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I love movies.

I really think my longtime enthusiasm for the cinema is in my DNA.

From the writings in her journal, my mother and her numerous beaus took in many popular films in the 1930s and 1940s.

My father was likewise a regular picture show person, a custom he inherited from his mother who was always drawn to this form of visual entertainment and faithfully subscribed to Photoplay magazine.

When my dad once chided me for wanting to see Lana Turner's "Imitation of Life" for the third time, my grandmother noted that she found that admonition quite humorous since he had seen one of his favorite movies six or seven times.

Just recently, while waiting to meet a friend and neighbor at the theater to see "Downton Abbey" (my second viewing, her first), I recalled with great fondness some of my early moviegoing experiences.

In the 1950s, my parents and grandparents allowed me and my "best bud," Mollie Lollis (now Muldoon), to only see certain attractions at downtown's Malco Theatre. Quite often, they or one of the "grands" accompanied us to a summertime matinee.

During those halcyon days, we became avid fans of the aquatic star turned leading lady, Esther Williams. Every time it was announced that another Williams' feature was coming to Hot Springs, we put in our earnest pleas to be among the first to view it. Among our favorites were "Million Dollar Mermaid" and "Pagan Love Song."

Mollie and I were mesmerized by the swimming champion's acrobatics and the special effects that always evoked a lot of "oohs and aahs" from the audience.

Somehow I got up the nerve to ask one of Malco's workers if I could have the Esther Williams cutout that was propped up outside by the box office. He got permission to do so and thus one of my then-screen idols went home with me for awhile.

When it came to moviegoing choices, Westerns were No. 1 with my father.

Mollie and I liked them, too, so he or his mother and stepfather would take us to see the latest John Wayne, Dale Robertson or Audie Murphy offering at the Malco or Paramount. Mollie and I were entranced by Randolph Scott -- no doubt because of his good looks and charming Virginia accent.

My mother much preferred movie musicals or comedies but went with us to see "Shane" -- the much-heralded 1953 drama that starred Alan Ladd, Jean Arthur, Jack Palance, and Brandon deWilde.

(Not until many years later did I learn of Alan Ladd's Hot Springs' connection. Movie buffs and Spa City residents who are not familiar with the tie might want to do some research on that subject.)

When I discovered that my dad was also an avid fan of several actresses who co-starred with Wayne -- Maureen O'Hara, Yvonne deCarlo, and Angie Dickinson -- I teased him unmercifully. But, in the late summer of 1965, I had quite a surprising encounter that pleased him as much as it did me. On the first day of my first newspaper job, I was being introduced to co-workers at the Burbank Daily Review in Southern California.

The editors wanted to make sure that I met everyone on-site -- especially the folks in the production department since their assistance was vital to us editorial types.

Imagine how taken aback I was when -- after being presented to Fredericka Brown, one of the composing area's key individuals -- a new colleague whispered to me, "Oh, yes, she is also Angie Dickinson's mother and another daughter, Mary Lou, is our receptionist." (Dickinson played the dance hall girl nicknamed "Feathers" in "Rio Bravo.")

Obviously, I could not wait to call home and share the news with my father. More importantly, "Freddie," as everyone called her, became a mentor and saw to it that I took every assignment seriously. Since her husband, Leo, had been a newspaper publisher, she could spot a spelling gaffe in a heartbeat.

She also was a thoughtful person, inviting me to come to her home for my first on-the-job Thanksgiving meal and helping this California newbie learn her way around a strange city. Freddie never bragged about her movie star daughter but kindly secured for me an autographed picture that I have to this day.

During those carefree yesterdays -- when going to the movies with friends was just a fun thing to do -- it never occurred to me that Hot Spring would one day become a mecca for documentarians and passionate aficionados of a genre that continues to grow across the country.

The success of the Hot Springs Documentary Film Festival -- now in its 28th year (Oct. 18-26) -- proves the resiliency of this celluloid medium and the broadening interests of today's followers.

But, whether or not your cinematic preferences are more escapist fare than factual and historic productions, there is still magic at the movies.

Editorial on 10/13/2019

Print Headline: Factual or fiction, movies still magic

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