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by larrydachslager on May 6th, 2016


The first movie I ever saw in a theater was Mary Poppins. It is my very earliest memory. The three things I recollect vividly about that personal milestone from fifty years ago are the moment when Dick Van Dyke balances on an animated turtle’s back to ride across a pond, the fact that it was raining when we left the movie, and clearest of all, I remember that the blouse my mother was wearing had tiny bowling pins printed all over it. Looking back, it makes perfect sense that Mom was such a key player in my first movie memory. As I got older, although it was my father who taught me most of what I know about movies from an artistic and historical perspective, it was my mother, Elaine Kellner, who instilled in me a love and appreciation for the immersive act of seeing a movie, particularly in a theater.

I’ve never spoken to her specifically about the topic, but I’ve always sensed that Mom finds more enjoyment in the activity of going to see a film than in the film itself. As a young, non-discriminating movie lover, I was a perfect companion for fairly frequent mother/son jaunts to the movie theater – usually The Meyerland Cinema.


The only problem was, my pre-teen years coincided with the advent of the MPAA ratings system, so in the late 60s and early 70s, the release of G-rated, kid-appropriate films grew increasingly rare. Understandably, Mom had little-to-no interest in enduring noisy “kiddie” movie audiences, so our choices were narrowed to then-popular nostalgic salutes to Hollywood’s past like What’s Up Doc, That’s Entertainment, and Movie Movie, as well as the handful of musicals still occasionally being made and revived at the time. Mom took me to see Oliver!, On a Clear Day You Can See Forever, Scrooge, Fiddler on the Roof, Funny Girl, West Side Story, Hello Dolly, Sweet Charity, and Thoroughly Modern Millie. (The latter, despite the expectations of my mother and the filmmakers, traumatized me and gave me nightmares for weeks.)


When it came to determining appropriateness, Mom wasn’t prudish, but was certainly cautious. As I grew older, however, she grew more lax and permissive in her choices. Together we saw Paper Moon, my first movie that contained considerable profanity. As we left the theater, we ran into a kid I went to school with and his mother. The mother asked Mom if she thought the language in Paper Moon was appropriate for her child. Mom responded, “Ehh…a few ‘shits’ and ‘damns’… no big deal.” Mom’s saying that in front of my classmate made her a true badass in my eyes. The following year, she accompanied me to my first R-rated movie, Blazing Saddles, which made us both feel like badasses.

Of course, nearly everyone can cite at least one uncomfortable instance of seeing a movie with questionable content in the company of our parents. The two that I’ll never forget were watching All That Jazz and Kentucky Fried Movie — particularly the “Catholic High School Girls in Trouble” segment — with Mom.



I also shudder as I recall being pelted with rice and water at a midnight showing of The Rocky Horror Picture Show as Mom joined a sizable portion of the audience doing the “Time Warp” in the aisle of the Alabama Theater.

For my mother, every aspect of going to the movies is pleasurable. Starting when I was in my thirties, she and I began a tradition of standing side-by-side at the ticket window together where she would smile at the salesperson and say, “Two seniors, please,” just to see if they would give both of us a senior discount. They always did. There’s no resisting Elaine Kellner’s smile. Of course, now that I have my own AARP card, it’s nowhere near as much fun.

The concession stand is another great part of the event. Mom’s movie fare of choice has always been Milk Duds or her beloved Dots (or both on occasions when we “marathon” and see multiple movies in a day). Mom’s request for a “courtesy cup with ice” was a sure sign that I’d be sharing my drink with her.


My mother and I have seen scores of movies together, but two very specific and special Mom/movie memories stand out more than any other. In October of 2002, Mom endured a personal tragedy. The following Thanksgiving, she called me and said she wasn’t in the mood to celebrate, so we spent that Thanksgiving Day and evening seeing Standing in the Shadows of Motown and Far From Heaven. Both films were excellent and helped my mother get through a very difficult holiday. I was thankful to be with her.

The other profoundly memorable instance (for me, anyway) happened when I was eleven. Mom and I were driving on our way home from somewhere one weekday evening. We passed the Bel Air Theater and its marquee advertising Charlotte’s Web, the animated Hanna Barbera adaptation of E. B. White’s book. Mom asked if I wanted to go and see it. I assumed she meant eventually, since, as a kid, I rarely went to evening movies, and never on a weekday. I answered that I definitely intended on seeing it at the earliest opportunity. Much to my surprise and delight, Mom drove into the parking lot and we went to see Charlotte’s Web. As I recall, we were the only two people in the empty auditorium, which was so cavernous the soundtrack echoed. The characters in the film were astounded at Charlotte’s literary spinning skills, but as I joyously watched the main titles roll that night, I reveled in the precious miracle of sitting with my mother in a movie theater at a “private screening” on a school night!

To this day, I don’t know the reason for Mom’s uncharacteristically impulsive behavior that evening. Was she upset about something and didn’t feel like going home? Was I upset about something and she assumed, correctly, that a movie would help? Whatever the reason, Charlotte’s Web always reminds me of one of my favorite evenings at the movies and mother/son moments.

With each passing year, I’ve become far more selective about what films I will venture to a theater for. But my mother is one of a tiny handful of people with whom I will go to the movies regardless of what’s playing. As I mentioned, she loves the activity of watching a movie. She really gets into it, which I love. Naturally, she never talks during a film (God forbid!!), but doesn’t hold back when it comes to laughing out loud, gasping in surprise, bopping her head to musical numbers, or softly offering occasional “commentary” with a sagacious “hmm…,” or “ah hah…” or my favorite, when a malady befalls the protagonist, a sympathetically sighed, “oy.”

After all these years Mom and I have never really talked about movies at length. I still don’t know if my mother has a favorite film, star, or director, and I’m pretty sure she has minimal interest in film history, analysis, politics, or business. But I do know that, when it comes to movies, she totally gets it. She fully understands the tricky and debatable balance between film as art and entertainment. Mom’s innate respect and understanding of the true purpose of going to the movies has always inspired me – ever since that rainy day half a century ago when she wore that bowling pin shirt as together we watched the turtle carry Dick Van Dyke across the water.

Happy Mother’s Day!

me and mom

“Two seniors, please.”















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