“As Time Goes By”: Tennessee Williams As An Usher

Excerpt from Tennessee Williams’ Memoirs:

A friend was employed in 1943 to the old Strand Theatre on Broadway as an usher, and, knowing that I was between profitable engagements, he told me that the Strand was in need of a new usher and that I might get the job provided I fitted the uniform of my predecessor. Luckily it happened that this former usher was about my height and of similar build. I was put on the job. The attraction at the Strand was that World War II classic, Casablanca, which was an early starring vehicle for Ingrid Bergman and Humphrey Bogart, both hot as blazes; the cast also included that fabulously charismatic “Fat Man”, Sydney Greenstreet, and Peter Lorre and Paul Henreid, and there was Dooley Wilson playing and singing that immortal oldie, “As Time Goes By”. In those days, with an attraction like that, the movie-houses of Broadway were literally mobbed and the aisles had to be roped off by the ushers to restrain the patrons till they could be seated. It was my job, at first, to guard the entrance to one of these aisles, and at an evening performance an enormously fat lady broke through the velvet rope and started to charge down the aisle, evidently intending to occupy a seat on the screen, and when I attempted to restrain her, she struck me over the head with a handbag that seemed to contain gold bricks. The next thing I remember I was still employed at the Strand but I was now situated near the entrance, in a spot of light, and directing traffic with white-gloved hands. “This way, ladies and gentlemen, this way, please,” and “There will be a short wait for all seats.” And somehow, during the several months’ run of Casablanca, I was always able to catch Dooley Wilson and “As Time Goes By”.

The pay was seventeen dollars a week, which covered my room at the “Y” and left me seven dollars for meals. And I loved it …

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1 Response to “As Time Goes By”: Tennessee Williams As An Usher

  1. Mark says:

    There are some songs you simply cannot hear without thinking of the movie (or visa versa). For me, this is one of them. I remember watching Casablanca as a child with my Father and him telling me about Dooley Wilson and how famous he was in his own rite (even though all “I” cared about at the time were the “shootouts”). Great movie, great song and great excerpt.

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