Thursday, February 08, 2007

My First Movie

Because my parents grew up when Hollywood produced happy movies with little objectionable imagery--cue the fade to black so as not to reveal anything too, um, private--and with little objectionable language--even "Frankly, my dear, I don't give a damn" was racy for its time--I was not allowed to see movies in a movie theater. I was allowed to go to a drive-in with the neighbor family once to see Herbie the Love Bug, but I think that exception was made because my aunt dated Dean Jones in high school.

My mother liked to reminisce about the days when movies were worth the 25 cent admission. Stars were stars, and women were beautiful. Children were respectful, and America always won. She remembered the day Gone With the Wind was released in 1939, and for a school girl in Alabama, it was an event. The schools closed early so all the children could go to the matinee, and they were embarrassed when Rhett Butler delivered his final line. What a day that was, and I grew up hearing the story over and over.

At some point in the early 1970s, before the era of Ted Turner and Turner Classic Movies, Gone With the Wind was still being shown in theaters on limited runs. When it came to the theater near my house, my mother decided to place a temporary hold on the "Hollywood-is-going-to-Hell" house rule, and she took my older sisters and me to see the great epic.

I sat in my velvet seat and took in everything--the sconces on the side walls, the smell of popcorn with artificial butter, the sound of soda being slurped from the bottom of the waxed cup. And when the movie played on the giant screen, I became a member of the Tara household, and I was a citizen of Atlanta. I went to the Wilkes' grand party and napped with the ladies while the men talked war. I danced with Rhett at the fundraising ball, putting my wedding ring in the basket for the Cause. And when Atlanta floundered, it's streets and railway stations filled with mamed and dying Confederate soldiers and its doctors forced to amputate limbs without anesthetic, I was in shock.

I don't mean that I was surprised. I mean that during the intermission, I sat with my mother and sisters and cried, my shoulders shaking and hands covering my face--it was all too much for my young and protected sensibilities. The last image before Tara's Theme filled the theater was of Scarlett standing against an orange sky, holding up a whithered carrot and declaring she would never be hungry again. And I was as tormented as if I had been the one on the long, uncertain journey back to my burned out home. My sisters, who had seen the movie before, kept telling me that everything is brighter in the second half, that Scarlett doesn't go hungry anymore. But I would not be consoled--I had to see it for myself.

My sisters were right. Scarlett never went hungry again, although she did want for many things. On the day of my first movie theater experience, I loved movies and Hollywood and greasy popcorn and fountain soda. I loved the temporary world that movies provide and the creative effort that goes into bringing them from the concept to my local theater screen. And on the day of my first movie theater experience, I fell head over heels in love with Clark Gable--the swarthy brute.

What was the first movie you saw in a theater?

10 comments:

dive said...

Your aunt dated Dean Jones? Cool!
That's quite a story about Gone With The Wind, Robyn.
My first movie was Fantasia, when I was four.
I don't remember much about it, other than that I loved it. And I've been told that I slept all the way home, propped up on the back of my Uncle's bicycle as the family walked back across town in the dark.

Sassy Sundry said...

I think the first one was Herbie the Love Bug, but the first one I remember was Star Wars. I was so excited that I bolted out of my seat and ran up the isle to talk to all the people who must have been up on the stage. I got a little lesson on what a movie was.

Ah, Star Wars. I love thee.

Robyn said...

Sassy, you went up on stage? That is so so so funny. I think I saw Star Wars near the end of my high school years when the rules had laxed--my parents were old and tired by then.

Dive, I'm not sure I have seen Fantasia all the way through. I don't know why--guess my kids weren't interested when they were small.

RICH said...

My first movie was "Planet Of the Apes" I saw it at one of those old cinema's like you described. I don't remember how much it cost but it was way under a buck. I went with a bunch of other neighborhood kids - some of which raised hell and got thrown out out. I wanted to see the movie so I behaved myself. 

This cinema had "balcony seats" and one of my friend's sister's would always be up there with a different guy and NOT watching the movie. This is what I remember.

RICH said...

oh BTW - I have never seen "Gone With The Wind"!! I don't know why but I have never seen it.

RICH said...

Dive - if you really look at Fantasia very close - someone who was tripping on acid must have wrote that movie. There is also a lot of sublime sexuality in it.

Robyn said...

Rich, did you mean sublime or subliminal? hee hee.

Everyone should see Gone with the Wind once. It's a classic.

dive said...

Hee hee! Well spotted, Robyn.
That's a classic slip there, Rich.
And I appreciate that side of the movie a lot better now than I did at four.
I do remember being totally blown away by the ending to Planet of the Apes, though.
Cool!

Gina said...

I'm pretty sure the first movie I saw was Grease. Either that or Star Wars. I can't really remember!

lynn said...

I'm not sure which was first but i recall seeing Mary Poppins and Henry VIII (not sure exact title). You'd think that might be a bit heavy for a little one, but i just wanted to be Anne Boleyn! Well, up to a point, obviously. lol.

On tv, goodness knows how i was able to, but i managed or happened to watch a horror film about being buried alive. It scared the life out of me but i couldn't say anything as i knew i shouldn't have been watching it.