SUMMER MOVIES, SUMMER NOT – GARRY ARMSTRONG

I just read an article about this year’s summer movies. Apparently, box office watchers don’t believe we’ll have any block busters. No matter because we don’t go to the movies very often these days. Chalk it up to boredom with product, exorbitant prices, and sheer laziness. But it got me to thinking about summers past.

This is nostalgia, the summer-themed films I remember seeing at the theaters during those lazy, hazy halcyon days. Some of them were fine movies, acclaimed cinema. Many were not. But it doesn’t matter because these are movies I fondly remember enjoying during the long, hot summers of youth.

JAWS

I covered the location filming on Martha’s Vineyard and did some of the “Great White” scare stories when the movie came out. I absolutely loved seeing the film — especially knowing the back stories. It still works for me!

Jaws-movie-poster

AMERICAN GRAFFITI

Saw it at a drive-in in 1973. The 50s — 60s nostalgia and music were terrific. I was driving my first convertible, a flame orange 1969 Dodge Challenger, fully loaded. You know what I was thinking

SUMMER OF ’42

I’m a sucker for summer romance stories. The ’42 setting (the year I made my début) made it extra special as did the gorgeous Jennifer O’Neill. Saw the film with friends from the small Connecticut TV station I worked at before coming to Boston. A special summer night

THE SOUND OF MUSIC

Saw this one summer of ’65 at the Syosset Theater on Long Island. My companion was the sweetheart of our college radio station. We sang the songs all the way home.

THE GREAT ESCAPE

It was the summer of ’63. I lost count of how many times I saw this in first run. I tried to emulate Steve McQueen by wearing the cutoff sweat shirt. Matter of fact, I had that sweat shirt for almost 40 years. Just ask Marilyn. And, no, I never tried to mimic Steve on a bike. Never that crazy!

great-escape-poster

SUSAN SLADE

Summer of ’62. I had a BIG crush on Connie Stevens! I still do. In my mind, that wasn’t Troy Donahue romancing Connie on-screen. Of course, Troy is long gone, but hey, Connie, I’m still here.

A LOSS OF INNOCENCE

It was also called “The Greengage Summer.” I saw it at the Hempstead Theater, Hempstead, Long Island. Summer of 1961 and the beginning of my crush on Susannah York.

A SUMMER PLACE

One of the first films I saw at a drive-in. 1959 on Long Island. Saw it with my best buddy and a gorgeous redhead. Another special summer night. Marilyn and I saw this again the other night at home. It wasn’t quite the same.

HOUSEBOAT

Summer of ’58. I was madly in love with Sophia Loren. I didn’t think Cary Grant was good enough for her. Years later, I met Sophia and told her the story. She laughed and gave me a kiss.

PEYTON PLACE

Summer of ’57. I was a sophomore in high school and quietly, desperately in love. The object of my unrequited affection was a dead ringer for Diane Varsi who played Allison in the movie. I’d read the Grace Metalious novel, including “those” parts several times. It’s still a guilty pleasure.

PICNIC

Summer of ’56. My baby brother, Anton, was just a few months old. I was his primary baby-sitter. “Picnic” was my first movie night out that summer. William Holden was my favorite actor. His “Moonglow Theme From Picnic” slow dance with the lovely Kim Novak did something to my precious bodily fluids. Years later, I met Holden and he laughed at my recollection of the movie. He said dancing with Novak did something to his precious bodily fluids too.

picnic-55-holden-novak-poster-1-f15

 

THE ROAD TO DENVER

A “B” western with John Payne. One of a bunch of westerns I saw during the summers 1950 through 1954 at a local movie theater where tickets were 11 cents for kids. I saw all the Audie Murphy, Rory Calhoun, Rod Cameron, Roy Rogers, etc. westerns. The Universal and Republic oaters were my favorites because the good guys had nice outfits and handsome horses. The coming attractions were exciting. I couldn’t wait to see the next film. The women? Forget ’em.

SHANE

A memorable summer night in 1953. First encounter with one of my favorite westerns. Saw it with Mom at the Loews Valencia in Jamaica, New York. The Valencia was one of those old fashion palatial movie venues. You sat under the stars while watching the stars on the big screen.

shane poster-2

HOUSE OF WAX

Summer of ’53. Saw this with my Mom at the RKO Alden in Jamaica, Queens. The original 3-D version with Vinnie Price. One of the few films to scare the bejesus out of me. We walked home. A long walk. Mom held my hand. Don’t tell anyone. Years later, I told Vinnie Price this story. He laughed at me too.

SINGIN’ IN THE RAIN

Saw this with Mom during the summer of 1952. We sang the music walking home on a perfect summer night with the fire flies providing the chorus.

THE THING

Summer of ’51. Mom and me again. Scary, scary movie. Saw this at our neighborhood movie theater, The Carlton, in Jamaica, Queens. The short walk home seemed a little longer. I kept looking over my shoulder for things that go bump in the night.


Lots of diverse, fond memories probably enhance my recollection of these movies seen over the summers of more than half a century. I treasure the memories and the movies.

20 thoughts on “SUMMER MOVIES, SUMMER NOT – GARRY ARMSTRONG

  1. I can’t remember when I saw what. I have seen most of those, but my faves list is less distinguished and quirkier.
    Moonstruck, A New Leaf, Hondo, Stagecoach, 7 Brides for 7 Brothers. The Birdcage, The original Parent Trap with Hayley Mills. I count them as favorites if I watch them every time they’re on. Lots more, and I’d have trouble putting them in any kind of order.
    I love that Picnic is on there. One of my godmothers was in it, on Broadway and in the movie. I think you might know that already. It’s fun to just make a list.

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    • That’s a great list you have, Kit. Didn’t Ralph Meeker play Hal on Broadway? I agree it’s fun to make these lists. I think I’m going to soon do one about films remembered from youth. Maybe try to decade by decade. It’s all very subjective. Summer is just a way of combining personal memories with films seen during this time of the year. As you well know, old movies are part of the fabric of my life. I prefer sharing these things rather than some of the hard news stories I covered over the decades.

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  2. How cool about your experience with Jaws. I loved that movie. A couple other favorites Singing in the Rain and Sound of Music. I could watch those any day of the year.

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    • Me, too, Cee. And, I do. (I once walked to work in the rain — warbling “Singin’ In The Rain”. Some people stared. A few applauded. I thought I sounded like Gene Kelly. But remember, I’m hard of hearing).

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      • I like movies so much but do not watch much television. I do not even own a flat screen. One of my favorite all time movie (out of 100’s) is still Splanglish !

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    • Yes, they’ll probably be a lot of rehashes and reboots. We may see one just to take advantage of senior discounts and hope we get lucky (with the movie). Meantime, I’ll stick with the oldies.

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  3. Rick, Vincent Price was a gentleman and very, very funny. He told me to call him Vinnie. He shared some hilarious stories about old Hollywood. He was touring with an art exhibit when we met for an interview and a memorable afternoon of gossip.

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  4. Jaws release was one of those movies that locks you to a specific place & time. I took a one night stand out to see Jaws at the movie theater. I remember the movie but not the date’s name. 🙂

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  5. That’s quite a list! You have a good memory, Garry. I remember “Singing in the Rain,” although I may not have seen it the year it came out. I also remember “Jaws.” Mostly, though, I remember all the musicals: “South Pacific,” “Carousel,” “Oklahoma,” “Westside Story,” “Fiddler on the Roof …” I have no idea whether I saw them in the summer or not.

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    • I’ve had a life long love affair with movies. Began in 1946 when I saw my first film, “The Best Years Of Our Lives”. My Dad, still in uniform, was just back from Europe and World War Two. Some of your movies would also be on my list. When I was younger, summer seemed a special time to go to the movies.

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  6. Thanks Marilyn. An avalanche of memories set free there! I remember virtually all of these with affection. Regards Thom. The cinema going experience a great cultural practice.

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    • Hi, Thom. Garry here. This is actually MY list. I agree about the cinema going experience. It’s not as personal now as it was in my youth. It was a PRIMARY source of entertainment. The personal memories make the recollection even more vivid. Meeting some of the “legends” later during my professional life was icing on the cake.

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    • Rick, Vincent Price was a gentleman and very, very funny. He told me to call him Vinnie. He shared some hilarious stories about old Hollywood. He was touring with an art exhibit when we met for an interview and a memorable afternoon of gossip.

      (Garry posted this, but forgot to hit “reply” so I reposted it where you can find it!)

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