To pick a movie, book, or painting that impacted me the most in my long life is not easy. However, something does come to mind that has had a strong influence on my life.
When I was a Depression-era kid growing up in Ojai, California, there was no greater joy than scraping together (finding or begging) 12 cents to attend the Ojai Theatre and watch a great B-Western movie. Five cents more and I could buy enough penny candy from the Ojai Sweet Shop to get my sticky hands and smiling face through the newsreel, cartoon, previews, B-Western, and the main feature.
It was really the Western I wanted to see. Why?
Because I loved the action and never had trouble separating the good guys from the bad, and always knew that justice and goodwill would triumph by the end of the movie. The outlaws might win for a time, from robbing banks, rustling cattle, or holding the wealthy ranch owner’s lovely daughter for ransom, but by the end of the third reel the cowboys with the white hats would win, capture the outlaws, return the cattle, and save the beautiful young damsel from a terrible fate.
Those movies were like morality plays.
I still believe that justice will prevail and “we’ll head ‘em off at the pass.” However, at my age and with my life experiences I know justice may stumble and fall before it gets up and staggers across the finish line. Good that eventually comes out of evil seems now to take much longer than I remember as a kid.
Movies and morals have changed, or haven’t you noticed? And it doesn’t make me happy. In today’s movies, the good guy, or gal, doesn’t always win. Sometimes it’s the bad guys, from horse thieves to gangsters and crooked politicians.
Those old B-Westerns still influence my life at age 82, because I continue to believe that eventually good people will win. Those black-and-white action westerns, from Hopalong Cassidy and John Wayne to Roy Rogers and Gene Autry, influenced me to the point that I’m now a published author of western yarns and books. And, because I write them, I can twist the story to make sure the good guys always win.
And something else that was good about those old times and movies: the popcorn, candy bars, and soft drinks cost only 5 cents.
NOTE: This Blog was also Big Jim's winning entry in a Fall 2015 Essay Contest just sponsored by The Center for Successful Aging in Santa Barbara, CA.