WORDS LIKE "curmudgeon," "eccentric," "iconoclastic" attach themselves naturally to an eccentric, curmudgeonly, iconoclastic character named Art Carduner.
Art was a man who certainly marched to his own drummer. He didn't hesitate to show films at the theaters he operated over the years that didn't appeal to the Hollywood-bred filmgoer.
The films he favored inclined to the esoteric, foreign films from directors that nobody but he - and the few serious buffs he appealed to - had ever heard of, often leaving his theaters nearly empty.
Well, after all, he didn't have a popcorn machine.
If he saw someone walking out of one of his films in disgust - or bafflement - he would run after them and insist they take their money back.
Art Carduner, who ran the Band Box, in Germantown, the Hill, in Chestnut Hill, the New Strand, in Lambertville, N.J., among others long out of business, and several used bookstores from New York to Philly, died Friday. He was 90 and lived in Germantown.
He also reviewed books for many years for the Inquirer, the Distant Drummer and the Chestnut Hill Local to express his often acerbic, but always funny, opinions on many subjects.
Art was a man of firm, if unusual, opinions. For instance, his great political hero was Al Smith, four-term governor of New York from the '20s and a candidate for president in 1928.
"He liked his style, his speech, his political programs," said Sallie Van Merkensteijn, friend and associate in the book business. "He thought if Eleanor Roosevelt had been president instead of Franklin, we wouldn't have had a war.
"He said there's no such thing as a good government, and no such thing as a good war. He often said he was so radical that he was at the point where the right meets the left."
He also had strong opinions about film and filmmakers. He described the popular 1965 movie "Ship of Fools" as "gauche, incredibly flat, incredibly dull," and added, "Poor Stanley Kramer can't get the impact with a sledge hammer that Jean Renoir can get with a flick of the wrist."
Despite his hatred of war, he served in the Army Signal Corps in World War II.
Before the Army, he was employed as a civilian cryptographer in the Signal Corps Depot, on Wissahickon Avenue. He claimed to have deciphered a message three days earlier that predicted the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor on Dec. 7, 1941.
He said that he transcribed a message from Clark Field in the Philippines requesting parts for the airfield's communication equipment. It ended with the words, "Attack imminent, please rush."
He said that he tried to interest Army brass in the message, but was ignored.
Shortly after his discharge from the Army, Art bought his first bookstore in New York City for $2,000. He later moved to New Hope, Bucks County, and started a mail-order book business across the river in Lambertville.
He bought and restored the New Strand Theater there and began sending out a newsletter that reflected his dry wit.
In 1966, he bought the shuttered Band Box Theater, in Germantown, and ran it until 1975. He also opened bookstores and a book-search operation famous for tracking down and finding books that no one else could locate.
One of his businesses was Germantown Bikes & Books, on Germantown Avenue, where, in addition to books, he sold and repaired bicycles.
"He was phenomenally bighearted," said longtime friend Dave Miller. "He looked like Orson Welles, and had a nasal way of speaking. He was definitely a character."
Merkensteijn said that she got a kick out of Art's lingering New York accent.
"I would say, 'Say something in New York, Art.' It was so much fun to hear him."
Art grew up in New York City and came to Philadelphia in 1941.
He is survived by two daughters, Jessie and Narja Carduner; a son, Robin Carduner; a brother, Robert; and three grandchildren.