Darrell Huckaby - Remembering a lifelong like affair with the movies

I'm a movie kind of guy. Not the kind of guy who would ever be in a movie, understand, but the kind of guy who loves to watch movies.

OK. Maybe "love" is a little strong. I still remember the admonition of my Sunday school teacher Euphie Christian who always reminded the little linthead children in her charge that we are supposed to "love" one another and merely "like" things. So I like movies. A lot.

Growing up I had two sources for viewing films - the little black and white television set in our living room and the Strand Theater, on the square in Covington. Visits to the Strand were generally reserved for Saturday afternoon, and when you went to the Strand, you got to see whatever show happened to be playing that week.

There was the occasional trip to the drive-in - that would have been either the Hub or the Moonlit for the folks who lived where I lived - but those were rare and magical moments, indeed, when I was coming up, and trips to the drive-in were more about the popcorn and finding a speaker that worked and lying around under the stars on a quilt than the actual film being shown.

But most of my movie-watching was done right there at home and, here again, I had very little choice about what I would watch when. I was at the mercy of the programmers. But there were certain films that were shown over and over and over - I would watch them every time they came on.

"Boy's Town," was one of those. Y'all probably remember "Boy's Town." It was the story of Father Flannigan, who said "There is no such thing as a bad boy," and the orphanage he built out in Nebraska. Mickey Rooney was in it. The movie, I mean. Not the orphanage.

"Sergeant York" was another movie that I never missed when it came on. I think I had graduated from the University of Georgia before I realized that Gary Cooper didn't win World War I all by himself - and I will still stop what I'm doing and watch him capture those Germans if I run across that film while I am changing channels.

Nowadays, of course, there are all sorts of ways to watch movies.

There are dozens and dozens of cable channels - or satellite, if you prefer - that offer nothing but movies. We're talking 24-7 here. If you don't like the ones that they show for free you can order others on pay-for-view. Or you can go to the nearest video store and rent a DVD or Blue-Ray or whatever the newest technology is. Actually, you don't even have to go to the video store to rent a film. Pay $5 a month and they will mail them right to your house.

And if you simply must see a film on a giant screen while munching $6-a-bucket popcorn, you can go to the nearest multiplex where there are 16 screens and 16 different films to choose from.

And some people tell me that they watch movies on their computers - which brings me to today's topic. I know. It's about time.

I have a favorite movie. No. It's not "Gone With the Wind," although GWTW is still in my top two or three.

My favorite movie of all time is "Casablanca," starring Humphrey Bogart, Ingrid Bergman and Claude Rains.

It has everything you could want in a movie. Mystery, intrigue, a murder or two, a love triangle, and dozens of the greatest lines in movie history.

"Here's looking at you kid."

"Round up the usual suspects."

"We'll always have Paris."

And my personal favorite, "All the gin joints in all the towns in all the world and she walks into mine."

It even has one of the most famous lines in movie history that was never uttered in the film. "Play it again, Sam."

Until last Tuesday evening I had only seen "Casablanca" on the small screen. Granted, I had seen it on the small screen dozens and dozens of times - enough times to have the entire script virtually memorized - but I had only seen it on television, nonetheless.

Not anymore, though. Tuesday night I saw "Casablanca" at the Fox Theater, along with my family and some friends. Most of us had seen the film on television, but one poor soul in our party had only watched the computer version and two in the group had never seen it at all.

What a grand experience was the Coca-Cola Family Film Festival. The theater was packed - and when I say packed, I mean every seat was filled. There was a sing-along, complete with a bouncing ball and everything, and a news reel, from the 1930s - when the movie was set - and even a Tom and Jerry cartoon.

Remember when movies had cartoons?

And then there was the show, itself. There was Rick's Café Americain, in all its splendor - and all the conflict of people in love in a world at war. What a magnificent story - and I wish I could be just like Humphrey Bogart's character when I grow up.

Although, in the end, he still didn't get the girl. Not even on the big screen.

Darrell Huckaby is a local author and educator. He can be reached at dHuck08@bellsouth.net.