Saturday, January 9, 2021

Post #254 - December 22, 1943 In London, at Night, One MUST “Stroll”—It’s That Dark


December 22, 1943 

My Darling Chippie, 

Couldn't find time while in London to write, Sweet, but never fear—you won't be cheated. Arrived in London 7:00 P.M. Sunday night after trip that wasn't at all boring 'cause I read all the way (Detective Stories). Simmons and I paired off and headed for the Hans Crescent, where we checked our superfluous equipment and ate and reserved bunks for that night. You will note that this is contrary to my usual custom of spending the first night at the Turkish Bath. That was because the baths are closed on Sunday. After we ate, we looked at the time (9:00), so we decided to make a movie before hitting the hay. “Claudia” was just around the corner at the Odeon, so we strolled over. In London, at night, one must “stroll”—it's that dark. However, we soon learned that the last show on Sunday ends at 9 o'clock, so a bit dashed as the English say, we went back to the Club, where we drowned our disappointment in a couple of Cokes and went next door to the annex and our bunks and a good night's sleep. Next morning we were up early. (I won’t say bright—you know me too well.) The clock said 9 A.M., which was perfect 'cause the cinemas don't open till 10. We finally went to see “Claudia.” I can best describe it as one of those pictures that loses much of its appeal if the one you love isn't there beside you. There are tender, reminiscent moments that made me want to reach over and squeeze your hand (or sump’n) 'cause it was so like “us.” Altogether, a delightful picture, Sweet, and one which I would have given much for you to share with me. Dorothy McGuire is a sweet and appealing pixey, and there is a freshness about her that contrasts very charmingly with the usual run of sultry Hollywood “glamour girl.” Robert Young is perfect in a sympathetic, fool-proof role as Claudia's “all-wise” young hubby. Don't miss it, Baby, you'll love it. After the show, Simmons and I parted company, he had “places” to go. As for me, I was determined to make up for lost time and went directly to the “Warner’s,” where “Thank Your Lucky Stars” was the attraction. This one contains many surprises, such as Bette Davis singing that ditty you mentioned a while back in one of your letters—“They're Either Too Young or Too Old”; Olivia de Haviland, Ida Lupino and George Tobias in a gum-chewing, mouth-twisting, hoydenish “jitterbug” number; Ann Sheridan, assisted by a chorus of lovelies singing “Love isn't Born—it's Made!” The lyrics are suggestive, and to my way of thinking, make a lot of sense, indeed. If you know the words, I think you'll agree, Chippie. But then, maybe I'm prejudiced, huh? There are other highly entertaining “numbers” among which—“Ice Cold Katie” with an all-negro cast. Then too, there is Joan Leslie, who needs only to smile to make the whole picture worth while—she's that sweet. In addition, she sings, imitates, and generally brightens up the scene. Eddie Cantor is much in evidence (he plays a dual role) and provides the slap-stick. This too, is well worth seeing. When I got out, it was 5 o'clock (you were probably having your lunch then, Honey) and I was plain hungry! So I ducked into a small restaurant that boldly proclaimed that it served “American” food. Remember how I was disappointed in Pinoli’s spaghetti? Ditto! ’Nuff said! I'm through experimenting from now on. I'll eat at the Eagle or Hans Crescent—exclusively! As I said before, I was determined to make up for lost time, so when I glanced around Leicester Square and a big sign caught my eye, I went directly there. The sign said “Flesh and Fantasy,” and I had wanted to see it ever since I had read the reviews—some weeks before. “Flesh and Fantasy” is the type of picture that used to make me hold tightly to my arm—remember? It is interesting rather than entertaining, but I enjoyed it nevertheless. Was I tired after seeing three shows in one day? Hardly! I relax best in the movies and the unprecedented program of three movies in one day left me as fresh as when I started. You don't believe it? Some day we'll do it together, Baby, and you will judge for yourself. Anyhow, it was now 9 o'clock and time for the “bawth.” Russell Square is about four stops on the underground from Leicester Square, and I was there in no time. From then on it was the usual story: Heat, steam, massage, shower and—bed. (Sound of snoring.) 

I was to meet Simmons at the Eagle for breakfast next morning, so when I awoke and found it was nine o'clock, I rolled out immediately. When I reached the Club, Simmons was nowhere in sight, so I scooted upstairs for a hair-cut and shave. Unfortunately, there was a queue (line) and I wasn't out of there till 11:15. In the cafeteria, I looked around. Still no Simmons! So I ate my breakfast alone, (with about 20 other G.I.’s, Dogfaces, or what have-you). Speaking of faces reminds me and brings up me up short. I don't know how I missed it, but I'm forgetting a very important two hours of the previous day. Let's go back. Do you mind? After “Claudia,” Simmons said he had some shopping to do. The words were no sooner out of his mouth than I said, let's go! Suddenly I remembered (or was reminded) about “Royal Dalton,” and this was the perfect opportunity. To make a long story short, after a half-hour walk, we arrived at “Selfridges,” which, as nearly as I can explain it, is the “Wanamaker's” of London. After Simmons had bought some odds and ends, such as a cigarette lighter and some flashlight batteries, I inquired where I might find “Royal Dalton” ware. I was directed to the first floor, (which isn't the ground floor; it's the second floor. The ground floor is the first floor.) If this confuses you, Sweet, skip it, I'll straighten it out for you some time. I asked the saleslady to show me “Royal Dalton.” All she peered intently at me for a moment—and then, as if coming to a conclusion, and to my utter astonishment, answered me in Jewish. It turned out she only had two pieces of Royal Dalton in stock, although the place was crammed with crockery and china of all descriptions. First, she showed me a beautiful tea set in red and gold and white (really beautiful) but when I heard the price, I couldn't help wondering what was so precious about this stuff. £41 (no less) or $164. When I explained to the sales lady the circumstances under which I was shopping, she was only too eager to see to it that her “lantsman” didn't get gypped. The other piece of Royal Dalton was a vase, but even at £1 it was no bargain. I didn't like it at first sight and told her so. She smiled approvingly and confessed she didn't like it either. A small vase (purely ornamental) and of no utilitarian value whatever, caught my eye. It was an ivory color rather than white and decorated very attractively in oil paint with apples, grapes, etc. It turned out to be “Royal Worcester.”—the price—a little over $8.00. There were many more really attractive figurines, (especially a real Dresden China Doll) which I would have liked to buy, but the prices of china are sky high here in Britain, as are all luxuries, and I just couldn't bring myself to indulge. However, if your friend, Mrs. Cohen, would care to give me a definite idea of what she wants and what she cares to spend, I'll be only too glad to do my best on her behalf. Or if you, Chippie, would like about $20 worth of that China Doll I mentioned—it's yours. Just say the word. One more item before I leave the subject. Although it is possible through much red tape, to ship stuff home, Overseas shipment can only be insured to P.O.E., and from the condition of some of the packages reaching me, I, for one, wouldn't want to risk it. 

We were walking to the bus stop when a photographer’s window caught our eye. On an off chance, we went in to inquire about having our pictures made. Luckily, they had film. More, they were doing a thriving business. The girl behind the desk promised that the picture would be ready by two o'clock. The price was 15/6 (about $3.10) for six of the enclosed. I thought this very reasonable, especially after I had seen the pictures. I was well satisfied with the result. What do you think, Chippie? I know you would prefer it autographed, Sweet, but the finish of the picture won't allow it, so I'll do the next best thing. I'll autograph it on the back. 

Now where was I? On re-tracing, I find that I had just finished breakfast (Tuesday.) Well, I waited a little while for Simmons, suspecting that he had come and gone while I was upstairs at the barber’s. This turned out to be the case. I still had a few hours to kill before train time, and since I had meant to see “For Whom the Bell Tolls,” I thought I would “catch up” with it. The Carlton in Haymarket is a short walk from the Club and I set out for there (in all eagerness, I must admit). Imagine my chagrin, then, when on reaching theatre, I found that the first show started at 2:30 P.M.! This made it impossible for me as it is a very long picture and would not be over till 5, which was train time. On the walk over, I had noticed “The North Star” playing at Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer's place, and after swallowing my disappointment, I back-tracked. I didn't stay sad for long, once inside the theater 'cause the picture is definitely one of the best of the year. It has everything from toe-tapping Russian rhythms to homespun down-to-earth comedy; from beauty of photography and landscape, to the ugliness and horror of war and murder; from the tenderness of young love, to the horror and pathos of women and children suffering the brutality of the invader. Truly a great picture, Sweet, and one you should take the Moms to see. However, I must warn you of a tearful time (Mom will love it), as the dramatics are calculated to make strong men cry. 

When returning to the Hans Crescent for my gas mask and book, which I had checked there, I ran smack into Simmons. He had the pictures with him. His were not nearly as good as mine, and he was somewhat disappointed. They would have been good—only his face was out of focus. Just then, the rest of the 1807 gang popped in, so after everyone had collected his stuff we made for the station. The trip back was a long one as the train was held up at every station. I hit the hay about 11:30. Disappointed 'cause no mail had arrived for me. No mail today either, which makes the fourth consecutive mail-less day. Tomorrow, I'm on K.P. again, but I won't mind it too much if there's a letter or two there waiting for me at the end of the day. Tomorrow I think, is “Chanukah,” the feast of the candles, and the chaplain of the 8th Fighter Command, Lt. Feinman, sent Klein and I, the only two Jews in the company, greetings, by way of mimeographed letter. The synagogue in Norwich has invited us to services and a dance, and if I can get someone to pull my K.P. from about 3:30 till closing, about 7, I'll go. And now, Sweet, it's after 11 P.M., so I know you'll excuse me so I can get some sleep for a hard day tomorrow. I rise at 5 to go on K.P. so I don't have  too much time. Goodnight my lovely Evvie. My love for you is as constant as my breathing, my memories as glorious as my most-inspired dreams, and as vividly real as the touch of your lips, which is ever-present in my heart and mind. Kiss the cherub for “us,” darling, and give my love to all my loved ones. I am

Your Phil 

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