In college I had one of those special, "make an inspirational movie about him" kind of professors. He was also the theatre director, and for most of my collegiate life, I did work study under him. He was a brilliant teacher, capable of making even the dullest plays seem utterly fascinating, and a great director. It was a small college and he had a minuscule budget but he somehow managed to put up productions that rivaled the nearby million-dollar Shakespeare Festival. He helped further my academic education and schooled me in life. He was also a good friend. Sadly, he died a few years ago, suddenly and without warning.
He was a great lover of opera. He had a massive collection of recordings on CD and vinyl. He listened to Puccini and Wagner and all those great Italians who I don’t really know, and would speak passionately about them even as I rolled my eyes. We could always tell when he was mighty stressed or greatly upset over something because he’d lock himself in his office and blast some great aria as loud as he could without bringing in security. As far as I can tell, he never made it to any great live performance. He was always too busy to travel much, and Montgomery, Alabama is too far away from New York. I imagine he saw a thing or two in Birmingham and maybe a fine performance in Atlanta, but mostly he had to enjoy his art via the stereo.
Last night, while sitting in the theatre waiting to watch Double Indemnity on the big screen, I kept thinking of Stephen as they showed previews for upcoming events including a full season’s worth of performance from the Metropolitan Opera in New York City. He would have loved that. Being able to see world-class performances without having to buy a plane ticket or even rent a tuxedo. I wish he could be here to see it.
I love this new world we’re living in. It's now commonplace to broadcast live performances of the opera, ballet, sporting events, concerts, and special showings of new and classic movies. We have access to so much art, music, and film now that it regularly blows my mind. It's true a great deal of this is readily available in our homes, but there is something special about going to the theatre, sitting in big comfortable chairs with our giant Cokes, our oversized popcorns, and sharing the experience with countless strangers.
For me, it's all about seeing classic movies. Getting to see an old film that I’ve only ever seen on the television play out on a giant movie screen is a great pleasure. For Double Indemnity, Fathom Events teamed up with TCM to bring one of the all time great film noirs to the silver screen once again. I gotta say it was just about perfect. When the wife and I cut the cord and gave up cable several years ago, one of the only things I’ve ever missed was TCM. Every year, when they do their great 31 days of Oscar run up to the Academy Awards, I just about subscribe to cable again. Thing is, I own just about all those movies or have access to them in various on-demand formats, but there’s something kind of neat about catching them on TV. This seems especially true now with social media bringing watchers together from all over the place. And then there’s the introductions by Robert Osborne and Ben Mankiewicz. They bring those old films to life, giving bits of trivia about their creation and laying out the film's importance in film history.
Geez, just writing about it make me want to call up Cox and order it back on my TV. I was excited just to be seeing the film on the big screen, but they really knocked me out with the full presentation. They ran trivia about the film while we waiting for the official start time. Then there were loads of previews to various upcoming events and then right before my eyes was Robert Osborne himself, up there, larger than life, talking about the movie. When the film ended, he gave a little wrap up speech just like he does on the cable network. It was wonderfully perfect.
The film, of course, was fantastic. Based upon a novel by James M. Cain and written by Raymond Chandler (who makes a brief cameo in the film in one of the only bits of video in existence of the great author), Double Indemnity was directed by Billy Wilder and stars Fred MacMurray, Barbara Stanwyck and Edward G. Robinson. It's the classic story of a femme fatale using her wiles to convince an insurance man to murder her husband and collect the insurance. It was widely praised when it came out in 1944, has been considered a classic, and is generally considered one of the greatest film noirs of all time. It was a beautiful thing seeing it well restored and absolutely glowing on a big movie screen.
This was my second Fathom Event and you can believe that I’ll be seeing many more in the future. For a listing of all their upcoming shows, including many more classic films from TCM you can visit their website.