Recently, as my wife and I tried – and failed – to find a non-animated movie in which the “F” word is used less than a dozen times and more than two people survive in the end, I reflected on how movies of old had special meaning over my seven-plus decades.
I slept with Shirley Temple’s photo under my pillow at the age of five. No child star was ever sweeter, or more talented.
I remember the almost unbearable wait as I saved a dime a week for five weeks so I could see the most expensive, most-heralded movie of its time, “Tarzan the Ape Man,” over two years in the making! It was a cinema adventure seldom surpassed for me again.
Later, I daydreamed in class about dating Becky from the “Tom Sawyer” classic.
In 1939, I was rocked when Clark Gable said he didn’t give a “damn” to Miss O’Hara in a movie so lengthy, I had to ask if Roosevelt was still president when I finally exited. Then along came “Raging Bull,” about the life of boxer Jake LaMotta. One critic wrote that minus the “F” word, it could’ve been a silent movie.
To avoid a bully in the sixth grade, I often skipped school and attended movies in Iowa City with my earnings from long hours of selling Liberty, Look and Life magazines. Not as easy as today’s $20 to $30 allowances parents fork over for doing chores an hour a week. And who really cares what the rating is if it’s a gotta-see flick?
The only time my father took me to a movie before the divorce, we saw “Frankenstein.” (I was traumatized for a long time and didn’t scream out in a theater again until I saw “Psycho” with my own kids.
Outside an Iowa theater, I experienced a moment frozen in time. While standing in line to see an Abbott and Costello movie on Sunday, Dec. 7, 1941, the horrifying word was passed that the Japanese had bombed Pearl Harbor. The end of the world loomed!
Two years later, I donned a tux and became a doorman at the same theater – my first white-collar summer job. I bought a trench-coat like Robert Mitchum’s and decided I’d be a foreign correspondent and maybe marry Rita Hayworth. It didn’t work out that way, but I did break up with my teen girlfriend for swooning over Frank Sinatra and attending his latest movie eight times.
I took my now wife, Lovae, to a Washington, D.C. movie theater for a buck-fifty on our first date. As part of the stage show afterward, a “mentalist” named Daas displayed his famous psychic abilities by “reading” the minds and futures of patrons. Picking me, he said I would go west and someday write a successful book far, far in the future.
I moved my family to San Diego in 1959, where I began a new public relations career, over 20 years of it with the San Diego Zoo and SeaWorld.
At age 75 I published my first book. It and my second book, memoirs of the zoo years, won first place prizes in their categories from the San Diego Book Awards Committee.
I have often wondered what happened to the seer who was so on-the-nose about the young man in the audience that night half a century ago. I had placed a question in that locked box in the lobby, which was never opened before he picked me from the mini-crystal ball he held as a prop.
My bride and I still attend the theaters here, hoping to see another “Cuckoo’s Nest” or “Shane” or “Cool Hand Luke” or “The Way We Were” or even “The Graduate.”
But, oh, how we miss the single-screen palaces, roomy and ornate. And the 50-cent popcorn. And dialogue as sharp as “All About Eve.”
Maybe I’ll write my own screenplay now that the books are doing well.
Source by Bill Seaton