Preferred Citation: Rosenbaum, Jonathan. Moving Places: A Life at the Movies. Berkeley:  University of California Press,  c1995 1995.


Moving Places

A Life at the Movies

Jonathan Rosenbaum

Berkeley · Los Angeles · Oxford
© 1995 The Regents of the University of California

To the memeory of Louis Rosenbaum

Preferred Citation: Rosenbaum, Jonathan. Moving Places: A Life at the Movies. Berkeley:  University of California Press,  c1995 1995.

To the memeory of Louis Rosenbaum

Looking Back at Moving Places

This book marks one of the last gasps of an era of moviegoing and movie theaters that ended with the widespread use of VCRs. In fact, I'm not even sure it would have been written if video had been at my disposal in 1977, back when it was still a tributary of film rather than the other way around. Although Moving Places was written partly out of a sense of personal necessity—a need to connect my early adulthood as a film critic in the 1970s with my movie-drenched childhood and family life in the 1940s and 1950s, which came from my family running a small chain of theaters in Alabama—it was defined, in large measure, by its research tools. And these consisted of TVs, audiocassettes, libraries, film archives, and—no less important—subjective recollections from a few contemporaries about the same movies I was writing about.

VCRs were certainly around at the time, as were certain forms of video projection; see, for instance, the references to Advent screens in the last three chapters, which already sound a little dated. I was even writing about video as a journalist to support my writing of Moving Places . Among the articles I wrote for American Film in order to pay the rent was a little piece of spite for that magazine's new section "The Video Scene" in the November 1979 issue. My polemic was mockingly flanked on both sides by advertisements for "classic films" on video and it said in part,

I can't yet afford any of these exciting gadgets, so I might be affected just a little by sour grapes. As a practicing film critic, I can't help but envy those who can examine and study the films I write about at a closer range than I have available to me. Even if, by my reckoning, none of my favorite films qualify exactly


as "films" on videotape (I'd sooner regard them as ghosts of movies I once knew, or as snapshots of friends I'll hopefully meet again), these hybrid reproductions could assist my work in countless ways.

No doubt they could—and in fact did after I bought a VCR about five years later. But if I'd had this luxury in the late 1970s, this book would have had a different historical address—and, I suspect, a less valuable one. For the mindset I was working from was one closely allied to what film theorist Raymond Bellour was calling, in an article of the same title published in the Autumn 1975 Screen, "the unattainable text." This was what still gave movies much of their magic and pungency—the slim likelihood in most cases that one would ever see them again—and what made Moving Places for me a sort of romantic quest.

Like many other romantic quests of the 1970s, mine was essentially rebellious and countercultural in spirit. To rediscover the 1950s, I was consciously adopting and emulating many attitudes associated with the 1960s: a sensual curiosity looking for adventure and willing to take risks; an open and skeptical mind; a taste for hallucinogens combined with other hedonistic impulses; a political agenda behind my explorations that could be summed up by a line from Yeats (also used as the title of a beautiful Delmore Schwartz story set in a movie theater), "In dreams begin responsibilities"; a utopian feeling for community; and, perhaps most countercultural of all, a passion for recovering vestiges of my lost innocence. Michael Herr's powerful book about Vietnam, Dispatches, came out in paperback while I was writing Moving Places, and became one of my reference points—an exemplary way of making a head trip out of a contemporary subject.[*]

The methodology I followed in preparing Moving Places consisted of several procedures, most of them carried out concurrently: (a ) poring over the movie advertisements from about 1947 through 1959 in my hometown paper and copying down titles, dates, theaters, and other information about everything I could remember seeing and whatever else that seemed potentially interesting (sometimes looking through the rest of the paper to see what else was going on at the same time, a method most obviously followed in relation to my treatment of Bird Of Paradise ); (b ) going through family scrapbooks and other surviving records (diaries, appointment books, letters, etc.) to pin down other memories and dates; (c ) seeking out former employees of the theaters for extended conversations (leading to photographs of the theaters that I had despaired of ever finding by other means); and (d ) looking for opportuni-

* I sent Herr a set of galleys prior to the book's publication in fall 1980, a couple of months before Reagan was elected President for the first time. When I met Herr years later, I was pleased to discover that, thanks in part to relatives of his own who ran movie theaters, he had felt a rapport with my book as well.


ties to re-see movies I hadn't seen since my childhood, most often as a technique for bringing back and thus clarifying my original responses.

Operating instinctively, and not even sure where all this activity was taking me, I regarded this research as a safety net in relation to the actual writing of the book. As someone steeped in modern jazz, I tried to improvise my writing over these factual backdrops the way a jazz musician solos over fixed chord changes, and if I wound up overfetishizing certain dates and place-names, as some readers would later claim, this is because they represented for me guarantees of a certain kind of bedrock truth—the very kind that made speculation and analysis possible.

For the reader, of course, they may tend at times toward distracting clutter. But I'd prefer to think that collectively they function like thumbtacks, holding the text against something more solid, like shared history. For as writer Paul Schmidt pointed out while Moving Places was still being written, the book proceeds from the premise that when we see a movie, the place in time and space and the moment in our age and consciousness determine, to a great extent, what the movie means to us. If reading a book is a private process that catches us up in a flow of imaginary time, "reading" a film, at least in the public space of a theater, is something much closer to a social act. It's a social act, moreover, that, as Paul put it in a burst of Bazinian insight, "moves us through imaginary spaces filled with real people and things." Or at least it did before morphing—a technique involving video pixels, first employed in Terminator 2: Judgment Day (1991)—came into use and put all us Bazinians out of business. (The moment you can substitute one pixel for another within a single take, the whole notion of camera reality—including "real people and things"—goes out the window.)

As to how this project initially took formation, two crucial factors were a sympathetic editor, Cynthia Merman, met during a previous project, and a $5,000 grant. The previous project was André Bazin's Orson Welles: A Critical View, which I translated and edited for Harper & Row while I was living in London during the mid-1970s. By the time the book went to press and Cynthia took over the project from a departing colleague, I was living in San Diego. After two quarters there in a film-teaching slot (my first), I wasn't rehired and needed to find something else to do with my life. I was advised that certain National Endowment in the Arts art criticism grants were available to film critics and submitted a proposal in which I sketched a plan for a relatively conventional book combining material about my family's background in film exhibition with a more contemporary look at American moviegoing.


On the happy day I discovered I'd be getting the grant, something closer to the book as it now exists—a more personal and experimental project, involving a reencounter with American life after many years abroad—suddenly swam into view.

Six months later, after I had finished drafts of the first two chapters, Cynthia seemed the most logical person to show them to. Her encouraging response, combined with two favorable reader's reports, eventually led to a contract. I should stress that this succession of events added up to the most gratifying vote of confidence I have ever received as a writer. It even did more for me than my NEA grant in one crucial respect: for the first and only time in my career, I was being professionally authorized to produce literature.

When I embarked on Moving Places, I had been writing film criticism with some regularity for about six years, although not yet as a weekly reviewer for any publication. In fact, the nature of my project wasn't so much metacritical as anticritical—not just because the movies commanding most of my attention had no critical status of any kind but also because the aspects of them that preoccupied me were precisely those that criticism ignored or repressed. As Raymond Durgnat noted in his review of the book for Wide Angle (vol. 4, no. 4, 1981, p. 76), "High film culture quickly disowns the child. Rosenbaum writes for him." Part of this "high film culture" consisted of recent theoretical writing about film: ideological, historical, formal, "structural," and psychoanalytical studies that were appearing in the quarterly Screen when I was living in London. This material undoubtedly formed a sort of backdrop to my experiments even if I was refusing to play by most of its academic rules—indeed, flouting its puritanical resistances to pleasure and its institutional avoidances of the personal.

Still more influential was my former activity as a fiction writer for a good two-thirds of my life. More precisely, a good bit of the book was built on unholy alliances between literary and cinematic references, starting with William Faulkner and Carl Dreyer (and Faulkner and Walt Disney) in the "Prelude," which entailed a parody of Light in August in my first two paragraphs, and ending with Plato and Fritz Lang in the last chapter. (In between—specifically in "If Looks Could Kill"—one could also postulate a transition from the J. D. Salinger of "Raise High the Roof Beam, Carpenters" to the Sherwood Anderson of Winesburg, Ohio by way of James Dean.) Quite unabashedly, and more in keeping with the aspirations of a novelist than with those of a critic, I wanted somehow to "do" everything, rather in the manner of such models of literary crossbreeding as James Agee's Let Us Now Praise Famous Men, James Baldwin's The Devil Finds Work, William Gass's On Being Blue, and Viktor Shklovsky's Zoo or Letters Not About Love ; and the


everything I wanted to do wasn't merely on the page, but in life as well. This was asking for trouble, to be sure—especially in relation to an American critical community that habitually insists that art and life, not to mention art and politics, remain incompatible—but I found the challenge exhilarating.

This challenge sent me off on a journey of discovery about what movies had done to me, and for all the self-absorption this entailed, it was also both an extended autocritique and an invitation to others to make their own explorations. The absence of such quests from the kind of cinéphilia one usually encounters today can't be blamed only on the relative availability of VCRs. I would ascribe it as well to a lack of curiosity about what exists in the world apart from what corporations choose to tell us about and make available, which in other respects is a tribute to the overall success of media monopolies in monitoring the desires, behaviors, and even memories of spectators—a success that may make this book more radical now than it was in 1980. But it's important to stress that, then as well as now, the canon of movies one is able to see always remains under the control of arbitrary business interests. One example of a missing piece of Hollywood history that had direct bearing on my work is Annie Get Your Gun —a gender-bending MGM musical of 1950 that was my favorite movie at age seven, and which I would have re-seen and explored at length for Moving Places if the demands of Irving Berlin and his estate hadn't made it inaccessible for decades. But in all other respects, I was thankfully free as a bird.

The only real boundary lines I had, apart from considerations of length and time, were Cynthia's taste and my own. Cynthia went along with most of my ideas—even the ruse of using double or triple columns in three separate places, which she had serious doubts about because she suspected most readers would skip over them. The only substantial point where we differed and where I didn't get my way was my desire to make the book more pluralistic in terms of authorship by including two short stories and two essays by other writers. The texts I had in mind were Delmore Schwartz's "In Dreams Begin Responsibilities," Thomas Pynchon's "The Secret Integration," Elliott Stein's "My Life with Kong" (from the February 24, 1977, issue of Rolling Stone ), and Charles Eckert's "The Carole Lombard in Macy's Window" (from the Winter 1978 Quarterly Review of Film Studies ). Cynthia read all this material and argued that because the book was mine, the other pieces didn't belong there. My position, no doubt influenced by the collectivist imprint of two and a half years in London (1974–1977), was that multiple voices would help to clarify that the book was about more than just myself. (On one other matter, Cynthia and I were both overruled by others at Harper & Row: the book had to have a subtitle. The one finally selected was hers.)

Although my ambitions were mainly literary—a bias happily shared by Cynthia, who was far from being a film buff—the book was shelved not in the front of bookstores, as I had hoped, but in the film books section in the


back. Now that Moving Places is being re-issued by an academic press, I expect it will still be found in the film books section. In fact, although no one has told me this in so many words, I suspect that one reason I have been asked to write a new introduction is to explain why Moving Places belongs in the film books section. I am trying to oblige, but I must admit that I think it also relevant to American history and cultural studies—and that my own academic career, encompassing eight and a half years, was in English and American literature, not in film. Within my purview at the time, academic film study as it exists today wasn't yet an option.

Since 1980, a few books have appeared which combine certain aspects of film criticism and fiction, including David Thomson's Suspects (1985), Theodore Roszak's Flicker (1991), and Geoffrey O'Brien's The Phantom Empire (1993). The relative status of fiction over nonfiction in the literary world may explain, in part, why these have had somewhat better luck in being received as literary works. But it's also why, when a friend and fellow writer once quite sensibly labeled my project "New Journalism," I felt irrationally insulted. Just as my writer's career was initially motivated by my desire to "make up for" my father's unfulfilled dreams in that department, Moving Places was—and I suppose still is—supposed to make up for my unfulfilled ambitions as a fiction writer. (Indeed, there are a few recycled passages from my fiction in it.)

I was even more disappointed by the responses of some people whose literary tastes had exerted enormous influence on my own, and who were put off or offended by the very idea of the book. One famous writer whom I'd known since the 1960s informed me point-blank that I was too young (at 37) to have written an autobiography. (For her the point was categorical and nonnegotiable; I had simply wasted the past three years by pursuing such a project.) Another older writer—in this case a first cousin, a very prestigious journalist who during my teens had introduced me to James Joyce and James Baldwin in a single weekend and had gotten me to read Light in August soon afterward—graciously accepted an inscribed copy from me, but a few years later, when I asked him what he thought, prided himself on his complete lack of interest in reading it. (To be fair, he had read a draft of the first chapter some years earlier, enough presumably to keep him away from the rest, family history and all.)

A sense that I had committed an act of gross self-indulgence undoubtedly lay behind such responses, and although it seemed appropriate that a book as subjective as this one should draw highly subjective responses, it was small comfort to me that the most violent rejections tended to come from mainstream publications. This doesn't mean that Moving Places was universally scorned—even if the only bookstore in Florence, Alabama, declined my request for a copy-signing session after they examined it, no explanation offered. In fact, the book was received widely, warmly, and quite perceptively


among film professionals. I was especially gratified by Todd McCarthy's review in Variety (March 18, 1981) and Ernest Callenbach's in Film Quarterly (Fall 1981). When the late Stephen Harvey wrote a considered pan in the Village Voice (April 25–May 5, 1981), my fellow movie reviewer at the Soho News, Veronica Geng, generously responded with a comic rebuttal the following week. In American Film (October 1980, pp. 84–85), Michael Wood, whom I've never met, found the book "attractive but rambling and rather unequally written," in turn "insulated" and "engaging," "arrogant" and "evocative." ("One person, even with a head full of movies, doesn't make a community," he cautioned in his closing sentence.) "Difficult to review a book by an old friend," wrote Tom Milne in Sight and Sound (Summer 1981, pp. 201–202), "especially when the book in question contains a flattering reference to oneself. Difficult, that is, to claim impartiality, to be seen to be exercising Olympian detachment." From there he happily took off from my subjectivity into his own, acknowledging along the way his embarrassment about my "name-dropping pretensions" on the book's second page, when I alluded to "my lunch with Orson Welles," then noting his discovery 176 pages later that this "'casual' reference to Welles is revealed to be a very studied one, designed to indicate the ways in which, by picking up on and deploying 'inside' information, Jonny Rosenbaum of Florence, Alabama, was learning to become Jonathan Rosenbaum, international film critic."

If I were reviewing this book today, I would have to point out that some of the family details are probably too elliptical to mean much to outsiders, even though in many cases I still think that these gaps can be defended as structuring absences. I would also note that the consideration of my family's former theater chain is far from exhaustive, and many pertinent aspects of it are skimped. I have never had much of a head (or heart or stomach) for business—another thing that alienates me from the U.S. media today, where attention to such subjects as the Holocaust, John F. Kennedy's assassination, and the war in Vietnam is deemed acceptable only if configured as a movie tie-in and thus as an occasion for multicorporate profit—and this lack led me to leapfrog on page 12 over the Supreme Court's 1948 divestiture order that made my family's business reluctantly independent during its last four years of operation.[*]

One final demurral: The Conquistador, my personification of narrative illusionism, doesn't perform all the functions in this book I hoped he would, and the passages devoted to him tend to be rather arch. Like much else in the text, he grew out of the writing like a spontaneous weed, and once he reared his ungainly head, I was never quite sure what to do with him. The index

* For a more helpful—if still attenuated—discussion of what this ruling meant to such independent-theater fare as foreign films and midnight movies until Reagan came along, see my discussion with J. Hoberman in our Midnight Movies (2d ed., Da Capo, 1991, p. 328).


traces him back to Werner Herzog's Aguirre, Wrath of God, but I suspect my reading of Roland Barthes' The Pleasure of the Text was equally, if perhaps less obviously, inspirational.

There are certain wrong (that is, relatively unfruitful or misleading) ways of reading this book. One of the most common of these is regarding it as criticism in any conventional sense—a misunderstanding I helped to foster by opening the book with the quasi-critical "Prelude" and including excerpts from my published criticism in the last chapter, not to mention the other passages based directly on critical assumptions (such as my "sexual"—actually sexist—encounters with favorite films on pages 181–184, perhaps the least defensible section in the book). Thanks to this misunderstanding, a fair number of readers have assumed that a viewing of Bird of Paradise and/or On Moonlight Bay would offer some sort of useful preparation for what the book has to offer, which couldn't be further from the truth. My hope is that readers of Moving Places will be spurred to find their own equivalents of those films rather than linger on my own examples—not only because my own key exhibits were pretty arbitrarily chosen but also because I wanted their typicality to stand out as much as their specificity.

Another potentially wrong way of approaching this book is to read it nonconsecutively—either by way of the index or by sampling various sections at random. The problem with doing this is that the book depends on a developing narrative and on cumulative reference points for its meanings, which is why I have come to harbor certain misgivings about the pretensions and implied proposals of "Directions for Use"—an index that should be encountered only after everything preceding it has been read.

Apart from a few sentences about Godard's film criticism and a couple of sentences about a family trip to New York in 1953, I don't believe any material from Moving Places is repeated verbatim in Placing Movies, although there are a number of deliberate echoes and rhyme effects. I should add that virtually all the new material in Placing Movies was written before I knew that the University of California Press would reprint Moving Places, despite the fact that I viewed that critical collection from the outset as a companion volume. Together I hope that the two books will offer a useful dialectic about the placement of movies, in life as well as in art.

MARCH 1994



For specific, invaluable, and diverse forms of assistance to me in preparing this book, I owe particular thanks to Lizzie Borden, Meredith Brody, W. L. and Diane Butler, Ian Christie, David Ehrenstein, Aston and Mae Murray Elkins, Manny Farber, Carolyn Fireside, Sandy Flitterman, Vicki Hiatt, Penelope Houston, Allan Kronzek, Lorenzo Mans, David Meeker, Cynthia Merman, Patricia Patterson, Carrie Rickey, Paul Schmidt, Allan Sekula, Wally Shawn, Charles Silver, David Sobelman, Bobby Stewart, Beulah Sutton, Amos Vogel, and Bibi Wein;

the staffs of the Florence Public Library, Florence, Alabama; the Information Department at the British Film Institute in London; the Film Study Center at the Museum of Modern Art in New York; the Motion Picture Division of the Library of Congress in Washington, D.C.;

and National Endowment for the Arts, for an Art Critics Fellowship Grant which permitted me to launch this project in 1977.


What I Did on My Summer Vacation (September 1977)

Imagination believes before knowing constructs. Believes longer than remembers, longer than knowing even conjures. Knows believes conjures a highway in Mississippi, August 10, on the way to Faulkner's home in Oxford, tracing a literary pilgrimage from Florence, my hometown in Alabama, part of whose route might approximate the pregnant journey of Lena Grove on the opening pages of Light in August .

What has any of this to do with cinema? First, the car's languid progress up and down a straight road flanked by forest: a trick of suspended time, pure movie and pure Faulkner. Then the hot moist afternoon light filtering through the branches into a milky pool of delicate focus, like the last scene in Carl Dreyer's Gertrud , making it easy to imagine in a tactile, even in a carnal way why Dreyer wanted to adapt Light in August, thinking Yes of course only Dreyer could have done it right, handled both sides of the dialectic, all the hot wood and cold flesh and embracing palpitant air, impregnable and inviolate. Only Dreyer could fashion a Gertrud not classifiable as saint or monster, fool or genius, victor or victim but all these things at once or in tandem, with equal intensity .

Could anyone else film the novel? I recall my lunch with Orson Welles in Paris five summers ago when he talked mainly about literary adaptations: he spoke with horror that someone as "adaptable" as Joseph Conrad had been mangled so badly by filmmakers, and he agreed when I suggested Faulkner as a parallel case, noting that The Long, Hot Summer was probably closer to Tennessee Williams. As long as we're still in some form of Utopia—Skyway to Fantasyland (One Way), as a "D" ride in Disneyland has it—why not imagine Welles filming it with studio sets, Gregg Toland or Stanley Cortez as cinematographer, and himself in the role of Reverend Hightower?


J. and I finally come upon Faulkner's Rowan Oak—now owned by Ole Miss and open to visitors—in late afternoon, after parking the car and walking down a paradisical treelined path, placid as the pond where Gertrud's heart is broken. But the house has just closed for the day. We decide to stay overnight in town and come out for a look in the morning, winding up in a Holiday Inn not far from a courthouse square as Faulknerian as anyone might wish, complete with Confederate monument and benches. Last night we could have gone to a local revival of To Have and Have Not in hommage to Faulkner's script in a shed across from a converted icehouse two blocks away, apparently student-run, which is also promising Intruder in the Dust later in the summer ("Everyone in Oxford's in it!"); but tonight they're screening Rocky . Black Sunday is at a shopping mall on the outskirts of town, but the outskirts of Oxford could be anywhere in America, so we eventually meander over to the Ritz, an old-fashioned theater a block from the courthouse, to see the last show of The Island of Dr. Moreau .

(Four days ago I'd visited the site of another Ritz Theatre, built in Sheffield, Alabama, in 1928, operated by my grandfather until 1951, and miraculously still standing, all but unrecognizably, as a warehouse. And yesterday, in the Louis Rosenbaum Audio-Visual Room at the Florence Public Library, I'd started research on this book by looking up movie ads in the Florence Times in the late forties, trying to resolve the sticky questions of what I'd seen between the ages of four and six and what sort of things they might possibly have done to me.)

To all appearances, Dr. Moreau is a dull, pointless remake of Island of Lost Souls , instantly forgettable. I suspect it's on the same level as Delmer Daves's Bird of Paradise , which I haven't seen for over a quarter of a century: Leonard Maltin gives it two stars (a "grandly filmed but vapid tale") in TV Movies, and I have no reason to doubt him. Yet I know that Debra Paget's sacrificial leap into a South Sea volcano caused me hours of distress and gloomy reflections and helped to furnish a dream that triggered a religious crisis a full two or three years after that, when I was all of eleven.

Who's to say, then, that Dr. Moreau couldn't do something comparable to someone of the right age and temperament today? Recalling certain songs of Elvis (whose birthplace, Tupelo, we drove through today, and who, like Daves in La Jolla,[*] is still alive at this juncture of August)—songs that were played, Pavlovian-fashion, during key emotional moments of adolescence—and reflecting on the unconscious programming that helps to mold every set of tastes, we can see how the whole business of everyday film reviewing has to ignore the potential resonance in any mass-produced object.

Dirty old nostalgia: temporal homesickness lavished on objects both real

* The San Diego suburb where Delmer Daves lived in retirement before he died, like Elvis, later that month. I lived there too, for six months, before moving to nearby Del Mar.


and fancied rather than on people, places, and feelings, all of which seem to have shorter life expectancies. Recent back issues of TV Guide for sale at Bennett's, a collectors' haunt in Hollywood; a three-hour program of trailers shown to a joyous packed house at the L.A. County Museum last June. Mid-August, watching John Milius coolly film fragments of an elaborate Fordian fight (cottage interior) and improvise a comic reaction shot (cottage exterior) for Big Wednesday , on an MGM soundstage where Esther Williams apparently once swam. And going to see insidiously warm rétro flicks like Ettore Scola's We All Loved Each Other So Much (the title tells it all: not only What It Was Like to Be Italian in the Forties, but What It Was Like to Be American and Watch European Humanist Films in the Sixties) or, much closer to home or the lack of it, Between The Lines , What We'd Like to Think the Underground Press Was Like Before Felker, Murdoch and Co. Took It Away from Us.

The reactionary lure of nostalgia—downtown Oxford versus the outskirts, Rowan Oak versus Holiday Inn, old banalities versus new ones—leads one nowhere, yet the facelessness that America tends to replace it with provides even less of an exit. Two days after I leave Oxford, in Hollywood, well after I've gone through Faulkner's house, comparing it with the houses in The Long, Hot Summer and Jerry Wald's ludicrous The Sound and the Fury , and lingered over his library and workroom as if they and not the works contained any secrets, I come across an account of Faulkner's film work in the Summer Film Quarterly, which returns me to the realm of scholarship and demonstrable information. And the day after that, I take my third trip to Disneyland, where Skyway to Tomorrowland (One Way) is another "D" ride.

"Just a straight line, no dialectics"—Luc Moullet's gloss on Cecil B. De Mille—is the simplest description of Disney and Disneyland that I can think of; by contrast, Faulkner and Faulkner World is a marvel of dialectical crookedness. But dig a few inches down and you can find all the contradictions you want in Disneyland, each about to be pasteurized into a clean affirmation of consistency by an efficient staff, all of whose first names are under seven letters long and printed on their uniforms.

In New Orleans Square, you can't find a Wild Palms or a Pylon ride, but the Royal Street Bachelors, a black trio visibly dressed for Dixieland, mount a cafe bandstand and play a delicately balanced version of fifties chamber jazz; nobody seems to mind the anomaly, just as many spectators have been taking it on faith that Robert De Niro's Jimmy Doyle in New York, New York is a gifted avant-gardist playing bebop (three errors in four words). J. notes that all the period London streets in the Peter Pan Flight are straight, like the streets in L.A. rather than those of London. As Herman Mankiewicz allegedly remarked in another context, "It only goes to show you what God could do if He had money."

Needless to say, I don't have to venture out to Anaheim for this kind of


illusionary perfection. I can drop in on the RKO season at the L.A. County Museum, and in the opening reel of a forgotten obscurity like Lucky Partners —a mainly humdrum Lewis Milestone comedy of 1940 derived from a Sacha Guitry story—find myself lured into the social relationship of an Italian café to a city neighborhood in a phony studio set, and the casual sort of miracles that this makes possible.

The Sky's the Limit , a somber wartime musical in the same series, offers a fragrant sense of doom that seems even more comforting. How do we know, without a shred of direct evidence, that Fred Astaire's pilot hero is flying off to almost certain oblivion in the last scene, after a parting kiss to Joan Leslie? It isn't only because the sky is darkening and the unresolved behavioral misunderstandings and tensions of the film appear to be spilling into some generalized, communal pool of foreboding. One also feels that the war is both as absent and as all-pervasive here as the offscreen war is in To Have and Have Not —an impression of void just beyond the studio sets that seems to draw the sympathetic characters closer to one another, as though out of fear.

The happy ending of the latter film always seems to me predicated on a kind of abstract precision possible only within a confined space: Lauren Bacall's slinky, Modiglianiesque shimmy away from Hoagy Carmichael and his band, across the nightclub floor in a hypnotic beeline to a waiting Bogart, the couple joined by Walter Brennan (in a dead beeline) as they glide confidently and triumphantly out the front door. Toward what? Surely not safety in any demonstrable sense, only completion in terms of plot—The End-which is always part of Howard Hawks's clarity as a director: to make an audience forget whatever he happens to omit (in most cases, the outside world). So the essential Pylonic hopelessness of Faulkner's vision still seems to be lurking in the wings of all this cheerfully blind optimism.

When such self-confidence crashes beyond these limits of enclosure, one gets a tortured Hawks film like Red Line 7000 or Rio Lobo , where the encroaching chaos begins to invade and infect the cozy community on screen. No such disruptions seem possible in Disneyland, where every form of irrationality becomes rationalized into disposable myth as soon as it reaches the level of articulation. A shop that recycles Disney memorabilia is now operating on Main Street U.S.A., buying collectors' items back and reselling them at heftier prices. As scarcity and value grow in equal proportions, the Disney system achieves a kind of self-sustaining autonomy that can rarely be found in contemporary movies.

One odd and recent exception, which all my L.A. friends despise: the overpowering narcissism—one even wants to call it self-narcissism—of Richard Baskin's silly songs in Welcome to L.A. , as played and shown and sung in a dark recording studio over and over again under a halo of light, like a parody of a Greek chorus. The implacable, touching self-conviction of this conceit—


an almost Pat Booneish notion of what it must be like to stay up to 3 A.M.—can hardly restrain itself from betraying a glow of awe toward its own sense of gravity that registers with the hard luminosity of a dream. Who cares if the songs are reeking with self-pity, the city unreal, the fragile croaking of the singer less than profound in its immediate effects? At least the music is believed in, unlike the jazz of New York, New York . And as everyone from Tinker Bell to Elvis—or from Delmer Daves to Leni Riefenstahl—has demonstrated, once you believe in something, anything becomes possible. J. suggests it all may be a matter of lighting. Maybe she's right; but if it is, so, for that matter, is Mississippi.


The Plucking of Three Birds of Paradise

Fifty Years of Show Business

Formal Opening Ritz On Monday, April 30

After five months of work the Ritz theatre, Athens' latest amusement place, is now ready for the formal opening which will take place at 7:00 o'clock, Monday evening, April 30th [1928], the picture for that occasion being Mary Pickford's latest screen production "My Best Girl," followed by a comedy, "Fair and Muddy.

"Prior to the picture showing the following program will be given:

Master of ceremonies—W. E. Willis.

Music by Gene Carter's orchestra.

Welcome from the city of Athens [Alabama] to Muscle Shoals Theatres, Inc.—Mayor C. W. Sarver.


Welcome on behalf of the businessmen of Athens—C. D. Beisley, president Athens Chamber of Commerce.


Response to addresses of welcome by Mayor W. S. Eastep of Florence.

Solo—Mrs. Frank G. Westmoreland, with Mrs. R. H. Richardson, Jr., as accompanist.

Delivery of the building to the lessees—R. H. Walker.

Acceptance of same—Senator W. H. Mitchell of Florence, director of the Muscle Shoals Theatres, Inc.


Photoplays—"The Czarina's Secret"; comedy "Fair and Muddy."

Mary Pickford in her latest photoplay, "My Best Girl."

Unusual interest has been manifested in the opening of the Ritz and the indi-


cations are that the theatre will be filled to capacity on the occasion of the formal opening. Among the guests who will be present from a distance may be mentioned, Tony and Harry Sudekum, C. H. Dean and others from Nashville, T. M. Rogers, O. C. Hackworth, Senator W. H. Mitchell and Mayor Eastep of Florence, while a number from Decatur have signified their intention of attending.

The opening of the Ritz on Monday evening marks the completion of five months of hard labor in constructing an up-to-date theatre and movie house that would be creditable to a town much larger than Athens. The building occupies the site of the old M. E. church, one of the historic buildings of North Alabama, which was erected in 1836. The walls and roof of the old building were retained in the new building and the attractive cove ceiling of the old church adds to the beauty of the new place. The theatre is 105 feet long and 44 feet in width with double lobbies, the manager's office and box office being on south sides of the lobbies and the ladies' dressing room and the entrances to the offices on the second floor being on the north side. The main auditorium is 72 feet in length with 462 opera chairs unusually comfortable with cushion seats. It contains a regulation orchestra pit, while there is ample space for standing room in the rear of the balustrade. The section of the balcony reserved for whites is reached by a stairway just inside the auditorium. Under this stairway is the gentlemen's rest room.

The balcony contains 150 veneered seats, 66 of which are reserved for colored persons. Ten additional seats may be added in an emergency. These seats are also quite comfortable and of the latest type. In the balcony is located the operator's booth, containing two new type 6B Powers machines. The booth has a cement floor and is lined inside and out with sheetrock, making this part as nearly fireproof as humanly possible. The booth is entered through an automatic fireclad door. Entrance to the colored section of the balcony is reached by a stairway on the south side of the building next to Copeland's store.

The stage extends clear across the east of the building with 15×24 ft. opening. Under the stage is the basement which contains the dressing rooms and the furnace for heating the building. A 6-ft. Typhoon fan is placed over each wing, drawing fresh air in from the outside and distributing it into the house through the grilles, making the place cool and comfortable in the warmest weather. Each fan is run by a three-horse horse [sic ] electric motor.

The theatre renders it possible to give large plays and up-to-date vaudeville shows by reason of the stage arrangements, including ample room for scenery. Regulation footlights are also provided.

The front of the building is adorned with a marquise [sic ] 10 feet wide and 44 feet in length. Around the marquise has been erected a sign 42 inches high with over 500 electric lights in it. On each end are the words in channel lights "Ritz Theatre," while the same words in larger channel lights adorn the front of the sign.

Work of tearing down the rear wall and old organ loft and the inside of the old church was started Nov. 22, 1927, the day on which R. H. Walker signed the contract with the J. W. Chambers Lumber Co., for the construction of the Ritz. Work was somewhat retarded by bad weather, but once the foundation for the addition to the old building was completed, rapid progress was made.



Ritz Theater, Athens, Alabama


The capable foreman on the job was Raymond H. Patterson, a native Limestone boy, whose untiring efforts to make the building just what the architects, Marr & Holman of Nashville, had planned it were aided in every possible way by every man on the job. The work was done harmoniously and efficiently and illustrated the effectiveness of genuine team work. The building is a strong testimonial to the contractors and to the workmen, as well as speaking volumes for the well known architects.

This is the lead cover story of the Limestone Democrat, Athens, Alabama, April 26, 1928—a newspaper incidentally owned and edited by R. H. Walker, builder and owner of the Ritz. The remainder of the front page is devoted to the same subject, including a half-page ad for the Ritz opening that features a list of the first programs—King Vidor's The Crowd on Tuesday, May 1, only; Sally O'Neil and Molly O'Day in Lovelorn on May 2; Now We're in The Air , The Love of Sunya , and Jesse James all coming; prices, 10¢ and 25¢—and a message of greeting from Louis Rosenbaum, general manager of Muscle Shoals Theatres, Inc.

There's a photograph and profile of my grandfather on page six, where he's identified as co-purchaser of North Alabama Enterprises with Tony and Harry Sudekum of Crescent Amusement Company. At this time Louis Rosenbaum had been in the movie theater business for fourteen years, having leased a theater in Douglas, Wyoming, whose first bill presented Theda Bara in A Fool There Was , and operated another one in North Little Rock, Arkansas, before coming to Florence, Alabama, with his wife Anna and nine-year-old son Stanley in 1919, still in his early thirties.

By 1928, in partnership with the Sudekum brothers, he owned the Princess Theatre, built in Florence the same year he arrived, an $85,000 brick and steel structure with a Spanish façade, glass chandelier, cork linoleum floor ("to hush every footfall"), two boxes, fourteen exits, and an original seating capacity of twelve hundred. Through leases he also ran the Majestic in Florence, the Palace in Sheffield, the Strand in Tuscumbia, and the Ritz in Athens, and he was preparing to build another Ritz in Sheffield. Business, needless to say, was booming.

The picture of Louis Rosenbaum with Gene Autry was taken in 1939, when Autry came to Florence to appear at the Princess, stayed at Louis's house, and the two men struck up a brief, enigmatic friendship. By that time Stanley, my father, was back from Harvard and the University of Denver—unable to land a teaching job or to sell his short stories—and was working as a manager at the Sheffield Ritz, shown here in the same year. (It looks like a Saturday program: The Magnificent Fraud and You Can't Get Away With Murder , with a Lone Ranger serial.) The previous year he had gone to New York to write a book and married Mildred Bookholtz instead; now the two were living at Lou and Anna's house on Riverview Drive, preparing to live in a house across the street that Frank Lloyd Wright had designed for



Louis Rosenbaum and Gene Autry, 1939



Ritz Theatre, Sheffield, Alabama, 1939

them and which was being built on an acre of land where Annie Oakley had once performed.

I don't know what was playing at the Majestic on the Saturday afternoon in 1942 when Arthur Rothstein snapped a picture of the middle of downtown Florence on Court Street, as part of a federal project; that was the year before I was born. But a month before my thirteenth birthday, the day before I saw Footsteps In The Fog at the Shoals, I duly noted in my diary that Bo—the name that I and my brothers David (14), Alvin (11), and Michael (8) gave to Louis, reportedly derived from a Dumbo doll owned by David in his infancy—had bought out the Sudekums. What I didn't realize at the time was that this parting of the ways was a legal requirement, the business having been hit by an antitrust suit. (When someone began building a competitive movie theater in Athens, apparently with the intention of selling out to the Sudekums and Rosenbaums, their company retaliated by building a third house, the Plaza. This happened around the time of the Supreme Court's divestiture order in 1948, and the government sued Muscle Shoals Theatres for this maneuver as a test case. Eventually the suit led to the dissolution of the partnership in 1956.)

In 1960 Rosenbaum Theatres—still operating in the Tri-Cities and Athens, but with a constellation of active movie houses that had shrunk from nine to



Majestic Theatre, Florence, Alabama, 1942


five—was sold to the Martin theater chain, the largest in the South. My grandfather Bo retired, and my father started a new career teaching English literature at Florence State University, known today as University of North Alabama. Less than ten years after that, in New York, I became a film critic.

Two weeks ago, on my thirty-fifth birthday, February 27, 1978, the following item appeared on the eighteenth and final page of the Florence Times—Tri-Cities Daily, devoted to a "Weekly Business and Industrial Review," roughly half a century after the opening of the Ritz in Athens.

New Theatre To Open In March

The new triple-screen Hickory Hills Cinemas will open to the public March 10 with three movies never before seen in the Shoals, the president of the firm which is operating the theatres said Saturday.

A. Foster McKissack said the three-screen theatre on Florence Blvd. will have a total seating capacity of 800 with the ability to show either separate movies, or show the same film in two of the cinemas.

McKissack said this was possible through the use of a centralized projection room.

McKissack and his southeast film booking manager, Jack Jordan, said the emphasis in the triple cinemas had been placed on comfort. Jordan said the aisles, distance between seats and the seats themselves were wide enough to allow the customer to be undisturbed by others.

Jordan said the movie houses and films were enjoying a renaissance with records being set in attendance last year and an apparently healthy start to this year.

"Many people raised on television have discovered movies," Jordan said, "and many films such as 'Saturday Night Fever' have been unexpected hits." This film has been pushed to the top by "word-of-mouth" advertising, Jordan said.

Jordan said the theatres will also have a telephone number which can be called 24 hours per day which will give the current attractions, the times of showing and the ratings. The number is 766-7700.

There will be special admission price for children under 14 years of age, Jordan said, and he predicted that the Shoals operation would be getting films "on or near the national release date."

The opening films scheduled are "Semi-Tough," starring Burt Reynolds, Kris Kristopherson [sic ] and Jill Claybrook [sic ]; "Other Side of the Mountain, Part II," with Jill Claybrook [sic ]; and "Jason and the Argonauts."

Nine Years of Film Criticism

On a certain level, it all comes down to an observation made to me by the scriptwriter Marilyn Goldin, in the process of making another point that I can no longer remember. This was in Paris, rue de Dragon, circa 1972 or 1973,


sometime after I'd lent her my disintegrating paperback copy of Dashiell Hammett's Red Harvest for the script adaptation she was writing for Bertolucci at the Hôtel Veneuil, and she had since moved up in the world: about half a dozen long blocks south, to be precise, just past boulevard Saint-Germain into one of my favorite streets in Paris, a narrow, slightly crooked passageway that suggests a baby dragon's tail. It was there that Marilyn remarked, "The point is, it's more important to Joan Crawford that you admit that she's great than it is to you to refute it."

One Hundred Minutes of Filmgoing

Bird Of Paradise ! Lush dreams of water and sun, Polynesian postcard colors, lagoon and waterfall frolics, heaven modulating into hell as blood spills down the waterfall and into the lagoon, advancing as implacably and as abstractly as the reds in Godard's La Chinoise ; torrents of orange and red volcanic lava supplanting the blues and greens of the idyllic island and its serene, mysterious tribe—

Bird of Paradise ! Scripted and directed by Delmer Daves and released in 1951, distant memory-stain of a fiery sacrifice in orgasmic Technicolor; Kalua (Debra Paget), daughter of the tribal chief, leaping into a volcano to appease an angry god in order to save her people, abandoning her beloved newlywed André (Louis Jourdan), college pal of her brother Tenga (Jeff Chandler), who has fallen in love with her, her tribe, and her island. Like a gush of boiling blood, a deadly synthesis of water and sun bleeding over all the greens and blues of my childhood Judaism, eventually yielding a dull brown that dried and crackled, before slowly flaking away—

Bird of Paradise ! Seen, appropriately, on two Sundays nearly twenty-seven years apart, both times in Florence—an area combining sun and water, green and blue and orange-red sunsets into its own dullish shades of fair and muddy, or flaky brown. On May 13, 1951, late afternoon at the Princess with my brother David, after trailers, newsreel, and Mighty Mouse cartoon; on March 12, 1978, 10:30 P.M. on Channel 6, WBRC-TV from Birmingham, in the former playroom I occupied with my brothers in 1951. With me the second time is my brother Alvin and my friend Ron Russell, a direct or indirect descendant of Jesse James whom I didn't get to know until the midsixties, but who saw the movie at the Princess during the same three-day run, probably on the same day. Neither of us has seen it since.

Bird of Paradise : At first we get only a black and white image of Twentieth Century-Fox's futurist insignia; then Ron takes over the tuning, and a rainbow of early fifties Fox Technicolor fills the screen. Ron remembers the movie better than I do, but both of us recall it as a heavy experience. Not quite traumatic, as Freaks at the Majestic was for me in 1950, or directly



Princess Theatre, Florence, Alabama, circa 1937



Closer view of remodeled Princess, 1950s


influential, as Athena at the Colbert was for Ron in 1955 when it launched his career in body building, but heavy nevertheless. Certainly not light or sweet like On Moonlight Bay , which we both saw five months later in 1951, but heavy with a sense of shock and outrage. What right had the tribe and its holy man, the Kahuna, to send beautiful Kalua into the volcano? And why did she obey them—particularly when, as Ron and I reasoned separately at the Princess, the volcano stopped erupting only a few seconds after she vanished?

Bird of Paradise ! Fire and outrage felt as one, a warm and persistent orange-red memory-stain, the title of the movie and most of the story forgotten for well over two decades, until I saw King Vidor's 1932 Bird Of Paradise at the Museum of Modern Art's Vidor retrospective in New York in 1972, recognized the plot, and intuited that I had already seen the 1951 remake. Outrage that persisted to feed another memory-stain, a nightmare dreamt three years later, when David was about to be bar mitzvahed, in which my family was sacrificing itself to Judaism by marching into a chilly lake to drown. "Why don't you come along?" insists my mother, while my father angrily tells me to stop being so selfish. Jealousy for the attention that David was getting, conjuring this up as another family ritual, the don't do it of 1951 becoming the I won't do it of the 1954 nightmare when, like Kalua, I find myself participating and complying nevertheless, against my will, my brain screaming all the while—leaving a burning memory-stain, a blasphemous afterblast that seared my faith.

Bird of Paradise ! Also being seen first-run in 1951 some 750 miles south, in Miami Beach, by ten-year-old Patricia Patterson, future painter, in a brand new deluxe theater containing a real waterfall in its lobby. All week long a skywriting plane has been advertising the opening of movie and theater alike over the blue-green ocean, a sign writ large in the firmament that has also been drawing special attention to Menasha Skulnik, the Yiddish actor who plays the Kahuna—Maurice Schultz in the credits, but Menasha to many of the Miami locals—and Patricia's been walking past the movie theaters, watching the skywriting, checking out the picture cards of Bird Of Paradise , little windows or View Master peeks into a kingdom even more magical than the theater presenting it. Seeing the movie afterwards, later in the week, is almost like reading a footnote. Memory-stains—the traces left that no amount of everyday brainwashing will clean away—are simple embarrassments that imagination, not memory, converts into complex comforts, the snug sort of pockets that we sometimes go to movies to find.

Bird of Paradise ! Collective images of the natives rushing into the emerald sea to greet Tenga and André's boat, diving back off in cascading ripples of pleasure, eating and dancing and sleeping and running together in a common pulse: all part of the movie's pagan delight, utopian giddiness, its gorgeous peyotelike pantheism which says that living is a form of being eternally grateful. But somewhere along the line the green lagoon becomes framed a lit-


tle differently, begins to look thick with bulrushes out of the story of Moses while the mountain becomes red-hot and threatening—like the Paramount insignia with a gaping wound, or Cecil B. De Mille on the verge of a temper tantrum—and the Old Testament ambience takes over, including a red sea of burning coals that Kalua has to cross over barefoot, to prove that her love for the outsider André is good and true. How could it be otherwise with a movie from a Judeo-Christian studio, watched by a snotty eight-year-old kid who was translating all this arcane pseudo-Polynesian ritual into Talmudic threats?

Bird of Paradise ! Ecstatic notions melted down from Flaherty's Moana and Murnau's Tabu , strained through the color schemes of Disney and De Mille, the epic nature worship of Leni Riefenstahl and Esther Williams, into the lyrical cranes and pans of Delmer Daves, delivered in a primal tongue that any kid could understand. If Ron and I hadn't been spending a large part of our days swimming, the dream visions might never have taken hold—of Elysian fields where the sun met the sea and the water was like laughter; of the formal rightness of this developing, modulating into the liquid fire of the volcano—even if our grasp of André and Kalua's love cried out against its unspeakable, unbearable orange-red demands. Kalua's love for André, their last meeting, when she tries to remove all his fear, speaking in riddles he can't understand: "To us, death is nothing. If we are blessed, we have found joy, as I have found it with you." Then leaving him behind in the empty village to rejoin her people, and leaving them as well, on the mountainside, to ascend the exploding inferno. A distant dark silhouette against the flames gazes back at the last moment, looking at André with absolute love across impossibly infinite spaces before dropping into oblivion.

Bird of Paradise ! Dirty old nostalgia, I wrote last summer: temporal homesickness lavished on objects both real and fancied rather than on people, places, and feelings, all of which seem to have shorter life expectancies. Nostalgia, the nest where racist ideologies and fascist storyboards are hatched and begin to chirp, like Disney ducklings, waiting for directors to come along and show them how to walk, and where to fly. Nostalgia for diverse fortresses—not all of them built in the early fifties, when so many were going up: Wright's Rosenbaum house of 1939, his added wing in 1948, the Shoals Theatre the same year, and Disney's Fun and Fancy Free , also in 1948, at the Colbert or Ritz in Sheffield (memory-stain of three cartoon bears, Bongo, Lulabelle, and Lumpjaw, superimposed over a rear-window view of O'Neal Bridge on the drive back across the Tennessee River from Sheffield to Florence—who cares, so what, totally arbitrary, yet indelible). Fortresses like Florence, the FBI, Bird of Paradise , Don McNeil's Breakfast Club , Rosemary Clooney, and Israel, built to keep all kinds of gooks out—and in.

Was life any simpler then? I doubt it. But most of 1951 is forgotten now, including what was complex. What's left isn't an eight-year-old spectator—a


moody and solitary comic book artist and collector whom no one remembers clearly, least of all himself—but a movie called Bird Of Paradise . Seen originally on a big screen inside a gold proscenium wild with filigree (a roaring lion's head its centerpiece) while seated under a huge glass chandelier, an overhanging monolith that instilled excited tremors ever since Claude Rains had sawed an even bigger one loose over a full house in The Phantom Of The Opera at the Princess the year before; seen now on a little twenty-four-inch screen under a hanging plant. (A mile away, the site of the old Princess is the empty space of a parking lot, the building having been leveled in 1968 to expand the even rows of cars behind the First Presbyterian Church, as neat and orderly as the graves in a cemetery, thus inverting the process whereby the Athens Ritz emerged from another place of worship.)

Bird of Paradise , allowing memory limited access to such reference points. Why are they needed? To mark the memory-stains that form the surfaces and textures of one mind's entry into film, staking out the specifics of its desires, whether these be Terry Moore or MGM musicals or Lassie or Fernando Lamas, waterfalls or creeks or camera movements or pastel colors—the extent of the world that was wanted then, when Florence and what arrived there was everything that existed. For Ron it was a halfway station between Tarzan and Steve Reeves in Athena —long before the alienated decadence of a Stay Hungry , based on a Birmingham gym where Ron used to work out. For Patricia it marked a different kind of middle ground, a giant image of Debra Paget somewhere between the lurid and inviting posters of Silvana Mangano in Bitter Rice and Jennifer Jones in Ruby Gentry . For me the breaking of religious taboos and the presence of Debra Paget offered a carnal image that was rekindled recently on a return trip to London, when I saw subtitled prints of Fritz Lang's glorious The Tiger Of Eschnapur and The Indian Tomb . (There the image is reduced to algebraic essentials of voyeurism—a formula refined even further with Dawn Addams in Lang's subsequent and final film, The 1000 Eyes Of Dr. Mabuse , as lean and functional as an architectural blueprint.) For all of us, it was like a first kiss of pantheism, a blueprint that creeks, lakes, waterfalls, streams, oceans, fields, and stars had already suggested, but one that only a movie could prove , by ordering and illustrating a world for all to see. We didn't talk or think about good photography in those days, only about good trees.

Bird of Paradise ! Don't know, will never know again whether the cartoon that day at the Princess was a Mighty Mouse or something else. The ads in the Florence Times don't say, and the only record of that booking in Florence—probably made by Beulah Sutton, a bookkeeper who worked in the offices upstairs at the Shoals and ordered most of the short subjects from Atlanta—would have been in one of those countless ledgers that my father turned over to a trucker in 1960, after the business was sold, to carry to the paper plant. The cost of trucking the damn things equaled what the plant was



Remodeled Princess (the Cinema), 1958


willing to pay for the clutter—which meant the ledgers weren't worth a plugged nickel to anyone, practically speaking. As any self-respecting Alabamian would rightly point out today, the information of what cartoon showed with Bird of Paradise at the Princess isn't worth diddlyshit. Neither are most of the other vestiges of unofficial pasts that we no longer inhabit.

Bird of Paradise ! There were other escapes, to be sure, in the early fifties—Queen for a Day, Whip Wilson, crossword puzzles. My father's Sunday column for the Florence Times occasionally suggested a few combinations:

"M-m-m-m-m" is the word for the movies showing this week at Muscle Shoals Theatres.

You can take this as a fervent murmur of appreciation for Marilyn Monroe, who is one of the stars in "Clash By Night." Or for the luscious blonde who provides the bait in "Man Bait."

Or you can take it as a reference to the manifold multiplicity of the letter M in this week's movies.

As in "Maru," Marilyn Monroe, Montgomery (George) and "Man Bait."

Of course, if you were disposed to be argumentative, you could make out a pretty good case for the letter R instead, what with Ruth Roman, Robert Ryan and the fact that the recent releases represented locally this week are rather Romantic.

But enough of all this.

(Except Marilyn! Never enough of Marilyn!)

God, he must have been bored then. Around the same period, August 1952, he toyed with the notion of pairing The Iron Mistress and Clash By Night on a theater marquee. The idea for a double feature persisted as a gag, but this was the early fifties and the match never took place.

(This isn't all that was going down in that period, a liberal, up-to-date auteurist critic might argue. Look at a director like Douglas Sirk, who was confronting the same audiences and Hollywood genres and subverting them both with ironic social critiques—even though hardly anyone was aware of it at the time. Okay; the gods of TV programming decree that I'm able to see Sirk's 1952 No Room For the Groom in Florence three nights after Bird of Paradise , broadcast by WTCG, from Atlanta. Tony Curtis marries Piper Laurie on a short GI leave and, due to diverse comic complications, isn't able to sleep with her. When he returns months later, a crowd of her cousins, invited by her monstrous mother [Spring Byington], are occupying every room in the house, and it takes him the remainder of the movie to consummate his marriage.

Actually, this low-budget black and white nightmare sums up the Pete Smith Specialty, the Joe McDoakes comedy, and the Goofy cartoon, three


characteristic manifestations of the period—like Jiggs and Maggie and impotent old Major Hoople—stretched out to excruciating, sadistic feature length. No death and resurrection, as in the later Road Runners, but a continuity and immortality of petty domestic pain that inches forward slowly and relentlessly, blocking libido on all sides, at every turn: Pete Smith's anonymous, voiceless dumbbell hero stepping on a garden hoe and the soundtrack going boiing, Hoople muttering incomprehensibly into his vest at his boardinghouse table, and McDoakes, once again defeated, retiring with a philosophical shrug to his old position behind the pre-Oldenburg eightball of the end title.

The crushing landslide of family, greed, stupidity, hypocrisy, ugliness, and complacency in these worlds made a Bird of Paradise everything its title claimed it to be. Had I seen Sirk's perverted hate letter to America in 1952 at the Norwood—shown by a competitor of the Rosenbaums who got all the Universal movies first-run—I might have giggled some, but it wouldn't have nurtured any dreams. The erotic interruptions of Steinberg's The Devil is a Woman and Buñuel's That Obscure Object of Desire are conceived sensually, but No Room for the Groom is so mangy-looking that eroticism can be posed only on a hypothetical level before it gets canceled.

Sirk's world without alternatives, like Fassbinder's, is never far from the inertia that engulfed the early fifties in America—not so very different from the all-tabloid media presiding today, punched up and juiced to the point of immobility, drowning in its own fat. Looking back on former inertia with a mixture of nostalgia, fondness, and cold irony is taken in some quarters to be somehow akin to "subversive" leftist politics, yet it is difficult to see how: Sink's and Fassbinder's critiques remain conservative gibes in relation to their respective periods—W. C. Fields-like grumbles and cynical little pokes rather than critical assaults against worlds that are defined by their inability to change, hopeless worlds such as the mental lives of small towns like Florence, in love with itself even as its buildings are being recycled into shopping malls. Worlds like that of Bird of Paradise , a racist film with the same degree of Brechtian self-reflection that can be found in Sirk's Imitation of Life or Fassbinder's Ali —no more, no less, for better and for worse. If the old critical tools are being recycled into auteurist or "structuralist" grids, the purpose is precisely the same: for your shopping convenience.)

Bird of Paradise ! As an American friend in London once described The Best of Everything (1959), it's a movie with lots of text. And part of this text is a particular conjunction of time and space: a spring already warm enough for swimming, after a weekend spent at the Country Club pool or riding on a farm the horse that my brothers and I owned, or exploring and traversing portions of a whiterock creek across the field next to my house—and Sunday school that very morning at the reform Jewish temple in Sheffield, across the river. A spring that was already summer, six weeks before I


was leaving for Camp Blue Star in Hendersonville, North Carolina. What else was happening on May 13? It was two days after David's tenth birthday and Bugs Bunny was sneezing into his glass-blower; Mr. Botts in Priscilla's Pop fell off his roof and into his wife's favorite rosebush, and Secretary of Defense Marshall was reported saying that "we are moving towards success" in ending Red Chinese aggression in Korea but warning (according to the Florence Times ) that Russia is the "real opponent" who could plunge the world into war. Only the week before, David Ben-Gurion of Israel had arrived at the Muscle Shoals airport for a tour of TVA installations, accompanied by an official party of over a dozen people—including Bo and Mrs. Golda Meir, minister of labor—and David R. had snapped some shots with his Brownie while Stanley took home movies.

Bird of Paradise ! Crashing into the drab surface of a year that up to then had mainly been in black and white, from winter trees and dirty laundry sky to Zandorra, World Famous Mystic, on stage at the Shoals and Colbert theaters twice daily, who wore black spidery dresses and told members of the audience what they were thinking; black and white like Ben-Gurion, his hair, and the clouds he came from; like Harvey and For Heaven's Sake , Mad Wednesday and The March of Time; like Alfalfa in Our Gang comedies and Rootie Kazootie on the television set you saw in a window, The Fuller Brush Girl and The Mudlark , At War with the Army and In a Lonely Place , vanilla frozen custard, The Next Voice You Hear and Watch The Birdie , Mr. Music and Mrs. O'Malley and Mr. Malone ; black and white like nearby Wilson Dam, The West Point Story , the preview for The Mating Season , and Whiterock Creek. Crashing into ripples like a stone plunked into a lagoon, rainbow fragments rushing off in all directions. Like the Noah's Ark rainbow appearing on the island one day to bless Kalua and André's love, "It is the best of signs," which makes the natives drum out the happy news on enormous tree trunks, sending out radiant signals that bring everyone running, then sitting together in a circle where Kalua dances for André; and afterward, still daytime, everyone in the tribe lying in a peaceful row on mats on a long, cool porch. Kalua and André, in the midst of the commune, wake, lie facing one another, kiss.

Bird of Paradise ! Another bird, another paradise was being unveiled that Sunday at the all-Negro Carver Theatre in Sheffield, next to the railroad tracks, a program of films by Will Cowan, starring "Sugar Chile" Robinson, Billie Holiday, and Count Basie—but I didn't know that then. I didn't know much either about the dark laughter coming from the colored section of the Princess balcony. Instead, I was responding to the Tropical Life Saver colors of Hawaii, where Daves's movie was actually shot, which seemed a fair approximation of heaven after such versions of relative familiarity as Father's Little Dividend and Born Yesterday at the Shoals earlier that May. David and



Colbert Theatre, Sheffield, Alabama, 1951



Princess audience in the 1930s (colored balcony in upper left)


I get in for free—greeting, as usual, Elmo the manager and Mr. Richie the ticket taker—and it costs Ron a dime. On the way out, David says he likes the movie and I say that I don't. We're always like that, David liking movies with tragic endings and me hating them; ten weeks later, he's enthusing over The Great Caruso while I find myself in tears after hearing only the plot—to which our father adds the plots of Hamlet and Oedipus Rex, explaining what tragedy is all about, which makes me sniffle that much more.

Bird of Paradise ! Shown only a month before the Majestic in Florence and the Ritz in Sheffield played their last programs for all eternity on the same Saturday night: at the former, Bar 20 Rides Again with Hopalong Cassidy and Fugitive Valley with the Rangebusters; at the latter, The East Side Kids, in Early America with Bill Elliott, and the last chapter of Radar Patrol vs. Spy King and the first episode of Desperadoes of The West  . . . an uncompleted cycle for how many kids that day? And afterward how many tortured, unfinished dreams haunted the Majestic when it was used as the local Stevenson-Sparkman headquarters in 1952, or the Ritz when Bobby Denton recorded there for Tune Records in 1957?

Bird of Paradise ! A phoenix whose cycle is never finished, a few sparks striking one side of a sibling rivalry and igniting a blasphemous dream of genocidal suicide that scared me so much I had to reestablish contact with both fathers, on earth and in heaven, one at a time. The second one, whom I prayed to at night, gradually faded away after 1954 and the first one helped me to loosen that tie by presenting his own atheism to me, for the first time, after I had staggered out of nightmare and bed, down the hall, through the dining room and living room to his snug study, the only lighted room in the house. Today, when my nomadic life often seems to be the most Jewish part of me, the closed, perfect world of Bird of Paradise in its initial unveiling still holds delicious configurations, at least until it gets to the mountain. Then the red coals and volcano come on more like show biz revelations of nature's dark underside with folkloric trimmings, like that frenetic Depression musical King Kong , and I'm reminded, yes, that mercy and moral absolutes were the messages handed down to Abraham and Moses on their respective mountains. But sacrificial and punitive demands were also made of these men—in Abraham's case before, in Moses' case afterward. And something gets lost and trampled in the process, a jarring change of gears such as one would experience by seeing Looking for Mr. Goodbar immediately after Close Encounters of the Third Kind . America calls it growing up; I say it's spinach. Spinach lost and spinach gained—and most nights now, in most towns and cities all over the country, there's nothing else for supper.


Station Identification I

The Conquistador has a heart condition. Despite the recent successes of some of his biggest exploits, the mounting fortunes, his exhaustion becomes increasingly apparent, showing up in the lines on his face, the heaviness of his stride. Out of respect to his power, position, and age, we breathe not a word about his deterioration, act as if everything is as it should be. Obediently we tote his luggage along with our own, slow our paces to his, and gaze with enchantment at the passing scenery.

Getting from here to there is all the Conquistador really cares about, and tough luck for whatever—and whoever—happens to be occupying the intervening spaces. Think of a country, an audience, a movie, a dream that is perpetually en route, refusing to stop anywhere and settle for a while; think of a life on the march that promises adventure, discourages reflection, and delivers the excitement of perpetual motion. All it requires is a belief in the Conquistador. (No need to have a destination in mind—he's already got one plotted on his map.) Pretty soon you think it's a ride, not a trek; you don't even feel the impact of your feet on the ground, and you spend most of your time guessing where you're going. The Conquistador's certainty and your own function like a magic carpet, so it's no longer your feet crossing the distance but the ground itself turning beneath them. Call it the earth's rotation if you like; whatever it is, it urges you forward, helps you to forget whatever you've left behind. (Check your local newspaper for departures. Any page will do.)

What if you happen to like where you are, prefer to linger? That means signing on for a second trip; either that or falling behind and being forced to subsist on your own rations. If you decide to stop short and set up your own camp, you'd better invest in some heavy fortifications. Otherwise, the Con-


quistador may heedlessly plow straight through on his next excursion. The worst part of all will be the isolation.

So usually you decide to fall back in line, follow the dream, the movie, the news story, the audience, the country. Even if every shaded clearing that you pass turns out to be a false expectation—a preview of coming attractions that never precisely materialize, and not an actual resting place—you content yourself with the secure knowledge that every journey has an end. Meanwhile, the Conquistador sustains you. Being one of his party is the best form of protection. It's more like being walked than walking, but it certainly gets you to where you're going.


On Moonlight Bay as Time Machine

A small Midwestern town in 1916, possibly in June. Behind a succession of pink and green credits that they will never see, acknowledge, or understand—a list of names and functions that fasten themselves to a Warner Brothers release, On Moonlight Bay , dated 1951—a family is seated in the dark parlor of a Booth Tarkington house, watching slides of themselves on a screen.

Taste it if you can: 1916. Tarkington's Penrod and Sam, a sequel to his very popular Penrod, has either just appeared in hardcover or is about to. Germany has declared war on Portugal, Russia has invaded Persia, 8,636 English and German sailors have perished in a naval battle off Jutland, and Gordon MacRae—whom we hear with Doris Day singing the title tune over the credits, but haven't yet seen—has just completed his junior year at the University of Indiana, and is deeply shaken by all this strife in Europe.

Meanwhile, Doris Day and her family are watching slides; like time travelers, they are revisiting and sharing past moments of themselves, perhaps even redefining them in the process. Doris and Gordon in a boat On Moonlight Bay; Doris dancing by herself around a snowman; her kid brother with other boys dressed as angels, singing Christmas carols; Gordon graduating from the University of Indiana. In point of fact, these slides are projections of the future, not the past, but we don't know that yet. Each image is complete in itself, and each could appear to the family in a different order and still be the same. Through the act of watching them on a screen, behind a list of credits that we too are persuaded to ignore, we are asked to partake of the same experience. Their screen might as well be ours.

A small Southern town in the fall of 1951, early October for sure, about 3:15 P.M. More than an hour since school's out, not long after Jonny's entered


third grade. Somewhere behind or beyond a slab of print on a page that he will never see, acknowledge, or understand (for if and when he does, he won't be Jonny anymore), he is seated downstairs in the Shoals Theatre in Florence, Alabama, watching this family. He recognizes a father (Leon Ames), who is showing the slides, and a wife (Rosemary DeCamp), a daughter (Doris Day), and a son (Billy Gray), who are watching them.

Daddy (Stanley Rosenbaum) helps to run the Shoals Theatre, so in a way he too is showing Jonny something on a screen—but only in a way. He's upstairs in his office now, and he could only just hear the movie if he walked through the middle office, went out into the hall, and stood at the head of the stairs, right next to the two successive doors leading into the balcony. The Shoals opened three years ago (the opening attraction was That Lady in Ermine ), and Jonny's favorite part of this building is the secret doors that lead from the hall outside Bo's office to the balcony, enabling him to slip into a movie without passing the candy counter downstairs. The Princess, only a block away, used to have a secret door too—leading from Bo and Daddy's offices to the back of the downstairs auditorium—but the route was more direct, hence less secretive.

He knows that it's a special privilege, just like the book of fairy tales that Miss Papageorge at Kilby Training School lets him read to himself while the others read aloud from Alice and Jerry ("Run, run, run") because he learned to read before starting first grade—asking Mommy and Daddy what billboards said, getting lessons from Bo—and gets very bored waiting for others to struggle through simple sentences about a boy, a girl, and a dog. The truth of the matter is that he doesn't like reading at all; even with the fairy tales he usually reads more than he understands. He's much happier listening to Daddy read to him and his brothers on Surprise Night every Monday (when he isn't working at the theaters) and he brings home some candy surprise to go with the stories he reads aloud. He reads them the Oz books, Mark Twain, Sherlock Holmes, Arthur Kober, Octavus Roy Cohen, Kaufman and Hart, Green Pastures , Lamb's Tales , Booth Tarkington, books about Tom Sawyer and William Green Hill and Penrod, while they curl up on the heated floor on cushions from the four toyboxes under the picture window in the playroom. At the last of these readings, he told them that On Moonlight Bay is kind of based on Penrod, even though Penrod isn't one of its leading stars.

Early October, 1951, the second or third of the month, Tuesday or Wednesday, the middle of the afternoon. Taste it if you can. Jonny's already seen Doris Day in Young Man with a Horn and Lullaby of Broadway (with that funny Billy De Wolfe, whom he likes to call Billy the Wolf), and he's seen her with Gordon MacRae in Tea for Two and The West Point Story . His favorite movies are musical comedies; the summer before last he saw Annie Get Your Gun five times, not only at the Shoals but across the river at the Colbert. He likes all kinds of movies except for the ugly and scary ones, like That Lady in Ermine and Freaks .


He saw Freaks at the Majestic with David and Alvin. Daddy had advised them not to go after telling them the story of the movie; he'd even written in the Florence Times, to everybody, "If you are impressionable or your nerves are weak, we don't recommend it." But Daddy was away at the theaters in Athens that day, and David and Jonny and Alvin were curious, so they went without telling Mommy. Jonny liked the midget and felt like and with him all the way through—his love for the trapeze lady, his pain when she secretly gave him poison. But when it got to the part at the end, where the freaks crawl after the trapeze lady with knives and turn her into another freak in revenge, he hid his eyes, then peeked between his fingers when he heard her cawing and saw her, scarred and waddling in the sawdust like a limbless duck, and he felt strange and bad for a long time afterward.

He knows that this movie won't make him feel strange because they're singing, which is happy and natural. And they're looking at pictures in the dark, just like Jonny, and remembering earlier times, just as he is.

A Jewish boys' camp in New England, July 31, 1953, where you're staying with all of your brothers, a friend from Florence named David Darby, and three cousins from New York while Mommy and David Darby's mother are counselors at a girls' camp run by the same people a few miles away. Daddy's in Alabama, working at the Shoals Theatre. You're watching the Friday night movie, On Moonlight Bay , in a room with benches next to the mess hall, the same place where you and Alvin take tonette lessons from Felix in the afternoons. The movie's free, just like the ones at home, but it's not as much fun because it isn't a theater and you can't lean back in your seat. It's not as dark yet as a theater either, and you hope that it will be before the movie's over. You don't see any of your brothers or cousins around, and Mommy's away at Forest Acres (she was supposed to come last night to visit but didn't, you don't know why). David Darby is sitting a few seats away; he won't sit next to you because he says you complain too much about the camp.

That makes you feel bad, but the movie makes you feel good. You remember you liked it when you saw it at the Shoals, and you also liked the sequel, By the Light of the Silvery Moon , which you saw twice at the Shoals two months ago. So it's a little bit like seeing an old friend again. You don't sing out loud along with the theme song, but you do sing along silently, secretly, to yourself.

We were sailing along
On Moonlight Bay,
We could (something something some-thing),
They seemed to say
You have stolen her heart,
Now don't go 'way,
As we sang (a something) song
On Moonlight Bay.


The second time, when the mixed chorus sings it, you get the missing words: hear the voices ringing and love's old sweet song . It almost reminds you of some of the songs at Blue Star, the Jewish co-ed camp in the Blue Ridge Mountains of North Carolina where you went the two previous summers, the silly nonsense songs you used to sing at night around campfires: "Zoom Golly Golly," "Bim Bom," "Tzena Tzena," "Shalom Chavarim," "We Welcome You to Camp Blue Star," all sounding warm and giving you something even wanner to take back to your cold cabin, regardless of what they meant or didn't mean. That's what you feel like now, when you know that your cabin in Maine is even colder.

A bedroom in a canyon in Del Mar, California, Sunday, December 11, 1977, 3 P.M. I'm watching On Moonlight Bay on a rented color TV while taping the soundtrack on a cassette. In different ways, the color TV, the cassette recorder, and the movie are all time machines, taking me both backward—to June 1916, October 1951, July 1953—and forward to when I'll listen to this cassette, to when I'll write this sentence. 1916, 1951, 1953, 1977, 1978; Indiana, Alabama, Maine, California. For all practical purposes, these dates and places are equally real, equally unreal, caught together in the same block of print on a page, just as we—Jonny, you, and I—are all trapped there, trying to make each other's acquaintance and to meet Doris Day and her family, too. I know Jonny, but he doesn't recognize me; we don't know you, and you don't know us. But maybe we can all meet at the Booth Tarkington house.

Just as the chorus sings the phrase "On Moonlight Bay" for the last time, and we all learn that Roy Del Ruth directed the movie, an old-timey car chugs across the screen—the last slide in the series come to life—and we see the father, in a three-piece grey suit with gold watchchain, walk up to a sparkling new white house and pull up a sold sign in the front yard while the music whistles a flutey, chipper, happy theme. Leon Ames looks over at a little boy with a strand of hay in his mouth who's standing next to the white picket fence. "Hello, what's your name?" The boy doesn't answer. "I guess we're going to be neighbors." But the boy doesn't look friendly, and even Max, the family dog, barks at Leon Ames.

Inside the house, taking a candelabrum out of a barrel, his wife Alice says in a shrill sing-song, "George Wadsworth Winfield, how could you do this to us? It's too big—there are too many rooms, nothing fits." George tells her that's no tone of voice for the wife of the fortunate man who's just bought this mansion. Only in California does this sound like exposition rather than life.

Back in the Shoals, Jonny's wondering what any of this has to do with Penrod. He doesn't always like the Penrod books because of all the fights and other nasty things in them—like Verman, the tongue-tied colored boy who


asked his brother Herman to cut off his finger for no reason at all, or the barber cutting Penrod's ear. But he liked the Big Show that Penrod and Sam put on in the old hayloft; it gave him, David, and Alvin the idea for their Kelly Brothers Circus, staged every year in their backyard. He hopes the Big Show will be in the movie.

At Camp Indian Acres, where you know it won't be, you can still believe that Penrod will live in this new house across the street from Sam, despite the fact that Penrod Scofield's name has been changed to Wesley Winfield, which sounds more refined, and he doesn't look as dirty as he did in the books, which had illustrations, and Sam doesn't even have a name anymore.

Things are different in the Del Mar canyon, where I now know the score and can see that the new Winfield house, like the rest of the town it's in, is pure Disneyland wish fulfillment, and that the movie is a routine Warner Brothers musical of the early fifties, only one of the many rip-offs or spin-offs of Meet Me in St. Louis (1944), such as Centennial Summer (1946) and Summer Holiday (1948), and one of the countless prototypes of TV family sit-coms like Father Knows Best and Life with Father. Roy Del Ruth directed it, and it all goes by so effortlessly that you can swear you've seen the whole thing before, even if you haven't.

The unfriendly boy from across the street sneers at George through the living room window, and George says the boy makes him nervous. Alice says they were all happy and comfortable at the other place; here they feel practically like foreigners. He reminds her that it's only a mile and a half from their old house. "A mile and a half closer to your bank, " she says.

George admits that he wants his kids to grow up in a refined neighborhood, that he wants his daughter to become a wife, not a second baseman. "Where is she? Margie? Margie?" She appears at the front door, carrying a heavy armchair over her head. "There, see what I mean? Margie, put that chair down! Good gracious, haven't you got enough muscles?"

There's a moment of confusion in the Shoals when Jonny sees Margie, Doris Day, wearing a baseball cap, T-shirt, and striped trousers. In Penrod the big sister's name is Margaret; Marjorie (this sounds more like "Margie") is the little girl at school who hates Penrod and whom Penrod has a secret crush on. Jonny wishes he had an older sister instead of three brothers. He has a girlfriend, Helen Schneible, who looks a little bit like Doris Day, but that's about it; he doesn't have a sister, she doesn't have a brother, and they can't even pretend with each other. Helen once told him he couldn't spend the night at her house because she asked her mother, and her mother said that boys and girls didn't do that.

Jonny, what are you doing? Why are you getting up from your seat? Are you going out into the lobby for some popcorn or an RC Cola? You have just enough money for either one in your pocket, a prize from Bo for winning a


game of Twenty Questions last night, and after you make your way back down the aisle, lit by the miniature night lights on the sides of the outer seats, under the white and yellow ceiling and wall design that looks like the fluorescent underside of a giant oval bug, what are you going to do next?

You've turned left in the inner lobby, crossed over to the double doors as if in a dream, gone through one of them into the sunlight and the narrow passageway between the Shoals and the next building, and turned right on your way to sunny Mobile Street. Where are you going? To Anderson's Newsstand, two stores down, to see if any new comics have come in. You've liked Captain Marvel more ever since the special issue devoted to the Mid-Century World's Fair, which told you how important, momentous, and exciting it was to be living in 1950, the precise middle of the century, a time so important that the World's Fair in the comic made it look like the future.

And why did you leave the movie? Because you like it enough already to see some of the beginning over again, which you can do (you figure) and still leave in time to go home with Daddy when he gets off work. If you go to Anderson's now, which is like an itch in your pocket caused by the dime from Bo (plus the thought that Mr. Anderson gets in new comics on Mondays and Tuesdays), you can (1) scratch that itch, (2) return to the movie in five minutes or less, (3) see the part you missed for the first time when you see the beginning over again, adding spice to the familiar, and (4) not have to worry about leaving in time to go to Anderson's before you meet Daddy in his office. Ordinarily you'd have gone to Anderson's before seeing the movie, but today you went to Daddy's office right away instead, and watched him cut out ads and pictures from the pressbooks and paste them on pieces of paper to go with the mats, for the ads in the Florence Times .

Stella, the new maid, doesn't like the new house either. Wesley doesn't want to meet the new boy ("I hate him"), but George forces him to be friendly, so he and Max the dog amble over to make his acquaintance. Wesley says his old man has a real gun in the attic that Jesse James used to hold up a train with. Meanwhile, we see that the other fellows in the neighborhood are willing to let Margie play baseball with them, even though she's a girl.

Wesley's showing off the enormous gun to the other kid in the Winfields' new barn when Margie arrives, tells him to put that thing away, and then tries to take it. At the same time, Gordon MacRae, who's looking for his kid brother, finds him just as the gun goes off in Margie's hand, and the green door of the barn collapses on top of him.

At first the kid brother thinks that Gordon's dead, but Gordon gets up, saying, "It might be better for you if I were." The background music turns sinister as he runs after the three guilty parties, catching Margie and giving her a sound spanking—"You little brat!"—the music! punctuating! each of his blows. Margie smiles up at him afterward, a bit awkwardly.

New scene: the music has returned to normality, and Gordon in his straw


hat, all dressed up for the evening, turns the front doorbell, then introduces himself to Mr. Winfield as William Sherman. "I met your daughter—in the barn," he gets out with difficulty.

"Oh yes," Mr. Winfield says, remembering now. "We've been expecting you. Come in." It turns out that, according to Wesley, Marjorie's been watching for him from her bedroom window for the past half-hour.

More embarrassment, this time in Maine. It's Marjorie, not Margie, after all, and Wesley embarrasses William Sherman by what he says. Earlier it was embarrassing when William spanked Marjorie by mistake, thinking her a boy—like Betty Hutton in her raggedy Daniel Boone suit being spanked by Howard Keel in Annie Get Your Gun , which tickles and embarrasses at the same time. And Marjorie is even more embarrassed now that she's put on her first party dress (pink, with a white butterfly-shaped ribbon in her auburn hair), her mother having helped her to get ready, advising her not to walk like a first baseman. You're embarrassed too, at the same time, that David Darby won't sit next to you, but that's a different kind of embarrassment, more dark, salty, and bitter, while the other four shades are warm and sweet and glowing.

The mother furnishes Marjorie with powder-puff falsies before she goes downstairs. "Sometimes nature needs a little help." "Oh, Mother!" "Shhh! All's fair in love and war." Jonny, just back from Anderson's without a comic—having reentered through the front lobby, where he bought an RC Cola—doesn't get this in 1951. You ask your counselor Jerry, who's sitting next to you on one of the long benches—a mean bastard who took away all the candy you got in the mail from Grandma Bookholtz last week because you ate a potato chip before lunch. "Shhh!" Jerry says, not turning, crouched forward, chin in hand, elbows on knees, sitting in what seems to you like a very smug New York position. "They're called falsies ." He says it in such a way that you know you can't ask what falsies are until after the movie's over, and even then he might call you dumb for asking.

Now that I know the score, I find the whole thing offensive. "Sometimes nature needs a little help" indeed! That's the American way with all kinds of merchandise, breasts and cars alike: jazz up what it looks like on the outside for the prospective buyer; never mind what's under the hood. Which also implies that normal men can't tolerate small breasts.

After Marjorie and William leave on their date, Mr. Winfield observes to his wife that it's amazing what a little bit of powder and paint can do. Then, before going through the archetypal front gate of the white picket fence in front of the house (dark blue sky, a sense of distant gazebos in the hazy background), Marjorie opens it for William, and Mrs. Winfield at the window points out to her husband that she's walking on the wrong side of the sidewalk.

Marjorie and William go out in a canoe, a beautiful spray of carnival lights and colors behind them. An indistinct male chorus on shore is softly singing the theme song. William says he's a senior at the University of Indiana and


the place is a farce; all the fellas care about there is football, baseball, and women—can you think of a bigger waste of time? "At a time like this, when civilization is crumbling beneath our feet, our generation is playing baseball." (In Del Mar I'm beginning to wonder whether this is a remake of Orson Welles's The Magnificent Ambersons , also derived from Tarkington, with Gordon MacRae in the Tim Holt/George Minafer part; back in Maine, you're with` William all the way because you hate baseball, and you can't see why you have to play it at camp if you don't want to, and Jerry says you're just a sissy, which is why you complain to David Darby.) "And singing songs like—"

The male chorus resumes: "We were sailing along—" (Is the chorus on shore? Jonathan wonders, listening to the cassette in London in 1978. He can't remember for sure; maybe they're invisible and his imagination normalizes this by placing them on the distant dock, dimly lit by the multicolored lights, when they aren't really there at all.)

"We Were Sailing Along," William recites sarcastically, handling each word with his clipped voice like a clean hand disposing of a dirty baseball. "On, Moonlight, Bay. Isn't that silly?" Marjorie, eating from a bag of popcorn, says she rather likes it. "Have you heard the rest of it?" William wants to know, and he begins to sing mockingly with the invisible chorus, "You Have Stolen Her Heart," then recites, "Now Don't Go 'Way," adding "Hmmph!," then sings again, "As We Sang Love's Old Sweet Song on Moon-light Bay." Then he concludes, prosaically and bitterly, "That must have been written by a man with a glass of beer in one hand and a rhyming dictionary in the other."

Not bad. I'm watching this on TV with a joint in one hand, a felt-tip pen in the other, a cigarette in the ashtray, and an old writing book labeled "Record: Stories of All Kinds about people Of All Kinds by Jonny Rosenbaum ," dated 1954, in my lap, where I'm writing, as Day and MacRae go dancing at the carnival, "Carnival set is pure Disneyland—wonderful," just before the first commercial break.

The Shoals Theatre.

***Opened October 21, 1948, with 1350 seats, a 110-ton Carrier airconditioning system, heavy carpeting, and luxurious gold curtains. (I counted the seats one summer morning, with a friend, when the theater was closed and we could roam at will in its entrails. I made many such expeditions, freely marking off different trails and terrains each time. Once, after crawling across part of the catwalk between the roof and the ceiling, I was severely reprimanded by Daddy and Bo alike.)

***Constrncted entirely of steel and reinforced concrete.

***The fourth largest theater in the state and the largest in any town with a population under 100,000.

***First theater in the South to install Ideal Slide-Back Seats, possessed


at the time by only four other theaters in the world. "This chair, by a simple movement of the body, retracts a full six inches, allowing anyone to pass without your having to rise." Without your having to touch or be touched either, unless Bo was sitting next to you, squeezing your hand.

***Outside done with light brick, Virginia Greenstone marble, and corrugated aluminum.

***Owned by —Louis Rosenbaum. Designed by –Marr & Holman of Nashville (the same folks who drew up the Ritz in Athens twenty years earlier). Built by —Daniel Construction Company of Birmingham.

Here's a picture of the Shoals the week it opened. During construction it had been blocked off from view by a high fence, and even I (at age five) didn't know what it looked like until a sketch drawn by Bobby Stewart, the Shoals manager, appeared in the Florence Times on the day of the opening. If you look down Mobile Street, on the right side of the building, you'll find the colored entrance (just below the vertical Shoals sign on the marquee) and, much further down, behind the Coca-Cola sign, Anderson's Newsstand. The Shoals sign had lights that flickered downward in sequence, a rippling movement meant to suggest the flow of water from one of the spillways in nearby Wilson Dam. Starting from the left side of the marquee and reading from right to left (as in Hebrew) across the front of the building, the upstairs windows over the four shops on Seminary Street (which opened the same day as the Shoals) belonged to (1) Bo's office; (2) reception—the office belonging to Dot, Bo and Daddy's secretary; (3) Daddy's office, just over Crump Camera Shop (Lacanian film theorists, make of it what you will); (4 and 5) the bookkeeping department, where I liked to bother Beulah and look through the stack of pressbooks; (6 and 7) rest rooms, appropriately right over the Brother & Sister Shop; and (8 and 9) over an entrance leading to the theater's backstage, a workshop and storage room used by Bobby Stewart, mainly for signs and posters.

The Shoals sure looked big then, and so did Wilson Dam, along with the TVA electrical plant standing on the other side of the Tennessee River. The electricity comes from generators turned by the spillways, supplying what is said to be the cheapest electricity in the country, which in turn supplies a number of industrial plants, including a government compound surrounded by wire fences, guards, and secrecy during much of my childhood. (Later we learned that it manufactured poison gas.)

One inadvertent overtone of certain Dziga Vertov films for me today is that their smokestacks invariably remind me of the smokestacks I used to see across the river from the front or back of my house, smoking, smoldering, and glowing at night like one of Bo's cigars, painting one little patch of the horizon a pale pinkish yellow. At the time it seemed like part of God, or at least part of His Plan. Another part of the plan, which I prayed for regularly, called for a chorus of singing voices to resound from the clouds, just like the



Shoals Theatre, Florence, Alabama, October 1948


choruses in movies, angelic and heartfelt, showering everyone with light and surrounding the whole world with happiness, singing people off to school and work, sailing them home, sighing us all to sleep. That was more real, in a way, than the Florence I actually knew, real in the same way that temple and praying were real. I felt that it was always almost about to happen, a burst of song whenever I went outside on a pretty day, nearly as imminent as flying was when, in my Superman suit, I took a leaping run off the hill in my backyard. (Even if it didn't work this time, faith said that with a little more hope, energy, and luck maybe next time it would.)

I wanted there to be singing and music in the air in the same way, and with the same intensity, that I wanted there to be a movie of my life, a movie that moved where I moved, showed what I saw, spoke and sang what I heard, said, or wanted to hear. Like a camera, I would record this movie faithfully as I walked down the hall from my room to the front of the house or back; a movie that didn't stop, that recorded whatever I saw from the toilet or in the bathroom mirror and carried everything that happened to me along with a softly flowing rhythm, each thing leading to another. This is the pleasure of the flashy transitions in Citizen Kane , like the cut from Joseph Cotten addressing a street crowd about Charles Foster Kane ("who entered upon this campaign . . . ") to Orson Welles speaking at an enormous rally (" . . . with one purpose only"), a bumpless slide from one thing to another that carries all life and history along for the ride—a delirious, nonstop express train.

We're back from the commercial break, and something embarrassing happens when Marjorie and William go dancing, but I don't quite catch what it is. Do her falsies fall out? (Yes, they do, Jonathan learns at a later viewing, and each of two men on the dance floor finds one and presents it to a bewildered William before and after Margie has rushed off in mortification to the ladies' room.) We next see the couple at a carnival booth, where William tries unsuccessfully to knock down three bottles and win Marjorie a kewpie doll. The pitchman, who calls himself Sunny Jim ("Well, well, well—the first news tiday") and wears arm garters and a straw hat just like William's, sounds a lot like Yosemite Sam and other Warner employees with gruff nasal deliveries (Frank Lovejoy, Steve Cochran, the guy who narrates the trailers). "You got lead in the bottom of those bottles," William mutters resentfully. "It's a fake! Just like everything else in this world." Jonny's reminded of The Big Carnival, which he saw at the Shoals earlier this week.

To show that he's a good sport, Sunny Jim gives Marjorie three throws for free, and she knocks down all the milk bottles. But he won't give her the kewpie doll until William has linked him with the downfall of civilization and compared him to Genghis Khan and Attila the Hun.

They're back at the front gate of Marjorie's house again, 3:20 P.M. Del Mar time, and something archetypal is clicking into place for all of us: white


fence, bluish light, and shadows in the rich blue haze of Warner Technicolor. Both say they had a wonderful time, and Marjorie invites William in for a "nice cool glass of buttermilk," summoning up an image that seems to go with the white fence, the dark bluish lawn, the yellow light on the porch, the buttermilk dress that Marjorie is wearing (less pink now under the moon, at least on my TV), the spun flaxen quality of her hair.

As they walk up to the porch, Marjorie is humming the theme song, but then the background music starts to get serious. Martha Rosier, a future artist and critic who's seeing this movie at age seven or eight around the same time in 1951 at the Rogers Theatre on Rogers Avenue in Brooklyn—long before it was turned into a black church—is getting entranced by the moonlight, to which the serious music gives a rather solemn context. William confesses that he doesn't believe in marriage. "But I just asked you in for some buttermilk, " Marjorie protests in a buttermilky way. "Well," says William grimly, "I didn't want to drink it under false pretenses." "Well, my goodness"—a Doris Dayish phrase if ever there was one, I muse in 1977—"maybe I don't believe in marriage either."

The lights go out in the living room as they enter, and William explains that it's because of the new power plant. They smooch a bit in near-silhouette, their features outlined in yellow, and then Marjorie lights a blue-headed match, giving them a neat spotlight against the blue-black darkness, buttermilky blue moonlight coming in through the window. She keeps lighting matches as he tells her how much he likes her, until she says she's run out. Smooch. Then the lights come on again, and he sees that she does have a lot more matches. And she admits, "We don't really have any buttermilk either." Smooch. He doesn't see her place the matches in a silver tray as they embrace, or shove her cap and baseball off the table as they smooch again.

Jonny doesn't quite get this, having missed her rendezvous with baseball while looking for Captain Marvel at Anderson's, but he still feels the magic of the mood. The audience around him is somber, spelled by the smooching and the blue moonlight. In Maine there is hooting boys' laughter all around you, maybe just to show that they really don't care, that they know this is only a sappy movie. Perhaps because the audience around me in southern California is invisible and unknowable, hence neither somber nor derisive—in fact, nonexistent—it becomes easier for me to think about the lighting, the colors, the specter of buttermilk, or the interactions between these elements. But now I can only think about them; once I was part of them. Raymond Durgnat, a future film critic who in his late teens is watching this movie in early 1953 on a British army ship somewhere between Southampton and Singapore, is less lucky in grasping all these elements because he's seeing a black and white 16mm print, a drabber version that converts this yellow and blue romance into something closer to film noir.

"Pretty Baby" is playing in the background of the next scene, on an old-


fashioned victrola on the porch, while inside the house George is expressing to Alice his worries about William's intentions. Jonny knows the song because he saw the movie of that title, with Dennis Morgan, at the Princess last year; it has the sort of title that makes the back of his neck feel all tingly—a bit like the song "Cuddle Up a Little Closer" that William's singing now to Marjorie on the swing of the front porch, along with the flip side of the record. (It isn't a picture record, Jonny notes with some regret, while chewing the wax of his Dixie cup. An enthusiastic fan of those 78s with colored magazinelike illustrations on both sides, he concludes that they probably weren't even invented when this movie takes place.) Marjorie's wearing a navy blue dress that makes her look like Donald Duck, its bright red ribbon perfectly matching William's University of Indiana sweater.

Suddenly the mood is shattered by Wesley's screeching out phrases from the song: "Cliiiinggg—inggg—viiiiine—" Where is he? Under the porch, amid cobwebs and dust. Marjorie explains that the lattice is loose and Wesley likes to crawl in there, coming out "all bugs." The weight of Doris Day's disgust, her nose wrinkled in a shock of nausea, is felt behind those two words, which come out a bit like "aw buuhgs." It's just the kind of thing Jonny likes to do (canceling out cobwebs, dust, bugs, and nausea); ever since he and his brothers moved into the playroom in the new wing of their house, they have been draping blankets and quilts over chairs, ottomans, and tables in the big room to create dark passageways and secret underground mazes. He wishes that their house had a porch.

He wishes he had a big sister, too. How nice it would be to sit under a porch when she was up there, to be (and maybe to see) under her skirts, to be sheltered by the warmth of her legs. He chews more of the wax of his Dixie cup, unraveling the curled rim with his teeth, which causes bits of wax and/or glue to flake off on his red and white checkered shirt. All too soon, Marjorie makes Wesley come out, and William gives him some money so that he'll go away.

William starts the song a second time, but this time he's interrupted by Mr. Winfield, who wants to have a little talk with him about his future. What sort of profession is he interested in? What does he think of banking? "Frankly, sir, I feel that every bank in the country should be blown up."

Emotional storm clouds are gathering; Marjorie asks if anyone would like some iced tea. "What did you say, young man?" William explains that banks are "parasites on society" and asks Mr. Winfield if he has any money on him so he can prove it. George offers a $5 bill, and William promptly tears it to shreds. "Has anything really been lost? Is there any less clothing, less food, less love in the world now?" "Young man!" "William, Father is vice-president of First National Bank—" "Hunk? Holy cow !"—he stoops to pick up the shreds—"Did I do this?"

"Father, it's nothing serious. It's just what they may teach William in col-


lege—" Which scriptwriter was it, I wonder in 1978, Jack Rose or Melville Shavelson, who had the scruple to insert "may" in that sentence, even though it makes for an awkward line, thereby skirting by the thinnest of hairs a reds-in-the-woodpile note of pre-McCarthy cold war suspicions? Think of 1951 (taste it if you can): the period of the "dangerous" intellectual, the perverse radical in everything from Hitchcock's Rope to The Thing , from My Son John to the masochism of a liberal movie like Nicholas Ray's In a Lonely Place , with Humphrey Bogart. This was when they were calling Adlai Stevenson an egghead, hounding Charlie Chaplin out of the country, and showing episodes from the hard-hitting TV series I Led Three Lives (with Richard Carlson as Herbert Philbrick, fearless anti-Commie double agent for the FBI, a True Life story) at my Sunday school—in the new reform Jewish temple in Florence that Bo helped to build—to keep us all on the right track.

Anyway, Mr. Winfield is adamant: "Until they teach him to support a wife, I suggest you find another man." And somehow, at this moment, I realize I'm no longer watching a movie. I can't be, because movies in that sense don't exist anymore. On Moonlight Bay was once like a family, a whole country watching slides of itself in a dark cozy parlor or people singing nonsense songs around a campfire; now it's a crippled, slightly crazed old man ranting and chortling about radical youth on TV, amid advertisements and other distractions (maybe he's there only for an instant, but he's there all right). What the movie was no longer exists; what it did is done. So what we have to do now is to use this old man, to ply him for his secrets, to get him to tell us what it used to be like. Even if we all wind up meeting at the Shoals instead of at the Booth Tarkington house.

To some degree, that's what this book is about: something that no longer exists. Most people would say that film is undergoing a profound transformation. Maybe it is, but where do you draw the line between profound transformation and extinction? What appears to be the survival of movies, at least in this part of the world, is an illusion created by advertising, "distinguished critics" whom you can read in magazines sold in supermarkets enacting their weekly rounds of slavery, and a few lonely theaters in shopping malls that already seem haunted on the day they open—places to buy expensive buttered popcorn whose empty tublike containers rattle under the seats afterward. When the Salk polio vaccine was invented in 1953, shots were administered to children at the Princess. And when Rosenbaum Theatres was sold in 1960, one of the first steps taken by Martin Theatres—apart from raising the ticket prices (an issue on which Bo had refused to budge) and firing most of the employees (including nearly all the black cleaning ladies, who used to come in every morning)—was to remove all the pay phones from the lobbies. No wonder that the lobby at the Shoals today feels neither public nor private.

Not movies or audiences but ghosts of each convening in dark rooms that are now given over entirely to séances, hollow shells that are no longer


churches or temples but stale civic auditoriums with secular, synthetic smells. I went to one of them last night, a mile or so from my house in Del Mar, where they were running something called I Never Promised You a Rose Garden . Theaters today seldom promise you rose gardens. This one promised a neurotic love story and delivered female wrestler versions of Marat/Sade crazies, becoming hysterical and raising pandemonium at roughly ten-minute intervals. ("Depressing but good is what I hear," said the hostess at the restaurant in the shopping mall, just before I went in.)

Two Very Fancy Quotes

The nature found in gardens is not the country meadow but an evocation, an artifice, a dream; it should be added that the dream develops only on condition that the person strolling through it moves as though conducted by music.

—Jurgis Baltrusaitis and Jean Starobinski, cited by André Téchiné in a review of Dreyer's Gertrud

This used to be a business of showmen. Today in the United States there is more razzle-dazzle in a supermarket than there is in a theatre.

—Samuel Z. Arkoff, founder and president of American International Pictures, 1977

Circa 1951 or 1952, a future American scriptwriter of eight or nine named Lorenzo Mans went to see On Moonlight Bay in Santiago, Cuba, with a girl about three years older who was in the same grade because she had flunked three years in a row. Lorenzo's English was a lot better than hers, so he didn't have to follow the Spanish subtitles as closely, and after the movie they bought a record of the theme song so he could teach her the words. Sitting next to her on a bench in the garden of her house, conducting their English lesson with the record, he had one of his first erections.

February 9, 1978, 5:08 P.M. For some reason, I like to melt into my writing routines, to seep into my subjects and let them seep into me, rather than confront a blank page like a Conquistador faced with virgin territory. Why regard the work as a duty, an obstacle, a target to attack? How can my subject be solid when half of it is me, the other half an external object, and memory has intervened to confuse any firm notion of barriers between us? How can the movie and I be regarded as discrete entities—the implied presumption of most criticism—when each of us is undergoing constant fluctuations, perpetual shifts of mood and tone and focus, both individually and collectively, with each unreeling?

So I try to make myself as liquid as the movie is to me, and get to work by letting myself melt through several layers of other activities, carrying some of the residue with me. Today, for instance, trips to the bank, post office, and supermarket, reading and scanning magazines while watching a few Bugs Bunnys on TV, all eventually edge me into writing about On Moonlight Bay


again, even if I've started doing so by an indirect route. A garden stroll through a supermarket: this describes Hollywood's activity and my own with equal precision, whether it's scanning an aisle of breakfast cereals, waiting for a free bank teller, following a narrative, or pursuing a line of thought—all these activities preferably performed as though conducted by music. How could I have guessed in the early fifties that Muzak would answer my constant prayer for God's own chorus singing down to earth and swelling the air, fulfilling the dream so perfectly that I'm not even aware of its daily effects on me? Who would have guessed that making life into a musical would deaden the senses rather than exalt them?

In the movie the camera is moving from the memory-laden kewpie doll on Marjorie's writing desk to Marjorie herself, writing a letter to William at college. Max Steiner's score reprises the theme song again, this time in a tearful, wistful version. The song is carried mainly by a chorus of strings, sobbing sisters to console Marjorie in her lonesomeness, while the camera approaches the letter she's writing and almost caresses certain fragments of it. ("I tried to go out On Moonlight Bay again, but I—" is all I can make out on the TV screen, part of a fragmentary verbal mosaic that oddly resembles the diaries in Muriel and Pierrot Le Fou , the letter in Yvonne Rainer's Kristina Talking Pictures —but maybe it's my distance from the TV that makes Marjorie's letter elusive and avant-gardeish.) At the end a solo violin seems to weep the final phrase, or all but the last note of it. "As, we, sang, love's, old, sweet, song, on, Moon, light" is followed by Marjorie's commencing a new song, "Tell me, why nights are lonesome; tell me, why days are blue . . . "

At the Shoals Jonny is bored, which is only reasonable: the song is the dullest one in the movie by any standard. But rather than recognize that he's bored, he uses his disengagement as a lever into thoughts about (1) Captain Marvel, (2) the hideous Speaking of Animals short that preceded the movie, (3) Doris Day's freckles, (4) his girlfriend Helen Schneible. At Indian Acres, however, you're all eyes and ears, not because of the song but because Marjorie's sadness as she addresses the doll, gazing forlornly out the window, is reminding you of the sadness of Mrs. Thomas, your fourth-grade teacher last spring—a sadness that was expressed, interestingly enough, in response to an encounter of Helen Schneible with Doris Day.

(It's sharing period in the fourth grade at Kilby Training School, early April 1953, the day after Helen saw April in Paris , a Warner Brothers musical with Doris Day and Ray Bolger ["Good for whatever ails you," wrote Stanley Rosenbaum in the Florence Times ], during a midweek run at the Shoals. Helen is giggling as she stands in front of the blackboard, twisting her hands shyly behind her back and reciting the movie's plot. It's something about Doris Day, a chorus girl mistakenly invited to Paris by the American


government, and Ray Bolger, the man in the government who sent the invitation, getting on the same ship for Paris, getting drunk together, and then deciding to get married so that they can sleep in the same room, but they wind up being married by a waiter who's been stealing whisky from the captain's cabin, pretends that he's the captain a-and . . . 

Helen goes on recounting the plot, tittering at various junctures. Mrs. Thomas doesn't interrupt her, but every kid in the class has become aware that Mrs. Thomas is nervous and upset as all get-out and is waiting for Helen to finish her sharing and sit down so that she can speak. Helen sees this too; after a bit her voice trails off, and she concludes that, anyway, that's what she and Joanne saw yesterday at the Shoals, and she sits down.

Then Mrs. Thomas steps forward and launches into a speech about how dangerous, wicked, and stomach-turning silly movies like that can be. She really means it: they're not only trash, they make life look simple and easy when it isn't simple or easy at all. Some kids get married because they think they'll be cute like Doris Day, they wreck their whole lives as a consequence, and then it's too late to do anything about it. It's downright disgusting what movies like that make people think, and how miserable it makes them feel when they discover that life isn't really funny and cute.

The long speech is delivered in an unbroken current of anger and distress, upset that's so palpable that the entire class seems frozen in apprehension, afraid that she might break into tears at any second. It's never happened before, and it makes me think that she really must be unhappy, that maybe she once even did something like this and wrecked her whole life because of it. I have to admit, though, that I don't like Mrs. Thomas. She gave me more unsatisfactories on my last report card than any teacher has ever done, so many that Daddy decided to punish me by forbidding me to see any movies or buy any comics until I showed some improvement. And this meant living through a desolate month or so, hearing about movies and not being able to see them, seeing new comics at Anderson's and not being able to buy them, until one day, on the way home from Sunday school, I told Daddy that maybe Mrs. Thomas gave me so many unsatisfactories because she didn't like me. That night, after supper, Daddy called me to his study to say that he had decided that maybe I was right and that I wouldn't be punished any more. This made me cry a luxurious torrent—I still remember the spasms, the warm, wet tears of gratitude and self-righteousness, of self-pity and pleasure—and I cast a suspicious eye on Mrs. Thomas for the remainder of the time that I spent in her classroom.

I remember, too, how she once asked me if I was the Jonny who had phoned WJOI radio the previous night to request that they play the Spike Jones version of "The Tennessee Waltz." When I said yes, she smiled to herself and said, "Ah suspected as much," and when I asked her how she liked the record, she laughed and said, "It sounds jus lak the sort of thang you'd


request." In Alabama around that time, this was a sure method of cutting someone dead; I suppose it still is.)

Compress the last five paragraphs into a composite memory that lasts about twenty seconds, and you'll see how at Indian Acres the sad song that Doris Day is singing becomes a lament for Mrs. Thomas—and at the same time an expression of her unhappy wisdom. Marjorie and William thought they'd be real cute, that everything would work out just right, but now William's back in college, Marjorie's father won't let him in the house, and her life is in ashes; she's so lonesome she could die. "Why do I hate to go, dear?" she sings, "and hate to say goodbye? Somehow, it's always so, dear, and if you know, dear, please tell me why."

Wesley turns up to say that her singing is giving him a headache, which must make her pain that much more acute. Then Stella the maid calls both of them to breakfast (in Penrod, Jonny notes, she's a colored maid called Della, and she doesn't order everybody around the way that Stella does). "How many times do I have to call you? Miss Marjorie, your breakfast is ready ." "All right, Stella. I just want to finish this letter." "Finish it later! We're not serving à la carte, y'know."

In the dining room the mother is chiding Wesley, "You eat every bit of that cereal. You're a growing boy, and you need it." "I hate it!" "Stella," Marjorie says, "dust off the piano. Hubert Winkley's coming to call again." Stella remarks wryly, "Men a-been buzzin around here like flies ever since you gave up baseball. This place is beginnin' to look like the YMCA on a rainy afternoon."

Mother: "Your father seems to think very highly of Mr. Winkley."

Marjorie: "Why wouldn't he? Hubert is steady—reliable—has a fine job teaching music . . . and he's just as stuffy as Father."


"Well, he is!"

Wesley's friend from across the street calls for him to go to school, and Wesley runs into Stella on the way out, upsetting a trayful of dishes and silver. "I wonder what you get for manslaughter in this state?" Stella mutters under her breath, sounding a bit like Eve Arden.

Outside the house Wesley says, "Hi, Jim." "Got your letter?" "What letter is that?" "You know what old Miss Stevens said. A model letter to a friend on a subject of general interest." "Oh no!" "Well," Jim says philosophically, "she'll only keep ya in after school two or three hours, I guess."

Music flares up suddenly, the aural equivalent of a light bulb's appearing above a character's head in a cartoon. "Oh no she won't," Wesley says, "I just remembered! I got a letter all written up." To the sound of scampering music, he runs back into the house, crashes into Stella and a tray a second time, and continues up the stairs, heading for Marjorie's letter.

At this point there's an instrumental reprise of Marjorie's lonesome


lament, a solo trombone taking most of the melody, that lasts about thirty seconds. And this time—at least in Florence and Del Mar—it's rather more affecting than it was when Doris sang it; perhaps this is the consequence of simple repetition, a fluke of psychochemistry rather than the result of any intrinsic quality in the music itself, a collaboration between the structure of a Pavlovian emotional cue (an idiot card flashed at the audience that says something like "feel wistful") and the structure of a nervous system.

But what's being shown over this music? I ask myself in early February 1978, listening to the cassette. Jonny and you, both looking with some degree of attention at the images, can answer that question, but I have to construct an image track of my own to accompany it, set-decorated by memory and scripted and directed in part by an imagination that's lost any close touch with the particulars—memory and imagination communicating only by postcard and with formal niceties now, forsaking letters and thereby leaving large sections of the screen vague and undefined.

My plot sense, leading me from Wesley's conversation with Jim to the following scene in a classroom, invariably takes me and Wesley on an erotic-exotic journey into Marjorie's bedroom to steal her letter. Yet for all I know the camera might be lingering now on Marjorie (whom I imagine to be downstairs somewhere in the house, looking wistful, perhaps assisting Stella after the second collision or still having breakfast) rather than on Wesley, say, or on a close-up of either the kewpie doll or the letter. Indeed, considering the emotional cues to memory supplied by the music, any of these four fetish objects could serve the proper narrative function of this invisible half-minute, which is to create an immediate sense of nostalgia for Marjorie and William's love through one of these objects: (1) Doris Day's saddened expression, a pure emotional conduit; (2) the music itself, while Wesley's taking the letter is played out as a narrative counterline; (3) a kewpie doll, the perfect emblem for the movie's cross-eyed attitude toward Marjorie, at once a memory token of her innate superiority to William (her ability to knock down all the bottles—white milk bottles—suggests her superiority as athlete, potential mother, practical thinker, and all-around achiever, her status as "normal" being easy to accept because, unlike William, she has no rivals) and a vulgar identification of Marjorie herself with this gaudy trophy, ironically kept by her, who is "possessed" in turn by her father, her brother, her boyfriend, and even that Hubert Winkley whom we haven't met yet, possessed or at any rate claimed (as William claimed the kewpie doll from Sunny Jim—not Marjorie, who only won it) by each of them; (4) a mute Bressonian surface, a folded, unreadable letter, a "tactful" form of ellipsis whose resonance is ultimately determined by music and memory; (5) an unfolded, legible letter (or fragments thereof) resting on Marjorie's desk, whose words spin out another illusionist layer of images.

Nor is this the only blank visual patch in the film on February 11; the par-


ticulars of other sequences are vanishing from conscious memory, more of them every day. When can I see the film again and reactivate certain memory circuits, check my errors, and recover those missing images? At 5 P.M. I'm awaiting a call from a friend in L.A. to learn whether I'll be able to see a print of the film at her birthday party in a week or so, before I fly to a film theory conference in Milwaukee and then on to New Orleans, Florence, Washington, and New York, visiting members of my family and gathering what other material I can for this book. If I'm able to see the film, it will help me to close some of the breaches with accuracy in my fictions; it will also oblige me to insert another temporal vantage point, another layer in this text.

But let's set aside our uncertainty about visual detail.[*] Miss Stevens (or Stephens), an archetypal old maid schoolteacher played by Ellen Corby, is calling the class to order like a courtroom by rhythmically striking one object against another (chalk or stick? against board or desk?). "Now children, it is time for English Composition. I know how hard you all must have worked on your letters for this morning—" (Her tone is so phony that I can't believe in her for a minute; I wonder whether I possibly could have believed in her in 1951 or 1953.) "So I have a little surprise for you. Now, won't that be nice? . . . Cora Claypool, you may read yours."


"Yes ma'm, " Cora replies boldly, with an absurd degree of overblown pride, and begins to read: "Dear Cousin Sadie, I thought I would write you today on some subject of general interest and so I thought I would tell you about the subject of our courthouse . It is a very fine building situated in the center of the city, and a visit to the building after school well repays for the visit. Upon entrance, we find upon our left the office of the county clerk, and upon our right a number of windows affording a view of the street. And so we proceed, finding on both sides much of general interest . . . " She goes on like that for some time, her voice and her words a deadpan parody of the grotesque kind of self-expression expected from kids in public school, the gnarled,

"3:36," my notes of December 1977 read. "Wesley Winfield looks at objects in class through rolled-up paper," then, "iris shot (like Forty Guns and Breathless )." A bit of explanation is in order.

In his Orson Welles, which I had the job of translating into English a couple of years ago (Harper & Row, 1978), André Bazin describes the famous kitchen scene between Aunt Fanny (Agnes Moorehead) and George Minafer (Tim Holt) in The Magnificent Ambersons as having both a "real action" and a "pretext action":

"The real action is the suppressed anxiety of Aunt Fanny, secretly in love with Eugene Morgan, as she tries with feigned indifference to find out if George and his mother traveled with Eugene. The pretext action—George's

* Early in the morning of February 19, at a screening in a friend's living room in L.A., I learn that the missing images showed Marjorie's letter lying open on her desk, and Wesley's hand entering the frame to write "Dear Friend" at the beginning and "Yours respectfully, Wesley Winfield" at the end, before folding the letter and slipping it into a book.


impersonal diction describing a subject whose actual interest, real or feigned, is congested into a stuffy committee report drafted in the style of a glassy-eyed fledgling Robbe-Grillet of the provinces—a text not to be read or lived, only written.I don't remember what Cora Claypool looks like because the camera hasn't lingered long on her purple and white dress or her pigtails but has concentrated instead on the diversions of Wesley, peeping through a rolled-up piece of paper at various things in the classroom. Then the lazy, quasi-erotic drift of his gaze is thwarted by Miss Stevens's asking him to read his letter.

Two things are interrupted here: not only what Wesley sees, but also the recitation of Cora, which is suddenly cut off in midstream. The film is never to return to her or to her letter again; letter and character (and the actress who plays her) are banished from history and memory alike by the relentless march of the story line.

Yet perhaps she'll reemerge momentarily in the dreams of certain viewers, a wispy presence that crosses the consciousness in one brief flash between narrative units, sealing them together like brick mortar and recalled uncertainly afterward as an image from nowhere: a little girl with a cousin named Sadie who made a trip to the courthouse, spoke to the janitor, went home to write a detailed letter about it, was asked to read it aloud in class, and proudly proceeded to do so until she was brutally cut off by an unfeeling teacher (and an even more unfeeling plot). If she returns to haunt the dreams of only a few of the millions of spectators who glimpsed her, maybe that will be some form of immortality. But she

childish gluttony—which floods the entire screen, submerging Aunt Fanny's shy but distressed vibrations, is deliberately insignificant . . . Fanny's pain and jealousy burst out at the end like an awaited storm, but one whose moment of arrival and whose violence one could not exactly predict."

The classroom scene in On Moonlight Bay also has a real action and a pretext action. The real action—Wesley's lackadaisical reverie—captures the attention of camera and spectator alike and is made all the more striking by an iris (a small, round image surrounded by black) that pans from jack-o'-lantern to teacher to Lincoln portrait to a cutout of a witch on the wall. The pretext action, Cora's recitation (transposed verbatim from Penrod and Sam, although Tarkington calls her Clara Raypole and allows her to finish reading the letter, even if its conclusion isn't recorded), dominates the soundtrack yet is so deliberately insignificant ("much of general interest," indeed; who could possibly give a shit about the courthouse at this point?) that it is scarcely meant to be heard. In fact, by reproducing some of the letter here, I feel that I'm betraying its function in the movie, which is to be ignored, just as Wesley—and Miss Stevens too, for that matter—ignore it.

The iris shots that constitute the "real action" anticipate similar iris shots in Samuel Fuller's Forty Guns (a man looking through the sight in his shotgun at a female gunsmith) and Jean-Luc Godard's Breathless (Belmondo gazing coyly at Seberg through a rolled-up magazine). These shots both dissolve into images of the respective couples kissing—Godard's modeled directly on Fuller's—while the resolution in the corresponding scene


will remain anonymous, a voice and/or a face picked up in a crowd somewhere and quickly discarded, not at all like the woman on the ferry glimpsed briefly in 1896 by Mr. Bernstein (Everett Sloane) in Citizen Kane , while crossing to Jersey ("A white dress she had on"), and recalled afterward at least once a month for many decades to come. No, I doubt that anyone ever responded to poor Cora in quite that way. And wherever the rest of her is today, it's lost to us, lost to the movie and the movie's makers, to all perhaps but the actress who played her, and I don't even know her name. If she's alive today, it's possible that there's as much left of Cora Claypool as there is of the courthouse in Florence that was leveled several years ago, apart from the Confederate monument standing in front, to make way for a faceless replacement—an anonymous hulk that I hope to God grammar school kids today don't have to write artificial letters about.

of On Moonlight Bay is a bit more like coitus interruptus, from the standpoint of either Wesley or Cora.

There's something disturbing about a discourse that has been shoveled onto a soundtrack with the specific intention that it not be listened to closely but regarded merely as a kind of drone to anesthetize one part of the brain while another part is diverted by something else. The implication of this process, which is basic to Hollywood and commercial filmmaking in general, is that part of you dies when you go to the movies, and filmmakers have to show respect for the dead by turning whole portions of their sound and image tracks into deadwood, garbage that is supposed to be digested and excreted as effortlessly as Muzak, leaving no memory traces. And what could better account for this imposed blindness and deafness than the tyranny of narrative and the politics of illusionism, plowing through a given terrain like a Conquistador, raping and pillaging what it can while ignoring the rest?

But just as all streams must eventually wind their way to sea, every account of On Moonlight Bay ultimately has to spill back into the story line, Cora Claypool or no Cora Claypool; and the dubious focus of this story line at the moment is Wesley, caught dreaming by Miss Stevens, who wakes us all up: "Wesley Winfield! You may read your letter ." After a bit of testy baiting from the teacher, who doubts that he even has a letter, and a string of yes'm s from Wesley, he fumbles for, finds, and unfolds the letter and reads at breakneck pace: "Dear Friend, You call me beautiful, but I'm not really beautiful, and at times I doubt if I'm even pretty; though my hair may be beautiful and if it is true that my eyes are like the blue stars—in—heav-en—" He finally catches on, gulps, and the class laughs; Miss Stevens raps her whatever against the whatever and sadistically commands, "Go on . . . pro-ceed."

Another Archie-like gulp, and Wesley continues. "A tree-mor thrills my bean when I re-call, your last words, to me, that last—that last—" "Go on." "—that, that last—evening—in the moonlight—when you—you—" "Wesley. You will go on. And you will stop that stammering ." "Y-you—kissed my


shoulder and—and said that you would like to love me for—ever—and—ever—and—" "Wesley." "—a-and then if you believed in marriage you would—want me to. Yours respectfully, Wesley Winfield." More laughs from the class. "May I leave the room?" Wesley whimpers. His embarrassment is so acute that he might as well have been caught naked, masturbating, in the middle of a jerky seminal flow, by everyone in the room.

"Bring me that letter, " Miss Stevens orders. He shamefacedly obeys and is banished to the dunce's stool. "You will sit there until no more tree-mors thrill your bean." More laughs, more brittle raps for order; fade-out.

Jonny's embarrassed—for Wesley, not for Marjorie, whose letter is ignored here almost as much as Cora's was, functioning as a comic expedient, a text made funny by Wesley's unthinking (and then faltering) reading of it. Its contents scarcely register, except under the general rubric "love letter." There's no pleasure at all in witnessing this kind of embarrassment (unlike Marjorie's being spanked by William), only the sting of sheer cruelty; it's the kind of cruel embarrassment that Jonny hates so much in Penrod . (He doesn't think about this later, as Jonathan does, but cruelty is meted out by this maneuver to Marjorie as well as to Wesley, by both Tarkington and the filmmakers.)

In Maine you're probably just as embarrassed, but you laugh along with the other boys even if it makes you a little queasy. In California I'm so shocked by the sadism of the teacher—which is as transparent as the letters of Cora and Marjorie, just another detail designed to make Wesley squirm and to narrow our focus on the squirm—that I can scarcely believe what I'm seeing and hearing. Look at this worm squirm, the movie says maliciously, with everything it has, in every way it knows; watch it squirm while it's nailed to the floor, and laugh . The Conquistador rides again, and—would you believe it?—we all help to drive in the nail.

Which almost makes me grateful for the third commercial break, forty minutes into the film, despite the fact that I know these interruptions are being spaced to serve the Conquistador in much the same way that a bubble serves a bubble dancer. (Insidious logic: show a lot of flesh at first, then keep the bubbles coming more and more often, giving the customers progressively less—a surefire method for keeping them in their seats.) " . . . The greatest storybook album of all time. With voices and sound effects from the original soundtrack. Relive and give the story of Star Wars with two soundtrack LPs, Star Wars and The Story ofStar Wars , from Twentieth Century-Fox [laser beams heard in background] records and tapes." New voice: "LP includes a sixteen-color-page-photo-booklet from Twentieth Century-Fox records and ta—" Another new voice: "Available at all Licorice Pizza Stores!" Another new voice, female: "Oh, oh my goodness, Christmas can be so hectic! Running here for the trees, there for the ornaments [laughing, half out of breath], someplace else for the last few gifts—" Male voice: "Christmas doesn't have


to be a hassle when you shop at Lucky's [twangy, quasi-musical laser beam takes over, recedes]. Compare Lucky's discount prices on fresh-cut trees and ornaments. And you'll also find a wide variety of holiday fruit baskets—perfect gifts filled with fresh fruits and nuts. Come to Lucky's for one-stop holiday shopping. We're what discount is awwl about."

Poor Hubert Winkley (Jack Smith) is playing and singing "I'm Forever Blowing Bubbles" at the piano in the Winfield parlor. A politely bored Marjorie is wearing a green Scotch plaid dress and biting into an apple. It's clear that this is "poor" Hubert because he's wearing glasses, he looks puny, and, as Marjorie's already told her mother, he's "just as stuffy as Father." But Marjorie is sweet and tactful, and when he finishes his performance, she glows with forced enthusiasm and offers him his hat. "Oh, that was won derful, Hubert, just won derful! You must come again soon—"

"Oh," he says, "I'm in no hurry, Princess." The dolt can't take a hint. "As Shakespeare once said, 'Ah! Music be the food of love, play on."' (Who forgot the if? Scriptwriter, actor, sound recordist?) That clinches it; the guy's a dehydrated turnip, an intellectual to boot, and Jonny's not quite sure how he feels about this (even though it's a good two years before he will wear his own first pair of glasses).

"I have an idea!" Hubert says in his Caspar Milquetoast voice, on his feet now with a ukulele. "Let's sing something together." She demurs. "I would like to very much, Hubert, but I—I—I have an appointment at the dentist." Next thing you know, Hubert's launched into a bouncy tune, "Love ya, love ya, honey," four strums to the bar, with Max Steiner's full support (along with Leroy Prinz's staging), and good old Marjorie takes the next phrase, "Love ya, love ya, honey," then back to Hubert, "Love ya, love ya, honey," then both together, in staggered harmony: "Ewww, if you only knew."

They go on like this (Hubert: "When I'm with ya, honey"; Marjorie: "All my days are sunny"), and what's amazing to me (but not to Jonny, you, or Jonathan, who know better) is the instant transformation of both characters that the song apparently brings about. Suddenly they're in a musical! Hubert is relaxed, suave, and graceful; Marjorie is cheerful, compliant, and affectionate. Together they're cute as bugs, and the whole audience—in Alabama, in Maine, in my head, all around the world—is tapping its feet, hippity hopping along with this spry song and the strums of the ukulele. Even Steiner's strings are being plucked to the same rhythm, reinforcing the joy like spirited hand-claps. Alas, seeing the scene on a larger screen in L.A. three months later, Jonathan realizes that this analysis is largely false, having been provoked in part by the dope that he was smoking in December and a giddy imagination; in fact, Marjorie is subtly hiding grimaces every time she turns away from Hubert; her smiles keep coming and going in waves.

As soon as they're finished—back from a tangent that seems almost as


anomalous as unheralded fucking would be to stiff parlor conversation—Max the dog is seen barking outside, heard over a taunt from a male classmate of Wesley's, passing on a bicycle: "Hey Wesley! How's your bee-youti-ful hair?" Wesley is intercepted by Mr. Winfield on his way to the parlor, told that his sister is entertaining a caller and that he must keep away. With a crack about "the blue stars in heaven" that elicits raised eyebrows from his father, Wesley swears to himself that he'll "get even on that Marjorie."

In the living room Hubert is offering "Miss Winfield" one apple while she's munching on another, recalling "the immortal words of Tennyson," and trying clumsily to make love to her—the poor klutz has reverted to his pre-musical persona—when Wesley enters, ostensibly looking for Max and sitting down when he can't find him, crossing his legs and flashing the black socks he wears with his knickers, picking up the ukulele and essaying a few honest-to-God chords. Hubert tries to get rid of him. What dull stuff this is in 1978; I don't know, I'll never know, in the silence you don't know, you must go on, you can't go on, I'll go on.

You saw this scene in Florence, you're finding the bench uncomfortable, and you're thinking about the comics you could buy in nearby Conway—if only you could leave the campgrounds to go there. But you're trapped here for two whole months, except for special trips (the dance at Forest Acres two nights ago, the walk up Mount Pleasant that gave you blisters three weekends ago). True, you got to go to Conway once, over two weeks ago; you had your first bottled drink in three weeks, a Cott cola, welcome relief after all the red "bug juice" served at the camp (it tastes almost like Kool-Aid), and you did buy a few comics, including (a special treat) the new issue of Mad, with a parody of King Kong called "Ping Pong." But when will you have a chance to get back there again? Your brother David gets to leave camp practically every day, to play golf, but that's because he's in the Junior Division where you can do things like that.

So you give up on new comics and think instead about the carton of old comics that you keep under your bed, carefully filed, beginning with the Archies and continuing alphabetically through the Classics Illustrated, the Jerry Lewis, the rare Jughead, and the even rarer Reggie (you hadn't even known it existed when you found it in Atlanta last spring—the day before you saw the special demonstration of CinemaScope for theater owners with Mommy and Daddy—in the largest newsstand you ever saw in your life, a place that makes you happy whenever you just think about it).

In Del Mar Jonathan is undergoing a similar experience of deprivation in relation to movies he wants to see—particularly Robert Bresson's Le Diable, Probablement , which was shown at the New York Film Festival two months ago, as he was beginning to teach his last quarter at the University of California, San Diego, and is not likely to turn up in his neighborhood for years,


if at all. The fall quarter ended yesterday, and he's very, very glad, fantasizing about the movies he'll be able to see in London and Paris over Christmas, just as you're fantasizing about the comics you'll be able to buy in New York on the way back home from camp a month from now. And to complete a parallel, Jonathan's been complaining incessantly to his friends about UCSD and San Diego, just as you've been annoying David Darby about Indian Acres.

Jonathan's sore at UCSD, not only because he wasn't rehired but also because the campus reminds him of a shopping mall the size of the Disneyland parking lot—filled with "fortress architecture," as J. described it last summer—and because his (former) department has just run an ad for its graduate school in Artforum that includes his name and cutely describes itself as being located "halfway between New York and Vietnam." Over eighteen weeks later, in mid-April, while writing this sentence in Del Mar, he's feeling much cooler about his environment, having seen the Bresson film twice in London and knowing that he'll be moving to New York (where he hasn't lived since 1969) in early summer. The only deprivation he's feeling now is sexual, but (1) unfortunately, unlike esoteric comics and movies, sex isn't an itch he can count on scratching whenever he gets to a city and (2) fortunately, there's statistically more chance of his getting laid in San Diego than there is of Le Diable, Probablement turning up at the University Towne Center shopping mall or, in 1953, of Jughead or Reggie turning up at Anderson's.

A narrative pivot provided by a fragment from On Moonlight Bay should theoretically come here so that Jonathan can turn to the dance at Forest Acres that you attended two nights ago. It doesn't because Jonathan is temporarily bored with this technique. He couldn't care less about the erotic frustration that Wesley causes Hubert by tagging along after him and Marjorie when they go for a walk; he wants to proceed directly to the dance.

The Forest Acres girls invited the Indian Acres boys to the dance individually, as dates—a refreshing innovation that you welcomed wholeheartedly. Madeline Nussbaum, a blonde who was rehearsing the part of Mustardseed in A Midsummer Night's Dream, picked David Darby; you, rehearsing the part of one of the Supreme Court judges in Of Thee I Sing, were chosen by Wanda. Why can't I remember Wanda's last name, or even be sure that Wanda was her first name? In my mind's eye she's ravishing. Somehow the word was out that she had a crush on you, a fact that was both privately fascinating and publicly embarrassing. She suggested that the two of you dance cheek to cheek, and her soft skin felt as comfortable as warm silk, while her perfume almost made you drunk. But when she started to drag you into the cloakroom for a kiss, the suddenness of her passion startled you and you tried to hold back.

She was just on the verge of kissing you full on the lips when your brother David happened along, with a couple of friends from his cabin. Seeing them,


you started to break away from Wanda, but her reflexes were faster, surer, and the kiss was accomplished at virtually the same moment that David and his friends, witnessing the spectacle, burst into gleeful laughter. Just as quickly, Wanda fled, from cloakroom and dance (to tell her friends, or out of grief provoked by your reluctance and the others' laughter? You'll never know), abandoning you to ridicule. You haven't seen her since. News of the incident spread so swiftly that even Mommy, who was Wanda's counselor, kidded you about it later that evening. (Was Wanda kidded too? Probably; and the sad thing is that this makes you more wary of her, not less.)

At this point in the movie, Hubert, a wreck, is returning from his exhausting jog around the green neighborhood with Marjorie and Wesley. It's night now, both in the movie and in the room where you're watching. Sweating profusely, his jacket over one arm, his tie fluffed out, Hubert bids Marjorie a bitter good evening. As soon as he's gone, Marjorie laughs gleefully, kisses her brother with passionate gratitude, and says, "You're an angel," before leaving him stunned on the porch steps—provoking an erotic rush that links 1951, 1953, 1977, and 1978 into one simultaneous current of blissful energy. It brings you back to the nice part of Wanda's kiss, the warm and cozy part that you'd been forced to forget when David teased you yesterday about how frightened you'd been; and your ego transfers with no effort at all from Hubert to Wesley, even though Wesley is closer to David in age and temperament than he is to you. It's no wonder that On Moonlight Bay Suits Jonathan's purposes so well. Life in the early fifties was often little more than a string of excruciating embarrassments, and the movie offers an unending supply of such moments, neatly boxed and framed, as if under glass.

3:49 P.M. in Del Mar, shortly after 4 P.M. at the Shoals, and conceivably around the same time in Milburn, Indiana, there's a close-up of a brown sign that says

Professor Barson's School of Dancing

Private Lessons

Then we see the professor himself conducting his class, "One two three, valtz two three, dip two three." An older, faded Hans Conreid type with a German accent, dressed in a black suit that resembles a tux, the professor coaches a group of young dancing couples while Marjorie, wearing another Donald Duck suit, sits, watches, and smiles. Wesley, looking uncomfortable in a Buster Brown suit, is dancing with an equally awkward girl when Professor Barson blows the whistle on him—literally—to chide him for scratching his back. "In hafen's name, vy must you always itch?" This reminds you of the 5,000 Fingers of Dr. T., which you saw on Times Square the week before you arrived at camp (along with This Is Cinerama , and It Came From Outer


Space in 3-D), a movie that you adore because it's pure fantasy and satire, like a strange combination of the Oz books and Mad .

Barson dismisses the class, and the kids cheer and rush out of the room, followed by mothers and chaperones. Marjorie tells Wesley to hurry on home. "I have to stay here and talk to Professor Barson about something." "Again?" he protests, but she shushes him and sends him off, closing the door after him. Some girls outside in the snow knock on a window pane to catch her attention; miffed, she closes all the window curtains. "Professor, I'm all ready now."

"Margie"—a bit of Old World wisdom glossing over his fond gaze—"you must luf that boy very much to come here every Friday for a month, to dance with an old man." She laughs nervously. "Am I doing any better?" "Oh, much better! Well: what's left for today?" "The Turkey Trot."

He says he understands vy she should vant to learn such a dance in secret; but vy can't he teach her a nice Viennese valtz instead? "Professor, nobody waltzes anymore. And if I'm asking a young man to come all the way from college to take me to the Charity Ball, I wanta be sure that I can dance whatever the orchestra plays."

"Such dances they play now! The Grizzly Bear, the Bunny Hug, the Kangaroo Dip! Am I a dance teacher or an animal trainer? . . . All tight. Adolf"—motioning to his pianist, seen only from behind, a presence even more spectral than that of Cora Claypool—"you should excuse the expression: the Turkey Trot." Adolf begins to play, and they dance together.

Dissolve to Marjorie on her way home, wrapped neatly in a Scotch plaid scarf, the sound of strings and sleigh bells rising over the piano music. She drifts through a snow-filled park fronted by a low brick wall, humming a dance step to the tune of "Love ya, love ya, honey" (so Hubert's claim on her lives on in a way, subliminally, in spite of himself). She dances around various snowmen, almost flirting with them, "One and two and three-ee (glide), one and two and three-ee (glide)," and Jonny in the Shoals is enraptured by this demonstration of the joys and ecstasies that are possible when you're all alone.

A sudden interruption shows that she isn't alone. A boy at the wall mocks her voice; another jeers, "Old Marjorie can't find no dancing partner!" Six boys laugh. "Come on, hit her," somebody says, and she gets into an angry snowball fight with the brutal louts, boys as bad as the stupid jerks in Maine who cheer them on ("Hit her in the pussy," one kid yells, and this makes Jerry laugh). Running after the boys, she climbs the wall to take better aim with her snowballs, then falls, loud and hard, onto a garbage can and moans in pain, "Oh my leg . . . oh my leg"—a litany of misery that Jonny almost cherishes, nursing the memory of certain of his old hurts (Daddy likes to call him an injustice collector").


"We'll return to Gordon MacRae in On Moonlight Bay after these messages," a voice says in Del Mar. Apparently the announcer isn't watching the movie; maybe I'm the only one who is.

Gordon MacRae, a Pisces like Jonny, is speaking on the wall phone in his fraternity house. (Fraternity house?, I wonder in Del Mar. Some radical.) "—give me one sensible reason. Quiet, fellas! Long distance!" He shuts a door. "But why don't you want me to come? You're not going with anybody else, are you?"

"Oh no, William!" Doris Day, an Aries, says from her end, quite distressed. "It's—just that I don't feel like dancing with anyone . . . when all of Europe is in flames—" (A cute joke; almost as good as "halfway between New York and Vietnam.")

"What's Europe got to do with us?" William's tinny voice asks reasonably from the receiver in her hands. "Anyway, it's a charity ball, it's"—cut back to William, his voice normal now—"for war relief, so you don't have to feel guilty. I'll be there Christmas Eve. Gosh, Marjorie, after all the trouble I went to to square things with your father—"

"But I-I-I-I," Marjorie, terribly flustered, sounds like a Gatling gun. "I don't think it's right, William, with poor little Belgium and all and—" How sweet. A pan to the floor reveals her true motive: she's standing on crutches, one leg in a cast. So all Europe in flames and poor little Belgium have nothing to do with it, any more than swinging countries like Vietnam have anything to do with Visual Arts at UCSD. Useful little buggers to have around, though, when you need them.

As if to bear out one of Marjorie's exclamations, she and her mother and Stella are dressing Wesley as an angel, a complex maneuver that is accompanied by a cacophony of voices: "Give me your arm will you please hold still now where's his head tie it up nice and tight just one second it's gotta be long enough hey you're choking me." Wesley is impatient because he wants to go to the picture show, and Jonny is sympathetic. It reminds him of being made up for his part in a Father's Day skit in the Tri-Cities Follies last spring—a simpler costume, just a dress suit, but the sultan's luxury of being catered to by several women brings the moment back. He complained then just as Wesley is complaining, only he's sure that Wesley likes it, too. They're fitting him up so that he can join Hubert Winkley's little group of carolers on Christmas Eve, and his mother promises that he can take off the costume and go to his picture show as soon as they're finished.

Their work completed, Mrs. Winfield remarks on how wonderful he looks—"There's something almost spiritual about him"—and Marjorie, still on crutches, adds, "You'd never know it was our Wesley." But when his mother gets him to look at himself in the mirror, the background music grows


dark with buzzing cellos and runs a sinister chromatic trip up the scale as recognition slowly dawns: "Marjorie's old petticoat! "

Pandemonium breaks loose. Jonny laughs, knowing just how Wesley feels, even though he envies him a little, remembering how nice it was to have a sexy older sister in the Father's Day skit at the Follies. "I wouldn't be an angel if you killed me," Wesley howls.

We next see Wesley enter the Gem Theatre, where the curse of drink is playing. A silent movie, it's one of the few that Jonny has seen, apart from Charlie Chaplin in one A.M. and The Kid at the Museum of Modern Art in New York in 1950, the summer before last. What he doesn't know, and what you in Maine are only beginning to surmise, is that it isn't a real silent movie of the period but a pastiche of one.

Dainty, decorative, out-of-tune piano music with lots of trills and runs is heard as Wesley munches popcorn and Jonny chews on the remaining strip of his shredded Dixie cup. Beneath the screen a female pianist is seen from behind, a spectral presence even more anonymous than that of Professor Barson's Adolf. On the screen a happy patriarch is identified by a title: "He leaves for work, a faithful husband and father."

You already know the rest of it, even if Jonny and Wesley do not. Accosted on his way home by drinking men, our hero is soon consorting with a loose, painted woman in a crowded saloon recalling Greed , to the piano strains of "Oh, You Beautiful Doll!" Before long the music has shifted to a melodramatic chase accompaniment and then to a tearful lament as father sends wife and daughter out of the house and into the driven snow, taking a mad swig from his pocket flask (boos from the audience) and falling onto his knees in animal abjection. In short, a Hyde to George Winfield's upstanding Dr. Jekyll, equally smug and boring.

So much for the movies. Wesley's back at school, mulling something over at his desk, pencil in hand. Miss Stevens, tapping chalk to get his attention—a ritual gesture as formal, in a way, as the three coups that precede a French classical theater performance—chastises him for not paying attention to a demonstration of the difference between a proper and an improper fraction, then returns to the lesson.

But Wesley's mind cannot focus on the abstract patter. His head droops, he dozes off, and in overlit double exposure we see him split into twins. One of him, full-bodied in soft focus, remains snoozing at the desk; the other, sharp yet transparent, flaps his arms and slowly levitates, visibly pleased with himself and his newfound talent. To make sure that we appreciate the abnormality of the event, discordant music (Saturday afternoon Princess serial deathray music) accompanies the pan that follows Wesley's buoyant ascent to the ceiling.


A curly-haired boy sees the miracle, points at Wesley, and laughs gleefully, joined immediately by all the other kids—a raucous, demonic mob of pointers and laughers whose hysteria ("Hahahahahahahahahahaha") floods the classroom. Miss Stevens, unamused, is hysterical too, climbing on top of her desk and clutching upward in an effort to reach him. "Wesley Winfield, you come down here this instant! You hear me? Come down here! . . . If you don't come down, I'll get you down!" But she can't; she can only grow hoarse above the howling students' laughter as her arms flail helplessly. "Wesley! Wesley! Wesley Winfield! . . . "

But our hero remains happily beyond her reach, poised overhead like a devilish angel, like Jonny crawling on the catwalk between the roof and the ceiling of the Shoals last summer, giddy and free and powerful enough to snap back, sweet as you please, "Oh my goodness!"—his sister Marjorie's favorite line—"Can't you keep still for a minute, you old crow?"

"What did/you say? " Within the space of a cut, halfway through her sentence, the impotent Miss Stevens of Wesley's dream has become the threatening real Miss Stevens, her voice surrounded now by silence and underlined with implacable sternness: "What did you say? "

Like the potato chip you ate in Jerry's presence before lunch at Indian Acres, it's a crime that can't be undone or wished away, however unconscious its execution might have been. The stain is indelible, and innocence is Wesley's only alibi: "What did I say?"

"You know very well what you said. Now stand up! March!" And in Del Mar there is another commercial break.

After school, or perhaps during recess, Wesley is perched on a stool to the left of Miss Stevens's desk, and she's asking him, "What excuse do you have to offer before I report your case to the principal?"

"Well—I-I was just thinking—"

"That won't do, Wesley Winfield." Alas, it never does, Jonathan reflects glumly in California. "If that is your only excuse, I shall report your case this instant! Now come with me."

"Well, I have got an excuse."

"Well, what is it?"

"Well, it's 'cause I didn't get any sleep last night," Wesley says, trying to exude pathos. With a blackboard bearing fractions, a window framing a snow-covered schoolyard, and a Christmas tree in the corner all behind them, this isn't quite as hard as it sounds.

"Were you ill?"

"No ma'm, it wasn't illness. It was lots worse than being sick. It was—oh, it was just aw ful."

"What was?"

"It's about Father."


"Your father?"

"And Mother—but the trouble was mainly Father."

"Now Wesley, I've never heard any such rumors about your family!" Any such rumors? What rumors? You and Jonny swallow her line as though it were molasses, relegating any hint of obscurity to the vagaries of grown-up babble; but Jonathan and I, both grown up, recognize the lousy scriptwriting, the cart-before-the-horse mechanics that would make sense only if the scene were played backward. "I've heard them about plenty of others," Miss Stevens says, "but—well, your father has always struck me as a, a quiet and charming man."

"Well, he was until last year," Wesley says, "when he took to running with them traveling men."

"What? . . . I don't want to hear another word of this." But curiosity gets the better of her, and after a pause she adds, "Continue."

To make sure that we all know what Wesley is doing, the tinkling out-of-tune piano of the Gem Theatre begins quietly behind Wesley's reply, growing a little louder as the conversation proceeds. "Yes'm. That was what started it. At first, he was a good, kind husband. But those traveling men'd coax him into a saloon on his way home from work. And they started him drinkin' beer and then ales and wines and liquors and cigars—"



"I don't want to hear an-y further about your family's private affairs. Now, I'm asking you if you have any-thing to say that could possibly excuse—"

"That's just what I'm trying to tell you, Miss Stevens, if you'd just only let me. You see, after we bandaged Marjorie—"

"Bandaged Marjorie?"

"Yes'm. Y'see, her leg was all bruised up and mauled "—he twists his features together for emphasis—"where he'd been hittin' her with his cane—"

"I knew Marjorie had hurt her ankle—but I didn't know your father had—"

"Yes'm. So I had to sit up with her. And Mother. She had some pretty big bruises too."

"But, well, why didn't you send for the doctor?"

"Oh, they didn't want any doctor. We don't want anybody to hear about it. Y'see, Father might reform and then where'd he be if everybody knew he'd been a drunkard and whipped his wife and daughter?"

Miss Stevens gasps; Jonny giggles; you yawn and begin to puzzle a bit about why Wesley is trying to make a case against the reform of his father's alcoholism, and I decide that once again scriptwriters Rose and Shavelson are to blame. "See, he used to be as upright as anyone. It all begun—"

"It began, Wesley," Miss Stevens says as a cascading harp and a flurry of strings lead the way into an eerie flashback mood.

Wesley continues, "It all commenced when the first day he let them


traveling men coax him into that saloon . . . " Against more weird and wavering strings, a solo pizzicato spells out a downhill chromatic march toward destiny. The hands of the clock on the classroom wall, in medium-shot, move from 12:05 to 12:25.

To Jonny the dreamy compression of time suggests that it's about two hours earlier than he gets out of school (at 2 P.M.), which means that Wesley has at least two hours less of school each day than he has—unless Wesley's school starts before 8, or it's only during recess.

To you in Maine it is an instant metaphor for and counterpart to that familiar movie device, the calendar whose pages drift off successively, and it reminds you (1) that it's the end of July, not shortly before Christmas, a full month yet before camp is over and Daddy returns, so that you can all drive back to Florence together in the station wagon (by way of New York, where you can buy more comics), and (2) of your diary, a black book bearing the inscription

Johnson & Johnson
Established 1907
Insurance—Surety Bonds
115 East Mobile Street
Florence, Alabama
Telephone: 503

and given to you by Bo and started on April 27, 1953, Bo offering you ten cents for each day that you keep it up in order to encourage your writing, Daddy counting up the entries every month or so (except at camp) and marking "pd thru here" at the end so that Bo could pay you at intervals, a diary that you'll have to write in tonight, after the movie's over and before taps.

To me in Del Mar at about 4 P.M. (I check my watch) the classroom clock is a reminder to look again at the July 31, 1953, entry in that diary, now lying beside me on the bed. Because of the wording, I realize this time that the entry must have been written the following day, August 1: "We aired our mattress[es]. I got my laundry. I saw 'On Moonlight Bay' that night." Curious; on July 27, 1978, while typing this sentence in New York, three weeks after my move from California, the entry raises two separate queries in my mind: (1) Why didn't I have time to write the entry the night before? Had I forgotten to do it? (2) Why was airing the mattresses in the cabin represented as a communal event, while picking up laundry and seeing a movie were described as solitary activities?

To all five of us, including Jonathan in L.A. on February 19, 1978, the passing of time is an intimation that the movie itself is a magical sort of time machine, compressing or expanding certain moments at will and jumping from one time to another in a way that we clearly cannot. If we had the right levers to turn, maybe we wouldn't need the movie's time abridgments: Jonny could speed up the movie on his own, inside his head, landing him safely and


squarely in the next scene; you could be out of camp and on your way back to Florence via New York, I could be back at Indian Acres, and perhaps Jonathan could be back at the Shoals. In the course of professing to take us back to December 1916, and shrinking the time between noon and 12:30 to a matter of seconds, the movie seems to offer the possibility of all these rites of passage. But who is the servant of this time machine, and who is the master? Who is pulling all the levers?

With the music still enmeshed in weird waverings, Wesley and Miss Stevens fade back into view, Wesley's voice regaining volume and pursuing a maudlin soliloquy about his mother's tears. Miss Stevens is more than impressed; there are traces of genuine loving affection in her voice and her eyes as she considers Wesley's plight: "You brave little boy." She suggests that he take the afternoon off "and forget about the Whole Thing"—implying that this is during recess after all.

There's a pause on my cassette, then a stray line of Marjorie's that abruptly ends side one: "All right, Hubert, I'll tell him—" Tell whom? Tell him what? Is she addressing Hubert on the phone or in person? My voluminous notes offer not a clue, except to mention that she walks on crutches to the dinner table, her purple dress the color of grape sherbet.

Side two commences with Father's sharp command to Wesley, "Eat your soup, it's good." The two phrases are uttered as though they were syntactically equivalent, foreshadowing the TV sit-coms of the late fifties (Leon Ames himself in Life with Father ; Rosemary DeCamp on The Bob Cummings Show ; Billy Gray on Father Knows Best ; even Mary Wickes—Stella the maid—on I Love Lucy ), as well as their accompanying commercials. Wesley sits with a spoon poised over his bowl, trapped behind a glass of milk, while Mother, dressed in pink, asks Marjorie if she has spoken to Mary Stevens lately. It seems she's, uh, a little "queer" these days, has acquired a very "odd" manner—"least she seemed odd to me. I met her in the store this afternoon, and after we said how d'ya do to each other, she kept hold of my hand and looked as though she were going to cry." There's a gruff, messy cough from Wesley and laughter in the Shoals, though not from Jonny.

"I don't think it's so odd, Mother." Marjorie can see or extrapolate the good health that's implicit in anything. "I think she's just very emotional. You know, she has relations living in England, and what with the war and everything going on—" Another bit of stray information that the movie offers but never verifies or develops; for all we know, Mary Stevens is as concerned about her English kinfolk as Marjorie is torn up about those poor little Belgians. Yet from the recent evidence on screen, all we can surmise is that this lonely, deprived woman is dying to get Wesley into bed with her, and maybe his mother too, for an amorous, tearful rollaround of commiseration. The Conquistador, interested only in the setup of a rickety gag structure, blithely looks the other way.


Mrs. Winfield doesn't seem to pick up on this possibility either; instead she interrupts Marjorie with, "Wait. She stood there squeezing my hand and struggling to get her voice—really, I was embarrassed—and then finally she said, in a kind of tearful whisper, 'Be of good cheer, this trial will pass—'"

"How queer!" Marjorie says.

"Maybe she'd been drinking," Father says, following this with a forced laugh that Wesley echoes hollowly—a signal to the audience to do the same, and the kids at Indian Acres (you included) comply.

Then Mother reveals that Miss Stevens said something even "queerer": "'I know that Wesley is a great, great comfort to you!'"

Stella, standing beside Mother, drops the soup serving bowl on the table with a clatter. Father muses, "I'm afraid she's a goner," and Stella chimes in with, "Crazy as a bedbug." Wesley sighs with relief and asks for more soup, apparently impervious to the insult just laid at his feet.

Jonny bristles at this indifference or insensitivity, remembering the small hurts that have come from his own parents' teasing him. Usually they kid him about how much he likes to talk, calling him Mighty Mouth a few years back or, just before their summer trip in 1950, writing a song that the whole family (Jonny included) sang together on the road, to the tune of "We're Off to See the Wizard."

We'rrrrre off to see the Smokies, it's Washington and New York,
We'll really have a wonderful time if Jonny refrains from talk,
 If David and Alvin don't whine and fuss, a wonderful trip's in store for us,
We're off to see the Smokies—it's Washington and New York!

At the local railroad depot William, looking somewhat older in a raccoon coat and a grey hat, steps off the arriving train and immediately runs into Miss Stevens, all gussied up in a broad-brimmed hat decorated with fake yellow flowers. (And what is she doing at the station, apart from sparing the scriptwriters the necessity of another scene? We'll never know.) "William Sherman! What are you doing in town? Jim said you were staying at the University this Christmas."

"Well, I came down to take Marjorie to the Charity Ball. It's a surprise."

"Marjorie Winfield?" She sighs mournfully. "Ohh, you poor, poor boy." The woman clearly has funds of sympathy for everyone; why can't the movie afford her any in return?

"What's the matter, Miss Stevens?"

"You mean she didn't write you about—Her Father? . . . You come with me. C'mon—" They exit together.

In the parlor of the Winfield house Stella is giving Marjorie an alcohol rub while Father lies stretched out blissfully on the sofa. Mother addresses him


gingerly, "George—George." She smiles. "Sleeping like a baby. He's been working too hard lately."

"Is the light shining in his eyes, Mother?" Marjorie asks.

"Oh—well, I'll fix that." She picks up a newspaper, unfolds it, and spreads it over his face like a coverlet. "Oh, isn't it cozy, " she exclaims, surveying the scene (Christmas tree, pulsing fireplace, snoozing Father), getting us to do the same, to say the same, "A perfect Christmas Eve." On cue, the doorbell is turned five frantic times.

"Someone wants in," Stella says redundantly, going to answer the bell as it rings three times more. A Christmas wreath appears on the outside of the door as she opens it to reveal a glaring William Sherman. "Marjorie!"

"Bill! . . . Oh Bill, I'm so glad to see you," she cries girlishly, ecstatically, as he rushes to embrace her and sees her broken leg, the Christmas tree behind them.

"It's true!" he says. "Look what he's done to you—that monster! Marjorie, I'll take you away from all this—"

"William," Mother says loudly, indicating Father supine, "will you please be quiet?"

"Don't you worry, Mrs. Winfield, I'm not afraid of him."

"William!" Mother says.

"So this is what the institution of marriage has done—forced you to live with that drunken beast! "

"Wha-at," she says.

Bill sniffs ostentatiously. "Why, this place reeks with alcohol!"

"That's rubbing alcohol." Marjorie indicates the bottle.

"Oh no," Bill groans. "How low can a man sink?" Or a movie, for that matter? He throws the bottle into the fireplace, and it explodes with a Faustian blast.

"What's the matter with you?" Mother asks.

"Look at him," Bill says, pointing at Father. "Lying there in a drunken stupor! I'll sober him up—" He lifts a conveniently placed pitcher of water and empties it passionately on Father. The shrieks of distress from Marjorie and Mother are accompanied by lots of laughs from the folks in Alabama and Maine, who also catch glimpses of Wesley watching from the front stairway, then running upstairs as pandemonium ensues. ("Ah bet somebahdy's gonna tan his hide, " chuckles a lady in the Shoals a few rows behind Jonny, addressing her kids.) "And if you ever lay a little finger on either of them again," Bill shouts, clutching his victim, "I'll—" "Take your hands off me!" Father roars, and everyone else is screaming at once.

Father: "Get this madman out of this house."

Marjorie: "William Sherman, I never want to see you again as long as I live!"


"I'm sorry, Marjorie," the rechristened William says, exasperated, his voice cracking a little like Andy Hardy's, "but they said he'd taken to drink and was beat ing you—"

"Who's they? " Mother wants to know, jeering the words like a New Yorker.

"Miss Stevens—Wesley's teacher. I met her at the station."

Marjorie is livid. "How could you believe for one minute that My Father —"

"Young man, " Father says forcefully, "never step foot inside this door again —" Apparently he means "set foot," but let's give Leon Ames a break. "But sir," William protests, "she said that Wesley said that." Slam! goes the door in his face.

Thursday, August 24, 1978, 6:35 P.M., New York, a very hot day when it's hard to think, hard to recall precisely how William is maneuvered out of the house. My notes say only that Stella holds a mop near the front door and Father's hair is still wet. But no one watching the movie is concerned about this, so let's give ourselves a break, too. The essential fact is that William is nonviolently but forcibly ejected.

"I knew it was a mistake," Father says to no one in particular, "moving into this neighborhood ."

Marjorie, with a girlish gasp: "I've never seen him like this before!"

Mother, thoughtfully: "Maybe he's been studying too hard."

Father, on cue: "His mind must have snapped!"

And Stella, fourth voice in the fugue: "What was that he was saying about Mr. Wesley?"

The strings shoot out a cold musical dart that betokens recognition, a fluttering suspension that wavers under Marjorie's voice: "Wesley! Oh my goodness—" She rushes out the door, cheeks aflush, calling, "William! . . . William! . . . William!" leaving her parents to round off the incantation over a trill from the reeds, passing from Mother's question to Father's direct summons—"Wesley?" "Wesley !"—syllables that are answered by two low, confirming thuds from the orchestra.

We're at the front gate again, the same tableau that framed William and Marjorie's first date, with the same hazy blue background, but with Marjorie and William now on opposite sides of the white picket fence, which supports an even line of snow. The theme song returns to solace the pathos vibrating in Marjorie's voice, and the memory of their love drifts back, even though the winter setting makes the buttermilky moonlight harder and bluer than it was last summer—a bit reminiscent of the snow ice cream that Jonny sampled last winter.

"Oh William, I'm awfully sorry. If only I had told you how I sprained my ankle—"


"I'm not interested."

"William, please listen to me." She takes a breath. "I was throwing snowballs and I fell. And I didn't want to tell you because—because you'd think I'm so feminine." Breath. "There's nothing I wanted more than to go to the dance with you." Breath. "I even practiced the Grizzly Bear and the Crab Step and all those dances. Won't you please come back?"

It's a confession that borders on self-humiliation: there's no apparent reason why William might think Marjorie "so feminine" for falling while she was throwing snowballs, and it is not clear why she would have minded if he did, yet she says this with such tender abjection, with such an emotional abdication of logic, that Jonny can't help but sniffle a little along with her, feeling a warm glow rise in the back of his head. But William holds back, his own dignity at stake. "I only make a fool of myself once a night."

A pause while she takes this in. "Well, you pompous old—" She reaches angrily for a handful of snow, packs it, tosses it at William (a glissando of strings spells out the snowball's trajectory), and hits him up side the head, as they say in Alabama. He comes back, grabs her, and they kiss and embrace to the rippling of a harp that concludes the statement of the title theme.

There's something sad as well as sweet about their embrace, but as the song in Lili says, "A song of love is a sad song." And the song in Lili, a song of love, was sweet and sad too. You saw the movie with your whole family in Washington back in June, on your way up to camp, and the song that Leslie Caron and Mel Ferrer sang with an accordion—as good as any campfire nonsense song—has stayed with you all summer.

It was a song that poor, orphaned Leslie Caron used to sing with her father, and the puppets (Mel Ferrer) got her to sing it again to cheer her up. You could still hear it after the movie, when you all went into a crowded, clanging cafeteria for supper and, standing in line, you saw a newspaper headline that you asked Daddy about: Rosenbergs Electrocuted . Were they related at all to the Rosenbaums? And why were they electrocuted?

Daddy explained to you, Alvin, David, and Michael, about the atomic secrets the Rosenbergs had given away, about the electric chair, and about the two little Rosenberg boys. "But that means that they're orphans now," you said, suddenly realizing the fact, and after you all sat down at a table with your trays, the tears started in your eyes as the Lili song played on in your head. You started to eat your chicken à la king, and thought about the poor little boys who didn't do anything wrong and who lost their parents. "Why did they have to be killed?" you asked Daddy, and Mommy said to lower your voice. Daddy lowered his own voice and said, "Yes, I think it really is unfair to those kids. But we shouldn't talk about it here at the table. People can hear us, and maybe they wouldn't like to hear about electric chairs while they're eating." So you and Alvin talked instead about the puppets in the movie, but the sad song about the Rosenberg boys played on, silently, secretly, "Hi-Lili,


Hi-Lili, Hi-Lo, Hi-Lo," and it made you sad whenever you thought about it. How funny that was—how happy and sweet it made you feel about being sad, and how that made you feel less alone.

During the commercial break, as I go to take a leak, I can hear Melina Mercouri in a trailer for Never On Sunday (to be shown when On Moonlight Bay is over) admitting to an American tourist that she's learned French, English, Greek, Italian, and a leetle Spanish "in bed" and exclaiming excitedly, "I like my life! I like my work! I theenk, therefore I am! Descartes! French philosopher!" Cal Stereo announces a holiday sale (as I return to my bed), an entire system for just $256; Suzy Chapstick declares, "This is real chapstick weather—so Chapstick is the only name for me"; and Bern Schaeffer, owner of Colton Piano and Organ Supermarts, says Hi, points out that he has over 400 grand pianos ranging from $14.95 to $55,600, "and of course everything in between," and lists the freeways—Colton, Carson, and Santa Ana—where his supermarts are located.

Father is storming around with his razor strop, looking for Wesley. "I hope he's all right," Mother says maternally. "So do I," Father replies smartly, "because I want him to be in good condition when I catch up with him! Wesley! . . .  Wesley! . . . Wesley!" He goes out onto the porch, where Marjorie and Bill are, and they see a team of kids dressed in white robes with wings and halos marching toward the house, singing "Hark the Herald Angels Sing." The carolers suggest, at least to Jonny at the Shoals, the kids from the Our Gang comedies dressed up for Halloween, only with wings and halos, and in color. Jonathan thinks vaguely of a religious procession out of Eisenstein, or perhaps the Ku Klux Klan.

Father is flanked now by Mother and Stella as he watches in stupefaction. "Mother," he intones slowly and quietly, "I need a drink." "I'll have one with ya," Stella snaps back with her customary smirk.

Wispy oooohs ooze from the carolers (or, rather, from an offscreen chorus that is much too heavenly to match the children on screen), accompanied by poor Hubert Winkley on a portable organ near the bushes, miffed and bereft (a dab of cute contrast to make the coziness feel even cozier), the kids occupying the front lawn. It's the sort of sound that goes with pink clouds at sunset, baby Disney animals snuggling up to their mothers, and benign patriarchs like the wise old owl in So Dear To My Heart . As Stella and the senior Winfields reenter the house and William takes off his raccoon coat to drape it around Marjorie, she sings over the celestial choir, looking dreamily at nothing in particular. William, sitting calmly on the porch railing, joins in, and he and Marjorie croon over the chorus alternate lines of a variation of "Silent Night."

"Merry Christmas, Marjorie," Bill says, looking at Marjorie. "Merry


Christmas, Bill," Marjorie says, looking at Bill while Mother and Father and Hubert and Wesley and the other kids watch Bill and Marjorie. What a nice, tender, icky moment; for sheer snuggleness, sweetness, and warmth, Jonny can recall little to compete with it (perhaps Betty Garrett singing "Baby, It's Cold Outside" to Red Skelton in Neptune's Daughter —a memory he has managed to preserve for twenty-seven months, along with that of Ricardo Montalban singing the same song to Esther Williams in the same picture. He already confuses this a little with the Sun Valley setting of Duchess Of Idaho, another Esther Williams musical; his mind combines the snugness of the former with the snow of the latter to synthesize an ideal mixture. Other details will fade too, but the warmth will stay with him for decades to come).

A close-up of an invitation to William's graduation from the University of Indiana, June 3, 1917, accompanied by a male chorus's robust rendition of "Alma Mater," tells us that the movie has leapt forward more than five months. A staggering assumption, which all the subsequent action will subtly reinforce: that nothing essential has happened to anyone for 163 days, as though a wave of mass amnesia has swept across the movie's population, leaving all as we last saw them only seconds ago. Whatever surprises may be in store for us, they are made possible by our own moviegoer's credulity, not by the capriciousness of the characters—static figurines who remain forever the same, whether we see them whole or not.

And how can we see them whole when our view is necessarily one-sided, able to see only the camera's side of the props, never the reverse side, where a well-to-do Midwestern neighborhood in 1916 becomes a complex network of unembellished scaffolding and wooden supports?

How can we see anyone or anything whole? Tonight, for instance, September 6, 1978, New York, West Greenwich Village, a little before 8 P.M., at a newsstand on Sixth Avenue near Eighth Street, Jonathan purchased copies of TV Guide and the New York Review of Books and a pack of cigarettes, and the newsdealer swore, fumed, and shouted as he added and readded the three prices, 35 cents, 85 cents, and 70 cents. He was steamed that the New York Review cost 85 cents instead of a dollar. "Goddamn bastards can't make it an even dollar, has to be eighty-five, eighty-five! Those fucking son of-a-bitching bastards have to be fancy!" That's not exactly what he said, but whatever Jonathan heard—not more than a third of which seemed to be addressed to him, or to anyone else—is infinitely less retrievable than the soundtrack of a movie he taped nine months ago, even though Jonathan is recalling this incident only four hours later, in his SoHo apartment shortly before midnight.

Another obstacle to seeing (or hearing) the newsdealer whole was the counter the man stood behind, and Jonathan's lack of access to a reverse angle: the newsdealer's view of him, the magazines, the pedestrians, the traffic


on Sixth Avenue, the buildings across the street—all seen from behind and thus framed by the cramped and closeted cubbyhole in which the man was standing.

Jonathan can't get any closer to William or Marjorie or Wesley or Mr. and Mrs. Winfield or Hubert or Miss Stevens because he can't see their own frames as they look through the camera at him—neither the frames of the characters in the Indiana of 1916 and 1917 nor the frames of the actors on a Warner Brothers sound stage at mid-century. The worlds that circumscribe their gazes into his world are as invisible to him as the Shoals Theatre, the Indian Acres mess hall, a Del Mar bedroom, an L.A. living room, and a New York foam mattress (where he's writing this) are to them.

This is a long digression, harping on what may appear to be obvious, but it introduces a significant slant on an important scene that is about to take place. We're only a few shots away from an image that will round off the collection of slides that was flashed on a screen in the Winfield parlor some time ago, behind the credits of this movie. Think back now, and recall those five tableaux if you can: Doris and Gordon in a boat On Moonlight Bay; Doris dancing around a snowman; Billy Gray and company singing Christmas carols before the Winfield house; Gordon's college graduation; and the Winfields' new neighborhood, as the action of the movie begins. With all but one of these spatiotemporal coordinates firmly staked out and the movie less than three-quarters over, what can the remaining twenty-odd minutes offer? Nothing, apparently, that warrants a place in the ideal scrapbook that was projected into the Winfield parlor—not to mention millions of other architectural and cranial enclosures, rooms and brains, throughout the Western world (and perhaps even further, toward the East: Ray Durgnat no longer recalls how far from Singapore his army ship was stationed when this divertissement was projected for the troops). Which suggests that the privileged models of timeless fulfillment proposed at the beginning of this film are about to become exhausted, bypassed, leaving us with something else entirely. A volcano, perhaps, to threaten the serenity of a paradisiacal island?

First of all, only a university tower clock, announcing that it's shortly after 11 on a crisp spring morning. Then William, in his black cap and gown (a curious negative image of the white angel dress worn by Wesley and his fellow carolers), standing on a tree-lined path with Marjorie, who's wearing a yellow outfit of matching buttermilk dress, gloves, purse, and broad-brimmed hat with yellow sash. William sounds a mite portentous when he says, "You know, it just occurred to me that after today, I won't belong here anymore." Disturbing prophecy; once this movie is over, we won't belong in it anymore, either.

"Why, William Sherman," Marjorie exclaims, "I didn't know that college meant so much to you. You used to laugh at it, you know."


"I was just going through a phase." William shrugs.

"Were you goin' through one about me, too?"

"Nooooh," he says gently, almost paternally. "That wasn't a phase." He kisses her to prove it, as other graduating students walk past.

"Oh Bill," she sighs, "we're gonna have a wonderful time this summer." She notices his troubled air. "What's wrong?"

"Marjorie, there's s-something very important I've got to tell you—" The tower bell rings repeatedly.

"What's wrong?" she repeats. Two other gowned students walk briskly by, saying, "Come on, Bill, you wanna graduate, don't you?" and "Or do you wanna wait till next year?"

Bill says, "Holy smokes, I gotta make a speech. Come on—"

"But what were you gonna tell me?" Marjorie asks.

"You'll know soon enough."

As if to prove him right, the movie cuts to an outdoor platform and the camera dollies back from the red-draped rostrum to take in Bill with his cap in his hands, the rostrum before him, a giant red and white banner, CLASS OF 1917, that stretches across stage and screen, other gowned figures on the stage, and then part of the audience as well. Bill is speaking:

"During our four years at college, many of us have changed our ideas as often as our wardrobes. And I think it's a wise thing; a good student should have an open and inquiring mind. As freshmen, we were radicals. As sophomores, we were freethinkers. As juniors, we were intellectuals . . . In those years past, it had become fashionable to us to sneer at established institutions"—he stumbles slightly over the last word, omitting the first "n," reminding Jonny of the way he often hears the word pronounced at temple—"but now we must outgrow our callow philosophies and face the realities of a troubled and changing world."

In the audience Marjorie is whispering to Mother, "Doesn't William look distinguished in his cap and gown?" "Someday," Mother whispers back, "Wesley will look just as distinguished, " and Stella, in the row behind them, murmurs, "Yeah, but it'll take more'n a cap-n-gown." Meanwhile, William continues, less audibly, "In the words of that great American Thomas Paine . . . "

Speaking of Wesley, he's sitting to the right of Father—who's sitting to the right of Marjorie, who's sitting to the right of Mother—and he stealthily removes a peashooter from his vest pocket.

"I say to you that we must awaken to our responsibilities"—William's voice is louder again, the camera is on the podium in reverse angle, and bam! goes a pellet from the peashooter, hitting him up side the neck—"as students and citizens, and remember that we are men and women, not dreamers in an ivory tower." Bam! another pellet strikes his neck, but he keeps his cool—or almost, because he pauses, and his next sentence omits another consonant (William's slip or Gordon MacRae's?): "These are the times that try men's


soul. The summer soldier and the sunshine patriot must do everything in their power—"

Cut to Father taking away Wesley's peashooter before he can get off a third pellet, Wesley coughing loudly and disgustingly to cover his exposure.

"Well," William says primly, "we are not summer soldiers or sunshine patriots. Many of you have come to think of college students as frivolous young men and women."


"A fine boy," Father says, sounding impressed. "A little erratic, but—he's straightening out. Uh, now that he's graduating, I suppose you've made your plans."

"Plans for what, Father?"

"For marriage —what else is there?"

"Bill doesn't believe in marriage."

"Oh: something else they've taught him in college . . . But you'll bring him around."

"Well, he's convinced me that he's right!"

"WHAT?! "

"Shhhh!" says Mother.

"Bill says that marriage is a remnant of a decadent civilization . . . "

Weh -ell," Father says, aghast, raising his voice, "This decadent family has"—he quickly lowers his voice, looking around—"has believed in it for a good many years—and I've never seen any cause to regret it until today! I am taking you away from him before it's too late—

"Marjorie stifles a sort of gasp ("Fa —") as Father gruffly rises, gathering up his family with a few blunt hand gestures so that they can leave the ceremony en masse, while it's still in progress.

Note the first trick played here by the Conquistador, in the text on the right, which we aren't supposed to hear except as "background": within a very short span, we've passed from "men and women" to "monastery" to "virile," canceling out any hint that females might be part of Bill's graduating class. Yet are they? God help me, I no longer remember whether there are any women in black gowns on the platform, and the movie has somehow contrived for me not to notice this in the first place. This can't be accidental: see, in the text on the left, how Marjorie is denied any voice of her own ("Bill doesn't believe in . . . ," "Bill says that . . . "). And the movie keeps totally mum about why she isn't in college herself. What does she do with her time? Does she have any friends? or any ideas of her own (apart from worries about whether Bill will think she's "so feminine")? It would seem, rather, that she's the mental/emotional/physical/spiritual

(volume lowered, continuing off-screen) interested only in raccoon coats and mandarins' books and senior proms. These have their place. The University of Indiana is not a monastery . . .  (inaudible)  . . . in a moment of crisis, in the service of their country. We are young and we are virile . . .  (inaudible)  . . . seniors who are also mature enough to recognize our responsibilities to our generation. In those . . .  (inaudible)  . . . it has become fashionable for . . .  (inaudible)  . . . but now . . .  (volume raised, continuing on screen)


But just as Mr. Winfield is in the process of leading his family off the premises, they're all stopped dead in their tracks by a coup de théâtre that Bill is pulling off at the conclusion of his speech—a genuine wing-dinger that could stop anyone cold: a striptease!

Yes indeed, Bill's taking off his gown to reveal an honest-to-Pete brown U.S. Army uniform underneath—while all the other men on stage do the same.

slave of every male in the movie, kewpie doll included. And haven't we already seen a variant of this phrase above, in the right-hand column? This is the second trick played by the Conquistador: some fancy fudging with an approximate replay of a phrase, predicated on the assumption that we weren't listening the first time. Once again, our respect for the dead spots in our brain has allowed us to be raped in our sleep.

 . . . recognize our responsibility to our generation. It may come as a surprise to many, and a shock to some, but we realized individually and collectively that we had no other course but to face reality and our duty to our country. I am very proud to be a member of this graduating class."

Pandemonium. A heretofore invisible brass band breaks into a rousing version of "It's a Long Way to Tipperary," applause and loud cheers rise from the ecstatic audience, and black caps fly through the air above the stage. Marjorie stares, dumbfounded and brokenhearted, at William, transformed miraculously into a cute little doughboy.

For Jonny the unveiling creates something of a pang: he sympathizes with Marjorie's plight, yet he feels some of Bill's excitement, too. For you in 1953, the pang is a lot sharper, making you wince at the virtual betrayal on Bill's part, a form of deception that takes you back to the emotional shock of an even greater betrayal in Wait 'Til The Sun Shines Nellie, a movie that was your Madame Bovary at age nine, your definitive honor story about life in the provinces.

That was a betrayal you could never forgive: 1895, a small town in Illinois, and David Wayne promising Jean Peters on their honeymoon that they'll move to Chicago soon, but meanwhile he's setting up a barber shop in town, secretly purchasing the property that it's on, ignoring her in order to spend time with his cronies, and even paying in advance for her tombstone in the local cemetery. The years go by, he keeps promising she'll get to Chicago, and then he goes off to the same war that Bill has just enlisted in. While he's away Jean Peters discovers all his lies and deceptions, and in mad, vengeful desperation she boards a train for Chicago, 110 miles away. Hugh Marlowe, a married man who has been trying to woo her for several reels, hops aboard, too. Overseas, Wayne gets the news that the two have been killed in a railway accident en route to Chicago. And that's it; the remainder of the movie carries Wayne and his two kids to the present day. That was the shock, the betrayal—the unexpected annihilation of Jean Peters and "Chicago" (never seen) from


the narrative, as though a storyteller, addressing you alone, were suddenly, in mid-sentence and without warning, to turn to everybody else in the room and continue the tale, leaving you out in the cold.

So you hated the audience when they accepted Wayne and his dirty lies and blandly forgot about Jean Peters, Hugh Marlowe, and Chicago, just as you hate the kids at camp for accepting Bill and his classmates and their underhanded sneakiness—which looks to me in Del Mar like closet misogyny of the first order.

Yet all these responses miss the essential point: the war that causes this fanfare isn't World War I but the one in Korea. After all, the movie was made not long after Truman ordered American troops to Korea in June 1950, and the cease-fire and armistice talks didn't come about until July 1953, two years after On Moonlight Bay received its national release (Legion of Decency rating, A-1; Motion Picture Herald rating, very good). The armistice is signed, in fact, only five days before you see the movie at Indian Acres.

So the epiphany of this scene—the grand revelation that surely has an effect on the distinct sense of loss that both Jonny and you are experiencing—is the sudden collapse of wishful history into the ugly present, the imperceptible modulation of mystical nostalgia into aggressive patriotism. Yet the specter of Korea remains felt rather than understood, by all three of you in your scattered respective lairs, thousands of miles and many years apart.

Mother remarks on the heat and suggests that George take off his jacket as they and Wesley sit down to the dinner table, which bears such homey items as a plateful of donuts and a catsup bottle. George removes his jacket and checks his pocket-watch: "7:30."

"She's probably mooning around somewhere," Mother says with a touch of tenderness. "She has been since you-know-what"—the last three words half-sung in an ascending scale.

"Someday," George says decisively, "Marjorie's going to thank me for what I've done . . . I was talking to Hubert Wakeley—" (Isn't it Winkley? Or does the pronounciation vary in keeping with the vagueness and insubstantiality of the character?)

"She doesn't like him, George."

"And why not, I'd like to know. He's reliable, settled, makes a good living, and he won't have to go into the army! This morning he told me he had a punctured eardrum." At the graduation ceremony? Is it still the same day?

"He punctured it last night," says Stella, serving dinner.

"Stella, " Mother says with a reproving stare. It's a curious tribal tactic that people use in this movie: reproving someone by reciting his or her name as if bestowing a minor curse. Miss Stevens does it with "Wesley Winfield," Marjorie does it with "William Sherman" (when she pointedly doesn't call him


Bill), and Mother does it with "George Wadsworth Winfield," a castrating operation in each case. Nobody tries it on Mother, whose first name, Alice, is rarely spoken. But what does Stella's wisecrack mean? That Hubert is a sniveling draft dodger who deliberately mutilated himself last night? "Last night" conjures up the caroling in the snow, but that was more than five months ago. What could have happened last night? How could Stella know about it? Is a scene missing from the release prints? Needless to say, none of this bothers Jonny, you, or me, all of whom blithely slide past the wisecrack like greased pigs, shoved along by the Conquistador so that the comment is immediately wrapped and labeled "Stella wisecrack" before anyone can worry about its contents. Only Jonathan, who has time on his hands, is concerned with these matters. September 8, 1978, 8:15 P.M., he listens once more to Stella's phrase on the cassette, only to discover that she actually says, "I punctured it last night," which sets off a fresh wave of enigma. By this time, one should note, Stella has returned to the kitchen.

"Hey, Wesley!" Jim calls from across the street. Wesley raises the window. "Ya comin' ?"

"Be right there!" Wesley hollers back, then turns around. "Mom, I'm not hungry. Can I go with Jim?"

"Where are you going, dear?"

"Well, there's a troop train comin' in and—we thought we'd go down to the station, 'cause Bill's gonna be on it."

"Sit down and eat your dinner, young man," Father says. "You're not going anywhere.

"Wesley sits down again with a scowl. "Seems t'me if Margie can go, I oughta be able to," he mumbles.

"Margie knows better than to do anything like that."

"Well, she was packin' her bag, " Wesley whines, "and I ast her whur she was goin' and—"

"Packing her bag?" Mother asks with alarm. "George!" "Wesley tattles on Marjorie," I write in my old writing book in Del Mar. "Did I learn to tattle from movies?" I used to tattle a lot on my brothers, David especially.

A spoon or fork drops from George's hand onto the table. "Weh -ell," he says, his anger rising. "I'll take care of this —" He heads through the kitchen door, which crashes into Stella bearing a tray offscreen, and Mother screams amid the clatter. After a dead space for audience laughter (appropriate in Florence and Indian Acres, if not in Del Mar) Stella emerges with empty tray to announce, "Well, it's a little too hot for dessert, wasn't it?" Considering that the main course was served less than a minute ago, she may be right.

Apparently the same brass band that we heard at the graduation ceremony is now at the train station, playing the same tune. A long right-to-left pan


moves past a stationary green train labeled "Rockport" that is packed with brown-uniformed troops, and a sign that identifies the name of the town, for the first time in the movie, as Milburn.

No wonder Margie wants to leave. She appears in an all-blue outfit, a suit-case in each hand, looking about frenetically. One soldier helps her to climb aboard the train. "I'm looking for a soldier," she tells him. "You came to the right source," he responds with a leer. "Hey, how do I know you're not a German spy?" "Oh, I'm not!" she assures him. "Or maybe I better search you for secret papers—" She flees down the soldier-clogged corridor, working her way through diverse entanglements like Marlene Dietrich in her nun's getup in The Devil Is A Woman, while the boys hoot, whistle, and holler at her as if she were a burlesque queen.

Meanwhile, in another car, Bill is leading his buddies in a cheerful rendition of "Pack Up Your Troubles in Your Old Kit Bag." The image will be echoed symmetrically in the sequel, By The Light Of The Silvery Moon (which Jonathan resees in 35mm on a Steenbeck at the British Film Institute in London, January 6, 1978, after discovering that the BBC's print of On Moonlight Bay has been sold to Holland and the sequel booked as a last-minute replacement), when Bill returns from the war with his buddies and leads them in a cheerful rendition of "My Home Town Is a One-Horse Town, But It's Good Enough for Me." This time the song is comparably rousing.

Propitiously, Marjorie reaches him at the conclusion of the first chorus; the invisible brass band carries on with the second. "Marjorie, what are you doing here?"

"I'm going with you!" she says frantically.

"But this is a troop train —"

"I don't care what it is or where it's going. Just so we can be together."

"Well, it's gonna be mighty crowded in that pup tent," a buddy remarks, and the other men laugh.

"We're pulling out any minute," Bill says. "You've got to get off—"

"I'm not leaving you! Until you ship out, I'm never gonna be any farther away from you than this —" She gives him a hug and a squeeze that prompts another buddy to quip, "Hey, maybe this is that bonus that Congress has been promisin' us," greeted by more laughs.

"You've got to get out of here!" Bill says.

The next five seconds on the cassette have been accidentally erased; my notes allude to a quarrel between them. " . . .  I've got it all figured out," Bill continues. "You get off—" He edges her toward the car's exit.

"But I may never see you again. And if there's any way I can—"

"Young lady, will you listen to me—"


"Please, William, I know what I'm doing. I've thought about this for a long time—"

"Will you marry me?"

"I can get a place to stay near the campus—" Campus? Poor Doris; she's in the wrong scene.

"I'm asking you to be my wife."

It finally sinks in. "Your married wife? . . . Oh, Bill!" she squeals. They embrace to the sound of a march that the band has been playing since it concluded the previous tune. When they break away, Marjorie says, "But you don't believe in marriage!"

"Right this minute I don't know anything I believe in more—" Not even killing Krauts? Good old Bill; we all knew he'd get over the remnants of his petty radicalism. "Now look, Margie. You get the next train. I'll meet you in Chicago. We'll be married as soon as you get there."

No, they won't; George Winfield appears suddenly between them, almost magically, practically spouting smoke like a dragon. "Marjorie Winfield, you get off this train!"


"And as for you, young man, I oughta have you thrown in prison—"

"But Mr. Winfield—I just asked Marjorie to marry me."

"Yes, I expected you to say that . . .  now " To Marjorie: "You're coming home to grow up!" and he pulls her off the train with him while the band plays on. Cut to a reverse angle, he leading her off to the left, along the platform, the camera panning with them. The train whistle blows and the train starts to move as Mr. Winfield continues to kvetch. "Running away with a soldier; how could you let him influence you into doing such a thing!"

"But it was all my idea," she protests.

"Ohhh—" he fumes. "Why didn't you stick to baseball?

"He leads her out of the frame, and it's time for another commercial break.

Remember the lonesome lament that Marjorie sang in her bedroom in late October 1916, while writing Bill a love letter? The song that Jonny found so boring and that made you feel sad about Mrs. Thomas? We heard it again, played by a trombone, later that morning as Wesley sneaked into Marjorie's room to sign his name to her letter and take it away. Now, in Marjorie's bedroom again, we hear the strings reprise that lament while Margie lies sobbing on her bed. On the other side of the dark bed, in the shadowy blue background, Wesley, looking repentant, opens the door and speaks softly. "Margie?"

A pronounced mood of incestual intimacy (but not so blatant as the obvious lust in Spencer Tracy's eyes for his daughter Elizabeth Taylor in Father Of The Bride, made the previous year) makes this scene a lot more erotic in its emotional coloring than the previous one. Part of it relates to the unusually


close empathy that can exist between siblings; for Jonny it happens when he or Alvin is spanked and both cry with equal intensity, experiencing virtually the same pain. This has been suggested, too, however obliquely, by Wesley's signing Margie's letter, thereby affixing to it his own identity, an identity that is mocked and scorned as soon as it escapes the private language of their unconscious incestuous bond and becomes shamefully public in the classroom.

If in retrospect we posit a subterranean relationship throughout the movie between Wesley and Bill (remember, they became rivals when the one aped the other's singing of "Cuddle Up a Little Closer" from under the porch), it would seem that the public humiliation of Wesley, after his witting or unwitting identification with Marjorie had been exposed, created a trauma in the movie's emotional balance that has had many consequences, above all the humiliation of Margie herself. The revenge of the male ego threatened by its own traces of femininity is to make that femininity—as embodied by Marjorie—look as weak, stupid, and ineffectual as possible. In practical terms, this revenge hasn't been wreaked by the movie alone (the boys' mocking of her happiness and throwing snowballs, Wesley's fib about her broken leg, Bill's deceit about his enlistment, her father's imperious contempt for her feelings); it has also been implemented by Jonny, you, me, Jonathan, and millions of others, all working together through the movie. Which is why Margie is crying on her bed now, and why Wesley and the rest of us, male and female alike, feel pretty lousy about it. In one way or another, we've all been partially responsible.

Wesley approaches the bed and addresses her gingerly. "Yes, Wesley?" She looks up at him, her face streaked with tears, as he sits beside her on the bed. He's wearing a tie, which makes him look even more like a pint-sized version of Bill or George, and a closer shot of them shows their faces bathed in light against the room's dark shadows.

"I'm sor-ry," he says contritely. "It was a secret about you going to the train, and I told." At 4:34 P.M. in Del Mar I note the precise time of his apology for tattling. Some 314 months earlier, at about the same time of day at the Shoals, Jonny's remorse over his own tattling is superseded and submerged by memories of recriminations for it, from his parents, teachers, or brothers, recriminations which have sometimes led to tears as mournful as Marjorie's. At Indian Acres, feeling a refined variant of this, you can only hanker after the voluptuous luxury of crying on your bed, something you're too embarrassed to do at camp—except for some nights after taps, when the cabin is dark and you can do it very quietly, facing the pillow.

"It's all right," Margie says.

"Well, no it isn't," Wesley counters firmly. "Here I am gonna be twelve years old tomorrow"—two years older than you are at Indian Acres—"and I'm acting like I was a child."


"We all act like children sometimes, Wesley," she says affectionately, her voice clogged with tears. Then she starts to cry again, her body shaking. Jonny remembers Helen Schneible crying once after she fell down, and that sounded almost as bad. Lingering over Margie's last remark, you recall her playing baseball and Bill's spanking her, thinking she was Wesley; to Jonathan these events imply that the transferral of identities between the siblings has been reciprocal and equal.

"Gee," Wesley says, preparing to leave, "it must be tough bein' a girl." After he closes the door softly behind him, she continues to cry, disconsolately.

The following day, bright and cheery, a horse-drawn buggy trots up to the front of the Winfield residence and stops; the music is the same flutey, chipper, happy theme that accompanied George when he approached the house at the beginning of the movie.

"Hello, Mrs. Robertson," Stella says, stepping down from the porch as an imposing matron, dressed to kill in a bright blue dress and green hat, stands in the carriage and reaches for her cane. "Hello, Stella."

"Well, it's good to see you. Here, let me help you—"

"If I needed any help," Mrs. Robertson says robustly, "I wouldn't have come."

"Aunt Martha!" cries Mother, appearing at the front door, dressed in light brown. She turns and calls into the house, "Wes-ley! Aunt Martha's here!" then crosses the porch to hug Martha, who has descended from the carriage with her cane and a bag and mounted the front steps. "Oh, it's good to see you! You're looking younger every day."

"Well," says Martha, "I feel younger every day."

"Hello, Aunt Martha!" Wesley, on the porch, seems equally pleased at her arrival.

"Wesley! My, how you've grown! Why, I hardly know you with your face all washed and your hair combed."


She laughs. Mother suggests, "Can't we all go inside?"

"No, I'll only stay a few minutes," Aunt Martha says, sitting down in the rocker on the sunny, light-green porch. "I just came to bring Wesley some cookies and give him his birthday present. I guess that's all you're interested in, isn't it, Wesley?" There's a twinkle in her eyes that seems serene and cynical at the same time.

"Yes'm," he says, sitting on the porch swing while she laughs again.

"Well," she says to Mother, unwrapping the cookies and handing them over to Wesley, "I hear that George real-ly made a spectacle of himself last night at the railway station."

"Shhh," goes Mother, sitting in a chair beside her.

"Oh shush yourself, Alice," Martha says, her voice a somewhat more lady-


like version of Ma Kettle's plain talking. "One prude in the family is enough. Marjorie wants to get married—why doesn't he let her?" In Del Mar I wonder how Martha could know so much, but something about her, slightly regal and even faintly deified, suggests that she automatically knows everything.

"Well, George feels the boy isn't sincere. Y'see, William doesn't believe in the institu tion of marr iage!"

"Fiddlesticks! No man believes in marriage—until a woman traps him into it. Remember how you got George?" Allowing this pithy wisdom to sink in, she turns back to her nephew, who's busy eating cookies. "Well, Wesley, how're you makin' out?"

"Just fine," he says with his mouth full. Both the cookies and the shadows on the lime-colored porch remind Jonny of Bo and Grandma's house on North Wood Avenue and the upstairs terrace where they all go out and sit some summer evenings, listening to the cicadas, drinking Coke floats with their cookies, and playing Twenty Questions.

"Happy birthday!" Aunt Martha presents him with a small package.

"Gee, thanks, Aunt Martha." He eagerly opens it, and we see the loot in close-up: a fancy jackknife with so many accessories that a couple of boys at Indian Acres whistle with envy. Wesley pulls out the main blade, and we cut to Alice in medium shot, gasping with a sharp intake of breath; Stella, on the sidelines, responds with a low whistle.

"Oh no, " Alice says, her voice cracking, "not tha-at!"

"Oh, let him keep it!" Martha commands cheerfully. "I suppose he will do something horrible with it—I'd be disappointed if he didn't." (Like disembowel Stella? Jonathan wonders.)

Alice says, "Wesley, be careful! You'll cut yourself!"

"And here's something else," declares Martha ("friend of Jesus, sister of Mary and Lazarus of Bethany," sez The Columbia Encyclopedia, which Jonathan has consulted in a delirium of interpretation. "In medieval Christian literature, Martha was a symbol of the active, as opposed to the contemplative, life"). She takes another small parcel from her bottomless bag and hands it to Wesley.

"Gee, thanks again!"

"That isn't for you, but go ahead and open it. I want you to give it back to your father. I think it's time. You tell him I sent it to him be-cause I believe I can trust him with it now." Wesley tears through the wrapping and pulls out an old-fashioned slingshot with a large rubber band. "I took that contraption away from your father thir-ty-five years ago, one day after he killed mah best hen with it—ac-ci-dentally."


"I think if you give him that from me, he'll remember. You look like your father, Wesley. He was anything but a handsome boy."

"He'll grow out of it, Aunt Martha," Mother remarks hopefully. The in-


sult, like the preceding one, provokes laughter all around you in Maine, and you laugh too, for Wesley's toughness reminds you of your brother David, who's the same age. In Alabama the jackknife and slingshot finally persuade Jonny—long after he's given up practically every hope in this direction—that maybe this movie is about Penrod after all, but the insults lead him to reflect that they made fun of Red Skelton, too, when he invented the automobile in Excuse My Dust —a movie whose autumnal brownish MGM hues were as sweet and gay as this movie's liquid blue Warner ones.

"There's one more cookie left," Martha reminds Wesley, her eyes twinkling up a storm. "Aren't you going to eat it?"

"Well, I guess I'd better," Wesley says.

"Go ahead and stuff yourself!" Aunt Martha says happily, improbably reminding Jonathan of Ma Joad at the end of The Grapes of Wrath . "You're twelve years old today, and you oughta be happy if you're nothing else. It's taken over nineteen hundred years of Christianity, and some hundreds of thousands of years of other things, to produce you. And there you sit!"

"Ma'm?" Jonny and you are just as baffled as Wesley is by this explosion of profundity; in Del Mar I ruminate grumpily about some callow fusion of Master Race genetics and fifties irony; Jonathan, typing his hundredth page about On Moonlight Bay , is struck by the degree to which this platitude seems to sum up the movie's persistent message: boys will be boys, and girls will be girls; they'll all grow up to be Georges and Alices and Marthas, anyway, so who gives a shit whether they cut a few capers?

"It'll be your turn to struggle and muss things up for the betterment of prosperity soon enough," Aunt Martha concludes with a peaceful sigh of resignation. "Eat your cookie."


Birthdays are occasions for definitions and recognitions, and Aunt Martha has just stepped in out of nowhere to speak for the movie in its penultimate sequence, putting every one of the Winfields precisely in his or her place, as though to rid us all of any lingering doubts. (Excluded from this final reckoning are Stella the maid and Max the dog, who already represent summations of a kind; in fact Max has been absent for quite some time, an animal victim of the Cora Claypool policy in the Conquistador's Final Solution.)

So there it is, writ large: Beneath her fragile and troubled exterior, Marjorie is a wily little bitch who knows exactly what she wants and how to get it, just as Alice (and presumably Martha) were when they snared their own male carcasses. George was once an ugly, destructive brat like Wesley, and Wesley will someday grow up to be an insensitive stuffed shirt like George. William, by implication, is going through one of those difficult in-between stages when he's as ugly and destructive as Wesley and as insensitive and prudish as George. (By the time he throws the rubbing alcohol into the fire, his "radicalness" has become indistinguishable from Calvinist rectitude; Mary


Stevens, his informant, is a true sister under the skin.) The moral? Grow old enough, and anyone can trust you with a slingshot. All of this is at once inevitable and proper, awesome and indescribably cute. Martha, who alone perceives the truth, gets younger every day, while everyone else, including Bill and Marjorie, grows progressively older. Ain't it the dickens?

In point of fact, Aunt Martha's certainty has a lot in common with Dr. Gesell's. His Child Development II: The Child from Five to Ten observes that at eight years, "Boys like action pictures: Westerns, baseball, war. Girls like musicals," and "Both like animal and adventure stories and those about children. All dislike love stories." An incredible volume, this book, which predicts and confirms behavior as effectively as a Mayan calendar: they say it happens that way at such-and-such a time, and sure enough, by golly, in most cases it actually does happen that way: the thing is uncanny. And the more that parents expect it to happen, the more it winds up happening—a nifty little control system that Aunt Martha seems to know all about, back in 1917.

In Maine, however, you aren't so sure. Indeed, if you stopped to think about it (and you don't, for the tickling tip of the Conquistador's sword edges you forward, keeps the movie moving), you'd probably discover that you would prefer Aunt Martha as a hag, as she would look if she were a character in Mad comics . . .  What was nifty about Mad in those days was that it sneered at and spat upon things that grownups did and honored—icons such as Life magazine, Picasso, racing forms, the Mona Lisa, furniture ads, and even items like those ugly school "composition" notebooks that adults imposed on helpless kids, smooth, black hardcover slabs with little blobs and strands of sickly white confetti particles floating in a sea of sticky tar.

It's no wonder that adults were suspicious of and hostile toward Mad, just as Mrs. Thomas hated Spike Jones and Mommy felt icky about Jerry Lewis. Come to think of it (and Jonathan does), it was just this sort of giddy crassness—also found in movies like A Night At The Opera , It's In The Bag , Tex Avery cartoons, Skipalong Rosenbloom , and The 5,000 Fingers Of Dr. T. —that comprised Jonny's foretaste of avant-garde art in the early fifties.

Perhaps his first big whiff of it came on Sunday afternoon, March 18, 1951, when he saw Spike Jones live at the Sheffield Community Center after Sunday school. He regretted that Mommy and Daddy wouldn't let him meet Spike at the Sheffield railroad station at 12:30, as the Florence Times ad had suggested, but when he turned up for the show at 3:30, he was treated to his first happening, mixed-media event (including a short movie), and bicycle-horn raspberry for respectable culture, all rolled into one glorious aggression. And this was only five days after he saw At War With The Army , which had Jerry Lewis jeering about how the navy got the gravy but the army got the beans—a song he sang at Camp Blue Star later that summer to Eddie Siegel, his wonderful counselor who looked like Jerry Lewis.


Daddy could never understand why Jonny and Alvin were so enthusiastic about Skipalong Rosenbloom . Here was a movie that spoke to them directly, without pretension or condescension, a movie you're not likely to find listed in many reference books but one that nevertheless sashayed its way through the Princess for two midweek days (the "weaker" half of a program whose principal "draw" was an impoverished Edgar G. Ulmer sci-fi meller with a couple of eerie moments) and then disappeared forever, apart from brief acknowledgments in Variety and Monthly Film Bulletin , until a week before Christmas 1977, when Jonathan came across a copy of the film's script in the Information Department at the British Film Institute.

The joy of this movie in 1951 was its brutal sense of parody, starting with its title taken from the name of its star, "Slapsie" Maxie Rosenbloom, whose last name already sounded like a parody of Rosenbaum. The movie began with Father watching his favorite TV show, Round Table for Square Heads , whose guest speaker was Senator Redwood ("He's presidential timber"), and quarreling with Mother, who wants to see "a big style show," Nellie Nylon's Latest Creations . Daughter's preference isn't stated (remember, this is 1951), but Junior charges into the room dressed in a cowboy suit and orders Father at gunpoint to turn to Channel 7 and Skipalong Rosenbloom . Then come the credits, followed by a commercial for Sloppo Tea:

Ladies, buy a dozen Sloppo Tea bags today. Sloppo Tea bags not only come in bags, it comes in suitcases, satchels . . .  trunks . . . you can also find Sloppo Tea in cans—ash cans, garbage cans . . . If you have a large family, get the large two thousand pound economy can, it not only saves money, it helps you make money. After you're all through with the tea, you just cut the can in half, you'll have two quonset huts . . . you can live in one and rent the other . . . 

Something silly and wonderful about Sloppo Tea reminded Jonny of Bo, but he couldn't get Bo to see the movie. Just as well, perhaps; surely Bo would have been offended by Skipalong's Wild West adventures with Max "Butcher" Baer in Buttonhole Bend, not to mention a subsequent ad for Grit Soap, "safe for washing silk, wool, and nylon. It's also safe for baby's skin. But don't leave it on the drainboard—it eats through the tile." That's the kind of wisdom that you and Jonny prefer to Aunt Martha's—which, all things considered, isn't so very different from Grit Soap.

Offscreen, Hubert Winkley is playing the piano in the parlor and singing "Every Little Movement Has a Meaning All Its Own," and in the kitchen Stella is lighting the twelve candles on Wesley's birthday cake. Mother appears: "Oh, we aren't ready for the cake yet. Mr. Winkley is still singing." "I thought if I took it in, he'd stop ," Stella growls, then blows out the candles petulantly.

Cut to Hubert at the piano, aiming occasional stupid grins at Margie as he


lumbers through his wretched song. Wesley, dressed up in a grey suit with a striped shirt and a yellow and grey striped tie, looks very bored; Margie, in a lime sherbet dress with a bright yellow sash, dully eats a grape. Several kids of Wesley's age sit awkwardly in the parlor, waiting for this torture to end.

Fourteen-year-old future art and film critic Carrie Rickey feels a bit the same way about the movie at a slumber party on Amalfi Drive in Pacific Palisades, two doors down from Ronald Reagan's house, fall 1967. The party is a "Bunk 7 Reunion" of friends from summer camp, and they are half-watching On Moonlight Bay after midnight on the large color TV in Nancy Linden's parents' bedroom. At 9 they had all given their serious attention to Moment To Moment , a sophisticated Jean Seberg film about adultery, set on the Riviera, but during this silly, old-fashioned musical they've been talking, ignoring all but a few snatches of it, occasionally responding with "Ugh" or "Ewww" to something especially mushy. Like the kids at Wesley's party, like all of us, they're essentially waiting for this dubious entertainment to end. ("This is One of the Most Popular Pictures of the Year," Stanley Rosenbaum advised at the bottom of the Florence Times ad on October 1, 1951. "Please Attend Matinee If Possible." "The result is close to what the arty critics might call corn," the Product Digest in Motion Picture Herald had warned the previous July, "but it is a prime example of the family picture exhibitors have been asking for. If simple and enduring values are corn, then this is it. But it's also proven box office.")

When the song is over, there's some polite applause, and dreamy-eyed Hubert says, "Thank you, thank you. I know you would like me to go on and on , but"—a little gesture with his hand—"I really must stop. And now, if the little gentlemen will take the little ladies by the hand, we shall put a record on the phonograph, and you may all trip the light fantastic." Margie puts on the record, an old-fashioned waltz, and several kids dance stiffly to it. Hubert's unctuousness is so appalling that it strains credulity that Mr. Winfield can think so highly of him; we can't easily imagine the two of them having man-to-man talks about Marjorie.

Wesley's sitting at the foot of the stairway in the front hall, bored out of his wits, and Mother asks him why he isn't dancing. "I don't wanna dance. It's my birthday, so I don't have to."


"Well, whose party is this, Hubert Winkley's or mine?"

"Why it's yours, dear—"

"Then why doesn't he stop singin' and go home?" We understand the animosity immediately; that both he and Marjorie recognize Hubert as a drip is one of the strongest links in their incestual bond—and who likes those sissy, stuffy songs anyway?

In the parlor Hubert asks Marjorie to dance. She demurs. "Oh, come, come," he says, "this is no time to be coy." "Look," Wesley says to Mother,


"he's tryin' to make Margie dance with him. Why dudn't he leave her alone?"

"Shhh," says Mother, "don't worry about it."

Cut to Hubert saying, "Your Father and I had a long talk last night, and with your approval, it's full speed ahead!"

Ugh, thinks everyone, including me. When did this long talk take place? Was it after Father returned from the train station? Jonathan, fatigued, wonders if most movies, examined closely, are as vague as this one. Wesley arrives in the nick of time to announce, "Excuse me, but Marjorie promised this dance to me ," sounding almost as formal as his old man. "I did?" Margie asks. "Sure," Wesley says, eying her with real intimacy. "Guess I can dance with my own sister at my own birthday party, can't I?"

"Oh, but Princess—" Hubert objects.

"Well, I guess I can dance with my own brother." Margie picks up on Wesley's gambit but handles it more sweetly. "Would you excuse us, Hubert?"

Whatever love talk may ensue between the siblings, we are deprived of it for the sake of another lousy collision gag: Stella heads toward the kitchen door with a tray bearing a bowl of fruit, stops, considers, then makes a point of opening the door first; but George enters through the side door, ke-bam! upsetting bowl and fruit. "Stella, you should be more careful." "Careful," she echoes, and in Del Mar a familiar voice ushers in a suite of four more commercials.

"Well," says Father to Mother in the kitchen, gazing contentedly at the birthday cake, "it looks like I'm not such a bad father af-ter all. Wesley's behaving like a perfect little gentleman. Even Marjorie seems to be enjoying herself. Everything is calm once more."

Glowering at Father's insensitivity, you feel somehow that because of this stuffed shirt the Winfield family doesn't feel warm. Maybe they're all too embarrassed; they never sing or go on trips together (a brittle contrast to the swimming family in Dangerous When Wet , seen at Radio City Music Hall five Fridays ago, a boisterous crew that trooped out of the house and off to the lake, in suits and with bath towels, singing, "I got outta bed on the right side"—a glorious Technicolor parade that your whole family saw).

And four Fridays ago at Indian Acres, the show business family in Look For The Silver Lining felt pretty snug, too. Rosemary DeCamp was more warm as June Haver's mother than she is as Doris Day's, and even people who weren't related or engaged got close and cuddly. You think of chubby S. Z. Sakall—an actor who, like Charles Coburn and Charles Laughton, can express the jellylike fun of Bo when he isn't mad—dressed in a Swiss yodeler suit and cheering up June Haver. And later, when she sang the theme song, she stroked his head and his neck and kissed him and hugged him. ("It was sad but it was very good," you wrote in your diary that night, July 3, just


before lights out, during taps. "It was a cold night," you added hurriedly, trying hard to push the present into the past with your pencil as you huddled under the icy sheet, feeling the scratchy blanket behind it.)

Meanwhile, Father remarks how calm everything is once more.

"Cyclone weather," snaps Stella. To prove her right, the kitchen doorbell rings loudly. "Stella, get that," says Mother. "I hope it's the ice cream." Faint applause can be heard from the parlor at the end of a nondescript dance tune, followed promptly by "Cuddle Up a Little Closer."

"It ain't the ice cream," Stella observes as she opens the door. "Come right in."

It's Bill, of course, in his soldier suit. He strides into the kitchen and says, "Mr. Winfield, I've got to talk to you."

"I thought we were well rid of you," Mr. Winfield replies peevishly.

"I have a twenty-four-hour pass and the only train back leaves in half an hour," Bill declares firmly. "Sir, I'm in love with your daughter and I want to marry her."

"And how long would that last? Until you get some other crackpot ideas?"

Margie breezes into the kitchen."Bill!"


She rushes into his arms and gasps, "Oh! Hold me tight! Don't let me go this time—"

"I don't want to . . . but it's up to your father." They form a neat tableau, standing in front of a lime-colored boiler, Bill in brown and Marjorie in lime (her hair ribbon looks like pure lime on TV in Del Mar; in Alabama and Maine it is streaked with yellow). She looks so vibrant to Jonny that he would dearly love to crawl into her pampered lime-colored lap and feel the life and light of her pulse warmly against his head; he's thinking not of the plot now, but of Marjorie's passion, which renders it irrelevant.

Father tells Bill to leave the house at once. "George ," Mother chides softly.

"Father," Marjorie says with determination, "Bill and I are going to be married right now. And you couldn't stop us with an act of Congress." To Bill she adds, "I'll get my things."

"Wait a minute, Marjorie," Bill says. "Let's be sensible about this . . . I couldn't ask you to give up your family for—for one week with a soldier who's shipping out. It wouldn't be fair to you." (One week? Didn't he just say twenty-four hours?)

"But how can you be sensible at a time like this?" Marjorie asks, accusing me as well as him.

"One of us has to be! It may be a long time before I get back," he says darkly. "You're gonna have to live with them "—he nods at her parents—"and not with me. So I guess we better wait." What a responsible young lad he's become; he seems as solemn as a priest.


"Is it all right if I walk him to the gate?" Marjorie asks her parents tearfully, all but defeated. It's clear that no act of Congress will be necessary; the one ushering Bill into the U.S. Army is more than enough.

"Cer tainly you can, darling," says Mother, like a nurse soothing an invalid. "You go right ahead." When they have left, she turns to Father. "Sometimes I don't understand you!"

"Well, whadja want me to do, let my daughter become a—camp follower?" Maybe that's what I am, I reflect glumly in Del Mar, lighting a cigarette: a follower of camp.

"George Wadsworth Winfield, you listen to me!" Mother says, following him into the parlor.

But we can't listen to her because there's a cut to the Winfields' front gate, Bill and Margie beside it, the theme song resuming in the background. "And I'll write to you every day I'm gone," Bill says. "And I'll knit you some socks," Marjorie says mournfully. "I can't knit, but—I'll knit you some socks."

"Well, if I get my shoes on over 'em, I'll wear 'em," Bill says helpfully, as the theme song modulates into another melody.

"Oh, I know I'm supposed to be brave, William," she half-sobs, "but—but you're gonna be so far away."

"Oh, come on, it's not as bad as all that. You know the song all the doughboys are singing. 'Smile awhile, I kiss you fond adieu.'"

"'Say, I do,'" she forces herself to reply, her voice choked, smiling through her tears.

"'When the clouds roll by,'" he continues; "'I'll come to you,'" she says; and then he starts to sing in a throbbing, deep-throated baritone, "Then the skiiiies will seeeem more bluuuue, dowwwwn in Lovers Lane, my deeear-y," and so on, ad nauseam, about wedding bells that will ring so merrily and tears that will be memories. Like a zombie in Invasion of the Body Snatchers , Margie is taken over entirely by this silliness and starts to sing too, after he places his black bowler hat on a gatepost. They look at one another romantically, he places his cheek briefly against her forehead, and they stand cheek to cheek and sing to the camera, occasionally turning to give each other penetrating looks.

In Maine two or three kids start to boo, and for once you sympathize, because you can't stand this guck either. (Jonny, on the other hand, is tolerant but mildly bored.) Bill and Marjorie fall into a duet for the last two lines, Bill moving up to tenor harmony against her alto melody. At 2:40 A.M., February 19, 1978, drunk, stoned, and tired in a living room in Pacific Palisades—the same L.A. suburb where Carrie Rickey half-watched this movie more than ten years ago—I'm following a 16mm print with a few friends and acquaintances, trying to record in a blue notebook all the body and eye contacts between Marjorie and Bill. Barely able to see what I'm writing in the glare of


the screen, and semiconscious along with everyone else, I'm nearly as fed up as the kids at Indian Acres.

Seven months later—9:55 P.M., September 13, 1978—thirty-one-year-old film analyst and theorist Sandy Flitterman watches this scene on her portable black and white TV in Berkeley, California, and agrees it's pretty sappy. She's watching the film because she read the first fifty-odd pages of this chapter back in June, when Jonathan was visiting (they'd met at a film theory conference in Milwaukee late last February, less than a week after that screening in Pacific Palisades, and he'd already flown up to visit her once before), and wants to see what the movie looks like. She agrees with Jonathan that the only real sexual intensity in the movie is between the brother and sister. By contrast, the total lack of sexual energy between Gordon MacRae and Doris Day irritates her; she finds Doris Day's "sexuality" as cloying as marshmallow creme.

Bill and Margie break apart to look at each other longingly, the blue-green hues of house and shrubs in the late afternoon light behind them. He tries to kiss her, but she breaks away and runs toward the house.

Mr. and Mrs. Winfield watch silently and shrug at each other as Marjorie enters, slams the front door, and runs upstairs. In the parlor we glimpse an awkward little girl in a pink dress playing "There's a Long, Long Trail Awinding" on an accordion. Could it actually be Cora Claypool, resurrected on a whim of the Conquistador? The image is too fleeting, my memory too imperfect, for me to be certain, but I'd like to think that it is. "Margie!" Mother calls after her daughter.

"Don't take it so seriously," Father says. "She'll get over it."

"George, were you ever a young man? I can't even remember," she concludes with a half-laugh.

"Alice, " he protests, visibly stung. They walk toward the stairway while Cora's nostalgic lament whines on in the adjoining room.

"After all, no man really wants to get married," Mother explains patiently. "William is just more honest than most." Aunt Martha rides again, reflects Jonathan shortly after midnight on October 2, 1978—the day that most likely marks the twenty-seventh anniversary of his first acquaintance with this rotten movie—and he resolves to finish this chapter tonight.

"Now I suppose I didn't want to get married to you, " Father says.

'Of course you didn't. If you had any id-ea of the lengths I had to go to force you to propose—"

Father pauses, brooding in his banker's black suit, then replies aghast, "But what do you mean?"

Mother sighs philosophically as they seat themselves on the stairs. "Y'know, it's hard to realize you once were exactly like William Sherman."


"I—was—not," Father says indignantly, almost like a petulant little boy. By contrast, Mother seems quite relaxed and fully in control.

"Oh, George! You remember the day we got engaged—you took me for a walk in the woods, near Aunt Martha's farm? We got lost; oh, it was hours before we got back! You knew the way home all the time." Curious, how much in common her nostalgic evocation has with a family in a parlor, leafing through a scrapbook, or watching slides of themselves on a screen.

"How can you say such a thing?"

Mother laughs delightedly. "Because I knew it too—"

"I don't recall the incident at all."

"Of course you don't," she says, her voice and expression becoming firmer, more stern and judgmental. "Because you refuse to remember anything that indicates you might have human failings." Applause for the accordion performance is heard from the parlor. "But they're the reasons I married you!" Mother says.

Outside the house, we find Wesley in the front yard and hear the twitter of a bird, the flapping of wings, the snap of a slingshot, and crash! the sound of the frosted glass pane in the front door breaking. A loud, discordant gong sounds at the same time, to make sure we don't miss it, and we glimpse Father through the broken glass in the oval frame.

"Wesley!" he shouts, rushing through the door and grabbing the culprit to a menacing strain in the background music. "See what you did to that window! You incorrigible brat! I don't know what we're going to do with you! What do you mean? Just ten minutes ago I was telling your mother how proud I was of you, and you have to go throw a rock at me through the window!"

"I didn't!" Wesley protests. "I was shooting at a bird, and, well, the sun got in my eyes, and—the sling broke."

"What sling?"

"This'n." He hands over the outsized weapon.

"Where'd you get this devilish thing? Haven't I told you a thousand times—"

"It isn't mine, it's yours!"


"Yes, sir. Aunt Martha gave it to me. She told me to give it back to you." A cheerful, celestelike instrument is rung in Max Steiner's band to signal recognition. "She said she took it away from you thirty-five years ago. You killed her best hen with it, she said." The flutey, chipper theme of the film's opening scene resumes. "She told me some more to tell you, but—I forgot . . . Sorry, Pop."

"It's all right, Son," Father says with calm understanding, a smile forming on his lips. "Forget all about it. A broken window isn't too important any-


way." He puts his arm around Wesley's shoulder and pats it before turning away, lost in reverie as he grasps the slingshot.

Then Wesley goes off with a barking Max, and we hear Hubert, at the piano in the parlor, play and sing "On Moonlight Bay," adding lots of fancy fill-ins on the keys between the phrases, as Father stands alone, regarding his ancient toy. Something tells us that this movie is winding to a close as Father walks back into the house, the faraway look in his eyes indicating clearly that he is in another time (1882, if the dates are right).

Standing alone by the front stairway, he examines the slingshot wistfully, playing with it a little. Then he steps to the telephone, lingers a bit, and lifts the receiver. Hubert has begun a second chorus of the theme song. "Hello, Operator. Would you please get the Shermans in the 400 block on Elm Street? Thank you." Marjorie comes down the stairs now and pauses, her hands on the bannister, to take in the momentous event.

Strings start up behind Hubert's warbling voice. "Hello," Father says, "is Bill there? Tell him it's the neighbor across the street, who just remembered he was young once, too."

With a burst of energy, Marjorie runs down the remaining stairs, kisses Father, and heaves an ecstatic sigh. Voices, predominantly male, are ooohing, aahing, and humming the theme song in place of Hubert's on the soundtrack. Marjorie hurries out the front door.

She and Bill appear on their respective porches, then rush to embrace in the center of the street. A disgruntled Hubert appears on the Winfield porch, and Wesley offers him his white straw hat. "Here's your hat," Wesley says brightly. "Keep your head up, and breathe through your nose."

Hubert puts on the hat in a huff, and the brim breaks, provoking assorted guffaws in Alabama and Maine, but none at all in New York or Del Mar, where Jonathan and I are alone and find ourselves identifying uncomfortably with this twerp. Disgusted and humiliated, Hubert throws away the round center of the hat and strides off into the deepening dusk. A grinning Wesley is seen polishing the blade of his jackknife on his jacket.

It's all so wonderful: George as a boy killed Martha's best hen, Wesley just tried to shoot the brains out of another bird, and now Bill in his uniform is going off to shoot some prime European game—simple, mischievous kid stuff that never changes; and Wesley castrates Hubert as an encore, just to prove that it's all in fun. Jonny feels reconciled with Penrod and the movie at the same time; you, charmed by the music, feel momentarily reconciled with life; I feel a sense of relief; and Jonathan reflects that he'd rather smash frosted windows than birds, Germans, or straw hats, if he had to make a choice.

"I guess in summation, I think it's really a film about a little boy," Sandy writes to Jonathan on September 20 or 21, "but in order to sell it they had to


make it a Doris Day-Gordon MacRae film. There's all this stuff about slingshots, boyhood chums, mischief, while the big enigma is really the female figure. Actually, her being a tomboy is only part of the whole little boy constellation that's the main interest of the film. I can really tell what motivated you to choose this film, being a little boy an' all . . . "

She's right, of course; and the psychic equations that are made between the males in this movie couldn't be simpler. Up to now, Father hasn't wanted Marjorie to marry William because he's wanted her for himself. We know that William has balls because he's going off to fight World War I (or to save America from Communism), just as we know that Hubert has no balls ("punctured eardrum" is the movie's euphemism), which is why Father doesn't regard him as a threat. (And the audience accepts Wesley's last prank as something less than a castration because you can't castrate someone who is already a eunuch.)

Up to now Father's problem has simply been that he doesn't identify with Bill and therefore won't admit him into the family (and the family romance that this entails). Wesley provides the missing link. Father realizes that just as the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost are three versions/stages/variations of the same Being, he, Wesley, and William all add up to one narcissistic male. And now that this bond is recognized, all three of them can have Marjorie at once—each can use a separate orifice, penetrate the marshmallow at a different angle—and thus share an exalted sense of their collective identity and common triumph. Perhaps we can even say that what the three males really want is to fuck each other, and that Marjorie serves as the love object only because she makes this possible.

To put it a bit differently, you might just call her an amplifier for three speakers to be plugged into. And if the turntable in this component system is only the Conquistador in disguise—the nervous twitch of narrative that keeps the record spinning, at whatever speeds—who is the record that is playing through this complex system and into our hearts and minds but little Jonny Rosenbaum himself, or any other human platter one might choose to listen to?

We all see a long shot of the neighborhood intersection where Bill and Marjorie are embracing, a proud church steeple looming like an affirming erection in the background, and we hear a mixed offscreen chorus sing out the words of the theme song one last time—repeating the final three words, the title, in a climactic reach up the scale toward ecstasy—while pink and green letters spell out The End (above the Warners logo) over this synthesis of plenitude and platitude. At the Shoals in Florence, Jonny bathes happily in the afterglow, sticking around for the trailers, a short, and the beginning of the movie again. My contentment in Del Mar, now that I have the subject of


this chapter before me, is such that I don't even bother to shut off my cassette recorder and rented TV until after two announcers have invited me to watch The Sam Yorty Show,Never On Sunday , and The Rookies .

At camp, you're already experiencing a pang of acute withdrawal and irritation as lights flicker on in the room before the final image has left the screen. The loud, irreverent voices and the shuffle of feet as the kids get up to return to their cabins are a woeful reminder that you still have another month to go before camp is over, Daddy arrives, and you have the chance to buy some more hard-to-get comics in New York. Blinking against this rude awakening and getting up slowly from your bench, trying to ignore the admonition of Jerry that you head back for the cabin on the double, you reconcile yourself to the reality of the harsh overhead lights when you discover that your eight-year-old brother Alvin has been sitting behind you during the entire movie—which suggests somehow that for the last ninety-five minutes you haven't really been alone after all. And even though you don't much look forward to the coldness of your cabin, David Darby, or Jerry, the triumphant, soaring end of the movie and your sudden glimpse of Alvin conspire to give you something warm to take back with you (or so Jonathan imagines in New York, a quarter of a century later)—something small, warm, glowing, and at least momentarily precious that, you firmly swear to yourself, you'll never forget, relinquish, or deny, so that it will never go away. As we sang, love's, old, sweet, song, on Moon-light Bay.


If Looks Could Kill

 . . . Can it be that everybody is looking for a way to fit in? If so, doesn't that imply that nobody fits?

Perhaps it is not possible to fit into American Life. American Life is a billboard; individual life in the U.S. includes something nameless that takes place in the weeds behind it.
—Harold Rosenberg


Mommy was away at Payne Whitney, a hospital in New York City, for the better part of a year, from the fall of 1953 through the summer of 1954. She went there after she had a nervous breakdown toward the end of summer, sometime after we drove back to Alabama from Indian and Forest Acres; she said she needed to get away from the house and four boys and Stanley for a while, and Bo offered to pay for Payne Whitney, where she hoped to get better.

None of us can recall with any clarity her leaving, only being told that she was gone, although Alvin today remembers an argument he had with Daddy at Bo and Grandma's one Friday night shortly afterward. Alvin wanted to know how he could be sure that anything was true when all he had to go on was what grownups told him. For instance, if he was passing by the City Drug (on the corner of Seminary and Tennessee, where Daddy took us all for lunch on Saturdays), how did he know it was called the City Drug, apart from grownups telling him that? And what about Mommy—how did he know she wasn't dead, that she really was away in New York like Daddy and Bo said she was?

Mommy felt well enough to come back in late November for her fifteenth wedding anniversary. A few weeks after that Daddy flew up to New York to discuss an adjustment of rates with Payne Whitney so that he could take over the expenses from Bo. The doctors wanted her to stay there longer and longer, but they let her come home for more visits: in April and May, for David's bar mitzvah, and then again in September.


We fixed up an elaborate party for her when she arrived in September, both at the house and over at Bo and Grandma's on North Wood Avenue, with dozens of posters and crepe paper streamers and little pieces of paper that said "Welcome Home Mommy" positioned everywhere from the front carport to the master bedroom; Jonny even slipped an extra one inside the refrigerator. We were all hoping to convince her to stay home this time, despite what her doctors said, and our plan worked: she called the hospital and told them she wasn't coming back. (The following year, on her doctors' advice, she went to see a psychotherapist once a week in Birmingham.)

We all carried on long-distance love affairs with her when she was away. Each was carried on in a different manner, in a different language.

Every day, in his office, Stanley typed her a letter on Muscle Shoals Theatres stationery.

Alvin was learning to play the violin. Mimi loved music; she had studied at Greenwich House Music School in the thirties and sometimes played Brahms, Chopin, and Beethoven on the grand piano in our living room. When Alvin saw Rhapsody at the Shoals with Mommy and Daddy on the last Sunday in April ("Three-cornered romance among rich [Elizabeth] Taylor, violinist [Vittorio] Gassman, and pianist [John] Ericson: melodic interludes bolster soaper," notes Leonard Maltin in TV Movies, assigning it two and a half stars), he resolved to become a violinist by the time she came home again, and he eventually convinced Daddy to let him start taking private lessons.

David, in seventh grade at Florence Junior High (a rougher, lower-class place than Kilby Training School), wrote Mommy about winning first place in the magazine subscription sales contest sponsored by Curtis Publications.

Jonny drew comics and family newspapers with crayons and colored pencils (including a couple in 3-D, requiring cardboard glasses with cellophane lenses) and wrote poems, stories, letters, and postcards, all of which he sent to Mommy.

When Michael learned to write out his whole name on a piece of paper—his first name without even copying it—Jonny sent that along, too.

On Tuesday, January 12, 1 p.M., during his free period in school, Jonny wrote Mommy about the marionette he was making, his plans for the afternoon (a haircut, then Easy to Love at the Shoals), the snow that had fallen the day before, a book of mysteries he'd checked out of the Kilby library, and other diverse matters:

Last night, on surprize night, David Darby spent the night with us. Daddy read to us: [John Collier's] "another American Tragady," "Lamb's version of 'A Winter's Tale,'" and a couple of chapters from "Miss Minerva's Baby.

"I've been trying to keep my hair the style you showed me before you left. David R. has been playing basket ball every day for the last week or two.

Mommy/Mimi wrote back to all of us, individually and collectively. When Alvin and Michael went with Bo and Grandma to Miami—thereby entitling


David and Jonny to go along with Daddy on his trips to New Orleans and Atlanta, respectively—she sent a giant-size postcard of the United Nations to David, Jonny, and Stanley (" . . . Forgot to tell you I saw 'From Here to Eternity' several wks. ago too—but not one of my first choices as you say. Hope you 3 men are holding down the fort. Waiting to hear from Florida. Love, Mommy & Mimi"). A few weeks earlier she had sent Jonny a postcard showing a clump of big buildings, with labels, arrows, and a little circle added in her blue fountain pen ink to indicate Cornell Medical College, New York Hospital, Payne Whitney, and her room in the latter. (Her P.S. on the other side: "Just got the 'Rosenbaum Times.' It's a wonderful issue. You get better all the time. Did you give away the puppies yet?")

Sometime in August she sent this letter:


Jonny darling,

I loved reading your last 2 publications & so did my friends. I even gave it to Mr. Hodgins to read. He's the man who wrote "Mr. Blandings builds his dream house." He enjoyed them very much. I'd love to have more whenever you feel like it—

You'd better brush up on your scrabble because when I come home, I'm going to play with you. I'm a fairly good player—I'm warning you!

I guess daddy told you I'm just starting to go out again—I've been doing it gradually. Since I started I saw 2 movies: "On the Waterfront" with Marlon Brando—It was a very intense & forceful picture all about the Stevedores' union—It was actually filmed in Hoboken, N.J. & was very realistic. There's a Catholic priest in it who does as good a job of acting as Marlon Brando, I think. I don't think it's your style—but whenever you/we get it at home—don't fail to see it—you'll learn a lot about what goes on—for real . The other picture was "Seven Brides for Seven Brothers"—at Radio City—in Cinemascope. It was very gay & entertaining—full of spirit—the dancing and singing—very good. Somehow, it reminded me of "Oklahoma"—the outdoorishness of it—the freshness. I don't think you saw "Oklahoma" in N.Y. though, did you? I'd like to see "Rear Window" now—an Alfred Hitchcock production—which I hear is wonderful. I guess I will, when I go out this week. "Dial M for Murder," another Hitchcock picture is one I don't want to miss either. Daddy writes we're having that at home, too.

I hear also that you gained 3 lbs. Wonderful! What are your favorite foods these days? Have you seen Alan Stein again recently? I know he's lots of fun to be with. Daddy writes me that you see Lannes occasionally too. David D. is in California I hear. Do you hear from him?

I guess you heard that I Am Coming Home For A Visit In September! I can hardly wait myself. The doctors can't tell me yet just when in September it will be—but I do have an idea it will be for about a week or 10 days—thereabouts. It can't come soon enough for me!

Be sweet Jonny darling & write me—Big—big hugs & kisses—



Saturday, December 2, 1978

Dear Mimi,

I realize that it's strange to be writing you this way, within the context of a book, and I'm trying to explain to myself, first, why this method of addressing you allows me more freedom than an ordinary letter or conversation would. I think it has a lot to do with the degree to which both our lives and our communications with each other are so firmly bound up in habits that sometimes it's hard to reach beyond them. I guess that's what I'm trying to do here, and if I'm choosing to do this in a relatively public place, I can assure you that it isn't intended to embarrass you. You will read this letter before any stranger does, and I'm offering you "exclusive" cutting rights; that is, nothing will go into this book that you seriously object to. On the other hand, assuming that you don't object, I can't guarantee that this letter will appear in the book. That will be for the book to decide, in terms of how it develops; and at this point I can't even be certain how this letter is going to develop. (Nor can I be sure that the book will be published—I'm still awaiting word from Cynthia Merman, the editor I know at Harper & Row.) Whatever happens, I hope to resolve at least one question that deeply concerns me: whether or not it is humanly and ethically possible to address one's mother and one's reading public at the same time without betraying or alienating either. I'd like to think that it is, but I can't be sure because I've never tried it.

What triggered this letter was another letter, written to me nearly twenty-five years ago. Do you remember my few minutes of rummaging through the closet in the back bedroom, my old room that you use now for weaving, before you drove me to the bus station on Wednesday? I grabbed some letters from one of the boxes of my things—I can't imagine how I missed them on my two previous trips—and slipped them into my briefcase, to read on the bus to Nashville. Now that I think of it, I can imagine why I hadn't taken those letters back in August 1977 or March 1978: I hadn't yet begun to focus on this part of the book, dealing with the period you spent at Payne Whitney. I was working on my first two chapters then, both of them fundamentally tied up with the patriarchal axis of God, Dad, Bo, and Rosenbaum Theatres—not to mention the Conquistador—which prevented me from broaching the realm of you and the house, and the relevance that had to those same experiences.

After our rushed trip to the bus station, when both of us were too nervous to express a proper goodbye, I had a wonderful stroke of luck: your letter of 1954 was the first letter I pulled out of my briefcase, the first one I read on the bus. As soon as I started it, I felt an intense desire to copy it out word for word, and a few minutes later I did precisely that, in the process becoming you composing the letter and at the same time myself, at eleven, receiving it. Today, when our geographical positions are reversed—I'm in New York and you are in Florence—and I'm about the same age now that you were then, I feel that I must write you back in gratitude a second time. If Michael and I


didn't get up to speak at your and Stanley's fortieth anniversary get-together last week, as Alvin and David did, I'm sure you realize that it was because we need different styles, moods, and climates in order to express these things. Michael, taking after Grandma, did it largely through his cooking, which he managed to combine with his own philosophy of continuity by calling his specialty "Dead Grandma's Strudel." My way, I hope, is evident in the pages of this book.

It's now early February. Eleven days after I began this letter I flew to Berkeley for three weeks. Eight days after I arrived Sandy woke me on her way to work to hand me the phone, and Cynthia at Harper & Row told me they had just agreed to publish this book. I hope to be signing the contract in two days. Tomorrow my "Rivette in Context" season starts at the Bleecker Street Cinema; it has already had two lengthy write-ups (by Andrew Sarris and Roger Greenspun) that will certainly help it to do well, even though both critics are dubious about Rivette.

Four days ago, I made a pilgrimage of sorts to Payne Whitney on East 68th Street, where I had never been before. I stood opposite the building complex with your old postcard and traced the windows with my eyes until I found the circled one, the room that had been yours; then I tried to imagine what a reverse angle from that room would be like—the view you had of the park and the surrounding buildings in the winter of 1953–1954 (was it as cold as this one?). I realize that it's folly to attempt such an exercise, futile even to imagine that it could lead to something meaningful. For a reverse angle now wouldn't be the same as a reverse angle then; and if it were, what could such an image possibly give me other than the assertion of a kind of knowledge that I couldn't possibly have—the same sort of cover-up to our general ignorance about things that movies habitually trade on? But I have to start somewhere, even if that somewhere is false.

Anyway, it's the movies that remain, not the places; not the time you spent at Payne Whitney, which I'll never know much about, but the movies that pass like air ducts between me and parts of that experience—passed to me through your letters, giving them an identity even before I saw them. When I actually breathed them later (Dial M For Murder in August, Seven Brides For Seven Brothers in October, On The Waterfront in January, Rear Window in February), you were the leading character for me in each one. You were not only Grace Kelly (whom you resembled) in the two Hitchcocks, but also Jane Powell in Seven Brides , and Eva Marie Saint in Waterfront . My glamorous view of you, which already made you a movie star, was largely what these movies were about.

Two hours past my thirty-sixth birthday and five days after I stopped smoking (which tends to make me more impatient than usual about a lot of things)


I'm remembering our phone conversation around Christmas. You and Stanley had read the preceding chapter; he compared it to three-dimensional chess, and you described it as a form of psychoanalysis that I don't get charged for. You're both right, and it occurs to me now that both of you named activities that can be made to drag on indefinitely, if necessary. Yesterday your newsy letter arrived (with the $20 birthday check from you and Stanley—many thanks), reminding me, to my embarrassment, that I started this letter nearly three months ago!

Jane Powell in Seven Brides and Eva Marie Saint in Waterfront were like you and me at the same time, frail vessels bearing morality and sensitivity in a brutal macho world—even if other bits of me went to Brando, Keel, and Russ Tamblyn in those movies. Like Eva Marie, you were a New Yorker from a working-class family and neighborhood; like Jane, you were a gal from the city who married a country boy and eventually found yourself planted in a family of male despots (six in all, including Bo, against Jane's seven). "Bless your beautiful hide," sang Howard Keel robustly, before he even met you.

Grace Kelly, however, was you and you alone in the two Hitchcocks, hence more mysterious. In Dial M for Murder this wasn't merely a matter of my linking her sewing basket and scissors with yours (Freudians, please note); it also involved the "convenient" way in which she was whisked offstage for a long stretch of the action so that the male characters could take charge of all the important business (the planning of her murder and the subsequent crime detection) without unnecessary kibbitzing on her part. Which is another way of saying that, as you were the most silent member of the family in those days, your victimization was a lot like hers.

Yet Rear Window was your apotheosis, for Grace was a sophisticated New York model in that movie, just as you were a Powers model when this picture was taken. When Grace modeled a Mark Cross travel bag—a plug for a product slyly integrated into the plot; the modeling performed for her immobilized boyfriend, James Stewart, when she comes to spend the night—seeing her was like seeing you in that Chesterfield ad on the back cover of Life . The image of suave, practical-minded but stylish Grace showing James what a shrewd consumer she is seems as crystal-clear in my mind's eye as Vista Vision itself, the deep-focus process in which the movie was made. (Lucky me, I'd seen an advance demonstration of it with Stanley, at an exhibitors' convention in Atlanta the previous spring.) Crystal-cool, too, unlike the more frigid remoteness of 3-D or the warm, indiscriminate expanses of CinemaScope; as crystal-cool-clear as my first pair of glasses, so that when either you or Stanley drove me home from the clinic, past the suddenly crisp snow-covered visage of downtown Florence, along the darkening dips and curves of Riverview Drive at dusk (the houses, lawns, and fences more firmly outlined now, more set apart), and into the snug glow of our house's radiant



Mildred Bookholtz, 1935


heating (which promptly fogged up my lenses), all I could think was, Vista-Vision, my God—wearing glasses was just like Vista Vision.

3-D was a lot less real than that. It was generally agreed—by David Darby, Lannes Foy, and me, among others—that Fort Ti had the best effects: burning arrows and squirts of tobacco juice, both projected straight at the audience. A more typical specimen would be some godforsaken nullity like Second Chance —seen successively at the Princess in Florence on October 18, 1953, and at the Thalia in New York on February 23, 1979, the day I stopped smoking—a movie whose principal (unwitting) achievement was and is to flaunt its own artifices rather than to enhance any illusion of reality. Thanks to 3-D, the painted backdrops and grainy rear projections looked even flatter and the reverse angles tended to look phonier by denying the spaces that had been occupied, in the previous shots, by the camera itself. The renegotiation and redistribution of pockets of deep and shallow space that occurred with each cut, each change of camera position, made the question of point of view seem arbitrary and contrived and each camera angle as isolated from the preceding one as a separate View Master square. With the illusion of depth ready to collapse the moment you tilted your head, how long could anyone suspend disbelief?

Because of this lunacy, the Technicolor comic-strip bodies and physiognomies of the stars, projected into a freakish depth, became as shapeless as dialogue balloons: Robert Mitchum, a Joe Palooka languishing like a sea slug inside a zoot suit; Linda Darnell, whose breasts, boldly cantilevered in the usual Howard Hughes/RKO manner, tended to dwarf all her other human attributes; Jack Palance, whose craggy, elegant profile seemed to belong on the head of a penny. Maybe, in the final analysis, it was all a matter of budgets and production values. 3-D failed because it didn't become identified with money, religion, or culture—unlike CinemaScope and stereophonic sound, which started off with the The Robe and How to Marry a Millionaire , the latter introduced by nothing less than curtains parting and Alfred Newman's symphonic orchestra playing a dull "Street Scene" overture for more than half a reel from inside an amphitheater in the clouds.

It was certainly easy for me to identify with James Stewart in Rear Window . As many critics have noted, his position in the movie is like that of a film spectator—immobilized by a broken leg and watching through the window the real or potential couples in the apartments across the court, meanwhile evading the countless appeals and demands of Grace. So when he suspects that the neighbor opposite him has murdered his wife, sends Grace to search for evidence, and then watches helplessly as the guy returns and catches her, the guilt-ridden suspense of that moment—compounded by the spatial simultaneity and God's-eye view afforded by the depth of Vista Vision, the creepy neighbor approaching in the hallway while Grace lingers unknowingly inside the apartment—was almost unbearable. ("It's Perry Mason!" de-


clared Connie Greenbaum in a thrilled whisper, and giggled, at the Paris Cinémathèque, August 21, 1972, recognizing the neighbor-villain as Raymond Burr, and thereby imbuing the whole dark intrigue with a somewhat different color. Or could this have been at The Blue Gardenia ?)

What do I know about myself during this period? The only artifact I have from fall 1953, apart from the scant information in my diary, is a newspaper headline that I had made up in a Times Square arcade on our way back from Maine: Jonny Rosenbaum Captures Red Spies! So the same Jonny who wept for the Rosenberg boys on the way up to camp must have fantasized capturing their parents single-handedly on the way back. Does this suggest that I wanted to be a hero? Probably; but it was Stanley who proposed the headline while I was trying to think one up—another example, I guess, of the degree to which both of you collaborated on my creativity.

It's only recently that I've come to realize how closely connected my formation as a writer was with your stay at Payne Whitney. Before you left I was already drawing comic books, but my forays into pure writing had been few. My diary, discontinued around the time that you left for New York, was a failed experiment as far as feelings went, merely a list of movies and other activities, provoked by Bo's offer of ten cents per entry and set down with a sense of duty and commitment, with little apparent pleasure or interest. Those things began to develop after you left, when the distance between Florence and New York had to be crossed and I suddenly discovered that words could do it. It became exciting to write poems, parodies of ads (in imitation of Mad ), and newspapers and letters that I knew you would like and would show to your friends. (As I recall, you only played badminton with Robert Lowell while you were at Payne Whitney, but in the sixties I used to imagine that you showed both him and Hodgins some of my first poems.)

The more I wrote, the closer I felt to you. Even my long sentences nowadays sometimes seem motivated by a desire to cross similar distances. And an intriguing aspect of this impulse is that I don't think the Conquistador was the main force behind it. Not at first, anyway; later, perhaps, when the all-male ambience and audience of Surprise Night may have made plots seem more important than words in crossing distances and carrying feelings, but not when I was trying to court you through the mail.

It wasn't the stories of Waterfront and Seven Brides that your letter alerted me to, but the styles and the décors of the movies: the real Hoboken locations of the former, the sets and painted backdrops of the latter. You assumed correctly that the outdoorishness possible on an MGM soundstage (or in a Broadway theater, even if I didn't see that production of Oklahoma! ) was more my style than the outdoorishness one could find on the Hoboken docks, yet you were careful to give each style its due. (This was hardly the case with John McCarten in The New Yorker, who may have influenced your


ideas on Waterfront —"Contributing to the credibility of 'On the Waterfront'  . . .  is the fact that it was actually made in Hoboken"—but declared himself a cultural cripple when it came to Seven Brides : " . . . a furiously arch movie about the marital problems of a furiously hillbilly family. It's possible that I'm just insensitive to the charm of back-country types, but the insanitary customs of the group assembled here got on my nerves.")

It was years before I became aware of the artifice in each case. I literally didn't see the painted backdrops of Seven Brides in 1954 any more than I could see the relations between the Christ-like martyrdom of the stool pigeon (Brando) in Waterfront in 1955 and the real-life roles of Elia Kazan, Budd Schulberg, and Lee J. Cobb as friendly witnesses in the HUAC purges. But your sense of style began to show me the way. It suggested that stories alone were not what one came away from movies with, that atmosphere and impressions were more enduring. When we saw Julie together at the Shoals near the beginning of spring 1957, I remember that we both felt the same relief when Doris Day finally succeeded in landing the airplane single-handedly: Thank God it was over. Suspense like that was an unpleasant ordeal, a forced march imposed by the Conquistador, not a pleasure, because pleasure required the sort of relaxation that let you observe things and linger. Hitchcock's suspense was different; at least it gave you more to look at.

Rear Window and Waterfront also offered me two ways of regarding New York. As my image of you then was closer to Grace than to Eva Marie, the stylized set that the former moved through seemed more real. Even today, as a seasoned New Yorker, I still believe more in Hitchcock's Greenwich Village—a quiet, elliptical sonata of suggestions—than in Kazan's overwrought Hoboken. Rear Window gave me something that I already knew and recognized: little lighted rectangles of theatrical space, each window across the courtyard from James Stewart framing a separate drama. This was precisely my perception of what our house looked like at night, from the backyard, across the stagelike terrace, when all the lights in the living room, dining room, and bedrooms were on. Just as the two long hallways in the house provided me with an entire childhood of narrative tracking shots (the moving camera writes; and, having writ, moves on), my views of the house from the backyard at night, especially when you and Stanley had guests, were like theater performances, CinemaScope tableaux that held the whole universe in a snugly fixed order, everything securely in its place.

The effect that growing up in that house had on my aesthetic biases must be incalculable, although I certainly wasn't aware of it at the time. In retrospect I'm sure it had a lot to do with my sense of a horizontal line's being both dynamic and restful, which led to my love of CinemaScope as well as the films of Ozu. And the flowing, often subtle transitions between certain rooms might conceivably have helped to prime me for the dovetailing rhythms





Stanley Rosenbaum house, Florence, Alabama: front, playroom (where I saw  Bird of Paradise ), back, front hallway


and continuities of Orson Welles and Alain Resnais. It's an endless game that could be played—culminating, I suppose, in the column of windows in the brick wall at a right angle to the front door reminding me of film frames. Now that I think of it, so do the brick patterns themselves, and the Wright motif in the ceiling light fixture, and Stanley's books on the shelves, and maybe even the umbrellas too. Your three plants on the shelves are the only wild element in this cove of replication and regularity.

I recall a fight we once had within this very space, as I was getting ready to leave for one of the local girls' club dances at the Naval Reserve in Sheffield. It was one of our many fights about the sloppy way in which I dressed and groomed myself. It must have been around 1955, perhaps during the summer-fall period in which Dr. Brown at the Florence Clinic was giving me hormone shots for my undescended testicle. I realize now that James Dean, discovered via East of Eden at the Shoals in late June, three days after my first shot, must have influenced my defiant gesture of twisting my torso in a contorted rage until my ill-fitting white shirt began to tear. Projecting myself back into this rectangular space, I wonder whether those even lines intersected with your anger in such a way that I wanted rebelliously to bend that cumulative line of force, and flexed my body into an expressionist agony of angularity out of, say, The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari or Ivan the Terrible (or East of Eden , the only example of expressionism I'd seen by then), in order to try, however solipsistically, to snap that line of force in two—ripping instead only the fabric of my frustration.

A comparable fury had driven me, several years earlier, to rebel against those braces with rubber bands in the back that converted my mouth into a dank, Sadean dungeon of pulleys and weights where my tongue would sometimes wander like a fugitive destroyer, slashing loose all the overhead stage machinery that its thrusts could reach—severing rubber bands, dislodging bits of wire. It was a struggle fought in vain, alas, for both of us; damaged braces were always replaced, and no brace could eliminate my slight case of buck teeth. So when I went away to school in Vermont in 1959—a "solution" to my isolation that we reached together the previous year, on one of our Saturday afternoon drives home from Birmingham after seeing our separate psychotherapists (which for you was always a release, but for me another enforced activity, like braces)—I was quickly assigned the nickname Gopher, an appellation that seemed to go with the Northern responses to my Southern accent, both of which kept burrowing to the surface, unexpected and gopher-like, to mock my attempts to escape their baneful implications.

If looks could kill, I reasoned, then so could words. Consequently, during my first two years away from home, in Putney, Vermont, I (1) lost my Southern accent—a cultural delousing process that was a much quicker adjustment for me than acquiring a Southern accent has been for you (over the


past forty years!), but only because the social pressures were greater in my case (Putney in this respect—and many others—being a lot more furiously hillbilly than Florence), and (2) wrote my first novel, which is drenched in Southern accents. In Poe's "The Oval Portrait" the artist destroys his model by painting her; but if all he could paint were self-portraits, wouldn't his work be a kind of suicide? Maybe that's why this book is gradually detoxifying and curing me of movies by providing some sort of methadone of the mind, and by becoming a cemetery for the memories it records, each title a separate tombstone.

Some movies are harder to bury than others, though. I can easily write off Knock On Wood as a romantic digest of what I knew about psychoanalysis in 1954 (Danny Kaye as a schizophrenic ventriloquist who is afraid of women, a cuckoo who almost simultaneously meets and falls in love with—and is treated and cured by—sexy Mai Zetterling, meanwhile capturing a few Atomic spies of his own, in color and Vista Vision), if only because my last look at it—on TV three weeks ago—offered no other lasting revelation. But how can I put Bird of Paradise to rest before I show the reader the room in the house where I saw it almost a year ago; explain that the rich pantheism it stirred in me was a direct legacy from you (outdoorishness in another form); and note that the 1954 nightmare it influenced was dreamt during your second visit home from Payne Whitney? And what about On Moonlight Bay , a corpse I had occasion to revisit in the TV morgue over five weeks ago? This time I could only chide the movie for its unfaithful departures from my text: the mispronunciation of Hubert Winkley's name as Wakeley, for instance, and Miss Stevens's sending the rest of the class home directly after Wesley calls her an old crow (instead of waiting until after school or during recess to see him).

If looks can kill or create, I'm sure that words can, too. In precisely that light, where words and appearances become equally powerful in their claims to define reality, Freaks was surely the most formative and traumatic film of my youth. The dichotomy begins with the title, which gave me at the age of seven just as many creeps as some of the images. As I recall, the freaks are first glimpsed relaxing in a peaceful forest clearing in France. The game warden complains about them to his master, calling them "horrible, twisted things." We see them crawling and wriggling about in an unsettling, indistinct long shot. But the normal French lady who runs the circus, their custodian Madame Tetrallini, passionately defends them in a warm, closer shot, drawing them into her arms' maternal shelter as she cries, "These are children in my circus . . .  That's what most of them are, children ." The alternative description and camera position transform the essence of what both we and the master see: they are sweet, helpless creatures, not monsters. Later other ver-


bal and visual cues will turn them into monsters again, and still others will make them sympathetic and likable adults. (This was suggested to me in part by Jean-Claude Biette's article on Freaks in Cahiers du Cinéma, no. 288, May 1978.)

You've never seen Freaks , Mimi, and I'm sure that you never will; as you said to me about Waterfront , it's not your style, so you'll have to take my word for it (or Stanley's) that the movie is profound and humane about its subject and not at all complacent. Metaphorically, I think one could say that it shows a lot of what goes on for real . I've seen it three times: August 31, 1950, at the Majestic (in defiance of Stanley's warning, along with David and Alvin); October 2, 1964, at Bard College (where I programmed it for the Friday night film series, on a double bill with The Phenix City Story ); and last summer, August 25, 1978, at Theatre 80 in lower Manhattan. On the basis of my last look at it, I'm prepared to consider it an aesthetic experience and a political statement that I was too young, rattled, and brainwashed to recognize as such at the ages of either seven or twenty-one—an assault on the ideology of beauty that rules us both, and all the everyday unthought cruelties that this ideology permits, authorizes, even encourages, in others and to others, in ourselves and to ourselves. Which is not to put down or to exonerate either of us; it merely acknowledges a system of beliefs and habits that is an intimate part of both our lives, for better and for worse. What you find in a mirror is pretty close to what I look for, in a page or on a screen. Our aesthetic biases become our objective realities because we like reality better that way, with the right appearances.

That's why you once designed a house for our collie Diana which matched our own, and had a carpenter build it; and why Diana, pragmatic nonaesthetician and philistine non-Wrightian that she was, took one trip inside, emerged, and never reentered, preferring to sleep in the little alcove outside the playroom and leaving your creation to us, for use as a playhouse.

We both like to spend a lot of time at home, in our own rooms, creating our own sense of order. That's why I'd like to think that, over the years, some of the same energy that flows through your looms passes through my typewriters. Astrologically, we're a crab and a fish who swim in the same ocean. (The Conquistador wants us to march, but mainly we float instead.) . . . It's taken us years, but you've taught me to hear the sound of your own voice, and both our lives are richer for it.


P.S. If a movie called Remember My Name gets down to Florence, be sure to see it—I think you and Stanley would both go for it. It stars Geraldine Chaplin, and she really gives a fantastic performance.



Of married ones and single ones
  And families and daters
There's fun for all of you this week
  At the Muscle Shoals Theatres!

"Three Stripes in the Sun" is the name of one
  That's playing the Shoals today
It concerns an Army sergeant
  Better known as Aldo Ray.

"Blood Alley" refers to the Formosa Straits
  A dangerous part of the ocean
Where Communists, storms and Lauren Bacall
  Keep John Wayne in perpetual motion.
—from Stanley Rosenbaum's Sunday column, Florence Times , January 8, 1956

Sometimes it wasn't the movie at all but the configuration that went with it, or came out of it, or burned straight through it like a dropped cigarette—the static image summoned up by title, poster, billboard, newspaper ad, review, or some other form of promotion. Or maybe it was the false yet enduring and prevailing expectation. As Alvin said to me in Washington three months ago, Movies used to be the Rosenbaums' Muzak —forever buzzing, blandly and gleefully, in the backs of our minds; and meanwhile adding up figures, busy as bees.

In some cases it might have been just a bit of ballyhoo that the theater manager devised, the real-life ads he staged, such as the giant robot from The Day The Earth Stood Still —or rather, a noble facsimile built by Bobby Stewart, the Shoals manager—patrolling the center of downtown Florence during the last shopping week before Christmas 1951, or the "moonshine still" that Aston ("Elk") Elkins rigged up at the Colbert to push Thunder Road in 1958—a funny prank to play in a county where bootleggers and churches have joined forces to keep liquor illegal since 1952. (When I saw Bird of Paradise during the spring of 1951 in the adjacent county—which has been dry since time immemorial—all those drives across the river, mainly to Sunday school or the Sheffield and Tuscumbia theaters, past all those beer stands and bars and neon neo-nightclubs, conveyed to me at eight a warm, goodnatured, uninhibited paganism that I could immediately ascribe, like a credential, to Kalua's heavenly tribal people, that happy-go-lucky, pre-hippie, pre-Panavision, pre-Jonestown extended family unit.)

Promo gimmicks like those shown here were one of Elk's specialties when he managed the Colbert. For Thunder Road he built that "still" and put water in it and a fire under it, and before long his mother and father-in-law



Aston Elkins ballyhoo, Colbert Theatre, Sheffield, Alabama, December 22 or 23, 1950



Aston Elkins ballyhoo, Colbert Theatre, Sheffield, Alabama, September 9 or 10, 1954



Aston Elkins ballyhoo, Colbert Theatre, Sheffield, Alabama, March 1958


had phoned his wife Mae Murray to ask whether he was in jail. That's the honest truth.

"Paul Harvey got aholt of it in some way on his news," Elk says grinning, flushed as a beet, in the Rosenbaum living room on March 19, 1978, where he and Mae Murray and Bobby Stewart and Stanley and Mimi and a current local theater manager my age, W L. Butler, and his wife Diane and I are all sipping coffee this Sunday afternoon and talking about the theaters. "And it got into every newspaper." "It did," says Mae Murray, "it went all over." Another time, to promote a horror film (he doesn't recall which one or when it was ) Elk borrowed a casket from his brother's funeral home and filled it with a department store dummy that he covered with catsup. Ever since the Colbert was demolished Elk has been working with real corpses in his brother's business. Bobby is still a sign painter, and one of the best.

Sometimes it was the accompanying routine, like Daddy's checking up, a ritual he performed five or six nights a week, every night but Surprise Night, usually alone, sometimes with Mommy, sometimes with one or more of us (on weekends or on a special holiday or during the summer, when we could stay up later), always leaving the Shoals sometime after nine to drive across the river and pick up the final reports at the Colbert and the Tuscumbian, always returning well before eleven.

A routine so absolute you could check the order of the universe by it. Jonathan, living in France, found himself recalling it each time he attended the Cannes Film Festival (May 1970, 1971, 1972, 1973), whenever he began restlessly to make the rounds of all the places he habitually passed through. He would begin at the Carlton lobby, with its huge square glass ashtrays resting like miniature swimming pools on the spacious marble reception counter, then walk past the shrieking, waving billboards and banners to the Petit Carlton a few blocks away, a noisy, crowded bar for sailors and journalists without expense accounts (like Jonathan, a stringer for the Village Voice, Time Out, and Film Comment ) on rue d'Antibes, a narrow "main street" that led to most of the smaller hotels and cinemas. Then he'd proceed back around the crowd in front of the Grand Palais and all the way down the white hot and blue cool line of ritzy seaside hotels toward the casino, ceaselessly coveting and recovering his happy stations of the Croisette between movies while looking for friends, colleagues, acquaintances, or others whom he could never meet properly in Paris, even though he'd been there since the fall of 1969. Maybe it wasn't so much checking up as checking things out—perhaps even scaring things up—but it brought back hints of Stanley's bright pleasure in compulsively repeating a regular itinerary of stops, surveys, pipeloads, and amiable chats.

If the Conquistador had had a radio or TV show of his own in the mid-fifties (we would have watched the latter on our first set, Bo's twenty-one-


inch RCA that he gave us for Chanukah in 1954 when he got himself a larger model, at the same time that Stanley and Mimi bought me my first typewriter, a Smith-Corona portable), he might well have wanted to call his program Checking Up . And if he had gone on the air with it often enough, we would have gladly listened to and/or watched it instead of movies. It was always a narrative, a story in which Stanley Rosenbaum was either the hero or the narrator and the listeners/spectators were the inhabitants of his Indian red 1953 Pontiac station wagon or his green 1949 Oldsmobile as he drove across the river and back to pick up the final reports from the Colbert and the Tuscumbian. The whole trip took about an hour, stops and commercial breaks included.

What was so wonderful about checking up? It wasn't exactly a western, though it had a few things in common with some of them, a relationship enhanced no doubt by the fact that we most often went with Stanley on Friday and Saturday nights, which also happened to be when westerns usually played. First, you rode somewhere, making stops along the way to pick up important information. Second, adventures and spectacles en route were always a possibility; once, in the mid-fifties, a locust attack swamped the windshield as you and Stanley, alone in the car, were crossing O'Neal Bridge from Sheffield to Florence. Third, women usually didn't come along for the ride, though they were always waiting faithfully at the stops. These were mainly (apart from Mimi) the box office cashiers, who had to total the number of tickets sold (and how many of each kind—adult, child, student, colored) and the amounts of money made in tickets and concessions. They would also fill out a form, noting the starting and ending serial numbers on the tickets sold that day, which Stanley would collect. In the meantime, the manager would have placed the day's proceeds in a canvas bag, deposited it in the night vault of the local bank, and returned to the theater before Stanley arrived.

Sometimes Mimi came along on weekends, though she preferred weeknights (after seeing an early movie with Stanley), when she didn't have to compete for his attention. She didn't like getting out at the Colbert and the Tuscumbian with the rest of us. The cheesecake on the walls of Elk's office made her uncomfortable, and by the time we reached Tuscumbia (entering from the north, just past the turnoff for Helen Keller's birthplace) she had usually located some classical music on the radio. She would listen to that while we went with Stanley to see Jimmy Hall or Walter Arsic, the manager at the Tuscumbian, or perhaps we would watch a portion of the last feature while Stanley took care of business. We stood in the back of the auditorium until he tapped each of us gently on the shoulder and said, "Time to go, Butch."

The warm familiarity of checking up had a lot to do with the places you passed, the people you saw when you stopped, and the fragments of movies you glimpsed, usually morsels of movies already seen at the Shoals or tanta-


lizing previews of what was coming shortly. (On Friday, May 17, 1957, it was Teahouse of the August Moon —already seen last Sunday—at the Colbert; and Giant—running concurrently at the Shoals, where the whole family would see it the day after tomorrow—at the Tuscumbian.)

Sometimes, if you arrived at either theater far enough ahead of schedule, before the last feature had begun, you'd see trailers (the trade term for previews) you had already seen at the Shoals as well as trailers that were new to you. Outside, under the marquees, you could study the paper advertising, the one-sheets and three-sheets and picture cards for the movie that would be showing tomorrow, while inside, in the lobbies, there were additional one-sheets for future attractions (and occasionally a special display, such as this one by Elk in 1959). Further inside, at the back of each auditorium, next to the semidark areas where we stood watching fragments of the movies, were the bright green and red CinemaScope-shaped lobby cards, sprayed with the magical hue of violet fluorescent bulbs inside a vertical Day-Glo display case, announcing attractions that were even further off in the future—like the serial numbers of the tickets for any given day, a chain that stretched forward and backward in an infinite series, neither progressing nor regressing as it proceeded in two directions, endlessly, beyond any human ken.

An only child, Stanley didn't like checking up by himself, so he sometimes invited friends to come along. One of them was A.G., a good-natured fellow who was missing an arm, read a lot, and was a fan of Ray Bradbury, Jonny's favorite author from Surprise Nights. He was also an epileptic, which was how Daddy met him in the first place, after he had had a fit in the Shoals balcony. He had lost his arm when he was a kid, holding on to the back of a truck while riding a bike. Mommy never liked to check up with Daddy when A.G. came along; she agreed that he was a nice man, but being around him made her skin crawl—one of those feelings that wasn't his fault and wasn't hers.

The grand climax, the final dramatic cymbal-clash of checking up, always occurred before Stanley returned to the Shoals. One felt it building up during the long drive back from Tuscumbia to Florence, Stanley's route nearly always taking one through Muscle Shoals City. There he'd automatically reduce his speed in order to avoid getting a ticket (it was a speed trap before becoming a music and recording center in the sixties and thereby expanding the Tri-Cities into the Quad Cities), passing the Park-Vue Drive-In (today the Marboro, where W.L. is the manager), which belonged to a competitor yet afforded a quick, fragmented glance of still another movie. After passing a small patch of government-owned TVA property, Stanley would retrace a portion of his route into Sheffield by turning right at the intersection where Ron's Gym is today, less than a quarter of a mile from O'Neal Bridge. Finally, after recrossing this bridge back into Florence and proceeding gradually up the main drag toward the high embankment facing the river and the



Aston Elkins ballyhoo, lobby display for the fortieth anniversary of Rosenbaum Theatres,
Colbert Theatre, Sheffield, Alabama, summer 1959


Sheffield palisades, you would pass on your left the twenty-four-sheet announcing the next big movie at the Shoals, a giant billboard smiling down on your return to Florence like a divine countenance, perhaps with the face of a pretty woman, reminding you how nice it was to be home again.

I've never seen Behind The Rising Sun , but this ad was a familiar one throughout my childhood. It appeared with two intriguing variations in the July 24, 1943, Showman's Trade Review, an issue that featured Bo on the cover ("business and civic leader . . . now serving his second year in the chairmanship of district 1 for the Alabama War Chest appeal by appointment of Gov. Chauncey Sparks . . . " says the blurb inside). I must have looked through that magazine dozens of times in Stanley's office over the years, usually while waiting to go home with him after having seen a movie next door at the Shoals. It was kept in the same low bookshelf that housed all the Motion Picture Almanacs , and as a rule I would resort to it only after I had gone through the latest Time or Boxoffice on the desk.

My memory of this ad ("exterminated," the title, and the message at lower right are rendered in bright blue) and its two companion pieces elsewhere in the issue (identical themes and credits have slightly different characters and texts, and red or orange letters instead of blue) gradually became interwoven and intermixed with afterimages of movies I had seen, a long, rich anthology of monsters that included

the Japanese insect torturers of The Purple Heart (1944), a reissue at the Princess in June 1950;

Ming the Merciless in a Flash Gordon feature digested from a thirties serial, at the Shoals some time in the mid-fifties;

the invisible, all-destroying title feline in Track Of The Cat (Shoals, April 1955);

the quasi-visible barbarian Indians at the beginning of The Searchers (Shoals, June 1956);

the visible but faceless villains of Rio Bravo (Cinema, May 1959);

the Mongolian savages at the end of Seven Women , John Ford's last film, seen with Carolyn Fireside at Studio Cujas, October 10, 1969, three days after I moved to Paris;

the Vietcong gooks in The Deer Hunter , seen in a midtown Manhattan screening room on December 12, 1978, the day before I flew to Berkeley (and wrote my review of this movie for Take One );

and countless other xenophobic images in between.

Of course there are significant differences between these images. The Japanese insect torturers in The Purple Heart (reseen at the Museum of Modern Art, February 1979) appeared at the same time that the United States was at war with Japan, and a few clumsy attempts were made to give human



Advertisement, Showman's Trade Review, July 24, 1943


(i.e., American) characteristics to these strange people from afar. By contrast, the Oscar-winning racism of The Deer Hunter was articulated, enjoyed, and rewarded in mid-April 1979—several years after the withdrawal of U.S. troops from Vietnam—and no effort whatsoever appears to have been made to humanize its buglike villains.

Suggested pastime:

1. Run through any movie, good or bad, frame by frame, until you arrive at your favorite frozen instant, the point at which characters, emotions, sets, and ideas suddenly merge in an ideal symbolic configuration that conveys a maximum of unified meaning within a minimum of space and time—an orgasmic flash of signification that strikes like lightning between two bats of an eyelid, which any idiot (like you or me) can read at once.

2. Got it? Now hold on to it for dear life. Throw the rest into the disposal unit, for eventual retrieval by nostalgia (a term coined in 1688 by Johannes Hofer, an Alsatian medical student, derived from Greek roots meaning "return home" and "pain," and regarded as a medical problem through the end of the nineteenth century), but don't let go of the snazzy book-jacket logo, that relic which can somehow stand for all the rest. Keep it securely locked in drawer or cabinet, protected in a plain brown envelope. Maybe, if you're lucky, it will be available in several sexy poses (the ad for Behind The Rising Sun generously offers not one but two "villainous Japs [manhandling] captive women," one woman with a baby and one without; and if I could show you the two variant ads in that issue of Showman as Trade Review, you would have at least as many images to choose from as in a typical Playboy feature spread).

3. Take out this favorite image once a day and stare at it for at least five minutes, ridding your thoughts of everything else. Recite the film's title over and over like a mantra. Varying the emphasis on words or syllables in the title is permissible (e.g., The Deer Hunter, The Deer Hunter, The Deer Hun ter, The Deer Hunter ). Take a deep breath. Repeat exercise.

4. Watch the Academy Awards presentation on TV once a year, preferably on an Advent screen.

"Who Wins Ava?" reads the caption in the newspaper ad for The Little Hut (June 9, 1957), over a cartoon desert island hut on steep poles that is entered by ladder. A giant photograph of Ava Gardner in the foreground shows her standing in a dark, gauzy, almost see-through nightie, her ample legs crossed. Part of her body, including her right arm, is cut off by the left border of the ad; her left arm hangs saucily over her hip. Around her are diminutive cartoon figures recognizable as Stewart Granger and David Niven, urbane English Lilliputians to this female American Gulliver. Granger, in a white tux, stands at the base of the cartoon hut, arms and legs both crossed, looking


up at a little dog standing inside the threshold; Niven, in shirtsleeves, crouches on all fours at Ava's feet, his nose aimed (more or less) at a spot directly between her legs.

The movie is awful, Jonny discovers to his regret at the Shoals the same day—another grim exercise in blocking libido with frustrated giggles, served up in "blushing" MGM Technicolor yet delivering absolutely none of the scintillating perversions promised or suggested in the ad. Yet this doesn't prevent the ad from furnishing the décor and determining the mise en scène for at least three of his most sublime teenage orgasms afterward. So what if one winds up believing in the ad but not in the movie it describes? Just as many—perhaps most—films exist solely in order to "maneuver two or three scenes into position to maximum effect" (as Ray Durgnat puts it in a discussion about nonnarrative that he and I wrote together in Del Mar last spring, along with David Ehrenstein in L.A.), the ideal form and expression of many films can be found only in the ad or title—an emblem, unlike the movie, that we can sometimes keep.

Longer lasting, too—like Debra Paget's delicate Polynesian feet in Bird of Paradise , after she has walked barefoot on red-hot coals to prove that her love for the white man, Louis Jourdan, is good and true. "You're not burned!" he exclaims, examining her feet afterward. "No," she says calmly, "I did not feel the fire." "But I stood there—I saw the fire in the stones. This is incredible!" "We have the answer ," she says, joy sparkling in her eyes. "The gods have smiled on us. Now we can be one . Now you can buy me." "Buy you?" Louis asks, incredulous. "Yes, from my father. It is the custom," she says with a tender, loving laugh, taking pleasure in his innocence, starting now to tease him. "I will be very expensive . . . " "You will be worth it," he responds in deadly earnest, not long before the impending volcanic disaster strikes.

Sometimes the title was more than enough. I can't remember much of I Wake Up Screaming , seen at least one and one-half times on a Saturday night (November 20, 1948) at the Princess, while waiting to see Lash LaRue, on stage in person, pop the top off a Coke bottle with his bullwhip. All I can recall is a shot of Betty Grable on the telephone and the curious experience of stepping behind this gigantic image in order to meet Lash in his dressing room backstage. But the title scared the living daylights out of me at five, and it continued to do so for years afterward.

Sometimes all it took was an unexpected hookup between movies and life. Movies were our Muzak then, so the distinction wasn't always clear-cut. I can't remember exactly when in the early fifties the whole family went to the Ringling Brothers and Barnum and Bailey Circus in Memphis and found none other than Harry Earles, the midget in Freaks , featured in the sideshow. Yet I still recall that I was the only one of us unwilling to go over and talk to him. Persuaded irrationally that the encounter could only make the movie


seem more real, not less, I was still more than a quarter of a century away from the perception that the movie's disturbing effect on me in August 1950 was mainly an aesthetic one, not the effect of a "documentary" rendering of any sort of reality, however horrible. Instead I froze into a sort of adlike tableau off to the side of the raised platform inside the tent, turned away from the others on my little patch of sawdust, hints of tears tickling the edges of my eyes as I stood petrified, refusing even to look at him.

Stanley chided me later for my hypersensitivity: "He's friendly, Butch, and very intelligent. And he's real, not just a character in a movie." I'm not at all sure that I understood precisely what he meant. Maybe it was better that I didn't understand; displays of sensitivity were an essential part of my vanity, a virtually patented counterpart to David's jock and macho credentials, so why should I relinquish any part of their justification? And why should I again have to confront my confusion about my sexual identification with Earles in the movie? (The identification seems closer than ever when I return to Theatre 80 on Saturday, April 28, 1979, to see the movie a fourth time. Two weeks later, after reading a copy of a treatment of Freaks that was circulated at MGM in 1931—and lent to me by Elliott Stein, a friend, colleague, and SoHo neighbor—I conclude, as I type this sentence, that sex really was the structural glue that held the scenario together before studio and censors began cutting things out, mutilating the movie just as the newspaper ad for The Little Hut mutilates Ava Gardner by removing her right arm and shoulder, thereby making her an even more erotic fantasy—a "total object, complete with missing parts, instead of partial object," as Beckett puts it—that is completed by the imagination invested in the spectator's gaze. No wonder that the first time Elliott saw Freaks, in Manhattan in the thirties, it was showing on a double bill with a porn film.) And no wonder that Earles's plight in Freaks seems so close to that of Emil Jannings in The Blue Angel —a grown man driven berserk with passion by the enormous thighs of a beautiful, cruel, seductive showgirl.

[Monday, December 21, 1953]

Dear Mimi,

As you know, I committed myself long ago to taking the kids to see "Gentlemen Prefer Blondes" whenever it showed again locally. I mentioned in yesterday's letter that it was to play at the Park-Vue last night and that I was to take the kids. The mission was successfully accomplished, but at a grave cost in blood, sweat and tears. As one of the triumphs of the human spirit against formidable odds, I rate it only slightly beneath the Conquest of Everest.


Transportation Problem Which car to take? The station wagon is no good for a drive-in because of the tinted glass in the windshield; the Oldsmobile, because the sunshade blocks the view. Solution resolved upon: Borrow the


folks' Cadillac. Exchange of Oldsmobile and Cadillac effected in front of Shoals. Mother and Dad proceed home in Oldsmobile. I get in the Cadillac and start looking for the car keys. Can't find them. Have vivid recollections of Mother handing them to me a moment before. Nevertheless, they are not in my pockets or apparently anyplace else. (She handed them to me while we were in the Olds in front of Elk's after leaving his "at home." I go back to Elk's, borrow a flashlight and search the gutter and nearby grass.) I call Mother and ask her to see if I had dropped the keys in the Olds. She and Dad are both undressed, but she dresses, looks in the Olds and can't find them. Then she drives to the Shoals and gives me her second set of keys. A few minutes later, when I am driving the Cadillac, I hear a clink at my feet, and there are the missing keys on the floorboard. They apparently dropped from my clothes someplace.

Personnel Problem James is coming to work and naturally we want to take him in the car with us.[*] This may be against the segregation law. Is the drive-in going to be technical about it and embarrass us? Alvin is staying at Rossie's, but very much wants to come. We arrange to pick him up and we invite Judy too. High conclave of Klibanoffs to decide whether Judy can go. Verdict: No. Judy retires to her room, feeling unjustly treated, and sulks. (Cf. Achilles brooding in his tent, Iliad, passim.)

Seating Problem All four put in a claim to sit by me while we watch the picture. Only one can. David bases his right on priority of request, Michael on his youth, Jonny on the history of past injustices suffered, and Alvin on the idea that because he was staying at Rossie's he wasn't seeing much of me, but the others were. They all put in a second choice claim for the other place in the front seat, and nobody would settle for anything less than a seat next to the window in back. But also no one would give up what they felt to be their inherent right to the seat by me. Tempers flared. Arguments grew louder and more simultaneous. I restored order hastily and suggested that we write all the positions on pieces of paper (after automatically and unanimously awarding the middle of the back seat to James) and draw for them. This was agreed to by all, but a new fight immediately broke out on who should draw first. I allayed the tumult with an arbitrary decision that the youngest should draw first and the others in order of ascending ages. David was disgruntled by this until he drew, and then was happy to have gotten the #2 position, by the window on the front seat. Alvin got #1.

Interlude: We ate supper inside at Sam Basil's place, on Tombigbee, after another argument about who would sit where.[**] We were somewhat pushed for

* James Thompson was a black high school student who worked for the family as a babysitter during most of the time that Mimi was away at Payne Whitney. Whenever he stayed over, he slept in the front bedroom, and in the morning Stanley always dropped him off at his school first, so he could work in safety patrol. (J.R.)

** In the back of Sam Basil's—subsequently known as The Shanty, where Jonathan and Ron Russell used to hang out in the sixties (it was torn down in the seventies)—was a room with separate private compartments and tables blocked off by partitions and curtains. This allowed the Rosenbaums to break the Jim Crow laws by eating with James without being seen by other customers. (J.R.)


time (after the show, I had to return to Florence, switch cars, deliver the kids to various places, and get back across the river in time to check up), but the kids were in good humor and ate well.

The Ordeal Begins We arrive at the Park-Vue. No trouble about James. We are recognized and they won't charge us anything. It is now the middle of the feature. It has been sprinkling off and on all day, but we had decided that it was about to stop. As soon as we have parked in position to watch the show it starts raining in earnest. We try running the windshield wiper. It is very distracting. We turn it off from time to time. Whenever it is turned off, it blocks David's view. Michael complains that he can't see at all. We change his seat with James, and perch him on the armrest in the middle.

The Darkness Thickens After a while, we are running the windshield wiper all the time, and of course, the motor too, in order to operate the windshield wiper. We alternately keep the windows open and shut. When they are shut all the windows steam up rapidly and we can't see a thing. I would be disposed to accept this state of things quite cheerfully, but the kids object. So we open the windows. The glass clears, and also Jonny is enabled to stick his head out of one of the back windows, which he claims is the only way he can see. But the rain drives in on all of us, it is cold and windy, and James, who has a cold, starts sneezing. So we close them. Then we open them again. Etc., etc.

The Survivors Beginto Despair The movie is ghastly. I keep telling myself it can't be as bad as it looks, but I can't convince myself. The heavy rainfall has affected the screen so that large areas simply reflect light, without any picture at all, like pools of quicksilver. Visibility is so bad that I can amuse myself (somewhat ironically) by trying to distinguish Marilyn Monroe from Jane Russell. We are on a slope, and the car tends to slip a little occasionally. This will break the speaker cable if not checked immediately, and on one occasion we actually had to jettison the speaker hurriedly to keep from snapping the wire. Incidentally, the maximum volume on the speaker finally settles down to a loud whisper. If anybody in the car makes the slightest noise, you can't hear the speaker. Someone is always making a noise.

Interlude Il—Intermission: David undertakes an expedition to the Snack Bar for provisions. Michael demands a snow man (ice with syrup poured over it). Daddy refuses Michael a snow man on the grounds that it would mess up Bo's car. Michael accepts the compromise of a box of popcorn, but it is quite clear that he considers himself a victim of inhuman treatment.

Foray Into Enemy Territory The show begins again. I enjoy the commercials, but all too soon we are back to the feature again. The rain comes down harder than ever. Michael informs me (with a hint of sadistic pleasure in his voice) that he has to go to the bathroom. Nerving myself, I grasp his hand and we plunge into the storm. Soon we are at our haven, an unlovely but functional place. The walls are covered with quaint native inscriptions. Michael is affronted by a new blow at his dignity. The urinal is placed too high on the wall for him to reach. I point out that the other fixture in the room is at the usual humble distance from the floor, and he quickly takes


advantage of the hint. We strike out again into the darkness and storm, and soon reach the car. I regard this whole incident as definitely the bright spot of the evening. We missed at least ten minutes of the picture.

Internecine War Breaks Out We are now back in the car. The loudspeaker is murmuring hoarsely. The windows are open just enough to clear the mist off the windows. The windshield wipers are slapping back and forth. Michael is sitting again on the armrest but apparently in a somewhat different position than before, as Jonny is now in his way. Jonny tries several positions, but every one in which it is possible for him to see the picture at all, makes Michael very uncomfortable. Sharp words fly back and forth. Michael is obstinate. Jonny gives in, but bewails bitterly that he can no longer see anything at all. (He doesn't know when he is well off.)

Even the Weariest River Winds Somewhere Safe to Sea David, with his sharp eyes, discovers that the picture is now back to the place where we came in. We start back! It is 9:10, time for me to make all the necessary stops. We churn through some muddy roads leading off in uncertain directions, but finally get back to the highway. Michael had brought some plastic fish in the car which Hank had given him. Now he can't find them. The light is turned on and everybody in the back seat looks, but they are nowhere to be found . . . Jonny says that "Gentlemen Prefer Blondes" will eventually come to the Norwood as a double feature, and that when it does, he intends to go and see it . . . 


These were the years of Jonny's apprenticeship in the business, a time for learning how to function outside of movies yet somehow in intimate relation with them. Late spring 1954, after attending the exhibitors convention in Atlanta for the second year in a row, he again accompanied Stanley on his visits to the Atlanta offices of the film companies—Columbia, MGM, Monogram, Paramount, Republic, Twentieth Century-Fox, United Artists, Warner Brothers—to book movies. At the last of these places (alphabetically and chronologically) Jonny suggested that Stanley book Jack and the Beanstalk , with Abbott and Costello, and The Lion and the Horse , with Steve Cochran, as a second-run double feature at the Princess for its Wednesday–Thursday Thanksgiving program (he thought kids would like it); and Stanley, really pleased with the idea, did precisely that.

During the same trip to Atlanta Jonny saw his first demonstration of Vista Vision. When he remarked to Bo a month or so later that he thought that CinemaScope was better because it was bigger, his grandfather was so delighted with the phrase that he got Stanley to add a snappier version ("It's bigger! It's better!") to the enormous Sunday ad for King Of TheKhyber Rifles in the July 12 Florence Times . All this culminated, more or less, in Jonny's taking over Stanley's Sunday column in March 1957 on a one-shot basis, describing that week's main films (The True Story Of Jesse James ,


Fantasia,The Beast Of Hollow Mountain , Six Bridges To Cross , Ain't Misbehavin' ) with the help of pressbooks, and, at age fourteen, making his first published pronouncements as a film critic.

Not all the sequences [in Fantasia ] are stories, but they all are thoroughly enjoyed by children and adults alike. In this movie hippopotamuses dance, Mickey Mouse practices magic, fairies and brownies celebrate, and brooms march—just to mention some of the unexpected events of this film. The picture is very colorful and will be remembered for a long time. Along with the feature there's an Academy Award-winning CinemaScope Disney cartoon, Toot, Whistle, Plunk and Boom . I've seen this cartoon myself out of town a few months ago, and frankly it's the best cartoon I've ever seen. Colbert: Monday and Tuesday. Shoals and Tuscumbian: Thursday and Friday.

Taking over Dad's column didn't seem at all like advertising to me; it was more like a personal declaration, This I Believe. Twenty-two years ago I was more or less pretending that my advertising copy was criticism. This is something that all critics do all the time, that I continue to do on this early morning, May 1, 1979—George Axelrod's brilliant Lord Love A Duck of 1966, in glorious black and white (see what I mean?) on Channel 7—or when I write articles for American Film and reviews for Take One in order to buy more time for this book (can I finish a first draft before Sandy moves here?). Everything always pays for something else in the long run, toting up figures, piling up goods the way that Tuesday Weld's daddy buys her sweaters, flipping out in a prolonged incestual frenzy as she slowly and deliciously recites and he deliriously and joyfully repeats the styles and flavors of all the sweaters that she models vivaciously for him—Grape Yumyum, Lemon Meringue, Pink Put-on, Papaya Surprise, Periwinkle Pussycat. Like those people on the screen, like me in 1946 and 1957 and 1968 and 1979, I just go on making money off movies, moving places and placing movies, all the time, in every way.

And that's just one of my ways of being like Stanley, which was something I wanted to do in every possible respect, from handwriting to typing to reading to ordering my hamburger steaks well done. Or seeing an exciting movie with him like The Narrow Margin , Saturday night, August 30, 1952, right before checking up, the two of us sitting in the Shoals balcony so that he could smoke his pipe, both of us enjoying the terse, macho wisecracks that breezed back and forth between Charles McGraw and Marie Windsor, both of us loving the fact that practically all of this hardboiled black and white thriller was set on a train and that the fat man—for both of us, a Bo surrogate—turned out to be a good guy, a plainclothes cop traveling incognito.

Hardboiled or not, the one kind of soap opera in the early fifties guaranteed to get me blubbering helplessly or glowing incandescently was the father-and-son sob stuff, especially when the son was a little boy. You know


the kind: William Holden (Uncle Johnny Rutledge) becoming a daddy to five fatherless kids named after the months in Father Is A Bachelor (1950) and singing "The Big Rock Candy Mountain" to cheer them all up (in a dubbed voice, Jonathan notes glumly in Del Mar on September 23, 1977) or training a homeless boy to be a jockey in Boots Malone (1952). Or Red Skelton losing his son because of his drinking in The Clown (1953); or even that voluptuous, devouring moment of love and acceptance at the end of The Window (late September 1949), when Bobby Driscoll, the boy who cried wolf, was finally believed by his parents (Arthur Kennedy and Barbara Hale), made safe and secure from the stalking killer, and hugged by both of them at once in the back of that cozy dark cab, sheltering him in their forgiveness and warmth. ("Now showing for the 7th week on Broadway at $1.50," Stanley's ad in the Florence Times pointed out, after mentioning that at the Princess it was only ten cents for children and thirty-five cents for adults, "selected by Time Magazine as 'Current and Choice.' Added: Leon Errol in Uninvited Blonde .")

Was it a buck fifty that the World Theatre (on 49th Street between Sixth and Seventh Avenues) was charging for Bicycle Thief at the time of our family trip to New York, the last week or so of June 1950? We'd all gone to see One A.M. and The Kid at the Museum of Modern Art, City Lights with Norman McLaren's Begone Dull Care at the Paris (children fifty cents at all times), South Pacific with Mary Martin and Ray Middleton at the Majestic, Peter Pan with Jean Arthur and Boris Karloff at the Imperial, George C. Tilyou's "Steeplechase the funny place" at Coney Island (admission plus any six rides, fifty cents; any twelve rides, one dollar), The Next Voice You Hear with the Gala Two-Part Holiday Stage Show at Radio City Music Hall (the two parts were "Let Freedom Ring, thrilling patriotic pageant" and "Shoot the Works, dazzling extravaganza with Rockettes, Corps de Ballet, Glee Club and Symphony Orchestra . . . climaxed by a gigantic fireworks display ").

Whatever it was, the World was too expensive—no children's prices of any kind—so Daddy took us all to see Destination Moon instead, at Brandt's cool Mayfair. We had already seen the gigantic neon sign for it from the window of Uncle Arthur's office high above West 46th Street, so it seemed like the logical thing to do. Yet I couldn't hold back my tears of disappointment. For Daddy had already told us the plot of Bicycle Thief , and the story of the man and his little boy looking for his stolen bicycle so that he could work was the saddest thing I had ever heard (I still didn't know about tragedy, which would come with the synopses of The Great Caruso , Oedipus Rex, and Hamlet the following spring)—sadder even than parts of Huckleberry Finn, which Daddy had been reading to us ever since David, Alvin, and I had had to sleep in one bed at the Dixie Hotel in Mammoth Cave, Kentucky, on the drive up to New York. Maybe it seemed sadder because it was a foreign movie, and I had never seen one. And there was something unbearably


sad about the newspaper ad for Bicycle Thief , which showed the little boy on the left and said, "Please don't let them cut me out of  . . . " above the title, and below it, "The prize picture they want to censor! Exclusive showing now! Uncensored version . . . 7th month."

But we saw Destination Moon instead. It was roughly five years before I developed an exclusive taste for reading science fiction and six years before I sold a one-page story about time travel to Anthony Boucher at the Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction . And, all things considered, I enjoyed the show—particularly Dick Wessen, who was funny, and jumping up and down on the moon like a rabbit, which was fun and funny too.

For many people, the ultimate praise for a movie is that it's realistic, believable, real. In fact, this praise doesn't mean that the movie is realistic/believable/real but that the movie supposedly proves that some aspect of one's life is realistic/believable/real, ostensibly by duplicating it. Yep, there are more false assumptions here than you can shake a stick at. But it sells lots of tickets, writes lots of reviews, wins lots of prizes, finances lots of movies. So who cares what's real or true, as long as it keeps you in business?

Don't you know a book like this can be imagined, discovered, written, or read only within a privileged dream bubble that most people can't even begin to afford, a real-life movie in which there are always other people to carry most of the props? What is it that gives Stanley and me such charmed existences as we walk through life perpetually losing and rediscovering keys, wallets, books, memories, ideas? Not that we always find them again; today, May 19, 1979, I lost my wallet for the second time this year. The last time was four months ago, in a cab, and the next rider in the cab found the wallet, phoned me the next day, and returned it with everything intact. This time I don't expect to get it back. I lost it somewhere between the cash register at New Morning Bookstore on Spring Street and the table where I had lunch at the Cupping Place on West Broadway, a block and a half away, and, helpless as M. Hulot, I have no idea what happened to it.

A Note on Temporary Structures

Did you ever see the Central Park Casino in New York? During my college days it was the fabulous night club where Eddie Duchin played the piano. It was torn down in 1940. The site is now known as Mother Goose Playground and the area is restricted to children under 14.

The Central Park Casino was rebuilt—in New York's Central Park, near the original spot—in order to make this picture. Don't look for it when you go to New York; it was a temporary structure, and was taken down after the filming of the picture was completed.

"The Eddie Duchin Story," starring Tyrone Power and Kim Novak, opens today at the Shoals. It's in CinemaScope, Technicolor and stereophonic sound.

—Stanley Rosenbaum's Sunday column, Florence Times, October 14, 1956


Bobby Stewart liked to do things his own way. The first concession stand at the Shoals, for instance, had that Lobby Shoppe sign not because Bo asked for it but because Bobby decided to put it together on his own and to tell Mr. Rosenbaum about it afterward. When he redid the sign more than ten years later, in the spring of 1959, with lots of cartoon characters like Tom and Jerry and Bugs Bunny on it, it was the same deal exactly: nobody asked him to do it, but he did it just the same.

He came to work for Mr. Rosenbaum (never Louis or Lou) as a sign painter and general utility man in November 1936, in time becoming manager of the Princess, then transferring to the Shoals when it opened a block away, taking along his newly built Lobby Shoppe sign. (Elmo Johnson, manager at the Majestic, assumed his old job.) Over the years Bobby learned more than a thing or two about theater equipment, and during his stint in the service he was responsible for the upkeep of 198 projectors in New Guinea.

Imagine a reverse angle of the Lobby Shoppe if you want to get the whole picture: the camera, with yet another flashbulb, poised between the one-sheets of Johnny Belinda and Two Guys From Texas and aimed directly across the Shoals lobby at the drinking fountains and the stairs to the balcony. In the center of your field of vision—which happens to be the center of the lobby—is the semicircular ticket taker's box, a little wooden shell-like partition where general utility man Tom Stafford sat through a good bit of the mid-fifties. The full time schedule for that day's program was posted opposite his chair, on one side of the square metal container that held the ticket stubs. Jonny would habitually study it whenever he entered the lobby, to see whether there was a cartoon, or what its title and running time were—bits of "inside" information (like the "casual" reference to Orson Welles on the first page of this book) that he was already learning how to pick up on. (It would take him longer, much longer, to learn what to forget and leave out—e.g., Welles's displaying no interest whatever in Jonathan's family movie theater background and refusing to pretend otherwise, meanwhile being almost solicitous in his cordiality and generosity about everything else.) Attached to the front of this small partition were holders containing the neatly folded weekly programs of the Shoals, Princess, Colbert, and Tuscumbian, handouts printed up by the Florence Herald, which anyone could have.

What more do I want to say about this lobby? Some kids from the country who came into town with their parents on Saturday mornings were dropped off at the Shoals or Majestic or Princess with maybe thirty cents (or forty or fifty cents) and then picked up at around the time the last show let out. So they would see the entire program (double feature, cartoon, serial, and trailers) as many as four times (at the Majestic and Princess) or even six times (at the Shoals, which never showed double features or serials). For their lunch and dinner these kids would go to the lobby and buy popcorn, RC Cola, Milk Duds, Goobers, Butterfingers, M&M's. Sometimes there were several of them at once—kids and concessions both, whole families of brothers and sisters



Concession stand, Shoals Theatre, Florence, Alabama, October 1948

who saw the program again and again and bought all kinds of stuff in the lobby. Jonny used to wonder what would happen to these kids if their parents never came for them. Would they hide inside the theater, living like the Phantom of the Opera? He imagined entire gangs of them, evading the cleaning ladies by a system of lookouts, subsisting on stolen candy and blinking like coal miners, never seeing the light of day.

Once a grown man fell asleep in the Shoals balcony, was overlooked by the porter and the cleaning ladies, and got locked in; he awoke in the middle of the night, slowly found his way downstairs in the darkness, and hammered on the glass doors in the lobby until the fellow at the Corner Fruit Stand heard the commotion and phoned Stanley, who had to get dressed and go to the theater to unlock the door and let him out.

It reminds me of a story Ron Russell tells about walking past the Shoals with Tom Stafford one night in the mid-sixties, long after Tom had succeeded Elmo as manager of the accursed Princess (the accursed Princess had since been remodeled into the accursed Cinema and Tom had been fired by Stanley


from the latter for taking money from the Coke machine in 1960). Anyway, Tom was a hunchback (and alleged hemophiliac) who took a lot of uppers and downers, wrote pop songs, and aspired to make it in the recording industry. He occupied a few dismal rooms over the City Drug and, despite Mimi's protests, befriended Alvin, Michael, and me. He always insisted that he never blamed Stanley for firing him. On the night in question he wanted to get into the Shoals in order to introduce Ron to one of the black porters, even though it was plainly too late for that, it being well past midnight and the theater dark and quiet. Ron didn't quite understand what Tom was jabbering about when he called for Bobby—he was acting so speedy, it was impossible to tell—and Tom kept hammering and kicking on one of those lobby doors until the glass finally broke against his fist.

Bobby (March 19, 1978, after Elk has described pouring catsup on a department store dummy as part of a Colbert ballyhoo): "You know, they talk about show business, Stanley—I don't know how you feel about it, but it never gets out of your blood. I think I could go back tomorrow"

Elk: "I just love it."

Mimi: "It sure got out of Stanley's, I'll tell you that. He just doesn't give one hoot. He's glad to be out of it."

Bobby: "Well, Stanley had all the headaches!" (Laughter)

W.L.: "Did yall get off-days at all?"

Bobby. "Off-days? What is that? What was that?" (Laughter) "We used to say that on Christmas and Thanksgiving and everything, when everybody had a holiday, that was our big day at the movies—"

W.L.: "Still is—"

Bobby: "—and we had to be there. I was off Sunday mornings, Friday nights, and Saturday afternoons."

Jonathan: "What hours did you work?"

Bobby: "On the average, my day was: I'd come in at 9, work till 11, go home and eat lunch, and come back 'cause we opened at 12 . . . and stayed to 4, came back at 7; and then whenever the cashier got through checkin' up, I made the deposit—that was the end of the day."

W.L.: "Bobby, when did the Tuscumbian open?"

Bobby: "We opened the Tuscumbian in '50. That opened the week my boy was born, and I didn't know whether to go there and help Jimmy Hall fix up for the opening or stay at the hospital."

Jonathan: "What's the biggest crowd you can remember at the Shoals?"

Bobby: "Elvis Presley."

Bobby's right; the crowd came for Elvis, not for Love Me Tender . People came in droves to that first Sunday afternoon show, December 2, 1956 (the same day that the Tri-Cities made the switchover to dial telephones), so many


that they quickly jammed the auditorium to capacity, filling aisles as well as seats. Jonny only managed to squeeze in by entering through the secret door that led from the upstairs offices to the balcony, and once he had arrived, there was clearly no question of even getting over to the stairs before the movie began, much less going down them.

The enormous ad in the newspaper showed Elvis no less than five times—as "a fightin' man," "a singin' man," "a lovin' man," a giant face, and a small, full figure holding a guitar—with a text promising You'll Love Him Tender In The Story He Was Born To Play (as well as Richard Egan and good old Debra Paget) and offering a free Elvis photo to each customer as long as they lasted. The movie started late, but in a way it didn't really start until Elvis himself appeared on the screen, at first merely a speck at the far end of a field, about as far away as black and white CinemaScope could make it. Then the girls went wild, screaming in ecstasy, while the boys, Jonny among them, hissed and booed with equal fury, each faction trying to drown out the other. According to Ron, virtually the same sexual warfare was waged across the river at the Colbert a few days later. In both theaters it was too noisy to follow more than a few fragments of the dialogue, and much of it had to be lip-read. How utterly ridiculous, Jonny thought with a scowl, scoffing still more when a dead Elvis appeared at the end in double exposure, to sing the title tune, and some of the teenage girls nearby began to sob inconsolably.

How curious it is to compare this sexual division and intense participation with the audience behavior at the packed midnight screening of The Rocky Horror Picture Show at the 8th Street Playhouse, attended mainly by teenagers, that Jonathan saw in March 1979 with another film critic and a couple of her friends. Here the lack of sexual division on and off the screen seemed no less a sexual release. A female made up to resemble Tim Curry's drag queen stood below his film image and aped him grimace for grimace; a male in drag impersonated Susan Sarandon's innocent-American-bride gestures with equal precision; and the beams of flashlights were glued theatrically to both faces throughout their turns. The awesome experience of hearing large portions of the audience recite much of the movie's dialogue in unison with the screen actors, adding sarcastic lines of their own to fill in the pauses—lines selected collectively (and, apparently, democratically) from a pool of candidates heard and sifted in the course of scores of fanatically attended screenings—was similar to that of hearing the Babel-like cacophony of comments that greeted Elvis. In both cases it seemed impossible to distinguish contempt from worship, disgust from adoration. Maybe this was because Elvis Presley and The Rocky Horror Picture Show were no longer movies in the ordinary sense but tribal events that took place around movies, each a communal nexus around which certain emotions, ideas, exchanges, expressions, and dollars were allowed to accumulate.


Bobby: "You know, Tom was well educated, all those Stafford boys were well educated, but Tom just happened to be the baby of the family, and he used to come into the office and cry to me, he says, 'I wish you'd tell my Mama to leave me alone, so I can grow up!'" (laughter) "But it was a pathetic case, really, because of that relationship to his mother. She wanted to, you know, tie onto the last one she had—I think it was five-a those boys in all . . . "

Unlike the managers, none of whom could be classified as a hardcore film freak (with the possible exception of Tom, who in late May 1959 said he liked watching Al Capone again and again for Rod Steiger's acting), Beulah Sutton would often leave work, go home and fix supper, and return to the Shoals with her little boy to see the 7 P.M. show. Back in the bookkeeping office, where Jonny talked to her (pestered her ) as he rummaged through the pressbooks, she revealed another interest they had in common. She was a passionate reader of (and believer in ) mysteries, the only person apart from Stanley with whom he could discuss Fredric Brown. And she offered him one of his first exposures to film analysis when she compared the construction of Kubrick's The Killing (seen on Friday night, January 4, 1957, before checking up with Daddy) to that of Clean Break, the novel on which it was based. It was the same sort of interest that Tom Milne (a flatmate in London in the mid-seventies, whom I still regard as the best practicing film reviewer in England) commonly showed in comparing novel adaptations with their origins.

In London Jonathan often felt a direct emotional correlation between the offices of the Editorial Department of the British Film Institute at 81 Dean Street, where he worked every weekday, and the offices of Rosenbaum Theatres on Seminary Street in the fifties, not only in the approximate physical layout but in the more abstract arrangement of dynamic balances of power and authority. Penelope Houston, department head and editor of Sight and Sound, corresponded in this setup to Bo, and her secretary Sylvia to Bo's secretary Dot. Penelope's associate editor David Wilson, who replaced Tom Milne in the early seventies, sat in the next office, paralleling Stanley with his Motion Picture Almanacs, and further down each hall was the larger office where the plebes gathered—which Jonathan, as assistant editor of Monthly Film Bulletin, shared with editor Richard Combs and their secretary Sue Scott-Moncrieff, and Beulah Sutton shared with the other ladies in bookkeeping.

When Tom Stafford left the Cinema in 1960, he was making $66 a week, a little more than half of Bobby's salary. During the summer of 1963, before Alvin went north to start Bard College as a freshman (Jon had transferred there from Washington Square College the previous winter), the two of them photographed Tom in his natural habitat, the rooms over the City Drug on Tennessee and Seminary, halfway between the Shoals and the Princess, with



Tom Stafford, summer 1963

his full cooperation and enthusiasm. ("Let's see how seedy and depressing we can make this," he chortled. "Don't I look lak a first-class buhm?") Alvin brought his camera, and Jon took over the mise en scène and framing. With memories of Antonioni's trilogy—L'Avventura, La Notte, L'Eclisse —fresh in his mind, he decided to place Tom off-center in the composition, using two jars to accentuate the way in which the reflected light offset this, vaguely balancing the bottle on the windowsill in a pretentious, pornographic style of photography favored at his prep school in Vermont, which contributed to the atmosphere of artistic desolation and existential decrepitude that he remembered from Jeanne Moreau's walk through Milan near the beginning of La Notte . The picture eventually wound up in the Bard literary magazine.

Eleven years earlier, consider the passion of Janet Leigh, a Hungarian secretary named Rosa Szabo, daughter of S. Z. "Cuddles" Sakall, and Gene Kelly, a Greek soda jerk named Icarus Xenophon, who fall madly in love at first sight with a speechless mystical ecstasy expressed equally well by the title of the awesome American anthology that they're both in, It's aBig Country , a bright gleam in Dore Schary's eye that found life in MGM's


hard-edged black and white photography, bringing together all the favorite minority groups (Indians naturally not included), usually one or two minorities per episode, nine episodes in all—

"Oh Rosa, we must get married!" says Icarus, a few days or minutes later (take your pick). The movie is so all-fired, gutbusting cheerful that Rosa's blissful way of purring Yes, my darling Greek! before they kiss—their bodies snugly intertwined in silhouette; an indelible, bite-size chunk of meaning that a warm nimbus of orgasmic bliss envelops like a shroud—was for Jonny at age nine a concise summary of all the beautiful, bountiful, bustful, and baroque things that true love could possibly bring and be. (If looks could kill, could that have been a clue?) And if Rosa's papa was prejudiced because he absolutely hated the Greeks, all Icarus had to do was place a big tin of Washington Post coffee in front of Papa at the soda fountain (a picture of George Washington on the label, as on a $1 bill) and "Stars and Stripes Forever" would start up passionately and loudly on the soundtrack—and S. Z. Sakall would look at his daughter, then at his son-in-law, and smile, smile, smile.

It vaguely occurred to Jonny to compare this movie with The Well , which he saw later the same day (March 16, 1952) at the Princess, another collectively directed "group" movie that had no single hero, this one somewhat more analytical and distanced, about a race riot forming in a small town. (Jonathan sees It's A Big Country again on a Steenbeck at the Library of Congress in February 1979 and once more tonight, May 28, 1979, on Channel 9; The Well on TV in Del Mar in 1978 and again two weeks ago, at the Thalia.) Could the juxtaposition and dialectic of these two sociologies possibly have been an oblique comment, a private joke, or a subtle form of protection on Stanley's part when he booked these films in Atlanta? . . . The booker writes a text of his own, too.

And what about the chance encounters between this cartoon (booked by Beulah) and that western (booked by Daddy), the purely unpremeditated montages composed of various coming and main attractions, trailers and features? Seeing the trailer for Woman of Distinction along with Sunset Boulevard at the Shoals in late October 1950 unquestionably tickled Jonny's libido. It had something to do with Rosalind Russell's shorts and Ray Milland's having to pedal her uphill on a bike because she didn't tell him the bike had a motor. And it was stimulated again some three years later in another nullity, All Ashore , this one in color, when Mickey Rooney, a gob, is accidentally knocked unconscious with a horseshoe thrown by pretty Peggy Ryan in shorts, who revives him by placing his head in her lap, on her sunstruck thighs. Yummy, felt Jonny in both cases, a seven- and ten-year-old connoisseur of light, teasing masochism related somehow to an infatuation with female legs, and—who knows?—perhaps conjured up, confirmed, or prepared for by the conscious perversities in Sunset Boulevard . Or perhaps not.


I Love a Mystery

I'm looking at two photographs reproduced on microfilm, neither of them reproduced in this book. In the first photograph (June 20, 1957) Chief of Police Noah H. Danley is pointing to a blank patch of sidewalk next to the area below the Princess marquee, on Tennessee Street; hanging from the marquee is a sign announcing that day's program. The camera, turned away from North Wood Avenue, faces Seminary; it's a sunny summer morning, and the shade under the marquee appears to be the only dark and cool space on the block—except for Danley's face, which is protected by his hat. An unidentified black man, probably a theater attendant, stands behind Danley's right elbow; four silhouetted onlookers are visible in the background beneath the marquee; and two blocks past them, on the other side of the street, one can see the Hotel Negley.

Everything in this photograph is a red herring—except, perhaps, the sign hanging from the marquee. If there were a camera on the other side of the sign, facing North Wood, one could read the same titles on the back:


Dark Venture also
Please Murder Me

In the second photograph (October 21, 1957) Danley—dressed now in his Sunday best, with a pipe clenched between his teeth—stands on the bank of the Tennessee River, pointing at a blank patch of river, an area just behind three rowboats. The camera faces the Sheffield palisades; if there were a reverse angle, it would show part of Florence. The patch to which Danley points is where Elmo Johnson, manager of the Princess, was found for the second time that year. The first time was four months earlier, when he was found alive near the Princess marquee, a bullet lodged in his head. (There was no sign of a gun.) In the second photograph Danley is standing where Johnson's coat was found, in it a note and a list of six pallbearers, one of them Bobby Stewart.

The headlines that accompany the first picture say:

Early This Morning:
House Manager Found Wounded
In Alley By Princess Theatre

E. B. Johnson Victim;
Condition is Serious;
Police Seeking Clues

Manager now free on bond after
Shooting of his wife at Memphis


The headline with the second picture says:

Missing Gun Could Be Key
To Johnson Death Mystery

A third headline, in the next day's paper, says:

Gun Found;
Tests Slated

The third story reports that Officer Dalton Lindsey, using a borrowed magnet, found a .32 caliber pistol ("reportedly purchased during August by Elmo Johnson") a few feet from where Johnson's body was found floating. As far as I know, this was the last story that the Florence Times, or any other newspaper, ran on Elmo.

The second story, written by staff writer Fred Dillon, begins by asking:


Murder or Suicide?

The mystery-cloaked case of Elmo Benner Johnson, spotted with violence over the past 4 1/2 months, provided a genuine puzzler for law officials late Sunday when Johnson's body was found face downward in about three feet of water, near a sandbar below O'Neal Bridge.

Two bullet wounds from a small calibre pistol were found, one in the left side of the chest, where powder burns were found and another one just over the right ear. The gun has not been found . . . 

The coat, belonging to Johnson, was brought to the police station by officers and later was turned over to a brother, Larry Johnson.

The note, which has been turned over to the family, stated, "I feel like I am a burden," and gave other evidence that Johnson was depressed, however there was no statement concerning any possibility of a shooting.

Another note found in the coat listed six persons who should be pallbearers, however.

Mr. Johnson had last been seen on Thursday night in Florence, according to Sheriff Earl Romine and Coroner Bill Chisholm, meaning he could have been fatally wounded any time between Friday afternoon and when he was found Sunday at 2 P.M . . . 

Bobby: "Jonny, that period to me there—I tell you, was so many unpleasant things that happened during that time—it's hard for me to establish. Now Elmo . . . " (to Stanley) "I talked to your father about his problem . . . you know, Elmo had some family problems."

Stanley: "Right."

Bobby: "And he came to me and talked to me about it. That was after he had been to Memphis and tried to shoot Geneva, you know."

Stanley: "I'd forgotten about that ."

Bobby: "Elmo came to me and he says, Bob, what am I gonna do? Says, I walk up the street, and he says, Kids yell at me, Murderer! Murderer! I says, the best thing you can do,


The first story, unsigned, in June 1957, begins and ends as follows:


Florence police today were confronted with a first class mystery in connection with the serious wounding of Elmo Benner Johnson, 52-year-old house manager of the Princess Theatre, who was found with a head injury on the sidewalk in front of the theatre this morning at 4:45 o'clock.

Johnson, long-time employee of the Rosenbaum Theatres, had been free under bond in recent days in connection with the shooting of his estranged wife Geneva, 34, at Memphis, Tenn., on Sunday, June 2.

He was found lying on the sidewalk in front of the Negro entrance to the Princess this morning by Marvin (Shorty) Lindsey, a cab driver from Florence Taxi Company, Inc., for a number of years. Lindsey called police, who rushed Johnson to Eliza Coffee Memorial Hospital, where he was admitted at 5 A.M., and where x-rays of the head injury were to be taken today.

Chief of Police Noah H. Danley said that Johnson was wounded on the right side of the head in the vicinity of the temple and that officers were unable to determine whether the wound had been inflicted by a bullet or by Johnson having been struck with some blunt instrument. If it was a bullet, Chief Danley said, he believed the shot must have been fired from some distance.

Chief Danley said that the cab driver told officers that although he had known Johnson for years that he was so covered with soot and dirt when he caught his attention while lying on the sidewalk early this morning that he did not even recognize him. The police chief said the soot was all over Johnson, especially on his arms, and in his hair, and that police had been unable to find a trace of even a drop of blood or any spot on the theatre premises inside or outside, where Johnson could have gotten so dirty.

The police chief quoted Johnson, who was reportedly conscious, that he was in the narrow alley between the Princess Theatre and the Ryan Piano Company, next door, when he heard something that sounded like a gunshot, and that the next thing he could remember he was crawling out of the alley to the point in front of the theatre where he was found by the cab driver.

Elmo, is just ignore it . . .  Because I'm no psychologist, I didn't know what to tell the man, but I thought the best thing to do was for him to get it off of his mind."

Mimi: "He was a very quiet person, he took everything into himself."

Bobby: "He was very disturbed at that point."

Mimi: "Very depressed."

Bobby: "And I'll tell you what I told him when he came and talked to me about this. Of course, he was a veteran, and I advised him to go get psychiatric treatment at a veterans hospital. I said, That'd be the best thing in the world for you. And shortly after that, when—I don't know, something else minor happened—your dad called me in the office one day and asked me about it, and I told him all this background. He said, Well, it's a" (lowering voice) "a darn shame that he hadn't talked to you before that. And I said, Well, Mr. Rosenbaum, I didn't know what to tell him—"

Stanley: "Well now, I'll tell you what the other thing that happened was . . . He said there was a tramp sleeping in there who shot him."

Bobby: "Well, you know, Stanley, that was—I figured that thing out. I don't know


Police surmised that it was possible that Johnson was unconscious for several hours, inasmuch as he was apparently unable to account for about 5 or 6 hours between the time the theatre closed Wednesday and the time he was found this morning. They also surmised that it was possible that he had been wounded at some point and then dumped in the narrow alley between the theatre and the piano company.

Negro attendants at the theatre, in the presence of newsmen, told police that to the best of their knowledge Johnson had left the theatre premises around 10 P.M. and that he had deposited the day's theatre receipts in the night depository at the First National Bank.

They told officers, however, in answer to questions that it was not unusual for Johnson to come back to the theatre to check the premises, air conditioning fans, etc., or to paint signs used in promotion of the theatre's offerings  . . . 

Chief Danley said he was not sure whether Johnson had wounded himself or whether someone else had inflicted the wound, but expressed the belief that the wound was inflicted by someone else.

Prior to the time that Johnson shot his wife in the Memphis tiff, she was employed for a while as a concession stand operator at the theatre. When she became ill she reportedly went to Memphis to stay with her sister, Mrs. Virginia Landers, on Trigg Street.

Memphis Police Captain W. W. Wilkinson, of the Homicide Bureau, said Mrs. Johnson had been with her sister about a week when her husband took an overnight bus to Memphis and appeared at the Landers' home on Sunday, June 2, at about 8 A.M. He asked for his wife. A few minutes later, Mrs. Johnson's relatives told Memphis police, they heard Johnson say:

"I told you that if you ever left me I'd kill you."

Johnson then reportedly pulled a pistol out of his shaving kit and fired, the bullet striking his wife in the upper left chest. Mrs. Johnson's 18-year-old nephew, Marion Landers, wrestled with Johnson and took the gun away from him after one additional bullet was fired into the wall.

Then he rushed Mrs. Johnson to St. Joseph Hospital there where she reportedly since has recovered. Later, according to reports, she returned to the home

whether I did or not—I thought I did. A couple days after that happened, you had asked me to go down there to the Princess—you or your father, one—and take over and kinda get the place straightened out. And that's when your father was thinkin' about puttin' Tom in charge, Tom Stafford. So Tom and I went down there and we went over the place to see what it needed, because it had gotten rundown. And we were sittin' down there in the front checkin' some of those seats—if you remember, we had put some wedges in there, it came out of another theay ter that was on a different pitch floor, and we had to put wooden blocks under the front of the seats, and they kept comin' loose all the time. Well, what I wanted to do when we put 'em in there was to get new standards to fit that slope floor, but Louis Wates from, uh, you know, Atlanta, talked your dad into usin' the same seats with blocks under 'em. Well, we couldn't keep them fastened down because—" (Laughter)

Stanley: "Those standards were costly, and he was trying to avoid that."

Bobby: "I know, because at that time I realized he didn't want to spend


of her sister in Memphis and was planning to return to Florence.

The Johnsons, who have been married for about 14 years, have no children.

Johnson was booked at Memphis for assault to murder and carrying a pistol and was later released on bond after being held over to the Shelby County, Tennessee, grand jury by the District Attorney's office.

After making bond, Johnson returned to Florence a few days after and resumed his duties at the theatre. A long-time theatre employee, Johnson had never been in any trouble, according to police, until the Memphis incident occurred.

Chief Danley said that when he questioned Johnson at the hospital this morning he was informed that Johnson was not aware of anyone who would want to harm him and that he had not had words with anyone . . . 

"We have no one under suspicion and no real clues to go on," the Chief added. "We have had no report from the hospital or doctors as to what the x-rays showed and we do not know whether the wound was inflicted by a bullet or by some blunt instrument or in whose hands the gun or instrument may have been."

He added that Johnson appeared to be fully conscious when questioned and "talked sense." However, he was unable to account for the lapse of time between the closing of the theatre and when he was found wounded on the sidewalk at 4:45 A.M. The police said he did not know the present whereabouts of Mrs. Johnson.

much on the place, but—it was where he started out, he still wanted to keep that his number one theater, in one sense of the word. And so anyway, gettin' back to this other problem, when Tom and I were sittin' there, here comes Elmo . . . And, you know, we were completely surprised that he was even comin' round the place after what happened. So after we both spoke to him, he went backstage, and he was not back there over five or ten minutes. When he came out, I made some gesture to him, but he never did answer me. He just walked on out. Well, shortly after that Tom and I went backstage to see how the conditions were back there, and then we went in the basement to check the airconditioning equipment. And there was a spot right next to one of the pans that cools the water—drips in after it cools the condenser—and right there, next to the unit, was a puddle of water that was freshly spattered there. It went over toward the stairway a little bit, and then it disappeared. So we decided that the gun he used to try to kill himself the first time—which I never thought was anything else but suicide—that is where the gun was. Because they

The second story, written by Dillon, concludes:

When Johnson was wounded on July 20 [sic ], no weapon was ever found by law officers. Johnson had told lawmen at that time that he did not know what happened.

Officers never officially decided whether Johnson, at this time, had shot himself or was the victim of an unknown assailant.

Mr. Johnson, a resident of 822 East Mobile Street, Florence, had been a resident of Florence since 1925 when he came to the Shoals area from Wayne County, Tenn., where he was born. He was a veteran of World


War II and a member of the Florence-Lauderdale American Legion post.

Funeral services will be conducted at 2:30 P.M. Tuesday at Chisholm Funeral Home Chapel with Rev. Shirley Lowery, assistant pastor of the First Methodist Church, officiating. Burial will follow in Florence Cemetery.

Military rites, under direction of the American Legion, will be held at the graveside  . . . 

Active bearers will be Craston Faulkner, John R. Barnes, John Bevis, Emmett Rodin, Robert E. Stewart, and Estes Flynt.

Arrangements by Chisholm Funeral House.

never could find a gun that was—"

Jonathan: "And so he came back to get it, you think."

Bobby: "And he came back to get it. Because there was no other reason in the world for any fresh water to be disturbed down there around that air-conditioning unit."

Other Selected Highlights of 1957

January 4: Jonny sees The Killing , after discussing it with Beulah that afternoon and before checking up with Stanley. January 21: Eisenhower is inaugurated for his second term. February 22: Jonny attends a Louis Armstrong concert at the Sheffield Community Center with his girlfriend Jean McIntosh (the 7 P.M. show for whites, not the 9:30 one for colored). March 3: Jonny sees The Girl Can't Help It , and Stanley's Sunday column ends with this paragraph:

Family note: My son Jonny is often critical of my handling of this column. So the other day I asked him, "Would you like to try it?" It turned out that he would, so Jonny will be guest columnist next Sunday.

March 7–8:Lust for Life at the Shoals. March 23: David Rosenbaum shoots a hole-in-one at the Florence Golf and Country Club, earning him the nickname "Ace." March 24: Jonny sees Julie with Mimi at the Shoals. March 31: He sees The Wages of Fear , another suspense ordeal, at the Princess. (Is it possible that Grandma's aggrieved claim that I actually hit her while we were watching High Noon together at the Shoals in mid-October 1952 was true, despite my faulty memory, because the relentless throb of the suspense, driven home by those tilted camera angles of various clocks, exacerbated my impatience when she made some querulous remark to herself right in the middle of a crucial line of dialogue? Not a very nice way to act toward one's grandmother. But I was a loyal slave of the Conquistador, a dutiful, touchy thug who belonged to the Big Boss and wouldn't let anybody treat him with disrespect .)

April 9–11:The Wrong Man at the Shoals. April 16: Jonny is given a scratch test at the Florence Clinic, leading to four allergy shots a week for seventeen months.


May 5: Stanley's all-time best Sunday column appears in the Florence Times . Here are a few excerpts:

This is my 25th year in working for the local theatres, and in that entire period I have not known a picture to provoke as much discussion and controversy as "Baby Doll." . . . 

I had to make the decision whether to show it or not myself; my father was abroad at the time. I had several of my friends see it. Some were enthusiastic; some were lukewarm; and there were a few who frankly detested it. I didn't buy it until I had seen it and read all the principal comments about it. And when I bought it, it was under the condition that I would not admit children under 16, I would not play it on a Sunday, and I would not show it until May.

The reasons I held it back until May were as follows: 1. I thought it would give time for the dust to settle and for the whole matter to be seen more clearly. 2. I didn't want it to play during Lent. 3. May is the month in which children and teen-agers are the busiest at school and go to the movies the least.

It has been our practice in the past to judge each such controversial case on its merits, as we saw them. For instance, there have been several pictures in the past which we refused to show in their original uncensored form because it was obvious that the only excuse for them was that the producer was after a fast duck [sic ]. In a couple of such cases we were the only towns of comparable size in the state that didn't show them.

I cannot regard "Baby Doll" as being in this category. Tennessee Williams, who wrote it, has won two Pulitzer Prizes and three New York Drama Critics Awards. Some regard him as the greatest living American playwright. I know of drama critics who do not like him; I know of none who do not regard him as important  . . . 

The industry, as almost everyone knows, is self-censoring. There is a Production Code and a board which decides whether each picture should get the board's seal of approval. There have been two or three cases in the past where they refused the seal but we played the picture anyway, because we thought the board was wrong. "The Moon is Blue" is one of these cases.

However, "Baby Doll" did pass the board and received the seal of approval. It must be said, on the other hand, that the board has recently been concerned about the straitjacket which the thinking of all-pictures-should-be-suitable-for-children was putting on production, and that their approval of "Baby Doll" does represent an expansion of the principles by which other pictures have been judged in the past.

Catholic organizations have been fairly consistent in their opposition to the picture. The Legion of Decency condemned it. Catholics in Alabama were asked to deny their future patronage to theatres which showed it. This boycott, however, has since been removed . . . 

"Baby Doll" has been passed without objection by every single state censorship board in the United States. It has not been banned in any city or town in Alabama, and has in fact, already played in every community in the state of a size comparable to us or larger. There were four places in other states in which it was banned: Atlanta, Memphis, Nashville, and Jackson, Miss. In the three


largest of these, however—Atlanta, Memphis and Nashville—the censor boards voted to reconsider, and in all three they have now passed the picture. They prescribed a few cuts, and labelled it for adults only . . . 

The prints used here will not be cut . . . 

A number of Southerners have objected to the picture on another ground. It takes place in the ramshackle remains of an old Southern mansion in a small Mississippi town. The characters in the picture are of a low cultural and intellectual level, and some object to this as a slur on the South.

I would like to point out in this regard that William Faulkner, our neighbor in Oxford, Miss., winner of the Nobel Prize and often named as America's greatest living novelist, is just as uninhibited in his portrayal of Mississippi. In fact, many of the greatest novelists of all countries have described the seamier side of life. Think of Dickens, Dostoevsky, Tolstoy, Flaubert, Hugo, Dreiser, De Maupassant, Zola, Hardy. The fact is that human nature is most completely revealed when the amenities and superficialities of civilized living are stripped away as they sometimes are in the lower levels of society . . . 

What is "Baby Doll" about? I'll tell you, as briefly and boldly as possible. Carroll Baker has been married for some time to Karl Malden, a cotton-ginner who is having a hard time. He is much older than she. Carroll still clings to her childhood. She sleeps in a crib, and has retained her virginity. Malden is anxious to end this state of affairs. This is the situation at the beginning of the picture. Eli Wallach, a rival cotton-ginner with a just grudge against Malden, senses the situation and attempts to awaken Carroll's slumbering womanhood. I'll let the picture take it from there.

May 7–10:Baby Doll at the Shoals. May 15: Great Britain sets off its first hydrogen bomb in a test in the Pacific. May 18: Mimi, Stanley, David, Jonny, Alvin, and Michael see Giant at the Shoals.

June 9: Ad for The Little Hut appears in the Florence Times . In the same issue there is a small item about the use of the Sheffield Ritz as a recording studio by Tune Records. June 16–18 : Boy on a Dolphin at the Shoals. June 20: Mimi picks Jonny up after band practice at Coffee High School (where Jonny will be starting as a freshman in September) and tells him about Elmo's being found wounded near the Princess. (When Jonny sees Elmo again, he seems quite different: his hair is cropped closely, and he speaks shyly, in a curiously quiet and high-pitched voice, almost a wheezy whisper. )

July 17 or 18: Jonny sees One Summer Of Happiness in Swedish, with subtitles and no cuts, at the Princess; he doesn't see Written On The Wind at the Shoals. July 21–24:Loving You , with Elvis Presley, at the Shoals. July 24 or 25: 2¢ Worth Of Hope and Rome 11 O'clock , both subtitled, at the Princess; Jonny sees the latter. July 28: Jonny sees Bernadine at the Shoals; free photos of Pat Boone are handed out with each admission.

August 4: He sees This Could Be The Night at the Shoals; David Darby can't come along because his mother finds the title too risqué. August 7:The


Ten Commandments begins projected three-week run at the Princess. August 22: The Florence Times reports, "The Princess Theatre, located at 213 East Tennessee Street in Florence, will be closed for an indefinite period as a result of an early morning fire which caused considerable damage to the ceiling and balcony in addition to smoke and water damage to the entire structure." (When it reopens in spring 1958, it will be called the Cinema.)

September 1: Jonny sees Will Success Spoil Rock Hunter? twice at the Shoals. September 2–3: Bart A. Floyd, thirty-one, proves his worthiness as a new member of the Ku Klux Klan of the Confederacy in Zion City, Alabama, just outside of Birmingham, by picking out a Negro male at random—Judge Edward Aaron, thirty-four—and, with the help of five other Klan members, kidnapping, beating, torturing, and then castrating him. September 4: Governor Orval Faubus orders National Guardsmen to prevent nine Negro students from entering Central High School in Little Rock, Arkansas (birthplace of Marilyn Monroe and Jane Russell in Gentlemen Prefer Blondes ). September 19: First underground nuclear explosion set off by Atomic Energy Commission in Nevada; Jet Pilot starts ten-day run at the Norwood. September 29: Jonny sees An Affair To Remember at the Shoals and almost cries.

October 4: Sputnik I, first man-made satellite, is launched by Soviet scientists. October 6: Jonny hears about Elmo Johnson's body being found in the Tennessee River.

November 3: Sputnik II, carrying a live dog, Laika, is launched by Soviet scientists. November 10:Jailhouse Rock begins five-day run at the Shoals; Soviet authorities announce Laika's death. November 15 or 16: Jonny sees Dino, with Sal Mineo, at the Shoals. (Dino is an expansion of a Studio One teleplay that Jonny saw and liked on January 2, 1956. At 1:12 A.M., May 11, 1979, on Channel 5, Sal Mineo, a juvenile delinquent named Dino, wakes from a nightmare in his T-shirt, experiencing a psychodramatic torture session that sounds and feels like an avalanche performed by Stan Kenton's brass section, the trumpets cackling ghoulish torment. All that energy waiting to be released, I imagine the ads for the picture saying. Suffering is so glamorous, comforting, romantic, exotic, dramatic, sexy, exciting, even aesthetic at the movies: Like Dino, in this James Dean spinoff, being slugged again and again by his old man, his mouth bloodied, screaming for his dad to slug him again, again, again. Fifteen minutes later he points a loaded revolver at his father's sleeping head, and that demonic chorus of west coast trumpets again starts to cackle, with the same false promise of release.)

December 29: Stanley discusses The James Dean Story in his Sunday column:

"The James Dean Story" is a most interesting, unusual and well-made movie, but the ads on it annoy me. They all say: James Dean Plays Himself in


"The James Dean Story." That seems somewhat misleading. Since James Dean died before the picture was made, he is not in it in the ordinary sense.

I Love a Solution

Those were the days when it was possible to say that The Admiral Was A Lady, Mother Wore Tights, Father Was A Fullback , and God Is My Co-Pilot , when everything from Daniel And The Devil to Hell And High Water by way of Pandora And The Flying Dutchman could be given to The Girl From Jones Beach, The Fuller Brush Girl, The Good Humor Man, The Lemon Drop Kid, The Barefoot Mailman, The Beautiful Blonde From Bashful Bend, The Wac From Walla Walla, The President's Lady , and recycled into The Strip, The Sunny Side Of The Street, The Halls Of Montezuma, The Hills Of Home, Fort Apache, Mysterious Island , or My Blue Heaven , meanwhile assuring you that Here Comes Trouble, The Best Things In Life Are Free, You're Not So Tough, It's A Wonderful Life, You Can Beat The A-Bomb, My World Dies Screaming, It's A Big Country, There's No Business Like Show Business , and anyway, She's Working Her Way Through College .

Titles were so important. When Stanley had to fire the Tuscumbian cashier for incorrectly reporting the number of tickets sold and pocketing the difference, the movie playing then was To Catch A Thief . And what about the problems the Shoals cashier had when Phffft! was showing, and people telephoned to ask what movie was playing?

Titles kept telling people to do things in those days (as briefly and boldly as possible, like Stanley describing baby doll)—to Wake Up And Dream, Hit The Ice, Walk A Crooked Mile, Always Leave Them Laughing, Bring 'Em Back Alive, Watch The Birdie, Hold That Line, Walk East On Beacon, Bring Your Smile Along, Excuse My Dust, Ride The Man Down , and Come Fill The Cup . Aggressively, they'd insist, in turn, that you Rock Around The Clock, Don't Knock The Rock, Rock All Night , and Rock Around The World ; ambiguously and ungrammatically, they would propose that you Cry, The Beloved Country; Love Me Tender ; and Kiss Me, Deadly . (Why not Rock, The Crooked Mile? or Love Me, Deadly? ) They made life pretty easy by saying that all you had to do was Make Mine Music or Ride, Ryder, Ride or Ride , Vaquero! or Take Me Out To The Ball Game or Come To The Stable or Love Me Or Leave Me .

So what if just one of them, on a white-hot summer day or summer night, had whispered Please Murder Me to Elmo Johnson, as one of the black porters put that title up on the marquee—offering Elmo a Dark Venture as sauce to go with it—a complementary title, as cool to the touch as the Princess air-conditioning system, or the beckoning draft from an open


refrigerator—inviting him in to curl up with the lettuce and enjoy soothing relief, a new way to beat the heat, and a long, untroubled sleep? Could his own Conquistador have listened, and understood? I know that it's presumptuous, perhaps even obscene, to speculate about the unknowable—the focus of this entire chapter—but what if these titles on the marquee and in the ad in the paper, on the one-sheets and the three-sheets, the words themselves, said more to Elmo than the movies possibly could—because they left more empty, pliable spaces for his mind to shape and fill? If looks could kill, could that have been the way?


Rocky Horror Playtime Vs. Shopping Mall Home

Seven weeks ago, when I received a call from Adriano Aprà in Rome inviting me to speak at this conference, I was in my hometown, Florence, Alabama, where my parents live today.[*] I have moved with all my belongings seventeen times in the past twenty years, and I will have to find and move to yet another place in New York as soon as I return from this conference. Nevertheless, I consider myself unusually fortunate, fortunate not only in being here—in this city and this country for the first time in my life—but in having a hometown to return to year after year: a fixed reference point. And fortunate in being the grandson of the man who ran most of the local movie theaters when I was growing up, which meant that I had virtually unlimited access to most of what was shown.

Moving Places is an attempt at a narrative exposition of myself through movies and of movies through me, and Florence has been providing me with a sort of personal and historical measuring stick in this process. So when Adriano told me that I was to speak about audiences in the 1980s, I naturally thought first about the audiences in Florence, what they were and what they are, which is my most reliable guide to what they will be.

I have to admit that Florence has undergone radical social changes since I left in 1959. The town is now racially integrated, which wasn't the case when I was growing up. Today black people in Florence don't have to attend sepa-

* This chapter is a lecture delivered just before lunch on the last day of an international conference, The Cinema in the 80s, held September 1–3, 1979, at the Venice Biennale. The three days of the conference were devoted to Language, Industry, and Audience, respectively. About a dozen participants—academics, critics, and filmmakers—spoke each day, and each lecture was simultaneously translated (after a fashion) into Italian, French, English, German, and/or Spanish.


rate schools, use separate bathrooms (in the nearest train station one facility was labeled "colored women," the other "white ladies"), or drink from separate drinking fountains. State law no longer requires them to sit in the back of a bus or in a special section of a movie theater.

Another drastic change is that downtown Florence is dying, perhaps almost dead. The center of town, where three of my grandfather's theaters once stood—each of them only a block or so from where the courthouse used to be—now seems deserted. Despite lots of brand new parking lots, the place feels haunted, like a ghost town. The largest of the three theaters, the Shoals—built when I was five and originally seating 1300 people—is the only one standing today. It still shows movies; I saw Meatballs there three days after Adriano phoned. But it no longer functions as anything like the place of worship or the community gathering-place that it was twenty and thirty years ago.

The cashier's booth at the Shoals used to have two windows, one around the corner from the other, in order to conform to the Jim Crow laws. The window directly in front of the cashier was for selling tickets to white folks; the one on her left was for black customers, who had already come into the building through a special side entrance. At the side window they would purchase "colored" tickets, which were ten or fifteen cents cheaper than "white" tickets, and climb their own set of stairs to their own special section of the balcony.

After the Civil Rights Act of 1964 was passed, making Jim Crow laws illegal, some of the old habits were allowed to linger for a period. Both windows in the cashier's booth at the Shoals remained open, and for a while she continued to sell cheaper tickets at the side window. In theory, any black person could pay more and sit downstairs, and any white person could pay less and sit upstairs. Today the balcony is closed and has been for years; everyone sits downstairs, in fewer and wider seats, generally watching worse movies for more money.

In fact a theater like the Shoals is little more than a relic now, and everyone knows this, including the subsequent owners, who have tried to bring some aspects of the building "up to date" and in doing so have eliminated whatever inclinations toward beauty, monumentality, or eccentricity that may once have been in the design. The only movies the Shoals shows now are bland items such as Meatballs and Disney comedies, and a lot of the older kids wouldn't be caught dead there. Their turf is the strip on the outskirts of town where all the shopping centers and one enormous shopping mall are located.

And that is where the other movie theaters are, the brand new ones whose auditoriums have the feel of the insides of cheap jewelry boxes, where I saw Moonraker , a couple of sex films, Dracula , and The Muppet Movie in late July. As a rule, the people I know in Florence who see movies today watch



Shoals Theatre, Florence, Alabama, July 1979, eight months before closing

them either out there, in those frigid space stations that are as strictly utilitarian as circus tents and offer even less of an invitation to linger after the show, or on their TV sets at home. (Cable TV, I should add, is very popular.)

I suspect that most American audiences in the 1980s will be watching films either in homes or in shopping malls. What's particularly disturbing about this is that homes and shopping malls are beginning to resemble one another, along with the movies and the audiences inside them. The separate forms of social behavior that we associate with film and television are also starting to break down as the two media become increasingly difficult to differentiate, thanks in part to such expensive toys as Betamaxes and Advent screens. The arsenals of new communications equipment, which are currently being paraded before us like sophisticated armaments, indirectly yet unmistakably testify to the poverty of what we have to communicate. By trusting ourselves less, we wind up trusting the machines more. And because of these machines, word-of-mouth news travels more slowly these days, as though it were creeping from one petulant medieval stronghold to another—in striking contrast to the sixties, when certain kinds of news traveled like wildfire.

It is estimated that nearly half of all the retail business in the United States today is transacted in approximately 18,000 strip and enclosed shopping com-


plexes known variously as plazas, centers, and malls. They occupy over two billion square feet, employ more than 4.5 million people, represent $60 billion in investments, and their rate of failure over the past twenty-five years is said to be less than one percent.[*]

A study conducted at Temple University indicates that malls are the most popular gathering places for teenagers in the United States. In a controversial paper presented to the Popular Culture Association, Richard Francaviglia compared malls to amusement parks such as Disneyland. William Severini Kowinski expands on this notion by describing malls as "the feudal castles of contemporary America."

By keeping weather out and keeping itself always in the present—if not in the future—a mall aspires to create timeless space. Removed from everything else and existing in a world of its own, a mall is also placeless space.

An article in the socialist magazine Dollars & Sense points out that in recent years the U.S. Supreme Court has twice ruled in separate cases that malls are not public places where citizens can express their views, distribute leaflets, or congregate freely—unlike the old town squares.

To keep people inside the mall and encourage them to see shopping as entertainment, designers attempt to create a "carnival" atmosphere. Once inside a center, shoppers have few decisions to make. Corners are kept to a minimum so the customers will flow along from store to store, propelled, as the developers say, by "retail energy." Said one observer of mall design, "The mirrors, the music and the sound of rushing water create a sense of distortion. There is never a clock to remind one of the world outside the mall."

I think this is a pretty fair description of most of the cinema today. Both films and shopping malls function as media that aim at producing and controlling their own notions and measurements of space and time, designed to supersede all others. They offer themselves to us like self-contained planets, not tools to assist us anywhere else in the universe. Which suggests that we may be losing our marbles.

In these terms, Apocalypse Now —which I saw twice last month in New York—is a $30 million shopping mall, offering Michael Herr's Dispatches as well as Conrad's Heart of Darkness in the bookstore, The Doors and Wagner in the record and tape shop, Marlon Brando and Dennis Hopper in the snazzy nightclub, Playboy, lime, Rolling Stone, and Reader's Digest at the news-

* All the information on shopping complexes is drawn from two invaluable sources: "The Malling of America," by William Severini Kowinski (New Times, May 1, 1978, pp. 30–55), and "Shopping Centers—'The Best Investment Known to Man'" (Dollars & Sense, no. 38, July–August 1978, pp. 8–9). The latter includes a brief bibliography.


stand, fancy roast beef and plain rice at the fast-food restaurant. To make sure that all of this goes down well, a clever pattern of continuous percussion and exotic jungle noise is pumped seductively into our ears like Muzak, controlling our inner rhythms and emotional temperatures while helping to screen out all vestiges of the outside world, including Vietnam.

To refer to such an all-purpose marketing and environmental complex as a personal form of self-expression, and to try to reduce or elevate this expression to a political statement of any sort, is merely to become a blind man in relation to Francis Coppola's elephant—and perhaps part of the film's promotional campaign in the bargain. In order to confront anything like the whole package (which is so much bigger than we are) one first has to acknowledge the presence of a complex pleasure machine, loads of fun, programmed to stimulate and then gratify as many opposing viewpoints as possible. This machine has nothing to do with Vietnam.[*] It is designed to appeal to good ole boys who kill gooks for the fun of it as well as to pacifists, liberals, blacks, whites, moderates, fascists, conservatives, humanitarians, racists, misanthropes, novelists, avant-garde filmmakers, rock and drug enthusiasts, and literature professors—all of whom are designed, in turn, to feel that it's a movie made just for them.

In the same context, what about homes, which are the only spaces we have left once we've rejected public life for a private boat ride through Coppolaland? Writer-director George Romero hits on a parodic relationship of home to shopping mall in the first two parts of his horror trilogy, Night Of The Living Dead and Dawn Of The Dead , by passing directly from the home as fortress to the shopping mall fortress as home. An alternative version of this interchange—the home as shopping mall—can easily be imagined if one starts with either of Hugh Hefner's Playboy Mansions as a model.

Having outlined such a deprived and limited future, I would like to cite a couple of things that still make me hopeful, in spite of everything. Both of these things signal the potential return of the active audience, in contrast to the passive, refrigerated, cut-off, narcissistic sensibilities that so many recent movies and movie theaters take (or ask) us to be. And both imply (albeit somewhat subversively in the present context) a community of common interests inside a theater, rather than a set of separate, elegantly upholstered masturbation stalls.

Decentered, nonprivileged space and a crowd of people contriving to reclaim what is rightfully theirs is what both these things are about. One of them is my favorite film, Playtime , made by Jacques Tati in the sixties,

* See "The Dark Heart of Apocalypse Now ," by Deirdre English (Mother Jones , September–October 1979, pp. 34–39), for an excellent account of the film's ignorance and self-serving distortions regarding Vietnam, and what these suggest.


which I saw first in 1968 as an American tourist in Paris. The other is an event created by an audience around a film called The Rocky Horror Picture Show , an event that has been occurring and evolving in the United States over the past three years.

Playtime was made twelve years ago, although as a practical tool for learning how to cope with the hideous world that we're building it is only beginning to be understood. When I screened it for 150 college students in San Diego two years ago, I was pleased to discover that many of them had less trouble understanding its basic principles than most film critics did when the movie first appeared—perhaps because they had fewer preconceptions about film comedy. Turning us all into tourists as it charts the movements of a group of Americans through a studio approximation of Paris, Playtime implies that empty space becomes alive (and curved) once it assumes a social function—and that the shortest distance between any two supposedly unrelated individuals within the same public space is comedy.

The film's strategy, lesson, and advice are the same: It directs us to look around at the world we live in (the one we keep building), then at each other, and to see how funny that relationship is and how many brilliant possibilities we still have in a shopping-mall world that perpetually suggests otherwise; to look and see that there are many possibilities and that the play between them, activated by the dance of our gaze, can become a kind of comic ballet, one that we both observe and perform as we navigate our way through Paris's imprisoning patterns, reflections, and deceptions.

By connecting our observations with our performances as observers, Tati returns us to the real world, as he does again in Parade . He doesn't pretend, like Disney or Coppola, to give us anything better. Instead he helps us to become a better audience by presenting us precisely with our social predicament as spectators, and then trying to show us how we might become partners in and through that experience.

Much the same could be said for the event generated by a mainly teenage audience around showings of The Rocky Horror Picture Show in more than two hundred cities across the United States. (I'm told that the fad has even passed through Florence, though not, alas, when I was there.) As an amateur of this curious phenomenon, one who has witnessed only three performances at the 8th Street Playhouse in New York, I cannot claim to be qualified to discuss the movement as a whole. But I can't deny, either, that my three visits were all exhilarating experiences.

Both the film and the stage musical on which the film is based (I first encountered them while living in London four and five years ago, respectively) describe the initiation of an ingenuous American couple into the bisexual joys practiced in a haunted house by English denizens of Grade B horror and science fiction films. (The crossovers between England and America are pos-


sibly as intricate here as those between female and male.) A distanced theatrical narrative that is interrupted repeatedly by a narrator and bracketed by self-conscious film references, the movie began to be appropriated spontaneously about three years ago by isolated members of an audience that attended regularly the midnight screenings of the film in Greenwich Village.[*]

Their appropriation can be seen as an unconscious yet authentic act of film criticism, one that returns in-the-flesh theatricality and confrontation to a flashy work that needs them. Some fans fill the pauses in the film's dialogue with wisecracks, many of them retained from one show to the next and recited in unison. Other habitués get themselves up, often in drag, to resemble the main characters and then mimic the onscreen performers' gestures, standing beneath the screen and in the aisles, while friends spotlight their actions with flashlight beams. Props are used; rice is thrown during the wedding sequence, and water pistols and umbrellas are sometimes brandished to accompany the subsequent rainstorm. These rituals and others have gradually developed into a richly elaborated, multifaceted "text" in which the film itself is only the ostensible centerpiece; it is not always the precise center of attention.

At a Rocky Horror midnight show about a week ago I met a couple of proud veterans, each of whom had seen the film nearly three hundred times. Two women were present to play the Tim Curry part of Dr. Frank N. Furter (the leading transsexual character, who appears in drag), along with more than a dozen other performers, many of whom went through several elaborate costume changes to match their screen counterparts. One of the women playing Frank was a New York regular who told me she had seen the film fifty times; the other, a young black woman from Chicago, took over the role for a few guest appearances toward the end.

Despite some competitive divisions and hierarchies within this cult, the spirit of the shows I have attended has been markedly democratic and non-elitist. No one is treated like an outsider; anyone, theoretically, can make her or his own contribution to the "text," which is in a state of continual change and refinement.

What is it about these shows that is so energetic and exciting? Above all, I think it is the experience of a film's being used by people as a means of communicating with one another—not after the film has ended, but while it is still in progress. I think we could learn a great deal about our own favorite movies if we knew how to use them that way.

Some commentators have found the implications of this practice to be

* For a fuller (though by no means comprehensive) account of the beginnings of this phenomenon, see "The Paradox of Rocky," by Greg Kline, in Flash (vol. 2, no. 4, undated and unpaginated), a recent fan magazine devoted to the cult. (The Transylvanian, which also appeared in 1979, is another.) See also Bill Henkin's The Rocky Horror Picture Show Book (Hawthorn Books, 1979).


fascistic and mindless. The adoption of such a movie (or any movie) as a sacred text to be memorized, recited as a catechism, or elaborated upon as in a religious commentary offends their sense of propriety and aesthetics. Without wishing to idealize this ritual, I would like to point out that it is much more appealing to experience it than to hear or read about it. (As a group activity, the closest parallels that spring to mind are jam sessions among jazz musicians and responses from congregations to sermons at black revival meetings.) With its characteristic open-mindedness, Newsweek reports that "Some middle-aged viewers are disgusted by the film's blatant transsexuality; others merely dislike it."[*] Still others, less self-defensive, have simply enjoyed the show, recognizing at once how fundamentally innocent it is. Or perhaps I should say innocently perverse, like the rest of filmgoing.

What most of the objections fail to acknowledge is that the meaning of any work of art is in part bound up in its social function. The Rocky Horror phenomenon—not, I should stress, the film—is a work of art whose audience and creators are essentially one, grouped around a shared irony about sexual roles and social taboos that remains as a legacy of the sixties, and whose social function is largely to bring together strangers and open up new channels of communication between them. I like it because it resurrects moviegoing as a communal event, making one proud, not embarrassed, to be sitting next to other people in the dark.

* "Horror Show," Newsweek, July 17, 1978. p. 93.


Station Identification II

Yes, I need the Conquistador; and yes, I mistrust and sometimes despise him. At eight and ten, while watching On Moonlight Bay , I knew that I needed him, and I loved him, too; I'm sure that I even loved my servitude. Now I question how well he fulfilled his duties as a foster parent. I can't deny that he kept me entertained and even busy, but whether he's worthy of the sort of unquestioning admiration due to, say, Nigger Jim is a different matter. Right now I'd say that it was Uncle Remus who came closer to describing—or executing—his peculiar talents.

Now there was a traumatic experience. Walt Disney's Song of the South , according to my real parents, was the first film they ever took me to (probably during its initial run at the Princess, April 8–11, 1947, not long after I turned four and less than a year after Bo taught me how to read). A terrifying cartoon briar patch that might have been hatched in the brain of a Sade; the disquieting, chirpy-rasping voices of Br'er Fox and Br'er Rabbit, and the psychotic, molasses-slow, dumbkiller ground bass of Br'er Bear; and the trauma of Daddy's leaving for Atlanta—made even more real by the fact that Bobby Driscoll's name in the movie was Johnny. So what if the main plot took place on a plantation in the Old South? In all basic respects it was the same world as here and now. As Jacques Rivette once observed, Griffith's Intolerance —which Stanley went to see with his mother Anna in Little Rock when he was in the first grade, taking the streetcar all the way from North Little Rock—has more to say about 1916 than about any of the historical periods it depicts. In the same way, Song of the South is about 1946, not long after a time when many Daddys were away.

Most traumatic was the departure of Uncle Remus, "fired" by Mommy for


telling Johnny stories that taught him how to think and behave while Daddy was away, poor old misunderstood Uncle Remus, packing all his belongings in a bandana that he tied to the end of a pole, then boarding a wagon bound for Atlanta, and Johnny running across the field after him, screaming, "Come back, Uncle Remus, come ba-a-ack! " and failing to notice the mad bull preparing to charge him. Then, waking from a coma, Mommy, Daddy, and the entire plantation staff—the whole world, really—crowded around his sickbed (a bit like the whole Duke Ellington band in silhouetted chiaroscuro, crowded around Fredi Washington's deathbed at the end of Dudley Murphy's 1929 Black and Tan ), as he continues to call hysterically for Uncle Remus (just a junkie, really, like Little Nell and Marcel Proust rolled into one) until Daddy finally fetches Uncle Remus, bringing him right to Johnny's bedside, which immediately revives him. What could possibly be more traumatic than losing Uncle Remus?

Movies were my Uncle Remus, and they didn't prevent my being gored by bulls—not even once. At best they could revive me afterward. Daddy and Bo were the bosses who owned the bull and hired Uncle Remus, and the Conquistador told Bo and Daddy what to do. My greatest ambition was to do what they did, to grow up and do what the Conquistador told me to do. Consequently, I kept on running across fields and getting gored by bulls, and good ole Uncle Remus just kept on reviving me.

So how else can I feel today but ambivalent? The Conquistador paid for Putney, Bard, and Stony Brook, most of Paris, both my novels in all their drafts, and even part of this book, too. After a while it gets to the point where you want to be gored—it's so dramatic! exciting! And it paves the way for Uncle Remus to make his grand comeback, to soothe your wounds so nicely. Just like any ordinary night at the movies.

So let's be clear about this; the villain-of-the-piece is neither the bull nor Uncle Remus (either of whom could be booked through central casting) but the Conquistador, who keeps them both operational, makes them play their assigned parts, calls all the shots, and directs all the shots at me. I have two choices: to do battle with him (shield myself from his shots and/or return a volley of my own) or to surrender. The same choices that anyone has at his or her favorite movie theater, at any given moment. Isn't it just being alive? Both options are very tempting. Either one is fatal.


Made in Hoboken

Douglas, Wyoming, 1914—three states away from where our old friend Gordon MacRae is still only a radical freshman or a freethinking sophomore at the University of Indiana—Bo is operating his very first movie theater, at the age of twenty-seven. Think of it: when Jonathan's the same age, in 1970, he's working fitfully on his second yet-to-be unpublished novel, completing his first yet-to-be unpublished book as an editor (a collection of film criticism he was commissioned to do), still living on the dregs of Bo's inheritance, and dividing the first three months of the year among three countries: pursuing a heavy love affair in New York, having his appendix removed in London (and smoking hash with his brother Michael's friends in a room called the Box), and taking acid all alone one beautiful spring afternoon in Paris, where he moved last fall, acid that suddenly prompts him to buy red paint, a roller, and brushes, and to go to work on his bedroom closets—a conversation with the wood, red saying one thing, grain saying another—and later sends him out the door and up rue Mazarine to the Odéon métro stop, a little after 6:30, to take the Porte de Clignancourt train as far as Châtelet and then the Mairie des Lilas train to République. He's on his way to see his favorite movie, Playtime , for the fourth or fifth time, if only he can make it there before it starts.

Back in Douglas, by way of contrast—around the same time that Griffith, over in southern California, is shooting The Birth Of A Nation (then known as The Clansman )—Jonathan's grandfather Louis, a Jew from Lublin, is leasing a theater called the Princess (you heard it right) with the money he made the previous year, in 1913, working as a pawnbroker in nearby Casper. (This brief career—Stanley recalls playing with a broken clock on a table in the shop at the age of three—so embarrasses Bo in the years to come that he


never mentions it once, to any of his friends or family.) He's only getting started in the motion picture trade, and he even cranks the projector in the back of the theater himself.

No one in the audience can ever be aware of this, but in order to keep the crank turning at a steady pace, Louis tries to keep his own movements in time with the piano music—just a mental attitude, nothing else, but it sometimes gives him the odd sensation that he's an actor rather than (or in addition to) a theater operator. A funny process: the movie keeps the music going, the music keeps Louis Rosenbaum going, and Louis in turn turns the crank that keeps the movie going. So which comes first, the chicken or the egg? And which is Louis, and which is the movie?

Just as Jonathan is getting off the train at République—consulting his Pariscope for the name and address of the theater, remembering once again in his acid-lined confusion that he has forgotten to bring along his little red book (his Plan-Guide de Paris ), and noticing via his watch that Playtime is due to commence in less than ten minutes—Louie is cranking out the last part of an Annette Kellerman opus that he has been featuring at the Douglas Princess all week, winding it to a close, so to speak, his hand tired and heavy. And he notices a young hayseed sitting toward the back—a teenager, almost, skinny as a beanpole—who's been turning up, it seems, for practically every performance.

This fellow makes Louie curious, and as soon as the photoplay is over, after the piano player has ended with a flourish and the audience is getting up to leave, Louie sidles over to the kid with the straw-colored hair—let's call him Hubert, after the piano-playing hayseed in On Moonlight Bay —and says, "Hey, you sure must like that picture somethin' special, hunh? Idn't it somethin'?"

"Nah," says Hubert, blasé as you please. "Tell the truth, I seen plenty better."

Jonathan, meanwhile, has climbed the métro station steps to discover to his horror that a noisy, full-size carnival has lodged itself this Saturday afternoon smack-dab in the middle of the square—merry-go-round, Ferris wheel, shooting gallery, the works—and is thronged by a teeming, screaming mob of kids and parents. Jonathan doesn't know which way to proceed toward Place de la République—or is it Avenue de la République?—and when he tries to ask directions of the man who sells tickets to the carousel (let's call him André, after the hero of Bird of Paradise ), André amid the din hears only "République " and finally throws up his right arm in disgust and despair, indicating in that single gesture the whole wide sweep of the square around them and all the people there. "République, c'est partout! " André shouts desperately, pain glowing in his tired eyes like silvery café spigots, an accepting, almost philosophical cast to his grief, as though to say, the Republic is everywhere, all around us—inevitable, unavoidable, inescapable. And you want to know where it is?


And all this time Hubert is shaking his head slowly and sluggishly, like a skinny fish on dope, at Louie, who can't quite believe him, and who laughs in his disbelief. "But this is tree, four—how many times is it now you come to this picture?"

"Oh, I reckon this makes it about five. Mebbe six."

"And you say you seen better? " Louie laughs really loudly now—a rasping, joyful, even frightening howl that one might imagine escaping from Louis Calhern (who is eight years younger) or Charles Coburn (who is ten years older)—and then looks around nervously at the emptying theater, still smiling at Hubert. "Me and the piano player have seen it a dozen times awready 'cause we both have to. But how come you keep comin' back?"

"Aw, it's just a notion of mine, in point of ak-shull fact," Hubert says. "I can't prove it none yet." He smiles, blushes, and clears his throat with just a touch of false modesty. "You memba that part where the leadin' lady starts to take off aller clothes to go swimmin' ?"

"Do I!" says Bo, laughing again.

"Way-ul, just before she's all nekkid, this train comes along, shoots straight on by, and blocks off our view of her—you memba that? Okay, now, I been figgerin' it's strictly the law-a averages, nothin' else. If I keep on comin' back, sooner or later that dadgum train is gonna be late . I mean, it's unavoidable!"

Jonathan's late for Playtime all right; it started promptly at 7, no ads or shorts first. And by the time he finds his way into the theater proper—having bought a full-price ticket (his fake student card works for discounts only on weekends), whispered "Près de l'écran, s'il vous plaît " to the usherette in the lobby, tipped her half a franc as she waves her flashlight wanly down the dark aisle ahead of them (and directly into the faces of a few startled spectators), stumbled into and then stepped back from and around a thick, square column to discover that the screen was actually behind it (toward the lobby, not in the other direction), and then staggered across most of the front row to settle himself into a broken seat—the movie has been on for a good five minutes, and on the screen the female American tourists have only just turned up at Orly airport.

But such is the uncharacteristically cheerful thrust of this acid trip that Jonathan decides in his confusion that his late arrival is in fact appropriate. Behind him, he hears the sounds of other awkward late arrivals, while the sight and sound of so many misplaced and bemused tourists on screen at Orly persuades him that the precise boundary line between this movie and this audience, himself included, is impossible to draw. (Mutatis mutandis, the same thing happens to him in October nine and a half years later, at a sound and music workshop in Athens, Ohio, while watching a 16mm print of Playtime and taping the soundtrack—which he plays back twelve days later in his apartment in Hoboken, New Jersey, while typing this sentence—when a door closes outside the classroom, in the hall, and it doesn 't interrupt the soundtrack .) Which helps to explain why he can see this movie so many times and


never get bored. Like Heracitus and that traveling river, he and it never have the same encounter twice, for they both keep undergoing mysterious changes. And even though Jonathan as spectator/actor and Tati as director/actor seem to be sculpting their own patterns to the same music, these two patterns form a complementary dance of gestures, not a duplicating mirror.

Nearly eighteen years earlier, in Florence, December 1952, Jonny sees several movies at the Princess, including Wild Bill Elliott in Fargo (with the last chapter of Mysterious Island and the first episode of Captain Video , his and David Darby's two favorite serials), The Snows Of Kilimanjaro , Estelita In The Fabulous Senorita (with Mighty Mouse in Hansel and Gretel , and Metro News), and Alastair Sim in The Christmas Carol . He doesn't see a movie called Marihuana (Weed with Roots in Hell ) that is shown there on a Monday and Tuesday in the middle of the month, along with Lili ("Did She Show Too Much Lili?") St. Cyr in Love Moods—an "adults only!" show that cost the customers fifty cents. But he does ask Daddy how to pronounce Marihuana when he sees the (surrealist) ad in the paper, which also says:

LOOK—Now you can see it!
Sensational, unbelievable, but the truth!
An expose of America's newest narcotic menace!
Not recommended for children!
Wierd [sic ] orgies, wild parties, unleashed passions
Smoke that gets in youths [sic l eyes
Lust, crime, hate
Shame, honor, despair

And "misery" is written over a giant syringe that stands, plunger to needle-point (and with all the authority of a Planter's peanut-headed man on Times Square), beside the box that headlines the "Wierd orgies" and directly opposite a woman in a gaping bathrobe who's exactly the same height.

Perhaps as a consequence of this omission in his education, you could almost say that Jon is ripe for the picking during his first spring away from home—at The Putney School in Vermont, in 1960—when he and a couple of classmates order twenty-five medium-size peyote buttons for a modest sum from a cactus ranch in Laredo, Texas (a legal purchase at the time), and they each consume a couple of buttons late one lovely afternoon in early June: an adventure that permanently enhances Jon's (and Jonathan's) enjoyment of colors by evoking some of the nonsymbolic intensity that they once had for Jonny—red, for instance, meaning red and not "stop," and a hilarious, beatific red at that.

At first, there is only the wretched taste, choked with the bitter bark and sickly white fluff that can't quite be peeled or scraped away from the juicy, pulpy, light green vomity essence of the plant; then there is an upset stomach,


and a peculiar glaring brightness to the lights at dinner. Sitting in one of the comfortable library chairs afterward, continuing to read Dos Passos's U.S.A. with dutiful, monotonous perseverance (not at all like reading Light in August back in February, his first taste of Faulkner), Jon begins to drum his fingers lightly on one of the armrests, and before long something strange and wonderful starts to happen. The jazz rhythms in his fingers overpower those of the marching prose, encouraging him to shut his eyes, where luminous and vibrant colors begin to pulsate, dance, melt, clash, and blend, a bit like the squiggles of Norman McLaren, or those in Fantasiaseen in Hollywood on a family trip to California four years ago, during which they also see Forbidden Planet in San Francisco late one night, racing from Fisherman's Wharf to make the last show, arriving just after the credits start, when the box office is closed and they can all troop in for free, just like at home, the electronic beeps chirping like little fish on the bubbly soundtrack as the heroes hurtle through outer space —defining an electric pattern that eventually sends him out the door in search of the other two guys who ate the stuff.

He finds them in the art studio, in the same building. C. keeps producing one miraculous linoleum cut after another, S. wildly cheering him on, until C. cuts his finger on the cutting tool and they all decide to trek over to the infirmary so that he can get it bandaged. Stepping outside into the darkening, deepening blue-green dusk, Jon feels eternally grateful—no other phrase will do—for the enamel perfection of sky and sunset behind the majestic Putney elm, over the billowing, pillowy hills. Half an hour later, when it is fully dark, Jon and S. are rolling around in the rippling grass in paroxysms of joyful laughter while waiting for C. to get out of the infirmary. Laughter seems the only reasonable response that either could have to the bare lightbulb that they both see burning, glistening, and laughing itself, a few yards away in the hallway of Old Girls' Dorm. A moment not easy to fathom, yet one that Kalua in Bird of Paradise or any of her tribal people could grasp in a flash, and might even take for granted—living in a land of plenty where ecstasy is as common as Coke floats and seltzer water, and the Hebrew lessons that Jonny takes from Rabbi Mantinband in Florence, that same spring in 1951, are like difficult initiations cooked up by a jealous and spiteful god to compensate for such blissful overloads of pleasure in His chosen people.

It was only an extension, really, of the sort of things that movies could do to life—nothing more. Like going into the 8th Street Bookshop just after stepping out of Bergman's The Magician at the 5th Avenue Cinema (on spring vacation from Putney, en route to Florence) and somehow being under the distinct, erroneous impression that the 5th Avenue Cinema and the 8th Street Bookshop, each defunct in any form as I type this sentence, were both south and east of the Washington Square arch (not north and west), thereby constructing an imaginary Greenwich Village that persists to this day, like those in Rear Window , The Seventh Victim , and My Sister Eileen .


Or maybe it was like the recurring dream that Bo had, around the same time as Bird of Paradise , that Twentieth Century-Fox discovered oil on its property. This dream led him to buy Fox stock, shares that eventually paid off, thanks in part to the development of CinemaScope, whose broad shape, like that of Bo himself and of the Frank Lloyd Wright house (the down payment on it was his wedding present to Stanley and Mimi, a token of his relief and gratitude that his only son, at twenty-eight, had finally fallen in love with and married a Jewish girl, twenty-one), became one of the purest expressions of complacent fifties prosperity and girth. Much later, long after he had sold most of the shares, by God, Fox did strike oil on its lot-confounding everyone, including Stanley with all his talk of superstition.

A related desire to "follow that dream" and experiment is more or less what gets Jon started on hallucinogens (as they later come to be called). But the truth of the matter is, aside from a minimally effectual buzz in early October 1962—a month after Bo dies (and three months after Faulkner dies), when Jon, a sophomore at NYU, turns on with Bruce (the son of a Hollywood producer, who appears to know Jerry Lewis personally and admires Sartre 's position on Cuba), then accompanies him to see (1) Ivan the Terrible, Parts I and II, at the Bleecker Street Cinema, and (2) a ninety-minute uptempo piano solo by Cecil Taylor, right across the street at the Take 3 (not necessarily in that order) —Jonathan doesn't really get into the possibilities of grass until spring 1965, two years after he transfers to Bard, two hours up the Hudson from Manhattan. There he is taught with expertise by another classmate named Bruce, a good friend who is also the projectionist for his Friday night film series most of that spring. And he doesn't get around to trying LSD until October 1968, back in Manhattan.

The acid trip is launched jointly with his youngest brother Michael, who is sailing for England on the Bremen the following midnight, and who phones him from Queens so that they can drop their matching tabs at the same time, 3:41 P.M., before he takes the subway to Jonathan's one-room, groundfloor apartment at 16 Christopher Street (reputedly the "original" address of the two heroines of My Sister Eileen ). However, Michael gets lost on the subway and doesn't arrive until the following day, and Jonathan has to content himself over the next dozen hours with R. Crumb's Head Comix and a subway ride of his own, to the Times Square area, feeling pretty paranoid the whole way, to witness the sad aluminum-foil look of Barbarella and listen to the thin, wiry warbles that go with the "angel of love" song over the final credits and taste the sour, coppery smell of the buttered popcorn he munches—the three sensations becoming slightly tangled via synesthesia so that the fundamental tawdriness of all three become interchangeable facets of his tawdry isolation and self-pity.

Two distinct variations on this particular bad trip are run over the next


fourteen months. When Jonathan and Mike drop acid together in The Box in London, around midnight on August 31, everything goes nicely until they return to Mike's rented house on Rendle Street off Portobello Road, where as usual more than a dozen freaks are crashing. (Jonathan tried to watch Godard's Bande à Part on Mike's rented TV with a noisy bunch of them only two nights ago.) Mike discovers that his girlfriend Marie-France has just returned from Scotland, and he promptly disappears with her for the rest of the night. Then, on December 16, in Paris, not long after M. and M.-F. are married in Gibraltar, but before Jonathan accompanies them to Oselle, near Besancon, for Christmas, all three of them drop together, and take a cab to the Cinémathèque at Palais de Chaillot to see an 8:30 show of Nicholas Ray's Bitter Victory —which, Godard has written, is like the sun: it makes you close your eyes because the truth is blinding. Stepping out onto the gravel of the Jardin du Trocadéro afterward, still stunned by the last scene, between Ruth Roman and Curt Jurgens, when the cowardice of the latter and the bravery of Richard Burton (who has just died in agony) suddenly become morally and cosmically equivalent, the two brothers, twenty-two and twenty-six, are busy weaving their own webs of profundity when M.-F., disgusted with both, starts freaking out, crying about the enormity of the Eiffel Tower nearby—necessitating another taxi ride home to Jonathan's cramped rue Mazarine fiat, and then a banishment of Jonathan from living room to bedroom so that M.-E can be alone with her husband.

It isn't always like this with Mike. Jonathan was the first to turn him on, during a Bard vacation in Florence in the mid-sixties, and in late June 1967 they take peyote there together one afternoon, and both have wonderful trips. They mix the vile stuff in a blender with orange juice (which only makes it taste worse) and gulp it down; later they go off to see Raquel Welch in One Million Years B.C. at the Norwood with a couple of nontripping local friends, Marshall and Phil (both students of Stanley at Florence State), a movie which Jonathan almost instantly finds totally unbearable. (Why sit in front of those shrieking pterodactyls, he figures after ten minutes, when he can be sitting outside in the car, breathing the quiet, gorgeously luminous night air? Which is what he happily does, for the duration, until the others come out.

And, on acid, some thirty-eight months later—Sunday, September 13, 1970, 4 P.M.—he experiences a comparable epiphany after buying a ticket and sitting down to nothing less than a Mizoguchi film, Chikamatsu Monogatari , at the New York Film Festival—a film he has been dying to see for years, yet he leaves Alice Tally Hall even before the credits are over, in a moment of exhilaration, to spend the rest of the afternoon outdoors, with friends. This is quite the reverse of watching Faces at the festival two years before, on DMT, when the drug seems to condense and compress the movie for him, almost to frame it under a misty, hypnotic halo. Toutes proportions gardées, it is much closer to the ordeal of attempting to watch Buona Sera, Mrs.


Campbell on mescaline with a friend one July weekend on Martha's Vineyard, before giving up the struggle in abject horror.)

The truth of the matter is that Jonathan's most formative movie experience on a drug—not counting his bad trip on mescaline cut with speed, in an isolated houseful of heads in Stony Brook, Long Island, fall 1966 (his first semester in graduate school), when his vision begins to flicker like an old-fashioned silent movie, his awareness of not seeing and nothing alternating diabolically with separate frames of sight and motion, to the degree that it becomes difficult to cross a room, to walk downstairs, to be with other people ("Those are only what the Buddhists call the spaces in between," says one of his temporary housemates, conceivably the same one who later asks rhetorically, in response to his freaked-out distress, "How can you be alone in a house full of people?"—a funny question to put to a movie freak) —is on grass, while watching Alphaville on TV with Pepe, the Cuban manager of the Bleecker Street Cinema, late one Saturday night (April 6, 1969) after he closes the theater and turns up at Jonathan's room on Christopher Street, clutching an enormous jumble of keys on a jangling chain, which he leaves behind when he departs at dawn.

Now here's the funny part: Jonathan has already seen Alphaville on grass, three and a half years before, while still at Bard, when he came down to New York one weekend to visit his friend Amy and to see the Godard movie at the film festival. He remembers the disturbing sense of continuity that he felt then, passing from the escalator of Philharmonic Hall to the icy Paris skyscrapers of Alphaville and back again. But the film's abrupt shifts in tone between parody and poetic pretension—two of the things he loves most in movies—confounded his expectations; they confused him, like the film's use of superhighways around Paris to represent outer space, and he left Philharmonic Hall ready to conclude, notwithstanding Susan Sontag's sensual! intellectual enthusiasm for Godard's work, that the movie wasn't a lot more than a James Bond takeoff in black and white, mixed with literary quotes and warmed-over sci-fi notions from Huxley and Orwell, all stirred together with grating sounds and images to no great or lasting purpose.

Many things have happened to his appreciation of Godard in the interim, however; so that by the time Jonathan gets into a rap about Godard with Pepe, the Bleecker Street manager, two years later, you can't really say he is hostile to the idea of giving Alphaville a second chance, even if it is dubbed and on TV. And Pepe, who was already reading Cahiers du Cinéma when he was just a kid in Cuba, who wrote about Godard's Bande à Part in 1966 for Cinema Work Sheet ("It would be worthless to say that Godard is very profound in his utter romanticism, and that his concern with trivia and his humor are as thin as Immanuel Kant's"), who was reportedly the only living soul on the planet who saw practically all twenty-four hours and forty minutes of


Andy Warhol's Four Stars the only time the complete film was shown last December, and who said he loved Alphaville , had agreed to come over after work and watch it with him on TV.

Which he did, after the two of them got very stoned on dope. And what startled Jonathan when Pepe slumped to the floor in front of the set, groaning and sighing with intense, untrammeled pleasure at the pure visceral kicks of the movie—above all, the camera movements following Lemmy Caution into and through diverse parts of the hotel, aided and abetted by the distancing effects of TV, which reduced the more painful registers of the high-contrast photography, and the dubbed-in American voices, which likewise gave the sound of Alpha-60 a much softer edge—was the graphic, Latin illustration that the cinema was a sensual pleasure, not just a cerebral one. More than that, it was a sensual pleasure that was also cerebral, a fact that had already been suggested only three days before, at the Museum of Modem Art, where/when Jonathan (and Pepe, it turned out) had watched all seven hours of Louis Feuillade's magnificent 1918 serial Tih Minh .

A simple truth; yet the whole experience of life and cinema could somehow be contained within it. It suggested that, contrary to everything that a mythical construct known as "America" had taught him, mind and body were not necessarily at odds with one another, and that the diverse movements in a film—whether it was the physical movement of a camera, an actor, or an object or the abstract movement of a thought, a narrative, or a procedure—could correspond, theoretically and kinetically, to the movements (seizures, acts, and transports) of one's own body. It was only a variation, really, of what Annette Michelson, a new friend who had just introduced him to Feuillade, meant when she wrote that "Kubrick does make Keatons of us all" (which made him think of Playtime ) in "Bodies in Space: Film as 'Carnal Knowledge,'" an essay about 2001: A Space Odyssey (and Alphaville, Barbarella, Ivan the Terrible , and Sunrise ) in the February 1969 Artforum .

Preoccupied as he was then with German expressionism (especially F. W. Murnau's Sunrise , his favorite movie, about which he was writing an article for the anthology he was editing), Jonathan could combine Pepe's swooning excitement with the film history and criticism that he was discovering behind the pastiches. As he wound up putting it in his first article for Sight and Sound three years later, Godard

comments on the implicit thematic values of light and darkness in German expressionism by making them explicit, even self-conscious, in the film's symbology. "Light that goes . . . light that returns," chants Natasha in the central love scene, as the light modulates back and forth from blinding intensity to darkness—as it does throughout much of the film, usually at a faster, blinking tempo. "From needing to know, I watched the night create the day . . . " "What transforms the night into day?" Alpha-60 asks Lemmy, who replies: "Poetry." Even


the abrupt shifts to negative express the same dialectic. Quite apart from the specific homages (figures clinging to the wall like Cesare sleepwalking in Caligari, the track through the hotel's revolving door from The Last Laugh, Professor Nosferatu, etc.), Alphaville has more to say about the silent German cinema than any of the passing references in Godard's essays. Criticism composed in the language of the medium, it brings social and aesthetic insight equally into focus, and certainly deserves a place next to Kracauer and Eisner.[*]

A Black and White Lap Dissolve

There is a darkness in the balcony of a theater in a small Southern town [I wrote eleven years earlier, fall 1960, my senior year at Putney, a month or so before the theaters were sold. Dad phoned me long distance, and I had no one to talk to afterward, knew no one at Putney who could be more than polite, who cared at all ]. A darkness that is usually silent, but occasionally laughs.

Downstairs, the people watch only the white warm incubator screen and never think of looking back. Over their heads are the beams of light coming from the movie projector that mix with the smoke of a hundred cigarettes [the image was a romantic one for me at the time, like jacket photos of James Agee and Albert Camus, because I'd started to smoke earlier that year; today in Hoboken—November 6, 1979, where Sandy and I moved a little over seven weeks ago, after discovering in September that we couldn't afford Manhattan rents; and a little over thirty-six weeks after smoking my last cigarette, in SoHo—I find it singularly repulsive, and decidedly inferior to the sudsy blue sky on Washington Street that I can see from my desk ] to form a river of intertwining mist that quietly drifts toward the screen; behind them is the soft drone of the projector, occasional quiet laughter, yet they look neither up nor back, but only straight ahead.

The movie is over; the audience spills out of the lobby like a rush of pebbles from an overturned aquarium. [I was reading Anaïs Nin that year, along with Agee, Camus, Joyce, Updike, and Warren .] They chatter about many things in voices that grow louder as they reach the sidewalk, they laugh, but they do not think about the darkness.

A quiet summer night: the darkness leaves the theater by a side exit and walks slowly down the neon-tinted sidewalk, moving steadily from color to color, proceeding through the town that whirrs and sighs like an enormous mechanical toy left running by a negligent child. A member of the downstairs audience passes by the darkness, and for a split second sees one of the faces in a red blink of neon, and sees the eyes—but this he forgets until an hour later, when the last light of night is turned out and he, himself, is trapped in darkness.

Sometimes I think that I know this darkness [I wrote at Bard my senior year, in 1965, adding the first four words to the sentence I wrote at Putney ]. I know him by the quiet click of his steps and the orange end of his cigarette as he

* "Theory and Practice: The Criticism of Jean-Luc Godard," Sight and Sound, Summer 1972.


passes by on the sidewalk in front of my house. [There was no sidewalk in front of my house .] In the stillness he whispers a soft tune.

But this is all I can ever know about him [I wrote at both places ]—for who can bear to turn on a light, late at night, and look into his eyes? Who can see more of him than the angry orange eye of his cigarette as he walks to the dark side of town?

I see the darkness stop at a street corner and pause to look up at the stars. I wonder how he must feel, looking at the white dots sprinkled in a sea of black, knowing the black is only empty space.

"Not 'A darkness that, '" said Phil Petrie, creative writing instructor at Highlander Folk School in Monteagle, Tennessee, who hailed from Harlem, the following summer, when Jon submitted some version of the above to the mimeographed Highlander Journal . "'A darkness who .'" Another sensible editorial change that Phil made was to cut "can ever" from the first sentence in the next-to-last paragraph.

The Highlander Folk School Youth Camp was "an interracial experience in the creative arts of high school students" that Jon had asked (and received) Stanley's permission to attend, the summer after he graduated from Putney, despite some seriously felt (yet scrupulously unvoiced) misgivings on the part of Bo and some more-than-mild warnings about subversives and blacklists from the likes of Dr. Brown and David Darby. It was where Martin Luther King, Jr., and Mrs. Rosa Parks had hatched their strategy for the Montgomery Bus Boycott in the mid-fifties (in the thirties, when Highlander was getting started, there was more concentration on organizing labor) and where Guy Carawan, music appreciation instructor and leader of the folksinging, had recently decided to refurbish an old church hymn called "We Shall Overcome" as a civil rights anthem. Now he was using us as guinea pigs and future disseminators (three dozen campers, more than half of us Negroes, and a dozen more staff members), making sure that we sang it two, three, even four times a day. And it was here that I first encountered films by Buñuel, Dreyer, and Fellini.

Here is the complete list of movies shown at Highlander, July 1 to August 12, 1961, which I copied into a ledger:

Highlander film made by Elia Kazan in the 30's [The People of the Cumberlands, 1937]
The Nashville Story (TV program)
Death of a Salesman
Grapes of Wrath
High Noon
Night of the Hunter
La Strada
The 39 Steps (battered print)


Lust for Life
Citizen Kane
The Young and the Damned
On the Waterfront

(Please note, Dr. Brown: No Potemkin.)

Two or three of these titles had been suggested by Jon—Citizen Kane (his favorite film, which he'd first encountered the previous year, at Putney), The Night of the Hunter , perhaps The 39 Steps —suggestions made to Blanchard, a Sewanee student who ordered the films, and who let him borrow the current Esquires from the Highlander office to read Dwight Macdonald's movie columns on Breathless and Elmer Gantry . So Jon was tickled pink (you might say) when, upon asking Harry Wood from Atlanta, perhaps the blackest member of his tent, which movie he had liked best that Summer, Harry replied, the one with the white preacher, Robert Mitchum—because he liked to go to movies that had adventure, and that one probably had the most.

I saw every one of these movies with the rest of the camp—except for the last one, which was shown when I was laid up with a bad cold, reading Durrell's Alexandria Quartet . Then word got around that Rosenbaum was "in" Shoeshine. (Or "Rosie," as Elmo G. called me, another loser named Elmo, my bête noire that summer in more ways than one—a very big and very black crony of Harry's from Atlanta who seemed annoyed by the attention being shown me by Ruth Israel from Cincinnati [who had written a poem for Phil's class about the day Hemingway died]; Big Elmo, a football player with a chipped front tooth who thought I was hilarious, like some character he had seen in Shoeshine, shortsheeted my bed on a regular nightly basis, and on the last day of camp emptied a plastic waste basket full of water on my head, which finally led me to retaliate, with the help of Edgar, a light-brown counselor enrolled at Swarthmore, by propping up his entire bed next to the campsite on the lake and writing "Hi, Elmo!" in shaving cream across the top blanket—which led in turn to his public apology that night at the same site, in front of the entire camp, for having given me a hard time all summer . . . just a few months before I ran into a white Highlander staff member named Ann one night in a New York subway, and she told me just before she got offal the next stop that Elmo had been killed by a cop in Atlanta, while trying to hold up a grocery store.) So I knew I had to see Shoeshine . And as soon as the projectionist (and who was that? a nameless spear carrier I no longer remember whom the Conquistador blithely squishes under his boots as he proudly treks forward, totally unfazed, clearly aiming for the finer things in life) offered to run it through for me one afternoon before the print was sent back, we set a date.


How then could I possibly give a dispassionate account of De Sica and Zavattini's Sciuscia , when I was ostensibly looking for my own reflection there, mon semblable, monfràre? (And what were you looking for, by the way, if you saw the flick?) There was no mistaking him when he finally appeared, a Jewish-looking kid with curly hair and glasses (except that my hair isn't/wasn't curly; the glasses were more like my brother David's than mine; and some people say I don't look very Jewish) who is always reading and who looks a bit like Huntz Hall in the Bowery Boy movies.

But I'm not really playing along with the Conquistador or even paying him the "protection" that he usually demands and exacts. Most of you haven't seen the film, and I'll bet that a good many of you who have will not remember this apparently nameless character (nameless at least to readers of subtitles) who gets only slightly more play in Shoeshine than, say, Cora Claypool does in On Moonlight Bay . So let's backtrack: The movie is about two little boys in war-torn Italy who buy a horse named Bersagliere, are arrested for selling black market American blankets, and land in a lice-ridden prison where one of the kids is coerced by the authorities into betraying and squealing on the other one. Jonathan's distinct impression, when he sees Sciuscia again at the Bleecker Street Cinema (late afternoon, March 15, 1979), is that this post-Fascist movie may conceivably be as obsessed with informing (tattling) as On the Waterfront is.

The kid who Elmo G. said was exactly like Rosie turns up in the prison, where he says things like, "Because they're illiterate, you ignoramus" and "At least he had the guts to shoot his father" (whatever that means). Once he is seen reading a comic book in the yard; on another occasion a hidden file is found by the authorities, this kid asks an official a question about it, and the official takes off his glasses and slaps him hard.

Yet all this is small potatoes next to the education in images, image making, and spectators that Highlander was giving me outside of movies almost daily. On a trip (the entire camp traveled in eight cars) to attend a meeting at a black church, I had my first direct experience of racist hate stares, the looks that could kill, the expressions of sweet lady shoppers with their kids and kindly-looking men in downtown Chattanooga, who called us "dirty fucking Commie nigger pigs" simply because we were sitting together in a convertible on that particular summer day (in the year of the Freedom Rides), Negro and white, male and female. I had the sensation that these strange pedestrians were looking not at us, or at me, but at some loathsome monster, like Gregor Samsa as an insect, who happened to be occupying precisely the same space as I (or as we). Later that night, on the ride home, we experienced real danger, fear, and panic when we stopped at a Dairy Cone and some hood asked Darrell, the camp director, "Whadaya doin' wid all them niggers?" Darrell, who was from Illinois, said something like, "They're human beings, what are you?" This led to the hood's rounding up more hoods, and before long they


were ahead of us, at the side of the road, throwing bricks and bottles at us as we passed. (Another night, at camp, Darrell lectured us on the advantages of nonviolence while we waited to be raided and beaten by some irate segregationist citizens of Monteagle, who apparently changed their minds at the last minute only because it started to rain.)

The lesson of becoming part of a we that included members of an endangered species (not only Negroes, but civil rights demonstrators, unlike the comfortable liberals, myself included, who had formed a chapter of CORE at Putney and decided last May, one night after Friday Night Singing, to picket the Woolworth store in nearby Brattleboro on Saturday morning—a demonstration that I was not allowed to participate in, despite my pleading, because I was a white Southerner, a decision that my Southern Negro friend Helen Quigless, who was allowed to participate, agreed was pretty unfair ) was not truly learned until the day after camp ended—a hot, clammy Saturday afternoon in mid-August when Dad and Alvin drove to Monteagle to pick me up (along with Malcolm, a white camper in my tent who was spending the night with us in Florence before taking a bus for Florida) and drive us home.

Malcolm and I hadn't slept much, if at all, the night before; there was still too much emotional shock to overcome. Early that morning we had seen off Oscar, a Negro friend from Mississippi, at the Monteagle bus station. When Ruth Israel began to cry and hug Oscar, I saw an elderly white woman who was waiting to board the bus look at both of them—and at me, too—with so much loathing that I thought I would vomit, knowing that Oscar was stepping perhaps forever out of one world and into another the moment he boarded that bus, that he would have to go to the back of it and stay there, all the way back to Mississippi. (it was Oscar who at seven every morning had wakened the camp by ringing a metal gong that hung between two trees near the badminton court; a habitual early riser, Oscar had volunteered to take the job on the second day and then executed it faithfully and enthusiastically all summer. For the rest of each day he was a walking cipher, shy, silent, and moody, speaking only when spoken to and then with a soft-edged lilt, self-effacing and embarrassed. But come five of seven he was a thundering extrovert: he would leap out of bed like a healthy warrior, take the shovel from under his bed and charge across the baseball field in his bare feet, and then with seven or eight vigorous strokes beat holy hell out of that gong—exuding a euphoric bliss that expressed itself each time he returned from the gong with his shovel and began to stalk each of the three boys' tents like a restless panther, pounding the base of each wooden platform as hard as he could, and calling out in a voice too clamorous for any sleeper to survive, "Seben-a-Clock People, Break-Fas-Tahm—Tahm to Git Up You Lazy People, You Silly Muhvas, I Said It's Break-Fas! Break-Fas, Man—Hot Griddle-Cakes an Frahd Eggs, Toast, Grits"—pounding the platform—"Onj Juice, Milk an Coffee-Mmm Mm Mm . . . " "Hey man," would groan Gerry, the youngest Negro in our tent, from Louis-


ville, "doancha 'predate the rights-a others?" "The rahtsa othas," Oscar would insist, "is that it's tahm fo you to git up this mornin'." ) The six-week movie that was Highlander still burned too brightly in our brains.

But if memory serves, Malcolm did finally manage to doze off a bit during the ride back to Florence; and perhaps he was still asleep when Dad stopped downtown briefly, probably to run some errand at the Shoals, and Alvin and I got out and went around the corner to see what was new at Anderson's Newsstand. It was Saturday afternoon, and the streets were full of shoppers. But why were there so many Negroes shopping downtown, so many more than I had ever seen there before? I must have pondered the possible causes of such a sudden influx for several minutes before I realized with dismay that there were no more Negroes in downtown Florence today than there were on any other Saturday, that the difference was entirely one of vision (mine) and what informed it. Before I went to Highlander there had been no reason, practically speaking, for me to have looked at Negroes on the sidewalk in the same way that I might have kept my eyes open for white friends and acquaintances. And now that in theory there was a reason, it was little more than theoretical. In less than one month, I would be starting college at NYU (just as Dad would be starting to teach at Florence State), and whatever happened to me at Highlander would soon become irrelevant.

In any case, it was something unresolved, as unresolved for me as the South, a place I've never understood. Seriously; I have never been able to comprehend more than a fraction of what Stepin Fetchit says in The Sun Shines Bright , all three or four times I've seen it, at home and abroad, just as I could never understand why the colored soldier in Home Of The Brave (at the Princess on August 22, 1949, its first showing in Alabama—when "colored" was still the usual term, not Negro or black ) was called "yellow-bellied" by a white soldier when that wasn't his color at all; or why the all-white audience at the Norwood in mid-December 1958 for The Defiant Ones laughed uproariously, hysterically, as though the film were a Three Stooges comedy.

It was much easier to grasp the ambience of, say, Jazz On a Summer's Day at the 5th Avenue Cinema or a play called The Connection at the Living Theatre, both seen on the same Saturday in succession on the way back to Putney from Florence, April 1960, only two weeks after seeing The Magician on the way down (both topheavy exciting trips—not unlike the visiting relationship with Manhattan that I have today, a tourist from Hoboken ), where the relative acceptance of colored Negro blacks seemed like typically sophisticated New York. (At the avant-garde drinking fountain in the upstairs lobby of the Living Theatre, one of the Negro actors, John McCurry, actually begged money from the audience during intermission, still playing his role of a junkie.) Traces of city smarts may have even registered at a 16mm screening of The Quiet One , held one night in the living room at home in Florence, for a meeting of the integrated Council on Human Relations, circa 1949 or 1950,


a year or two after Bo donated $35,000 (the same amount that it cost to remodel the Princess for its silver anniversary in August 1944) toward the building of the Florence Public Library, which Dad integrated. Most of all, there was the sentimental, pulsing, humanist New York warmth of a movie called Shadows , with music by Charlie Mingus, in which words like "colored," "Negro," "Caucasian," "black," "white," and even "racist" were never used—a movie I saw again and again during an entire spring vacation spent in New York in 1961, my senior year at Putney.

I suppose it was the same New York sophistication that led me, in an unconscious but unmistakable fit of one-upmanship and sadism, to take David Darby to see The Connection when I was a freshman at NYU, during the fall term, after Highlander. (The resulting shock was so great that he fixated on a musical comedy actress he thought he recognized a few rows away; it was all he could talk about afterwards.) When Claude Winfield—a Negro friend from Harlem by way of Putney—and I saw Shirley Clarke's film of the play the following October, after the New York censor had finally passed it, it was at a theater called the D. W. Griffith, located right next to several legitimate theaters off Times Square. So Claude and I laughed when we heard an out-of-towner behind us, some hayseed, ask at the box office if it was Mars Mary he was buying a ticket for—only to discover much later, at the climax of The Connection , when Leach overdoses on heroin, that the same out-of-towner was causing an unusual commotion in the balcony by having a heart attack.

"This man's just had a heart attack!" some woman screamed, to be answered by, "Will you please shut up and let us watch the picture?"—a classic New York exchange. It reminds me of the loud, plaintive query, aimed at no one in particular, that Calvin Green said he once heard in the balcony of the 42nd Street Apollo, during a pregnant pause in an art film like The Seventh Seal : "He's sahry? He just vomits all over my wife's brand new coat and he says he's sahry? "—one more measly item in a long chain of cinéphiliac legends stretching from here to doomsday. (I used to hear of a man in Paris, a critic on one of the French film monthlies and a Cinémathèque habitué who, it was said, had recently returned from Switzerland, where an unspeakable operation had been performed on him so that whatever it was that had been distracting him from cinema had been swiftly, efficiently, and permanently removed. Then there was the more modest legend about one of the regulars at Howard and Roger's [a former ciné-club in Manhattan], who, according to Carlos Clarens, took a shower and smoked a joint before every film. A fabled figure of my personal acquaintance went AWOL from his army base one night in the early sixties in order to see a double feature of The Big Sleep and To Have And Have Not , and was subsequently reported as dead to his parents. Meredith Brody, a Californian whom I met at the Cinémathèque, thought nothing of going to four or five movies in one day, hopping from one Left Bank cinema to the next like someone delivering the mail. Finally, another


friend reports that when Jonas Mekas was informed in 1970 that Nasser had just died, his initial response was to wonder aloud: Is this a good or bad thing for cinema?)

I digress? Very well then, I digress. And hold your breath even longer, if you possibly can, as I explain that it wasn't until the fall of 1963, the year after I saw The Connection with Claude, when I wrote a paper on race prejudice in the South for Heinrich Bluecher's seminar at Bard, on Metaphysical Concepts of History and Their Manifestations in Political Reality, only a short time before John F. Kennedy was shot (and a week more before Thanksgiving vacation, when I took the train to New York and went to see Miles Davis at the Village Vanguard, an electric night; the place was packed, it was one of Miles's big comebacks after a long absence; even Charlie Mingus was there, at a table, and he got so carried away by the beginning of one of the ballads that he did a phrase just like Miles's opening phrase with his voice—"DEEDOPA DOODA DOOPEE DAY"—so loud, sudden, and brilliant that it stopped Miles dead in his tracks, then stopped the band when Miles motioned to Herbie Hancock, Ron Carter, and Tony Williams to quit. Then in his sinister foghorn voice, Miles whispered, right next to the mike, real testy-like, "Do it again, Mingus." "NO, MILES," Mingus bellowed, "YOU DO IT AGAIN!" And Miles started the ballad a second time, this time did it even better, played his solo, and then left the stage, crossing most of the club's perimeter on his way to Mingus 's table. Every eye in the Vanguard seemed to be trained on his tense, angry body, and a crowd quickly surrounded them, making it impossible to see what was happening until a moment later, when some people moved away and the two men could be seen hugging each other; and later that night the three wonderful New York strangers I was sharing a table with, three older guys and a gal, one of the guys black invited me to their place on Sullivan Street—oh nostalgia, dirty, rotten, reactionary nostalgia—and we all smoked dope until nearly dawn, even if the president was dead ) that I was able to formulate what so much of the problem had been for me, a matter of metaphysics: that "white" people weren't actually colored white any more than "colored," "Negro," or "black" people were colored black. The abstraction was a verbal one that effectively replaced and overwhelmed the colors that people actually saw—because there was so much psychic and social energy (time, effort, money) invested in that absurd so-called dialectic whereby black was chaos, the unknown, and dirty evil, while white was familiar, virginal soap—a myth that became even more questionable once it was imposed on people whose colors were indeterminate varieties of pink and tan. Furthermore, I concluded, "It is impossible to realize that one is part of a pattern without first breaking away from the pattern in order to view it as an outsider."

Among all of my liberal friends in Alabama, I cannot think of a single one (and I would include myself) who has developed any real conviction about the reality


of Negro persecution without having first become dissatisfied with some other aspect of the South. Perhaps it is impossible for one to recognize selfishness in others unless he has selfish reasons for doing so; but since this fact appears to be a universal one, there is hardly any reason for finding it more distasteful in the South than anywhere else. It would hardly advance a liberal argument to assume that Southern whites are basically inferior to other people.

Was there a contradiction between the attempt to reject such a cosmology of black and white as politics, and the impulse to embrace a comparable kind of metaphysics, in Sunrise and Alphaville , as poetics? (When Alpha-60 asks Lemmy, "What transforms the night into day?" the answer might also have been "politics." Or perhaps even "cinema.") Not really, for one person's poetics are bound to be another person's politics (and vice versa, no doubt). And what is politics, really, but the application of art to a nonabstract realm?

That was what it felt like, more or less, on the last laps of the Historic March from Selma to Montgomery a year and a half later, March 17 and 18, 1965, the same spring I was learning about grass from Bruce II and having my first nonproblematical affair at Bard (with a drama major whose classmates and cronies included Chevy Chase, Blythe Danner, and Kenny Shapiro, three jazz performers—drums, vocals, and piano and vocals, respectively—with whom I loved to jam on piano). But the fact that it felt so Historic while it was happening also helped to make it seem like it wasn't really happening at all. Alvin and I and three other Bard students got special permission to miss three days of classes, flew from New York to Atlanta, rented a car from Avis (the Hertz people, overhearing what we were up to, said they had no car available, but, being hospitable Southern folk, they drove us to their competitor a few blocks away), and headed straight for St. Jude on Highway 80, a Catholic school and hospital complex on the outskirts of Montgomery, where the marchers from Selma were arriving and camping out, before the triumphant march to the state capitol the following day.

We arrived in early afternoon, when the rain that had persisted for most of the day was beginning to slacken. While Alvin went to park our rented car, the rest of us were carried in an overcrowded staff car to the end of a procession of about two thousand people who were still marching toward St. Jude, where we joined a burgeoning and boisterous cross-section of the nation, a veritable Norman Rockwell portrait of all-American diversity that was practically the reverse of the group from Highlander which drove through downtown Chattanooga three and a half years before. Unlike those crackers who hated us, we were a euphorically self-satisfied and fulfilled bunch of stand-ins for Everyone, the American People, who were incidentally flanked and protected by federalized state troopers as we sang our triumphant songs. (The troopers were there at the express order of President Johnson, who had actually said "We shall overcome" before a joint session of Congress on Monday,


thereby making the Selma March Historic, like a movie on dope, which made us only that much more eager to freeload happily on a grand celebration that belonged first of all to those who had started from Selma on Monday—and those among them, like King, who were reaping the fruit of some of the seeds planted years ago by the Montgomery Bus Boycott.) The troopers looked like inhabitants of another planet as they stood stiffly and stolidly, determined to suppress all signs of emotion. (And how many killing looks were directed at them, from us, the conquering crowd? )

Marching with all those Negro schoolkids, Michigan lawyers, Brooklyn housewives, New England teachers, West Coast college kids, white Southern ministers, Midwestern businessmen, and all the other middle-class Everyones was a giddy kick all right. And the monster outdoor entertainment rally that night in St. Jude's muddy field, which we watched from our sleeping bags and blankets, offered a better lineup than you could get any night of the year in front of George Wallace's state headquarters—a Biblical (or at any rate De Mille) spectacular that featured Joan Baez, James Baldwin, Harry Belafonte (as emcee), Leonard Bernstein, Mai Britt, Sammy Davis, Jr., George Kirby, Peter Lawford, Mike Nichols and Elaine May, Tony Perkins, Nipsey Russell, Nina Simone (singing "Mississippi Goddam"), Frank Sinatra, Shelley Winters, and many others.

Was it the collective high of the event that made the experience so oddly unreal to Jonathan? Apparently not, because the experience of unreality started only after the March had left the Negro ghetto (where Jonathan and the others had tried to sleep that morning, after the rain had started again at 3 or 3:30 A.M., and they had been taken in a truck down a dirt road to a Negro church where a rooster in the adjacent yard was already crowing, and where the pews and aisles were already filled with sleeping marchers, bodies who seemed to have been dropped there in diverse postures like so many handkerchiefs ). The March's route toward the state capitol had been shrewdly plotted not via Highway 80 but through the Negro section instead, which gradually became working-class and then middle-class white, before reaching the main street downtown; and each step forward seemed a little more abstract.

Could this have been because the media took over at the very moment the March entered White Territory? It wasn't so much the TV cameras as it was the painfully contracted stalemates between hostility and approval that was apparent in so many of the faces of the white spectators, observers who seemed so aware of the national media coverage that their features, like those of the troopers, twisted into deliberately noncommittal masks that translated themselves into media blandness. It was as though Jonathan and the other marchers were looking directly into the TV cameras while the troopers and the spectators were all looking away, neither side daring for an instant to look too closely at the other, or even to establish eye contact. Whatever it was, it took all the placeness out of Montgomery, made the city into a prop,


an abstraction, a soundstage remodeled (like a political candidate) for instant transmission. Thus Jonathan began to entertain the fantasy that if he stepped off the street, crossed the line of state troopers, and walked around to the backs of those middle-class clapboard houses—subjected himself to a reverse angle, as it were—he would find Hollywood scaffolding and supports behind all those façades, perhaps even discover that the real Montgomery was located somewhere else (certainly not here, in front of those cameras, in front of company).

This was my second march in Montgomery; Jonny made the first as a clarinet player in the Coffee High School Band, at the gubernatorial inauguration of John Patterson. (January 1959, if you have to know, another wretched band trip in those silly gold and black uniforms, marching to nonsense songs in the cold; more fun perhaps than doing Busby Berkeley formations to the same Sousa marches at halftime during Coffee's football season, but not one hell of a lot.) John Patterson's father Albert had said he was going to clean up all the crime in Phenix City, had been elected attorney general of Alabama on that platform, and had been shot dead by gangsters on the night of Friday, June 18, 1954, when I was spending the night at Bo and Grandma's. Bo and I were drinking grape soda floats when an announcement of the murder interrupted the program we were all watching—Our Miss Brooks or The Life of Riley or Ozzie and Harriet —frightening and upsetting Bo for the rest of the evening. (The murder was immortalized the following year in Phil Karlson's The Phenix City Story , a neorealist film noir thriller in the tradition of On The Waterfront that turns up at the Shoals in October, and which I show at Bard almost exactly nine years later—the most authentic-looking and authentic-sounding seedy movie shot in Alabama that I know, even though I don't know Phenix City.)

Although my second march in Montgomery is a lot more satisfying than the first one was six years before, the placelessness of both events seems strangely equivalent. Like the Advent screen in a spacious living room in Hidden Hills, an L.A. suburb, where Sandy and I sat watching the evening news just after the last New Year, it was something bigger than we were, automatically more important than who or what or even where we were—History, no less ("And that's the way it is," said Walter Cronkite, the Big Brother who was watching us, with the comforting finality of a Walt Disney or a March Of Time or a Charlie Chaplin, all twiddling the globe beneath their smooth thumbs, speaking grandly of apocalypse)—which made us belong to the image, rather than ensure that the image belonged to us. So, like illicit sex, it didn't much matter where it happened or who we were: places and faces were equally expendable in the serious pursuit of abstract, eternal truths.

Which is also to suggest, as I approach the end of this abbreviated survey, that it mattered whom I saw movies with—which was always a part of the


places where I saw them. And the race of my companions affected this too: Cabin In The Sky with Mickey Schuler (black) at the Palais de Chaillot Cinémathèque, October 1970; Slaughter with John Thompson (white) at the Shoals, November 1972; the last show of Super Fly with Jill Forbes (white) at the Cinéma Bonaparte on Place Saint-Sulpice, March 1973; Car Wash with Maryanne Conheim (white) in a mainly black audience in downtown Philadelphia, Christmas 1976; Richard Pryor Live In Concert , alone amid a mainly black audience at the National in midtown Manhattan, March 1979, where Pryor's

intuitions about my own insecurities were so acute that I was immediately won over. In point of fact, his impersonations of whites are probably more hilarious and accurate than any "equivalents" offered in white minstrel shows. It was refreshing to learn, contrary to the incessantly hammered-in xenophobia of so many recent Hollywood packages—from Sorcerer and Star Wars to Midnight Deer Hunter Express —that political ties can still be found, renewed and/or tested among diverse groups inside an auditorium, not broken up and subdivided on the way in by diverse forms of racism and class distinction.

The political issue is basic: Are commercial movies today public forums and community meeting-places, or private sites of narcissistic pleasure, figurative or literal porn images to masturbate to? (A tasty bit of aggressive agit-prop like The China Syndrome falls neatly between these categories.) There's no question that Pryor belongs to the first camp, because his comedy is a matter of recognition, not confirmation. He lets it all hang out, including how he works. When he falls to the floor in his heart-attack routine, or impersonates his grandmother beating himself as a child—one word per stroke as he sculpts a staccato, crablike chain of blows given and received across the stage, oppressor and victim maniacally encased inside the same voice and body—it seems to be his body thinking, remembering, and speaking as much as his mind. But of course, as Yvonne Rainer reminds us, the mind is a muscle—a lesson demonstrated constantly by Pryor, along with Jacques Tati and Jerry Lewis (in contrast to, say, Lenny Bruce and Woody Allen).[*]

Test Question

"Contributing to the credibility of 'On the Waterfront,'" wrote critic John McCarten (see page 102)—who wrote the following week in The New Yorker (August 7, 1954) that Hitchcock's studio-shot Rear Window was "claptrap," and "another example of his footless ambition to make a movie that stands absolutely still"—"is the fact that it was actually made in Hoboken." On a scale of 0 to 10, leading from absolute truth (0) to total falsity (10) and encountering most of life (and death) en route, rate each of the following variants of this statement:

* "The True Auteur, " Take One, vol. 7, no. 6, May 1979, pp. 14–15.


1. "Contributing to the credibility of the Montgomery March is the fact that it actually took place in Montgomery."

2. "Contributing to the credibility of The Phenix City Story is the fact that it was actually made in Phenix City."

3. "Contributing to the credibility of the two park scenes in On The Waterfront (a film that Sandy and I see again, in 35mm, on November 5, 1979, at the Museum of Modern Art's Film Study Center)—both of which feature Marlon Brando in a checkered lumber jacket and burning leaves in trashcans—is the fact that, as far as we can make out, they were actually shot in three (or four) different parks and intercut in such a way that they appear to be one. Two of the parks are a couple of blocks away, in opposite directions, from where we live now: Hudson Square Park (or Stevens Park, as some call it), where you see Karl Malden's church in the background, and Elysian Park in the reverse angles, where you see an iron fence and the Manhattan skyline in the background. The playground swings where Brando and Eva Marie Saint talk and he plays with her glove are in the part of the film that Patricia Patterson recently told us she watched being shot in Jersey City Heights, on Palisades Avenue and Bower Street, where you can see the Hoboken skyline. And Alice Genese, a neighbor, recalls part of the movie being shot in Church Square Park in Hoboken, four blocks west of Hudson Square."

4. "Contributing to the credibility of The Birth of a Nation is the fact that it was actually made in California."

5. "Contributing to the credibility of Intolerance is the fact that it was actually made in 1916."

6. "Contributing to the credibility of Moving Places is the fact that it was actually made in Alabama, California, the District of Columbia, England, France, Italy, New Jersey, and New York."

7. "Contributing to the credibility of Made in Hoboken is the fact that it was actually made in a hurry (the entire manuscript of the book being due, in final draft, by January 1, 1980)."

8. "Contributing to the credibility of Rear Window and Playtime is the fact that they were both actually made in studios."

9. "Contributing to the credibility of Avalanche Express is the fact that it was actually seen by me at the Hoboken Cinema 1 on a Saturday afternoon, November 10, when I was sharing the space with about a dozen male kids, most of them noisy and restless. There's a fake scream and then a cry, 'I'm scared to be in the dark! ' as the lights dim in deference to the start of the last movie directed by Mark Robson, who started out with The Seventh Victim in 1943, the year I was born. Later on, a kid with a Hispanic accent reads aloud the English subtitles when Russian is spoken; the usher, who looks no older than twelve himself, periodically comes around with a flashlight and tells other kids either to stop smoking or to put their feet down; at least two kids make loud smooching sounds when Lee Marvin and Linda Evans kiss.


Still later, when Robert Shaw, in his last performance, begins to whistle, there are brief whistles, too. Contributing to the credibility of these public nuisances, who don't bother to stick around for the final credits (with the house lights on), is the fact that they're only trying to do the same as the rest of us, to imitate what they see and hear on the screen. But is it the movie that they're testing out, or themselves? As I get up to leave, the manager steps up to me—rather like the way that Bo approaches Hubert at the Douglas Princess—and, gesturing at my notebook, asks me if I'm a film critic. Oddly, I feel that some aspect of my privacy has been invaded, my anonymity as a spectator violated—which, to tell the truth, contributes to one's credibility."

10. "Contributing to the credibility of Elia Kazan's Wild River is the fact that it was actually shot in the Tennessee Valley, and seen there, too, at the Colbert in Sheffield, the last show on Wednesday night, June 15—right after coming home from my first year at Putney, and only a week or two after consuming peyote in Vermont."

When You're in Drag, the Whole World's Southern Baptist

Now that criticism and advertising are becoming harder and harder to separate in American film culture—each practice striving to mask or rationalize the gradual deterioration of a social contract between an audience and an industry, an effacement which has left a gaping, blinding absence that only hyperbole and star-fucking can fill—the notion of any genuinely spontaneous movie cult becomes automatically suspect. It implies something quite counter to the mega-cinema of Cimino, Coppola and Spielberg—a cinema that can confidently write its own reviews (and reviewers) if it wants to, working with the foreknowledge of a guaranteed media-saturation coverage that will automatically recruit and program most of its audience, and which dictates a central part of its meaning in advance . (An imposed consensus is perhaps needed now in order to enlist passive audiences into ambitious myths.)

For a long time in the U.S. (as elsewhere), certain specialized audience interests that get shoved off the streets by the box-office bullies have been taking refuge in midnight screenings, most of them traditionally held on weekends. . . . It might be possible to argue that one of these interests—the midnight audience for The Rocky Horror Picture Show —rather than allow itself to be used as an empty vessel to be filled with a filmmaker's grand mythic meanings, has been learning how to use a film chiefly as a means of communicating with itself.

 . . . In certain respects, this ritual can be seen as a specifically Barthesian act of criticism and commentary on a Text, which is "that space where no language has a hold over any other, where languages circulate (keeping the circular sense of the term)" (Roland Barthes, Image-Music-Text, translated by Stephen Heath, Hill & Wang, 1978). This is surely not too grand a description of the circulation of meanings that passes between such antinomies as male and female, England and America, nostalgia and science fiction, sex and violence, heterosexual and homosexual, involvement and distance, worship and contempt, at every Rocky


Horror cult performance, in the audience's own set of participatory and self-defining, "make believe" responses—responses which contextualize the film in the most material way possible, through their own voices, bodies and chosen props.

 . . . Their Text, moreover, is perpetually changing. It is a complex of layers at any given performance, consisting of both a traditional catechism and a series of fresher contributions, each of which earns a different reputation and lifespan existentially, like a jazz solo, at the moment of delivery (and "democratically," in competition with all the others) . . . 

It seems important to make these distinctions at a time when so little community feeling is evident or even possible at cinemas in the U.S., given the steady rise in cable television and video equipment, and new cinemas built in privately owned shopping centers on the outskirts of towns (along with the rapid decline and disappearance of cinemas in public squares, in the centers of towns). In this respect, perhaps the most interesting aspect of the Rocky Horror Picture Show cult is the extent to which it evokes and weirdly resurrects, as if in a haunted house, a form of community cinema, of cinema as community, that once flourished in the U.S., when Hollywood was still in its heyday . . . [*]

A Dream Is a Wish Your Heart Makes

Who in movies would you most like to have sex with? E. asked us one night, as a sort of parlor game, in a Right Bank restaurant, during a weekend in 1974 or 1975 when I was visiting Paris from London, and started off with his own choice, D. W. Griffith. G., who was next, selected Freddie Bartholomew; M. said Marlene Dietrich and Gary Cooper at the same time; L. demurred; and I finally settled on Bambi.

Conquistador Hops Express Train, Cinema Left Behind

Truthfully, no one who is still alive can be all that certain about what actually happened. There is only a handful of dates in books and documents, some of them approximate, and a few vague collective memories of stories Bo used to tell. Only one of the stories is set in Poland, around 1891, the year that Louis's father Samuel, a harness maker, left Lublin for the United States, four years after Louis was born. As Bo told it, always laughing at the end of the anecdote, the only toy he ever had as a kid was a hoop and stick, and his father took that away from him, saying that a hoop and stick never made anyone any money.

The other stories all take place in the United States and are on the whole

* Extracts from an article published in Cahiers du Cinéma, no. 307, January 1980 (as a "Lettre des U.S.A."), and Sight and Sound, Spring 1980.


more cheerful. In Salem, Massachusetts, around the turn of the century—sometime after Louis arrived with his mother Ida and his kid brother Harry in 1896, and before the whole family (including the baby, Charlie) moved to Denver on account of Samuel's TB—Louis memorized a spiel in English about Nathaniel Hawthorne's House of Seven Gables, which he would deliver for a modest fee to any interested visitor to this landmark. It was apparently during this same period that he completed his only three years of schooling.

But the story that most concerns us here is one about a dream, and a missed train connection in 1915 that landed Louis in Little Rock. (Another story was about traveling by himself at seventeen, not long after Samuel died, from Denver to the 1904 World's Fair in St. Louis—the Louisiana Purchase Exposition, where the ice cream cone was invented—and hearing William Jennings Bryan speak at a bandstand pavilion about Opportunity in America, the Chance Everyone Has To Become Whatever He Wants To Be, a speech that excites Louis so much that he goes back every night, seven nights running, to hear Bryan deliver it, and then decides to go into business for himself. Back in Denver, he starts out in dry goods.) But if we want to get this show on the road and make sure that it has legs (the better to follow the Conquistador with), let's conceive his train journey from Douglas in wide-screen format—even if this means a certain loss of image when it turns up on TV—and start with a humorous scene set in 1915 between Louie from Lublin (we'll call him Chance Rosenbaum) and the ticket agent at the Douglas train station (we'll call him Abner Claypool, for he might as well be Cora's dad, a year before he and his family move east to Milburn, Indiana, where he will enroll Cora for accordion lessons with a hayseed named Hubert, who hails from Douglas himself). Basically, Chance will try in broken English to explain his route from Douglas to Texarkana and back to Abner, who will scratch his head and try to make out the ticket correctly. The broken English will be hard for Abner to understand, but easy as pie for us, and this will afford us plenty of opportunity to interpose exposition about Chance's past, immediate as well as distant, particularly because Chance at twenty-eight is a cheerful and gregarious sort who likes to talk about himself.

When, for instance, Chance explains to Abner that he's going to Texarkana because of a dream he's recently had—a dream, a vision in which he achieves wealth and fame in a town known as Texarkana, located four or five states away, on the border between Texas and Arkansas—we can convey the basic purpose of his trip and at the same time exploit the comic effect by playing on Abner's cool responses (e.g., nodding mechanically, perhaps interspersing a "yep" or a "yup" here and there, like Pa Kettle, meanwhile reflecting lazily to himself—and to the audience, via sly winks—that this sheeny Polack must be plumb stark crazy). Chance can also explain that he wants his trip routed through Denver so that he can visit his mother and his two brothers.


He can go onto explain (his voice becoming narration over a silent flashback) that Denver is where he married Anna Block in January 1910 and where his only son Stanley was born the following October. He might add something about being routed through St. Louis, too, because of a thrilling trip he made there eleven years ago (which could lead, via lap dissolve, into another narrated flashback, to the World's Fair, if the budget will allow the extra sets). And Abner could nod lazily at that, too, meanwhile making up Chance's ticket on the other side of the window counter, and then suddenly come up with a payoff line when he hands it over—something like, "If that's the ticket you want, Mister, that's the ticket you got, 'cause the customer's always right in this green land of ours [note to rewrite people: make sure that any slang used fits the period ].—and then add, "Only watch out for Little Rock, bub, 'cause that's a close connection you got there."

And because dreams are a serious business with Chance Rosenbaum, a real matter for concern, where—as W. B. Yeats and Delmore Schwartz successively put it—responsibilities begin (and possibly where they end, too: in Florence during the fifties, for instance, Bo has no copy of Be Glad You're Neurotic resting on any bookshelf in his house, like Stanley and Mimi do, maybe because he just doesn't see how anyone could be glad that anyone was neurotic. Glad? ), it's important that we get him to Little Rock as quickly as possible, without lingering too much over the intervening wide-screen scenery. Nothing so crude as a wipe here, mind you; a few slow lap dissolves of Chance's train moving across these vast Panavision vistas should do just fine.

In Little Rock, we focus on Chance—full of beans and clenching a cigar—stepping off the train only to discover that (1) he has just missed the train for Texarkana and (2) the next one won't be along for three days. Three days! Chance stands there in a panic, squeezing his hands together and inadvertently crushing his cigar into splinters, totally distraught, not knowing what to do. My God, my God, is it really possible that his dream could just take off without him like that, leaving him high and dry? A moment of reflection. No, it is not possible. Dreams are portents, clues and signs, not precise predictions. And maybe Little Rock is good enough. (Maybe it will have to be.) And, sure enough, he finds himself a couple of business partners in Little Rock right away and, after returning to Douglas for Anna and Stanley (an old-fashioned montage sequence à la Vorkapich would work fine here), builds a movie house across the Arkansas River, in North Little Rock, and calls it the Princess. Four years later, he takes a train to Florence, Alabama, where he does essentially the same thing all over again. So in a way, you can say that the Florence Princess is not the first but the last in a series—not the beginning but the end.

And the rest, as they say, is History. The Florence Princess, an $85,000 Opera House, opens triumphantly on Labor Day, September 1, 1919, with


The Funniest, Fastest,

"Come Along Mary"

Cleanest, Musical

Books & Lyrics

Comedy of the Season

Edward Paulton

It's Some Show!

Music by Louis Weslyn

Produced under the direction of

Harry D. Orr

A Melodic Pageant of Youth, Beauty, Laughter, Joy, Sunshine and Pretty Girls. 20 Wondrous Girls Under 20. Positively the Original New York Cast and Chorus Intact



Matinee 3 P.M

Evenings 8:15 P.M.











Colored Balcony $1.50 Matinee and Night

10 Per cent War tax

Seats Now on Sale at Crumps

An average of twenty-five stage shows a year follows. Will Rogers, the popular minstrels McIntyre and Heath, the Shakespearian tragedians Fritz Leiber and Robert Mantell, the romantic actor Lou Tellegen, the cowboys Gene Autry and Lash LaRue, the lovely Edna Goodrich, and other famous personages appear. The plays performed include The Green Hat, The Circle, Scandal, The Bat, The Cat and the Canary, Abie's Irish Rose; there are grand operas such as Faust, light operas and musical comedies such as The Bohemian Girl, Robin Hood, Blossom Time, The Gingham Girl, No, No, Nanette, Listen Lester, and Irving Berlin's Music Box Revue . Mischa Elman plays his magic violin, Gene Krupa plays his drums, W. C. Handy plays his cornet and talks about his childhood in Florence to an integrated audience (a one-shot), Fats Waller turns up during Prohibition and demands (and gets) a quart of vodka before he will sing and play piano, Carl Sandburg reads his poems, and William Howard Taft, former president of the United States, speaks on public affairs. Around 1926 Stanley, age sixteen, has a date with Lillian Roth (on tour with her mother), who during the evening offers him a joke about Life Savers: the man who invented them, she says, musta made a mint.

Cinema Hops Express Train, Conquistador Left Behind

Alone in Paris in the early seventies, high and dry, I didn't know what to do next, so I turned to my friends. The oldest among them were beginning to show their ages. Citizen Kane —who had taken me by force from behind, with frightening abruptness and violence, during my senior year at Putney,


when he was twenty and I was eighteen, and with whom I had consorted quite a few times thereafter—still retained most of his charisma, but the tricks up his sleeve were becoming increasingly familiar.

Sunrise, who had first unbuttoned my shirt and given me her gentle velvet touch while cushioning her chin in the hollow of my neck, toward the back of the downstairs section of the McMillan Theater at Columbia during my sophomore year at NYU, when she only cost a dollar, purred almost subliminally in my ear and tenderly carried me into and through her soft and shimmering 1927 lap dissolves, along her sultry and obsessive and unpredictably exciting and frightening camera movements (like the one superimposed over dozens of sleepless nights in Florence, when and where I imagined she lived only a block or so from my house, so that I could faintly hear her whistling for me, a sound that sighed across the field in the summer air that breathed into my room, sucked in by the attic fan, a reedy note of summons that told me to join her at our customary meeting-place near the marshes, toward the water; and I would rise from bed, steal into my clothes in the darkness, leave by the screen door, and make my way across the soft, damp field under the light of the moon, following the path that led me over a fence and through one turn after another while the thought of her waiting seemed to draw me to her faster, even ahead of my own footsteps—reeling me in like a fish, straight through the thicket instead of circumventing it, libido outrunning even the Conquistador and thus allowing me to arrive invisibly, like a voyeur, ahead of my own body, landing in the clearing where she twirls a flower under the moon, looking off to the left and awaiting my arrival on the path, waiting to tell me about the City ), into luscious pools of light and dark. She was in fact becoming a little cranky after our nine years of intermittent close contact (including two memorable visits she paid me at Bard, when most of the other students in Sottery Hall had jeered and hooted at her age and her affectations, which were no more silly to me than their own). Once, in London on a visit, I thought for sure I could overhear her behind me in the small auditorium at the National Film Theatre, NFT-2, March 26, 1973, as I watched the beginning of They Live by Night , the first film of Nicholas Ray, about whom I was writing an article for a book that Richard Roud was editing. The film begins, even before the credits, with a shot of

the two major characters, Bowie (Farley Granger) and Keechie (Cathy O'Donnell), kissing, while a subtitle introduces them in consecutive phrases, parsed out like the lines in a folk ballad: "This boy . . . " "and this girl . . . " "were never properly introduced to the world we live in . . . "

"Maybe," I heard Sunrise titter, "that's because this boy was never properly introduced to a decent barber. Y'know what I mean?" Her nasal voice sounded like Ruth Gordon's. "And do you see that spot of grease on his neck?" Alas, what happened to Sunrise was happening to a lot of film criticism


around the same time. (By the time Nick Ray died in 1979, the critical grease that had congealed around him had gotten so thick that no knife could cut through it all. I'll try not to soil these pages with any of its traces. )

Eclipse—whom I met and later revisited the following winter at the Little Carnegie—started off by snoring in my ear with languid indifference, continued by rapping to me about economics and alienation, and then began to tell me a love story that he cut off abruptly in order to slam a powerful set of depopulated concrete city chunks at me, one shot at a time, culminating in the pitiless glare of a streetlamp, leaving me scared and stupefied.

Last Year at Marienbad—who was as spanking fresh as I was when we met in March at the Carnegie Hall Cinema, the same spring that I met Sunrise—whispered sweet nothings in my ear, pinched me, giggled, enveloped me in her perfumed arms, mockingly repeated the same silly jingles in my face, drew me down into her soft crevices and then, in one of those standard S&M reversals, ejected me from her grasp like a wheezing jack-in-the-box suddenly sprung loose from its container and left to rattle, dry and desperate, on the floor. She was such a graceful tease that for a while I kept coming back, despite the warning and disapproval of several Putney friends, who called her a pretentious bore. Eventually she shrieked for me to get out of her sight, which I did for several years, including those spent in Paris and London, until I looked her up at the Thalia last August, to find her as smooth, sweet, saucy, slick, sexy, and scary as ever.

Playtime was a different story entirely. After meeting him at an airport—a locus of transitions, like the railroad terminal to which Sunrise had transported me in her opening shot—I encountered him again in an ugly restaurant crawling with tourists and other plastic types, all of whom seemed to mesmerize him with delight. At first I couldn't understand him at all. "What keeps you so occupied?" I demanded over the din and the undercooked fish. "Or should I say, preoccupied?" "Everything," he said. "Whereas you go looking indiscriminately for something to catch your eye and quickly find that everything becomes tiresome, I take it all in at once and see a beautiful ballet of interlocking parts." His special insight—which taught me, finally, how to live in cities (just as surely as Gertrud—the last great classic narrative film and the first great modern one, as David Ehrenstein recently pointed out to me, undistributed and unavailable and scarcely mentioned, discussed, or remembered in these enlightened United States in 1979—taught me what a refusal or an inability to compromise finally meant in long-range, lifelong terms )—was that you could be sitting or standing somewhere, anywhere, and suddenly, on the other side of a pane of glass from you, a bus could stop, and you and all the passengers on that bus, for just an instant, could enjoy a sacred togetherness in the frame of a spectator's vantage point—or maybe it was an aesthetic congruity, made sacred only by worship—even though neither you nor the passengers (nor the bus driver, nor the Conquistador, who was sound


asleep) was aware of that conjunction. And what if occasionally you were able to become that privileged spectator, that divine voyeur and secret play-master, while remaining yourself at the same time?

Finally, in the remaining months before a friend's lawyer helped me to acquire a work permit for a job as assistant editor on Monthly Film Bulletin in London, I called on Céline Et Julie Vont En Bateau —first introduced to me by Eduardo de Gregorio, one of their playmates—who were taking turns projecting movies for one another in their split-level flat. "Come sit with me and watch the movie," Céline squealed; "No, dammit, sit over here and help me project it," Julie growled. When I left, they were still squabbling and had exchanged seats and duties several times. I knew exactly how they felt.

Moving across the Channel, a profound difference in the cinematic climate becomes immediately apparent. How could it be otherwise, considering that the life-styles that go with each city are so strikingly antithetical? Paris is all adrenaline and shiny surfaces, hard-edged and brittle and eternally abstract, the capital of paranoia (cf. Rivette) and street spectacle (cf. Tati), where café tables become orchestra seats as soon as the weather gets warm—the city where everyone loves to stare. London is just the reverse, a soft-centered cushion of comfort where trust and accommodation make for a slower, saner, and ostensibly less shrill mode of existence: relatively concrete and prosaic, more spit and less polish, a city more conducive to eccentricity than to lunacy.[*]

February 28, 1975. Heathrow Airport, London. As soon as I step on the plane, TWA's Muzak system has seen to it that I'm already back in America. Listening on the plastic earphones to blatant hypes for Gold On two separate channels, the soundtrack of Thunderboltand Lightfoot on a third (where "fuck" is consistently bleeped out, but "fucker" and the sound of Jeff Bridges supposedly getting kicked in the face are dutifully preserved), it becomes evident once more that America starts and stops where its money reaches, and that "going there" means following the money trail. It's over two years since my last visit—my longest sojourn abroad, during which I've had to miss the splendors of Watergate and depend on such things as Michael Arlen's TV column in The New Yorker for accounts of shifts in the national psyche—but TWA tells me in its own quiet way that nothing essential has changed . . . 

Later in the weekend, in Long Island, I try to tell my friends Bibi and Allan about Rivette's Out 1: Spectre , which they'll probably never be able to see—doing what I can to describe the overall structure, the scenes between Jean-Pierre Léaud and Bulle Ogier, the content and experience of the last two shots. No critic alive has yet begun to do justice to that film—not even John Ashbery in the SoHo Weekly News last October, when he started off by remarking that "it seems to mark a turning point in the evolution of the art of film," and then never got around to explaining why; certainly not myself, when I was hasty enough to call it a "dead-end experiment" in Sight and Sound last fall. But how

* "Paris-London Journal," Film Comment, November–December 1974.


can it ever become the turning point (or the dead end) of anything when no more than a handful of people will ever have a chance to encounter it, much less return to it, live with it? Which is why I must keep speaking about it . . .  In the room the women come and go, speaking of Airport 1975  . . . 

March 10. Florence, Alabama. Lots of urban renewal has been going on in my home town over the past few years, and now that I've spent exactly half of my life—sixteen years—away from it, some of the streets are only semi-recognizable. The town's first large movie theater, which my grandfather helped to build in 1919, was leveled long before my last visit to expand the parking lot behind the First Presbyterian Church, and the pawnshop a block away has become the House of Guns; but the plastic flowers and Muzak on the main street and Spry Funeral Home are still intact.

The Shoals Theatre—which my grandfather also built, and later sold—has been remodeled, and I go to see The Strongest Man in the World there mainly in order to take a look . . . 

Despite the heroic and successful efforts of Eve Arden to remain herself in spite of everything, I leave after an hour and walk home, wondering how crazy it is to write about movies most people can't see when I can't last profitably through the movies that most people see. Is there a connection? As Out 1: Spectre suggests about a lot of things, I suppose there is a connection and there isn't. And whatever people are seeing—now that America seems to be inching its way ever so slowly toward the experience of most of the rest of the world—I guess it means something that people are going to movies again, proceeding wherever the money trail takes them. My family's theater business racked up during the last Depression, and maybe—with a lot of luck and forbearance—a few good filmmakers won't starve to death during this one.[*]

What Fritz Lang's Moonfleet (L.A. County Museum, 11/20/77) shows me today that I didn't recognize as such in 1955 is the discontinuity of the separate décors, the isolated surreal landscapes stretching off at oblique angles to one another. Like the dark well in the movie that's weirdly and improbably "lit" by a candle wedged into a recess halfway down, each of the characters seems to be isolated by the upholsteries of slightly different genres, no two viewpoints ever quite coinciding. They seem to inhabit a once-ordered universe whose father-god-director is drifting away from his children, lost in his own dreams, taking all the connective narrative tissue with him  . . . 

But most of this particular column is concerned with disintegration, and the sorts of clarity that it can make possible. Which leads me ineluctably to the subtitled 35mm prints I see of Lang's Der Tiger Von Eschnapur and Das Indische Grabmal (British Film Institute, 1/3/78), his penultimate films [movies that have yet to be shown in their original form in the United States, twenty years after their initial release ]  . . . 

What are the signs of disintegration? (1) A conscious naivete that is sought and achieved, aimed at a child's sensibility [close to the 1919 Die Spinnen, the earliest surviving film of Lang, seen at a Film Forum press show in New York,

* "East Coast Journal," Film Comment, May–June 1975.


10/30/79 ], and easily read as camp. (2) A naked artifice of props, actor-props, color schemes and schematic plots laid bare, so that even the wires holding up the fake snake in Debra Paget's religious dance inside a cave temple are visible. (3) A displacement (or misplacement) of narrative interest shortly after the beginning of Das Indische Grabmal (The Indian Tomb ), Part II of the story, when Berger (Paul Hubschmid) is placed in chains at the bottom of a pit a lot like the "dark" well in Moonfleet , while Seeta (Paget) is confined to her chambers in the same palace.

The hero and heroine are then replaced by another couple, more klutzy and ineffectual, who implicitly parody the roles of Hubschmid and Paget, meanwhile consuming eons of screen time. The effect of this is such that when at the conclusion Berger and Seeta are finally freed and united—and the villain Chandra (Walter Reyer) suddenly renounces his palace and villainy, without prior motivation or warning, to study with a holy man—the characters are still present on the screen, but they no longer exist . [The Conquistador dies a noble death at the conclusion of his long journey—all stories have an end—and after a short, wistful sigh, the cinema ceases to function. ] (4) A series of structural arrows drawn by one of the disintegrating couples (I forget which) on the wall of an underground labyrinth before they separate, to find their way back to each other, but which wind up confounding all sense of continuity and direction—like the architecture in Playtime , or the décors in Moonfleet —losing characters and spectators, readers and writers and filmmakers alike.

What are the signs of clarity? All of the above, and more. London probably hasn't seen so much "baring the device" since copies of Viktor Shklovsky's Third Factory turned up at Compendium Books. Straub's point that Lang offered his producer a film instead of a golden calf is well taken. But it is, of course, a film about a golden calf that we call cinema—made by someone who knows more about the subject than most—and a game that is played honestly. Critics hung up on "craft" and intentionality [like little Johnny calling for his Uncle Remus ] will probably never be able to see it as a dazzling achievement  . . .  but there is nothing in cinema like it. I'll go even further: it has the only cave in movies that's worthy of Plato's.[*]

Chance and His Functions

Cinematic material is especially refractory to any preconceived ideas we may have about it.

—Noël Burch[**]

Passing sentence (Is that what this is? is that what I'm doing? Is that what critics are supposed to do? ), refusing to stop long enough for any dialectical

* Written as a "Moving" column for Film Comment and published without title in the July–August 1978 issue.

** "Chance and Its Functions," Theory of Film Practice (Praeger, 1973, chap. 7).


or critical thought to assume full shape, short-circuiting analysis with a boringly relentless pugnacity common enough to any ordinary night at the movies (however much this may be cloaked with a velvet glove ); a passing sentence, that is, a collection of consecutive words that keeps crossing the borders of perception, like the train passing behind the upward drift of credits in the fourth sequence of Michael Snow's Rameau's Nephew By Diderot (Thanx To Dennis Young ) By Wilma Schoen , endlessly traversing the screen or the page (calculating rhythm, oh won't you stop clicking on me? ), not allowing the mind any sort of concentration except a hypnotic one in order to keep the movie moving (and you and me, too ), asking the brain to go fishing, turning right (or is it left? ) at the top of the stairs of Le Peletier métro stop on rue La Fayette, and crossing rue du Faubourg Montmartre, on the way to a western at Studio Action La Fayette on rue Buffault (rhymes with Truffaut ), before changing my mind and turning back into Dean Street instead, on my way to lunch after we get the copy off to the printer for the March 1976 issue (with four reviews of films by Jean-Marie Straub and Danièle Huillet, and a detailed bibliography), heading south past Royalty House and the Crown and Chairman Pub (and the editing studio from which Otto Preminger emerged one chilly day in the fall of 1974 when my union at the British Film Institute was on strike and I got him to sign our petition, not long after Vanessa Redgrave tried unsuccessfully to radicalize us ) toward Shaftesbury Avenue, before taking a quick detour across Romilly to Christopher Street from Waverly Place, after seeing a double bill of Lang's House by the River and Ford's The Sun Shines Bright with John Bragin at the Huff Society (May 27, 1969), on my way to that mythical corner of the West Village where either Bleecker or 11th Street crosses itself, I forget which, en route to the spring of 1962, my formative period as a film buff (of sorts) becoming a critic (of sorts), spent in New York and Alabama, and following a winter (the last in Bo's life ) that was probably no less formative for me—all together now, don't fall back, keep on truckin', easy does it, hold that line: just imagine that each stride forward, taken as "a frozen moment when everyone sees what is on the end of every fork" (William S. Burroughs, Naked Lunch ), functions like an individual film frame, and that all these frames running together continuously, like a team—let's say twenty-four of 'em per second—become fluid and warm and thoughtless and universal (not to say Pavlovian and dictatorial ), with a staccato, rippling noise like a lawn mower, a rattling film projector, or Bo benching his Yiddish prayer after every meal (a blubbering, bubbling, flickering, pulsing drone he made with his voice that no one understood), going a mile a minute, like the floes of ice melting at the end of Pudovkin's Mother , shown at sound speed at the Bleecker Street Cinema in January 1962, during Jon's freshman year at NYU. That same winter, January through March, he also sees (among other films)


Eisenstein's Strike ,
Dovzhenko's Arsenal and Eisenstein's Ten Days That Shook the World ,
Kurosawa's The Lower Depths , and
Vigo's Zero de Conduite and L'Atalante , all at the Bleecker Street Cinema;
Resnais and Robbe Grillet's L'Année Dernière à Marienbad , again and again, at the Carnegie Hall Cinema;
Antonioni's Le Amiche (without subtitles),
Jonas Mekas's Guns of the Trees,
Tati's Mon Oncle and Clement's Forbidden Games , and
Bresson's A Man Escaped , all at the Charles Theater on Avenue A;
The Mark , at the Fifth Avenue Cinema;
Antonioni's La Notte , twice, at the Little Carnegie;
Rossellini's Paisan , at the Museum of Modern Art;

and buys his first film magazine, the Winter 1961/1962 issue of Sight and Sound, at the Waverly Smoke Shop (eighteen years later, in 1980, Jonathan will teach the second semester of Aesthetic Principles of Film in the NYU Waverly Building, directly across the street)—an issue containing (among other treats)

Pauline Kael's "Fantasies of the Art House Audience"

an article by Denis Marion revealing that Erich von Stroheim came from a Jewish family

reviews of Marienbad, La Notte , and Rivette's Paris Belongs to Us by Penelope Houston, Geoffrey Nowell-Smith, and Robert Vas, respectively

an interview with Truffaut

a feature called "The Top Ten" listing the results of a poll of 70 international critics about their favorite movies (used by Jon as a guide in his own viewing over the next few years ), including 45 individual lists.

In mid-April, less than five months before he died, Bo went with me to see Richard Brooks's Sweet Bird of Youth at the Shoals, the last movie we ever saw together. It was probably the day the film opened, or maybe the day after, shortly after I arrived home for spring vacation. We disagreed totally about the movie: he enjoyed it immensely, without qualm, while I found it loathsome, detestable (a bit like my experience of Alien early last summer: about as much fun as an exploding toilet in a Howard Johnson's during a locust attack—a movie that tries to persuade an audience to get sexually excited by its own nausea ); yet my hatred was quite unlike the cool disdain expressed by, say, John McCarten toward hillbilly musicals (for example, on Li'l Abner in December 1959: "On Broadway the show was primitive; in the movies it is Neanderthal"). For at age nineteen, still a Southern virgin, I felt that something beautiful, poetic, and true was being violated and desecrated by the movie's indifferent sleaziness.

Both Bo and I had seen and liked the Elia Kazan stage production of the


Tennessee Williams play at the Martin Beck Theater in 1959, with the same leading actors, Paul Newman as Chance Wayne and Geraldine Page as the Princess Kosmonopolis. I had seen it in July (sitting in the first balcony), on the way home from a Jewish youth event in Great Barrington known as a Hagigah, when I had also seen J.B. and Raisin in the Sun with Sidney Poitier (which I described in a letter home as my favorite), as well as Anatomy of a Murder , Love is my Profession , and Porgy and Bess . Bo and Grandma (who sat in the front row) more likely went in mid-November, when they were staying at the Astor Hotel.

(I visited them and slept on a cot in their suite during that hyperbolically rushed weekend of the 13th, my first weekend away from Putney—a school that Bo was paying for, as he had paid for Payne Whitney—and he and I had lunch together in the Astor Grill on Saturday before we saw a matinee of Chéri, a play that neither of us liked. Our table was next to a plate glass window through which we could see the gigantic neon signs that had signified "New York" to both of us in a zillion corny movies, and Bo said, "You know somethin', Jonny? I'd rather be right here than  . . .  " His eyes drank in the gaudy spectacle greedily, the visual equivalent for him of a banana split, while he gestured with his hand and searched for the right alternative. " . . . than Paris," he finally said, and Jonny, who was fast becoming Jon and was already even beginning to insist on the fact, knew exactly what he meant.)

And it seemed that we had liked Sweet Bird of Youth for related reasons: the magic of the sketchy, suggestive sets and lighting by Jo Mielziner, particularly in the second scene of act two, the snazzy cocktail lounge and outside gallery of the Royal Palms Hotel in St. Cloud, somewhere on the Gulf Coast; and the "deathbed dignity and honesty" in Chance's "self-recognition" (to quote Williams's instructions) in Paul Newman's curtain speech, as he lingers behind in the hotel, a broken gigolo, refusing to leave his hometown even after it becomes clear that if he remains, he will be castrated by Tom Finley, Jr. (Rip Torn), the fascist son of a Southern demagogue and the brother of Chance's childhood sweetheart Heavenly. ("I don't ask for your pity, but just for your understanding—not even that—no. Just for your recognition of me in you, and the enemy, time, in us all.") Bo's principal comment about Newman on the stage was how "realistic" his acting was ("From where we were sitting, you could actually see real tears in the man's eyes—it was tremendous!"), while what had impressed me about Newman in that scene, from the balcony, was his stoicism and restraint.

I already had my doubts about the movie, having read somewhere that the castration business had been omitted and an improbable happy ending tacked on in its place. What I was less prepared for was the behavior of Bo after we climbed the stairs to the Shoals balcony that afternoon—the loudness of his voice as we looked together for a place to sit, having arrived late, during the credits. He insisted on going first, taking out his big pocket lighter awkwardly


and flicking it on in front of us with an unsteady hand, as though we were creeping together through an unexplored cave, the wide sweep of his wavering flame nearly grazing the heads of several people in the aisle seats. It was about a month before his seventy-fifth birthday, almost a year and a half since Rosenbaum Theatres had been sold to the Martin Theater chain; Dad had already begun teaching at Florence State, at the north end of Court Street, the previous fall, and I would be auditing his sophomore English course there in July. And the upsetting thing to me that afternoon, at once embarrassing and distressing, was that Bo seemed to be acting as though he was still in charge of the Shoals—at least in the small disturbances he was making—without any apparent awareness that he was doing so. As honorary visitors to the Shoals with complementary passes, we had been treated deferentially downstairs at the box office and in the lobby; but now, as we fumbled down the right aisle to some seats on the left and Bo said, "It's as cold as ice in this place," a loud, sharp "Shhhhht! " hissed behind us, and Bo called back, irritably, "You shush up yourself!"

And that was only the beginning of the ordeal. For me, virtually everything in the movie was wrong—the Southern mansion of Boss Finley, and the presiding Negro butler; Ed Begley's grotesque overacting in the "Big Daddy" (Boss Finley) part; the cheap and vulgar lampoon of the South that was apparent everywhere, at once overstated and underspecified in its broad, unfelt flourishes; even Newman's fake Southern accent. For Bo, on the other hand, the movie appeared to be something like a good burlesque show, in which some of Geraldine Page's most leering lines (while Chance gives the Princess her "papaya cream rub": "I don't remember your face, but your hands are familiar") was provoking his loudest and most abrasive laughter—lines which director-adaptor Richard Brooks, with his undying flair for sensationalism (from Blackboard Jungle to In Cold Blood to Looking for Mr. Goodbar , with ungainly and exciting globs of sadism, violence, and misogyny en route, as well as the exuberance of Elmer Gantry —seen during [or should I say instead of? ] my only afternoon in Chicago), had rendered as the brassiest kind of nightclub wisecracks, duly appreciated and applauded as such by my very vocal and philistine grandfather.

(It was one thing to have heard his roaring laughter emanate from the Shoals or the Princess balcony in the good old days, while I was sitting downstairs at a matinee, and this unexpected announcement of his heretofore unknown presence was reassuring, like the laughter of God; it told me that He—even He, most of all He!—was watching too. And it was quite another thing to be sitting beside him—an overweight, bossy, bullying, and sometimes irascible man, a control freak who never got as much love as he demanded and who had therefore always frightened me a little—while he hollered out his amusement, immoderately and shamelessly, in someone else 's theater—making a racket, a nuisance, rather like the noisy kids at the Hoboken Cinema 1:


restlessly flicking on his lighter several times, either to investigate the activity of a teenage couple quietly necking a few seats away, or to light or relight his Muriel cigar' obviously uneasy about being back in the Shoals again.)

Nor was this all of it. When Chance—the gigolo who is trying to blackmail the Princess into getting him a Hollywood contract, a frustrated success hound who will clearly stop at nothing—takes her pot out from under the mattress so they can smoke, and she insists that the stuff isn't pot but Moroccan hashish, the stuff is too phony-looking to be convincing (to Jon) as either. This is an especially irritating sign of the film's indifference to reality that he couldn't/can't convey to Bo. Like the mike on a boom that Sandy notices in On the Waterfront , near the top of the frame, in a shot inside Karl Malden's church just after a brick has been thrown through a window, the effect is to make the rest of what he sees unbelievable, outlandish, as though the Conquistador were suddenly to find himself stark naked in a public square—and where would the dear old simp be without his shiny armor?

Watching Sweet Bird of Youth on TV, August 7, 1979, Jonathan can't really check this fine point out. But when he catches another 16mm TV-scanned print (a sour CinemaScope/Metrocolor bird with its feathers plucked, its wings clipped, amputated, castrated: a castration of a castration of a castration) on November 13 at Theatre 80 on St. Mark's Place—the only Manhattan movie theater he knows where the entire auditorium feels like a cramped balcony—the greenish hue of the dope in question looks more like bread mold or caterpillar guts, perhaps due to the "natural" deterioration of Metrocolor, which naturally turns Chance, the Princess, and Heavenly too, into different shades of corpselike pink, as the other colors irrevocably drain away, although it clearly is weed, not hash (vegetable, not mineral). So why does Brooks gratuitously make the Princess a liar when she says "Moroccan hashish"?

And apart from all the tired, world-weary wit being bandied about by Chance and the Princess, there was the strident spelling out and Hollywood upholstering of virtually everything that Williams had effectively kept offstage: the flashback meetings of Chance and Heavenly at their sumptuous lighthouse hideaway—each meeting accompanied by a soupy rendition of "Ebb Tide," possibly the worst song of the fifties (and Shirley Knight appearing at one point in a red evening dress out of something like Athena ); and the revenge taken by Boss Finley against his mistress Miz Lucy after he hears about her writing "Boss Finley can't cut the mustard" in lipstick on the mirror in the ladies room of the cocktail lounge of the Royal Arms (Bo finds the message hilarious)—a very mechanical scene in which he slams the lid of an egg-shaped gold jewel box on her fingers, slaps her when she screams, rips her nightie, smashes things on her dresser with his cane (dull shades of Citizen Kane ), and flicks her TV set back on, loud, with the remote control button, before stomping out (all of which Bo adores). Worst of all were the ridiculously literal "expositional" flashbacks, each one appearing hideously


like a ragged hole left by a cigar burn on the screen (the silliest of them probably being the one in which Chance is suddenly conscripted into the Korean War by Boss Finley, who wants him away from his daughter Heavenly—an act performed magically and spontaneously in the midst of a rabble-rousing political speech, which causes one of those oh-my-gosh expressions to form in Newman's blue-eyed features as he stands near the podium, oddly reminiscent of Doris Day's amazement at Gordon MacRae's unexpected enlistment in On Moonlight Bay , or Betty Beep's saucer eyes).

Bo unaccountably liked the happy ending, too. After Chance's nose is summarily broken by Tom Finley, Jr.—a symbolic castration, to be sure, capped by, "No woman will ever pay to love that, " to give the violence junkies their quota of kicks—Chance and Heavenly suddenly drive off triumphantly, to their freedom (where?), and when Ole Boss Finley asks Ole Aunt Nonnie (Mildred Dunnock) in impotent fury what he can do about this, she comes right out and says to him, "You can go straight to hell!" And Louie Rosenbaum, good sport that he was, howled at that line, too.

And what if he did? I'm wondering now, a long time later—the night before I leave with Sandy for Washington, D.C., to visit my brothers Alvin and David and their families over Thanksgiving. If Bo's identification of himself with Boss Finley was less rigid than my own clichéd notions about their rapport, this was largely because he had gone to this show for fun, not for truth or poetry. Wasn't that the whole point of me coming over for lunch, Grandma fixing me one of my favorite dishes (was it chicken croquettes and gravy?), and Bo and I walking to the Shoals three blocks away, as soon as he finished his benching (a ritual like a campfire nonsense song, a routine so absolute you could check the order of the universe by it)?

And it was more fun, not less, if all references to castration in the play (explicitly linked there to the castration of Judge Edward Aaron, a Negro house painter' in September 1957—an incident that had shaken Bo so badly at the time that he wasn't able to sleep all night, after hearing about it ) were excised, along with the even rougher lines about the hysterectomy performed on Heavenly. It was fun because even the decimation of a flawed Williams play with a great performance by Geraldine Page was fun, because it was entertainment—like the Mickey Mouse and Pluto cartoon shown in the work-farm prison camp in Sullivan's Travels , or the late show of Dr. Goldfoot and His Bikini Machine that Alvin and I went to at the Shoals, in desperation and relief, on the night of January 20, 1966, a month before my last semester at Bard, and only a few hours after the funeral at Morrison-Elkins Chapel of Isador Bookholtz, Mimi's father Izzie, whom my brothers and I had called Bo B. Bo B. was from Warsaw, had worked as a die maker in New York until his wife Gussie (who died about three months before he did) convinced him to sell insurance instead, had moved to Florence with Gussie three and a half years ago, had spent most of his time smoking Lucky Strikes and looking out the window, and then had died at the age of eighty.


And I had attended his funeral, as I had not attended Louis Rosenbaum's—Bo R. having died around midnight on September 8, 1962, six hours or so after I had said goodbye to him at the hospital and then boarded a train in Sheffield for a twenty-four-hour ride to New York, needing to find a place to live before starting my sophomore year at NYU. So unlike everyone else in the family, I learned about his death only when it was too late to return to Florence for the funeral; and I was the only member not present. Was this the price I had to pay for moving places? Later that same year, Bo's favorite actor, Thomas Mitchell, died at seventy, only two days after Bo's near lookalike, Charles Laughton, died at sixty-three. (After Grandma died in 1975, when I was still in London, David, Alvin, and Michael took possession of all the furniture on North Wood Avenue; I appropriated Bo's sixteen-volume edition of The Arabian Nights and his globe of the world.)

And so what if my anger at Brooks's Sweet Bird of Youth —coupled with my surprise at how much I liked Follow that Dream (a relaxed Elvis Presley movie with Arthur O'Connell, about an eccentric family of squatters, that also took place in Florida) at the Shoals a week later—led me to write my first conscious piece of film criticism, a polemic passing sentence (Is that what this is? Is that what I'm doing? Is that what Critics are supposed to do? ) on the "superiority" of the latter film (which Bo never saw) to the former, written while I was still in Florence, an unpublished article that I no longer have to read or to quote from? It's probably just as well. Follow that Dream —which I haven't seen again—opened two days before I saw George Wallace, campaigning for governor, holler about the "scallawaggin, carpet-baggin" Yankee bureaucrats in front of the Lauderdale County Court House on Court Street, 7:30 P.M., Saturday night—only four days before I went to see Sunrise at the McMillan Theater, safely back in New York.

Looking back at that absurd conjunction of facts in my notes, and searching for still another formula that might reconcile the irreconcilable, and perhaps clarify Bo's strange and enduring legacy to me, I think of another Court Street: the cobblestone alley just behind the building where Sandy and I live in Hoboken, visible from our bedroom. It's the same alley where Marlon Brando in On the Waterfront finds his brother Rod Steiger at night, crucified with a longshoreman's hook, then flees with Eva Marie Saint from a killer truck—and, more than likely, the escape route taken by whoever burglarized us only three nights after we moved here, on the eve of Yom Kippur. When Hoboken's Court Street was projected only a block away from Florence's Court Street, at the Shoals in January 1955, it was possible for Bo to see both of them, back to back. And now that I can't see him and he can't see either, the only evidence left is a few movies that we both happened to pass through—moving in different directions on our way to separate places.


Directions for Use

An attempt to extend the usefulness and reduce the elitism of the standard index, in which the reader is enabled to trace certain connections and to discover or rediscover the traces of certain people, places, films, and other cultural artifacts, in motion and in circulation, whether cited or merely evoked in the text. A few supplementary bibliographical suggestions are also included.


Aaron, Judge Edward, 142 , 192

A Bout De Souffle. See Breathless

Academy Awards, 118 , 124

Advent screens, ix , 118 , 147 , 174

Advertising, x , 7 -8, 10 , 18 , 29 , 35 , 40 , 43 , 52 -53, 55 , 58 , 60 , 63 , 68 , 77 , 85 , 93 , 98 -99, 101 , 108-120 , 122 , 123 -124, 127 , 142 -143, 144 , 149 , 158 , 177 .

See also "The Carole Lombard in Macy's Window," by Charles Eckert, Quarterly Review of Film Studies , Winter 1978; and Decoding Advertisements , by Judith Williamson, Marion Boyars, 1978

An Affair to Remember , 142

Agee, James, xii , 164

Aguirre, Wrath of God , xvi

Air conditioning, 37 , 138 -139, 143 , 190 .

See also "The Growth of Movie Monopolies: The Case of Balaban and Katz," by Douglas Gomery, Wide Angle , vol. 3, no. 1, 1979

Airport 1975 , 185

Al Capone , 131

Ali (Fear Eats the Soul) , 23

Alien , 188

All Ashore , 133

Allen, Woody, 175

Alphaville , 162 -164, 172

American Film , ix , xv , 124

Ames, Leon, 31 , 33 , 63 , 66

Anatomy of a Murder , 189

Anderson, Sherwood, xii

Anderson's News (Florence, Alabama), 35 , 36 , 38 , 41 , 46 , 55 , 169

André (Bird of Paradise ), 15 , 18 , 19 , 24 , 118 , 156

L'Année Dernière à Marienbad , 183 , 188

Annie Get Your Gun , xiii , 31 , 36 , 79

Antonioni, Michelangelo, 132 , 183 , 188

Apocalypse Now , 148 -149

Aprà, Adriano, 145 , 146

April in Paris , 45

The Arabian Nights , 193

Archie Comics , 51 , 54

Arden, Eve, 47 , 185

Arlen, Michael, 184

Armstrong, Louis, 139

Astaire, Fred, 4

Astor Grill and Hotel (New York City), 189

Athena , 18 , 20 , 191


Athens, Alabama, 7 -9, 14 , 20 , 32

Atlanta, Georgia, 20 , 22 , 54 ,95, 98 , 123 , 133 , 140 -141, 153 , 166 , 172

At War with the Army , 24 , 82

Audience, 26 , 28 , 127 -130, 145 -158, 162 , 174 -175, 176 -177, 190 -191

Autry, Gene, 10 , 11 , 181

Avalanche Express , 176 -177

Avery, Tex, 82

L'Avventura , 132


Baby Doll , 140 -141, 143

Bacall, Lauren, 4 , 108

Baldwin, James, xii , xiv

Ballyhoo, 108 -112, 129 -130

Bambi , 178

Barbarella , 160 , 163

Bard College, xiv , 107 , 131 , 132 , 154 , 160 , 161 , 162 , 164 -165, 171 , 172 , 174 , 182

Barthes, Roland, xvi , 177 .

See also his ThePleasure of the Text , Hill & Wang, 1975

Bartholomew, Freddie, 178

Bazin, André, xi , 49 -50

Beckett, Samuel, 54 , 120

Behind the Rising Sun , 116 -118

Bellour, Raymond, x

Benching, 187 , 192

Bergman, Ingmar, 159 , 169 , 170

Berkeley, California, 88 , 97 , 116

Bertolucci, Bernardo, 15

Bicycle Thief , 125 -126

Biette, Jean-Claude, 107

The Big Carnival (Ace in the Hole) , 40

The Big Sleep , 170

Big Wednesday , 3

Billboards, 93 , 108 , 112 , 116 .

See also 99 , 117 ,

and The Tradition of the New , by Harold Rosenberg, Horizon Press, 1959

Bird of Paradise , x , xvi , 2 , 15 , 18 -20, 22 , 23 , 27 , 70 , 106 , 108 , 119 , 156 , 158 -160

The Birth of a Nation , 155 , 176

Bitter Rice , 20

Bitter Victory , 161

Black and Tan , 154

Bleecker Street Cinema (New York City), 97 , 160 , 162 , 167 , 187 , 188

Blood Alley , 108 .

See also "The Secret Integration," by Thomas Pynchon, Saturday Evening Post , December 12-26, 1964

The Blue Angel (Der Blaue Angel) , 120

Bluecher, Heinrich, 171

Blue Star, Camp, 24 , 33 , 82

Bogart, Humphrey, 4 , 43

Bookholtz, Gussy ("Grandma"), 36 , 192

Bookholtz, Isador ("Izzie," "Bo B."), 192

Borges, Jorge Luis, 106

Brando, Marlon, 95 , 98 , 102 , 148 , 176 , 193

Breathless , 49 , 50 , 166

Brecht, Bertolt, 23

Bresson, Robert, 48 , 54 , 55 , 188

British Film Institute, 76 , 83 , 131 , 185 , 187

Brody, Meredith, 87 , 170

Brooks, Richard, 27 , 166 , 188 -192, 193

Brown, Dr. Harry, 105 , 165 , 166

Bunny, Bugs, 24 , 44 , 127

Buñuel, Luis, 23 , 165 .

See also Narrative

Burch, Noël, 186

Burroughs, William S., 187

Butler, W. L., 112 , 114 , 129

By the Light of the Silvery Moon , 32 , 76


The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari , 105 , 164

Cahiers du Cinéma , 44 , 107 , 162 , 178

Callenbach, Ernest, xv

Camera movement, 19 , 20 , 40 , 45 , 50 , 58 , 71 , 75 -76, 102 , 105 , 163 , 164

Cannes Film Festival (France), 112

Cartoons, 12 , 15 , 19 , 20 , 22 , 23 , 42 , 44 , 47 , 56 , 68 , 82 , 124 , 127 , 133 , 143 , 153 -154, 159 , 178 , 192

Car Wash , 175

Cassavetes, John, 161 , 170

Castration, 75 , 90 -91, 98 , 142 , 189 , 191 , 192

Censorship, 126 , 140 -141

Chaplin, Charlie, 43 , 59 , 125 , 174

Chaplin, Geraldine, 107

Chase, Chevy, 172

Checking-up, 112-114 , 116 , 122 , 124 , 131 , 139

Chicago, 73 -74, 77 , 151 , 190

Christmas, 30 , 52 -53, 55 , 58 , 59 , 60 , 62 , 64 -65, 68 -69, 70 , 83 , 98 , 108 , 109 , 129 , 158 , 161 , 175

Christopher Street (New York City), 160 , 162 -163, 187

Cigarettes, 37 , 69 , 87 , 97 , 100, 164 -165, 192

Cimino, Michael, 118 , 177 , 184

CinemaScope, 54 , 95 , 98 , 100 , 102 , 114 , 123 , 124 , 126 , 130 , 160 , 191

Cinémathèque (Paris), 101 , 161 , 170 , 175

Circulation, 177 -178, 195 -202.

See alsoPlaytime and Tati

Citizen Kane , 40 , 51 , 166 , 181 -182, 191

City Drug (Florence, Alabama), 93 , 129 , 131 -132

Clarens, Carlos, 170

Claypool, Cora, 49 -52, 57 , 81 , 88 , 167 , 179 .

See also "Narrative Space," by Stephen Heath, Screen , Autumn 1976

Close Encounters of the Third Kind , 27

Coburn, Charles, 85 , 120 -123, 157

Colbert Theatre (Sheffield, Alabama), 18 , 24 , 25 , 31 , 108-112 , 113 , 114 , 115 , 124 , 127 , 129 , 130 , 177


Comic books, 20 , 35 , 46 , 54-55 , 57 , 62 , 82 , 92 , 94 , 101 , 167

The Connection , 169 -170

The Connection , 170 , 171

Conquistador, xv -xvi, 28 -29, 44 , 51 , 52 , 63 , 72 -73, 75 , 81 , 82 , 88 , 91 , 96 , 101 , 102 , 107 , 112 -113, 139 , 144 , 153 -154, 166 , 167 , 178 , 179 , 181 -182, 183 , 186 , 191 .

See also Werner Herzog's Aguirre, Wrath of God

Conrad, Joseph, 1 , 148

Coppola, Francis F., 148 -149, 150 , 177

Court Street (Florence, Alabama), 12 , 13 , 51 , 190 , 193

Crump Camera Shop (Florence, Alabama), 38-39 , 181

Curry, Tim, 130 , 151


Danner, Blythe, 172

Darby, David, 32 , 36 , 37 , 55 -56, 92 , 94 , 95 , 100 , 141 , 158 , 165 , 170

Dark Venture , 134 , 143

Daves, Delmer, 2 , 5 , 15 , 19 , 24

Davis, Miles, 171

Dawn of the Dead , 149

Day, Doris, 30 , 31 , 33 , 34 , 37 , 41 , 45 , 46 , 47 , 48 , 58 , 70 , 85 , 88 , 91 , 102 , 192

The Day the Earth Stood Still , 108

Dean, James, xii , 105 , 142 -143

Dean Street (London), 131 , 187

Death, 4 , 18 , 19 , 23 , 112 , 129 , 134 -139, 143 -144, 160 , 186 , 192 -193

DeCamp, Rosemary, 31 , 63 , 85

The Deer Hunter , 116 , 118 , 175

De Gregorio, Eduardo, 184  . . .

De Mille, Cecil B., 3 , 19 , 141 -142, 173

Destination Moon , 125 , 126

Le Diable Probablement , 54 , 55

Dial M for Murder , 95 , 97 , 98 ,

Dietrich, Marlene, 76 , 178

Disney, Walt, xii , 3 , 4 , 5 , 12 , 19 , 34 , 37 , 42 , 55 , 68 , 115 , 124 , 143 , 146 , 148 , 150 , 153 -154, 159 , 174 , 178 , 185 , 192 .

See also "Walt Disney," Film Comment, January-February 1975

Disneyland, 1 , 3 , 4 , 34 , 37 , 55 , 148

Dixie cup, 42 , 59

Douglas, Wyoming, 10 , 155 -157, 177 , 179 -180

Dreyer, Carl, xii , 1 , 2 , 44 , 166 , 183

Driscoll, Bobby, 125 , 153

Dumbo , 12

Durgnat, Raymond, xii , 41 , 70 , 119


Earles, Harry, 32 , 119 -120

Eckert, Charles, xiii

L'Eclisse (Eclipse) , 132 , 183

The Eddie Duchin Story , 126

Ehrenstein, David, 119 , 183

8th Street Playhouse (New York City), 130 , 150 -152

Eisenstein, Sergei, 68 , 105 , 160 , 188

Eisner, Lotte H., 164

Elkins, Aston ("Elk"), x , 108 -112, 113 , 114 , 115 , 121 , 129

Elmer Gantry , 166 , 190

Excuse My Dust , 81 , 143

Expressionism, 105 , 163 -164


Fair and Muddy , 7 , 15

Fantasia , 124 , 159

Fassbinder, Rainer Werner, 23

Father Knows Best , 34 , 63

Faulkner, William, xii , 1 , 2 , 3 , 4 , 141 , 159 , 160

5th Avenue Cinema (New York City), 159 , 169 , 188

Film Comment , 112 , 119 , 184 -186

Finn, Huck, 31 , 125 , 153

Fireside, Carolyn, 116 , 155

The 5,000 Fingers of Dr. T , 56 -57, 82

Flitterman, Sandy, 49 , 88 , 90 -91, 97 , 124 , 164 , 174 , 176 , 191 , 192 , 193

Follow that Dream , 193

Forbes, Jill, 175

Forbidden Planet , 159

Ford, John, 3 , 116 , 143 , 169 , 187

Freaks , 15 , 31 -32, 106-107 , 114 , 119 -120

From Here to Eternity , 95

Fuller, Samuel, 50 , 143


Gardner, Ava, 118 -119, 120

Gass, William, xii

Gem Theater (Milburn, Indiana), 59 , 61

Geng, Veronica, xv

Gentlemen Prefer Blondes , 120 -123, 142

George Winfield house, 30 , 33 , 34 , 35 , 53 , 64 -65, 70 , 79 , 88 , 89 -90

Gertrud , 1 -2, 44 , 183

Giant , 114 , 141

God, 18 -19, 27 , 38 , 40 , 45 , 96 , 100 , 159 , 160 , 185 , 190

Godard, Jean-Luc, xvi , 15 , 45 , 50 , 161 , 162 -164, 166 , 172

Goldin, Marilyn, 14 -15

The Great Caruso , 27 , 125

Greenbaum, Connie, 101

Greenspun, Roger, 97

Greenwich Village, 69 -70, 102 , 151 , 159 , 160 , 171 , 187 -188

Griffith, D. W., 153 , 155 , 170 , 176 , 178


Harlem (New York City), 165 , 170

Harper & Row, xi , xiii , 49 , 96 , 97 , 176


Harvey, Stephen, xv

Hashish, 155 , 191

Hawks, Howard, 4 , 43 , 116 , 120 -123

Herr, Michael, x

Highlander Folk School, 165 -169, 170 , 172

High Noon , 139 , 165

Hitchcock, Alfred, 43 , 95 , 97 , 98 , 100 -101, 102 , 139 , 143 , 159 , 165 , 175 , 176

Hoberman, J., xv

Hoboken, New Jersey, 51 , 95 , 101 , 102 , 157 , 164 , 175 -177

Hoboken Cinema 1 , 176 -177, 190

Houston, Penelope, 131 , 188

Huillet, Danièle, 187


Illusionism, xv , 3 -5, 15 , 28 -29, 51 , 69 , 126 , 161 -162, 174 , 187 , 191

In a Lonely Place , 24 , 43

Das Indische Grabmal (The Indian Tomb) , 20 , 185 -186

It's a Big Country , 132 -133, 143

It's in the Bag , 82

Ivan the Terrible (Parts I & II) , 105 , 160 , 163


J., 2 , 3 , 5 , 55

James, Jesse, 10 , 15 , 35

Jazz, xi , 3 , 5 , 24 , 125 , 139 , 142 , 152 , 154 , 159 , 160 , 169 , 170 , 171 , 172 , 178 , 181 .

See also (and hear) André Hodeir

Jim Crow laws, 8 , 24 , 26 , 38 , 121 -122, 139 , 146 , 164 -165, 168 , 181

Johnson, Elmo Benner, 24 , 127 , 134 -139, 141 , 142 , 143 -144

Jones, Spike, 46 , 82

Joyce, James, xiv

Judaism, 15 , 18 , 19 , 23 , 24 , 27 , 32 , 33 , 43 , 82 , 159 , 160 , 167 , 179 , 187 , 189 , 192 , 193

Jules and Jim (Jules Et Jim) , 161

Julie , 102 , 139


Kael, Pauline, 182 -183, 188

Kalua (Bird of Paradise ), 15 , 18 , 19 , 24 , 108 , 119 , 159

Kazan, Elia, 95 , 97 , 98 , 101 , 102 , 105 , 140 -141, 165 , 166 , 175 -177, 188 -189.

See also entry in Cinema: A Critical Dictionary, vol. 1, ed. Richard Roud, Viking, 1980

Keel, Howard, 36 , 98

Kelly, Grace, 97 , 98 , 100 , 102

The Kid , 59 , 125

Kilby Training School (Florence, Alabama), 30 , 31 , 45 -47, 94

King, Martin Luther, Jr., 165 , 173

King Kong , 27 , 54

Klibanoff family, 121 , 123

Korean War, 24 , 74 , 192

Kracauer, Siegfried, 164

Kubrick, Stanley, 131 , 139 , 163

Ku Klux Klan, 68 , 142 , 192


Lacan, Jacques, 38

Lang, Fritz, xii , 20 , 22 , 101 , 185 -186, 187

LaRue, Lash, 119 , 181

Last Year at Marienbad . See L'Année Dernière à Marienbad

Lauderdale County Court House (Florence, Alabama), 51 , 146 , 193

Leigh, Janet, 132 -133, 142

Lelyveld family, xiv , 32 , 125

Lewis, Jerry, 54 , 82 , 160 , 175

Life , 82 , 98

Life with Father , 34 , 63

Light in August , xii , xiv , 1 , 159

Lili , 67 -68

Little Carnegie (New York City), 183 , 188

The Little Hut , 118 -119, 120 , 141

Little Rock, Arkansas, 142 , 153 , 179 -180

Lobbies, 8 , 24 , 31 , 43 , 114 , 115, 127 -129 , 151 , 190

London, England, xi , xiii , 3 , 20 , 23 , 55 , 76 , 131 , 150 , 155 , 161 , 178 , 182 , 183 , 184 , 185 -186, 187

The Long, Hot Summer , 1 , 3

Look for the Silver Lining , 85

Looking for Mr. Goodbar , 27 , 190

Lord Love a Duck , 124

Los Angeles, 3 , 4 , 49 , 53 , 62 , 70 , 87 -88, 119 , 174 , 185

Los Angeles County Museum, 3 , 4 , 185

Love Me Tender , 129 -130, 143

LSD, x , 155 -157, 160 -161

Lublin, Poland, 155 , 178 , 179

Lust for Life , 139 , 166


Macdonald, Dwight, 166

MacRae, Gordon, 30 , 31 , 35 -36, 37 , 58 , 70 , 71 , 88 , 91 , 155 , 192

Mad Comics , 54 , 57 , 82 , 101

The Magician , 159 , 169

The Magnificent Ambersons , 37 , 49 -50

Majestic Theatre (Florence, Alabama), 10 , 12 , 13 , 15 , 27 , 32 , 107 , 127

Malden, Karl, 95 , 140 -141, 176 , 191

Maltin, Leonard, 2 , 94

The Man from PlanetX , 83

Manhattan. See New York City

Mankiewicz, Herman J., 3 , 40 , 51 , 166 , 181

Mans, Lorenzo, 44 , 162 -163 . . .

The March of Time , 24 , 174

Marihuana, x , 37 , 53 , 158 , 160 , 162 -163, 171 , 173 , 191

Martin Theaters, 14 , 43 , 164 , 190

Marvel, Captain, 35 , 41 , 45


Mazarine, rue de (Paris), 155 , 161

McCarten, John, 101 -102, 175 , 188

McCarthy, Todd, xv

McLaren, Norman, 125 , 159

McMillan Theater (New York City), 182 , 193

Meatballs , 146 , 147

Meet Me In St. Louis , 34

Memory. See Nostalgia

Merman, Cynthia, xi , xii , xiii , 96 , 97

MGM, xiii , 3 , 20 , 31 , 36 , 81 , 101 , 119 , 120 , 123 , 132 , 158 , 191

Michelson, Annette, 163

Milburn, Indiana, 30 , 34 , 56 , 76 , 179

Milburn railroad station, 64 , 75 -77, 79 , 85

Milne, Tom, xv , 131

Milwaukee, Wisconsin, 49 , 88

Minafer, Charles, 37 , 49 -50

Mingus, Charles, 170 , 171

Misogyny, xvi , 34 , 36 -37, 49 -52, 53 -54, 57 , 67 , 71-74 , 76 -79, 81 -82, 83 , 90 -91 , 98 , 100 , 113 , 116 -119, 130 , 131 , 141 , 149 , 161 , 190 , 191 , 192 .

See also Racism

Mitchum, Robert, 100 , 108 , 116 , 166

Mobile Street (Florence, Alabama), 13 , 35 , 38 ,39 , 62 , 138

Monroe, Marilyn, 22 , 100 , 120 -123, 143

Montgomery, Alabama, 165 , 172 -174, 176

Monthly Film Bulletin , 83 , 131 , 184 , 187

Moonfleet , 185 , 186

Moonlight Bay, 30 , 32 -33, 37 , 45 , 70

Morphing, xi

Moses, 19 , 27 , 141 -142

Motion Picture Almanac , 116 , 131

Motion Picture Herald , 74 , 84

Moullet, Luc, 3 .

See also "À la Recherche de Luc Moullet," Film Comment , November-December 1977

Mouse, Mickey, 124 , 192

Mouse, Mighty, 15 , 20 , 64 , 158

Murnau, F. W., 19 , 163 -164, 172 , 182 -183

Muscle Shoals City, Alabama, 24 , 114

Muscle Shoals Theatres, 7 , 10 , 12 , 22 , 94 , 108

Museum of Modern Art (New York City), 18 , 59 , 116 , 125 , 163 , 176 , 188

Musicals, xiii , 20 , 31 , 40 , 44 -45 , 53 , 68 -69, 82 , 120 -123, 129 -130, 150 -152, 170 , 181 , 188

Muzak, 45 , 51 , 108 , 119 , 149 , 184 , 185

My Sister Eileen , 159 , 160


Narrative, xv , 28 -29, 44 -45, 48 , 51 , 73 -74, 91 , 102 , 113 , 119 , 145 , 185 .

See also "Interruption as Style" (on Buñuel), Sight and Sound , Winter 1972-1973; and "Obscure Objects of Desire" (on nonnarrative), Film Comment , July-August 1978

The Narrow Margin , 124

National Endowment for the Arts (NEA), xi -xii

Never On Sunday , 68 , 92

Newman, Paul, 188 -192

New York, New York , 3 , 5

New York City, xvi , 10 , 14 , 18 , 36 , 49 , 55 , 58 , 59 , 62 , 63 , 64 , 66 , 69 , 70 , 75 , 90 , 92 , 93 -102, 116 , 120 , 125 -126, 133 , 145 , 148 , 150 , 151 , 159 , 160 , 162 -163, 164 , 166 , 167 , 169 , 170 , 171 , 172 , 176 , 182 , 187 -189, 191 , 192 , 193

The New Yorker , 101 , 175 , 184 , 188 .

See also The Putney School New York Film Festival, 54 , 161 , 162

New York University. See NYU

The Next Voice You Hear , 24 , 125 .

See also God

A Night At The Opera , 82

The Night Of The Hunter , 165 , 166

North Little Rock, Arkansas, 10 , 153 , 180

North Wood Avenue (Florence, Alabama), 80 , 94 , 134 , 193

Norwood Theater (Florence, Alabama), 23 , 123 , 142 , 161 , 169

Nostalgia, 2 -3, 4 , 19 , 23 , 48 , 89 , 118 , 171 , 177 .

See also The Mind of a Mnemonist , by A. R. Luria, Basic Books, 1980

La Notte , 132 , 188

NYU (New York University), xiv , 131 , 160 , 169 , 170 , 182 , 187 , 188 , 193


Oakley, Annie, 12 , 31 , 36

O'Brien, Geoffrey, xiv

Oedipus Rex , 27 , 125 .

See also Barthes O'Neal Bridge (Florence and Sheffield, Alabama), 19 , 113 , 135

One A.M. , 59 , 125

On Moonlight Bay , xvi , 18 , 30 -92, 106 , 153 , 155 , 156 , 167 , 179 , 192

On The Waterfront , 95 , 97 , 98 , 101 -102, 107 , 165 , 167 , 174 , 175 -176, 193

Out 1: Spectre , 184 -185

Oz, 31 , 57 , 64


Pacific Palisades, California, 84 , 87 -88

Page, Geraldine, 188 -192

Paget, Debra, 2 , 15 , 20 , 119 , 130 , 186

Paramount Pictures, 19 , 98 , 100 , 106 , 123

Paris, France, 14 -15, 45 -46, 55 , 101 , 112 , 116 , 150 , 154 , 155 -157, 161 , 162 , 170 , 175 , 178 , 181 -184, 189

Park-Vue/Marboro Drive-In (Muscle Shoals City, Alabama), 112 , 114 , 120 -123

Patterson, Patricia, 18 , 20 , 176

Pavlov, Ivan Petrovich, 2 , 48 , 187

Payne Whitney Hospital (New York City), 93 , 95 -97, 101 , 106 , 120 , 189


Penrod , 30 , 31 , 33 -34, 47 , 50 , 52 , 81 , 90

Peyote, x , 18 , 158 -159, 161 , 177

Phantom of the Opera, 20 , 128 .

See also Rivette

The Phenix City Story , 107 , 174 , 176

Pilgrimage, 1 , 2 , 3 , 97

Plato, xii , 156 , 186 , 190

Playboy , 118 , 148 , 149

Playtime , 149 -150, 155 -158, 176 , 183 -184, 186 .

See also Circulation

Popcorn, 34 , 43 , 59 , 113 , 122 , 127 -128, 160

Preminger, Otto, 31 , 39 , 140 , 187 , 189

Presley, Elvis, 2 , 5 , 129 -130, 141 , 142 , 193

Previews. See Trailers

Princess/Cinema Theatre (Florence, Alabama), 10 , 15 , 16 , 17 , 20 , 21 , 22 , 24 , 26 , 31 , 42 , 43 , 59 , 83 , 100 , 116 , 119 , 123 , 125 , 127 , 128 , 131 , 132 , 134 -139, 141 , 143 , 153 , 158 , 169 , 170 , 180-181

Princess Theater (Douglas, Wyoming), 10 , 155 -157, 177

Princess Theater (North Little Rock, Arkansas), 10 , 180

Psychoanalysis, 2 , 15 , 18 , 27 , 38 , 48 -51, 59 -60, 72 -73, 75 , 77 -78, 88 , 90 -91, 93 -107, 119 , 120 , 131 , 133 , 135 -139, 143 -144, 153 -154, 175 , 177 , 185 -186

The Putney School, 105 -106, 132 , 154 , 158 -159, 164 -165, 168 , 169 , 170 , 181 , 183 , 189 .

See also "E. B. White and The New Yorker ," The Immediate Experience , by Robert Warshow, Doubleday, 1962

Pynchon, Thomas, xiii


Racism, 19 , 23 , 116 -118, 165 -166, 167 -170, 171 -172, 175 .

See also Jim Crow laws; The Devil Finds Work , by James Baldwin, Dial Press, 1976; and "The Power & the Gory" (on Taxi Driver), by Patricia Patterson and Manny Farber, Film Comment , May-June 1976

Radio, 19 , 22 , 46 , 112 -113

Radio City Music Hall (New York City), 85 , 95 , 125

Rainer, Yvonne, 45 , 175

Ray, Nicholas, 43 , 123 , 161 , 182 -183.

See also "Circle of Pain," Sight and Sound , Autumn 1973

Rear Window , 95 , 97 , 98 , 100 , 102 , 159 , 175 , 176

Reggie Comics , 54 , 55

Remus, Uncle, 153 -154, 186

Resnais, Alain, 45 , 105 , 183 , 188

Reverse angle, 69 -70, 71 , 77 , 97 , 102 , 103 , 127 , 134 , 174 , 188 .

See also Godard's Numero Deux

Rhapsody , 94

Richard Pryor Live In Concert , 175

Rickey, Carrie, 84 , 87

Riefenstahl, Leni, 5 , 19

Ritz Theatre (Athens, Alabama), 7 -10, 14 , 20

Ritz Theatre (Sheffield, Alabama), 2 , 10 , 12 , 27 , 141

Riverview Drive (Florence, Alabama), 10 , 98 , 103

Rivette, Jacques, 97 , 153 , 184 -185, 188 .

See also Rivette: Texts and Interviews , British Film Institute, 1977

RKO, 4 , 100 , 161

The Rocky Horror Picture Show , 130 , 150 -152, 177 -178.

See alsoFreaks

The Rocky Horror Show , 150 -151

Roman, Ruth, 22 , 161

Rosenbaum, Alvin Robert, 12 , 15 , 23 , 31 , 32 , 64 , 67 -68, 78 , 92 , 93 -95, 97 , 107 , 121 , 125 , 129 , 132 , 141 , 168 , 169 , 172 , 192 , 193

Rosenbaum, Anna Block ("Grandma"), 10 , 80 , 94 , 97 , 120 -121, 139 , 153 , 174 , 180 , 189 , 193

Rosenbaum, David Hillel, 12 , 15 , 18 , 23 , 24 , 27 , 31 , 32 , 54 , 55 -56, 64 , 67 -68, 75 , 81 , 93 , 94 , 95 , 97 , 107 , 120 , 121 , 122 , 123 , 125 , 139 , 141 , 192 , 193

Rosenbaum, Louis ("Bo"), 2 , 10 , 11 , 12 , 14 , 24 , 31 , 34 , 35 , 37 , 38 , 43 , 62 , 80 , 83 , 85 , 93 , 94 , 96 , 101 , 112 -113, 116 , 120 -121, 122 , 123 , 124 , 127 , 131 , 136 , 137 -138, 140 , 145 , 154 , 155 -157, 160 , 165 , 170 , 174 , 178-180,185 , 187 , 188-193

Rosenbaum, Michael Joseph, 12 , 23 , 31 , 32 , 67 -68, 93 -95, 96-97 , 121 , 122 -123, 129 , 141 , 155 , 160-161 , 192 , 193

Rosenbaum, Mildred Ruth Bookholtz ("Mimi," "Mommy"), 10 , 18 , 31 , 32 , 54 , 56 , 64 , 67 , 82 , 93 -107, 112 , 113 , 114 , 120 -123, 129 , 136 , 139 , 145 , 153 -154, 160 , 180

Rosenbaum, Stanley ("Daddy"), xiv , 10 , 14 , 18 , 20 , 22 , 24 , 27 , 31 , 32 , 35 , 37 , 38 , 45 , 46 , 54 , 57 , 62 , 64 , 67 , 82 -83, 84 , 120-126 , 128 -129, 131 , 133 , 135 , 136 , 137 , 139 , 140-141,142 -143 , 145 , 153 , 154 , 155 , 158 , 160 , 161 , 165 , 168 , 169 , 180 , 181 , 190

Rosenbaum Theatres, ix , x , xv , 12 , 43 , 96 , 115 , 131 , 136 , 190

Rosenberg family (Ethel, Julius, and Sons), 67 , 101

Roszak, Theodore, xiv

Rothstein, Arnold, 12 , 13

Roud, Richard, 182 , 184

Ruby Gentry , 20

Rudolph, Alan, 4 -5, 107

Russell, Jane, 120 -123

Russell, Ron, 15 , 18 , 19 , 27 , 114 , 121 , 128 -129, 130



Saint, Eva Marie, 97 , 98 , 102 , 176 , 193

Sakall, S. Z. ("Cuddles"), 85 , 132

Salinger, J. D, xii

Sarandon, Susan, 130

Sarris, Andrew, 97 , 182 -183, 186

Schmidt, Paul, xi

Schneible, Helen, 34 , 45 , 46 , 79

Schulberg, Budd, 95 , 97 , 98 , 101 , 102

Schuler, Mickey, 175

Schwartz, Delmore, xiii

Science fiction, 83 , 125 -126, 150 , 159 , 160 , 162 -163, 177

Screen , x , xii , 38

Seberg, Jean, 50 , 84

Segregation. See Jim Crow laws; Racism

Seminary Street (Florence, Alabama), 38 39 , 93 , 129 , 131 , 134

Serials, 10 , 27 , 59 , 116 , 127 , 158

Seven Brides For Seven Brothers , 95 , 97 , 98 , 101 , 102

The Seventh Victim , 159 , 176

Sheffield, Alabama, 2 , 10 , 12 , 19 , 23 , 24 , 27 , 82 , 105 , 108 -112, 113 -116, 130 , 134 , 139 , 141 , 177 , 193

Sheffield railroad station, 82 , 146 , 193

Shklovsky, Viktor, xii , 186 .

See also his Zoo or Letters About Love , Cornell University Press, 1971

Shoals Theatre (Florence, Alabama), 12 , 19 , 20 , 24 , 31 , 32 , 33 , 34 , 35 , 37 -38, 39 , 40 , 43 , 45 , 46 , 56 , 57 , 60 , 63 , 65 , 68 , 70 , 78 , 91 , 94 , 105 , 108 , 112 , 114 , 116 , 119 , 120 , 121 , 124 , 126 , 127-129 , 130 , 131 , 133 , 139 , 141 , 142 , 143 , 146 , 147 , 174 , 175 , 185 , 188 -193

Shoeshine (Sciuscia) , 166 -167

Shopping malls, 23 , 43 -44, 55 , 146 -149, 178

Sight and Sound , xv , 131 , 163 -164, 177 -178, 184 , 188

Sirk, Douglas, 22 -23, 141

Skelton, Red, 69 , 81 , 125

Skipalong Rosenbloom , 82 -83

Snow, Michael, 187 .

See also "Edinburgh Encounters," Sight and Sound, Winter 1975-1976

SoHo (New York City), 69 , 120 , 126 , 164

Song Of The South , 153 -154, 186

Sottery Hall (Bard College), 107 , 160 , 182

Spielberg, Steven, xv , 27 , 177

Stafford, Tom, 127 , 179 -180, 131-132 , 137 -138, 193

Stanley Rosenbaum house, 10 , 12 , 19 , 27 , 31 , 42 , 96 , 102-105 , 107 , 112 .

See also The Natural House, by Frank Lloyd Wright, Horizon Press, 1954

Star Wars , 52 , 175

Steiger, Rod, 131 , 193

Stein, Elliot, xiii , 120

Steiner, Max, 45 , 53 , 89

Sternberg, Josef von, 23 , 76 , 120 , 142

Stewart, Bobby, x , 38 , 108 , 112 , 127 , 128 , 129 , 131 , 135 -139

Stone, Oliver, xv

Stony Brook. See SUNY at Stony Brook

Straub, Jean-Marie, 186 , 187

Sturges, Preston, 24 , 143 , 192 .

See also Negative Space , by Manny Farber, Praeger, 1971

Sunrise , 163 , 172 , 182 , 183 , 193

The Sun Shines Bright , 169 , 187

SUNY at Stony Brook (Long Island), xiv , 154 , 162

Surprise Night, 31 , 101 , 112

Sutton, Beulah, x , 20 , 38 , 131 , 133 , 139

Sweet Bird of Youth , 188 -189

Sweet Bird of Youth , 188 -193


Take One , 116 , 124 , 175

Tarkington, Booth, 30 , 31 , 33 , 34 , 37 , 43 , 50 , 52 .

See also his Seventeen

Tashlin, Frank, 82 -83, 110 , 139 , 142

Tati, Jacques, 126 , 149 -150, 155 -158, 175 , 176 , 183 -184, 188 .

See also "Tati's Democracy," Film Comment , May-June 1973

Tattling, 75 , 78 , 167

Taylor, Elizabeth, 77 , 94

Technicolor, 15 , 39 , 41 , 85 , 100 , 119 , 126

Temple B'nai Israel (Sheffield and Florence, Alabama), 23 , 43 , 46 , 71 , 82 , 108

Tennessee Street (Florence, Alabama), 16 , 17 , 93 , 131 , 134 , 142

Terminator 2: Judgment Day , xi

Thalia Theater (New York City), 100 , 133 , 183

Thanksgiving, 123 , 129 , 171 , 192

That Lady in Ermine , 31 , 39

Theatre 80 (New York City), 107 , 120 , 191

Thompson, James, 121 , 122

Thomson, David, xiv

3-D, 56 -57, 94 , 98 , 100

Der Tiger Von Eschnapur , 20 , 185 -186

Time , 116 , 125 , 148

Times Square (New York City), 56 , 101 , 125 , 158 , 160 , 170 , 189

Titles, 119 , 127 , 134 , 143 -144

To Have and Have Not , 2 , 4 , 170

Track of the Cat , 116

Tracy, Spencer, 77

Trailers, 15 , 29 , 114 -115, 127 , 133

Truffaut, François, 187 , 188

Tuscumbia, Alabama, 10 , 108 , 112 , 113 , 114

Tuscumbian Theatre, 112 , 113 , 114 , 124 , 127 , 129 , 143

TV, ix , 15 , 20 , 22 , 24 , 33 , 37 , 43 , 44 , 45 ,


52 -53, 63 , 83 , 88 , 92 , 106 , 112 -113, 118 , 124 , 133 , 142 , 147 , 161 , 162 -163, 173-174

TVA (Tennessee Valley Authority), 24 , 38 , 114

Twentieth Century-Fox, 15 , 52 , 54 , 120 -123, 160


University of California, San Diego, xi , 54 -55, 58 , 150

University of Indiana, 30 , 36 -37, 42 , 43 , 47 , 64 , 69 , 70 -74, 155

University of North Alabama/Florence State College, 14 , 161 , 169 , 190


VCRs, ix -x, xiii

Vidor, King, 10 , 18 , 20

Vietnam, xv , 55 , 58 , 116 , 117 , 148 -149

Vista Vision, 98 , 100 , 106 , 123


Wait 'Til the Sun Shines Nellie , 73 -74

Wallace, George, 173 , 193

Warner Brothers, 30 , 34 , 40 , 41 , 45 , 70 , 81 , 91 , 123

Washington, D.C., 49 , 64 , 67 , 108 , 192

Wayne, John, 108 , 116 , 142

Welles, Orson, xi , xv , 1 , 37 , 40 , 49 -51, 105 , 127 , 156 , 181 -182

Westerns, 10 , 11 , 27 , 82 -83, 113 , 133 , 158

The West Point Story , 24 ,31

Williams, Esther, 3 , 19 , 69 , 85 , 94

Williams, Tennessee, 1 , 140 -141, 188 -192

Wood, Michael, xv

World's Fair, 35 , 179 , 180

World War I, 30 , 63 , 72 , 73 , 74 , 90 , 91 , 181

World War II, 4 , 116 -118, 138 -139

Wright, Frank Lloyd, 10 , 19 , 102-105 , 107 , 160


Designer: U.C. Press Staff and Janet Wood

Compositor: Prestige Typography

Text: 10/12 Times Roman

Display: Runic and Times Roman

Printer: Maple-Vail Book Manufacturing Group

Binder: Maple-Vail Book Manufacturing Group

Preferred Citation: Rosenbaum, Jonathan. Moving Places: A Life at the Movies. Berkeley:  University of California Press,  c1995 1995.