April 18, 2014
I have only been to Catalina Island once, and I was seven years old at the time. My grandfather’s immediate family lived on the island and we visited them over the weekend. It was my mom and grandmother, and I have no memory of Granddad or father there. We arrived there on a sea plane. That mode of transportation was both scary and unique, because it may have been the first time I have ever been on a plane. Landing on water was something out of the cinema; it felt it should have been on a huge movie screen instead of my little un-important life. I have experienced beach life, especially Santa Monica beach, but the Catalina shore felt differently for some reason. Mostly due that the ocean water was very clear, and I never experienced the ocean that way. My understanding now is that the water is very polluted owing to the sewer system on the island, but in 1961, I remember being transfixed on the image of my toes as I walked into the ocean.
It was there that I ‘think’ I fell in love. Her name is Hayley Mills, and I went to see “The Parent Trap” at the Avalon Theater. It appeared to me to be a lighter version of the Chinese Theater on Hollywood bouvelard. Here the theater was even bigger, and it shared the aesthetic of the island at the time, which was art deco reliefs throughout the movie palace. And it was a palace to me, because it was huge and decorated so beautifully. With such perfect surroundings, of course I fell in love with Hayley. Not only, that, but she had two roles in the film, she played a pair of identical twin sisters. Sitting there, I was overwhelmed with her image on the screen and in the theatrical setting of the actual location of the theater itself. The combination of her beauty matching the elegance of the theater was hard for me to make a distinction between a woman's beauty and a beautiful building. I often think of a woman's beauty as being a type of architecture.
Once I got home I remember purchasing a Haley Mills fan magazine. Such publications were very common at the time. It had numerous photographs of her, and I spent that afternoon cutting the images out of the magazine and putting it up on my wall in Beverly Glen. I had a certain amount of attraction for the girls in my class, but Hayley Mills was something bigger than that. It is like those girls I knew, but projected into another dimension. It was around this time that I saw “Whistle Down The Wind, ” a black and white film, which made it totally different from the technicolor images of “The Parent Trap.” In other words, this film was a projection of one’s nightmare compared to the sunlight world of the Disney film. This became even more of an obsession for me, due that it was the story of a young girl who finds a fugitive in a barn, thinking he was Jesus Christ. He wasn’t of course, just a man running from the law, but he allowed her and the other children to believe that he was Christ. I loved the idea of the time that a gang of children are keeping a secret from the outside world. It made my world more powerful, and by seeing this film, I felt I was sharing a common secret.
As a teenager I started reading the works of the French film theorist André Bazin, and I was very taken by his thoughts on cinema criticism should be written by the critic who liked the film he or she is writing about. I totally concur with this manner of thinking, because “The Parent Trap” may not be a great film, but to me, it was a significant work that somehow shaped my childhood. The same goes for “Whistle Down The Wind, ” a work that was perfectly natural and logical for a love-struck pre-teen like me.