Saturday Night Family Film

by dschapman

I took the dog to my parent’s house to watch From Here To Eternity with them. I wanted my father to watch Montgomery Clift’s movies so he could understand what it meant for me to love Montgomery Clift, and they are mostly westerns and war movies, which of course my father naturally likes to see. These are masculine movies, in that all men love them, and it is not effeminate to do so. My mother knows who Montgomery Clift is because she likes to watch television and movies like I do, and she just likes to watch movies that I like, whether westerns and war movies or not.

My mother told me that my godmother, June Downing, who lives in a small schoolhouse in southern Maine that we converted into a home during the summer I was 16, collapsed from a seizure and was airlifted into the hospital, where she is being “kept knocked out for a while to help her breathing.” Then my father came out, and said, “Tell our son about June, did you tell him they put her in a coma?” I laughed and said that “Mom did not want to use the c-word.”

Poor June. She will be dead soon. It was going to happen soon enough, anyway. What did we think would happen? We weren’t really around her much anymore, and that wasn’t going to change – so she will die now, or we will wait five more years and she will die then. It is awful to be old. I used to empathize with old men but now I am scared of the idea and I shy away from it. I am older than I am younger in heart, but that does not mean I like it.

Mother baked chocolate chip cookies and we sat down to watch From Here To Eternity. I pointed out Frank Sinatra and Ernest Borgnine and Andy Griffith. My mother recognized more people than I did. I explained how in the book, the New Congress Club was a brothel, of course. But that it was impressive how much got past the censors. When Montgomery plays the bugle, I remarked how amazing and sexual his positioning was. I asked my father what “non-commisioned” officers were, but he didn’t really know. My mother said, “Non-commanding.” Is that what they said? I thought they said non-commissioned. i explained how Monty was drunk in his scene with Burt Lancaster, but Burt was only pretending to be drunk, because he did not drink when acting. And isn’t that a homoerotic scene? My mother said Burt as Warden was her favorite character, although in the beginning she thought he was a jerk. She likes, she said, that he is fair. I said, “Yes, he’s really something. It’s about conviction,” and she agreed. As for the Major, when he got his comeuppance in the end I was satisfied, although in the book he is promoted, not forced into resignation. But I prefer the Hollywood ending.