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February 06, 2006

Films of our fathers (and mothers)


In the most current entry by Self-Styled Siren, Campaspe writes about her enjoyment of the Marx Brothers. In the comments section Filmbrain notes that he has introduced his young son to the Marxes, finding them funnier at the age of six than when he was four. Maturity will sometimes do that to you. Filmbrain made me think of my own introduction to the Marx Brothers by my own father.

It was not quite fifty years ago, back when most television broadcasts were in black and white, and the number of channels was usually no more than six in the major cities. My earliest memories are from A Night at the Opera. Like most who have seen that film, the stateroom scene is indelible. I also remember the opera performance, most likely because of the familiarity with the song "Take Me Out to the Ball Game". I vaguely recall seeing Monkey Business and laughing at the scene when Harpo goes through customs, but also being puzzled because there were no monkeys as promised in the title.

My other movie memory associated with my father is seeing High Noon with him. I was too young to recognize the political allegory. At the age of six I was just glad to know that my German-born father made a point of watching a western with me. During this time, the only films I saw in theaters were signed by Walt Disney. From my father, I may have gotten the impression that the films to see were either classic comedies from the thirties, or films with serious messages.

While my mother or maternal grandparents took me to the Disney films, I can't remember my mother as having introduced me to any of her favorite films, except indirectly. What I do remember is asking what she was watching and maybe catching a couple of minutes of Letter to Three Wives or Love is a Many Splendored Thing. I also remember arguing with her about wanting to see Gone with the Wind at the age of nine, when the film was re-issued during the centennial celebration of the Civil War. I finally got around to seeing Rhett and Scarlett ten years later when I could enjoy Clark Gable putting Vivien Leigh in her place, and not mind that for a film taking place during the Civil War, there wasn't much in the way of battle scenes.

For a memory of a parent introducing his children to movies, check out Dennis Cozzalio's January 30th entry.

Posted by peter at February 6, 2006 11:54 PM