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 checked Wikipedia (sorry library gods) for lists of movies made from 1966 through 1971, the years I turned 10 and 15.
My first revelation was that I don’t remember seeing many first-run movies before 1968. I must have, but the earliest, and one of the few 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 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. If you come to the library and ask for me, I'll sing it to you, if you have a library card.)
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. Those movies affected my development; I freely admit I am a Marxist. But doing this exercise made me realize 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?