In that year of trying to keep the St. George Theatre’s doors open, I seldom watched a whole movie. I caught glimpses of whatever was on screen, as I passed from my office to the restroom, the candy stand or the manager’s office. As I walked back and forth, I felt I had seen the movie, especially if it wasn’t very good. When it was good, I lingered for stretches by the concession stand with a small buttered popcorn.
The Man Who Would Be King was the exception. It was lush, a tale of two adventurers in search of treasure. The tones of the movie are reddish gold, they matched the theater itself, the brocade and gilded statuary, especially when the light from the film shone on all that gold leaf. The characters in Kipling’s story are eventually undone by their own greed and a hunger for power, something I could barely imagine, struggling as I was to pay our rent on the theater and our house.
Two people bought tickets for the show. Counting me, that made three of us in a 2672-seat theater. I settled into my perch in the empty balcony. I would never sit there again or feel that free again, as we slipped, one week at a time, through what was to be a disastrous year. But in my memory of that afternoon, I am completely happy. I ate my popcorn right down to the grannies at the bottom of the box. The Man Who Would Be King was the movie for that moment in my life, filled with the right blend of desperation and bravado.