The ladies, vanishing
At some point in the last couple of weeks – I’m not sure exactly when the last bricks tumbled – Cheltenham’s former Odeon cinema, long closed, was finally demolished. It was a rather plain building, on the cusp of Art Deco and modernism in style, and had served the town for decades (first as the Gaumont Palace then as the Odeon) before a more up-to-date cinema opened in the town. It then lay empty for several years and it seems to have proved impossible to find a new use for the building. I blogged about it back in 2008, when I wrote:
It’s an undistinguished Art Deco building, with the redeeming feature of these two naked women tangled in celluloid high up on the façade. Most passers-by see only the boarded-up entrance of the cinema, steadily becoming more and more of a blot on the townscape. I’d lay odds that most of them never notice the silver ladies, two of several reminders of the unregarded past of a quiet Cheltenham side-street.
These relief panels are by Newbury Abbot Trent, a prolific sculptor who produced many war memorials. He was the brother (or, according to some sources, the cousin) of the cinema’s architect, W. E. Trent. The panels are the kind of thing that often adorned cinema buildings of the 1930s, although they were often carved in stone, with a more neutral surface than the shiny metallic finish of these Cheltenham examples. Such sculptures often show female figures – always glamorous, often naked, sometimes, like these, with exaggerated proportions – and were meant to entice us into the magic and seductive world of the cinema, at a time when only a tiny minority had television and cinema-going was a regular weekly recreation for millions. When they were new, shiny, and properly lit, they would have reminded film-goers and passers-by alike of the magical, flickering world inside. It’s a shame they are no longer there.