Maybe it’s the boomer in me. Or perhaps, it has something to do with the fact that I’m the product of a dad who once was an usher at the local movie house I literally grew up in. The celluloid son-of-a-lovin’ father who used to let my mom sneak in the side door of the theatre during the Saturday afternoon matinee just so they could be together. Even when I was born, he asked his best friend and fellow usher at the Coolidge Theatre, Mikey Citino, to be my godfather when I was baptized. Who knows? Whatever it is or was, I don’t care. I love movies.
As a kid, for me, goin’ to the movies was like goin’ to church. It was something special. I remember my older cousin, Eddie Cassassa, taking me to the show, when I was about 4 or 5. I’ll never forget him sitting me in the front row, to watch Boris Karloff in “Frankenstein,” one fine Saturday afternoon. I was scared stiff and loved every minute.
A few years later, it was the same cousin Eddie who got us thrown out of the theatre during a matinee of “The Devil at 4 O ‘Clock” starring Frank Sinatra and Spencer Tracy. He laughed his ass off as the usher escorted us to the exit door, while I was just humiliated. Like gettin’ thrown outta church!
Another time, when I was 8 years old, I spent the entire week of the Christmas vacation from school going to see “The Guns of Navarone” during the matinee shows. How I would beg my mother for the seventy five cents so I could go again and again. Sitting there in the dark, sometimes with a friend or other days alone, when I couldn’t get anyone to come along. Looking up at that beautiful silver screen, watching Gregory Peck, David Niven, Anthony Quinn and the other members of that magnificent cast in that great, classic adventure. I do believe Irene Papas may have been my first movie crush. Man, those days were the absolute best.
The seeds of me wanting to be an actor were planted way back when. I thank God for that.
Movies. Movies. Movies.
So many terrific movie memories at The Coolidge. Sean Connery “Dr. No,” Kirk Douglas “Spartacus,” Burt Lancaster “The Young Savages,” Jerry Lewis “The Delicate Delinquent” — which, by the way, also starred a young Dick Bakalyan who went to high school with my mom and dad. When I moved to LA in ’75 to seek my fame and fortune, I looked up Dick, who gave me some sage acting advice telling me, “Kid, this business is like tryin’ to climb up a hill of coal in white pants and keep ’em clean”. Dickie B. Stand up guy. Cool actor. Good friend.
Yeah, I grew up loving movies. The kind of movies they show on TCM.
For movie lovers of all ages, there’s no place on earth quite like Turner Classic Movies. A virtual film oasis in the desert for millions of Americans somewhere over the rainbow. A place where we can sit back, forget our troubles for a few hours, and enjoy the show.
The beauty of TCM, is how the films are presented uncut and commercial-free. On many occasions letterboxing is the format of choice allowing the audience to experience the film in it’s original splendor. There’s a short featurette which runs on TCM from time to time narrated by Martin Scorsese which explains the importance of letterboxing films.
We, the adoring fans, get to see these films as they were presented in the theatres where we first fell in love with them. Sweet.
Then there’s TCM host, Robert Osborne…movie lover and gentleman extraordinaire. Mr. Osbourne keeps it simple, keeps it classy. Always providing tidbits to share with his audience about “our next feature.” For my money, Robert Osborne is Mr. TCM.
As I said, I love movies and believe it or not there once was a time when I used to go to the show a couple of times a week. Not any more. The pickins’ are very slim these days. I’d rather watch my oldies but goodies on TCM. As the saying goes: They just don’t make ’em like they used to.
And despite my kicking and screaming going into the 21st century with new technology, I’m extremely grateful for DVR. TiVo, if you will. Love the fact that I can just press the record button and one of my TCM favorites, or something I haven’t seen yet, is right there for me to enjoy in the comfort of my own home any time of the day or night.
Right now in my TCM queue, I have all set to go “A Man for All Seasons,” “Mean Streets” (the movie I went to see some 50+ times when it came out in ’73, pretty much sealing my fate as an actor and convincing my mother I was absolutely nuts), “The Party,” “Harold and Maude,” “The Last Detail,” “Mr. Smith Goes to Washington,” “The Delinquents,” (Robert Altman’s first film starring none other than Dick Bakalyan) and my all time favorite, “On the Waterfront.”
Life is good.
And yeah, while the days of sitting in the darkness of those wonderful movie palaces watching the greats are ever so quickly fading away, I’m so glad we have TCM.
To which I would close with a simple request to the powers that be at Turner Classic Movies, to please…please keep it simple. Keep it classy. For movie lovers all across this land, let’s try to keep politics out of it. Up to now, you’ve been doing fine. Robert Osborne is the standard bearer for what a good host should be. Let’s not blow it with this Ben Mankiewicz character, who, for whatever reason, can’t seem to find a way to keep his politics to himself, as he recently demonstrated with his promo for “A Face in the Crowd.”
Movie lovers and those who love them will thank you for it. Watch. You’ll see.