The Marquee post its Oxford Street days, just a short walk away at 90 Wardour Street 1964. Here I would go to see theYardbirds, Long John Baldry and the Hoochie Coochie Men and the great Sonny Boy Williamson.
Back in 1963, I would queue up to get into the Marquee Club, at the time located on Oxford Street, London. I would not only go there to see the R&B groups that were surfacing but to see my brother Frank, who was a saxophonist in The John Williams Big Band, who had a regular spot there.
The Acadamy Cinema in 1984. Photo Martin Pinker
Just a short walk away was The Academy Cinema, which was the first to bring serious continental cinema to the UK. It was originally built in 1913 and was saved from being turned into a shopping arcade in 1928. In 1947, George Hoellering, a one-time film producer from Poland, became the Academy’s director. During the Second World War, he was interned in the Isle of Man, where he met the artist Peter Strausfeld. They became friends; once Hoellering had settled into his Academy job, he invited Strausfeld to design the film posters for the cinema. It was the beginning of a 33-year friendship, until Strausfeld’s death in 1980.
It was Strausfeld’s posters that I would see each week on my way to the Marquee, and I eventually started to widen my cinematic experience to world cinema – not that it was called that then. But, the fact is, although the posters attracted me, I didn’t actually like them. Typographically they were all over the place, and I found the linocut illustrations rather static and old-fashioned. What you need to understand is that, in 1963, I had fallen under the spell of Swiss graphics, and Josef Muller-Brockmann was my hero. I think you can see where I was coming from as a fresh-faced 19-year-old trying to break into the world of ‘commercial art’, as it was then called. But now, 50 years on, I can see the unique appeal of Strausfeld’s work.
One of Peter Strausfeld early Acadamy Cinema posters promoting a Hoellering produced film.
I can’t think of another cinema that had its own unique style. I applauded Hoellering and Strausfeld’s unflinching doggedness in sticking to their vision over such a long period. Just three years after Strausfeld’s death, The Academy succumbed to the wrecking ball and was reduced to rubble. All that remains are Strausfeld’s unique graphic mementos.