What kid doesn’t like going to the movies? Whether it was mom taking us downtown on the bus to see a matinee — mostly animated Disney films — or the whole family piling into the car with our picnic basket to see a family friendly show at the drive-in, I loved it.
As a young girl, I only remember going once to a theater with just friends. Toby Tyler, Disney’s hot new release, was showing and a classmate invited me to come. I cried when Mr. Stubbs got shot (Toby’s chimpanzee companion), and then became overjoyed to find out he survived. But I also remember the popcorn smelled awesome that day and the chocolate covered raisins were particularly tempting. In addition, the theater was air conditioned. In the middle of the summer? Sheer luxury.
By the time I was junior high age and we’d moved to the South Grand area of St. Louis, there were several movie theaters within walking distance of where we lived. As I recall, the one we frequented most often was the Melvin Theater on Chippewa Street, several blocks east of Grand Avenue. This theater was popular with our family because they played second run movies and admission was only fifty cents. This appealed to my dad, who shelled out the dough for all of us to get in. The Melvin was about ten blocks from our house, so on nice evenings the whole gang would walk there and back, stopping for Velvet Freeze ice cream cones on the way home.
Another one was the Ritz Theater on Grand at Arsenal Street. I walked past the Ritz often, on my way home from school, because it was in the same block as the Woolworth’s dime store (where my friend and her sticky fingers exited the store with that stolen notebook). I studied the movie posters in the glass cases outside the theater, but most of the time I didn’t have two nickels to rub together, so I was mostly just window shopping.
I remember seeing posters featuring some pretty big names: child star Haley Mills had been wildly successful in both Pollyanna and The Parent Trap in the early 60’s, and by the time I was strolling South Grand, she was releasing The Moonspinners and That Darn Cat. I can’t begin to t ell you how much I adored Haley Mills. I think if I could have waved a magic wand to change myself into her, I surely would have done it. (Fortunately, I was constrained to remain myself.)
The ever popular Elvis had some releases during that period, notably Viva Las Vegas, Fun in Acapulco and Kissin’ Cousins. Being a little too young to have caught the Elvis wave, I thought these movie posters were interesting, but not nearly as compelling as the…
Beatles’ movies! Oh my, I got lightheaded when Hard Day’s Night came to the Ritz. To say that I wanted to see that movie would be a gross understatement. But, as luck would have it, their music was verboten in our household, meaning I would not be buying a ticket to see it. Nor Help! And not Yellow Submarine, either. My dad had made a very big point of the utter uselessness of the British Invasion. Which left me to my reveries while poring over posters of the Lads from Liverpool. But even more sinister than British rock leaping across the Pond, was the…
Bond genre. By the time I was strolling by the Ritz after school, From Russia with Love and Goldfinger were mega blockbusters, raking in a whopping $78 million and $124 million, respectively, in worldwide box office receipts. Connery was 007 back in the day, and he projected an edgy, cool, swaggering playboy persona. I’m confidant I would have gotten off easier had I been caught sneaking off to see a Beatles movie than one of the Bond films. They were sooo off limits for Burns kids. Which explains why I was flabberghasted several years later when a certain brand new fiancé of mine suggested we see the hot new release…
Diamonds Are Forever.
Recently graduated from college, he had moved to Seattle six months earlier. I flew up from Southern California for a visit during the semester break. We had just walked out of the downtown store where we purchased my engagement ring and there, across the street, was a theater marquee emblazoned with the latest Bond flick.
“Hey, wanna go to a movie?”
“Turn around and see.”
A Bond movie? Whoa, he’s not kidding. But I’ve never even seen one. And what would Dad think? Wait… Dad’s not here. And didn’t I just get… engaged? Perhaps I’m an… adult.
He had just slipped a solitaire on my finger, and I was loath to deny this simple request to take in a matinee. Plus giddy over being newly betrothed. Though contemplating such racy behavior felt strange, it didn’t keep me from taking his arm and sachaying across that street and into the theater.
And to my surprise, I enjoyed the movie. Now, I don’t think Bond movies will ever be my favorites — you know, the sheer number of things that get blown up, and all. But if you stop and think about it, it was kind of poetic that we sealed the deal that day with a movie entitled diamonds are forever. That ring sits on my hand even now, next to a wedding band. Barring its loss, the ring will likely outlive us both: an enduring symbol of our grand love affair — one that will transcend our finite existence in a legacy bequeathed to our children, grandchildren and beyond.
Nice flick pick, Sweetie.