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Some youthful habits can last a lifetime

By: Keith Kappes
Columnist
Carter County Times

Folks usually react with a quizzical look when I tell them my lifelong fascination with old movies began when my brother left home for the Navy.

Dave and I shared a bedroom and we slept in bunk beds while we lived there. He was two years older and believed that seniority entitled him to the bottom bunk.

The day after he left the beds were disconnected and his was pushed against the wall to become a couch. The year was 1958 and our family owned a black-and-white television set but neither of my parents were big TV fans. 

I convinced Mom to let me move that TV set into my room where I placed it about 18 inches from the side of my bed so that it wouldn’t disturb other family members and I would have a front row seat.

That’s when I discovered that two of the three TV stations we received did not have late night talk programs like NBC’s Tonight Show.

Instead, both featured old movies after the late news and that’s when I became addicted to what film historians today describe as the “film noir” period of American cinema.

That term generally refers to mystery and crime dramas produced from the early 1940s to the late 1950s. Those movies usually were shot in black and white and featured stories involving beautiful yet dangerous women, doomed heroes and tough, cynical detectives.

A French term meaning “dark film”, the “film noir” movies lived up to that name with violent stories of gangsters, foreign intrigue, unbridled greed, etc.

I added westerns and war movies to the mix and spent each night watching the likes of Humphrey Bogart, Bette Davis, John Wayne, Lana Turner, James Cagney, Rita Hayworth, Peter Lorre, Joan Crawford, Joseph Cotten, Ingrid Bergman, and many others.

Today, thanks to Turner Classic Movies, various streaming services, and my own movie collection, those films never really grow older.

And when I get tired of the old movies, I can read my copy of the actual shooting script of “Casablanca” starring Bogart and Bergman.

Here’s looking at you, kid.

Keith Kappes can be reached at keithkappes@gmail.com

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