I have been going to movies, as the majority of you have, throughout the course of my life. Interestingly enough, I started watching films during the golden age of cinema. There were not many big budget films released when I was young. Just a handful each year and a film could stay in a theater for several months, particularly if it was doing well.
Some of my earliest ventures to the movies were Saturday matinees’. They typically played a cartoon that was some 15 to 20 minutes in length and then the feature. In those days sci-fi, westerns or comedies featuring the likes of Abbot & Costello were the norm.
It cost a quarter to attend and popcorn would set you back about five cents.
My first exposure to Shakespeare was ‘Romeo & Juliet’ starring Olivia Hussey and Leonard Whiting. I was ten years old and I sobbed throughout the second portion of the film…loudly. So much so that my sisters moved a few seats down from me at one point and a woman berated me for my outburst.
That was also the era of the drive-in movie theater. The family would pile into the car and head down to the Cascade Drive-In on a Saturday night from time to time and take in a flick. Movies such as ‘Hush Hush Sweet Charlotte’ and ‘The Birds’ were viewed there.
In my teens I would go there with my boyfriend, though we seldom watched the movies being offered. Drive-ins had begun to feature sci-fi flicks on a regular basis and some rather campy flicks, one being ‘Flesh Gordon’ which was a comical pornographic take on the well loved ‘Flash Gordon’ series.
The first multiple theater complex I recall going to was the Capitol 6 on Granville Street. Here I saw movies such as ‘Star Wars’, ‘Enter the Dragon’ and ‘Saturday Night Fever’.
As I got older, the small screen began featuring some of the old B & W’s from the 1950’s and 1960’s. The Late Show came on around midnight. It was during this time that I viewed some of the classics such as ‘Casablanca’, ‘Breakfast at Tiffany’s’ and ‘The African Queen.’
So I will start with the classics. I have just named a few of my favourites from that era. What has always appealed to me with these films is the storylines. I became invested very quickly and developed an emotional connection to the characters. Bogart is one of my all time favorite actors. I have seen him in ‘Key Largo’, ‘The Maltese Falcon’ and ‘Treasure on the Sierre Madre’. He had range and a style that was indelibly his own.
Another one my favorite actors from that time period is Gregory Peck. This guy just always had such a quiet command of the screen. And my all time favorite movie from this time period is ‘To Kill A Mockingbird’.
I have watched this movie more than twenty times. I never tire of it. It’s message is timeless and always relevant. That we witness the stains of humanity such as prejudice, hate and racism in an absurdly blind society through the eyes of a child makes it that much more telling. And the events that she’s experiencing and living through are presented with a rare innocence.
This movie manages to take an honest snap shot of a misguided society. One of my favorite lines from the film that always makes me tear up is set in the courtroom. Atticus Finch (Gregory Peck) is the lawyer representing Tom Robinson who is a black man accused of raping a white woman. The film is set in the deep south.
Jean Louise ‘Scout’ Finch (Mary Badham), is his daughter. She is up in the gallery along with her brother Jem watching the proceedings of the trial. Here is an excerpt from the book with the quote that just gets me every time.
‘The jury takes longer than usual to return its verdict. When it does, however, the verdict is “guilty.” Dumbstruck with disbelief, the children slide sadly into their seats. The lower level of the courtroom empties but the upper level, filled with black people, stand and wait for Atticus to depart. The black spectators respect Atticus for his effort and his obvious convictions.
Scout describes the scene:
‘Someone was punching me, but I was reluctant to take my eyes from the people below us, and from the image of Atticus’s lonely walk down the aisle.
“Miss Jean Louise?”
I looked around. They were standing. All around us and in the balcony on the opposite wall. The Negroes were getting to their feet. Reverent Sykes’s voice was a distant as Judge Taylor’s:
“Miss Jean Louise, stand up. Your father’s passin’.”
There are so many rich moments in this movie that have left a lasting impression. It is not just the state of race relations that occur in this film. There is a character named Boo Radley who is a ‘simpleton’ of sorts. We witness a unique relationship that develops between him and the Finch children. And we witness the prejudice and disdain held for those whose cognitive functions are unfortunately lacking and the effect this can have on an individual and their family.
Shy and reserved, Boo (Bruce Dern) is seldom seen yet his role is pivotal. In an odd turn, justice is meted out.
All in all, this film is fabulous. If you’ve never had the pleasure of viewing this classic, I would encourage to you to do so.