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Thursday, July 21, 2016

Movie Memories

One of my favorite theaters

I watched a clip of an old movie with Jimmy Cagney and Bob Hope dancing. What memories it brought back. You can all most likely write about your 'movie memories' which would be a great piece to include in your Family Stories book. 

What kind of theater did you go to? What kind of movies did you like? How did they influence you? Was it a family thing or only for the kids? Did you save your nickels and dimes to spend at the movie theater? Who were your favorite stars? Your favorite kind of movie? Did you go back to see any movies twice. 

Living in suburban Chicago, I had a choice of several theaters but two we could walk to were the ones my girlfriends and I frequented most often. What we loved to do on a Saturday morning was ride the 'el' train downtown so we could attend the morning showing at the Chicago Theater. They had a first run movie and a stage show after the movie with top name celebrities. What a thrill it was for teen-aged girls. We moved on from there the short walk to Marshall Field's for shopping and lunch. 

Here's a short essay I wrote about my family and movies. Maybe it will trigger some memories for you. Don't forget that movies had writers and many movies were adapted from books. 

Movies and Me
By Nancy Julien Kopp

 I grew up in pre-television days. Books and movies were our entertainment in the thirties and forties. Oddly enough, books cost more than movies at the time, so my parents chose movies over reading. They took me with them as it was cheaper than paying a babysitter. We lived in a Chicago suburb and had a choice of several theaters in the surrounding area. Later, when my brothers came along, we took turns going to the movies on Sunday afternoon. Mom and I would go while Dad stayed home with the boys, then he and the oldest boy would zip off to the next showing as soon as Mom and I
returned home. We went in stages until all of us were old enough to sit still and watch the screen together. Back home, we discussed the movies we’d seen.
 Movies were shorter in length, but the theaters generally showed two feature films, a cartoon, a newsreel, and previews of coming attractions. We didn’t have the 24/7 new coverage in those days, so the newsreels played to a very attentive audience, particularly during the WWII years. People wanted to see what the newspaper stories had told of the atrocities of war. The cartoons were not Bart Simpson look-alikes. Instead, we watched Donald Duck and Porky Pig, Sylvester and Tweety, Heckle and Jeckle, the best known crows of the day. The theaters changed programs two or three times a week, and the star-studded previews assured repeat customers.
I remember a period in the forties when polio loomed as a dreaded and rampant disease. Theaters showed a short documentary about the rehabilitative work of Sister Kenny, an Australian nurse. Scenes of polio victims in iron lungs and clutching crutches to walk touched the hearts of all. The lights came on and collection cans were passed down the rows, coins clinking as they moved to the final row. Each coin brought a vaccine one step closer. That miracle vaccine was finally discovered in the mid-fifties by Jonas Salk.
My parents loved westerns, my dad especially. John Wayne rated number one at our house, along with Roy Rogers, Gene Autry, Hopalong Cassidy, and Gary Cooper. When the fifties rolled around, people like Jimmy Stewart, Henry Fonda and Glenn Ford starred in westerns. And who can forget Alan Ladd as Shane? I remember my mother coming home disgusted after seeing Jeff Chandler play the part of Geronimo, the infamous
renegade Indian. “Geronimo didn’t have blue eyes like Jeff Chandler,” Mom said. She wanted reality in her movies.

I liked the movies of those earlier years far better than today. They were meant to entertain us, to take us away from our everyday existence for a little while. We rode along with John Wayne, sand and danced with Fred Astaire and Gene Kelly, and we sighed with longing as Bette Davis and Joan Crawford offered melodrama. We attempted to help Charlie Chan solve a crime. Movies now try to frighten, to delve into the depths of psychology, mystify, or to rack up as many foul words as possible in one film along with baring every inch of he human anatomy. I’ll take a Betty Grable musical any day. Corny as they might have been, they were true entertainment.

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