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My Cinematic World

Submitted by Albin Johnson - July 30, 2007

A few years ago "Minonktalk" published a story by Dave Uphoff and Martha Cunningham about the defunct and forgotten Minonk Theatre. To many, it must have brought back many fond memories of the golden age of movies. The early movies were so simple, so righteous, so moral and so easily understood. Included with the movies were cartoons, current news, and a continuing "cliff hanger" serial. There were Saturday matinees and the occasional blackouts when the film broke or it finished the reel. For a small town boy, this was what dreams were made of.

Two Minonk Theatre moments I remember most were first, "Gone With The Wind" in 1939. My folks didn't frequent the movies much, but with all the hype over this movie, Mom talked Dad into going and taking me. I remember that we were seated in the direct center of the room; I had always sat on the aisle in the back. This movie was so long, they needed an intermission for changing the reels. Even at my tender age, I was really impressed! I don't remember if Rhett Butler's closing comment, "Frankly Scarlet, I don't give a damn" was bleeped out. The other movie that I really don't want to remember was the start of its second showing that found me in the back sitting with a new girl friend. Before I could get the courage to put my arm around her, the usher put his light on me and there was my Mother sharply telling me it was past my curfew. That one still burns deeply in my soul.

I have written before about "Fate and Pheromones" and whether or not they can direct any part of a person's life. This may be a bit of a stretch, but if I think back, sometimes I can imagine that certain movies have helped shape my life. Probably not in a "Kismet" or "Divine Destiny" way, but a good movie and good music can overcome sadness and hardship with smiles and relaxation. Now, those early Friday night shows have been replaced with dining out and home by 7 pm in order to watch TV and trying to stay awake until 10.

Back to movies that were big during my younger years. One very memorable movie that I have no difficulty recalling, (an oxymoron), was "The Robe" The date was November 14th 1953, and the place Providence, Rhode Island. Friends Eldon and Joanne Krug were with us. Actors Richard Burton and Victor Mature were emoting with their strong rolls, but none stronger than the timed "pangs" my wife Marilyn was experiencing. We soon were on our way to the Naval Hospital at Quonset Point where our first child Malora, was delivered on November 15th.

Moving on, some other movies that had some impact on my psyche. Westerns now called "Oaters" were big when I was younger. Standard fare was, homesteaders - good; Indians - bad; light colored 10 gallon hats - good; black 10 gallon hats - Bad; Sheriffs - good; Rustlers - bad; camp fire stories - boring; singing cowboys - worse; fast drawing cowboys - alive; slower ones - dead. It didn't take long for me to out grow Gene Autry and Roy Rogers and Hopalong Cassidy and even the Lone Ranger. Then came Hero fare. Mighty John Wayne and Ronald Reagan who gained popularity with the "Older" crowd and thus began the "Adult" Western. The movie "Shane", with shy Alan Ladd was good. In 1952, the movie "High Noon" came out along with a very notable song that warned us not to "Forget me oh my darlin." An interesting political sidelight from that time was Sen. Joe McCarthy and an "unknown" Nixon who were in their "Communist" hunting mode and taking on all those liberal "Reds" in the movie industry.

Then there was, "The Misfits" with blond Marilyn Monroe. "OOH" and "Bronco Billy" with Clint Eastwood. "Double OOH" Enough of Westerns. Moving on, I will now list some of the more memorable movies I have gone to see. I confess that after College-Navy-College, and moving to Los Angeles, I fell for all the hype and went to see the R rated movie in 1957 starring Brigette Bardot titled "And God Created Woman". Yes, it was terribly over hyped. Later in 1965, my wife and I went to the world wide premier opening of the movie "Doctor Zhivago" at the Pantages Theatre in Hollywood. WOW!! I even entertained the idea of taking "balalaika" lessons. We did buy a record of the wonderful music that still brings shivers to my spine. I have seen the movie since 2 or 3 times and consider it second only to GWTW.

After reading this far, I am sure you have noticed that the movies I have
written about will have theme music attached to the plot. Yes, I find that the ones that make me feel some emotion for the story will have memorable dramatic or romantic music. It is only fitting that I now list the movies I think are the very best.

"Lawrence of Arabia" 1962, A desert classic, featuring music that sets the pace and action throughout the whole picture.

"2001 Space Odyssey" 1966, A science fiction marvel that features a soft spoken computer named HAL (IBM) is a bit troubling, but I'll bet any High School or College Marching Band can play this theme song from memory.

"Patton" 1970, a hell of a great movie with or without music.

"Jesus Christ Super Star" 1973, A controversial movie as well as a play, but I loved it. It is the music that carries the story. You do know that story? I will often put on the disc, Amp up the sound, sit back and ENJOY!!!

" The Rose" 1979, Bette Midler is supreme in a quintessential movie about the Rock and Roll generation. She could have lived that part! The music and her singing are at the top of my favorite list.

This top pick premiered in 1999 and requires a bit of viewer patience. There are several foreign languages spoken, a touch of nudity, and it bounces around all over the World and that can be confusing. You can overlook all this in order to realize that you are hearing violin master Joshua Bell playing such wonderful music. The title? "The Red Violin"

"Phantom of the Opera" The Stage versions of this fantasy are still playing around the country. When I want a real sensation, I put on the disc, set the volume to make the dishes rattle, and ride those fantastic singing voices. The recordings of the music from the original cast are the best.

I conclude my favorites with this one of a kind movie without theme music. I played HS basketball way back in 1948 in Minonk. "Hoosiers", A 1986 movie, that for me is a delightful memory of the music of the crowd, the band, the bouncing ball, the cheerleaders, the real joy of winning and the awful truth that some team did lose.