30

I asked my grandmother about her first trip to the movies. She was born in the Bronx in 1934. She said that the first movie she saw was either a Blondie or Dagwood movie or a Shirley Temple movie. I have no idea which Shirley Temple movie she was talking about, since their were so many during her youth, but the first Blondie film came out in 1938, which would be a likely candidate for her first movie. My Grandmother remembers going to the theatre with her brother and mother. She still goes to the movies often and tries to watch all of the oscar nominated movies every year.

I also asked my mother about her first experience at the movies. She was born in Old Beth Page, NY in 1960. The two movies that she remembered from her early childhood were the The Sound of Music and Bambi. Since The Sound of Music came out in 1965 and Bambi was re-released in 1966, I am guessing that she saw The Sound of Music first. I was not at all surprised that this was her first movie because she is absolutely obsessed with it and could probably watch it multiple times in a single day. There has been more than a few times when I have caught her whistling or singing the songs from that film while doing housework. She said that her grandmother took her and her older sister to see it. Also, she distinctly remembers bringing her little blanket with her to the theatre and sucking her thumb throughout the film. My Mom rarely sees movies anymore, although she'll always beg me to go see any new Jodie Foster films with her. Maybe she reminds her of Julie Andrews.



32

I asked both my mother and grandmother about their first movie experiences and found interesting parallels between the two descriptions. My grandmother, Margaret, was born in a small farmtown in Illinois on December 14, 1929 and calls herself a Depression baby. The economic times were trying, and therefore her parents had considered the theater a wonderful refuge from the troubles of the era. Therefore, when Margaret was old enough, they sent her off to the theater with her older brother and sister, eager to immerse her into the culture that had endured the ups-and-downs of the Great Depression. Although my grandma cannot recall the title of the first film she viewed, she marveled at the price of entry (about 10 cents from her recollection), and remembers getting dressed up. She said going to the theater was a big deal, something that every child and adult considered a fun and rewarding pastime. She also said it was such a common way to spend an afternoon that it became a defining piece of her childhood and adolescence. In fact, she cannot imagine what growing up throughout the '30s would have been like without it. My mom's recollection of her first movie experience was a bit more detailed. She was born in 1960 in a suburb of Chicago, IL and had access to even more culture experiences than my grandmother had. My mom was one of five kids, with one older brother and three younger sisters. Her first trip to the theater was a family affair, and so in 1964, her entire family (siblings and both parents) trekked to the local theater to watch Mary Poppins . My mom recalls getting dressed up and being allowed to pick out a special treat to take into the theater (she picked popcorn). Not long after her first theater excursion, my mom went back to see Help! (1965) for one of her girlfriend's birthday parties. The mother of the birthday girl piled all the girls in the station wagon and brought them to see the Beatles film.It's fascinating for me to hear two generation's worth of movie-experiences and realize how significant the theater's role was in both my mother and grandmother's lives. They both continue to be avid movie-goers, although their tastes are reflective of their ages. As times goes on, it seems the the refined nature of cinema is becoming more and more diluted, but it is so refreshing to hear about an era when going to the movies was a time-honored event.

--posted by KL, 09/06/2009



33

I decided to interview my grandpa, Donald, about his first movie experience. He is currently 84 years old and was born in the year 1925. As a child he grew up in a little village in Batticaloa, Sri Lanka. He remembers being about nine years old when he saw his first film with his two older brothers. He fondly recalls going to see the movie, Tarzan the Ape Man starring Johnny Weissmuller. It was one of the many film adaptations (49 to be exact) based off the novel Tarzan of the Apes written by Edgar Rice Burroughs. The village did not have a permanent movie theater, so he saw this particular movie in a tent at a traveling cinema. His favorite kinds of movies were the ones that "had a good story with some romance thrown in". This answer shocked me as I only remember watching movies with religious undertones at his house Sister Act 2, and the Sound of Music. I also find it amazing that he remembers this experience vividly and used that traveling cinema as a source of entertainment that he did not have otherwise. His small village in South Asia attests to the fact that there was a high demand for movies all over the world during this time period.

--posted by GJ, 09/06/2009



34

My grandmother was born in 1925 in a town just outside Stockholm, Sweden and for her, trips to the movie theater were nice not anything special. She did not remember any one specific trip to the movies but she recalled seeing a number of silent films and was very impressed when she first saw a film with sound that wasn't being produced in the theater. She said that she went the most in her early teens, where she would ride her bicycle with her friends to the theater and make the trip in about 20 minutes. She recalled seeing and thoroughly enjoying Gone with the Wind, which came out in 1939 and fits right in with that period of her life.

-posted by JB, 09/07/2009



35

I interviewed my grandmother about her first time going to the movies. She was born in 1937, and vividly remembers seeing Dumbo . She was four years old. She didn't remember whether the movie was in color or black and white. She has two sisters, one 10 years older than her and the other 12 years older than her, who most likely took her to see the movie. She doesn't remember her parents ever taking her to the movies, but rather having them send her with someone else. She also remembers seeing a movie that she called "Uncle Remus." We looked it up online and found the actual title is Song of the South. She couldn't remember the whole story, but did remember a scene with the animated birds flying around an actor playing Uncle Remus. About the two movies, she said, "It was just a whole new way of looking at things. It was fun! And they were dancing, and they were singing!" Her favorite movies were the love stories. " Even though she doesn't remember the specific stories or outcomes of all of the movies she saw, she remembers all of them as being happy movies that all worked out in the end. She said, "Maybe it's just that I liked the movies. I've always loved movies."

-posted by EH, 09/07/2009



36

Asking my Grandfather about his first movie experience was interesting, because I have always loved movies and he has never shared this particular enthusiasm, with one exception: an extreme fondness for Gone With the Wind . Asking him this first-time movie experience question, I kind of winced, expecting a scolding about how movies are a waste of time; however, he was absolutely thrilled to tell me about his first theater experience. When movies first came to his small town of Keyser, West Virginia, Grand-daddy (born in 1924 and now 85 years old) was not permitted to go to theaters by his parents. His family was not very well-off and simply would not give him money to do so. Around 1941, when Grand-daddy had been able to earn enough money to go to the theaters on his own, him and his friends went to see Gone With the Wind, a desire of his since it had come out two years earlier. His friends had already seen it and he had already been told about the actors, the plot, and even the ending, but he still had a passion to see it for himself.

Walking out of the theatre, Grand-daddy said he thought he had discovered his new line of career in filmmaking. He loved all aspects of the movie and couldn't wait to see more and even delve into the industry himself. However, he said that every movie watched after this one did not live up to Gone With the Wind and was therefore a disappointment. After seeing movies maybe once a week for a couple of months, Grand-daddy quickly changed his mind and didn't want to see movies anymore. These great expectations created by his very first movie explains a lot to me about why he is so averse to them today.


--posted by SB, 09/07/2009



36

I spoke with my grandmother who was born in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania in 1921. She does not remember her first movie going experience but does remember liking Charlie Chaplin films. He favorite films were romantic-comedies from the 30's and 40's. She first mentioned the 1946 film

The Best Years of Our Lives starring one of her favorite actresses, Myrna Loy. She especially loved the Myrna Loy films with William Powell as the co-star. Some of her other favorite male leads were Clark Gable and Humphrey Bogart. She mentioned that during World War II she saw so many war films that she rarely can watch them now despite them being very well made. She said that her favorite movie of the last decade was the 2004 film Sideways because "it was just so funny and you know I like those ones".

--posted by CP, 9/07/2009



37

"I saw my first film when I was 8 or 9, around 1945" my grandma said, when asked about her first film experience. My grandpa, who is older than my grandma, didn't remember much about the first film he saw, but my grandma was so inspired after seeing her first film that she still remembers it vividly.

The film, Meet Me in St. Louis (1944), directed by Vincente Minnelli, remains her favorite film to this day. "It's the best musical!" she said, "It's what turned me on to music."

As a little girl, my grandma related to Margaret O'Brien's character, 'Tootie' Smith, as they both wore their hair in pigtails and had a similar appearance. "It made me want to be a star," she said. So, she learned all of the songs from the film and "wouldn't stop singing them," which "drove [her] family crazy!"

My grandma "almost recalls living in black and white" after WWII in the mid-1940s; she remembers her father's black car, people dressed in gray, and there not being a lot to eat. But films, especially the musicals, brought color and joy to her life. "[Films] put me in another world," she said.

Meet Me in St. Louis was full of interesting and majestic things which my grandma had not had the privilege of experiencing, (the World's Fair, for example), having grown up during the Depression and WWII.

But my grandma's morale and "black and white" perspective on life changed with the popularization of films and the end of the war. "Once the movies came out and people were dancing and singing [in them]... it kind of spread to the people," she said.

My grandma believes that the way films have evolved somewhat negatively since the movies of her youth. "There were always happy endings," she said, "I liked the happy endings and musicals... we just don't have enough of those anymore."

--posted by LS, 9/07/09



38

Born in 1933, my grandfather’s first exposure to film came around 1935 when he watched one of Walt Disney’s early Mickey Mouse films at home. His father, my great-grandfather, was a schoolteacher in Fall River, Massachusetts. Great-Grandpa loved teaching, but supplemented his income by owning a sporting goods store. In addition to selling athletic equipment, he sold projectors, screens, and film. My grandfather remembers that it was very unusual that his family had their own projector and movies, but it was because of his father’s business.

My grandfather’s first memory of going to a movie theater came in 1939 when he went to see The Wizard of Oz at the Durfee Theater in Fall River. According to my grandfather, the “movie house” was the fourth largest in New England at the time. It had an orchestra and two balconies. The film was in Technicolor.

Grandpa spent every Saturday afternoon, “almost without fail,” from the time he was six, seven, or eight years old until the time he was in high school at the movies with a group of his friends. The movie would begin at one o’clock, and it was followed by a “b movie,” a preview for an upcoming movie, and a newsreel. If my grandpa and his friends arrived late at the movies, they would stay at the theater after the news finished to watch what they had missed, since the film played several times a day and their tickets were still valid.

Today, at seventy-five, my grandfather still watches movies on a weekly basis. He has a great aptitude for remembering films—years, directors, actors, etc. He routinely rents old favorites and others that he reads about from his local library. His weekly activity as a boy became a life-long hobby.

---posted by BP, 9/7/09



39

My grandmother was born in 1929 in Chicago. Although she doesn't remember her first movie, she does remember getting a dime allowance to go the the local theater for the Saturday double feature and adventure serial, which was usually Flash Gordon and his adventures with Ming the Merciless. Sometimes there were Western serials. They also loved Shirley Temple movies and the ice skating movies of Sonja Henje, who had won Olympic medals. The dime allowance also covered a box of popcorn, but when they decided to tax movie tickets the allowance was increased so they could afford the 11 cent admission for ticket AND movie. According to my grandma, "We were easily amused because the only other entertainment we had was the radio."

Later on, when she was a senior in high school in Seattle, she remembers ditching school to see Duel in the Sun with Jennifer Jones and Gregory Peck which, to quote my grandma, "was supposedly the sexy movie of the day." However, she recalls, "It wasn't, and we wasted a ditch day."

Her younger sister remembers the first movie she saw being Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs , but the witch was so frightening she had to be taken out of the theater in tears. By that time, their movie admission allowance had been raised to fifteen cents.

--posted by ML, 9/7/09


40

My grandfather was born in a small town in Rumford, Maine, in 1928 at the start of the Great Depression. During these trying economic times my grandfather and his siblings were raised by their single mother. They happened to live one block away from the town movie theater and he remembers going there about once a week. The admission at the time as just ten cents and he would almost always go with his male friends and occasionally would see a movie alone.

The first movie he remembers seeing was Bride of Frankenstein when he was just seven years old. He says he remembers this because his older brother took him to see the movie without their mother’s approval. The movie that is the most memorable of his childhood was the film Mr. Smith Goes to Washington . He also recalls going every week to watch a new chapter in a movie serial, usually a cowboy series.

Most of the movies he remembers seeing almost always had a happy ending. He cites the price of admission and the unappealing storylines as why he does not go to the movies any more. The last time he remembers going to the movies was in 1997 to see Titanic .

--posted by BW, 9/7/09



41

My grandmother spent most of childhood in Cadiz, IL (pop. 1200) where she could attend “the picture show” for free until she turned six in ‘38. During the summer, she would sit on the arm of a chair in the back row and watch the black-and-white Mickey Mouse cartoons that came on before the main show, before running back to sit with her grandmother on their front porch.

One of the first movies that had a strong impact on her was Gone With the Wind Illinois for his entire life. When he was 10 he moved from a very small town to a slightly larger town, one that had a theater, and when he was 11 he saw his first movie at that theater. Though he cannot remember what his very first movie experience was, he does recall that his favorite movies were Westerns - he talks fondly of Gene Autry and Hop-a-long Cassidy. The theater showed romance movies on Sunday, Monday, and Tuesday, and zombie flicks on Wednesday and Thursday - he remembers being scared of these movies when he was younger. On Friday and Saturday the theater showed a double feature of Westerns; my grandfather would go to these with his parents about once a month. The theater had two aisles and sat roughly 150 people. Tickets cost 14 cents for kids and 35 cents for adults. He would usually buy popcorn when he went to the movies - sold to him by his future wife, who worked at the theater (her favorite movies were the Lassie films). Unfortunately, the Town Theater burned down in the 1960s, and the nearest theater to their house is about a 45 minute drive away. As a result, my grandparents don't see very many movies in theaters anymore. Regardless, they both have very fond memories as patrons of early cinema.

--posted by AS, 9/10/09



52

My grandmother grew up in North Bergen, a small town in Northern New Jersey. The small, suburban town housed only two small movie theaters. Though my grandmother does not recall her very first movie theater experience, she remembers, in general, their family trips to the cinema. She was the oldest of her siblings, but she was the smallest. Therefore, once all her siblings finished paying for their tickets, she would go up and pretend to be younger to get the child's priced ticket. Her siblings would pay 25 cents, but my grandma would sneakily get away with paying only 10 cents and 2 cents tax. She was shocked to hear that I paid $10.75 to go to the movies this past summer.

My grandma distinctly remembers watching Walt Disney's Bambi in the theaters when it was released in 1942. Though now it is more difficult for her to make the trip to the movie theaters, my grandma is still an avid movie fan and often rents movies to watch at home.

--posted by MN, 9/10/09



53.

My Grandmother was born in 1923 and has lived her whole life in or just outside of Gadsden, AL. While she tells me she can hardly recall the individual films she watched as a girl, a thing she does remember from her childhood and early teens is the spaces in which she saw the movies. Around her, there were essentially two options if one wanted to see a picture-–she could either go to the closer Hayden Theatre in Gadsen–-“which is now a bank and a parking lot,” and played cheaper, and less varied movies, or she could make the trip one town over and go to the much nicer, much more beautiful Ritz theater, who apparently “started playing sound movies for about half a year before the Hayden picked up on it.” The Ritz still stands today.

When asked what her favorite types of films were, she simply answered "the ones where they sing."

-Posted by CC, 9/10/09