Thunderball, Mr French

Thunderball, Mr French

We had a color TV in our little two room apartment. It sat on its own little cart with casters and we could wheel it from the sitting room through the double sliding door opening into our bedroom – a room that was normally empty save for a dresser and a couple of chairs, which chairs would be moved aside to make way for the murphy bed that folded down from the back wall.

One Sunday, after working the matinee (I was now assistant manager at Mann’s Fifth Avenue, and no longer at the UA Cinemas), my wife and I were looking forward to our evening meal and catching the broadcast of Sean Connery as James Bond in Thunderball. The meal out of the way, we settled in to watch the show from bed.

We did not get to see the whole show.  Sometime in the first half hour I was jolted by a stabbing pain in my backside. I vaulted upright and something was stuck in me, something from within the mattress. The something was a bedspring that had broken loose from its weld, its sharp edge having sliced into me and caught there like a fish hook.

[Aside – in Thunderball, Sean “James Bond” Connery upon despatching one of the evil minions with a speargun quips, “I think he got the point.”]

Though the actual wound was small, little more than an half inch long it was about a similar amount deep, so a trip to the emergency room was in order. Though when we got to Virginia Mason, no stitches were deemed necessary. A single butterfly bandage was applied.

The Sheridan apartments paid for it all of course (or their insurance did). And the manager was very solicitous. So much so that he made it a point to introduce us to his “star” tenants – Mr Sebastian Cabot and his wife.

I recognized the rotund actor as the British butler Mr French from the TV sitcom Family Affair. He was caught off guard and self conscious. Though his voice was very recognizable, his speech was halting and a bit slurred. Both my wife and I could sense he was a little embarrassed, so we did not not invite ourselves to dinner or any other such imposition. We rather excused ourselves at the earliest convenience, and thanking them for the acquaintance. And I didn’t tell him that another bloke from the UK had a hand in our meeting.

[Aside – I did some research on Mr Cabot and discovered that he suffered a stroke in July of 1974. This left his right side paralysed and impaired his speech. Before this he had just completed voice work for Disney – on Winnie the Pooh and Tigger Too. He and his family had some property outside of Vancouver BC, which he briefly alluded to in our conversation, and kept this apartment as a residence stateside].

The Summer of Bond, James Bond

Summer of Bond James Bond

As I related before my father held down two jobs in Salem, one as driver for the Salem Laundry and the other as assistant manager at the Paramount Theater. Around about 1964, an opportunity came to him to apply to a new up and coming theater circuit – General Cinema Corporation of Boston. They were the proponents of twin theaters, two cinemas served by one common lobby between them. (My father tells me it was all an accident. Their plans for a single screen cinema in the Peabody Northshore Mall, included a bowling alley and a restaurant.  When no takers came forward for the restaurant, someone in the home office of GCC proposed making it another screen instead. And the rest is history). The plus side, with two films running, the chances for success doubled.
The plus side for my dad – only having one job. For he got the position, and started at this complex in Peabody, just north of Salem. What it meant to me, was a whole new venue to watch movies in, and like the Paramount, for free.
My dad has some photos taken in and around the theater for special events. One clearly shows my brother and sister sitting in the front row for a re-issue of Cinderella. The opening day festivities were accompanied by a Disney artist and Clarence Nash, the voice of Donald Duck. Where I was, my father can’t say.
If it was summer, I was probably next door watching Sean Connery. For that was the summer of Bond, James Bond. This was the beginning. Dr No, debuted in 1963 followed by From Russia with Love in the spring of 1964. Someone at United Artist had the bright idea to pair them up for the summer, and the Peabody Cinema played this double bill. (Cue – James Bond theme). It went gangbusters, and held over week after week. And I was there to watch them every Saturday.  After the thrill of the first viewing, it was fun to sit there in anticipation of observing the crowd react to their first viewing.
The following year, I started my bubblegum collection of Bond cards. This first series was in black and white and covered the first three films. Of all my card collections this is the only one that is complete.