Friday, February 8, 2008

Café at the Bijou

If you were ever a Matinee at the Bijou fan or just love old movies, check out The Bijou Blog today. They’ve done a repost of my Before There Was Prozac musing, complete with wonderful photos. I heartily concur with the medical advice in the first photo!

Watching Matinee at the Bijou with my dad was indeed one of those neat childhood memories I have, but it also began my love of old movies and fascination with popular culture. What sets MATB apart from current Classic Hollywood cable stations (Turner Classic Movies, AMC) is the format of the show. MATB presented the movies in a context – the cartoon with the newsreel and a short subject or serial and the feature film – that recreated the moviegoing experience from the first part of the 20th century.

Experiencing films within their context demonstrates as no history book can the importance of movies to Americans during the Great Depression. In 1933, the cost of a movie was ten to fifteen cents for a matinee, but perhaps as much as a quarter for the evening show. Consider that a loaf of white bread was a nickel, and eggs went for twenty-one cents a dozen, and you see how going to the movies represented a serious choice for some people. And they chose movies over bread whenever they could.

MATB gave viewers a glimpse of a time when America’s dreams and reality were far apart. There was both history and truth packed into that catchy theme song – “But at the bijou bitter gall/became as sweet as brandy”. People didn’t go to these movies looking for a reflection of their daily experiences, but rather, something to transcend them. All movie lovers – my father, Bijou Bob, and those who saved their nickels and dimes – understood that movies were a medicine to alleviate the Depression – the Great ones of a nation, and the smaller ones of its citizens, both then and now.

For this reason, and because any blog celebrating a giant Gila monster is just too cool to miss, we at the café heartily support The Bijou Blog, and we look forward to the return of the Matinee at the Bijou series on PBS.

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