In an earlier and more innocent time, when most TV markets had but three or four stations, a major part of the viewing day was filled with movies.
While the stations would present the selections as "The Big Movie" or "Hollywood's Best," most of the films were Hollywood B-movies, old British films and Saturday afternoon serials, spliced into full-length features.
For a kid, it was a cinematic education. And for a boy whose parents slept soundly, there was a chance to sneak out of bed for the thrill of post-midnight movies. It was only later, when I learned some of the practical realities of the movie business, that I realized the reason I had never seen or heard of most of the flicks is because most had slipped into the public domain and were available at little or no cost to the TV stations. In other words, no one else wanted them.
Then again, they also are why I was able to do a pretty decent British accent by the time I was 8 or 9.
About that same time, I became acquainted with "The 39 Steps," an Alfred Hitchcock film made in England in the 1930s. It was better than most of the other TV movie fare, a classic whodunit from Britain complete with murder most foul, an inspector who spoke like a butler and that odd sort of sound that came with primitive television audio broadcasting a film from the first decade of sound movies.
In many ways, I thought (but refused to admit out loud) that the movie was unintentionally
It turns out I wrong about that -- something that became apparent many years later when Patrick Barlow adapted the film and the John Buchan novel into a stage play that represents one of the most hilarious ways a theatergoing crowd can spend an evening.
The wild farce, in which four people play more than 150 roles and a plane crashes right on stage, comes to Walnut Creek's Lesher Center for the Arts from March 29 to April 27, in a production by Center Repertory Company.
Tickets, at $38-$51, may be reserved at 925-943-7469 or www.centerrep.org.
"THE ARSONISTS": British playwright Alistair Beaton's new translation of Max Frisch's classic comic parable about appeasement, opens April 5 at Berkeley's Aurora Theater.
Directed by Mark Jackson, the absurdist allegory is a satire of the 1948 communist takeover of Czechoslovakia.
The story is about the incidence of fires all over town and Mr. Biedermann's assertion that he has everything under control due to his middle-class decency and standing as a respected community member with a loving wife and a successful business.
Biedermann is astounded and defenseless when a couple of arsonists visit his house, and he tries to defeat them by appeasing them to the point of helping light the fuse. It is the same thing some of the country's citizens have been accused of doing.
The play previews April 5-10, then plays from April 11 to May 2 at the Aurora Theatre. Tickets, $32-$50, are at 510-843-4822 or www.auroratheatre.org.
Reach Pat Craig at firstname.lastname@example.org.
"The Life of Galileo": What some consider Bertolt Brecht's greatest play runs March 22-April 27 at the Masquers Playhouse in Point Richmond. Translated by British playwright David Hare, the play focuses on how Galileo's discoveries ignited a war between reason and faith; $22; 510-232-4031, www.masquers.org.
"Guys and Dolls": The musical about Broadway gamblers and their gals, with tunes like "A Bushel and a Peck" and "Luck Be a Lady," plays March 23-April 28 at Berkeley's Julia Morgan Theatre, presented by Berkeley Playhouse; $17-$60, 510-845-8542, www.berkeleyplayhouse.org.
Online: To see Pat Craig's review of "The Foreigner" at Walnut Creek's Lesher Center, go to www.contracostatimes.com/entertainment.