Disappearing into a seated darkness with the expectation of being enveloped into another world, a different world planned, managed and directed by a good storyteller – relaxed, readily accepting the experience projected by flickering lights, moving objects, images, action and sound emanating from a big screen – that’s my good theatrical movie experience. Maybe something to drink, popcorn or a hot dog – a good movie, at times, is the best therapy for me.
Walking into a movie theater alone, unlike, for instance, eating alone, is a well-accepted ‘social’ experience. The patrons at a movie only care that you turn off your electronic gadgets before the trailers start. Unlike eating alone where one has to bring a book, magazine or other electronic device for busying oneself while the others (pairs or more) talk together or not, a movie is the experience of escaping into somewhere else for a couple of hours.
There are those movies that I can watch over and over again still enjoying every frame to the fullest. One of those movies is the finest western ever made (in my humble opinion), and that is George P. Comatos’ magnificent “Tombstone”. From the heartbreaking beginning to the dance in the snow at the end, I always remain hooked!
Again, in my opinion, Hollywood goofed in regard to Val Kilmer not being nominated, therefore, not even considered for an academy award for his outstanding performance as John Henry “Doc” Holliday, the well-educated dentist with tuberculosis (called consumption in those days). My sons and I would offer in jest to one another “I’ll be your huckleberry” or “I’m your huckleberry” for months after viewing the director’s cut DVD at a family night get-together. My eldest looked up the meaning of the huckleberry term spoken by the ‘good’ Doc and he found that it refers to “I’m the right person for the job” or a huckleberry is also described as a pallbearer for the dead. Either way, Doc meant business.
I can look back at my life and the lives of my children and grandchildren and movies play an important role in our living and loving. “King Kong” the movie is a remembrance that I have written about. I took my two sons to see the Jerome Robbins and Robert Wise’s musical “West Side Story” when they still allowed me to hold their hands as we walked together. They still watch it on DVD and sing those wonderful songs with their children.
I use movies as a way to open discussions with my granddaughters regarding issues in life. For instance after watching “The Notebook”, the opportunity arose regarding the impact of first love and the effect that has on the psyche no matter what other opportunities are offered in life. After watching the ever so cute “The Courtship of Eddie’s Father” with the young multi-talented Ron Howard as Eddie and Glenn Ford as the widower father (who could forget him in “Gilda”), we discussed death and its impact on the remaining family members.
I had a life changing experience at the movie theater, one that was embarrassingly bad, but a good thing in disguise. I was an eighth grader and finally not required to take my brothers with me to the Saturday and Sunday special showings that included two full-length features, seven (7) cartoons, trailers for coming attractions and a newsreel. I had plans. I had surreptitiously saved money to buy a pack of Kool Menthol filter-tipped cigarettes that I had forged a note from my parents to purchase (in those days, one could smoke in the theater). As I slipped them into my purse along with the dollar bill for spending money and bus fare home I thought ‘at last, I was going to get Jeffery Weekly’s attention.’ He was the finest, tall, lanky, long drink-of-water that walked the Longfellow Junior High campus. My plan included lighting my cigarette, holding it in that certain way as I sauntered down the aisle, then I would slide into the row of seats behind Jeff and his crowd, lean over his shoulder from behind and offer him a cigarette as I coolly blew smoke into the theater air. I imagined that he would turn, smile at me, gladly take one and light up. He might even ask could he offer one to his friends and I would smile at him and say “of course”. I wanted to let him know that this was an everyday thing with me and we could share this wonderful habit together, just as Bette Davis and Paul Henreid did in “Now Voyager” although I had never smoked in my life.
I arrived early for the 2P showing, sat near the back of the theater in order to see all who entered the double-doored center aisle, while being able to see anyone who entered the side doors as well. At last, I saw his talk lanky frame enter with two of his friends. After they found seats in center row, middle, and sat down talking in low tones with each other, I waited patiently until the trailers played and the cartoons finished. When the lights lowered for the first movie, I slipped out into the concession area and turned left towards the rest rooms. I entered the ladies’ room in a “Now Voyager” frame of mind and confidently pulled out my precious pack of menthol tipped Kools, placing one between my lips and the pack back into my purse. I pictured the scene in the Irving Rapper directed film, when Paul Henreid lit two cigarettes at once and so sensuously placed the other one into Bette’s waiting lips. Ms. Davis held it between her fore and middle fingers and took a long drag as she threw her head back and exhaled an even longer trail of smoke from perfectly pursed lips while looking sexily into his eyes. Even though it was my first time, I could do the same, no problem. Seated behind him, I would not be able to stare into his eyes as Bette did, but what the heck; it was not going to be quite as perfect as in the movie scene.
I had carefully dressed and my hair was perfection as I placed the menthol tip to my waiting lips and lit it. I took a deep drag, pulling as much smoke into my lungs as possible, I wanted it be somewhat smoked as I approached my dreamboat.
As the rancid smoke hit the back of my throat, I coughed a cough so deep that it caused my whole body to tremble. I bent over choking in agony; I could not straighten up. My eyes teared and turned red. My nose let go of the grossest string of mucus ever from each nostril. My cheeks, eyes, and nose changed to a deep reddish-purple color as I tried to get control; however, I couldn’t stop coughing. My carefully coiffed hair flew every which way all over my head. The snot, tears and spit covered the front of my freshly ironed sweater and the cigarette and my purse somehow had landed on the tiled restroom floor. I looked into the wall-to-wall mirror in horror at this thing I had become. Still coughing and holding my throat, I grabbed my purse from the floor and through blurry eyes, ran down the hall and out the theater door. The fresh air helped as I staggered to the bus stop and waited for the long embarrassed ride home.
Jeffery moved away shortly after my experience with cigarettes at the movies. He never knew that I had a crush on him, or that I was willing to place my life in jeopardy for him (at that time Camel’s were the rage and Marlborough guy was still alive and touting the greatness of smoking cigarettes).
Nobody had to tell me not to smoke cigarettes. All the advertisements over the ensuing years warning of the health risks of smoking fell on deaf ears as far as I am concerned. Smoking was not only dangerous for your health; it was dangerous for getting the attention of the finest boy in school.