Thursday 17 March 2016

Vale Robert Horton - Noel Bjorndahl has some memories of early cinephilia triggered

Robert Horton as Flint McCullough in Wagon Train
The stars, lesser and greater, from the world of film and television lately seem to be dying off in droves. It makes me feel very vulnerable. As I approach 71,  the death of Robert Horton at the grand age of 90 reminds me of how great a part the advent of television played in my teenage life (TV had only just come to my home town, Brisbane, in 1959). I had long been a matinee kid-the Mt Gravatt Princess Theatre opened in 1955 (when I was 10) with a double bill of Calamity Jane (Doris Day) and The Diamond Queen (Arlene Dahl). But it took 4 more years before TV took hold in my neck of the woods and opened for me a whole new catalogue of earlier movies to which, from 1959, I now had access. I was gradually confronted with vast libraries of films from the silent era and the first two decades of sound films (many Chaplins, Laurel and Hardy shorts, and other silent clowns). On the big screen I had watched Days of Thrills and Laughter (Robert Youngson, USA, 1961) and other such compilations, but when big studios like Paramount, Warner, Columbia, Universal, RKO and others made most of their libraries fair game for TV, I now felt within reach of educating myself in the whole of cinema to date. Hollywood and British cinema anyway (it would be a few years before I ventured into international cinema via the Film Groups and Film Societies, eventually helping to pioneer the University of Queensland Film Group with other local cinephiles).In the interim, I was discovering the Marx Brothers, Preston Sturges John Ford, Howard Hawks, Alfred Hitchcock Fritz Lang, Mitchell Leisen, Ernst Lubitsch and others too numerous to list. I became hooked on many TV series ranging from Superman (George Reeves), Sea Hunt, I Love Lucy, Sergeant Bilko, 77 Sunset Strip, Father Knows Best, but I finally graduated to the Westerns like Wagon Train and Rawhide, and later still to Perry Mason, Dobie Gillis, Alfred Hitchcock and The Twilight Zone, among many other regular shows. Sorry for rambling, just feeling my own mortality in being confronted with such a spate of deaths of people associated with film and television. Flint McCullough RIP.

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