This is the next entry in a Theatre… a Movie… and a Time, a series that was begun here. I’d like to thank my film noir/western blogging colleague Colin of Riding the High Country once more for triggering this remembrance. If it wasn’t for his stellar review of a truly under appreciated film, this all could have gone by the wayside, I fear. From his article:
“Elegiac is a word that has been used more than a few times to describe westerns that began to appear in the 1960s and particularly in the 1970s. While many movies tagged with this term do have a certain sorrowful quality to them, I can’t help feeling that it’s been overused at times. On the other hand, there are occasions where this description is highly appropriate, Monte Walsh (1970) being one of them.”
October 1970: I find it an interesting phenomena how one anchors to a location and its affect on a person’s movie viewing habits. Case in point, in the 60s and 70s that cornerstone for me was in the city of Huntington Park. Easily, the majority of the movies I saw growing up were projected across three theater screens situated on Pacific Blvd., HP’s main drag. All this from a locale we lived near, but never in, even though my family did a major move in the midst of this period.
From kindergarten to fourth grade, my early school years happened in the Los Angeles neighborhood of Florence. One of the poorer and neglected areas of the city. But, one no less important for its diversity and lasting influence on moi. After fourth grade, the core of my family, grandmother and mother, relocated to the L.A. county community of South Gate. Just four miles away, a striving blue-collar ‘burb at the time determined to keep its foothold in the middle class.
A 180˚ turn, if there ever was one. Even though it was the rival lunchpail borough to my new home, I continued my regular movie watching in Huntington Park as I had before. Why stop? Outside of girls and pimples, few things sunk in by the time I reached the next-to-last year of high school other than the movies. No real surprise I found myself once more at the Huntington Park Warner Theatre, this time for another venerable western.
However, this oater was nothing like what I’d come to expect from the genre. What I found in the William A. Fraker-directed film Monte Walsh was not the typical shoot ‘em up of my youth. Hardly. Instead, its bittersweet tale of a vanishing era was something so unexpected and very unlike what I typically sought that I questioned what I saw in it. Yet, I loved every minute. “What had changed?”, I thought. The answer surprised.