(NOTE: Inspired by the Oscars, I've decided that, once a week, I'm going to try to share a movie that has made a significant impact on me. If nothing else, this will expose you to some of my idiosyncrasies.)
I grew up in two small towns. During the school year, we lived in Texas. During the summer we lived in Colorado.
In both places, we only had one movie theater. And I have distinctive memories of each place.
The movie theater in Texas was named The Grand. It was very much like the movie theater idolized in The Last Picture Show (which was filmed in Archer City, 75 miles away from my home town). The Grand was probably built in the ‘30s and had a unique art deco feel. There were lots of sculptural relief plaster moldings, inside and out, with strong geometric lines. The Grand was the last (or first, depending on your perspective) commercial building on main street. Inside the lobby was the small concession stand, with the men’s room on the right and the ladies room on the left. The auditorium had a large center section, two aisles and smaller side sections. The theater also had a balcony, which until desegregation took hold, was where the blacks were expected to sit.
Going to The Grand wasn’t as much about the movie as it was about having something to do on Saturday. I would usually go with other kids that lived in the neighborhood or my big brother. First stop inside was always the concession stand. My favorite items were Charms® suckers – particularly blueberry – and “hot” Dr Pepper®, served in polystyrene foam cups with a lemon wedge. Some days, I had Milk Duds®.
In this small Texas town we only got what they call “second-run” movies. And for all the movies I saw at The Grand, I can't remember much about any specific movie. (In high school we’d go to the big city with dates to see "first-run" movies months before they’d ever make it to our small town.)
The movies at The Grand changed twice a week, on Sundays and on Thursdays. Family-oriented, or rather kid-friendly, movies ran Thursday through Saturday. Any movie that had a “more adult” theme of course only played Sunday through Wednesday, when kids were to either be in church or in school.
I’m not exactly sure how we usually got downtown, or how we got back home. I’m assuming a parent would drop us off, and we would later call them to come pick us up. Or we’d just walk. While my family lived close to the edge of town, it was less than two miles away.
Interestingly, it never seemed to matter when the movie started. If you got there during the middle of the movie, you’d just stay until you’d watch the first part later. And on Saturdays, there were always cartoons before the movie. Often, we’d sit through the movie long enough to watch the cartoons twice. I remember that we seemed to roam the theater, sitting in several seats. Sometimes we would sit in the balcony too.
In Colorado the movie theater was The Park, a large white wooden building with red trim and green neon lights. It sat across the street from the old post office, a block off main street. (Built in 1913, The Park is supposedly the oldest theater west of the Mississippi that is still in use showing movies.)
We rarely went to the movies during the summer. Instead our days were usually spent at the community swimming pool, playing baseball, or just hiking in the mountains. As kids, we were pretty much free to roam. In back of our house we had a large “dinner bell” mounted on top of eight-foot metal pole. You could hear it throughout the valley, and mother would ring it when it was time to come home.
However, it was here in Colorado, that I can distinctly remember seeing a particular movie. The movie was The Parent Trap.
I’m not sure what made this movie so memorable when I first saw it. Yes, it's funny; as its promotional themeline says: "It's Stricly a Laugh Affair." However, beyond the laughter, there are several themes in The Parent Trap that have greatly influenced me. Some positively, some negatively. Some clearly fictional, some based on reality.
The movie never explains what caused Mitch and Maggie to get divorced or to make the decision that they’d separate the kids and raise them independently – with different last names – never telling them about their sibling. How did this happen? At the time, I didn’t know anybody that was divorced. It wasn’t until three years later that I actually had a friend whose parents divorced. However, I still have real concerns that kids get abandoned when parents get divorced. And in many ways, it still bothers me.
Kids-of-Privilege Live Differently Than Most (Duh !!!)
I’m sure that part of my attraction to this movie were things that I could relate to: horseback riding at the ranch, eating lunch at the country club, flying around the country going to summer camps. (Don't all kids do these things?)
However, this has generally been a very hard thing for me to deal with. Kids of privilege often have a very unhealthy sense of entitlement ... learning that you have to work for things you want doesn’t always come easily. Plus these kids are regularly labeled “snobs” without having any control over the circumstances. Real friends are often few and far between.
What's a worse slur on the playground? "Fag" or "snob?"
Being a Twin Has Unique Advantages
What can I say? I’ve been infatuated with twins since seeing this movie. (And there’s more than I can even begin to talk about here.)
You Can’t Keep Secrets from Your Domestic Help
If you remember (assuming that you also saw this movie), Verbena -- Mitch’s housekeeper/cook -- knew everything, including all family secrets.
I used to hide the first dirty magazine I ever had under my mattress. It wasn’t just a Playboy; it was hard-core porn. One day it disappeared. Nothing was ever said, but I’m sure I know who found it. Lesson learned.
Plus, if you don’t want others to know that you leave skid marks in your underwear, you had better wash your own clothes.
Blonds ARE Dumb
When I saw this movie again - over a decade later while in college - it struck me that this movie is very male-chauvinistic. Vicky, the young blond that is out to marry Mitch for his money, couldn't have been more stereotypical stupid and selfish. The infamous camping trip is a classic "dumb blond" joke. Even though it’s not politically correct, I still love it. (And Disney is supposed to be known for its tolerance!)
* * *Memorable quote:
Verbena (Ever's Housekeeper): You didn't know what a good thing you had when you had it.
Mitch Evers: Huh?