I was reading movie critic David Thomson’s latest, The Big Screen: The Story of the Movies (2012), and enjoying it so much that I checked out a bunch more of his books including The Whole Equation: A History of Hollywood, but after a few pages of that one, I decided I'd had enough of Thomson's style for now. Maybe another time.
But I did get past the dedication page, and near it are some quotations from people involved in making movies, one of them Gore Vidal, who said “Find out the movies a man saw between ten and fifteen, which ones he liked, disliked, and you would have a pretty good idea of what sort of mind and temperament he has.” I’m sure Vidal meant women, too, so I check Wikipedia (sorry library gods) for lists of movies made from 1966 through 1971, the years when I turned 10 and 15.
The first revelation is that I don’t remember seeing many first-run movies before 1968. I must have, but the earliest one that sticks is Goldfinger, 1964, and I remember it not for gold lamé nudity, but for my sister and me in our jammies in the back of the car trying to sneak a peek at the drive-in screen through the front bucket seats of my dad’s Grand Prix.
I better remember watching old movies on our tiny Zenith portable TV with a wire hangar antenna, pliers for changing the channel, and a green-tinted screen, and I remember the jingle from KNXT in Los Angeles:
The Late Show / Relax enjoy a snack and watch / The Late Show / Channel 2 is proud to bring the greatest of stars / Here on the great Late Show
(I wish I could link to the tune for you, but it’s nowhere.)
Late-night movies in those days were beat-up prints from the 30s and 40s—the Marx Brothers, Abbott and Costello, Basil Rathbone as Sherlock, Fred and Ginger, Errol Flynn buckling swash, Hope and Crosby, Dean and Jerry, and Bogie. I think those affected my development; I admit I am a Marxist. But as I did this exercise I realized that until 1968 I was either too young, too broke, or too dumb to pay attention to new releases. After 1968 is a different story.
NEXT: Lists of movies. And don’t we all love those?