Movies That Have Changed Me



The release of Mary Poppins Returns triggers my memory, but first things first.

One of my earliest movie memories is of The Wizard of Oz, which unless you’ve been living under a stalactite you’ve probably seen multiple times (it’s the most viewed movie in history). As a kid I prayed for a tornado, an admittedly rare event in L.A., to whirl my bedroom away to Oz. Why? Because even as a kid I longed for other worlds; my mailing address was here, but my heart lived at the “second star to the right and straight on ‘til morning” (Peter Pan).

Most of the fantasy films I saw as a kid were animated (more on those in a separate post to come). Non-animated fantasies were rare until two blockbusters changed the movieverse: Peter Jackson’s monumental The Lord of the Rings trilogy and the lovably imperfect Harry Potter franchise, which, like Harry himself, got wiser and cleverer as it went along. Rings and Harry hold a double place in my heart, being both books and movies I’ve loved with my kids.

Quick side note: The Princess Bride stands alone, right? Leave it out? Inconceivable!

Now on to Mary Poppins. If Oz marked the beginning of my fantasy-loving childhood, Mary marked its ending. I was scheduled to complete my career as a child (by starting high school) in just one week when Uncle Walt’s live action masterpiece arrived.

I’d seen many movies at the faded Fox Fullerton movie palace (built by the same company as Hollywood’s famous Chinese Theater). But it would forever be Mary’s Place after that. I was dropped off with half a dozen friends, and sundry kid brothers and sisters. After an interminable wait, reality dimmed and the Sherman Brothers’ miraculous score glided in on projector-light.

Over the next 139 minutes, magical Mary and genial Burt led the Banks children through an enchanted pre-Potter London (who knew chimney sweeps were such mystical creatures?). I celebrated and mourned all at once. “This is it,” I thought, “After today I don’t get to believe in magic anymore.” As the credits faded, I sat staring at the screen, loathe to leave my childhood behind, the chorus of “Chim Chim Cher-ee” echoing in my psyche (“Up where the smoke is all billered and curled, twixt pavement and stars is the chimney sweep world”).

Mom was late. So we wandered like vagrants, discovering a back alley doorway that led to a recessed area behind the screen; I stepped down into the dark, followed by a friend’s younger sibs, thrilling them with an improvised story about the magical forces below, and granting myself a momentary reprieve to the end of magic.

The screen suddenly came back to life. I looked up as the speakers began to crackle and rumble. And at that moment, some part of me realized, I think, that I would never have to stop believing. All I had to do was learn how…

to make my own magic.

About mitchteemley

Writer, Filmmaker, Humorist, Thinker-about-stuffer
This entry was posted in Humor, Memoir, Movies, Popular Culture & Entertainment, Quips and Quotes and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

24 Responses to Movies That Have Changed Me

  1. joyroses13 says:

    Great post! Mary Poppins is truly magical and I can’t wait to see the new release. Glad you learned how to make your own magic. 🙂
    Did you see Saving Mr.Banks?

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Ahh, I am one of those who has lived under numerous stalactites deep in the bowels of the earth. I watched the “Wizard of Oz” for the 1st time about 5 years ago (I was 66). No, I was not impressed but that probably was because the movie was interrupted every 10 minutes for 5 minutes of commercials.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. All great movies. The Wizard of Oz is one of the first movies I remember (the tornado scene terrified me – still gives me the shivers)

    Liked by 1 person

  4. grAnnie Roo says:

    I often imagined Hillcrest Park was the forest. 😄 “Life isn’t fair, it’s just fairer than death, that’s all.” Classic Rob Reiner!

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Yes! Make your own magic! Only now it’s not imaginary magic, it’s real miracles. God has offered us a partnership in what He’s doing, and personally, I’ve found that more thrilling than anything I’ve ever imagined in my Disney childhood.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. smzang says:

    This article fairly crackles with magic!

    Liked by 1 person

  7. revruss1220 says:

    What a great retelling of an important epiphany moment in your life. Thanks for sharing it with us. BTW, I understand the new Mary Poppins is pretty spectacular. Haven’t seen it yet, but will soon.

    Liked by 2 people

  8. mitchteemley says:

    Thanks, Russ. Yes, the new Mary is definitely a spectacle, but is getting warmish reviews, rather than raves. So I plan on attending with calibrated expectations. Though I’m an unqualified Emily Blunt fan–brilliant actress. Merry Christmas!

    Liked by 1 person

  9. “…prayed for a tornado.” 😅 That’s funny. Perhaps because I live in Texas and never heard anyone say that! Good read.

    Liked by 2 people

  10. The Princess Bride is my favorite movie, hands down. Mary Poppins never really did anything for me. The Sound of Music, on the other hand, made me dream of becoming a wealthy widower so that I could hire a woman like Julie Andrews,,,, that is, of course, until I got married, you know. Just saying. I’m fine with poor.

    Liked by 2 people

  11. Joan says:

    Enjoyed this post and for me the magic was in the closing lines.

    Liked by 2 people

  12. I had nightmares about Dick Van Dike 😅

    Liked by 1 person

  13. landl30 says:

    Always love your reflections Mitch… I was the film critic for the Episcopal Church’s national publications on and off for 30 years, so particularly appreciative of this list.
    Best to you and yours for Christmas and New Year’s.. and Blessings,
    Len Freeman

    Liked by 2 people

  14. Super way to present your perspective of the Biz. You have the knack of making it all make sense. I wish to you and yours a Merry Christmas and Happy New Year. Not to mention all the other seasonal celebrations.

    Liked by 2 people

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