By Roger Paradiso
On a cool spring day we were sitting around the round table in George’s house on Charles Street. George was sick with a very bad cold. He heard our voices and made his way out of his bedroom sniffling, coughing, and looking a little green. But once I began talking about movies George forgot about being sick.
When I mention how much movies cost to make and see now, there is a glow on George’s face. He tells my son Anthony about going to the movies ca 1937. “One of the things about films in those days is that the studios owned the theaters. So, there was a Warner theater, there was an MGM theater, and there was a Universal Theater. So, what happened was the films were shown at the Roxy and Radio City Music Hall on the first run, and then they would go out to the neighborhood theaters. In the neighborhoods Saturday matinee was a big thing. Kids never went to movies any other time. And it was 25 cents. And we would line up. Had one kid who would take all our quarters. They would have the A film. The B film. The Western. The Serial. The cartoons. And then they would have a raffle. So, you’d be in the movie house for four or five hours.”
I ask how much the candy was since I’ve always liked to eat candy at the movies, a family tradition that Anthony has inherited. George says, “A Nestle or Hershey bar was five cents. The Nestle bar was compact. They made the Hershey bar big by making it thinner and flatter, so that visually it looked like a bigger bar, but it didn’t have any more chocolate in it. Popcorn was five cents.” “Wow,” says Anthony, “I paid ten bucks the other day for a small popcorn and a small drink.”
George’s cough has disappeared along with the sniffles. He has a huge grin on his face and asks, “Did I ever tell you about Kubrick?” No, that’s one we haven’t heard. With that, George leans back and is back in the Village ca 1955. He tells us how he ran into a man named Stanley Kubrick.
“I had a friend and we were walking through Washington Square Park on a summer evening and he said he knew somebody who was making a motion picture in Greenwich Village. And at that time, I had been studying film at City College which had the only film school in New York City at the time. And I said I’d like to meet him and to our surprise he was right there in the park. And my friend introduced me, and I said where are you filming this. And he said I’m renting a loft on West Fourth Street. And I asked him what the film was about. He said it was a murder mystery, and this prize fighter is living across the alley from this girl and they sort of strike up a conversation and they become lovers and then there is a murder.” And I said, “Gee, that sounds interesting. What’s the title of the film?” And he said, “The Nymph and the Maniac.” And that’s the story. I ask George if he saw any of the film being shot. “No,” he says, “I actually went past the loft. It was on West Fourth Street, second floor.”
Kubrick left New York for L.A. Then, when making Lolita in England in 1961, he and his wife decided to raise their family outside of London because they loved the countryside and seclusion. He also wanted to get away from Hollywood life and executives, and make his classic movies without too much interference.
Oh, I forgot to mention that the original name of the movie George spoke about was The Nymph and the Maniac, but it was then changed to Killer’s Kiss.
“An ambitious photographer…challenges the movie capital with Killer’s Kiss,” the New York Daily News enthused. “The suspenseful venture augurs well for young Stanley Kubrick!”
You never know who you’ll run into in the Village. It could be someone who will be famous someday.