Butch Cassidy and the Underage Kid

I watched a film on Friday evening and caught a glimpse of another. Both of them got me thinking a bit about my earliest movie-going memories. Memories of Granny then invariably followed.

It was Granny who effectively kick-started my movie-going career and, I now believe, my interest in all things film related.

I don’t think she had any such high ideals at the time. There was no agenda to set me off on a lifelong course of cinematic appreciation.

If I had to guess, I would say I was under Mum’s feet a bit and Mum had my baby sister to look after so Granny was enlisted to get me out of the way for a few hours and where better to go than to the Gaiety Cinema for a Saturday afternoon matinee.

This is a topic I veer back to sometimes, my early cinema going experiences. I think I’ve figured out why. My childhood is a bit of a blur. Some people think I have a great memory, what with the stories I recount here and such, but the truth is that I’m downright hazy on those early years. I think I remember the movies more than most aspects of my childhood because they became important to me as I got older and I spent some time thinking about what I had seen and the circumstances in which I had seen it. Thus these small moments in my childhood became cemented and firm where everything else became amorphous and faded away.

The great thing about cinema memories is that you can place them in time really well. So long as you know that the movie you saw was on its first release (and I’m pretty sure mine were) then you can date them and easily figure what age you were when you saw them. These calculations, for me at least, are like little markers in the ocean of my childhood. A solid place to swim to when there is nothing else but water in sight.

I digress.

The two films I saw recently, and which set me off on this reverie, could not have been more different. The only thing they have in common is that they come from roughly the same era. The end of the sixties, the start of the seventies. The films were ‘Klute’ and ‘Carry On Again Doctor’.

Fear not. My granny never brought me to see ‘Klute’. The trigger is via the poster rather than the film itself. I remember the poster displayed in the foyer as we went in to see the slightly more suitable offerings of the Gaiety matinees. I thought it looked grown-up and interesting and it was a great, hard-sounding, title ‘Klute’.

‘Carry On Again Doctor’ is one of the three movies I can clearly remember going to see with Granny. In my mind, we went to see a lot but maybe we didn’t. Maybe we only saw these three. The other two were ‘Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid’ and ‘A Fistful of Dynamite’. There is a good solid year between the release of these last two films, which fuels my belief that we saw many more. But I was six-going-on-seven so I hope I can be forgiven for the lapse in memory.

Despite what I wrote above, the three films do have an odd common denominator and that is they all boast some level of content which might not be best suited for a six year old lad. I remember these aspects more than I remember other things. Is that strange? I can’t say, there’s only me here.

The first (I think) was the Carry On film. I remember Barbara Windsor in some ridiculous and highly revealing heart shaped bikini thing. I remember little else.

When it came to Butch and Sundance, which Granny and I really enjoyed. I remember two things in particular. That musical bicycle ride and Robert Redford exhorting Katherine Ross to take her clothes off. I think I feared that she, too, would end up wearing Babs red cupid underhosen.

A Fistful of Dynamite, which came over a year after the others, according to the release dates, contained several ‘nudie’ scenes, just like the other two. What must poor Granny have been thinking? A harmless afternoon out at the flicks and suddenly there’s bums and boobs everywhere. There is one other thing I remember vividly from this latter film. The music. The refrain of ‘Sean-Sean, Sean-Sean’ stuck with me forever and, if ever I hear it now (as I sometimes do) it can transport me back to a much younger, much hazier time.

My movie release dates can accurately tell me when Granny and me stopped going to the movies together too. I was able to go and see the first release of Diamonds Are Forever along with my pals and without any adults. That was 1971, the same year as ‘Fistful of Dynamite’. So it was there, at the ripe old age of eight, my solo matinee-going career began in earnest. After that, I went every week.

‘The Man with the Golden Gun’ was my first solo evening cinema expedition and that was in 1974. It should have been my second because, a few weeks before, my Mum had heartbreakingly told me I could have gone and seen ‘Enter The Dragon’ with my brothers if I had only asked. This still makes me sad to this day.

By 1975, at the ripe old age of 12, and fuelled by a burning desire to see all the Bruce Lee movies, my pals and me had crafted ways and means of getting in to see anything we wanted, regardless of certification. This involved hiding in cloakrooms and sneaking in under cover of darkness. In this way, in ’75, I saw things like Death Race 2000, Dog Day Afternoon and, legitimately, the most influential movie moment of my life, 'Jaws'.

My point is that the 'Granny' period ended very quickly and while I was still very young. There is no doubt, though, that it was she who planted the seed, my enduring love for the flickering light and the hours spent sitting happily in the darkness.

So thanks Granny.

That was quite the thing you left me with.


Julirose said...

I went to a lot of summer movie matinees between the ages of 10 and 15. I wish that I could remember them as well as you do.

Jim Murdoch said...

I only met my maternal grandmother once. I’ve never met my paternal grandmother nor have I met either of my grandfathers. The notion of the extended family was one I never really got until I married my first wife who was part of a big family; there was even a great-grandmother in the picture—imagine! My mother’s family was split between England and Canada—Mum and Dad had moved to Glasgow in the fifties and never left Scotland after that—and it just so happened that when the Canadians came to visit one year they all got in their cars and invaded us; no warning. There was a knock on the backdoor and all these strangers started piling in. I don’t know about my siblings but a part of me was actually scared, uncomfortable at the very least. Who were all these people? Uncle Harry I knew—he’d turned up a couple of years before on his own and was the first of my mother’s family that I ever met (and, coincidentally the last I ever spoke to following Mum’s death)—but the rest. I forget most of their names. There was a Lily and a Frank but that’s all I can remember although apparently I do have an Uncle Manuel (by marriage).

So, as usual, I’m struggling here to find common ground. Gran never looked after us. I never spoke to her on the phone or wrote letter or sent cards or presents. I’ll tell you, we were an odd family. It stemmed from my dad—I’ve never met any of his brothers or sisters (actually they were all half-brothers and -sisters)—because he’d fallen out with my mum’s family just after I was born—I won’t go into the details—and swore he’d never visit them again—I don’t know why he never took any interest in his own family—and my dad was a man who took his vows seriously. Mum and my sister went down once for someone’s wedding—I remember Mum bought this truly awful carriage clock as a present—but that was it.

And, of course, now I’m estranged from my siblings so have no idea what’s going on in their lives and Carrie’s family is on the other side of the world but none of that really bothers me. When I was wee I felt I was the black sheep—actually my brother and sister both confessed that they thought they were the black sheep—and so I never really thought of family as a big deal. I still don’t. I like having a wife and daughter. That’s enough for me.

seoirse mac enri said...

Hi Ken, my gran gone 43 years now, only recently found out she was a three time a week movie goer, Gaiety
tues, Savoy thurs, and which ever had new film on Saturdays, never took me tho, when I was born, she spent the 8 years she knew me, meeting my childish needs, it fell on my aunt to do the movie duty,
Chitty Chitty Bang Bang' on an august evening in 1968, was the 1st movie i saw at the 'pictures'.There was a huge 'community' of regular cinema goers back in 60's & 70's many going 7 nights a week, and usually getting in free after 1st visit, dasly all gone but one that I know of. When you talk of 70's movies do you remember the western with 'Mr Spock' as a bounty hunter? just seen it recently, 'Catlow' hope you're
keeping well sir,

Ken Armstrong said...

Hi 'Unknown'. I think part of the trick is to enjoy thinking hard about such silly things, as I do. :)

Jim: That Canadian invasion sounds bloody terrifying. :) We always have common ground, you and me, in that the people closest to us are always enough.

G. I was going to name check you in this post for I believe it was you and I who went to see Man with the Golden Gun that Friday evening. I remember Catlow well. Another one with 'nudie' bits, in this case, Mr Spock careening out of a bath tub. All very shocking. :) The links between us here are unending. Wouldn't your granny and my granny be quite closely related even? Ah, memories. :)

Nigel Fathers said...

I never had the sort of cinema experience that you enjoyed. But, funnily enough I was having a conversation about this very subject this morning. My earliest expierience was my Dad taking me and my sisters to see Summer Holiday, the one with Cliff, Shadows and Stubbs. The highlight was caused by the film starting in blavk and white. Bear in mind that TV was all B&W in those days. So when the film changed to colour as the bus went off to Greece, well wow! does not quite cover it. I also remember being livky enough to spend a whole summer in Connecticut(USA) when I was 11. During that time a big outing was planned to see the summer's big smash "The Sound of Music". I was not keen at all. During a pre-screening lunch, all the children had a game of hide and seek. Just as as I was sneeking up from behind a car and beginning to make my dash to the home base, another kiid hiding in the car had the same idea. Cue a slapstick moment of opening door meeting face and poll-axing fall. The upshot, as I was the cosseted visitor from overseas, was that although everyone was so sad and sorry, I probably should just have a quiet lie down and not go and see the film. Despite my face looking and feeling like it had faced even just one punch from Tyson, my mind felt in a quite different place. Euphoria! I didn't have to go and see the film. I have seen it since, and must admit my thoughts about it have changed. It's actually, erm , just about OK, but I don't want to see it again.