A trip down to the talkies

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I hate to think that I might be boring you with word counts and things, so I will give you a bit of a break and talk about something else to lighten up the conversation.

I’m not sure if you like this kind of comedy, and I know that one person’s opinion (especially mine, as I’m not an expert) doesn’t carry a lot of weight in the grand scheme of things, but I’m going to put this out there: Mel Brooks is probably my all-time comedy hero. The Angry Chef and I recently watched Blazing Saddles, and I couldn’t stop laughing. It’s comedy at its best. If you haven’t seen it, please – put it on your list of things to do when you’re having a bad day.

When Jerry Seinfeld featured Carl Reiner and Mel Brooks in a recent episode of Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee, it really warmed my heart. “I am a prince in my kingdom,” jokes Mr Brooks. I hate to disagree, but I must – to me, he will always be a king.

Mr Brooks’ comedy was a big part of my childhood. It managed to bring three generations of my family together to watch his movies in my grandparents’ living room, all of us laughing at different bits.

Many of the men in my family were in the entertainment business (not show business – there’s a difference). My great-grandfather owned and managed a number of movie theatres in his region, including the largest movie theatre in the country at the time (on the photo above). It opened its doors in 1941, and could seat up to 2,140 people.

I’m sure movies ended up influencing him in some way, because I never knew anyone in his town to dress the way my great-grandfather did. He was one seriously classy, smooth, Al Capone lookalike, all the way down to his two-tone shoes. And in a town that can get up to 42 C in the summer, I think that’s pretty impressive.

My grandfather, his son-in-law, was never part of the business, but he always loved the movies, and we would always walk to a nearby video store together and choose something to watch on weekends, or just sit in front of the TV in the evening after dinner and watch The Three Stooges.

When I was about seven years old, my uncle bought his own video store in the same town where my great-grandfather owned most of his movie theatres. I still remember coming to the video store once it had closed down, walking in through the service entrance and through the “storage room” (read: dumping ground), which my uncle shared with the family business. There were hundreds of old film tins, with the rolls still in them, and the names of the movies written with a thick felt tip pen on the sides. I could only recognize a few of the titles at the time, but I can only imagine what I would have found if I had stayed looking through them. It breaks my heart to remember the strong smell of mold, the humidity creeping through the grey, rough concrete walls. On one side of the room, also moldy around the edges, stood an oil portrait of my great-grandfather, watching over all the movies that had drawn crowds to the theatres.

I know we all look back at memories of our families and they are always either so much better or far, far worse than the reality – memories can play tricky games – but I wish I had had the chance to tell all these men the impact their business and their passion had on my life. They taught me imagination. To each his own, but movies made me dream. I watched as many movies as I could, and instead of trying to discourage me or tell me they were meaningless, they held the cinema doors open for me to enter.

So I wanted to ask you – because it looks like in a second it will be too late – if there is a movie theatre that you like going to, a real neighborhood theatre that can only show one or two films at a time, make the time, buy a ticket and some candy, and please, enjoy being in the darkness as dreams unravel in the big screen.

Thanks for reading, and good night!

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4 comments on “A trip down to the talkies

  1. I believe the movie theater as we knew it is dead and gone.

    And the multiplex isn’t too far behind in the extinction chain. Hard to believe, but someday in the short-to-midterm future we might actually look to the shopping mall multiplex longingly.

  2. […] memorable summer vacations of my childhood. My grandmother had a lot of family there, and it was where I first discovered my love for movies, and where I first tried fruit straight from the tree. The thing I love most about this place is […]

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