Thursday, January 1, 2009


Ignatius was apparently a frequent customer of the Prytania movie house, because the staff talks derisively of him being there “again.” The Prytania is a wonderful example of how theaters once looked. They were elegant and cozy and two screens were more than enough for the neighborhood.
The Prytania opened in 1915 as a single-screen theater and today it is the only one in Louisiana. It recently underwent a major renovation that added a new lobby and a huge screen.
Here’s the Prytania’s website with a couple of old photos, showing how it probably looked when Ignatius critiqued their films.
The Prytania is still open at 5339 Prytania St. and its not far from the Reilly House on Constantinople St.
Here are a couple of photos of the exterior as it looked in August 2008…

Here are a few photos of the interior. In the first picture, you can see the counter where Ignatius would have purchased his Milky Way bars, popcorn, and soda…

When I was there, they were showing “Tropic Thunder”…

In Toole’s description of the movie Ignatius watched and hated, we can get an idea of the time in which the book was set. Its pretty obvious that it was set in the early 1960’s, but by looking at several clues we can narrow it down even further. For example, the movie was a musical which was set in a circus. There were trapeze acts, a sideshow, and an elephant. The movie was distributed by MGM, because Ignatius listened as “the lion roared,” just before the title screen.
That all perfectly describes “Billy Rose’s Jumbo,” which starred Doris Day and Jimmy Durante. It was released in the United States on December 6, 1962. This matches up with other references in the book that I’ll discuss as we get to them. The winter release also matches up with Toole’s passage concerning Patrolman Mancuso riding the motorcycle on St. Charles Avenue through the “mild winter sun.”
I think its fair to say that A Confederacy of Dunces was set in the winter of 1962 - 1963.


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  3. Unfortunately, looks like this blog is inactive... Anyway, in terms of the time frame/setting, agree with your estimate. Another clue is when Patrolman Mancuso first visits Mrs. Reilly at her house. As he stands on the porch, he hears the song lyric "...big girls don't cry..." playing inside. If this song were playing on the tv dance program Ignatius liked to watch, then it is likely the #1 hit by Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons. Released in October 1962, the song hit #1 on the Billboard charts in November 1962.