Sunday, July 10, 2016

The Sunday Memory Drawer - The Reason Why I Had to Sleep Through the Second Feature at the Drive-In

The title above is even longer than "Everything You Wanted to Know About Sex But Were Afraid to Ask."  And oddly connected in a way.

We flash back to my youth.   The Elmsford Drive-In in Westchester County.   This was a favorite summer haunt of my parents.   I always knew that a trip there was in our immediate future if I saw my dad down in the driveway washing the windshield.   And another tell-tale sign?   My pajamas were out already on my bed at 5PM.   

Yep, we were going to the drive-in.

And I remember one excursion very well.

The first picture was over. The hot dogs had jumped into their buns. The popcorn had been doused with butter. And I had been popped into the summer edition of my pajamas. Lightweight and the pants were really short. Beddy bye for yours truly. The second feature was getting ready to start.   It was always a movie that had already been out several years before.   Hollywood's earliest version of a rerun.   And the command bellowed from my mom in the front seat.

"Now go to sleep!"

The vinyl upholstery barely had time to make the crease in my face. I stirred.

"Go to sleep!"

I'm trying. It's hot back here. And the pre-show hot dog was doing its own backflips in my stomach. 

Moments later, I heard some lush music. My head bobbed up again.


Mom's words were stern. I guessed that, if I didn't, the next warning would come from the male parental unit.

I tried to close my eyes, but the beautiful sounds of the soundtrack was complimented by the crashing of ocean waves. What the heck were they watching?

And then, I started to hear the dialogue. And my young mind could make no immediate connections.

"That would make it easier for you to sleep with his harlot of a mother."


"Have you been bad, Johnny?"

This didn't sound like the bad I was when I broke the top off Grandma's candy dish.

"It seems Molly is pregnant!"

Huh? Like she ate the same seed that God put on my mother's dinner plate that resulted in me. Or something like that.

I knew one thing for sure. They weren't watching "Pollyanna" with Hayley Mills.

I never did get to doze that night. But, I did my best job of pretending to sleep. 

As the headlights came on and the sound of tires kicking up the Elmsford Drive-In gravel enveloped me, I raised my head ever so slightly to see what was on the theater marquee. What had so captivated my parents' attention? And what movie's dialogue was so damn confusing to me?



I made a mental note of the title. 

Several years later, I was a little older, a little wiser, and a lot more curious especially when the folks were working at night and I had TV privileges all to myself. One warm evening, I see the movie being promoted for that week's edition of CBS' "Thursday Night Movie."

"A Summer Place."

Okay, I'm in. I sat down to watch it with my usual television viewing companion, Grandma.

And I immediately understood why my parents wanted me unconscious back at the Elmsford Drive-In. Because, indeed for its time, "A Summer Place" was a super-risque movie. Adult illicit sex. Teenage illicit sex. Medical exams to prove continued virginity. All glossed up by the most haunting film theme ever as composed and conducted by Max Steiner. It didn't take long for Grandma to comment.

"This is a dirty movie."

But the two of us kept watching. That's what I liked about Grandma. There was a minimum of censoring. Hell, we were already watching "Peyton Place" together two nights a week.

To this day, "A Summer Place" is a freeway wreck of a film that I still can't take my eyes off. Richard Egan acting by simply gritting his teeth so much that he might have been the first ever candidate for a night guard. Constance Ford as the nastiest bitch of a mother this side of Joan Crawford. Sandra Dee asking Troy Donahue if he's been "bad" with other girls. And then seducing him by explaining the complete plot of "King Kong!"

Just watch this scene where Molly's parents talk about sex. This was 1959, folks! Do we even hear these discussions in home today?

Yep, "A Summer Place" is sheer garbage.

I love it! I've seen it so many times that I can recite dialogue and insert different gag lines every viewing. I even spotted in one of the scenes in the girls' dormitory that one of the teenage extras is none other than Bonnie Franklin from "One Day at a Time."

A few years back, I discovered that my writing partner had never seen the movie. We needed a night of wisecracking to the plasma TV. On went the DVD. And the film is the gift that just keeps on giving.

About thirty minutes in, he announced with part disdain and part amusement.

"This is a dirty movie."

Yep. So said Grandma. So thought my parents years ago.

And I wonder if those two had discussed the movie on the way home.

I immediately change the subject. I really don't want to know what they thought.

Dinner last night: Leftover angel hair pasta, garlic, and broccoli with olive oil.

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