Saturday, November 26, 2011

Movies with Mom

Though sometimes I didn't think so, I was lucky to be the youngest of four.  Yes, I suffered the "slings and arrows" of teasing and having food stolen off of my plate by older siblings because I was "little," but I also benefited from the experiences of my siblings and from having built-in playmates and companions.  Sharing a small bathroom was tough, but it taught me something about compromise and cleanliness.  At least I think it did.

But being the youngest meant that eventually - as my siblings grew up and spent more time with friends or doing other activities - they needed my parents' attention less and less. I was there to soak it all up.  One way that manifested itself was in movies. 

Mayfield Road Theater, Little Italy, Cleveland, OH
Photo from
Usually it was me and both parents who headed out after dinner to see the latest films, but on nights that my dad was away traveling, mom and I would often plan something special. After a quick dinner out, we'd drive to one of the revival movie houses in Cleveland - the Cedar-Lee or perhaps the cinema at Case Western Reserve University.  Mom picked the classics; movies that she had loved and remembered fondly. 

Close on the heels of having finished the epic book, Gone With the Wind, we drove down to Cleveland, fortified ourselves with popcorn and candy and tucked into the worn magenta velvet seats at the Mayfield Theater in Little Italy to watch the four-hour film on the big screen.  What a beautiful sight: the costumes and characters, the plantation houses, the raging fire in Atlanta - - and Vivien Leigh.  She embodied Scarlett and I thought she was the most beautiful woman in the world.  I can still smell the buttery-popcorn aroma as mom and I walked around the lobby getting the kinks out during the intermission. 

Then there was The Red Shoes.  Another tortured romantic drama that didn't end so well.  This was during the height of my Mikhail Baryshnikov obsession so a ballet-themed movie was perfectly suited to a moody, besotted teenager.  I remember the vivid, garish colors of the film - and wondering why the doomed heroine didn't ditch her wafty, whining boyfriend and just happily dance herself to death with those magical red shoes!

One of mom's more interesting choices was La Strada, a Fellini film (which meant nothing to me at the time).  I struggled a bit at first with the subtitles, but found myself completely drawn into the bizarre and tragic flavor of the film.  It haunted me for days afterwards.

How would these films hold up today?  GWTW remains one of the few movies that has aged well and also lives up to the complexity and flavor of the book.  The Red Shoes and La Strada would probably not stand up to second viewings, but it doesn't matter.  I don't need to see them again.  What was and what remains priceless was having that one-on-one time with my mom, finding out a little something about her and imagining what she might have been like as a girl my age.  Maybe she had been just like me.


  1. While we were here with my mom this summer, she insisted that Annie see Gone With the Wind. It had been years for me, too. It really does hold up, especially compared to other films of the era.

    She told us the story of her sister, who died as a young woman in her 50's. She wanted to see Meet Me in St. Louis again, since it had been her favorite movie as a kid. After they watched it, she wondered what did I ever think was so great about that movie? I guess sometimes we have to go there, and sometimes we know better.

  2. Movies were big for us growing up too, now adays it's just too expensive, and the mulit-cinema theaters are so sterile. I miss the small theaters with their red velvet seats and balconies.
    - ourhometoyours

  3. Love old movies. I think many of them hold up quite well. "La Strada" is one of my 22-year-old daughter's favorites.

    When I was a kid and my dad was in the army, we lived in a US housing area in Germany. Our local American movie theater showed movies for 25 cents. My brother and I saw so many movies while we lived there. They probably weren't first run, but we didn't know the difference.

  4. What a great memory.
    I still remember seeing Gone With the Wind. What a classic! My mom checked the book out of the adult section of the library (I was in 8th grade and only 9th grade and up could read adult books), and I loved the book just as much as the movie.

  5. As a young child, remember going to the cinema every Saturday afternoon (when it was specially for the kids, at a special price). Saw some great ones, loved the musicals particularly and some of the animal ones too. These days, it's so much easier now one has a wheelchair (for husband) to contend with, to sit in one's own armchair and watch the movie when it comes out on a DVD! That's progress, I guess!


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