Dawn Reader

Dawn Reader
from Open Door Coffee Co.; Hudson, OH; Oct. 26, 2016

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Trashy Movies: Part 1

There was one of those "try-this" memes circulating on Facebook the other day--you know the kind: list your favorite books ... how many of these songs can you sing? ... etc. ...?  Well, this one asked participants to check how many of the most popular 75 films (1980-1995) they'd seen. I got 60 (80%, a B-).  Here's a link to the site if you want to try it.

One of my good FB friends completed it, too, got 20/75, and said she was "proud of it."

That made me stop and think ...  My film-going habits are a little ... inconsistent. (The same guy who reads and writes about Shakespeare goes to see Jason Statham movies?!?!) When I now and then "check in" on FB when I'm attending a film, I sometimes get "concerned" messages from FB friends, messages that say something like this: "Why did you go see that?"  Good question--one that Joyce has been asking me for more than forty years. (At trashy movies, she also makes sure I don't tag her--letting her friends know that she, too, is sitting in an auditorium about to watch something inexcusable.)

Well, back to that popular film list: Because the films were "most popular," many of them were sort of (or completely) trashy. And so I asked myself, "Why do you go see so many trashy movies? ... At your age!"

Let's backtrack a little bit through my biography. Most of the films I saw as a kid (1950s) were kind of trashy--principally because Hollywood didn't make many of the other kind. And films from outside the United States we simply called "foreign films" (translation: can't make sense out of them), but they weren't really an issue. Not many (any?) came to the Southwestern towns where I grew up--Enid, Okla., and Amarillo, Tex.

But there was a whole category of films called "B" movies--generally cheap productions with minor Hollywood stars. I loved the B Westerns, though, and often went to see them on Saturdays. In Enid, kids
Johnny Mack Brown
could get into the Saturday matinees for two Royal Crown Cola bottle caps and a dime. There, you'd see a newsreel, some cartoons, and a double-feature, generally cowboy movies ("Horse operas," my dad called them--or "oaters.") Johnny Mack Brown, Rex Allen, Bob Steele, et al.--these were the "stars" of those movies, all of which were filmed on the same back lots in California. You'd see the same scenery in film after film.

When TV became more pervasive, these old B Westerns (and other B movies) became the staples of the non-prime-time TV hours--so I watched them again and again. We got our first TV set in the early 1950s but couldn't use it during our two years in Amarillo (1952-1953) because Amarillo had no TV stations. Enid, though, had one--and could pick up two others in Oklahoma City--on good days.

So ... EXCUSE #1 FOR WATCHING TRASHY MOVIES: I grew up with them; I am ... emotionally attached to them; they are as much a part of me as my fondness for Oklahoma's red dirt (if not for the state's politics). They are like family--not always what you want (or what's good for you), but, you know, you still have to show up at Thanksgiving.


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