into that “class”, but unfortunately, I have lost track of their names. On the other hand, people such as Mohan Lalvani (a rebel, with the best of them),& quite a few others who won’t be mentioned, for obvious reasons, just didn’t have the brains to become Professors, Doctors, Lawyers & stuff.
My prayer-monitor Denis, & myself, had the brains, without a shadow of doubt, but were more interested in escaping classes that we didn’t particularly care about, to be kicked out of these classes by “Masters”who had given up hope on “those two”!. Denis & I wanted to be kicked out, so we could practise some “comedy-skits”out on the corridor of the class, or practise some music & songs that, hopefully, we could “show-off” on the College Stage.
I was 15 at the time & Denis was a couple of years older.
As usual, there is much more to my College Story, which will be elaborated on, in future “episodes”, but now, I feel that it is time to get down to “show-biz” again.
eLanka readers of my vintage will all remember the “picture-theatres” we had, in Colombo, in the 1950’s. They were all good theatres, showing superb films of the era.
Cannot quite remember the one in Marandan(Maradana), but then there was the Regal Theatre in Fort, the Liberty Cinema came along later, but then there was the Majestic-Cinema, smack in the heart of Bambalapitiya, then the new, beautiful Savoy-theatre, the basis of this story, practically opposite St.Peter’s College (on the sea-side), The Plaza- theatre, slightly past the Wellawatte Canal (on the land-side)
Outside Colombo, back in the sticks, were the Quinlon-theatre in Nugegoda, & even more “remote” was the Patton-theatre, in Moratuwa, where, incidentally, I was taken to see my very first movie by Mum, (may she rest in peace).
Back to the Savoy theatre, stunning, when first built, with that roof that looked like a giant oyster shell, far too expensive for guys like myself to afford anything but a “gallery-seat”(smack dab at the front-end, craning our necks upwards to watch the movie), and yet, bedazzled by the surrounds, the plush curtains, special lighting that surrounded us.
Someone had informed me that the Savoy was screening their first movie, the Jolson Story, and that it had a lot to do with this bloke named Al Jolson, who was regarded, at the time, as the best entertainer in the World.The very first “show” was at 3.15 pm, this Monday, and was Denis & Des. going to miss this one ?, Oh, no, we had our 50 cents each for the gallery-tickets, we did what was necessary for the Sinhalese Master to expel us from his class, & straight across Galle Road to the gallery-queue at the Savoy to be admitted and watch, with amazement, THE JOLSON STORY.
Part 2, follows later.
Star of eLanka