This was the title of a 16mm movie that was popular in the mid-50’s, which was a humorous look at flight operations onboard a US Navy aircraft carrier. There’s probably not one grey-haired (or bald), retired Naval Aviator who hasn’t seen it. It comes from an era in which all professional and social life at sea revolved around the squadron Ready Room. It was your office, flight briefing and debriefing center, lounge and movie theater.
The movie was required event for any officer not on watch or SIQ (Sick in Quarters). As Squadron Duty Officer, you had several “duties”…keeping the flight status board updated, making sure the briefs were on time, doing the Skipper’s bidding, and picking the movie. In those days, movies were doled out by the Ship’s Movie Booth, based on squadron priority. The priority rotated among the Ready Rooms so that each Duty Officer had a chance to pick a decent flick and salvage the day.
Of course there were rules:
- The Flag Mess always got first pick and could seize any movie at any time.
- Movies had to be returned with the reels rewound or the offending Ready Room would be kicked to the bottom of the list
- Never, Never anger or question the Sailor manning the movie booth
- Never swap movies between Ready Rooms (known as Hot Reeling)
- Reels must be shown in the correct order
- A spare bulb must be available at all times
- The sound system must be checked before the movie
- The Movie Booth could be bribed with appropriate swag if you were at the bottom of the list
With respect to the movies, the Duty Officer also had custody of the “Skinny Scope” (CinemaScope) lens, so that you were not forced to watch the move with all the characters looking like coneheads. The Duty Officer was also charged with the solemn duty of maintaining the movie log, a compendium of reviews and record of recent movies watched. One always carried the movie log with them to the movie booth to assist in picking the next feature film. I can remember in VA-65 we had an elaborate point system for grading movies…1 point for each death, 1 point for a train, 5 points for nudity, 1 point for a cowboy, and some which are probably not wise to mention.
I’m not sure what happens now when the air wing is at sea. Movies are on the ship’s TV system. I doubt if there’s a 16mm projector anywhere onboard. I’m pretty sure the Movie Booth is history. And thankfully, Squadron Duty Officers can focus on more important duties than picking the movie.
P.S. Don’t ask me why, but I still have a copy in 16mm format. Any Ready Room out there that wants to borrow it, is welcome to it…..just make sure you rewind it before returning!
And now for your viewing pleasure: