Tantamount Theater

Carmel Valley, CA 93924

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I used to attend this art theater while in the Army at Fort Ord, in the mid-1960’s. It was located about six miles east of Highway 1 in Carmel Valley, off the main road. The parking lot was unpaved. You could wait in the “green room” before the movie started, which had art books and nice furniture. A very un-typical theater. The theater provided refreshments, included in the admission price. I assume that the theater was open only for a few years.

Contributed by Jeff

Recent comments (view all 7 comments)

Lost Memory
Lost Memory on May 13, 2005 at 6:42 am

I found the following info on the Tantamount Theater:

It was located near Laureles Grade Road in Carmel Valley, CA. Two men from Boston’s Beacon Hill named Francois Martin and John Ralph Geddis converted an old barn into a theater and a home. This was in the 1930’s during the depression. It started out as a puppet theater and began showing movies in addition to the puppet shows.

The following is a portion of someones memories of this theater:

“People from miles around would drive down the theater’s long gravel drive on Friday and Saturday nights and find Francois motioning them onward with a flashlight. An elfin but distinguished man, often cloaked in some garment he had woven himself, Francois greeted each arrival with a smile. Meanwhile, Ralph was busy in the theater’s cramped balcony loading that evening’s featured presentation into the projector.
Having grown older, they reserved their puppets for special occasions only. Now, their main bill of fare was classic films from the "golden age of cinema,” as Francois would declaim. Dinner at Eight, Los Olvidados, musicals, Le Belle et la Bete, the films of Keaton and Chaplin, Rules of the Game, Les Enfants du Paradis, Camille — each was offered up as the exquisite work of art it was, lovingly introduced to the motley audience of valley folk and village sophisticates".

The Tantamount Theater burned down in 1978.

JeffofTorrance
JeffofTorrance on May 13, 2005 at 6:57 pm

Thanks for the additional information. I DO recall the old gentleman with the flash light in the parking lot. The Tantamount was totally unlike any other theater that I’ve ever attended. It was very clear that this was a labor of love, rather than a money-making enterprise.

JeffofTorrance
JeffofTorrance on May 13, 2005 at 7:24 pm

I just found this very interesting story regarding the Tantamount:

OLD CARMEL
by Connie Wright

Jeanne D'Orge: Eccentric Benefactor

She was born in Lancashire or Cheshire, England, in 1877, or 1879, or 1887, as Lena Yates or Emma Yates. During her life, she also used the names Lena Dalkeith, Lena Dalkeith Burton, Juniper Green, Jeanne D'Orge, Jeanne Cherry, Johnny and Mrs. Carl Cherry. She was fey and enjoyed changing her birth date and her name as the fancy struck her. She spent her early years in Edinburgh, London and Paris, where, in 1906, she met and married the geographer Alfred Burton, 22(?) years her senior. He became the dean of M.I.T. In New York, she joined the radical, iconoclastic poetic group Others, and published in Others Magazine, Scribners and Poetry. At the famed Armory Show in 1913 she joined the Others poets William Carlos Williams, Marianne Moore and Wallace Stevens in a poetry reading. In Boston, as a dean’s wife, she loathed the stuffiness and propriety of her setting.

Jeanne D'Orge came to Carmel in 1920 with her three children and moved into a house on San Carlos, 2 N.E. of Santa Lucia, now owned by CRA members Roger and Allene Fremier. The newly-retired dean followed in 1921. Both Jeanne and Dean Burton became involved with the Forest Theater, where Carl Cherry, Dean Burton’s former student, was in charge of the lighting. Jeanne had a reputation as a restless and unfaithful wife. Dean Burton introduced her to Carl. Something electric happened between them despite the fact that he was 22 (?) years her junior and not physically attractive. He was gangly, ugly and looked like an elf; she was hefty. According to Carmel tradition, in 1928 Jeanne woke the two of her children who were living at home to tell them that she was moving out of the house and in with Carl (on the corner of 12th and Dolores). It was the Depression and they lived mainly on sardines, hard boiled eggs, coffee and whatever food the neighbors left them. Jeanne refused to marry Carl at first because she considered marriage an archaic institution, but to soothe Carl’s mother’s feelings, she capitulated and they were married in 1930.

As a wedding present, the mother-in-law gave the newlyweds a two-story Victorian house on the corner of Guadalupe and Fourth, the Augusta Robertson house. Jeanne had been learning to paint and wanted an artist’s studio, so carpenters sawed off the second story, boarded up the windows and installed skylights. Then the house, now the Carl Cherry Foundation, was a proper studio and also a workshop for Carl’s inventions. He was, some said, a crack-pot tinkerer, but in 1936 he invented the blind rivet, which was self sealing and easily installed by one person, thus speeding the manufacture of airplanes. The invention, widely used during World War II, earned Carl a fortune.

Jeanne’s painting was highly unusual. Canvas was too expensive, so she used Dupont window shade material, and scraps from Carl’s workshop, pieces of masonite and sheets of glassine and aluminum. One of her methods was to spread the surface with a layer of machine oil, then cover it with paint applied directly from the tube. This she would manipulate with brushes, a whiskbroom, fork, her fingers or a comb, forming a soft outline in which she sometimes depicted processions of hooded figures, engaged in rituals in somber colors. Self taught, D'Orge said that she wanted to stimulate the imaginative process in her viewers and did not want to sell her frequently-untitled paintings, preferring to exhibit them at the Cherry Foundation, a few at a time, while she read from her poetry. Despite the fact that she had little exposure to the public and that the quality of her painting was uneven, she had a show at the Park Lane Gallery in New York, at Santa Barbara in 1957 and at the De Young Museum in 1962, where 47 of her paintings were shown. There was also a retrospective show in Santa Barbara in 1977. There are some 1200 of her paintings at the Cherry Foundation.

With their new wartime wealth, Carl and Jeanne determined to continue to live as poor people and devote the money to the Cherry Foundation. Its purpose was to “further the culture of America by sponsoring experimental fine arts, sciences and education.”

Carl died in 1947. Jeanne was, for a time, out of her mind with grief, but continued to administer the Foundation, which sponsored a variety of concerts, lectures, plays, puppet shows, dance recitals and seminars, nearly all of them free, with world class lecturers and performers. In 1956 Jeanne persuaded François Martin and John Ralph Geddis to bring their puppet theater to this area. The Tantamount Theater, off Laureles Grade in Carmel Valley, became Jeanne’s home. She built a one-room studio next to the theater, and Martin and Geddis took care of her for almost the rest of her life. After a falling out with them, she died at the Cherry Foundation in 1964.

She often appeared on the streets of Carmel wearing a big pink hat, ankle length Chinese robes and paint-stained tennis shoes.

kristinramsden
kristinramsden on June 17, 2010 at 8:11 am

I’m thrilled to read these memories and experiences of the Tantamount!
I used to work there from 1970-72, during my last two years of High School (York) as the ticket taker and coffee server during the intermissions. Ralph and Francois were magical men to me, and I so admired what they had done in their lives.
Of the two of them, Ralph was the weaver, and became my first weaving teacher. Since our birthdays fell on the same day in August, Francois gave me all Ralph’s weaving equipment when he died, which I sadly have had to pass o to people more active with textiles than I could be. But I was so grateful to him, nevertheless!
Does anyone know where they were in Maine, after they left the NY Theatre scene and went to Maine to live self-sufficiently off the land? During the long winters here they carved and created their puppets, then drove across country giving puppet shows, before they discovered Carmel Valley and the land on which they built the Tantamount. What a loss to the community, when it burned down!
I remember them both, and the Tantamount, with great fondness!

GuinLeigh
GuinLeigh on December 29, 2010 at 11:24 pm

I, too, have very fond memories of the Tantamount. I was first taken there in the early Seventies and attended films there until I moved away. I remember vividly the two men who ran it (one short and stocky the other tall and thin) and who so graciously served us tea (?) in demitasse cups and saucers during the interval. What a civilized place it was! I also remember a woman who always seemed to be in the audience. She was probably in her sixties or seventies and was a very colorful character. She had gray hair worn pulled to one side and sometimes braided and she wore very beautiful, hand-woven clothing. She was plump and wore jeans under her colorful panchos and shawls. I wanted to be just like her when I became an old woman. I wonder after reading Jeff’s account if she were Jeanne; I suspect she was.

When I finally moved back to the Monterey Bay area in 1984 I wanted to resume attending films at the Tantamount and was saddened to learn it had burned down. It was a film experience like no other!

RoyF
RoyF on November 16, 2012 at 12:40 am

My father, the children’s book author Don Freeman, knew Geddis and Martin well. I myself accompanied my father and my mother to the Tantamount Theater several times – what a wonderful experience! Ralph Geddis and Francois Martin performed a puppet theater based on a complete text by my father titled “Harry Scarey and Ann Tenna.” I am trying to find a copy of that text. Perhaps someone can help me further!

zorro2013
zorro2013 on May 11, 2013 at 11:27 pm

I remember seeing an old rare movie at this theatre made in the 30s I think “Fearless Vampire Fighters”. It was before the 1967 Roman Polanski version “Fearless Vampire killers”. The scenes from the original were duplicated very well by Polanski. Even the characters looked similar. I can find no information about the original old movie on the internet. I remember he said the movie was very rare even at that time.

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