"Lover Come Back"

By the spring of 1962, I had become addicted to the Emory Theater, a small movie house near the entrance to the university and just a ten-minute bike ride from home for ten-year-old me. Though it was an addlepated way to begin a film education, learning was the last thing on my mind anyway. I simply loved shoving my quarter under the glass at the ticket window and watching the late-afternoon matinee. I didn’t care what the movie was.

Given the era, its not surprising that I saw an awful lot of Rock Hudson, Elvis, and Jerry Lewis. Oh, and Doris Day. And Rock Hudson and Doris Day. When I watched Mr. Hobbs Takes a Vacation, it was probably the first time I’d seen James Stewart on the big screen–and Maureen O’Hara. For a while, I even confused Stewart with Fred MacMurray, who was ubiquitous on TV at the time (and who had starred in The Absent-Minded Professor, which I had seen with my father in Indiana, shortly before we moved back to Georgia).

Before discovering the Emory, all the films I had seen had been with a parent. Sometimes, it was at the drive-in, my brother and I snug amongst pillows and blankets in the back seat and the two of us expected to be asleep before anything steamy crossed the screen (my youngest brother, once he came around, already conked out in my mother’s arms). The first feature, after all, was generally more “family,” the second for the parents. In between, we got to exhaust our last energy on the small playground right under the screen. Like many kids of the time, I loved the way the speaker hung over the driver’s half-rolled window.

I don’t really remember my mother ever taking me to the movies, just my father. Poor guy. He not only had to sit through gobbledegook about flubber, but through Bambi, Tom Thumb, and goodness knows what else. Maybe my mother did take me to the movies once, with a group of friends for my 10th birthday. She scheduled it, at least, even if she wasn’t the escort. Asked what I wanted for my birthday party, I’d told her I wanted to see a movie. I remember being shocked when she said she’d let me choose the film. Just to see how far this could go, I opted for the most “adult” film I could that was playing locally, The Devil at 4 O’Clock starring Spencer Tracy and Frank Sinatra (my first big-screen experience of either of them, too, I am sure). I don’t remember much about it except that all the flowing lava made me feel hot and that Sinatra seemed rather too fragile for his part, especially in comparison to Tracy.

I thought of that time the other day, as I watched Love Come Back on Turner Classic Movies. I saw it for the first time at the Emory, and retain vivid memories… all of which proved accurate during the repeat. There are a couple of scenes in particular that stood out, but I remember the whole of it pretty well, considering that it was 50 years ago that I watched it first. What I wish I really also remember is what I thought of it at the time. Though it really isn’t much of a movie, it is certainly funny–but in ways too adult for my ten-year-old self, most certainly. I doubt I grasped the implications of a candy equivalent to a triple martini, and I know I knew little about sex, marriage, annulment, or childbirth. Let alone about Madison Avenue or advertising.

None of that mattered, not really. Not to me, back then. I can remember in detail almost every movie I saw at the Emory–none of which was any great shakes as a film (Kid Galahad, anyone?). After all, it was a special place for me, and each showing a special treat. They were my movies, the ones I saw there, and I loved them for that.

Understand them? Bah, I might have said, who cares? As any movie lover will tell you, that wasn’t the point.