Happy National Drive-in Day!

The first movie ever screened at a drive-in, 84 years ago tonight in Camden, New Jersey, was a 1932 Adolphe Menjou picture called Wives Beware.

Except that wasn’t the original name of the movie; it was originally titled Two White Arms. The name was changed for the reissue.

So on National Drive-in Day, we share with you a recording of Menjou performing the title song from that movie. Warning: Menjou was a much better actor than a singer. But unless and until the movie, long considered a lost film, is found, this recording is as close as drive-in fans will get to experiencing it.

A Life Spent at the Drive-in

Longtime Cladrite Radio readers know that we’re awfully fond of drive-in theatres.

If you’ve ever wondered about what it is that makes so imprints the drive-in experience on the hearts and souls of some folks, Adam Carboni‘s lovely video profile of Roger Babcock and his Hi-Way Drive-in in Coxsackie, NY, is well worth watching (and there’s a “tip jar” on the film’s Vimeo page, if you’d like to chip in to help with the theatre’s conversion to digital).

Cagney Under the Stars!

Imagine you’re at the drive-in, watching a war picture, and James Cagney pulls up in the space next to you.

That’s what happens in this memorable scene from White Heat (1949). Cody Jarrett (Cagney), on the lam with Ma Jarrett (Margaret Wycherly) and his wife, Verna (Virginia Mayo), after shooting a police detective, eludes the cop in hot pursuit by making a quick right turn into the San-Val drive-in as the police siren recedes into the distance.

The theatre’s marquee touts a double feature of South of St. Louis (1949) and Siren of Atlantis (1949), but the movie actually seen on the screen as Cody and Co. settle in to discuss their plans is Task Force (1949), starring Gary Cooper and Jane Wyatt.

We enjoyed seeing the uniformed attendants offering peanuts and popcorn and placing the speaker just so in the passenger-side window. We couldn’t help but wonder just how many such attendants the San-Val employed on a busy Saturday night back in 1949 (if, in fact, it employed any attendants; it’s possible that was a creative touch added by the producers of the picture)

Burbank’s San-Val, the second drive-in ever built in California, opened in 1938 (the first, called The Drive-in Theatre, opened for business in 1934 at 10850 W. Pico Boulevard in Los Angeles) and was shuttered in the mid-1970s. The theatre, which originally had a capacity of 590 cars (it later accommodated more than 800 cars), was located at 2720 Winona Avenue, at the confluence of Winona, Naomi Street and San Fernando Road. An office building housing a number of movie production and effect houses now occupies the spot.

What’s Your Drive-in Theatre I.Q.?

Longtime readers probably know that we’re huge devotees of drive-in movie theatres, so we perked right up recently when we watched a Richard Karn-hosted edition of Family Feud that included a question about ozoners.

The question was, “Name a rule at a drive-in theatre”; six answers were posted on the board, and the two families combined to name three of them.

Wondering how many you might be able to guess? Just watch the video below to test your Drive-in Theatre Etiquette I.Q.

Happy Hollingshead Day, 2014!

We don’t often repeat posts, but on this date every year, we make an exception:

It was 81 years ago tonight that the world’s first drive-in theatre opened in Camden, N.J. It was the brainchild of one Richard M. Hollingshead, Jr. The first movie shown at the first drive-in? Wives Beware, starring Adolphe Menjou (Wives Beware was originally released some months before under the title Two White Arms).

Mr. Hollingshead’s theatre is long gone, we’re sad to report, but the second drive-in ever built—Shankweiler’s DI in Orefield, Penn.—is still going strong.

If you’re within an hour’s drive of an ozoner, you owe it to yourself to pack up the kids and take in a movie under the stars tonight. Not sure if there’s a drive-in near you? Drive-ins.com is the place to find out.

And just to whet your appetite, we’ll share these drive-in intermission clips with you, plus a television advertisement for a now-much-coveted Remco miniature drive-in toy from the 1950s (watch for a familiar face in the commercial).