Opening on June 6, 1933, the nation’s first drive-in, the 400-acre Automobile Movie Theatre in Camden, promised “motorists and their guests will see and hear talking pictures while they smoke, talk, or partake of refreshments without annoying others in the audience.”
Located at the corner of what is now Admiral Wilson Boulevard and Lee Avenue, on the border of Pennsauken, the theater featured eight semi-circular rows, each 50 feet deep, capable of accommodating 500 cars.The Rutgers–Camden Center for the Arts will relive the heyday of the drive-in, as it presents the “Early Cinema in Camden” film series, featuring films shown there from 1933 until its closing in 1935.
The film series, which is free and open to the general public, will be held on Wednesdays at 3 p.m. in the Stedman Gallery in the Fine Arts Complex.
Oct. 29: “I’m No Angel”
Released on Oct. 6, 1933, Mae West's second starring vehicle, “I'm No Angel,” casts the divine Miss West as the star performer in a seedy circus. A young Cary Grant plays her leading man for the second time. Being Pre-Code, this was one of the few Mae West movies that was not subjected to heavy censorship.
Nov. 5: “It Happened One Night”
Frank Capra's seminal screwball comedy won all five major Academy Awards for 1934. Released on Feb. 23, 1934, the film features Claudette Colbert as Ellie Andrews, a spoiled heiress who has married fortune-hunting aviator King Westley (Jameson Thomas), despite her father’s (Walter Connolly) objections.
Nov. 12: “Cleopatra”
Directed by Cecil B. DeMille, Queen Cleopatra (Claudette Colbert) uses her feminine wiles to become sole ruler of Egypt. Released on Oct. 5, 1934, the film vividly depicted Cleopatra's barge scene and her suicide from the bite of a snake, marking two of the most memorable sequences in DeMille's career.
Nov. 19: “The Gay Divorcee”Based on Dwight Taylor and Cole Porter's play, “The Gay Divorcee” centers on Mimi (Ginger Rogers), a woman seeking a divorce from her husband. The film, released on Oct. 12, 1934, features many musical numbers, including "Night and Day," the only song from the original Broadway musical included in the film, and "The Continental," which won the first ever Academy Award for Best Song.
Dec. 3: “Mutiny on the Bounty”
This MGM movie version, released on Nov. 8, 1935, won the Oscar for Best Picture. Clark Gable stars as Fletcher Christian, first mate of the infamous HMS Bounty, skippered by Captain William Bligh (Charles Laughton), the cruelest taskmaster on the Seven Seas. The movie struck gold at the box office, and, in addition to the Best Picture Oscar, Gable, Laughton, and Franchot Tone, as a Bounty crew member, were all nominated for Best Actor.
Dec. 10: “Captain Blood”
Adapted from the novel by Rafael Sabatini, the film is set during the oppressive reign of King James II. Irish physician Peter Blood (Errol Flynn), arrested for treating a wounded anti-crown rebel, is condemned to slavery in Jamaica. This seemingly outsized swashbuckler was actually a very economical production, using stock footage from several silent films. Released on Dec. 28, 1935, “Captain Blood” transformed the 26-year-old Errol Flynn into a star. Long available only in its 99-minute re-issue version, “Captain Blood” has been restored to its full, glorious 119-minute length.
The Fine Arts Complex is located on Third Street, between Cooper Street and the Benjamin Franklin Bridge on the Rutgers–Camden campus.
For directions to Rutgers–Camden, visit camden.rutgers.edu/resources/getting-to-campus.
For further information regarding the film series, or the exhibition and other affiliated events, contact Nancy Maguire at 856-225-6245.