- Cullman, Alabama


March 16, 2014

SOUTHERN STYLE: Remembering the silver screen

When my friends and I were just tipping over into our teens, we spent our Saturday afternoons at the Star Theatre. Most towns had a movie theatre just like it — a big marquee announcing the movie of the week, the smell of popcorn and roasting peanuts wafting out the double doors. There was even a lady with slicked back hair in a bun taking tickets at the little window with a half moon-shaped opening through which you slid your quarters and received a red ticket stub in return.

Inside there were framed movie posters hanging on every wall. Tarzan of the Apes, half-dressed, swinging from a vine, John Wayne, always bigger than life, on a galloping horse, and Tab Hunter heading down to the “Center of the Earth”.

Rock Hudson and Doris Day were popular back then. We loved watching him chase Doris up and down the beach, or wading through a kitchen filled with bubbles. We were easily entertained.

There was a big jar of huge dill pickles on the counter that only cost a nickel. They lasted practically the whole movie, if you took small bites. Cokes were a quarter and they tasted better back then, even the fountain drinks were better. They were served in paper cups as there wasn’t any plastic ones at the time.

The Star Theatre was owned by an elderly couple by the name of Hodgins. I always thought that they were born old. They’d lived together so long that they sort of looked alike. It was Mrs. Hodgin’s habit to patrol the aisles with a sliver flashlight as long as her arm. If you were brave enough to let a boy kiss you, more likely than not, you’d wind up the star of the moment as that glaring beam settled on you like a search light over the ocean. She would hold it thus until the kissers broke apart, red of face and chins touching chests, then move on to her next victim.

Meanwhile, Zorro, Charlie Chan, Bruce Lee, or some other action hero would be jumping off of a building or breaking down a door with their bare hands, or just talking, with lips that weren’t quite in sync with the words. We were so used to this quirk of the ’60s cinema that we hardly noticed it after the first few times.

This is where most of my crowd discovered Elvis. Too young to remember when he started out, we got familiar with him in Blue Hawaii, Fun in Acapulco, and State Fair. It was always a let down to me when I started dating, that guys didn’t burst into song just before they tried to kiss me. Nor did they ever grab a chair and dance with it when Jailhouse Rock came on the radio. It took me awhile to figure out that real life doesn’t always imitate art, and I use that term loosely.

I’d have to say that I did learn some other aspects about real life at the movies, though. I learned to open my eyes to the plight of others during “Imitation of Life” with Sandra Dee. I thrilled to “The Sound of Music” but learned about war and what it does to people than I ever really wanted to know. I found out when “Old Yeller” died that my heart could literally break, at least physically.

I developed a really good visual memory of Moses parting the Red Sea and a lasting impression of Charlton Heston as the most commanding presence in the world.

Even in my teens, I cried buckets when Bambi’s mother was shot, and laughed until my sides ached at the antics of the Shaggy Dog. Later in life, I was proud of Dean Jones and his stand for Christianity. Pat Boone was always a little to perfectly polished for me, and I hated those white shoes, but he was another movie star who held his ground and made a point to talk about God and his faith.

Movies, like music, have a profound affect on people, especially impressionable teens. It’s sad that they will never know heroes of yesteryear, like Zorro, the Lone Ranger, or the original Lois Lane and her caped companion.  

When we watched a vampire movie, there was always a guy with a cross and a wooden stake who put an end to the evil bloodsucker, but now the vampire is the hero and the lovely lady begs to be bitten. There is just something wrong with this picture.

The same goes for teaching kids how to rob a casino or a bank, twelve times, for goodness sake!

Not that all modern movies are bad, corrupting and demoralizing. There was “Happy Feet” after all. It does make me wonder that if my granddaughter ever sees a real penguin she will expect it to do the two-step for her.

The one thing I think our kids and grandchildren have that we didn’t and wished we did, is “rewind”.

I have used that little feature to bring Patrick Swazye back to life as Johnny Castle, to hopefully make the ending different in “The Perfect Storm”, and to scream at the driver of the limousine in Dealey Plaza to please get the heck outta that parade!

Wouldn't it be nice if life had a “rewind” option?

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