Daddy at the Movies

Jess Yancy, Jr. was an expressive soul with little reserve, a candor celebrated by many, but trying for my mother. It was especially difficult when they went to the movies, since my father’s tastes in films ran to maudlin melodramas.

She said he would hear about these movies from a slew of waitresses, secretaries, and beauticians-–Daddy never passed a beauty parlor without going in; he said it caught the girls at a disadvantage-–who kept him up with the latest Hollywood tear-jerkers.

He’d drag her to see films such as Peyton Place–“It’s bad Faulkner!”)–Hush, Hush, Sweet Charlotte (Daddy had a lot to say about the legal issues in that one)–and Madame X, which has his favorite courtroom scene.

“My God, Barbara! Can you imagine what she must be going through!?” he’d say in a clearly audible aside as Lana Turner took the stand. “

Mother never responded, stared with resignation at the screen, studiously avoiding the chilling glances of others. Some scenes reduced Daddy to great heaving sobs, like when they had to pull Susan Kohner off Juanita Moore’s coffin at the end of Imitation of Life.

His only child to inherit this sense of cinematic drama was my sister, Cindy, who bolted out of a Memphis theater during The Snow Queen and was half-way down Union Avenue, screaming, “She’s gonna get me!” before we finally caught up with her.

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