Nobody’s Pefect

By Larry Teren

Some say that the most famous last line in movie history is from 1959’s Some Like It Hot when Joe E. Brown says to Jack Lemmon “nobody’s perfect!” on a motor boat as they speed away under the THE END credit. Lemmon is dressed in drag as the character he plays is hiding out from the Mob who want to kill him for witnessing the famous St. Valentine Day Massacre. Up until the very end of the film, the viewer is not sure if Brown ever realizes the folly of having the hots for a cross dresser whom he thinks is an attractive female. Brown’s retort is in response to Lemmon exasperatingly telling Brown that his charade is finally over. “But, I’m a man!” he shouts. It seems as if Brown doesn’t care. Continue reading “Nobody’s Pefect”

Oh, Henry

By Larry Teren

Twenty six years after his passing, I still think about Uncle Henry. Which reminds me- before Al Gore invented email (or was it just the Internet?) my fellow human beings took great care in how we put thoughts on paper. We went to great lengths to make sure our handwriting was legible and worthy of reading. Continue reading “Oh, Henry”

Netflix Makes a Qwikster Retreat

By Larry Teren

So now Netflix announces another corrective action to how they do business. The idea of spinning off their two operations into, well- two operations, didn’t seem right after all. It would have meant maintaining two websites, two credit card processing systems, two sets of login id’s and passwords, etc. Continue reading “Netflix Makes a Qwikster Retreat”

The Collaborator

By Larry Teren

We live in a divisive world culture today where everything seems to be evaluated in terms of black and white, good and evil, right and wrong. There is little room for compromise. This putting of things into such perspective has shaped our hero worshiping. Celebrities whom we cherish can quickly become vilified if we disagree with their politics.

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Swimming In Lies

Everyone hates being lied to, right? As a kid all those years watching entertaining biographical films – I took it for granted that what I saw actually happened that way. George M. Cohan, played by James Cagney in Yankee Doodle Dandy, yankee doodle dandywas a swell dancer who gracefully slid into retirement. The Von Trapp family in The Sound of Music adroitly outmaneuvered the Nazis and climbed the Alps mountain to safety. General George Custer, plated by the gallant Errol Flynn in They Died With Their Boots On, was tricked by Sitting Bull and his cutthroats and died a heroic death. The list goes on and on.
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False Grit

There are no do overs in life. Whatever happens, happens, unless- that is- you are in the movie-making business. A producer with cash burning in his pocket decides that he can re-create a film made a generation or two earlier and do a better job of it. Or maybe he is out of fresh ideas so he takes what has worked in the past and runs with it. That works great for automobiles, trains and planes as well as computers, televisions and phones. But, give me a break!

Recently a big deal has been made about a redo of the 1969 John Wayne Academy Award winning movie, True Grit. To me, anything made in 1969 is not yet quite so ancient that it needs to have it redone to suit modern audiences. Besides, I’ve yet to see a re-make that is better than the original, and that includes Ocean’s Eleven and The Nutty Professor.
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Funny how words in the English language take on a different purpose from generation to generation. Take, for instance, the word “overture”. It is used quite often as an expression to start the ball rolling in negotiations. Everyone seems to be chasing rainbows and looking to cut a deal. “Let’s make an overture” usually means “let’s indicate interest to the other party so that we can make an offer that they will not refuse.”

There was a time when “overture” served an entirely different purpose. It was mostly used to describe the beginning portion of a musical performance. It was intended to provide a nurturing effect in getting everyone to their seats, relaxed and prepared to watch a movie or concert. In the 1950’s and 60’s, when movie musicals were still very popular, a film would contain several songs that would be familiar to the audience before they even went to the theater. If you went to see a blockbuster film such as “Oklahoma”, “Carousel”, “South Pacific”, “West Side Story”, “The Music Man” or even a drama with a moving score such as “Exodus”, you’d expect to be entertained with short segments from many of the popular musical numbers.
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Going To The Movies

In the 60’s, I grew up in Austin on the far West Side of Chicago. We had the State Theater on Madison Street a couple of blocks east of Austin, the border line that separated us from The Village of Oak Park.

The Marlboro Theater was located two and a half miles east at 4110 W. Madison. It was twice the size of the State. The Marlboro opened in 1927 two years before The Depression and radio cut into film attendance as the main form of entertainment. It had a capacity of four thousand seats which was very difficult to fill even half way when television burst onto the scene in the late 1940’s.

By 1963, there were probably more rodents in the building than people watching movies. Still, I recall that going to the Marlboro meant I was going to see a classy, first-run film. After a series of arrests made by the police due to gang activity on the premises, the theater closed for good and was torn down a year later in 1964.

Between these two places was the Byrd Theater on the 4700 block of Madison, just east of the corner at Cicero. It was much smaller than the Marlboro but it became a safer alternative to go see a movie as the neighborhood east of it changed. Uncle Henry took me there to see two films- John Wayne’s Comancheros and a maudlin 1958 Disney film for kids called Old Yeller. Like all the other kids, I cried near the end at the appropriate moments. Uncle Henry as usual bought me pop corn and pop, sat next to me and proceeded to fall asleep. He always seemed, though, to know when the movie was over.

Dad took me to see second-run movies at the Central Park Theater, on the 3500 block of Roosevelt Road. There was a double bill of Robert Taylor swashbuckler movies. One title I remember was Ivanhoe. Seeing a movie in vivid color in the the late 50’s or early 60’s was breathtaking as television at home was dull black and white. I would ask Dad to explain what was happening on screen but he ignored me.

Another time, he took me to a double bill of Marx Brother movies- A Day at the Races and A Night at the Opera. It was the first time I was exposed to their humor and was in awe from then on.

By the mid 1960’s I was old enough to go to the State Theater with friends unchaperoned. The Men’s washroom was on the second floor and required walking up a steep narrow winding stairway. Groups of greasers would hang out there hogging the space by the washing sinks in front of the mirror combing back their oily hair. I’m sure these guys are all bald now.

One time I went with my older sister to see a flick called Experiment in Terror. We had no advance idea of what the movie was about other than it starred Glenn Ford. We figured it had to be a comedy, romance or western. It was, instead, a thriller. Once they took our money, I knew there was no way the manager was going to give it back to kids unaccompanied by an adult. We just hoped that the second half of the double feature was better.

One time my buddy Perry and I showed a little moxie (or stupidity based on your perspective). We rode our bikes south to the Olympic Theater in suburban Cicero. It was a block west of Austin Boulevard on Cermak, That was a three mile ride in each direction all on busy streets. Imagine today leaving a bike chained to a light post in front of a storefront today for a few hours. But they were there when we came back out.

In high school, I took a course in American Government and Politics (as if the two didn’t go hand in hand?). One time, our teacher announced that she was looking for volunteers to attend downtown in the Loop a series of Council on Foreign Relations meetings. The sessions were by invitation and students were encouraged to witness the political harangues. I was the only student to raise a hand so I went.

The first meeting was held in the Palmer House Hotel in the Chicago Loop. It was over around 2pm and I figured that I could not get back to the far north side and school until at least 3pm. So, why bother to go back? After all, I deserved a reward for taking good notes to present later in class.

I walked down State Street going north past Washington and noticed the movies listed on two Marquees. On the east side of the street was the Chicago Theater showing a movie called Butch Cassidy and The Sundance Kid. It starred Paul Newman and somebody named Robert Redford. I couldn’t imagine good old Paul as a cowboy even though he had played a left handed Billy The Kid earlier in his film career. On the west side of the street, where I was strolling, was The Undefeated at the State Lake with John Wayne and Rock Hudson. Naturally, I chose the more manly western and got back to school for the last class which started about 4:45pm.

Not long after, the Newman picture went on to become a cult classic and Redford becomes ensconced as a bona fide star. The John Wayne was another in a series of turkeys late in his career before “True Grit”.

I pick baseball pennant winners much better than I do Oscar worthy films. It’s a cinch. Every year, I go with the Cubs.