In a recent email exchange with my buddy Gary Banks, he mentioned how his older brother took him to see VIVA LAS VEGAS (1963) when he was a young lad and what a life changing experience it was.
Funny, I had almost the exact same experience. My older brother took me to see VIVA at either the Paramount or State Theater in downtown Austin. Sorry, I can't remember exactly which theater but I will never forget how the sight of Ann-Margret doing what only Ann-Margret could do on the big screen carbonated my nascent eight-year-old hormones like nothing else ever had. I wasn't entirely sure what was going on and why I was responding so strongly to the sight of this red-hot redhead dancing her way across the screen and into my heart but I knew that I really liked what I saw and I definitely wanted to see more. Much more.
I'd like to hear from male readers of a certain age about any similar experiences they may have had concerning this or any other early Ann-Margret films. I bet there's a lot of similar stories. Please share those stories with me. I'd love to hear them.
On a similar note, recalling my VIVA LAS VEGAS experience brought to mind other seminal movie going milestones that I was able to enjoy thanks to other family members. As I said, my brother took me to see VIVA LAS VEGAS and many, many other films including ONCE UPON A TIME IN THE WEST, ON HER MAJESTY'S SECRET SERVICE, DIAMONDS ARE FOREVER and DIRTY HARRY. Remind me to tell the stories about ONCE and OHMSS some day.
My maternal grandmother took me, at the tender age of five, to see John Wayne's THE ALAMO (1960) at the Paramount Theater in Austin. It's my earliest coherent movie memory.
My mother took me to see the 1968 re-release of GONE WITH THE WIND (1939) at Austin's Americana Theater. GWTW remained her all-time favorite movie to her dying day.
My uncle took me and my cousins to see the world premiere of BATMAN (1966) at the Paramount Theater as part of Aqua Fest. Several cast members were in attendance. Remind me to tell you about the 2010 showing of that film at the Paramount.
And my father, God bless him, took me to see GOLDFINGER (1964), also at Austin's Paramount Theater. He had read all of the Bond novels by Ian Fleming and he couldn't wait to see 007 on the big screen. He took me and neighborhood buddy John Rideout to see the film that changed my life forever and always. To this day, GOLDFINGER remains my all-time favorite Bond film and is one of my personal top ten favorite films ever. GOLDFINGER was my dad's first Bond film. It was also his last film of any kind as he died within a month of seeing it and I'm sure that has a great deal to do with why I so dearly love this film.
So thanks to my family members who took the time to take me to the movies when I was a kid. The memories made in those theaters have lasted a lifetime.