Bert  Bright

The  Shelbyville  Republican
Tuesday September 9, 1947
Page 4 column 1
By Avonelle Lewis
            Once in a while he takes a bus man’s holiday and goes to see a motion picture on his day off but  Bert Bright, projectionist at the  Strand Theater  since it opened almost 32 years ago, says it has to be a “super” one. Such as “Gone With The Wind”—which he plans to see again when it returns here. Otherwise he views the pictures only with the eyes of a technician from a little square peep hole in the projection room high above the balcony.
            He was sitting in an easy chair when I walked in and no sooner had I started asking questions until a harsh buzzer clamored and he began doing things to the big complicated looking machine. He explained it all and I tried hard to act intelligent but most of it was over my head! The buzzer, a gadget which he arranged, warned him, he said, that the film on one machine was about finished and it was time to turn the other one on so the picture would be continuous. The buzzer sound and cues on the film—tiny flickering circles which show up on the upper corner of the picture are almost simultaneous so there’s no chance of a mistake.
            Mr. Bright learned the movie projection business back when the “Cozy” was located where the Worland Pharmacy now stands. But he was interested in the “flickers” long before that. In fact, he has the projector with which the very first motion pictures were shown here—at the “Dream,” a nickelo type theater which was owned by the late Robert Miley, Sr. and stood about where the Piatt Furniture store now stands on South Harrison street. The projector, a small contraption operated with a hand crank, was given him by Mr. Miley’s son, Ralph. Remembering best the Westerns and killer-diller serials of way back when. I asked about the program in comparison with those today. He says there are more western films shown now than in the early days and that the programs haven’t changed too much. They didn’t have cartoons then but did have full length features, news reels and, of course, the Mack Sennett and other comedies. The features then were around 4,000 feet in length and were shown at the rate of 60 feet per minute. Now features range from 6,000 to 15,500 feet in length and 90 feet per minute unwinds off the spool. There are 24 changes per second, and if you’re interested in figures, that means 1,440 pictures on the film are shown per minute.
            The Strand building was built by the Dorsey Realty Company—the lot on which the rear of the building now stands once housed a livery barn—and was leased to the late W.C. Meloy for erection of a theater. Mr. Bright went to work as projectionist on March 1916. The job wasn’t too complicated until the advent of talkies but then, with thousands of others the country over he had to learn all over again. When the “Jazz Singer” and the other first talking pictures were made, the sound effects were recorded to be synchronized with the film. But simplified with Movie-tone and other such equipment the projectors are almost “fool proof” now he says. Although occasionally some part of the sound mechanism does “get out of kilter.” Such as the time in a comedy screen conversation between a man and woman, the man’s voice echoed out over the theater as a high soprano and the woman boomed in with a deep bass. When that particular incident occurred he let the film run a few seconds because the audience was enjoying the mix-up more than the picture itself.
            Through reading technical magazines on the subject Mr. Bright keeps abreast of advancements in the motion picture industry and he prophesies that before long the current black and white films will be as obsolete as the silent pictures. More and more the picture companies are turning to color film. He explained the steps involved in this too and it sounded very advisable from other angles than just the added beauty and authenticity of the pictures but………..
            Mr. Bright has a working schedule of “two long days and one short.” He works for two consecutive days at the Strand from 1:30 to 5:00 p.m. and from 7:00 to 11:00. The third day he relieves the operator at the Alhambra from 4:00 to 5:30 p.m. and then treks back down to the Strand to relieve that operator until 7:00 o’clock. Outside of his interest in motion pictures, from the projection point of view, his main hobby is hunting and this he does whenever the opportunity presents itself. He’s a native Shelbyvillian, as is his wife, who was  Maude Golding  before their marriage. They have one daughter,  Mrs. Helen Baven, who resides in Columbus.
Contributed by Barb Huff

Biography Index         Main Page