Kevin Hooper. The Movies 1950-60’s
My time in the film industry in Perth from 1951-1961
I commenced working in the film industry in 1951 when I was just 13 years of age. I was interviewed by the late John Pye and Arthur Stiles for the position of assistant projectionist at the Grand Theatre. I was fortunate enough to be successful in my quest.
The film showing then was “Mr Denning Drives North” staring a very young John Mills. In those days the Grand Theatre only showed first released British films.
The Grand projectionists were the flamboyant Doug Anderson, Ray Courtney , Joe Sweeney (who went on to management roles within the Grand Theatre company, Channel 7 and to the Entertainment Centre).
The newsreels of the day were the Cinesound and Paramount News, and as there was only one copy of each available, they were switched between the Grand, Royal and Piccadilly theatres up to three times a day.
Lunch was always a pleasure with a visit to Boans fresh food counter.
For a short period I also worked at the Royal Theatre, the staff there were Ray Cooper, Rupert Morris, Ken Head and Ivan Carter.
Later in the year I was transferred to Piccadilly and worked with Reg Starr, Arthur Carlson and Wally Friday. Reg was Union President and also an examiner for the licensing of projectionists.
In those days, to operate as a projectionist you had to sit for a licence consisting of state electricity, health and projection technical requirements.
Reg was an uncompromising teacher and mentor. Fair but tough, training many wayward assistants into projectionists. When I look back, I would regard him as a stalwart of the industry. I obtained my license when I was 17, but they wouldn’t issue it until I turned 18 as Reg considered me too young! Despite the fact I was the only successful candidate out of a group of 15.
In 1957 I joined Metro Goldwyn Mayer as an assistant and relieving projectionist for the Metro Theatre and Drive-in. Here the projectionist was the affable Ron Trinick, who with his offsider Trevor Wilkinson, shared a lifetime of experience and dedication in the film industry. The supporting staff was David Goddard projectionist, Harry Lloyd, Peter Buzzard and Lyn Huxtables as assistants.
Although it was difficult to play team sport due to shift work, we still managed. I can recall playing under 16 cricket on Saturday mornings, rushing back to the Grand by one, relieving Joe Sweeney who played grade cricket in the afternoon. I also played a few social games of cricket on the centre turf wicket at the W.A.C.A (I cannot imagine that happening today!)
The industry had their own football team aptly named “movies” resplendent in black and white guernseys with MOVIES splashed on the front. The team was made up of mainly industry members, with a few extras like Bob Howat, who with Colin Garrity (manager of Columbia film exchange) played in the W.A.F.L. In later years Colin Garrity was responsible for organising the first plane trip from Perth to Antarctica. I was fortunate enough to accompany my father on this, a truly memorable experience.
Although I only worked in the industry for ten years, I associated with other city projectionists, particularly after the evening show we often enjoyed a late supper at the Plaza Cafe in Barrack Street. At the Plaza/Ambassadors was Eric Nicholls, Ken Booth, Jack Ginn, Denny Bryon, Norman Carter and Wally Holden. The Mayfair was Bob Jones and Trevor Morgan. Liberty had John Jeffries, the Capitol was Brian Parker and Bill Angwin. At the Regal Theatre in Subiaco was Bob Staples who I worked with occasionally, helping him build sets at the Playhouse Theatre in Pier Street, on our days off.
The major social event was the Movie Ball which was recognised as one of Perth’s glamour events. Everybody worked tirelessly at the lovely Embassy ballroom, with all of the industry combining to bring Hollywood to Perth. All the logues were individually decorated, promoting current and forthcoming movies.
My time in the industry was time of change, from standard projection to 3D to CinemaScope, Vistavision, stereophonic sound, the opening of drive in theatres and introduction of television.
I would like to pay tribute to the bio box men named, who together provided many a lifetime toward entertaining Perth and West Australian audiences.
This was a period in my life I will always fondly remember.
I left the industry in 1961 and went on to hold management roles with Pfizer Pharmaceuticals and Ingham Enterprises.
Footnote: please accept my apologies if I have overlooked any names or dates.