Bob Hope on the Tube

Entertainer Bob Hope talks with actress Barbara Eden during a United Services Organization (USO) show aboard the amphibious assault ship USS OKINAWA (LPH-3).

I was an avid Rolling Stone reader in the late 70’s. It was cool being nineteen years old and reading a hip publication that was considered to still be a bit “underground.” After all, its back pages featured ads for NORML! How cutting edge was that?

But I remember when I decided that the music magazine, which introduced me to artists like Neil Young and Bruce Springsteen, whom I still greatly enjoy, lost me as a regular reader.

It was an issue that featured Bob Hope on the cover. The less-than-complimentary photo should have alerted me to the accompanying article’s venomous contents. Bob was skewered as a right-wing fanatical Hawk.

How much more pleasant a place the world would be if the subject of politics could be avoided at all costs.

We Boomer kids grew up with Bob Hope Specials on the TV at quite regular intervals. Bob was a radio star, and in the early 50’s faced the same decision as his contemporaries: what to do about TV?

Bob hawking Chesterfields

Television was clearly the future of entertainment in those years. So the great radio stars began their migration to the idiot box. Many of them floundered, as the paradigms of being a star on TV differed from being a star on radio in subtle ways that baffled all involved. Jack Benny, Edgar Bergen, Fred Allen, and Ed Wynn opted for regular series with varying results. Benny’s show was a hit for a few years. The others couldn’t score like they did in the old days.

Hope looked things over and made a very astute decision: don’t be on every week. Instead, make each show a “special!” Have a dozen or so a year. That way, audiences wouldn’t grow tired of your routine.

That brilliant insight led to his being a regular prime time staple for nearly forty years.

Hope’s specials would typically involve an hour (or possibly ninety minutes) of singing, dancing, and comedy skits. The sponsor was Chrysler, and their familiar trademark at the opening would be burned indelibly into a kid’s mind. There was plenty of eye candy, too, as gorgeous babes of the era like Barbara Eden, Brooke Shields, Morgan Fairchild, Raquel Welch, Nancy Sinatra, etc., etc. would strut their stuff at the height of their popularity.

The shows would get great ratings for NBC, and the public would look for them in their regular irregularity.

Bob and Jayne Mansfield entertaining the troops

Bob also had a long-standing tradition of entertaining US troops wherever they might be actively deployed. Evidently, this was the bee in Rolling Stone‘s bonnet. The Vietnam war was never more universally despised than the late 70’s, and anyone who hadn’t actively opposed it was viewed as suspect in character in a bizarre, miniaturized reversal of 1950’s Communist witch hunts.

John Wayne was the poster child for Hawks. His movie The Green Berets, in which a critical journalist Sees the Light about Vietnam, crossed the credibility line for many in the middle of the road, opinion-wise. They knew that Wayne’s red-white-and-blue stance was the diametrical opposite of the campus-trashing protesters, and common sense probably lay somewhere in between.

Hope, on the other hand, took gentle jabs at whomever was in office. His take on war? Its cause took a distant back seat to the need to provide its courageous participants with the distraction of entertainment.

So we were also treated to annual USO and Christmas specials during the Vietnam era. We knew that Les Brown and His Band of Renown were the swingingest musicians around. We knew that Thanks for the Memory was a great song without lyrics (at least I did, until I stumbled upon a late night weekend showing of The Big Broadcast of 1938). And we knew that Bob Hope would have his specials every couple of months until the end of time.

We were nearly right. Bob’s last hurrah was in 1996. Entitled Laughing with the Presidents, it costarred Tony Danza. You didn’t watch it? Unfortunately, neither did I. But it closed the book on a Boomer tradition that our parents also related to very well. IMHO, It’s a shame that my favorite Rock and Roll publication didn’t see it in the same light.

Where Were You in ’62?

Let’s see, if we were to make a movie about life eleven years ago, it would be all about the exciting year of 1996. Who can forget the great music, the cruising, and the carefree times?

Yeah, right.

While each generation defines its own “good old days,” the fact is that some pretty profound changes took place in the years between the late 50’s and the early 70’s. These changes involved a tremendous loss of innocence, as things like Vietnam, the Nixon White House, and three tragic assassinations turned us all into cynics. Even Cuba was just a former Mafia playground turned insignificant communist nation early in 1962.

Of course, my first coherent memory was the first of the three killings. So I’ve always been a cynic.

George Lucas noticed the changes that had taken place. He envisioned a movie set eleven years in the past that captured the last days of the Cruising Era. Vietnam was a country nobody had heard of. Nixon was the unshaven buffoon who debated Kennedy so badly. Southern California teenagers dealt with all of the angst associated with the child/adult transformation period the best way they could: by hopping in their cars and jamming to the Wolfman transmitting with the aid of 250,000 watts of Mexican power all across the western United States.

Lucas, a promising filmmaker who, as every true geek knows, commemorated his first film, THX 1138 by making the license plate of John Milner’s 32 Ford hotrod THX 138, thus being historically faithful to California plates of the era, maximum-character-wise, shot the movie in less than a month on a low budget.

But it struck a nerve. American audiences made the film a smash hit, and either launched or catapulted the careers of Ron Howard, Harrison Ford, Suzanne Summers, Cindy Williams, Richard Dreyfuss, Mackenzie Phillips, and Wolfman Jack. And deservedly so, because the fact is that it was quite simply a great film.

Nostalgia swept the nation after its release. That led directly to ABC TV’s launching of Happy Days, which spawned several shows itself. 7Up had a great commercial about that time about a 1950’s teenager. And the movie’s soundtrack woke up (or reminded) the public of just how great the music of the time was.

Even in the 21st century, Cruise Nights put on by various businesses and communities take on the air of cruising down the boulevard in Modesto circa 1962.

Of course, Lucas used his acclaim from the film to gain a foothold as one of the premier producer/directors in Hollywood. And that little Star Wars series did nothing to hurt his reputation.

But as much fun as the galactic battles were, I can’t help but marvel at the amazing gift he gave us back in 1973 with a shoestring budget and a bunch of actors who would work cheap.

When Movies Weren’t Rated

The movies reigned supreme over the entertainment business for a nice run of the 20th century. They knocked live Vaudeville performances out of the saddle, and never looked back. The movie industry didn’t notice when Scotsman John Logie Baird sent a television signal over the wires from London to Glasgow in 1927.

The Golden Age of Hollywood lasted until the late 1950’s. By then, televisions sat in a large percentage of American households’ living rooms, and movie studios were starting to feel the pinch.

So about this time, movies began getting more, shall we say, risque. After all, you had to do SOMETHING to keep the public paying money to go to the cinema.

But that meant conflict with the Hays Code. This list of rules, adopted by the MPAA in 1930, spelled out what was and was not considered morally acceptable in the production of motion pictures for a public audience.

The code was pretty puritan in nature. Check out the Wikipedia entry to get an idea. By the late 1950’s, it was obvious that the direction Hollywood was heading with regards to what movies would depict would soon mean a clash.

The clash came by the MPAA refusing to certify movies, and the studios releasing them anyway. These films included Some Like It Hot (recently voted the funniest movie of all time by the American Film Institute), Psycho, The Man with the Golden Arm, Anatomy of a Murder, and others. Something had to be done, or the MPAA would lose its grip over film making.

In 1966, the MPAA revised the Hays Code. It now allowed for a vague SMA rating, Suggested for Mature Audiences. It pleased nobody, including the filmmakers, or the audiences concerned about adult content being seen when not wanted.

Two movies were released in 1967 with the “F bomb.” They had the same mealy-mouthed SMA rating as did other films that might have contained a single “damn.” Obviously, this system didn’t work.

So in 1968, in large part due to controversy caused by Frank Sinatra’s adult-themed The Detective, a murder mystery that would probably receive an R rating today, the MPAA adopted the ratings system.

You might remember that they were originally G, M, R, and X. Parents were confused by the M rating, many thinking it was more graphic than R, so in 1970 it was replaced by GP (general patronage). In 1972, GP became PG (parental guidance).

Today. we’re used to checking a movie’s ratings. No doubt about it, many movies rated X in the 60’s (e.g. Midnight Cowboy) would barely rate an R today. The times, they are certainly a-changing. And sadly, IMHO, Hollywood seems to have not noticed that some recent G-rated films like The Rookie and The Princess Diaries made big box office bucks.

But if you remember JFK, you remember going to the movies when ratings were something that either didn’t exist, or that nobody paid any attention to.

The Day After

Most of the memories here are from my childhood. In 1983, when our generation was all grown up, this movie was shown on ABC TV. This was one of the last coups for network television, cable not quite having taken over yet. It was watched by 100 million people, the most-watched TV movie ever.

My brand new wife and I watched this on our TV in our first home in Amarillo, Texas. It changed the way we looked at the world, as it did for everyone else who watched it.

The movie starred Jason Robards as a doctor in Kansas City. Other familiar 80’s faces included John Cullum, John Lithgow, Stephen Furst, JoBeth Williams, Steve Gutenberg, and Amy Madigan.

The movie opens with familiar news broadcasts from the Cold War era, troop buildups, rattling of sabers, etc. People pay little attention as they go on about their lives.

Eventually, the Soviets blockade West Berlin. This is construed as an act of war.

Things accelerate rapidly at that point, with the general public at last taking notice when they see missiles launching all around them.

That’s when it hits: if we’ve launched ours, then they have launched theirs.

All of those airborne missiles show why their area is a prime target: the Soviets want those missiles destroyed before they are launched. The fact that they are already in the air won’t stop them from bombing the area.

The movie showed life after a nuclear attack. The survivors were the unlucky ones.

It was impossible to watch The Day After and not feel deep emotion. Nuclear war with the Soviets was a real possibility in 1983. It was scary. By the end of the decade, the Berlin Wall was down. Communism fell in large part. Watching the movie recently on the SciFi Channel, my emotions had changed to relief.

Here’s to the Cold War not being around anymore.

Star Wars Is Released

George Lucas was still flying high in 1977 from the success of 1973’s American Graffiti. However, Universal pictures turned down his latest idea: a science-fiction tale that had lots of cowboys and Indians, so to speak, and that might offend purists but which would appeal to the masses.

Universal passed on Star Wars because they considered it to be a silly movie idea. In fact, every single studio in Hollywood passed on the project except for 20th Century Fox.

So Star Wars Episode 4: A New Hope was released on May 25, 1977. That date was significant to me because it was also the day I graduated high school. So in a strange way, I am connected with Star Wars.

The movie, of course, was Hollywood’s biggest smash. Studio execs all over Tinseltown hung their heads in shame as they watched Fox get wealthy as fans poured into theaters by the millions.

I saw the movie for the first time at the Bentonville Theater a couple of weeks after its release. It was the last movie I ever saw at the venerable cinema, built in the 1930’s. It closed for good soon after.

Star Wars could be described in one word: fun. It took huge liberties with physics, most obvious with the whooshing sounds as space ships would speed by in the vacuum of space. The infamous parsec-used-as-a-measure-of-time gaffe has been favorite fodder for discussion boards as well.

But that didn’t detract for a moment from the joy that was Star Wars. It was easy to lose yourself in the action as good battled evil, with the end results being aimed a different direction at the end of each film.

I read a Rolling Stone interview with Lucas right after Star Wars was released. In it, he revealed his ambitious plans to make the serial a NINE episode set. Since then, he has backed off and said that the six films are the finished product. True or not, it’s been a heck of a ride.

Star Wars remains as vital as it was in its inception. Contrast that with the polyester clothing we wore as we drove our massive two-door coupes to the theaters in 1977 while getting fifteen miles per gallon of gas.

We were fortunate to see the birth of two truly great movie series during our lifetimes: James Bond, and Star Wars. Both had to change personnel with the passage of time. Both are as fresh and vibrant as when they were spawned. And both contribute to our spacious memory banks of things we enjoyed as we meandered our way down the road that comprised our lifetime.

Spaghetti Westerns

Savage Guns, the first spaghetti western

The 60’s was a decade of change for the movie industry. Films had been getting progressively more “mature” in their content since the mid 50’s. This trend accelerated throughout the decade in which I first became aware of my surroundings and my place in the world. By 1968, the MPAA had instituted a ratings system, intended in large part to allow parents to control what sort of films their children would be allowed to watch.

One of the genres which accelerated the process was that of the low-budget Italian western, aka the Spaghetti Western.

I capitalize the term out of respect. That’s a lot more respect than Hollywood critics gave it back in the day.

The classic Spaghetti Western is nowadays linked to the Man with No Name trilogy: Sergio Leone’s A Fistful of DollarsFor a Few Dollars More, and The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly. But as I learned in penning this piece, there were, in fact, many, many more low budget films cranked out of Italian studios during the Decade of Change.

The Man with No Name

The first Spaghetti Western was 1961’s Savage Guns. Interestingly, no Italian involvement was included in this film. Hollywood had declared the western genre passe by then. Producer Michael Carreras, who had handled some horror films of the 50’s, wanted to do a western, but couldn’t get any support. So he formed his own film company, went to Europe, and began shooting out in the desert of Almeria, Spain. Carreras managed to convince three American actors from his former employer, Hammer Studios, to star in the film. The rest of the parts were played by Spanish actors, unknown on this side of the pond.

The movie had a decent-sized budget, and had a professional air about its production, but it tanked at the box office, and put Carreras’ fledgling company out of business. It also reaffirmed Hollywood’s stance that the western was dead.

However, Carreras was onto something. Production costs overseas were negligible compared to southern California. There was a slew of actors available and eager for work. And the desert of southern Spain made for a convincing clone of the American southwest. Plus, if you wanted to make a western in the day, you pretty much had to bypass Hollywood.

Italian filmmaker Sergio Leone was a fan of the epic story. In 1959, he stepped in and finished The Last Days of Pompeii when its producer fell ill, his first producer gig. Two years later, he produced his own epic, The Colossus of Rhodes. The Italian films had modest budgets, but closely duplicated the look of more expensive Hollywood productions.

However, in Italy, the day of the epic film was past. Leone was a fan of the great Japanese moviemaker Akira Kurosawa and his Samurai tales. They had an epic feel to them, but the stories played out like westerns, with good guys battling bad guys in a lawless time.

Sergio Leone (2nd from right) on the set of Once Upon a Time in the West

In 1964, Leone hired American TV actor Clint Eastwood to star alongside Italian actors to film A Fistful of Dollars. The movie had a hard edge to it, unseen in American westerns up until that time. Violent scenes were thrust upon the viewer after tense buildup, accompanied by music from Ennio Morricone that can only be described as quirky and irresistible. The plot was basically copied from a 1961 Kurosawa offering,Yojimbo. In this case, imitation was a form of flattery, as Leone retold the Samurai story respectfully to his mentor’s Japanese language original premise.

The film was released in the US in 1967. The critics panned it and made fun of its low-budget look and bad lip syncing. In doing so, they overlooked a nice piece of art, which eventually came to be appreciated with time. The movie made good box office money anyway.

Leone’s next film, For a Few Dollars More, featured Eastwood and another American actor who had thus far only been able to land character roles, Lee Van Cleef. The 1965 film was a European success, and in 1967 did pretty well in the US, too. Again, this was despite the critics’ discouragement.

By the time Leone had begun filming the third movie, The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly, he was rewarded with a respectable seven-figure budget, as opposed to the $200,000 he had to work with for the first film. Leone hired Eli Wallach to play the part of Tuco, “the Ugly.” He was impressed with his work in How the West Was Won, a movie which had somehow gotten released in Hollywood in 1962, against all odds. Van Cleef received the role of Angel Eyes, “the Bad,” and Eastwood reprised his nameless role as the doer of good who still manages to look out for himself.

The movie was an American smash when released late in 1967. Audiences were able to see all three films within a short period, and they were thus viewed as a trilogy, despite ambiguousness about what times periods they were actually meant to depict. For example, there was the 1873 gravestone seen in the third “Civil War era” film.

Leone went on to produce numerous other movies, mostly westerns. He, along with other Italian filmmakers, reenergized a movie theme which had become boring. He also made a star out of Clint Eastwood, and enhanced the careers of Van Cleef and Wallach.

So here’s to the Spaghetti Western, and its most familiar faces.

Raquel Welch

Raquel Welch in 1,000,000 Years BC

Every generation has its sex symbols. Our grandfathers swooned over Clara Bow. Our fathers were gaga about Betty Grable. Our big brothers got saucer-eyed over Marilyn Monroe. And we Boomer kids felt the first stirring of our hormones over Raquel Welch.

Raquel (that is her real name, BTW) was born in Chicago in 1940. Fresh out of high school in the late 50’s, she was living in San Diego and had landed a gig on the local television station as a weather girl. She was using her maiden name of Tejada back then.

In 1959, she married James Welch. They had two Boomer kids of their own, Damon and Tahnee. Tahnee, BTW, is an actress, and a lookalike of her mom. You may remember her as the beautiful Kitty in Cocoon.

The marriage was pretty much over by 1961, and in 1964 or 65 (sources vary), they were divorced.

In the meantime, she was pursuing an acting career. She landed guest starring roles on Bewitched, McHale’s Navy, and The Virginian.

She also made one beach party movie, A Swingin’ Summer, in 1965. But it was in a movie the next year that she would be permanently etched into the memory banks of the nation’s male population.

One Million Years B.C. was actually a remake of a 1940 film starring Victor Mature and Lon Chaney, Jr. It was a colorful spectacular featuring claymation dinosaurs chasing helpless humans all over the place. One of those humans was bikini-clad Raquel Welch. A still shot from the film became a poster that adorned the walls of millions of Boomer males’ bedrooms.

Raquel Welch in Kansas City Bomber

The movie made her a star. Unfortunately, she never managed to click in any more blockbuster flicks like she should have. The next few films she appeared in, with one dubious exception, were forgettable.

She caused a bit of a stir with her love scenes with Jim Brown in 1969’s 100 Rifles. As liberating as the 60’s were, it was still a bit shocking for the public to see an interracial romance on the big screen.

The next year, she took on a challenging role that she felt would make the public take her more seriously as an actress. The movie was Myra Breckinridge, an X-rated adaptation of a Gore Vidal novel. She played the transsexual Myra in what turned out to be one of Hollywood’s most monumental flops. The infamous film is frequently mentioned in the same breath with Ishtar and Heaven’s Gate as major Tinsel Town mistakes.

Two years later, in 1972, she starred in Kansas City Bomber as a roller derby competitor. Despite good reviews, it too was a box office disappointment. The next year she won a Golden Globe for her role in The Three Musketeers, her artistic high point.

She did a couple of TV specials, hosted Saturday Night Live in its golden first season, and made more modestly successful movies. She’s still acting these days, recently appearing in Legally Blonde. And she’s still a stunning beauty at the age of 69.

But that’s what you would expect from Raquel Welch, the lady who caused many of us kids to realize that girls weren’t so icky after all.

Movies That Were Shown Every Year on TV

Scene from The Great Escape

Back in the days when there were three networks, what they chose to show had a much greater effect on the masses than in the present day. I might watch one or two network television shows per week, spending the rest of my time gleaning gems recorded by my DVR from The History Channel, TLC, and the like.

However, in the early-to-mid 60’s, you watched what NBC, ABC, or CBS had to offer. And that meant seeing certain movies year after year.

It almost became a treasured annual observance. Certain films were so good that they needed to be brought out and dusted off again so that they could be re-enjoyed.

In reality, it was probably a matter of a studio holding copyright on a particular film so that the paying of royalties that might have otherwise cut into profits were skipped. But I didn’t think about such mundane matters when I was a child. Instead, I just savored the annual showing of The Great Escape over two nights each summer.

Scene from the original War of the Worlds

Of course, the granddaddy of the annually-shown-movies was The Wizard of Oz. It was covered in its own article, so no further mention here.

But other movies were shown every year that I can recall. One was War of the Worlds, which was originally released in 1953. It had several things going for it. For one, it was in color. For another, it was an excellent blend of good acting and state-of-the-art special effects. That last scene where the dying Martian’s arm is seen trying to claw its way out of the ship was absolutely unforgettable. Come to think of it, I believe that was the only glimpse we had of an actual Martian the whole movie.

Another movie I remember being shown repetitively was Come Back Little Sheba. The movie’s dark plot was way over the head of a kid, but it was one of my mom’s favorite films, so it would be watched every time it was aired. I was a big Shirley Booth fan, so I would watch as much as I could before getting lost in the adult-themed story.

Birdman of Alcatraz

Of course, Burt Lancaster starred alongside Shirley Booth in that classic. Another Lancaster offering was an annual presentation: The Birdman of Alcatraz. I remember skipping the film when very young, then watching the next year because a schoolmate told me it featured a psychopath who would squeeze birds to death! What kid could resist that?

Well, of course, nothing like that happened in the film. But I still became a fan of the story of a man who overcomes his own violent past to become a distinguished authority on birds. And the film’s 7.9 IMDB rating is strong evidence that it truly was a classic.

Probably my favorite film, and that of most of my friends, was The Great Escape. It was a good film for kids to see who thought playing army was the height of fun. It graphically portrayed war and living in a POW camp as misery. We kids who watched lots of Rat Patrol needed that dose of reality.

Of course, many movies are still shown on an annual basis. but in today’s heavily-diluted menu of television choices, the days when the Big Three had a huge impact on what we watched are long gone.

Mel Brooks

Everybody loves to laugh. And growing up a Boomer, one of my most consistent sources of laughter was Mel Brooks.

Melvin Kaminsky was born in 1928 Brooklyn to a father descended from German Jews and a mother whose lineage was Russian Jews. He was a sickly child who soon discovered that he loved to entertain and make people laugh. His first public performances came as a tummler at various Catskill resorts. As master of ceremonies, he took advantage of opportunities to poke fun at acts, audience members and just cut up in general. Soon, he moved on to full-time standup. However, he eventually specialized in writing gags behind the scenes.

After serving as a corporal in the army in WWII, he landed a gig writing for Your Show of Shows in 1950. He worked alongside Carl Reiner, who would eventually base Morey Amsterdam’s role of Buddy Sorell inThe Dick Van Dyke Show on his pal Mel.

In 1960, Mel and Carl landed a writing/performing role on Steve Allen’s variety show. They created the routine of The 2000 Year Old Man, which went on to live a life of its own, spawning five albums and a 1975 TV special.

Brooks expanded his career into films. In 1963, he produced and voiced an animated short called The Critic. It won an Oscar, boding well for Mel Brooks, filmmaker. He continued to stay busy on TV projects. He soon got a job working with Buck Henry writing for Get Smart.

However, Mel wanted to get back into the cinema. He wrote and directed The Producers, starring Zero Mostel and a young, unknown Gene Wilder. The movie’s premise, celebrating Hitler in song, was so outrageous that the major studios wouldn’t touch it, a situation that would repeat itself in Mel’s career. Eventually, he persuaded Embassy Pictures, an independent, to release it like an art film. He once again attracted the attention of the Academy, and The Producers won an Oscar for Best Original Screenplay.

That’s one of the reasons I personally love Mel Brooks so much. He eschews all things politically correct in order to make statements that actually require brain cells in order to decipher.

The Producers went on to become a recent Broadway smash, earning twelve Tony awards. And yes, it still sarcastically celebrates Hitler.

As the 70’s began, Mel the writer once again turned his attention to the cinema. In 1970, he directed and starred in The Twelve Chairs, the funniest movie you’ve never heard of. The movie was a sendup of greed, Communism, and religion. Sadly, it remains obscure.

Mel’s next project was a trashing of the Western genre, a movie that would eventually be hailed as a brilliant statement of the stupidity of racism, but which would be reviled by the PC Police for years to come. Blazing Saddles horrified Warner Brothers executives, too. They objected to the repeated use of the “n-word,” (completely missing the purpose of the frequent use of the word in the process), the punching of a horse, and a bunch of cowboys sitting around a campfire passing cubic yards of gas.

However, Mel’s contract gave him final control, and the result was that the single funniest movie ever made, in this humble reviewer’s opinion, was released in 1974.

As the 70’s wore on, Mel the writer/director (and sometimes actor) rode a wave of good times. Blazing Saddles was followed by Young FrankensteinSilent Movie, and High Anxiety. His hot streak continued into the next decade, with History of the World Part I and Spaceballs. All good things must come to an end, his output afterwards was received with mixed reviews and poor performance at the box office.

Unfazed, Mel went to work putting The Producers on Broadway, where it has set records galore and, as previously mentioned, won a host of Tonys. A similar reworking of Young Frankenstein didn’t do as well , garnering mixed reviews, but the unstoppable genius now has plans to similarly rework Blazing Saddles and Get Smart into stage musicals.

Here’s hoping he succeeds wildly.

Mary Poppins

The year was 1964. I was five years old, and already terrified of fantasy movies. After all, those flying monkeys in The Wizard of Oz were giving me nightmares on a weekly basis.

But a movie came out that year that mom forced my fifteen-year-old brother take me to see. His eyes nearly rolled around 360 degrees as he paid our admission into the Coleman Theater in Miami, Oklahoma that year. But I suspect he might have secretly enjoyed watching Julie Andrews, beautiful even in her veddy Victorian getup.

The flick was the immortal Mary Poppins, a marvelous mix of animation, live action, and the most dazzling special effects that were available in 1964.

It also featured Dick Van Dyke as the Cockney chimney sweep, so you know this film was bound for glory.

I count myself very fortunate to have seen it in its initial release. It was the talk of the nation, and for good reason. It was excellent.

Mary was conceived in the mind of British author P.L. Travers. She was the nanny who blew in on a windstorm and took over the Banks’ household, teaching the children some much-needed manners, but with everyone having fun at the same time.

Travers demanded script approval rights before consenting to allowing Disney Studios the rights to his book. Disney, against Travers’ suspicions, did an incredibly good job of adapting his literary creation to film. He gave it his stamp of approval, and one of the world’s most beloved movies was released.

Today, kids still grow up with DVD versions of the film. But we Boomers fondly remember going to the theater to see it for the first time.