The Thalia in the 70s
When I knew this theater, back in the day, it was just like this photo, a strange, narrow little place on 95th Street just down from Broadway, a few blocks away from where I lived. I remember the floor sloped up toward the screen, making it hard to see over heads sometimes. It was a magical place for someone like me, who had only recently come to the city from a small town. Each time I went I felt a frisson of anticipation, for no matter what film was playing, I knew I was going to fall in love with it. The old theater is long since renovated and it’s now called Symphony Space/Leonard Nimoy Thalia Theatre. I like that, being a Nimoy fan, and he was apparently a great supporter, but what a strange convergence, too–Mr. Spock and the old cinema.
Discovering Independent Films
The foreign films the Thalia showed came from Poland and India and Japan and Italy and France and Sweden. Many might seem stylized now, but I remember them as striking and powerful, from Bergman’s Wild Strawberries and The Seventh Seal to Luis Bunuel’s Belle de Jour, from Satyajit Ray’s Days and Nights in the Forest to Fellini’s La Strada, from Andrzej Wajda‘s Ashes and Diamonds to everything by Kurosawa, from René Clément’s Is Paris Burning to Alain Resnais’ extraordinary Hiroshima Mon Amour and Last Year at Marienbad–and so many more.
The Joy of Seeing Films from a Golden Time
The American and British films came mainly from the 30s and 40s, and they were enchanting, and never before seen, by me, anyway: Katherine Hepburn with Fred McMurray in the exquisitely quirky Alice Adams in 1935 or her heartbreaking Morning Glory from 1933, Humphrey Bogart and Ingrid Bergman in Casablanca and Bogart with Bette Davis in The Petrified Forest, Noel Coward’s precious, unforgettable film Brief Encounter, Joseph Cotton and Orson Welles in Our Man in Havana and Citizen Kane, Hitchcock’s Shadow of a Doubt and The Lady Vanishes, Barbara Stanwyck and Fred McMurray in Double Indemnity, and Chaplin’s City Lights. The 50s and 60s got their turn, with Ida Lupino and Robert Ryan in Beware, My Lovely, John Sturgis’ The Magnificent Seven—and here, too, so many more.
The Thalia’s Enchantment
The Thalia I knew changed the bill often, and even included films from private collections and others seldom seen. It was an education of its own, an island of constant stimulation and entertainment like no other I’ve experienced since. It expanded my awareness not only of theater and film in general, but also my understanding of the boundless creativity movies have brought to us from every direction, and the enchantment of being able to experience them all.