Friday, February 16, 2007

Yiddish Hamlet, Swinging Boobies and Jackie Chan

Thanks to Patrick for passing me this story relating to Toronto City Hall’s heritage department to designate the Standard Theatre at Dundas Street and Spadina Avenue as a heritage site. Originally a Yiddish cinema, the stanard later became the Victory Burlesque and lastly, was reincarnated three times as a Chinese cinema, The Golden Harvest, The Pearl and The Mandarin. Located only 3 blocks from my office where I currently write this, I began attending when it was the Pearl, catching packed Midnight shows of ARMOUR OF GOD 2: OPERATION CONDOR, HARD-BOILED, ONCE UPON A TIME IN CHINA, FONG SAI YUK, STORY OF RICKY and others. I would always be guaranteed a cheap double bill in a massive cinema, plus a snack bar rocking with exotic treats. I always wish that I dove into the Chinatown cinema circuit earlier and missed out on the days when Shaw Brothers films played in this city, but then again living in rural Ontario, I didn't have the opportunity. The cinema was a grand space and now, reading this story about the rescue, that was only the balcony!

I recorded an oral history of the space for the murmur project. If you walk by 285 Spadina, you will see a big sign of an ear on a lamp post with a telephone number and code. Dial that on your cell and you can hear me blabbing about the cinema. You can hear it on this page - BUT it is full of QT audio files that all start at once. Just hit pause on all of them and then listen at your liesure. I am at the bottom of the list.

When cleaning out another Chinatown cinema, I found a little album of photos from the Standard back in the day when it was the Golden Harvest and have had them scanned and stored in my computer until the day when I would do that big project on Toronto's Chinatown cinemas. Looks like this is as good an opportunity as any. I just hope that if the save the cinema, they don't deny recognizing the history of the space as a Chinatown cinema.

Here is the link to the article about the attempt to save the cinema.


Jesse said...

Photos are fantastic. I went to the Pearl numerous times and had one of the great movie going experiences of my life there - a double bill with The Bodyguard From Beijing and another film I'd never heard of but stayed to see anyway, called Chungking Express!

tintarchive said...

I love that people like you document this stuff and all. I lived around the corner at Oxford and Spadina around that time ('89) but I wasn't into Asian film or anything like what I'm into now. Did the cinema entrance face Spadina or Dundas? It was exciting hearing you talk about this place after Solange and it's always good news to hear about the places being saved and/or designated as historical. Also, what happened to all the Jewishness in that neighbourhood? Is there much left now? I miss going to Switzer's and stuff!

milo said...

The entrance faced Spadina. This was always my favourite of the three Chinatown theatres and it always had the top tier of HK movies (the Woo's, the Chan's) after the Golden Harvest closed it's doors (before Jiangtou's renaissance period!). The Mandarin seemed bigger, but the movies weren't as good and the staff were waaayyyy crabier and crustier.