You may not grasp the importance of that fact. Not about seeing Annie twice, I mean -- seeing any movie twice. I was a mere towhead back then, in the dark ages of 1982 when only really really really rich families had a VCR and even richer ones had the means to actually buy movies on video. Nobody rented back then. Movies went for around a hundred bux a pop. And not even the classics, either, I'm talkin a hunnerd bux for Bill Cosby and Elliot Gould in "The Devil and Max Devlin."
So once you saw a film in the theaters, you could rightfully claim you'd seen it and that was that. Moms and Dads never took a kid to see a film again. That was crazy talk. The teenager who liked Rocky so much he saw it 77 times? Well, he was a nut, and besides, he saved up all his money from his paper route to do it. His Mom and Dad didn't pay for him to see Rocky 77 times, so you can forget about going to see The Black Stallion again. Besides, I thought you didn't like The Black Stallion. Weren't you crying when there was that thunderstorm and it was loud and scary and the horse nearly drowned? Oh, that was your brother? Now isn't that strange. I thought it was coming from your seat.
The concept of seeing a film again as a kid was just so strangely foreign to me that when it finally happened in 1982, it was one of the most Special Events Of The Summer Ever. It even beat out the times we travelled all the way to Easthampton to eat at the Burger King there, because they had a playground. It was a super good time because of my best friend Erica D.
Erica was still my best friend even though by 1982, we didn't go to the same school anymore. Erica had moved to Ryan Road and had to go to public school there, not the crazy hippie progressive school I remained at. We'd become good friends in Kindergarten, or the school's "5-6" equivalent, after getting in trouble together for throwing blocks at each other during free play, being loud during quiet time, and for scrawling "SO EASY!" on our math papers. Seriously, how hard was it to make a 1? Even the rhyming instructions on the paper said it was simple:
Draw a straight line downI mean, hell, we didn't even have to make the horizontal base and little diagonal topper, so we were better off than those crazy Europeans.
And there! You're done!
Isn't it simple
To make a one?
In spite of being each other's Bad Influence and the neighborhood move, which normally spells doom for any kid friendship, Erica and I stayed good friends after her move and had many happy playdates. And so it came to pass that in 1982, we both became very enamored with the film Annie.
Annie was also the first film that I truly cared about, and by caring, I mean that I actually got mad when I saw it receive a mediocre review in the local newspaper. What does he know anyway, giving it two stars like that? It should get four sta-- FOUR HUNDRED stars! I will now draw in some extra stars on the newsprint for emphasis. And why's it so wrong when he says it's "more or less for kids?" I'm a kid and I loved it! Nyer!
For some reason the movie didn't run in Hadley, so we had to drive all the way out to Springfield to see it. This too was a Very Special Event, because the Showcase Cinemas in Springfield was this amazing monstrosity, a city of movies, nineteen thousand and twenty-four theaters all in gleaming white tile buildings with large teal neon signs on top of each one, telling you which theaters lived where. 1-2-3-4 lived in one big building, 5 and 6 in their own little love nest, 7-8-9 in another, that kind of thing. And the biggest sign you ever saw was right outside the 1-2-3-4 building and listed every theater's number in a neat, color-coded square, with the name of the film next to it. They were all lined up and looked so nice and orderly in their rectangular brackets.
I didn't get out to Springfield much.
The second time I saw the film was with Erica. She was the one who had the crazy idea of seeing the movie again, because we liked it so, and by the time she got the idea, the movie was running at the Calvin Theater in Northampton. That's where we lived! Now we had to go, cause it was, like, Kismet or something! It was my first matinee, too, and the thought of seeing a movie in the daytime was also just nuts. Won't the sunlight come in and ruin everything? We got to sit up in the balcony, which in and of itself was an amazing accomplishment because all the other theaters what had balconies usually closed them off to kids who thought that sitting in the balcony was probably the best thing you could ever do in an auditorium. Hell, some grown-ups still think that.
And sitting there in a theater again, I remember actually getting to remembering the movie from the first time around. I felt so privileged to have a second chance to see the movie again so soon, and not only was I remembering stuff, I was noticing stuff I hadn't noticed the first time -- like when Miss Hannigan is singing about "Little Girls", her brother and his moll show up in the mirror behind her? Whoa, hey, where'd they come from?
The second viewing did not dampen our enthusiasm for the film, however. Erica had her birthday in the summer so she actually got the soundtrack album, and we listened to it constantly on her record player. I remember always getting mad when we listened to one particular song, because I knew the version on the record was not the same as in the movie, and so it always sounded strange to me. I can't even remember which song that was anymore, but we sang along to them all just the same. We knew every line, every note, every little nuance, every little line FDR hollers during "Tomorrow." REPUBLICANS TOO, OLIVER! NOW HARMONY! When we sang, Erica got to be Annie of course, and Miss Hannigan, and Grace, and half the orphans. I got to be Everybody Else.
I liked the radio guy's part most, and I still do.
For Halloween, Erica got to go as Annie in an authentic-looking red dress and red wig and even the Authentic Original Annie Locket which you could get from some cereal box promotion or another. For a film that wasn't very merchandisable, I seem to recall they moved a lot of them lockets. I really wanted to go as Daddy Warbucks for Halloween, but bald caps looked too much like shower caps for my tastes, and shower caps still eek me out. So instead I went as Pac-Man, only I didn't get like an actual Pac-Man costume, I got one of those horrible Collegeville costumes with a dorky yellow circle mask and a flame-retardant poncho that had a Pac-Man logo on it.
And how postmodern is that, anyway? "I'm not going as Pac-Man, I'm going as Pac-Man the Brand Identity."
It all culminated in a wintertime trip to the actual real live theatre to see an actual real live performance of Annie. Oh how I was psyched! I'd seen live shows before; my first Real Live Theater experience -- not counting the Ice Capades, of course -- was either The Magic Flute, which I slept through (parents always dutifully bring their kids to in the hopes that some culture will rub off on them, or at the very least they'll just shut the hell up and watch Papageno do his thing) or the local high school's production of Once Upon A Mattress, which I also slept through, but this time I waited until the intermission to doze off.
I don't even remember the theater in which we saw the travelling show of Annie. Probably was in Springfield again. All I remember was that the grown-ups talked for too long, there was a very depressing song about thanking Mr. Hoover, whoever the heck he was, and, well, I fell asleep at some point during the show.
I never did figure out how they ended the play, and I was real excited because I thought they were going to do an exciting drawbridge rescue just like in the movie. Erica said they didn't do that, but she also said she wouldn't tell me what they did do, since I fell asleep and deserved to miss it. That's when I threw my ice cream at her.
Okay, I didn't really throw my ice cream at her, I flicked a spoonful at her and she flicked a spoonful back at me and we had a war and that's why there's ice cream everywhere.
I write all this only because I saw Annie for the third time in a theater tonight, courtesy the Brattle. I know I'd seen it on video in between, but it didn't count. I think the pan-n-scan video version crops out Rooster and Lily St. Regis in Miss Hannigan's bathroom mirror, for instance.
I did notice this time, however, that the adult roles were more fun to watch than the kid roles. And I realized that when you're a kid and engrossed in a kid adventure, the fact that the lead kid is alarmingly and relentlessly cheerful in a serious manufactured way is of no import to you, as you're too busy off having adventures with 'em to think about it.
I also saw the film this time with a firm knowledge of who the Bolsheviks really were (not some strange and funny name used in the movie, synonymous with Generic Bomb-Throwing Bad Guy) and Daddy Warbucks' comments about capitalism and his disdain for the New Deal were interesting. Hell, I finally caught the pun in his compound name, and that's embarrassing enough to admit.
And oh, Albert Finney! He just chewed up the scenery, and I wanted to pick him up and give him a biiiig hug for such a job well done. I mean that. His eye expressions alone were worth the price of admission (redheads got in for half-price, said the Brattle, though from a cursory check of the nearly-empty theatre, I think everybody showed up for full price tonight.)
Then there was Carol Burnett's turn as Miss Hannigan, all bluster and bathtub gin and comic timing. Her musical number with Tim Curry and Bernadette Peters was smashing. Ann Reinking as Grace was quite nice, especially when she leaps into a dance number straight out of Fosse's book (a Broadway dancer and longtime companion of Fosse, Ms. Reinking actually played a character based on herself in All That Jazz. And even tho it was based on her, he still made her audition for it.)
And the things I noticed, all moviemaking -- I noticed how Carol Burnett must have had a hard time with some of the trickier dance steps, because they cut to three pairs of legs tapdancing up and down a staircase a few times. I also loved how the little orphan actresses often glanced off-camera during the busier dance numbers, glancing with beseeching looks of "what next?" And I noticed how, in one of the very last shots, when Sandy runs up to join Annie, Daddy Warbucks and Grace to watch the closing number fireworks, Annie is frantically smacking the dog on the back, trying to get him to sit.
Watch for it the next time you see the movie. It's hilarious. Arf!
Sure, it was hokey, and it suffered the 1980s film musical pain of attaching more importance to itself than necessary (I'll have to explain that sometime when I'm not so goddamned tired) but Annie was a very important film in my childhood, and while I probably wouldn't be clamoring for to give it four stars anymore in the local newspaper review, I had a wonderful time remembering all this flotsam and writing it down, so there you go, it was very good for something. It was my Madeleine for the day.
And I still don't know how the stage show did their big "chase the bad guys" climax.