The Paw Paw River Journal
Magic Movie Moments
Movies have been such a part of our lives forever. I’m sure there is no one alive now who can remember when there were no movies. Albeit the first ones were pretty crude, they were still impressive to the people of those times. Cenius Engle was Hartford’s first lawyer. He was self-taught and passed the state bar exam without having ever gone to law school. He had the opera house above the old Green Lantern just east of the park. In it was one of the first movie theaters. And it didn’t last very long because they passed laws that theaters could not be upstairs. Too much danger of crowds getting trapped in case of fire. And those early movie projectors did cause fires. They were hot, with the light provided by an arc lamp. The films were highly flammable too, so the combination was dangerous. Someone told me the first movie shown in the opera house had in one part a couple, not especially handsome, in a passionate love scene. He was nibbling on her face, and people found that quite scandalizing. Another section showed a locomotive roaring down the tracks right at the camera. People were so frightened by it they actually scrambled away from the front of the screen. The first movie I can remember in Hartford featured the Western star, Tom Mix. People were remarking how nice it was to have sound, but I can’t remember when the theater didn’t have it. After that first film, my childhood was filled with Western stories, and those guys who rode horses were my heroes! With the advanced computers anything can be photo shopped now. We can believe nothing we see on the screen is real. That has not really lessened my love for the movies though. I love a good film, and we are always searching for new ones on Netflix and Amazon Prime. Meanwhile I have collected in my memory some of the magic moments and I’d like to draw up a few for you. One scene in the movie Jaws stands out… there are many in that film, but one is where they are out looking for the great shark. The town sheriff is leaning on the railing of the small cabin cruiser, and out of the depths comes this huge shark and opens his jaws! The sheriff is almost speechless. He finally says, “They’re gonna need a bigger boat!” I can remember squirming in my seat as we watched that great white shark. I don’t think I ever wanted to swim in deep ocean water after that. I was almost reluctant to get into the bathtub! Another iconic character from about the 70s is Dirty Harry. Clint Eastwood did a good job with that part. He managed to get across the idea that this guy is obsessed by a thirst for justice. One scene he has cornered the bad guy, who is trying to decide whether to reach for his gun or not. Dirty Harry pulls out that big old .45 caliber magnum revolver. Sighting along its chrome barrel, he says, “You’re trying to decide if I have one more bullet left. Go ahead, Punk, make my day!” I guess Clint Eastwood has given us many Magic Movie Moments in his long career of making films. And clear up to his present age is still doing it. There is an early John Houston movie that you may or may not have seen. It is a sort of Western, about some guys down on their luck and searching for gold in the mountains of Mexico. It is one of Humphrey Bogart’s early films, and also stars an old actor, Walter Houston. His son was the director. Well, they find the gold and start digging it out. Walter is so excited he does a dance that is something to see. In the process some Mexican bandits confront them and say they want their mules and weapons, telling the prospectors that they are police. The prospectors are almost speechless, and finally one of them says, “If you are really police, show us your badges!” The snaggle toothed bandit leader grins and says, “We don’t need no stinkin’ badges!” And with that scene, the saying passes into history. My last Magic Movie Moment is from a film once seen will never be forgotten. Frankenstein came out in the 1930s, and I was so small my folks wouldn’t let me see it. Good thing! It was so scary just looking at the still photos gave me nightmares. Dr. Frankenstein creates a monster out of spare body parts. But it is not alive. So he sends it up on an elevator to the top of the tower to be struck by lightning. It does strike; and when he brings it back down, he anxiously watches to see if the monster will move. The fingers on one hand finally twitch, and he yells excitedly, “It’s alive! It’s alive!” And with that, another Magic Moment comes into being. There are so many more, but I have reached the end of this column. And I’d like to say that such moments are all part of our culture… threads we weave into the Golden Tapestry of our lives in these storybook towns along the Paw Paw River.
This image of a young boy holding a doll was located within the Watervliet Paper Mill collection. Contact North Berrien Historical Museum at 468-3330, firstname.lastname@example.org, or stop by Tues. thru Fri. 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., they would love to hear your stories on this photo. From the photo collection at the North Berrien Historical Museum 300 Coloma Avenue, Coloma