“I know they’re in here, and I’m going to find them!” the uniformed man in his early 20’s blares out as he marches past me into the cinema.
“But Sir” I call out “It’s dark, you will disturb everyone while you search!”
He just marches on, as if he did not hear a word I said.
Oh, what a scandal this will cause. No one will want to come to the theater if they think they’ll be found out. I have to do something!
I run directly behind the soldier, passing him as I head toward the front of the packed theater where over 700 people are watching the Cecil DeMille movie, The Cheat.
On my way, I tap the piano player a little too hard with my left hand.
He looks at me, clearly disturbed. Yet, as soon as he sees me signaling with my hand across my throat for him to stop playing he understands why I surprised him.
Owning the cinema has certain advantages in times of crisis.
“Ladies and Gentlemen” I project above the protests of the audience.
I would be unhappy too, but they’ll thank me once they hear what I have to tell them.
“Ladies and Gentlemen, Please listen to me!” my voice projects as far as I can send it.
Most of the audience quiets down enough for me to start talking, if I yell.
“LADIES AND GENTLEMENT, THERE IS A MAN IN UNIFORM HERE LOOKING FOR HIS WIFE AND HER LOVER.”
Everyone starts talking at once.
“PLEASE BE QUIET, THE MOVIE WILL RETURN IN A MOMENT!” I plead with the audience.
“NOW PLEASE, ALLOW ME TO SPEAK NORMALLY. In order to avoid a scandal, anyone here who wishes to leave without being seen can exit through a discreet door here at the back of the theater.” I point in the direction of an emergency exit we never use, but leads directly to the dark alley behind the cinema.
At once, couple after couple scramble in the direction I am pointing.
The movie is still playing.
I direct the piano player to start up again.
Couples are descending the staircase in droves, heading for the exit.
Right in front of me the entire front row of the theater departs.
I would not have thought to sit in front with my mistress.
I look up toward the middle, it too is emptying out.
Oh, in the middle makes more sense.
The back, the balcony, everything.
Is everyone here cheating?
Almost every seat is now empty. A long line has formed at the back exit of the theater.
My god, they were all cheating.
The soldier marches toward the couples piling out of the theater, turning one woman, then another around to try to find the face of his cheating wife.
Looking back at the seats, I can see seven people remaining where they were before I interrupted the show.
Wow, over 300 couples were afraid to be caught together.
Thank god I’m not a soldier and my wife is at home safe from this kind of scandal.
In 1915 a German magazine published an article about a movie theater proprietor who stood in front of an audience to warn them that a man in uniform had entered the theater to catch his wife and her lover, who he knew were in the crowd. In order to avoid scandal, the proprietor pointed out a small, discreet emergency exit. Over 320 couples immediately left the theater in semi-darkness. The Cheat is a real 1915 Cecil DeMille movie that the Germans would have been able to view at the time since the United States was not yet at war with Germany.