The Elane Theatre…and Doctor Fronk-en-steen
The Elane Theatre in Scarbrough was demolished in 1985 and today it’s part of a housing development.
There was nothing memorable about the Elane though, unlike many suburban theatres in shopping plazas, it did have a balcony. But architecturally? Forgettable. Not grand like they University Theatre in downtown Toronto, the Uptown or the original Imperial, before it became six, and later one, showcasing live theatre.
No, the Elane sticks in my memory because of the characters I met there. Coach Buttermaker, Amanda Whurlitzer, Kelly Leak and Tanner, the foul-mouthed shortstop of the Bad News Bears (’70s version, not the crappy remake). Sheriff Brody, Hooper and Captain Quint from Jaws.
And…of course…Peter Boyle’s monster, Marty Feldman’s “Eye-gor” and Doctor Frankenstein…pronounced Fronk-en-steen…played by the great comic actor we lost a few days ago, Gene Wilder.
I may have seen Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory at the Elane. Then again, the venue could have been the Birchcliff on Kingston Road, or the Cedarbrae Cinemas. But Young Frankenstein? The Elane.
Dad and I had to vacate the house for a baby shower thrown for my cousin Colette. So off we went to see the film, accompanied by Colette’s husband, Tom. Even at the age of 12, I was a big horror movie fan (still am) so Young Frankenstein was a wonderful salute to the black and white classics of the ’30s, and funny as hell.
My father loved the Chatanooga Choo-Choo reference: “Pardon me boy, is this the Transylvania station?”
However, pop’s strict Catholic upbringing prevented him from enjoying the scene Tom and I loved, in which the doctor is holding Inga, the cleavage-baring lab assistant portrayed by Teri Garr, and bangs the castle door knockers. He’s impressed.
Inga thanks Doctor Fronk-en-steen for the unintended compliment. Then again, the movie’s creator, Mel Brooks has never shied away from body, or bawdy humour. In Robin Hood: Men in Tights, Brooks appeared as the rabbi who performed circumcisions and the rabbi’s banner read, “Today’s special, half off.”
So cheers to Gene Wilder for the mad doc, Willy Wonka, the Waco Kid (another Wilder and Brooks collaboration, Blazing Saddles) and to the Elane, the unremarkable theatre that provided me with so many days and nights of movie magic.