Essay: marie kusters-mccarthy
Rock Hudson at the Cinema
1945 was the year my parents finished the building of the Desmond Cinema in Cappoquin, Ireland, the year I was born. Was my arrival memorable? Of course not. Without a doubt it was the cinema that caused a sensation. Before the opening of the cinema, the radio was the life line to news, entertainment, and information for the local people who consisted mainly of labourers, factory workers, farmers, and stay at home mothers to as many children, in Catholic Ireland, that God would send them. The Desmond Cinema was ahead of its time in that it was a new construction and not just a converted Village Hall to show movies. It was designed to cater for dances, live theatre, concerts, and movies which we called ‘the pictures.’ From my family stories, I was a crying baby, but on Sunday, when the nanny had her day off, I was in my pram at the back of the cinema for the matinee and I would just lie there and never cry. It didn’t matter whether it was a gun shooting western or a whispered love story; I was content.
After the Catholic church, the cinema was the focal point of the town, and as soon as I could walk and talk I made it my business to tell everyone I met, especially newcomers to the town, that I owned the “Cimena.” The local ‘low life’ used to mock me while I boasted that I couldn’t even pronounce “cinema” properly.
John Crowley was the projectionist who wound up the reels of film and fed them into the projector and onto the screen. However, he had no interest whatsoever in movies but was learning how to play the bagpipes. He loved westerns as there would be a lot of shooting, and during those scenes, he would practice his bagpipes.
Dead Indians, cavalry charges, and the drone of bagpipes as soundtrack was confusing to say the least. My father would jump up and say to my mother, “Mai, Mai, I’m going to kill Crowley.”
My father’s mother used to come to the cinema every night and sit in the back where she could watch young couples heading for the back row for a good old grope when the lights went down. She would sit there with her rosary beads clicking and ask for the torch to shine it on any sounds of heavy breathing which weren’t coming from Joan Crawford and ilk on the screen. Then she would report to the parents of the heavy breathers the next day and compulsory confession was on the cards.
These were the days before videos and DVDs and once a film had been shown, it was returned to the distributor. For some reason, we ended up with a spare reel of a Pathe News version of King George VI’s funeral and another of Queen Elizabeth’s coronation. Occasionally, I would ask my father if John could show us those and if I could invite a few friends? What he didn’t know was that I would tell all and sundry that they could come and sit in the ‘good seats’ for a penny.
This was a big treat for the local children and they would line up with their baby brothers and sisters, some in dirty nappies, with their pennies. I made it clear the ones in diapers had to sit on laps. Of course there were complaints that all I had to show was the Funeral or Coronation and never a Double Feature. However, once the film started to roll they got carried away with the moving images and would be shouting about the horse going to wag its tail, the observers coming up with tears in their eyes, etc. All great innocent excitement. I loved it and the best part for me was counting my pennies when "The End” appeared.
I was ten years old when I first saw the love of my life, Rock Hudson, in “Magnificent Obsession.” Our small town had nothing that even came close to a man like that, and my decision was made to find my own Rock Hudson (which I eventually did, after a global search). However, many years later, it came as a shock when I was forced to accept the reality that I wouldn’t have been Rock’s type. Thinking back on those days of innocence, I now find it sad that it was people like me who forced him to live a secret life to fulfill my fantasy.
about the writer: marie kusters-mccarthy
Marie Kusters-McCarthy is a published writer of short stories in the true crime genre. Her work has appeared in “True Crime Detective” monthly magazine in the UK. “Crime Magazine Encyclopedia of Crime” currently carry five of her stories on their website.
Upon leaving Ireland, her place of birth, Marie has lived and worked in several countries which include The United States, South Africa, France, Israel, Lebanon, Croatia, The Netherlands and Spain, where she currently resides.
Her many travels involved some seventeen years working for the United Nations in New York, in peacekeeping in Lebanon and Croatia and at The International War Crimes Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia in The Hague, The Netherlands.
Marie continues to write short memoirs and true crime stories.