A few nights ago I stepped off a plane in Southwest Florida after 35 hours of travelling from Melbourne. When I arrived I saw my mom, Muriel Galinsky, who I had not seen in three years – she is 92 and has been a widow since my father died three years ago.
It was 1am when I finally walked into her house. We had a drink, sat down and talked and then, even though I’d watched several movies on the flight over, we watched another one – Alfred Hitchcock’s Marnie. My mother has watched hundreds of films since my dad died.
My mother got me started on this wretched bliss – I write and produce movies from my base in Melbourne – by taking me to the double features every Saturday in Sioux City, Iowa in the 1950s. As a result of those Saturday Cinema Saturnelias, I’ve spent almost 40 years in some aspect of the motion picture industry, either writing or producing or marketing
It cost 25 cents to get in and popcorn and a Coke were 10 cents each. In those days, I sat with my brother or my friends and watched two B-grade horror films or two B-grade action films while my mom was on the other side of the wall, in the other cinema, watching two mature films with big Hollywood stars.
Now, 50 years later, all those stars are long dead but Hollywood is rebooting all the films I watched (Day of the Triffids, The Haunting, First Man in Outer Space, Fantastic Voyage, Godzilla) but they haven’t remade any of the films my mom would have watched. Well, maybe one: Cape Fear.
We watched another movie on my second night back at mum’s – Ghostbusters. She liked Harold Ramis’ character, Egon Venkman. I mentioned he recently died and she was sad. She also liked Dan Aykroyd. I mentioned his career had died years ago and she was again sad. And she asked about Bill Murray, because Caddyshack is one of her faves (she’s a golfer.) I said he’s in a new highly-regarded film and she remarked that we should see it.
Mum is ornery and fusses with the remote on her 90-inch Sony plasma with all the trimmings that only costs a fraction of what it would cost in Australia. She mutters, “crummy Chinese contraption” when she presses the wrong buttons on the remote or Blu Ray and I casually remind her that the SONY is Japanese, not Chinese, and that they also own Columbia Pictures which is called Sony Pictures.
I said it would be nice to revere the Chinese, because their burgeoning market gives my industry an unlimited future. She smiled and went back to watching The Matrix with me. She liked Laurence Fishburne’s voice – ‘don’t call him, Larry, mom’ – and Keanu Reeves, and thought Carrie-Ann Moss ‘wasn’t particularly beautiful, but very magnetic and interesting’.
It was then, for the first time in over 50 years, really being back with my mum at the movies, just us sitting on the reclining chairs, when I looked over at her and asked her why she loved the movies so much?
Without hesitation, she said: “Because all I have of your father is the memories and I miss him terribly. But I can watch movies over and over and enjoy them forever, especially the ones I used to watch with him.”
It wasn’t rehearsed, it wasn’t memorised, it just came out like that. They were married a few months shy of 60 years when my dad died, aged 93. That’s a lot of movies. That’s a lot of memories to fade away.
Michael Douglas once told a group of us that if a movie doesn’t have characters “you either want to be, f**k or fight”, then they don’t belong there. I suppose he got that from his dad but that’s only a guess. But it’s true that from the first time we see a film, we identify people we aspire to be, people we want to make love to, and villains we want to snuff out.
And that’s why everything in your life, in my life, and everyone’s life in civilised countries is really just our own little (or big) B movie or blockbuster, depending how well we’ve scripted our lives.
I asked mum this morning what she wanted to do after dinner. She said that Giant was on TV. I mentioned I loved that film. She remarked that she had loved the Edna Ferber novel, but the film seemed that much more to her as she had gone to see it with my dad and my brother when I was only four years old.
At that point, it seemed right to ask what other films she held dear after almost a century on this earth. So, in no particular order, here are Mrs Galinsky’s 19 favorite films of all time (25, if you count all of Sean Connery’s Bond films):
- Madame Butterfly (1932 Cary Grant version)
- Love Is A Many Splendored Thing
- The Thin Man
- To Kill a Mockingbird
- The Dirty Dozen
- The Mechanic
- All James Bond films with Sean Connery but especially Goldfinger
- South Pacific
- The Pink Panther
- Singing in the Rain
- Terms of Endearment
- Steel Magnolias
- All the Three Stooges Movies
- The Road to Morocco
- The Godfather
- As Good As It Gets
I don’t know how many of that list you’ve seen with your mom or dad or children, but when they’re gone and you see the movies on your own, again, they will bring you back to a day and a time that you thought might have been gone forever.
Bobby Galinsky has been a screenwriter and producer for three decades, originally based in Los Angeles, and then, from 1984, Australia. His favourite movie from his mother’s list is The Thin Man.
How many of Muriel’s films have you seen? Tell us below.