My imagination makes me human
and makes me a fool;
it gives me all the world
and exiles me from it.
--Ursula K. Le Guin
The PembrokeUnion Avenue
An Urban Journal Exploring Place,
Purpose, Literature, Memory,
and This Time

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March 2006

The Oscars last nite got me to thinking about how I came to have a passion for film equal to that of books. If I had been one of the people asked to name a memorable or influential movie, what would I have said?

I didn't see a lot of movies when I was a child and cherished those rare occasions. The earliest movies I saw were in the summer at the local drive-in theater, mostly B-westerns; my father was a huge John Wayne fan. I don't remember going to a real theater until I was twelve or thirteen.

We got our first television when I was twelve, and I watched at lot of old movies from the forties during summer vacation, mostly romantic comedies with stars like Deanna Durbin and John Payne. I loved these because the stars were all beautiful and had glamourous lives. They ate in fancy restaurants with plush booths and tiny lamps on the tables and wore beautiful clothes. The women had endless supplies of hats and purses and had rich bedrooms with glass-topped vanities and satin chaise lounges onto which they would toss their fur coats and silk robes. But some of the heroines were poor and had to suffer before they reached their happy end. The standard for suffering was An Affair to Remember. Glamour and melodrama, I couldn't get enough.

During my mid-teens, about the early sixties, I saw a slew of forgettable movies in the theater--Doris Day, Gidget, Elvis--but I also began to see more adult movies with darker themes, some in the theater and many on television, movies that were three or four years old and shown during the day on some low-budget channel. These were the movies which made an impact, which avoided the stereotypical characters and plots. I was drawn to the tragic and the exotic. The World of Susie Wong was unlike anything I had ever seen. When I saw A Patch of Blue, I knew for the first time how it would be possible for a white woman to love a black man