Sunday, December 30, 2012

From Pollyanna to Les Miserables--movies can MOVE us.

Great movies are far and few between, but when you’ve seen one, you know it. The first time I was blown away by the big screen was in the first grade at Sharon Elementary School in Orem, Utah. The screen came out of the ceiling and I sat on the first row on a hard wooden chair. It was there I fell in love with Haley Mills as Pollyanna. But even then as young as I was, the movie stirred a sense of wanting to be a little nicer, if even a little bit. Movies can do that.

The next movie I remember having a profound effect on  me was when I was only nine or ten years old. The move was “Shenandoah” with Jimmy Stewart. Nearly every Saturday I got to go to the Scera Movie Theatre, a grand building and see a movie, the way they were meant to be experienced. Everything from Disney, to musicals, John Wayne westerns, Alfred Hitchcock thrillers, and epics like Lawrence of Arabia. My parents usually dropped me off with friends and we often walked home if it was good weather. The day I saw Shenandoah I just sat there afterward, numb with grief and the stirring that I might not ever be the same—that terrible tragedies happen and people can die. Jimmy Stewart became my favorite actor from the day on. 

When I saw “The Diary of Anne Frank” the first time, my dad had to explain to me that there would be no uniformed men pounding on our door and dragging us to prison camp, still I worried that it could happen, I hoped that Dad would build a hiding place behind our bookcase in the living room—just in case.

The first time I saw The Sound of Music, my friend Geri and I thought it was fantastic. We ran home singing the songs and when we got home, my mom wondered why we'd gotten home so early, the movie wasn’t even out yet. It was then, she told us must've left in the middle of the show—during the intermission. Still I saw enough of the movie, that I wanted to be a nun. I’m not sure I understood the difficulty of becoming a nun if you’re a Mormon. When I saw “Born Free” I wanted to raise lions in the wild. When I saw Oliver, I wanted to be a pick-pocket and live on the streets of London, but then it also made me want to be as kind as the woman in the red dress who rescues Oliver and is killed because of it. A good movie can change how we think.

One of the most moving films of my life, I saw at thirteen in an amazing theatre in Salt Lake. My dad was known for his thriftiness, yet he splurged and took us to see “Fiddler on the Roof” even before it came to Scera theatre in Orem. He wanted us to see it in seats that rocked comfortably, with surround stereo sound and a curved screen so that we could not just see the movie, but experience it. We did. Not only did I wish to be Jewish, I was spiritually uplifted. This is one movie that although it’s beautiful on television, the experience never matches that first time seeing it the way a movie like that should be watched, felt, heard, and absorbed.

Seeing “Les Miserables” was like that for me. It was spiritual—more spiritual that the finest sermon I’ve even heard. The theatre was not like the theatre my father took us to as a family, but it was still a big screen and at the end when the credits rolled, the audience clapped. I left with the desire to make 2013 a better year than 2012 was for me personally—to be just a little bit more like Jean Valjean. Earlier I made Christmas cards for my family that quoted an unknown author and was later made popular in the Mormon church by Pres. Hunter: "This Christmas, mend a quarrel. Seek out a forgotten friend. Dismiss suspicion and replace it with trust. Write a letter. Give a soft answer. Encourage youth. Manifest your loyalty in word and deed. Keep a promise. Forgo a grudge. Forgive an enemy. Apologize. Try to understand. Examine your demands on others. Think first of someone else. Be kind. Be gentle. Laugh a little more. Express your gratitude. Welcome a stranger. Gladden the heart of a child. Take pleasure in the beauty and wonder of the earth. Speak your love and then speak it again." Experiencing “Les Miserables” made me want to take this in and do a little better. I’ll start with forgoing a grudge.


christine said...

Beautifully written. Thanks for sharing your memories of those movies. And you're right, our entertainment should uplift us and inspire us to be better.

Anonymous said...

Carole, your comments always seem to bring to the surface memories I haven’t thought about for many years. Your mention of “Born Free” as a movie that affected you also had an impact on me though not for the content of the movie. It was the only movie I ever saw with my father. After a hard day’s work at the hotel he operated on what is now referred to as Historic 25th St. we went to see the movie at the Orpheum Theater in Ogden. I don’t recall him ever going to another movie but I may be wrong. The quote you included also brought back more memories of my father. When he passed away over 36 years ago the line of people paying their respects at the viewing snaked throughout the building out the door and down the sidewalk. During the endless procession of friends, relatives, and total strangers, almost without fail each one commented on the positive effect my father had on them. Though a man of meager means, thinking first of someone else, welcoming a stranger, encouraging youth and helping those in need typified him and most often did it anonymously. At his funeral a friend of the family playing his acoustic guitar sang the Hymn “Have I Done Any Good.” Still today whenever I hear the song the movies in my mind about my father start playing again. Thanks for sharing and making me want to do better.
Happy Trails

JoLynne Lyon said...

Carole, I'm jealous of all those movie experiences you had! But I just watched Les Mis and absolutely loved it. Finally, a movie that combines art with inspiration. I bawled at the end. The woman next to me was crying louder.

Kami McArthur said...

I LOVED Les Mis--definitely one of my favorite movies. In fact, I liked it so much, two days later I secretly started considering naming one of my future children Valjean, but maybe a middle name would be more realistic ;)

I cried three times in the movie and couldn't stop listening to the music. It's a very powerful story.

In fact, I'm even reading the book now.

Anonymous said...

I don't frequent blogs very often, but I was looking for a recipe on Lisa's blog and felt drawn to click on your name/link. It was good for me to read some of the things you have posted and I appreciate some of the things that you have shared. I especially loved the last paragraph in this post. It's amazing the miracles that we can experience when we let go of the negative; whether, thoughts, feelings or emotions, and live a little more like we ought to. Thanks for sharing and creating an environment where I actually felt somewhat safe to share as well. I hope it's okay that I did. If not, you can always delete! ;)
-Mandy Wilding

CTW said...

Mandy, I'm glad you shared you thoughts. I hope you are doing well.

CTW said...

Thanks everyone for sharing your thoughts. For some reason I didn't notice these comments until tonight.