Rediscovering the Magic of Cinema: Club Noir, Clark Gable and the Grosvenor Cinema

This Sunday the Grosvenor Cinema will be hosting a screening of ‘It Happened One Night…’ a true Hollywood classic starring Clark Gable and Claudette Colbert. She is a spoiled heiress determined to escape her family and marry her truelove. He is a roguish reporter she meets on the way who eventually charms her. A romantic, screwball comedy with twists and turns it won the Oscar ‘grand slam’ namely Best Picture, Best Director, Best Actor, Best Actress, and Best Writing. The screening is in association with Glasgow’s biggest burlesque night Club Noir, and will be accompanied by Dear Mr Gable a performance from blond bombshell Katie Crossbones.

 

I chatted with Tina Warren, one of Club Noir’s founders, about burlesque, the silver screen and her love for Clark Gable. First, some introductions. Club Noir is in fact the biggest burlesque club in the world today and in March celebrates its 9th birthday. Based in Scotland it also holds nights London and frequents Edinburgh’s Fringe. DJ’s, bands, performers and acts come together around four times a year to create unique nights of magic and to ‘spread the burlesque gospel.’

The idea of a burlesque club may be off-putting for some but Club Noir invites all and sundry to join in the fun. There is a dress code but it simply requires effort rather than all out-fabulousness. ‘We say dress to impress but don’t not come because you’ve not got an amazing outfit. I know that once they get there they’ll love it and get inspired, confident about what they might want to do next time,’ offers Tina.

‘I love our crowds,’ she says fondly, ‘they are always amazing and up for fun’. So who exactly comes along to partake in this fun? ‘They are the most diverse audience you will ever get into one room. Literally. Eighteen-year olds and upwards, students to millionaires.’ Apparently Tina’s accountant has even put in an appearance. Why does burlesque in particular appeal to so many, and why does defy generalities? Tina credits the quality of the performance, the range of performers and the underlying idea of fun. And not unlike the weather in Glasgow if you are not sure about one act just wait three minutes.

Each night is themed; ‘“The Blitz” in association with Poppy Scotland is happening on the 25th of May featuring music and acts from the 1940’s. ‘We’ve already a lot of people going mad for it, and especially very young people who want to find out more which is really heartening.’  Not one for resting on its laurels I ask how Club Noir intend to create an evening of magic out of something with fairly negative connotations. ‘I think that the whole night will have quite a romantic but sad element, it will be emotional but still with room for laughs.’ She points out that life didn’t stop during the Blitz, nor did fun, an love stories and scandals continued as they had before. ‘More than ever people took care with their appearance. To keep some sense of control over your own little world it was perhaps more important than ever.’ It seems as if there was a very real spirit of ‘Keep Calm and Carry On’ animating people during this difficult time, one that Club Noir wants to recapture.

This is not the first time that the Grosvenor Cinema and Club Noir have come together; previous showings have included The Producers and The Seven Year Itch. Tina says of the pairing ‘I just think the Grosvener is such a fantastic little cinema, a dream cinema. I couldn’t think of anywhere nicer to do our film nights’. A natural home from home then? She nods ‘it’s cosy, there’s no pressure to fill a huge cinema. It’s like having your having your friends along’.

So why It Happened One Night, and why Clark Gable?  Tina becomes slightly starry eyed at the mention of his name. Masculine is the first word that springs to mind according to my exhaustive survey of six people. Tina agrees. ‘I just adore Clark Gable, he is the king to me he really is. So handsome and masculine, but above being sexy. You don’t fancy him, just a God, so beautiful and charismatic’.

Nostalgic screenings of Hollywood: The Glamour Years are increasingly popular and the stories remain wonderful and inexhaustible, but as Tina points out some have aged better than others. ‘Claudette Colbert (Gable’s leading lady) is dated, she looks very old fashioned in her mannerisms and her look and I love her for that, but Clark Gable doesn’t. He’s just as fresh and exciting now as he would have been then’. Gable is charming, strong but sensitive: the ideal man. And even in the days of untouchable screen icons one who wielded impressive influence on-screen and off it. In It Happened One Night he removes his shirt and is not wearing the regulation vest underneath. The vest was ditched because it was causing problems with sound, but as a direct result, sales of vests plummeted. The Grosvenor Cinema opened in 1921 and Tina talks of her excitement at being able to dress up and watch It Happened just as her grandmother would have done. A little piece of magic not possible in the newer cinemas.

Katie Crossbones describes the act as ‘very elegant and reminiscent of the time. Showing the love and devotion many fans had for such an icon of screen.’ To travel back to the glamour years come along to the Grosvener this Sunday, March 24, at 6.30pm. All shapes, sizes and dress codes welcomed.

Tickets for Club Noir’s ‘It Happened One Night’ can be bought at www.grosvenorcinema.co.uk

Naomi Walmsley

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