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Wednesday, June 25, 2008

"My First Visit to the Movies", by Lee Hartsfeld

Lee Hartsfeld, Music You (Possibly) Won't Hear Anyplace Else:

"I have a false memory of seeing the first run of Mary Poppins at the age of five. Which is impossible, because I was seven when the movie was released in August, 1964. Yet, my memory is sure that I was five. So much for my memory.
I remember a huge, crowded theater, and an especially huge screen. How huge is hard to say, given that I was five... er, seven. There was a huge number of kids in the audience (go figure), all fairly rowdy, and I remember my parents forbidding us (my brother and I) from joining in the rowdiness. I didn't see why, being a kid, I shouldn't join in the kid-like behavior, but it was not for me to question. My mom and dad had assured us this would be a magical and memorable time, and such build-up, it turned out, was unnecessary--the movie remains the most incredible, and incredibly engrossing, movie experience of my life, in spite of the fact that the movie ceased to have such an effect starting, oh, thirty years ago.

Poppins practically transported its kiddie audience into the screen with the cast, cartoon characters, stop-motion effects, and the magnificent numbers–it was spooky. I remember banging on the screen, yelling "Let me out! Let me out!" (Another memory burp, I’m guessing.) And I remember post-movie "Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious" pronouncing contests at school. I had it down to a science. I think I could even say it backwards. I was pretty full of myself.

Theater smells, I don't remember. I don't even remember the food portion of the visit, though we must have had popcorn and pop–we were flag-fearing Americans, after all. Problem is, my food and olfactory memories have always been limited, and I don't know why. But I fondly remember the non-stop, delightful action in the movie, and I remember fighting back tears when Mary Poppins left the family. A number of kids in the audience flat-out lost it, but I worked hard to avoid their example, probably hoping my parents would be impressed by my maturity.

I rewatched the film, shortly after, with my best friend Teddy and his family, who had recently moved to Toledo, Ohio from England. I don't remember if this was still the first run, or if it was a second run the next year. (Thanks, memory.) I do remember feeling pretty damn smart having seen it already--I was a Mary Poppins vet. Teddy’s parents were not impressed by Disney's version of England, even given that it was a kid’s film. Teddy, on the other hand, was as uncritically absorbed in the film's magic as me.

Julie Andrews, of course, seemed like an old woman to my naive eyes. She was a grown-up, after all, and I had no ability, at seven, to judge age outside of a few months of my own. Several years back, I saw Poppins on TV, and elderly nanny Julie struck me as a very attractive young lady. The film’s magic had long since left the building, but such films aren’t made for old folks.

Naturally, I couldn’t help wondering what age my seven-year-old self would have assigned to Old Lee.

Now that I semi-remember it, Pinocchio (a re-release, of course) may have been my first movie experience, but the images are so fuzzy, I can't be sure. No, I take that back--I vividly remember being frightened silly by the thing. And I remember asking my dad to explain the difference between animated movies and real life--as in, what were they. Which was a normal kid-type question, and not cause to take me to a shrink. But they did, anyway.

Just kidding. I think.... "

--Lee Hartsfeld--

Note: Click label: "My First Visit to the Movies", to read more first-movie-stories.