July 4, 2010

Memories in Film

Last night after my husband and I finished watching, for the umpteenth time, Meet Me in St. Louis - one of my favorite movies - and Ma and Pa Kettle had begun, I got antsy pretty quickly. While I'm a fan of The Egg and I, in which Ma and Pa were memorable secondary characters, (and isn't it interesting that Marjorie Main co-starred in the Judy Garland musical...and why did they air what's considered a Christmas movie in July?) I'm less happy watching them as leads in their own stories. Anyway, I started looking ahead and noticed that today, as I'm sure occurs every July 4th on some channel, the musical 1776 was to air.

For many people, songs and meals are the basis for favorite memories. For me it tends to be movies...and where I was and who I was with when I first saw them. The original We're No Angels, for instance, (that's a link to my review of it at B&N.com) was the first "late show" I'd ever seen. My then-boyfriend/now-husband and I were studying for finals in his apartment during the second year we'd been dating, and while I'd previously associated the Late Movie and Late, Late, Movie with something only old people watched, experiencing this terrific and mostly unknown movie starring Humphrey Bogart, Aldo Ray, and Peter Ustinov with the man I loved turned me, immediately, into an old movie fangirl.

My husband and I were together when, a couple of years later, I discovered 1776, a very lengthy theatrical musical turned movie, and we watched it together. He'd seen it before, but for me it was an eye-opening experience because the movie starred so many wonderful actors in roles I'd never imagined, like Blythe Danner and Ken Howard and William Daniels...all singing and bringing the Continental Congress and writing of the Declaration of Independence to life in a magical way.

There are certain movies I associate with different holidays. We try and watch We're No Angels during the Christmas season - and Meet Me in St. Louis as well. This past Christmas we introduced our daughter to the former but never got around to the latter, so watching it last night worked just fine for me. Because of its length, we don't always get to 1776 on the Fourth of July. Strangely enough, the movie I most associate with Independence Day is Young Frankenstein. For years when our daughter was growing up, Jack, my husband's younger brother, and Elise, his wife, brought their two children to our house for a July 4th celebration. Some years into this tradition it was raining, and while we waited to see if the skies would clear in order for us to watch fireworks (which we can see at a local country club from our back yard), we decided to watch a DVD. It did clear up that evening, btw, and the fireworks were spectacular.

For some reason Jack had never seen Young Frankenstein, which is my favorite Mel Brooks movie (heresy in a home with a husband who performed a memorable The Producers scene in high school...so much so that his nickname, and how he introduced himself to me, was Max). So we watched it, and every July 4th thereafter, we watched it. Even during the year when Elise was sick and near death from cancer, she knew how important it was for me to have our annual July 4th celebration, so they came and we ate, then watched the movie as quickly as possible. They didn't make it for the fireworks, but we had that bit of tradition to tide me over in future years and I'm incredibly thankful for her sacrifice.

Tonight will be the first time we don't bring out the Gene Wilder classic, but we'll be watching 1776. I doubt our daughter will last for long - she has yet to fall in love with most old movies, although as a child she adored Audrey Hepburn and Fred Astaire in Funny Face. There's no particular memory associated with that movie for me, but I did fall in love with Fred Astaire movies watching a late show years ago...and it's been a love affair ever since.


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