The Rembrandt Virtual Tour - Memories


Index

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A Visit in 1959
Wartime - Patricia Campbell Lyons
Wartime - John Osborne
The Comic Strip Presents..........Dirty Movie
First Horror Film
Taking a girlfriend out
John Osborne
Cafe / Dance Studio
Saturday Morning Pictures
Tony Moss (late President Cinema Theatre Association)

Content



We are grateful to the family of the late Derek Phillips for their permission to use much of the text and images from the website that was set up and run by him. Derek was very interested in local history and his community and a short biography can be viewed on the introductory page.

A Postcard of the Rembrandt
A Postcard of the Rembrandt
Image courtesy of the Phillips family © 2007

A Visit in 1959

Peter Shaw sent me this story from 1959, where he recalls the cool interior of the cinema contrasting with the heat both of the day and the story on the screen. Rather unromantically I have over analysed this to surmise that the water spray air cooling system must have been working at that time.

          I think it must have been in 1959. My best friend Pete and I are the same age (in fact, our mothers met in the maternity ward) and at that time we lived in Old Coulsdon. We were about 10 years old. Our nearest cinemas were the Regal, Purley, the Florida in Caterham and the Astoria, Purley.
          However, on this occasion we expressed great interest in seeing a revival of King Solomon's Mines starring Stewart Granger at the Rembrandt in Ewell. We had never been to Ewell (or Stoneleigh!) and had no idea where it was. Our mothers apparently decided we could go there alone on the bus. We had to change at least once, in Croydon.

Poster for King Solomon's Mines
Poster for King Solomon's Mines"
Image courtesy of the Phillips family © 2007

          I remember that day as if it were yesterday. We got off the bus (was it opposite the cinema?) and walked up a short grassy mound to the cinema. It was a glorious sunny day, and I can remember touching the red brick of the cinema and noticing how hot it was. This was the first afternoon screening. We entered the Rembrandt, and were greeted by the manager. The foyer was fairly dark and very cool. Years later, my mother confessed she had telephoned the manager, asking him to look out for two bewildered boys. This was effectively the first time we were allowed on such an expedition without an adult.
          The manager accompanied us to a kiosk, where we bought kia-ora. We had a packet of sandwiches in our satchels. We entered a totally empty and enormous cinema (or so it seemed to us!) and watched this tremendously exciting movie (again, as it seemed to us). We were transfixed by the actor playing 'Gagool,' the guide to the mines. Of the cinema, I can remember the curtains, the texture of the seat, the carpet, but most of all I remember the space and the calm of the auditorium.
          Afterwards, we sat outside and ate our sandwiches leaning against the cinema wall. I remember very little traffic until the bus arrived, and we hopped on. I recall waving to the Rembrandt manager as the bus pulled away.
          It was the only time I ever visited the Rembrandt, but to me it remains the most vivid cinema visit of my life. Innocent days indeed.
          Decades later, I was the advertising agent for Warner Bros for nearly 10 years and sat through hundreds of movies in the company's private cinema in Wardour Street. I can assure you there were many times, in that cramped, stuffy little screening room, when I longed to be back in the cool Rembrandt on that sunny day in 1959

Peter Shaw

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Wartime - Patricia Campbell Lyons

The Memories of Patricia Campbell Lyons who worked at the Rembrandt during the war. Originally published in The Epsom & Ewell Herald in July 1997.

Mrs Long, the manageress and 'Bill' the chief projectionist
I can only surmise that in this 1943 photograph of Mrs Long,
the manageress and "Bill" the chief projectionist,
we are seeing the "Mr Lock" who is referred to in the text.
Image Credit: Pearl Eggleton

          I trained there eventually becoming fully qualified. Mr. Lock our taskmaster, viewed his new recruits with trepidation - four nervous girls, some not even mechanically-minded! What an excellent teacher Mr. Lock was. Thanks to his tuition I became a reliable operator. I even mastered working the [lighting for the] curtains, then run by six levers that provided changing colour in the soft fabric. I adjusted the music which entertained the audience during intervals - and all this in between working sight and sound on my machine.
          I was the only one to survive the hours of hard work. One by one the others left. Maintaining the two "monsters" that projected the films onto the large screen, stripping them down in the morning and learning how to "lace up" footage and light the positive and negative carbons that provided light, rewinding and filing and repairing torn film with acetone were all part of my task.
          I can only surmise that in this 1943 photograph of Mrs Long, the manageress and "Bill" the chief projectionist, we are seeing the "Mr Lock" who is referred to in the text.
          Two male projectionists who later disappeared into the army completed the staff. We had three shows a day ending at 11 each evening. Sometimes I would even be summoned to the box office to dispense tickets during the cashier's tea break, this chore, on show behind a glass fronted kiosk, was one I loathed. Rationing then meant chocolate was a luxury and customers would rush to the poorly stocked kiosk to fight for even a small bar.
          As a member of the "fire party' on Sunday mornings I took part in fire drill, battling with a hose and sand bucket. Three nights a week for the princely sum of two and sixpence per night I had to go on duty. I used to sleep on the settee by the circle near the cafe. I would wait for the air raid siren to blast my eardrums. Then I and a fellow worker would patrol the building, amid the sound of "ack ack" fire and bombs dropping. The sky over London was bathed in a red glow with searchlights stabbing the sky. Enemy bombers droned overhead. I am afraid being a brave coward was not much consolation. I trembled like a leaf every time there was an explosion. We would retire to the kitchen part of the cinema cafe, gas masks and tin hats put to one side. We would devour weak (rationed) tea and "cart grease" margarine sandwiches with relish. Dozens of cockroaches would scamper for cover directly we drew the blackout curtains and turned on the lights. They were probably as hungry as us!
          Then came the day, a lovely sunny afternoon, when we put up a "raid in progress" notice. It was extremely frightening high up in the operating box beneath the camouflaged roof listening to the bombers overhead. That afternoon they were particularly near, zooming and diving amid gunfire. Suddenly the whole building shook as bombs fell. The nearby railway line to Clapham Junction was an excellent guide for the enemy pilots.
          It was the only time the audience disappeared into the foyer, even though they would have been safer under their seats as chandeliers swung overhead. As the bombardment continued we left the box to join the crowds in the carpeted foyer. We could see planes dog fighting our boys overhead, outlined against the bright blue sky. Around us, smoke rising upwards, there was an acrid smell in the air where houses in Seaforth Gardens had been hit. The little shoe shop at Ewell Court we knew so well had been demolished. Eventually we returned to our eyrie to replace "raid in progress" with "all clear."
          This was just part of the Blitz we were subjected to almost daily. Even during the occasional Sunday concerts when Richard Tauber, Jack Hylton or the London Philharmonic Orchestra or others delighted the audiences the dreaded siren would go.
          The cinema stood as strong as an oak throughout the war years. I enjoyed my time there, working with wonderful people and the memories still linger on of the servicemen and women on leave who swarmed into the cinema. Assignations with usherettes were made and sometimes these led to marriage. We provided happiness for a lot of people tucked away high up in the old building, taking them into a make-believe world for a few hours away from the horrors of war.

Patricia Campbell Lyons

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Wartime - John Osborne

Reproduced from the autobiography of the playwright John Osborne.

John Osborne
John Osborne

          The Rembrandt Cinema in Ewell was almost always full every evening during the war. On Fridays and Saturdays there was certain to be a queue. A Bette Davis film was almost impossible to get into all the week. Even Grandma Osborne was known to leave her Warwick Deeping for the afternoon and walk a hundred unaided yards to the Rembrandt to see Now Voyager or Mr Skeffington.

Now Voyager Poster
NowVoyagerPoster

          I can only remember one occasion when the Rembrandt was almost empty the whole week-apart from Mondays, which were unpopular. The word of mouth about the film showing around Ewell and Stoneleigh was resentful and indignant. In the Parades and saloon bars, there was talk of Speaking to the Manager, even of Writing to the Film People themselves. Later in the week, undeterred by those who said we were wasting our pocket money, Mickey and I went to see Citizen Kane. We came out afterwards from looming Gothic darkness into the bright Kingston Road, silent, uncomprehending and deeply depressed. At tea the Walls asked if we had tummy ache. It had been nothing, even for two such eleven-year-olds as we were, to giggle about.

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The Comic Strip Presents..........Dirty Movie

In July 1983 the Rembrandt (ABC, at the time) was used as a location for an episode of the Comic Strip series entitled "Dirty Movie" The frontage, cash desk and projection box were used in the film, as well as the houses alongside the cinema. The premise was that the manager lived in one of these houses and used the cinema to view a naughty film of Dawn French in a traffic wardens uniform......well, use your imagination!

There used to be a really good site dedicated to the "Comic Strip" series called the Comic Strip fan page, but it seems to have disappeared recently. Fortunately the operator of this site kindly sent me a VHS copy of the programme as my V2000 copy was a bit tricky to view, and I've been able to see it again. I believe that the Comic Strip Series is now available on DVD.

Preparing to shoot the cash desk scene for 'Dirty Movie'.
Preparing to shoot the cash desk scene for 'Dirty Movie'.
Image Credit: Iain Tennant

There were a lot of confused customers phoning up and asking why we had changed the name to the "REO" as the ABC signs had to be covered up. The canopy signage for "the Sound of Muzak" also startled people.

Ric Mayall relaxes outside the cinema after the final days shooting
Ric Mayall relaxes outside the cinema after the final days shooting
Image Credit: Iain Tennant

This episode of the Comic Strip can be viewed on YouTube (Contains explicit language and adult themes so viewer discretion advised)

The following notes only really make sense if you have seen the film or are a fan of the series. They were originally written for the Comic Strip fan page. The photos were taken by Iain, the projectionist at the time.

In the projection room
In the projection room
Image Credit: Iain Tennant

In the projection room scene Rick bangs the light dowser lever on the side of the projector so hard that it had to be dismantled and bend back into shape afterwards.

Also in this scene the port hole glass has been taken out and can be seen in the shot on the floor leaning against the wall. This was taken out so that power and/or shouted instructions could be sent through the port hole to a lighting technician who was standing on a scaffold tower in the auditorium.

Rick opens the shutter
Rick opens the shutter

When Rick opens the shutter (and bends it!) the lighting guy switches on the light and waves something in front of it to provide a supposed flicker on Ricks face.

The auditorium interior shot of the auditorium was filmed elsewhere, as was the flat roof scene, where the police drill through the roof to see the illegal viewing of the film.

"Shall we nick him?" "No, wait until he's seen the whole film then the sentence will be more severe"

A Photograph taken of the filming of this scene.
A Photograph taken of the filming of this scene.

There is a shot in the ticket office where Jennifer Saunders (June) is pushed though the floor which is something of a mystery. It looks very realistic, but there was no trap-door there and a concrete floor! Later Adrian comes up the same route. Maybe this shot solves the mystery as a littter hides his legs.

Adrian after the fall through the floor
Adrian after the fall through the floor

An alternative end where a lobster gets blown up was shot but not used. The paving stones on the forecourt had a black stain for weeks afterwards.

The house where Ric Mayall lived as cinema manager was actually the home of the cinema cashier. Her teenage daughter was a fan of Ric's and got quite a shock when he used her house for filming, although her school friends didn't believe her at first.

The Thorn EMI sign behind Ric Mayall's head was hidden with gaffa tape
The Thorn EMI sign behind Ric Mayall's head was hidden with gaffa tape

Seeing the programme recently again made me remember a lot of the dodges, such as the keyhole in the cinema door drawn on with a marker pen, the gaffa tape mark on the pavement where Rick has to stop the wheelchair when he races out to find June. (his screen wife)

Posters for the film 'Flashdance'
Posters for the film 'Flashdance'

The Thorn EMI sign behind Ric Mayall's head was hidden with gaffa tape. Despite these changes and cover-ups you can clearly see posters for the film "Flashdance" which was showing at the time, and in another shot, a poster offering a reward for a stolen print of "Return of the Jedi"

Jennifer Saunders
Jennifer Saunders

Comic Strip's "Dirty Movie" featured:
» Rik Mayall
» Adrian Edmondson
» Jennifer Saunders
» Dawn French
» Nigel Planer
» Robbie Coltrane
» Bert Parnaby
» Peter Richardson

Link to a Comic Strip Presents Fan site

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First Horror Film

(Edited from an article that appeared in the Epsom & Ewell Herald July 2002.)

The Rembrandt opened with a great splash of publicity, the building decorated with bunting and huge, black banners announcing its first, all-horror programme (Certificate H - over 18s only).

Boris Karloff as Frankenstein
Boris Karloff as Frankenstein

The films advertised were Frankenstein, starring Boris Karloff as the monster, and Dracula, with Bela Lugosi. All very puzzling to we youngsters who had no idea what it was all about. The only hint was the skeleton portrayed on one of the advertising banners, but our parents would tell us nothing about the films. The concept of 'horror' was fortunately not something that could be conveyed to children in those days.

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Taking a girlfriend out

Reach for the Sky Poster
Reach for the Sky Poster

          Perhaps my most vivid memory of the Rembrandt was the RAF Guard of Honour mounted outside the cinema for the first showing of the film of Douglas Bader's life 'Reach for the Sky'.
          I remember the seat prices painted on the flagstones 1/9 for the stalls and 2/6 for the circle! In those days if you took a girl friend out you automatically went into the stalls, but if you felt she was rather special you went to the added expense of going up to the circle!
          Seems positively ancient thinking for today's standards! Those were the days when values were far better than today. Perhaps that is a contributory reason for why the cinemas failed? You saw two films, the news, a cartoon, apart from the trailers and the national anthem was always played as well.

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John Osborne

From the autobiography of the playwright John Osborne
.....I went inside to see if any of the girls were there. Only one was left. Lily in the box office with her dark ringlets and strawberry lips and green dresses, who had allowed me in for nothing and let me take her home, had left to get married. The girl who had replaced her looked at me, coldly, barring me the privilege I had known before.
Lily standing outside the Rembrandt; no doubt in her green dress.
Lily standing outside the Rembrandt; no doubt in her green dress.
Image Credit: Pearl Eggleton
There were no occasional free Cambridge steaks to be had in the restaurant upstairs and only the one usherette left to sit beside you cosily among the old-age familiars before the ice-cream interval

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Cafe / Dance Studio

Edited from an article that appeared in the Epsom & Ewell Post in July 2002.

Like most cinemas built in the 1930s, the Rembrandt was very modern and well appointed. Upstairs, and behind huge glass windows at the front of the building, a restaurant serving lunches and afternoon teas had been provided; the waitresses seemed smartly dressed in their traditional, black and white uniforms.
In some cinemas at that time, besides being able to buy ice-creams in the interval, you could also order a tray of tea to be delivered to your seat! My mother was a keen cinemagoer so we saw many new films as they were first released.
Advert for the Dance Studio
Advert for the Dance Studio
Image courtesy of the Phillips family © 2007

I wonder how many readers can remember 'Felicias Dance Studio' on the first floor which replaced the restaurant, where myself and countless others learnt to dance. Then Zambesi was the hit tune, and it saw another turning point which signalled the demise of yet another entertainment - ballroom dancing. This was, of course, the hit tune of Bill Hayley and the Comets and 'Rock around the Clock.' Then we were taught at Felicias rock 'n' roll and the ballroom jive.

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Saturday Morning Pictures

Edited from an article in the Epsom & Ewell Herald July 2002
Childrens Film Foundation
Children's Film Foundation

After the war, most cinemas ran programmes for children on Saturday mornings and some would walk from West Ewell to join the queue outside before 9.30am. At the Rembrandt, the films shown were usually comedies (The Three Stooges, Abbott and Costello, The Marx Brothers, Laurel and Hardy), westerns (Roy Rogers, The Lone Ranger, Hopalong Cassidy) and long-running serials which went on for months (one on the French Foreign Legion and another about the US Navy stand out in my memory), together with one cartoon (often from Walt Disney) in colour each week. The bright daylight outside came as a shock as we filed out around mid-day and we would stagger down the road, blinking until we got accustomed to the light.
The Three Stooges
TheThreeStooges

These popular shows continued for some years after the war, even though a boy once took in an air-pistol and shot a hole in the screen and children in the circle would bombard those in the stalls below with apple cores. Another juvenile dodge was to go up the steps past the downstairs toilets and hold the exit door open for friends to come in without paying. After a while the manager, who must have dreaded Saturday mornings, got wise to this trick and sent an usherette down to the front stalls to keep an eye on the side exits.

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Tony Moss (late President Cinema Theatre Association)

The late president of the Cinema Theatre Association, Tony Moss, quoted in the local press on the closure of the Rembrandt.

I remember visiting the Rembrandt during the war years while I was living in Tadworth and during the early 1950s I remember a touring Hammond organ coming to visit the cinema. I'm very upset that it's closing as it's one of the few surviving local cinemas. My most vivid memories are of the huge crystal chandeliers that hung inside and how little the original decor was affected when the cinema got its second screen in 1971.

Tony Moss

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The Tour


Foyer Projection Suite Box 2 Lighting
Rear Stalls Cafe Documents and Plans
Front Stalls Stage / Backstage Facade
Circle Foyer Roof Managers Office
Circle Boiler House / H&V Plant Twinning
Projection Suite Box 1 Car Park Memories


Link to the Rembrandt History Page


Boring legal stuff relating to this page

As explained earlier the text and images for this page came from the website run by the late Derek Phillips. To preserve his work and allow ready access to it, it was decided to merge his local history pages into the Epsom and Ewell History Explorer website. Of necessity some minor changes to the text were necessary and the layout has been changed to fit in with the house style of Epsom and Ewell History Explorer but in essence the web page is Derek's.

The family of the Late Derek Phillips makes every effort to ensure that the information on this web page is accurate. However, they cannot accept responsibility for any loss or inconvenience caused by reliance on inaccurate material contained in this site. Links to other sites are provided for your convenience, the Phillips family cannot give endorsement of them. They cannot be responsible for any information contained on other websites.

All material on this site (including text and images) is copyright. Every effort is being made to ensure that all sources are credited. Where no credit is given then it should be assumed that the copyright in any particular item resides with the Phillips family or that the Phillips family should be contacted to ascertain who owns the copyright before text or photographs are reproduced elsewhere. Educational use is permitted provided that no changes are made to the material and Derek Phillips is acknowledged as the source.

Commercial usage is prohibited unless formal written permission is obtained beforehand.



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