Doodad Kind of Town


Happy Father’s Day!!!
June 15, 2008, 3:17 pm
Filed under: Uncategorized

Just a quick post to send a “Happy Father’s Day” greeting to all the dads out there, particularly those among my fellow movie bloggers. Hope you’re having a wonderful day.

I’d also like to acknowledge my wonderful dad today, first and foremost because he is a great, supportive, loving Dad. But, this being a movie blog, it’s also fitting to note that it was my father who instilled in me his own love of movies.

When I was little, my Dad and I would watch Laurel and Hardy comedies together on TV. Sunday afternoons were spent tuned into “Family Classics” on Chicago’s WGN station, where I was introduced to everyone from Shirley Temple (in “Heidi” and “Wee Willie Winkie”) to Charles Laughton (“The Canterville Ghost,” “Mutiny on the Bounty”) to Spencer Tracy (“Captains Courageous,” “Boy’s Town”) and numerous others. On Friday nights, he and my brother and I would stay up watching old horror flicks like “Dracula” and “Bride of Frankenstein” on WGN’s “Creature Features.” He made TV screenings of movies ranging from “Ben Hur” to “The Great Race” into major family events.

I also believe it was my father who took me to my first foreign film. My memory is a teeny bit cloudy on this point, but I do recall him taking me to see Pasolini’s “The Gospel According to St. Matthew” on Easter Sunday when I was about 7 or 8 years old. Of course, I didn’t know anything about Pasolini or his Marxist slant on Jesus at the time; all I could have told you was that the film was different from other Jesus movies I’d seen on TV in that: 1) it was in Black and White; 2) Mary didn’t look anything like the Mary statues I’d seen in church; and 3) it was a little boring. (It still blows my mind that this movie made it to my local, small-town theatre at all.)

Dad is a die-hard Peter Sellers fan, and throughout my childhood and adolescence, whenever a new Sellers movie came out, he’d take the whole family to the nearest “city” (Lafayette, Indiana) on opening weekend. We’d typically go to the all-you-can-eat Friday night fish fry at Wag’s Restaurant, then on to the evening show of “Return of the Pink Panther” or “Pink Panther Strikes Again” or whatever was debuting at the time. There were more family TV viewings of Sellers classics like “The Party,” “A Shot in the Dark” and “The World of Henry Orient” – as well as lesser lights such as “After the Fox.” When I showed him the HBO film “The Life and Death of Peter Sellers,” I think he was genuinely dismayed to see his favorite actor portrayed as such a selfish, cold-hearted prick.

Whenever I visit my parents, Dad will inevitably greet me with “Hey, have you ever seen…” and go on to describe some movie he’s discovered or rediscovered on TV lately, often pulling out a VHS tape he’s made so I can see it for myself. He took great amusement introducing me to “Gone are the Days!,” featuring a very young Alan Alda as a Deep South dimwit with an over-the-top hillbilly accent, as well the spectacle of Buddy Hackett in the redneck drama “God’s Little Acre.” He also introduced me to the World War II weepies “The Hasty Heart” (with Ronald Reagan and Patricia Neal befriending terminally ill Scottish soldier Richard Todd) and “Bright Victory” (starring Arthur Kennedy as a blinded veteran returning to his proper, racist Southern hometown and finding it no longer feels like home.) Very good movies, both.

I haven’t been inside a movie theatre with my dad in years – he says movies today are “garbage” and who am I to argue with him? Our most recent shared movie experience was watching a DVD of “Mr. Bean’s Holiday” on Christmas Eve. Not a great cinematic event, but my parents were the ones who introduced to Rowan Atkinson’s original TV series on PBS and it seemed fitting to bring the latest Mr. Bean flick home for them.

Here’s to my movie-loving Dad!!! Thanks for everything you’ve done for me, and all the great and less-than-great movies you introduced to me. I have wonderful memories of it all.

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