The Birth of a Classic Film Buff
Classic films have been a big part of my life for many years. They have been my friend when I have had a bad day, my companion when it was storming outside, and my date on New Year’s Eve. The love I have for these films started when I was young, and as a result I have acquired a large collection of films. Along with the films, I have also collected movie memorabilia that comes in the forms of such things as books, posters, pictures, plates, and dolls. This collection didn’t just happen, and all of it is very near and dear to me because it all represents a thirty year relationship. When thinking back to how it started I also have to think about why it started. What put me on this path? I know exactly when it started, and also what the original reason was for it. It was a film. Many people might consider it odd that a film should hold such importance, but for me this film changed my life. The year was 1982, and the film was Gone With the Wind.
To set the stage I must make it clear that the situation of my first viewing of Gone With the Wind was less than ideal. It didn’t take place at a theatre where on a big screen I could truly experience its grandeur. No, this first encounter occurred with the help of my grandmother’s discarded ancient black and white television set that my sister and I took turns keeping in our room. It was a model that still had a picture tube so although it had a small screen it still took up a great deal of space. It took fifteen minutes after turning it on for the picture to even appear, the glass was curved which distorted the images, and it had a waviness to the picture that made it such that looking too close was not recommended. This was a television that’s only real redeeming quality for the longest time was that it allowed me the ability to sneakily watch old Rawhide episodes in the summer when I couldn’t sleep. This demonstrates the power of Gone With the Wind because it still managed to rise above these factors, and allow me to see its true beauty.
As stated before, this all happened in 1982; a fact checker would point out that Gone With the Wind came out in 1939 — but for me it didn’t exist until 1982. Truly, before that time I really didn’t know anything about it. That year CBC television broadcasted it from 7pm to 9pm over the course of two nights, and during those two nights I escaped into a world I never wanted to leave. I am not going to go into great detail about the difference scenes that I loved, because the only way to truly understand is to watch it yourself. The important thing is to understand the effect the film had on me, and when the film did end, I was in disbelief that Scarlett and Rhett were not going to be together. Really, I even checked to see if there was a third part on the next night where the film had a chance to end happily ever after. I was beside myself, because frankly I did give a damn, and tomorrow might be another day, but for me it wasn’t going to include another installment of Gone With the Wind. I was a fourteen year old girl that always felt a little lost in the outside world, and this beautiful encounter opened my eyes and made things happier. The way to explain it was that I felt at home.
Gone With the Wind, the novel, written by Margaret Mitchell (first published in 1936)
I needed a way to keep contact with these characters. The first thing I did was get a copy of the book, and I can thank my Great Aunt Mary for allowing me not only to borrow her copy, but to keep it. The reading of this novel was a big undertaking for a girl that before this had only read the Anne of Green Gables and Nancy Drew series of books. I will admit that I started out slowly, but once I got past the first few chapters I was yet again lost in this wonderful world. There was one weekend I don’t think I moved from my room. After I closed the novel for the last time I still needed more. For the time being, I felt that I knew all I could about the characters, but now I was obsessed in learning everything I could about the film, and about the cast. In those days there wasn’t any such thing as the internet to help aid a person with research. No, back then research involved books, and now my job was to find all the books I could. There wasn’t a bookstore in town that I didn’t check out for some scrap of information. I actually found out that Clark Gable was dead from the Encyclopedias we had in the basement, not a happy day. Through my first purchased book, I found out that the movie was in colour. That piece of news made me long to watch the film again. I didn’t actually get to see the movie again for another year when the CBS channel broadcasted it. I remember one of my teachers mentioning how people should make a point of watching it, and if I was the type of person to talk in class, I would have said, “of course I am going to watch it”. This time I was going to watch it in COLOUR!!!
Not being made of money meant that I often had to rely on the library, or by having the desired books being purchased for me as birthday and Christmas presents. Slowly a collection was started. It was at this point, when I started to concentrate more on the actors and actresses, that the path I was on started to branch out a bit. My main focus was still Gone With the Wind, but through many of my books I started to learn about other actors and actresses, and about other films. So this change in direction meant that, instead of the library, I was checking out the video stores. Unfortunately this was a time when the only video stores that were in our city were the little corner store type that barely had membership cards, let alone the laminated ones that later came along with the large chain stores. This type of store had a very small selection of films, and at this time Gone with the Wind was not available on video. They did have other classic films however, and I gradually started to realize that this feeling of home wasn’t limited to only Gone With the Wind — and a classic film buff was born.
Some might see this as a cautionary tale of the controlling influence of cinema on young children, but I rather hope that people will read it and feel like they have a similar story to tell. I would love to hear them.
–Pam Fallon Thornley for Classic Movie Hub
A BIG THANK YOU to Pam for sharing her very special Classic Movie Memory with Classic Movie Hub. You can follow Pam on Twitter at @FallonThornley ; Pam always shares such wonderful Classic Movie Facts and Quotes with CMH on Twitter!