One of my fondest memories of my father was when he took me to see the Harold Lloyd silent movie Safety Last. Recently I again watched the clip of Mr. Lloyd climbing the exterior of a skyscraper, and I thought that his effort embodies my father’s life. Dad has always met the challenges of impossible tasks and has kept going. Through it all he has loved movies and kept his sense of humor.
Born eight months before the stock-market crash of 1929, Dad will be 83 years old this year. Growing up during the Depression, Father savored Hollywood films, which produced a respite from the everyday hardships of that era. He and his pals would seek refuge from the troubled world in the theater, spending all day in the thrall of a Tom Mix film followed by a first-rate concert with a full orchestra—and all for 30 cents.
My father continues to be an ardent movie fan. He passed on his Cine disposition to me. As his only child, growing up in Manhattan, I spent many happy hours at home with his collection of movie coffee-table books in my lap. I would pore over photos of famous old films. I can still see Ramón Novarro as Ben-Hur with the winged hat in a wild chariot race, or Edward G. Robinson as a gangster grimacing as he clutches his topcoat after being shot.
As a family we talked about movies the way other families might discuss current events. We also were forever looking in the basement for my mother’s moment on the big screen. She appeared in a Movietone newsreel, modeling Easter bonnets. During the hunt for the missing reel, my mother would remark earnestly from the top of the stairs that the reel “must be there somewhere!” Which is no doubt true to this day.
My grandfather was also in on the movie madness, as he was busy shooting home movies of us waving or of me running out of a small Mickey Mouse tent. During idle afternoons I watched The Million Dollar Movie on TV, snuggled next to my grandmother. Maybe all this focus on film was one of the reasons I went on to produce documentary films, and why I can sit through just about any movie.
I love it that the Academy Awards began in the same year my dad was born. Hollywood understands, as Dad does, that when all else fails, go to the movies—and don’t forget a sense of humor.