Wednesday, May 2, 2007

The Colney Theatre, 5th & Olney, Philadelphia PA


One of our regular readers, the estimable Pierce Inverarity, has brought this Arnold Schnabel sonnet to our attention: notable not only for being one of Schnabel's absolute best but also as perhaps the only time Olney's poet laureate mentioned the work of that other Philadelphia native, the great film director Larry Winchester, the particular work being of course Larry's classic six-shooter opera
The Devil's Country.

Sadly, the 2000-seat Colney Theatre closed shortly after the double-bill mentioned in this poem and Arnold had to switch his allegiance to the Fern Rock Theatre, just four blocks north on 5th Street, and across the street from the leafy glades of Fisher Park and the precipitous slope of Dead Man's Hill. (Originally printed in the June 3, 1958 issue of the Olney Times; republished thanks to the kind "Imprimi Potest" of the Arnold Schnabel society.)

"Temple of Dreams"

O Colney Theatre! O Temple of dreams! O Palace of Joy!
I slide my body into yours each Wednesday evening
And march to the counter where I’m known well by the boy:
My large coke and large popcorn appear in a twinkling,
And off I scurry into that enormous dark chamber,
Finding my preferred seat, in the middle and center;
I slouch me down and await that first blessed flicker:
And then, “The March of Time!” Ah yes, whatever --
But then that rascally rogue, that scamp the Road Runner,
And Bugs and his nemesis Elmer, that bald intrepid gunner;
Then the Coming Attractions, ah! an old Lewis and Martin!
Then, something about the three-hundred-and-first Spartan.
I have come to see a film called Machine-Gun Kelly,
But the first feature bodes well too: yes, The Devil’s Country...

(For links to other happy poems from Arnold Schnabel, and to the serialization of his mammoth memoir Railroad Train to Heaven, check the right hand column of this page.)

1 comment:

Goodtime Samaritan said...

I was a little young to remember Mr. Schnabel from the Colney Theatre days, although as I recall the first movie I ever went to was at the Colney: "To Hell and Back" with Audie Murphy. But I do remember seeing Arnold regularly at the Saturday afternoon matinees at the Fern Rock. I recognized him as an usher at St. Helena's, and even at these Saturday double-features he would wear the same somber suits he wore at Sunday mass. His was a shy and somewhat baleful presence, and he was always alone.