Movies in My Blood
Movie Are In My Blood
I think I stole that line from the Turner Classic Movie Channel but it is oh so true! I didn't actually realize it until I heard it on TCM and started thinking back. My love affair with movies started when I was just a young child.
I used to watch all the TV westerns with my Dad. I adored my Dad and there wasn't much else on TV. Sure there was I Love Lucy and Arthur Godfrey's Talent Scouts , I'm talking about my early childhood in the fifties, but better yet there was; Hopalong Cassidy, Wyatt Earp, The Roy Rogers Show, Rin Tin Tin, Davey Crockett, The Lone Ranger, Zorro, and Rawhide and the holy grail then was Gunsmoke and Bonanza. Gunsmoke ran for thirty years. One of the rumors about Gunsmoke was that John Wayne was chosen to play Marshall Dillon. The truth is John Wayne recommended James Arness to play Matt Dillon. By the end of the fifties there had been thirty westerns. My Mom had some influence and we watched some non-westerns like I Remember Mama, Jackie Gleason and The Red Buttons Show, but westerns were trump.
So you're scratching your head and wondering how this led to my love of movies. Well, since I watched westerns with my Dad he watched movies with me. That's the kind of guy he was. Together we watched Shirley Temple movies, crying over all her perils. My Mom would shake her head and say, "you two are always crying, why do you watch this stuff?" Of course there were a few times we got her to watch too. Shirley Temple's first feature length film was Red-Haired Alibi, she was three years old in that movie. Her international fame came from the movie Bright Eyes in 1934.
So this was my beginning. Watching movies, crying and all in all a young girl spending quality time with her Dad. My introduction to movies was a warm and good time. That introduction blossomed as The Million Dollar Movie made its appearance on Channel Nine (in NYC). The Million Dollar Movie would show a movie for an entire week and it would show that movie twice a night. This was where I first saw King Kong! Yes, I cried when he was killed at the end of the movie, but I also saw Yankee Doodle Dandy, and how I loved Mr. Peabody and the Mermaid. Can you imagine the wonder of a child watching a "real mermaid"? Of course I didn't know what the movie was really about but I was enchanted. I watched so many movies on The Million Dollar Movie and got to see them over and over for a whole week.
Chiller Theater and Creature Features
Saturday nights in the early sixties would find me glued to my television watching the horror movies on Chiller Theater and/or Creature Features. The host of Chiller Theater was Zacherley, "The Cool Ghoul", who would come out of his coffin to host the week's movie. It was on late so everyone in my house would go to bed and I would stay up by myself watching the thrilling, chilling, movies. The Cyclops and the Attack of the 50 Foot Woman come to mind immediately. At ten years old I didn't know what a cyclops was until I saw the movie. I also find it ironic that the star of the movie was James Craig, Craig being my married name.
Then there was Creature Features, another Saturday night treat on Channel Five. It was on earlier than Chiller Theater so most Saturday nights I could watch both. The Phantom of the Opera, Curse of the Werewolf, and Frankenstein, and yes, I cried when he threw the little girl in the lake but I also cried when the Frankenstein monster burned in the windmill.
Between the two, Chiller Theater and Creature Features, I got to see so many horror films from the thirties and forties and loved every minute of it.
Charlton Heston in Ben Hur
The House of Wax
Movies At The Movies
Going to the theater to see movies was a weekly treat. Every Saturday you'd gather your friends, get your quarter, sometimes get a ride from my Dad, and head to the movies. If you went to an early matinee and you really liked the movie you could hide in the bathroom when the movie was over and wait for the next crowd to come in. Once a few people started in you could join them, sit down, and watch the movie again. Have you noticed Saturday was a very busy day for a little girl and her movies?
Oh the movies I saw in the fifties and early sixties! Of course I saw more horror movies, but I saw many genres. Starting with horror movies I saw films like The Fly (1958) and The House of Wax (1953). Vincent Price was a favorite of mine back then. The Creature From the Black Lagoon (1954), and a favorite of mine then, The Mole People(1956). My girlfriend and I used to play Mole People. We'd take turns being a mole person or a real person, hours and hours of fun. May I point out that was in 1956 and I was nine years old!
The Ten Commandments (1956), need I say more, well yes, followed by Ben-Hur (1959)! We were mesmerized and my new favorite actor was Charlton Heston. Old Yeller (1957) , Lady and the Tramp(1955), and Cinderella (1950), movies little girls still watch today. The magic of Disney was beautiful to watch.
Then came the sixties. I was older and my tastes in movies had grown up, though I still loved my horror movies and Charlton Heston. Who could ever forget Psycho (1960)? Everyone looked behind the shower curtain before taking a shower after watching Psycho. The Birds (1963) was chilling. Imagine all those sweet birds turning on people with no place to hide!
My first big date with my now husband, was to see Jerry Lewis in The Nutty Professor (1963). See, it happened again, a warm and tender moment associated with the movies.
The list of movies I enjoyed in the sixties is long. Movies like West Side Story (1961), To Kill a Mockingbird (1962), The Music Man (1962, )Lawrence of Arabia (1962), Cool Hand Luke (1967), the list goes on. Who didn't sit on the edge of their seat and gasp at the end of Night of the Living Dead (1968) or sing along with Lilies of the Field (1963)? I told you the list goes on but I think by now you've gotten the idea that movies are in my blood.
The Sound of Music
I could go on endlessly, naming movies from each decade that wowed me, scared me, moved me, movies I love to remember and some I'd rather forget. Movies, as I've shown, associated with warm moments in my life, but that wasn't always the case.
My husband and I saw Bonnie and Clyde (1967) in the theater and my parents were babysitting. When we got home my grandmother was there to tell us they had taken my son to the hospital. Certainly not a good memory. But, there are movies I associate with good times with my children, like watching Annie (1982) so many times I began to think she was one of my children. The Sound of Music (1965) made the hills of Ulster County come alive with music as we watched it over and over, both on tv.
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