Thursday, August 23, 2012

Aurora, Colorado's Century 16 Theater Today

We are currently spending the week in Aurora, Colorado visiting my daughter and her husband.  On the drive out here, I discovered in my jacket pocket an old movie ticket from Aurora’s Century 16 Theater—yes that’s the same place where the horrific shootings occurred last month leaving 12 dead and 58 wounded.  Back in May, I was out here and we had gone to the movies.  Who could ever have imagined that eight weeks later that very cinema would make international news in the midst of what the media called ‘The Movie Theater Massacre’?  The most unsettling part for me was knowing that my daughter and her girlfriend were there that day, but left about two hours before the unthinkable happened.

For most of us, going to the show is an escape.  We can laugh or cry or be scared silly—all in a safe environment where we know that nothing can really harm us.  When you think about it, violence has always played a major role in the movies:   combat soldiers waging war, Wild West outlaws living on the edge, machine-gun-toting gangsters taking each other out, fearless cowboys defending the open range .  And let’s not forget those menacing monsters that shake us up with nothing more than their frightening faces.   
As early as 1903, director Edwin S. Porter scared spectators in ‘The Great Train Robbery’ when he filmed a close-up of a gun firing (minus the bang) straight into the audience.  The paying public had never seen anything like it.  Despite the lack of sound, they came back again and again just to experience the thrill.  And that’s always been the fun of it until one day in late July 2012 when a real gunman took away the safety factor.  Even my daughter says she has not been to the show since the shooting.

Aurora’s theater remains closed and surrounded by yellow caution tape.  A nearby memorial erected by the locals still attracts visitors.  Some come to pay their respects while others just want to satisfy a morbid curiosity.   City officials have asked Aurora residents what they feel should be done with the building, but no decisions have been made at this time.  The shooter remains jailed as the legal process unfolds.   Twelve families mourn, 58 victims recover and, as for the rest of us, we just wonder why.

Sunday, August 5, 2012

A Bit of Thanks!

Has it really been 50 years since that wispy voice was silenced?  Say it aint so!  One of Hollywood’s most famous residents, Marilyn Monroe was discovered dead in her home a half century ago at the age of 36.  Although mystery and intrigue continue to swirl around her death, her short life made an impact on the world. 

Monroe made her first film in 1947, ‘The Shocking Miss Pilgrim’, where only her voice was heard.  She continued taking small roles in various films like ‘Asphalt Jungle”’ (1950) and ‘All About Eve’ (1950).  Monroe hit her stride soon after that starring in ‘Niagara’ (1953), Gentlemen Prefer Blondes’ (1953) and ‘How to Marry A Millionaire’ (1953).  She lit up a movie screen and made it sizzle with one seductive wink or a sly smile.  Men wanted her.  Women wanted to be her. 

Off screen, her life was always rocky.  Her mother suffered from mental illness and Monroe never knew her father.  As a youngster, she often pretended that Clark Gable was her daddy.  Gladys spent most of her years in and out of mental institutions causing Monroe to live in various foster homes.  Although she claimed she found some stability in the years she spent with an aunt in Van Nuys, California where she attended high school.

As an adult, Monroe had three failed marriages, several disastrous affairs and some bad habits.  She liked champagne to an excess and often used barbiturates to help her wake up as well as sleep.  Her damaging lifestyle took a toll on her work causing her to be notoriously late on most days and completely absent on others.  On set, she frequently forgot her lines and numerous takes (sometimes more than 40) were required before everyone was happy.   It could be nerve-wracking for film professionals like Sir Lawrence Olivier (‘The Prince and the Showgirl’) and Clark Gable (‘The Misfits’).  But the final product almost always proved to be worth the aggravation and they knew it.

Despite her shortcomings, Marilyn Monroe remains an icon whose image is just as well known today as it was fifty years ago.  Her face continues to sell goods while her name often appears on lists like ‘Hollywood’s Most Popular Celebrities’ or ‘Hollywood’s Sexiest Stars’.  Her movies still draw spectators with ‘Some Like It Hot’ (1959) named the funniest film ever by the American Film Institute.

And so today, the fiftieth anniversary of her untimely death, I think Marilyn Monroe deserves a heartfelt thanks for all of the hours she spent entertaining us—something she continues to do over and over again—with her wispy voice, seductive smile and sly wink.