Butler County Times Gazette
  • Bryan Clark: Theatre's special weekend stirred memories

  • We were raised on John Wayne movies in my house
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  • I’ve always loved movies and still do.  It didn’t matter whether it was science fiction, comedies, musicals, thrillers, drama or westerns...if the movie was good.  It became a piece of my mind and my heart.  And, you develop favorite movie stars, as well.  Gregory Peck, Bette Davis, Charlton Heston or whoever - the list goes on and on. But one inescapable favorite on my list, and that of many others, has to be John Wayne. There was just no one else like him.
    We were raised on John Wayne in my house.  Mom and Dad loved him, too, and whenever one of his movies was going to be shown on TV, you could bet on that channel (out of the three we had in those days) being the one we were going to watch!  To this day, if I walk into a room and see even the last 10 minutes of a John Wayne movie on, I’ll stop and watch it even though I may have seen the ending a hundred times.  I guess that’s what makes you a fan.
    There were lots of them, too - “The Sons of Katie Elder”, “El Dorado” (which, oddly enough, we saw in my hometown, at the El Dorado Theater) and “The War Wagon”, which we drove over to Augusta to see at the drive-in.
    The fact that I was a kid when The Duke was still making movies is one of the things I’m really thankful for.  I can remember going to The Augusta Theatre to see them when they first came out - “Big Jake”, “The Cowboys” (saw that twice), “Cahill, U.S. Marshal”, “The Train Robbers” - you just couldn’t wait to see his latest film.  Didn’t matter what it was, because you knew you were in for a treat seeing him on the big screen, and, of course, getting to eat all that popcorn and stuff!
    But there was one particular John Wayne film with a title that rang like movie magic whenever you heard it - “McLintock!”
    “Dad! ‘McLintock’s gonna be on after the news!” I remember exclaiming more than once.  CBS showed it at least once a year, sometimes more, but we always stayed up to watch, and Dad usually had to get up early the next morning for work - didn’t matter, because this was “McLintock!”, and we always watched it.  We loved it!
    It was the perfect John Wayne movie - he played the tough-talking title role, and there was Maureen O’Hara, Chill Wills and a whole stock company of familiar Wayne players to round everything out.  You knew all the funny parts, which were scattered throughout the film’s entire 120 minutes - “Oh, McLin! Where da whiskey?” was the line made famous by one of the Native American characters, along with variations of same; the mudslide scene, the drunken attempts at climbing the stairway, the unforgettable chase finale - so many, so memorable and so much a part of the wonderful experience that is “McLintock!”
    Page 2 of 2 - And it was always funny to listen to Dad giggle in all these spots, because even though we were already laughing, too, hearing his laugh made it that much better, especially remembering it now.
    The Augusta Historic Theatre brought this classic movie to over a hundred of us last Saturday night as part of their 4th of July/John Wayne and Apple Pie Weekend.  I was selling tickets and was amazed at the flood of people coming to share in these terrific memories. There seemed to be an excitement in the air, not only from the patrons, but also from those of us who love volunteering to keep the place running, and were glad to see our beloved theater having such a successful night.
    Then, there it was, this sprawling, full-color, wide screen icon of Hollywood movie-making, the movie every audience member knew by heart, but which, if they were like me, had never seen before on the big screen.  People laughed and munched on buckets of buttery popcorn, laughed some more; sipped a drink, crunched a couple of M & Ms and then laughed even more!  Some even recited a few of the more famous moments right along with the actors.  It was everything you loved from seeing it umpteen times on television magnified back to its original brilliance as 15 x 40 feet of Hollywood western perfection!
    And at the end of it all, the audience applauded and cheered - one guy even gleefully exclaimed, “God bless John Wayne!”, as he stood to go.  The feeling across the auditorium was jubilant, people still talking and chuckling as they shuffled from their seats toward the aisles.  
    A gentleman came over to where I was sitting, shook my hand and told me, “thank you”...I guess because I had sold him the ticket, he felt that I had played some small part in his evening with The Duke.  He was all smiles w hen he declared that we should do this again, and others agreed emphatically...and so did I!
    When it was over, I couldn’t help but think how much Dad would have enjoyed the whole thing.  In his honor, I had my own exclamation to my fellow volunteers as I walked past the now-quiet concession stand, through the Egyptian art deco lobby and  headed toward the door - “Oh, McLin!  Nice party, but no whiskey! We go home!”
    They laughed, and somewhere, I think Dad did, too.
    Bryan Clark is a columnist and cartoonist for the Butler County Times-Gazette.

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