Sunday, March 27, 2011

Dear Donnie...

"Hey! I quit OD. Eyes gone really bad since cataract surgery - shouldn't have done it. So, I don't get on the computer much anymore. Tires eyes/me out too much.

"Anyway - - - I saw 'Singing in the Rain' at a drive-in in Dallas with a bunch of cousins. Now, THAT says something about MY age. PBS did a very interesting documentary on drive-ins not long ago. Or was it Showtime? No matter; if you get a chance to watch it (whatever channel it's on), be sure to do so.

"E. Taylor was, as they say/said, the most beautiful woman in the world."

Donnie (March 27, 2011 1:14 PM)

Dear Donnie -

Thanks for stopping by and leaving these comments!

That's really too bad about your eyes. I hope things improve for you as time goes by. And I hope your visual memories of "Singing in the Rain" remain as vivid as ever. That's a great show!

I missed that documentary about drive-ins. Sounds neat!

I was never a huge fan of drive-ins, but like a lot of other things (such as portable washing machines) they were odd enough to make an indelible impression on me - and their demise is proof that things really *do* change over time. (It seems I can never get enough proof of that.)

According to my copy of this book -

- Richard Hollingshead opened the world's first drive-in in Camden, New Jersey in the early 1930s. By the late 1940s some 743 were scattered across the country. By 1956 there were 5000. They allegedly peaked at about 6000 in 1961. By 1991 only about 900 remained in business.

I'm told that as cities expanded, the land these drive-ins were on was too valuable to be used for a business that operated only at night (and only part of the year in the north). That I knew. The authors go on to say that Daylight Savings Time proved deadly, too. Most of the country adopted DST by the late 1960s and that pushed movie start times to 9pm or later - not good for those folks who had to get up early the next day to go to work. (The authors also claim that more places became available for teens to have sex, but I wouldn't know anything about that.)

Cable TV and the VCR probably did the most to kill 'em. Why go out and sit in a car for hours on end to watch a movie when you can just pop a tape into a machine with pause and rewind buttons?

Now the video stores are all dying, thanks to Netflix and the Internet. Our two local Blockbusters just recently shut down. The closest has already been torn down. (A bank is being built on the site - but how long before online banking kills it off?)

It was big news of course when the first video stores opened. I was living in Dayton at the time, circa 1984. The first tapes I rented from the ludicrously small shop that displayed its wares singly along one long wall were "Metropolis" and "Let It Be" - things that didn't pop up on broadcast TV very often (if ever). It was probably the most fun I'd had with a cathode ray tube since the release of Pong nearly 10 years earlier....

As for Elizabeth Taylor.... She always did strike me as being supernaturally beautiful - much more so than the cartoonish Marilyn Monroe ever did. Or Jean Harlow, Betty Grable, and Rita Hayworth (who always seemed to me to reflect the tastes of a very different generation). Elizabeth at her peak seems to transcend time somehow.

I once had a book that called her The Last Movie Star. That's how I've thought of her ever since. That's not to say she was a great actress or a great celebrity but... the last iconic visage and larger-than-life personality worthy of a huge screen or a wall-size poster. It's hard for me to imagine anyone wanting a wall-size poster of Meryl Streep or Julia Roberts, but maybe that's just my old age talking.

I don't think so, though, since I've felt this way since about 1970. Stars like Elizabeth and Humphrey Bogart and John Wayne and Cary Grant and (perhaps last but not least) Paul Newman seem to have had something that Steve McQueen and Robert Redford and Dustin Hoffman and Robert De Niro (let alone Tom Cruise) just don't. Maybe it was something manufactured by the studio system, maybe it was something generated in my mind by their having first become iconic in glorious black and white, or maybe I'm just being delusional (as my SO seems to think). Whatever the case, in my mind at least she'll always remain as perfect as a 1956 Chevy in a world of ugly SUVs and cookie cutter econo-boxes.

Well, as perfect as a 1956 Chevy that allgedly once aborted Frank Sinatra's child can be, anyway....

(NOTE: My SO has reminded me that Mickey Rooney still lives and has earned the right to be called the last movie star. This claim would be much more persuasive if Mickey had ever seemed like a star to me at all rather than like a kid who snuck into MGM when the guard was out to lunch.)

(NOTE 2: My SO has also reminded me that I'm terribly opinionated for someone who has never been crowned king. I plead guilty as charged but ask that the members of the jury visit me for an in-house demonstration of my ability to back those opinions up with a wild waving of my cane before they recommend a sentence.)


  1. Dayton!

    I like how the elephants in front are generously kneeling so the elephants in back can see.

    I still go to the drive-in. Must be a rural thing nowadays. Two movies for the price of one and you can bring your own snacks!

  2. Does your SO have anything to say about posting a picture of elephants at a drive-in without citing a source?

  3. Thank you, DJ!

    I definitely agree with you regarding movie "stars". I recently bought the DVD, "The Verdict", with Paul Newman and of course watched the Special Features on the disc. Seems that Robert Redford had been offered the part of the broken down, drunken lawyer and he wanted it but he wanted the script changed "somewhat".

    By the time he finished red marking the script, the story was completely different. Our ustabe golden haired boy just can't seem to portray anyone any way other than handsome, heroic, or incredibly intelligent.

    Paul Newman made brilliant work of that movie. One of his best, imho.

    Again, thanks.