I used to like going to the movies. When I was growing up, going to the movies was an occasional treat. In the very early days, it was the drive-in movie double-feature. Likely this was because it was cheap, and Dad was a grad student with a family, and on a tight budget: JP and I in our pjs, with bedding and our pillows in the venerable 1952 Plymouth station wagon, the back seat folded down, and falling asleep almost as the titles for the second feature rolled; Charlton Heston as El Cid, seen dimly through the windshield of the Plymouth, between Mom and Dad’s heads, and the rearview mirror. Sean Connery as James Bond, bedding another of an enthusiastic series of chance-encountered and spectacularly-endowed women, and me thinking, as I dozed off, “Oh, that’s nice – she hasn’t got a hotel room, and he’s sharing his …”
Yeah, I was six or seven years old. That’s what it looked like to me, curling up in the back of the station wagon, as my parents finagled their own low-budget date night. Later on, it would be a Disney movie in one of the splendid, then-sadly-faded old picture palaces in Pasadena; the Alhambra, the Rialto, or the Academy, accompanied by Granny Jessie – this after much discussion of which movies appropriate for grade-school age children were available at a matinee showing. This would be one of only one or two movies we saw in a theater for the entire year, so we would choose very carefully, indeed. I think Granny Jessie was grateful when we were able to appreciate somewhat more mature fare, such as It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad World, The Russians are Coming, The Russians are Coming, and What Did You Do in the War, Daddy.

We were not without connections to The Business in a back-stage manner, though. (The Business; every town has a Business – a main, if not the tentpole employer.) For at least a decade and a half, we attended a small Lutheran church convenient to Beverly Hills/North Hollywood, which drew on a number of parishioners thus employed – mostly in technical specialties, but now and again recognizable personalities would show up among the congregants. For a brief period, Betty Hutton coached the children’s choir, teaching us to belt out “Shine on, Harvest Moon.” For a number of weeks, Mom noted an attractive young blond woman at services, assuming that she was one of the foreign au par girls (of whom where were any number in attendance during those years). The blond girl was Elke Sommer. Her public image in those years was of a Germanic sexpot, but in real life she was a devout and observant Lutheran.
We also had a familial connection to The Business, in the form of one of Granny Dodie’s nieces. As an aspiring actress, she met and married a guy who was a solid B-list actor in the 1950ies. Nothing to me, particularly, save that their sons also went into The Business, and eked out a mild degree of success in it. The sons’ familial resemblance to Dad – especially as they mature – is so marked that I can’t watch either of them doing a love scene on screen without squicking out. “Oh, ICK, Dad!” The connection is sufficiently remote – second cousin degree, I think? – that we’ve never thought of trading on it. We have pride, you know.

When I finally returned from the decade+ stint overseas – one of the joys of being Stateside was that I could go to movies in the multiplex to see a movie on opening weekend! We didn’t have to wait six months for it to turn up at the base theater! And then … it seemed that around about the late nineties, there just wasn’t much that we wanted to see any more. The one movie series that the Daughter Unit and I waited for, with breathless impatience was the Lord of the Rings Trilogy. Since then, most everything else left me with a serious case of the ‘mehs’ – a remake, a comic book hero, some earnest bit of politically-correctitude, or ultra-violent with car crashes and gunfire substituting for witty conversation and intelligent plotting. I’d catch a movie in theater maybe once or twice a year; more often on DVD. For a couple of years, I was getting DVDs to review for a small news and culture website, but now we have streaming service and access to all kinds of non-Hollywood content. I will leave to one side the ragingly-liberal bent among Hollywood denizens, plus the screaming hypocrisy of loudly condemning Harvey Weinstein and his casting couch (and potted plant) … and then appearing at award shows on the red carpet wearing a wisp of a gown which barely covers nipples and pubes. Girls, if you don’t want to be treated like a piece of easy meat by the powerful? Don’t dress like piece of meat for sale to the highest bidder – and if you must do so for the sake of your so-called career, then please stop complaining about the quid pro quo. On all that – done with Hollywood movies, nearly done with television content produced by the same.
I didn’t watch the Golden Globes, of course – it’s practice for not watching the Academy Awards. So – I’m divorcing Hollywood – can I have custody of creative originality, please, since it doesn’t seem like they are using it, to any perceptible purpose?

1 Comment

  1. Your narrative makes it perfectly clear why you could be attached and nostalgic about movies in general…but I am right with you about how little of any value there is to watch and as soon as principles are applied as regards who will be making more money, well that leaves out quite a few too. Of course one should be careful where they order things on-line too, or now buy “whole” food or what media one reads. Cultural influencers…rather a mess, isn’t it?