Ticket To Paradise

PrintPrintEmailEmail

Bulfinch Press; 144 pages.

Not long ago The New York Times took note of the increasing number of American workers whose unemployment benefits were running out. For these people, the reporter commented, “a $7.50 film is a luxury.” Quite likely the newly unemployed have more on their minds than missing a movie. Perhaps almost as irritating is the notion that for everyone else a $7.50 movie isn’t a luxury. Those of us whose years stretch back to the twenty-five-cent, Saturday-morning show now have in Ticket to Paradise the perfect book to engage our memories of a kinder, gentler world of moviegoing.

Emily Gwathmey and John Margolies are demon collectors. For their book they have ferreted out a wealth of movie memorabilia—tickets, programs, an usher’s uniform from New York’s Paramount Theater, and countless old postcards featuring the grandest or the plainest of the movie houses that populated every city and town in America. Since Margolies is also a photographer known for his ability to capture the vernacular and bring it to life in stingingly bright colors, the book is filled with his own quirky photos of surviving theaters.

The authors have stitched together their high-colored visuals with engaging text blocks that hold the testimony of avid picture-goers, most of whom achieved their filmic coming of age in the 1950s and 1960s. An administrator at Washington University in St. Louis recalls movie-obsessed days spent at the West Theater in Northfield, Minnesota: “The building didn’t matter, nor the sticky floors, nor the unruly company we kept. We were there to make cosmic leaps through that screen into a universe of the imagined life that was the only contentment a ten-year-old boy knew in 1951: ray guns and six-guns, good guys and bad guys, purity and evil … life was so simple and normal…”