My grandmother loved movies, and taking me, her first grandchild, to them. I know, you’re thinking Mary Poppins or Lassie..
Wrong. I remember her taking me to two films in particular, and the memory of each are reduced to one scene per movie. I turned the TV on this morning, and playing on one of the classic film channels was the Warren Beatty, Faye Dunaway classic Bonnie and Clyde.
Grandma took me to the Paramount Theatre in Anderson, Indiana to see the gangster flick when I was 8 years old. Seeing it again on the flat screen in my home office this morning, I wondered what she was thinking as we watched it. The subtle (by today’s standards) sexual overtones (which I have no memory of at all, not surprisingly) were decidedly PG today. What I remember vividly, is the violence, particularly in the gun battles, and most shockingly, in the final scene where Bonnie and Clyde are gunned down in their car, several law enforcement officers cutting them to pieces with automatic gunfire. Reports of the incident that ended the pair’s crime spree said they were each hit at least 50 times, with several head shots. The mortician had trouble embalming them because of all the bullet holes in their bodies.
This particular film was groundbreaking in a number of ways, including the first use of “squibs,” small packets of red liquid that are used to simulate being shot. Previously in the movies, death by bullet was portrayed by the actor’s hand clutching his abdomen, a grimace, and line something like “he got me!” Bonnie and Clyde changed all that. S&t got real.*
That scene with bullets perforating Bonnie and Clyde is the one that lives in my memory to this day.
But the first film-going memory I have, is my grandmother taking me to see the Bette Davis classic Hush Hush Sweet Charlotte. I was five years old that time, and honest to God, that movie creeped me the F&*k out, especially the scene with Bette Davis standing, covered in the blood of the guy everyone thought she had just stabbed to death. Then, that head rolling down the stairs…Jeesh.
Again, I was five years old. I think the reason there was a three year gap in between movies my grandmother took me to probably corresponded to how long it took my mom and dad to forget about Hush Hush Sweet Charlotte and let her take me to the theatre again.
It was years later when I realized why the Baldwin sisters on The Waltons creeped me out so much. They simply reminded me of Bette Davis and Joan Crawford from that movie. Two spinster sisters with southern accents…
I’m glad we have a movie rating system today, even if it seems to be getting really lax these days. Movies that to me, are clear “R” films seem to routinely get “PG-13” ratings, if not “PG.” I’m sad that our kids have to grow up so fast, but I’m sure parents have been saying that for hundreds, if not thousands of years. There were probably Roman parents talking, two thousand years ago, one saying “I can’t believe that Marcus and Octavia took little Julius to the Coliseum! He’s only 10. I didn’t get to watch the gladiators until I was 13! These kids are growing up so fast!”
The other day, I let my 12 year old watch a few minutes of what in 1976 was the most violent show on television, Starsky and Hutch. He thought it was the funniest thing he’d ever seen. I remember the controversy over Starsky and Hutch, how it was too violent for television, too realistic, etc…Today though? There are episodes of iCarly that have more violence than Starsky could unleash in an hour. Times do change.
My kid is 12, is pretty good at Call of Duty and Watchdogs *(though I don’t let him play *Grand Theft Auto). No way I’d let him watch Hush Hush, Sweet Charlotte. No way.