Classic Film Fan “Origin Stories” – Tonight on Hollywood Time Machine

MarxBeing a classic film fan can be a lonely experience.

When I discovered old movies in the late 1970s, like any kid with a new toy, I wanted to share it, talk about it on the playground, show off my skillz (we didn’t randomly add z’s to words back then, but you get my point). Sadly, none of the kids at St. Joseph’s School in Hewlett, New York cared about the films I was staying up all night to watch; they barely even knew they existed. And when I would launch into a bleary eyed review the next morning, they looked at me like I was a weirdo – which I was, proudly, and still am today.

Sometime in 1981, I coerced five friends into joining me for a Marx Brothers marathon sleepover party at my house.

“It’ll be great!” I promised. “We’ll stay up all night and eat popcorn and watch movies and nobody can tell us what to do!”

After my parents went to bed I put in my VHS tape of A NIGHT AT THE OPERA (1935), the one I had recorded on Channel 2’s Late Show with the commercials meticulously edited out via my VCR’s wired remote control. Despite my cheerleading (“here comes a funny part!”) and a bowl of air-popped, buttered popcorn, my friends were asleep before the film even ended. So I continued with my marathon all night, alone, while the sleeping-bagged, unconscious bodies of my “friends” littered the living room floor.

What’s your classic film origin story? How did you learn to see the magic that most other people can’t? I’d love to hear your story.

Breakfast-at-tiffany-s-breakfast-at-tiffanys-9813384-1992-2525Alicia Mayer and I will be taking your calls tonight on the Hollywood Time Machine, a live, on-line talk radio show devoted to all things classic. The show starts at 9 p.m. (ET) and also features some great guests: animation historian Tommy Stathes will talk about TCM’s night of rare, early animation this Monday; Profiles in History C.E.O. Joe Maddalena will discuss how his childhood love for old movies led him to found the world’s largest auctioneer of Hollywood memorabilia; and Tony Shepherd will remember his father, Richard Shepherd (1924-2014), producer of BREAKFAST AT TIFFANY’S (1961).

We’ll also discuss this week’s TCM Classic Film Festival announcement, and give away some prizes. And we’ll take calls at the end of the show, so have your (short) stories ready. I promise I won’t fall asleep.

You can listen to Hollywood Time Machine live on L.A. Talk Radio channel 2 starting at 9 p.m. (ET)

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About willmckinley

I'm a New York City-based writer, video producer, print journalist, radio/podcast host, and social media influencer. I've been a guest on Turner Classic Movies (interviewed by Robert Osborne), NPR, Sirius Satellite Radio, and the official TCM podcast. My byline has appeared in Slate.com and more than 100 times in the pages of NYC alt weeklies like The Villager and Gay City News. I'm also a social media copywriter for Sony's getTV and a contributor to four film-and-TV-related books: "Monster Serial," "Bride of Monster Serial," "Taste the Blood of Monster Serial," and "Remembering Jonathan Frid."
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8 Responses to Classic Film Fan “Origin Stories” – Tonight on Hollywood Time Machine

  1. Gee Will, that is such a sad story! I never had an illusions about my friends jumping on board, so all through elementary school I would go talk old Hollywood with my 1st grade teacher, which now that I am typing it out sounds equally sad.

  2. Jennifer says:

    But you’re one of the cool kids now, Will, with lots of fellow classic movie enthusiasts thanks to the magic of the internet. Sounds like a fun show!

  3. Will, thank goodness for the internet and classic film events now, so you can find like-minded friends!

    I don’t remember liking classic movies as one of the things that made me odd to other kids. I stood out, but not for that reason! I grew up in a place where adults were always trying to pass on its history as part of our legacy. Contributing heavily was my easy exposure to classic films. A lot of them were airing on TV when I was a kid probably due to how cheap their rights were then.

    There was a TV station (WLVI) that included classics in its programming and a lot of us watched its movies. Its Saturday programming included Laurel & Hardy, The Little Rascals/Our Gang, Abbott & Costello, The Three Stooges, Planet of the Apes, and Creature Double Feature. The last was a hosted program featuring horror and creature films from the likes of Universal, Hammer, and Toho. During the week, it aired classics for the non-child market. Many people miss Creature Double Feature to this day!

    I remember another show on a different station that showed classics and gave away cash prizes to viewers during breaks. It’s hard to remember all the stations showing classics, but families were watching them together and not just due to limited TV options. One grandfather used to joke he knew Mae West, and I knew who that was as a little kid.

    Changes in technology helped, too! We got cable when I was in elementary school, and that expanded my classic film exposure. I watched M by myself on TV probably when I was in fourth grade. I’m not even sure if that was on AMC then, but they were influential in their early programming on me. Then when the home video market became an option, my access to all sorts of films, including classics expanded. And later came TCM!

    Thanks for stirring up these memories!

  4. cathycate says:

    My love for movies began with my Mom and sneaking downstairs to watch the Late Late Show with her. After school, I watched old movies on the Dialing for Dollars show which aired in St. Louis. In middle school and high school, I started watching the silent movies which our local PBS station broadcast. I wanted to be an actress since I was very young, so possibly this is why I was also drawn to the movies or perhaps this is what instilled the love of acting in me. As an adult, my love for the classics has grown through my love of storytelling, costume design, and set design. What has made the movies even more meaningful of all is discussing them with my sister who has a very keen insight into the stories and their subliminal meanings. She has helped me to appreciate the beauty and nuance of the human spirit which these classic movies so often portray.

  5. cathycate says:

    PS: When I was a little girl, I find out that my Mom’s Dad’s cousin was Laura La Plante! She was a very popular film star of the latter 1920’s and 1930’s.

  6. Kelly says:

    My experience of watching old movies I think blame on KTLA or KTTV here in Los Angeles they show good ole movies from MGM Family library to Parmouant and Columbia

    Honey I have teacher who was shocked that I knew then elect Ronald Reagan was marry to Falcon Crest future Jane Wyman that my mom was call in by the principal asking how did Kelly know that Ronald Reagan was marry to Jane Wyman LOL!

    You got remember folks I think prinpcial was young I think she was 40 and here this smart a*** 12 year old when Falcon Crest came on the air

    I was just fasincated with old time movie stars thanks to appearance on Love Boat and Fantasy Island

  7. Kelly says:

    Going back to Laurel and Hardy and Little rascals the station that really carry them was KTLA here in Los Angeles with Popeye cartoon on Saturday morning then Family films from 1930s and 40s from MGM there was dude named Tom Hattern who was cartoonist himself who used to draw movie stars protract and Popeye That dude still alive I saw him recently one of PBS station talk about heyday of old movies on Los Angeles tv stations
    Dude got be in his 90s
    I hear a story that Nolan Ryan told interviewer cool thing of having Gene Autry as boss you could video in 1980s from KTLA film library you could watch there at KTLA news studio which was then film theatre back in late 1970s and 80s he told this ESPN Chris Bergman

  8. Kelly says:

    My love of silent films blame KCET or KLCS

    For while KCET in October used show Lon Chaney Sr Jr Bela Lugosi Hallloween movies and KLCS would show Hammer films that advantage of living in Los Angeles as kid in 1970s and 80s I feel sorry for younger generation that never ever live through the time yeah there was old movies personally now days thanks to GETTV Movies tv network and TCM I know my niece getting into jean Arthur movie and Laurel and Hardy shorts on Movies tv and Gettv

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