I was thinking of the Granada Theatre tonight, a grand old movie palace (over 3400 seats!) on the North Side of Chicago where I grew up. I saw many movies there as a teenager in the 1960s, like The Graduate with Dustin Hoffman and Torn Curtain with Paul Newman.
I couldn’t believe my ears when I heard it was torn down. How well I remember a rainy Saturday in 1963 when my younger sisters and I joined the long line of kids that snaked its way down the block waiting to get into a double feature of King Kong vs. Godzilla and…Jerry Lewis’s The Nutty Professor.
Also starring Stella Stevens.
The flick was on Turner Classic Movies the other night, and I watched it for awhile. I’ve seen it a few times over the years, and I find it alternately funny and cringe-inducing. Goofy, klutzy, but somewhat lovable Professor Kelp turns into the slick and sleazy Buddy Love, the Hyde to his Jekyll, and he becomes so uninhibited in his Bryclreemed hostility, combative insecurity, and artless pseudo-suavity that you feel for the guy even as he spits out one insult after another to the woman he most wants to impress–Stella’s character of “Stella Purdy.”
Watching the film the other night, I was struck by a scene where Professor Kelp imagines Stella morphing from this dress into a variety of boner-inducing outfits. First she looks like a classy Hollywood star in a goddess-like gown…then she’s in a little tennis outfit…and then she’s dressed in red and leaning against the wall like a paperback floozy. I couldn’t help but wonder what my budding pubescent mind made of that parade of stimulating images…
Tonight I read a very good interview with Stella by Tony Macklin on the site Bright Lights Film Journal. She relates how when she was doing a love scene with Bobby Darin in Too Late Blues, he got a big erection. This photo from the interview makes me feel like it’s me in the scene. See how easy it is to time travel in a horny fashion?
How movies can warp us. I wasn’t ready for the reality to come. There were no fluffy “coeds” like Stella on the campus where I went to college in 1969. The atmosphere was definitely not candy-colored, girls didn’t wear their hair with two ponytails, and in fact you were lucky if the girl with whom you partook of the “Sexual Revolution” still shaved under her arms. But Stella as “Stella Purdy” remains a potent daydream that takes me and my erection back to another era.
The above shot of the Granada being demolished was posted by user Genial23 on Flickr. Back in the day, I remember sitting on the main floor watching a movie with my arm around my date and looking up at those boxes and wondering what it would be like if we could go up there to neck…but we never did.