Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Clift and Swanson on Queen St, Cardiff

It was billed as the biggest event in the entertainment history of Wales. In 1950 a replica of the Royal Film Performance was to take place at the Empire Theatre, Cardiff. Amongst the stars expected to attend were hearthrob Montgomery Clift and Hollywood legend Gloria Swanson.

The film being screened was The Mudlark with tickets for the charitable event costing £5 5 shillings; £1 1 shilling; and 7 shillings and sixpence for the cheap seats.

A crowd of over 2,000 awaited inside, while another 4,000 gathered outside on Queen Street in the drizzle hoping to catch a glimpse of the celebs. Just before 8 o'clock the stars arrived in a fleet of taxis. Montgomery Clift was one of the first to emerge. He was interviewed on the steps of the floodlit Empire by a newsreel man. Girls screamed as he fiddled with his soft green tie. The interview lasted 2 minutes.

Gloria Swanson was, of course, the last to arrive. This was the year of Sunset Boulevard and the crowd went bananas, surging forward breaking through the police cordon. 12 people were injured. Gloria being the trouper that she was carried on regardless as if this sort of thing happened all the time (which it probably did). She blew kisses to her fans as they cheered. Fashionistas will be delighted to learn she wore black tulle over a plum coloured gown.

The show lasted a full 4 hours. Most of the rain-soaked punters outside got bored and went home apart from a hardcore of 500 teenage girls, who chanted: "We want Monty! We want Monty!" completely oblivious to the fact that he was gay.

After the film Clift, Swanson and the rest of the stars decamped to the nearby Park Hotel for a celebratory dance. The hotel is still there today but sadly the Empire Theatre was demolished in 1962.