Natchez memories are all around

Published 12:10 am Friday, May 10, 2013

The other night on TCM, I watched a 1940 move, “That Hamilton Woman.”

And, as an expatriate for more years than I care to count, I had a Natchez Moment.

I can’t be exact as to the year (1941 or 1942), I just remember I was in the eighth grade at Natchez Junior High School at the time.

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What clicks in the mind now about that move is WHERE I saw it.

In that time period there were three movie houses in Natchez. The (Baker) Grand and the Ritz showed first-run movies. Then there was the Star Theater (often referred to as the Hamilton) on Franklin Street. (The Buck Theater on Main Street only existed during 1936-7). For those under 12 admission to the Ritz and the Grand was 11 cents. At the Star it was a nickel. (I was older than 12, but I could pass for younger.)

But “That Hamilton Woman” (Lauerence Olivier as Lord Nelson and Vivian Leigh as his mistress), surely a first-run movie, was shown.

Of course, at my tender age this did not register as anything out of the ordinary — just another 5-cent movie. But with reflection, I have come up with some speculation (admittedly, not fact) as to the why of this first-run movie being shown at the Star.

Why? Well, the theme was clearly about adultery, and my much-later speculation is that the management of the other theaters declined to display it!

And I saw a couple of other first-run movies at the Star, probably for the same reason. “Back Street” and “The Letter” come to mind. And the Star also showed Heddi Lamar in “Ecstasy,” which I didn’t see because it was an after-hours showing which probably wouldn’t allow entry to children.
In my one visit to Natchez after a 30-year exile, I found that all three of these memorable entertainment centers no longer existed.

Still, though, when I saw “That Hamilton Woman” again, my Natchez childhood grabbed me!

Roy Haymond