“Screens Beckon and Change”

Throughout my childhood and on I went to the movies. In the 1950’s the movies I watched were often dramatic and upsetting. From the death in Bambi to the shooting of the rabid dog in 1957’s Old Yeller, no one seemed intent on keeping me from some of the hard truths of life. Even fantasy could be quite scary. I remember being haunted by the endless reproduction of brooms in Walt Disney’s Fantasia. My little brother went screaming out of the theater when the flying monkeys appeared in The Wizard of Oz. My father, brother and I went to see The Guns of Navarone in 1961, so I know I had seen some war scenes.

Still nothing could have prepared me for the 1967 film Bonnie and Clyde. For the first time violence was graphically and chillingly portrayed. At that moment I realized how much I had been protected from such scenes in movies until then. It sickened me in a way that movie goers since, hardened by endless scenes of graphic violence, probably never are.

At the same time television began to broadcast chilling scenes of racial violence. The evening news showed body bags returning from Viet Nam. Seemingly at once I was jolted, in the middle 60’s, out of the cocoon my culture had provided until then. It was a rough awakening to be sure.

42 thoughts on ““Screens Beckon and Change”

      1. Oh, Pere, im a bawler for emotional stories. Let me count the times. As to your story, I had a 7th gr teacher, Miss Sullivan, who cried when she read ‘Evangeline’, a long poem by Longfellow (I had to look up the author). That’s all I remember about the poem, that she cried.

        Liked by 1 person

  1. I loved Old Yeller. I still have the theme song on a 75rpm disc. I remember having nightmares of little people invading my bed after being taken to see the Wixard of Oz, and my youngest daughter burst into loud tears at the death of Bambi’s mother. (Since I had the other three with me, 3, 5 and 7 years old, I couldn’t take her out of the cinema.)
    I can’t watch really graphic stuff. I like detective series, but usually turn away when it gets nasty.


  2. ‘Where the Red Fern Grows” was another heartbreaker. I was not prepared for what I saw when I went to see “Bonnie and Clyde” as a young teenager. Now everything seems to include some level of violence.


      1. I think part of it was the music was upbeat, and images saturated magazines,the culture in general, etc., and fashion was influenced greatly as well. I remember my sister having a floaty ‘Bonnie’ 30s-style dress and strappy shoes! Then, even though we knew how the story would end, we saw the movie and Bam!


  3. My parents took me to the cinema twice every week, from a very young age. It was an escape from our poor quality housing and urban lifestyle. I saw every ‘big’ film that was going, and most of the ‘B’ films too.
    When Bonnie and Clyde was released here, I went to see it with my cousin. I was 15, and she was 17. We thought it was an amazing film, so much so that we went to see it again, 4 days later. Two days after that, I went to see it again, with my best friend from school. It is still the only film I have seen 3 times in the same week.
    Best wishes, Pete.


  4. These days the warnings we get before films and TV begin to put the responsibility on the watcher though some eg ‘some cases of smoking and nose pickings may upset the viewer’ are getting farcical. And the serial violence is getting less graphic thankfully – Straw Dogs still me shudder in memory. The thing that most disturbs me is the willingness to cut (soz) to a forensic dissection with no warning. No one warns you that ‘the removal and weighing of a brain might upset some viewers’.


  5. It was. All the WWII newsreels and movies never showed bloody bodies. The evening news is often sickening. Yet, I still question how relevant it is to most people.


  6. Hi Elizabeth, my childhood was very sheltered too and I never heard the term rape until I was 16. It’s quite weird, the authorities want to rewrite Ronald Dajl’s books to remove references to fat and ugly but the violence and sex in movies and on TV is graphic and chilling. It makes no sense to me.


  7. I cried all the way through Peter Pan because I felt so sorry for all the little boys that didn’t have Mommy’s. I don’t think I saw violent movies until I was much older (still avoid them).


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