Frames of narrative detail would set the scene for the black and white reels.Chase scenes and slapstcik made for good visuals and my parents, like thousands of others laughed and cried at the antics and scenarios of Charlie Chaplin and the 'Keystone Cops'.
By the time they had hit their teens "talkies" had hit the screens. My mum had her share of screen idols, the romantic leads of the day, including Clarke Gable, Gregory Peck and Cary Grant, whilst my dad loved Humphrey Bogart and David Niven for their action and comedy roles.
No doubt film going was a huge part of their childhood, with my mother spending at least every Saturday at the Palais in St Kilda, or the Astor in Prahran, with her best friend Jean, throughout her teens, or accompanying her mother, sister and brothers into the city during the evenings to see movies.
Their own romance blossomed to the tune of Fred and Ginger dance soundtracks and many a musical.
Evening film going was a serious business, with audiences dressing up and reserving seats. Up until the late 1950s, my parents along with my sibling, had permanenet regular seats booked at the local cinema every Saturday night. More movie going family friendsand their children, always sat in the adjoining seats, drinking in the latest Hollywood offerings.
My great aunt and uncle Alma and Les Dennis, caught the film bug sufficiently early and heavily enough to build a chain of movie palaces across Melbourne's city and suburbs, that operated successfully from the 1920s until the advent of television in Australia in 1956. Whilst some of them have sadly been bulldozed or recycled into other businesses or incarnations, Northcote's Westgarth cinema remains the only one still operating as a venue for film screenings today.
By the time I was born, the world had largely entered the television era. Despite this, films were included as part of my cultural initiation and education. Films moved from black and white to technicolour. This was the height of the drive in era and I saw many a film, with speakers hooked onto the drivers window in my dad's old Zephyr. Amongst these I clearly remember the animated version of 'Lady and the Tramp', with Creulla frightening me out of my wits. There was a lovely documentary about a bear. My teenage brothers too, were to be found frequenting the drive in with their girlfriends on Friday nights, though how many of the films they attended they actually saw is questionable!
Sometimes I would hit the local cinema, with both my parents. I remember seeing 'Fantasia'; that was scary too!
'Mary Poppins' and 'The Sound of Music' came along and I fell in love with Julie Andrews. Later I saw her in films like 'Thoroughly Modern Millie; and a film about Gertrude Lawrence and still later films like 'Victor, Victoria' and the 'Princess Dairies'. Julie Andrews remains an idol for me, to this day.
'My Fair Lady' was another film that had me learning every song off by heart and waltzing around the house a la 'I Could Have Danced. By then television was beginning to get me up to speed with other musicals that had been produced well before I was born. Those musicals provided the soundtrack to my early life and 'South Pacific', 'The King and I', 'Carousel' and 'Showboat' remain favourites to this day.
ometimes my auntie Norma and Gran would take me to a film in the city. It was in Melbourne, with them I saw 'Born Free'. I wanted to be Joy Adamson in Kenya, with her beloved Elsa. I loved 'Born Free' so much that I simply had to see 'Living Free', documenting the lives of Elsa's cubs, when it came out. There was 'Elephant Walk' with Liz Taylor...
So was anything with Elizabeth Taylor, my mum loved her and so did I. We read about her in magazines like 'The Woman's Weekly' and 'Woman's Day'. I loved horses and spent the best part of my life when not at the movies, or watching movies with my own horses, so 'National Velvet' was a good start. When ' Sex in the City' came along in the 1980s I could instantly relate to Charlotte's idolizing Liz Taylor.
By the time I was in my teens, school holidays would find myself and my friends attending every film that was released in the matinee timeslot in Ballarat. Whilst evening viewings found me falling in love with Robert Redford, Ryan O'Niell and Paul Newman. I wished I was Barbra Streisand in ' The Way We Were', or Mia Farrow, in the version of 'The Great Gatsby' she starred alongside him in.
Reruns on television meant I was catching the films my parents had revered, like 'Cassablanca', 'The African Queen', 'Joan of Arc' and more.
In my mid teens, the rebirth of Australian films began, with 'Picnic at Hanging Rock', ' My Beautiful Career' and 'Stormboy' , all of which I saw with my mother, who was also relishing the new Australian films. With my friends I was attending the more risque film events, like 'Alvin Purple' and 'The Adventures of Barry Macknezie'.
It was the time of "sexual liberation' so I was also accompanied to all the latest 'M' "movies with my mum" films, like 'Ryans Daughter' and 'Caberet', which saw me seeing sex scenes and nudity for the first time.
My dad loved human rightsand animal movies, so I sat at his side seeing triumphs like 'Ghandi', 'Cry Freedom' and 'City of Joy' and 'Gorillas in the Mist'. Meanwhile reruns of the early Australian films like 'Dad and Dave' and 'Squatters Daughter' viewed with him, were giving me a sense of Australia's proud history of film.
In 1978 I was to see a film that would transform my perception of Australian history. Fred Schepsi's extraordinary 'The Chant of Jimmy Blacksmith' confronted the racism our country was founded on. It was the most powerful film I had ever seen at the time and remains on my list of films that have moved this country to a new era and vision of itself. It was a brutal film, born of brutal values. It was a film we needed. Australian cinema had come of age.
Thesedays I am a regular movie goer at Cinema Nova in Melbourne, as well as Ballarat's Rgent Multiplex.I have been known to see up to three movies in one day.
I relish opportunities to view foreign language films and documentaries. I get frustrated with inane Hollywood blockbusters and violent films. I have been known to laugh my way through romances and I am a whimp when it comes to horror films.
All in all I continue to love film. It is a powerful medium and art form. It has the capacity to entertain and transform. Life without film is unthinkable!