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Match Play is a golf/suspense novel. Dust of Autumn is a bloody one set in upstate New York. Prairie View is set in South Dakota, with a final scene atop Rattlesnake Butte. Life in the Arbor is a children's book about Rollie Rabbit and his friends (on about a fourth grade level). The Black Widow involves an elaborate extortion scheme. Doggy-Dog World is my memoir. And ES3 is a description of my method for examining English sentence structure.
In case anyone is interested in any of my past posts, an archive list can be found at the bottom of this page.
My newest novel, Happy Valley, can be found here.

Monday, March 17

Movie Memories

I’m a big movie fan. I’ve always been a big movie fan. I can’t even guess how many films I’ve seen over the years, but since I’ve got a lot of years on my odometer, it must be a lot of films. Often, when a movie or the people in it grab my attention, I’ll see it more than once, sometimes even three or four times. I remember when I first saw Joanne Woodward do her triple thing in Three Faces of Eve, I just had to see it twice more just to watch how she did it. The same thing happened with East of Eden. Not that James Dean was a great actor, but he was so different I wanted to share in his youthful infatuation with Julie Harris, so I sat through it twice in a row. Three times for the Gershwein score and the Gene Kelly dancing and the vision of the young Leslie Caron in An American in Paris. For Brando in maybe his best performance ever in On the Waterfront four times. And, yes, like a lot of Brando fans, I too tried to memorize some of his lines: (Terry to his brother Charlie): “You don’t understand. I coulda been a contender. I coulda been somebody, instead of a bum, which is what I am, let’s face it. It was you, Charley.” Three viewings of Young at Heart just to hear a scrawny Sinatra sing “One More for the Road.” You get the idea. I’m a little OCD when it comes to movies. The only other person I know that’s like that is my old teaching pal Anne Smith. She and I could talk movies for hours. I’m a bit older than she is, so my memories go back further than hers. I store vivid images from old old movies: Gary Cooper licking his thumb and applying it to the front sight of his rifle as he turkey calls Germans out of hiding in the WWI epic Sergeant York. I see the two choices the girl had when she was returning home, the dark tunnel and the moonlit street and she mistakenly chose the light and then the sight of blood dripping under the door casing when she didn’t make it home in The Black Panther. I see it vividly in my memory, but when I went to the IMDB web site to confirm it, there was no sign of a movie like that or named that. Did I make it up? Did I just imagine that scene? I don’t know. But I can still see that page flip over by some ghostly hand in The Uninvited. I see that bottle of booze Ray Milland hid in the ceiling light fixture in Lost Weekend. I was shocked when Jan Sterling removed her makeup and wig in The High and the Mighty. I still hear Brandon DeWilde calling out to Alan Ladd in Shane, “Shane, come back,!” I see Richard Widmark pushing his mother down a flight of stairs in her wheelchair, but I can’t for the life of me remember what the movie was. I remember the Indians leaping out of hiding from the holes in the desert to ambush Robert Taylor and others in Ambush. I see Humphrey Bogart rolling those ball bearings in his hand as he visibly went bananas in The Caine Mutiny. I watched in relief when Cornell Wilde waved back to his African pursuer in Naked Prey. I toiled wearily along with Gregory Peck on his long trek across The Purple Plain. I hear more than see the action as Tyrone Power swashed and buckled his way through Mexico in Captain from Castille, hearing Alfred Newman’s “Conquest,” so entranced by that theme that I went out and bought a recording of it. I choked down all those hard boiled eggs along with Paul Newman in Cool Hand Luke. I fell in love over and over again with the girls and women of those early shows: Greer Garson in Mrs. Miniver, Debbie Reynolds in Singin’ in the Rain, Elizabeth Taylor in Black Beauty, Gene Tierney in Laura (in love so much that I talked my wife into naming our second daughter Laura, only to fall out of love with the awful Gene Tierney when she hooked her foot in the rug at the top of the stairs to fall down and abort her child in Leave Her to Heaven), and of course, Julia Roberts, the pretty woman all male viewers fell in love with in Pretty Woman, and the young Scarlet Johannson that both Bill Murray and I fell in love with in Lost in Translation. I’m such a fickle lover. I laughed along with all the comics of that long ago time: Danny Kaye in The Court Jester, Abbot and Costello with their “Who’s on First” routine first seen in The Naughty Nineties, Abbot and Costello with their “Slowly I turned” routine in Lost in a Harem, the “I believe in the power of voodoo” routine that I and my buddies kept alive in our youths but I can’t remember where we first heard it. Who were the male stars I admired? Tyrone Power even though he was in the closet at the time, Burt Lancaster and his acrobatics, Kirk Douglas and his gritted teeth, Bill Holden in almost anything but especially Picnic, Stalag 17, The Bridge on the River Kwai, and The Blue Knight, of course John Wayne in almost anything but especially The Quiet Man, and the other old blue eyes Paul Newman, especially in The Long Hot Summer, The Left Handed Gun, The Hustler, Hud, Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, and The Sting. Have I missed any? Well, certainly. But I’m old and forgetful. One last word about a movie that broke my heart more than any other. Barbra Streisand and Robert Redford fell in love and then fell out of love in The Way We Were, and I felt to the quick the poignancy of lost time and lost opportunity and lost love that this film dramatized. Life is short and this movie brought it home to me with a sledgehammer. I love movies. Until I die I’ll continue to go there for the popcorn and the darkened theatres and the escape they provide. You should too.
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