Author of the JP Weiscarver Mystery Series
Ah, Natalie Wood
I enjoy movies and like to see them in the theater, but it’s often a DVD at home. We’re probably about middle-of-the-road in regards to theater frequency. We see films maybe monthly on average, but we’re quite irregular and unpredictable.
And we know what we like in a theater.
We’ll most likely attend an afternoon showing to make crowds less of an issue. In fact, we probably won’t make it to the opening weekend, probably not to the opening month if it’s a big film.
Our favorite seats in the theater are on the first row above entry level (this applies to most modern theaters) because most of them have a handrail in front of them where Leah can place her feet. Being short in her arms and legs, sitting is often a discomfort for her and it’s a win when she can prop up her feet. If seats there are not available, we’re probably heading to the top row center.
Put all of that aside, however, as we visit the theaters of our youth … or my youth, if you want to be picky.
We had three movie screens in the county where I grew up, but I only attended two of them, one a downtown theater and the other a drive-in. The third was also a drive-in, but we never went there. My impression was it showed … what would you call them … adult movies. However, I’m not sure that’s true, at least not all of the time.
The other drive-in located in Longview, Texas, was the Twin Pines. Anytime our family went together, it was at the Twin Pines. My dad was a firefighter until I was nearly junior high age and the theater let cops and firefighters in just for paying the tax on a carload. That was 10 cents … at least, that’s the way I remember it.
I continued going there occasionally once I was driving, sometimes with a date. That makes me think of something. You know how cars today all have some sort of bucket seats? How does that work if you’re wanting to cuddle with your date at the drive-in? Oh, well, I digress.
Most of my early movie memories, though, trace back to the Arlyne Theater, right on brick-covered Methvin Street in downtown Longview.
My brother and I were at times dropped off there on a Saturday morning for a cartoon and some movie. Usually, we were allowed a drink or candy. I recall, at least in the early years, we could get a ticket, drink and candy for a quarter each.
It must have been during one of those visits that I saw my first scary movie. Perhaps I had seen “The Wizard of Oz” before on television, but “Jack the Giant Killer” was my first in-theater scare. Those creatures he battled were every bit as horrific as the flying monkeys of the Wicked Witch … and larger.
Just a few years later – it seems like the summer after fifth or sixth grade – I went to a classmate’s birthday party that included a trip to the Arlyne and spending the night at Greg’s house. I don’t remember an awful lot, but I do recall the movie.
“The Great Race” starred Jack Lemmon, Tony Curtis and … heavy sigh … Natalie Wood. I fell in love with Natalie Wood that night in the first movie to make me … uh … uncomfortable.
There were a couple of other memories about the Arlyne Theater. As you approached the men’s rest room at the back, there were two wall-covering mirrors on both sides of the hallway. I marveled more than once at the number of times I could see myself duplicated in the mirrors.
Another thing was the balcony.
I’m not sure I ever watched a movie from there, but I did at least check it out. My understanding was its original purpose, during the period of racial segregation that was just beginning to play itself out during the time of my youth, was to seat black movie-goers. I’m not sure if that was in effect when I started going to the Arlyne or not.
However, I am certain that was not the case when Don and I attended a screening of “The Black Six.”
The movie came out in 1973 and racial tensions could still be high at times. The story was that a black high school student was beaten to death by a white motorcycle gang after it was found he was dating a white girl. The victim’s brother, who is member of a black biker gang, retaliated.
You can pretty much guess how it played out, but if you have any doubts, consider that the title characters were portrayed by National Football League stars “Mean” Joe Greene, Carl Eller, Gene Washington, Willie Lanier, Mercury Morris and Lem Barney. Yeah, they put on an exhibition.
Don and I were two of only three white guys in the audience and the crowd was wildly rooting for the heroes of this movie. The end result was an uncomfortable feeling nothing at all like that caused by Natalie Wood.
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