Durban - Vassie Reddy’s life has always been close to the screen, whether it was that of the Umzinto bioscope in his early days, or in front of his television in his flat near South Beach.
“I was a projectionist for many years, in Umzinto, and sometimes in Scottburgh and Margate. For days after seeing a movie my friends and I would act them out when I was young,” he said, surrounded by old magazines featuring film stars from Marilyn Monroe to Paul Newman.
Reddy, 74, believes some of his magazines may even be quite valuable, especially those that have copies of the actors’ signatures.
“We would take a character of the film and say ‘I’m a gangster’ and walk about (with fingers imitating a handgun).
“Or say something like ‘I’m Al Capone. Be careful’,” says Reddy.
His favourite movies remain the old Westerns.
He recalled that entry into the Umzinto bioscope cost moviegoers 10c and it cost R5 or R6 to hire the films from an outlet in Durban.
“They would arrive on Friday or Saturday and they would be taken back on the Monday.”
In the 1950s, movies were mostly Westerns and epics, on small screens and in black and white.
“Now the screens are huge in the cinemas and everything’s very colourful. And there’s everything from love stories to action.”
The advent of television killed the small-town bioscope culture, he says.
“It closed us down. I had to go on to jobs in hotels and catering. But my passion for films carried on.”
So did his passion for collecting magazines and making scrapbooks of actors, right the way up to Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie.
His favourite male actors are Gary Cooper and Alan Ladd, while his iconic leading ladies are Monroe and Elizabeth Taylor.
Many years ago Reddy used to faithfully buy the British magazine Weekend, his local shopkeeper keeping them for him when he was unable to buy them on time.
“They cost a tickey (three pence),” he remembers.
An article in a July 1962 issue of Weekend tells a story that caught his imagination and which he believes is worthy of being made into a movie.
“For Women’s Month next year,” he recommends.
It’s of an incident not too different to the sinking of the Titanic 50 years earlier.
The blurb above the article reads: “The Italian liner, the Andrea Doria, was called unsinkable and so it seemed - almost.
“It took 10 hours to go down after being in collision with the liner Stockholm off the coast of America in the Atlantic fog on July 26, 1956.
“To the 1706 passengers, those 10 hours brought non-stop terror and violence. Forty-three people died. Men behaved like savages to save themselves. But through danger after danger, Mrs Liliana Dooner - now aged 30 - kept her daughter, Maria, alive. And this is the story of the ordeal ”
Quotes from Dooner’s text included: “Men shoved and elbowed through the crowd to get to the rail.
“I saw one man desert his wife and two daughters and slide down the rope to save himself. Not even the pitiful cries: ‘Daddy, come back. Please come back’ stopped him from his cowardly flight.”
Reddy says he tried to approach a film-maker with the idea, but could not reach him.
He feels Charlize Theron should take the starring role, adding that the movie should be made of the tragic sinking to do justice to both Dooner’s ordeal and to celebrate the courage of women.