Today we draw our attention to the 50th anniversary of the assassination of President John F. Kennedy, but in terms of what our world was like with a view towards the movies that were playing in theaters at that time.
Most people who remember that awful four-day event of shock and mourning from Friday to Monday remember where they were and what they were doing, almost in detail. Most, I suspect, were not at the movies. Most were either at communal mourning services or firmly planted in front of their television sets watching a new era of chaos born from the weird and terrible string of events that occurred that weekend. Television and radio took the lead and were the real chroniclers of our experience that weekend, not the movies, and perhaps the movies never would be again the forefront record of our popular history. Radio and TV cancelled all regular programs and devoted the entire weekend to the national emergency and the protocol, newly learned for all of us, of national mourning.
We can see in these movie ads a lot of fluff, a lot of eager, daring attempts at sexual situations--which may seem somewhat sophomoric now, certainly more innocent than what was to come later.
We look like a country that didn't take much seriously.
It was a world still of grand downtown movie palaces, such as the Loew's Poli in Springfield, Massachusetts. It was a world where we still had plenty of drive-ins, though most would close in the northern parts of the country for the winter--and eventually for good.
This drive-in below even advertises electric heaters, which is a plus in November in New England, though exactly how that worked, I'm not sure. I'd love to know.
There was still a Cinerama theater in Hartford, Connecticut at this time, a movie process and selling gimmick we should probably tackle someday. As far as I know, there were only three Cinerama theaters in New England: including one in Boston, the other in Providence, Rhode Island. If any reader can correct me or fill me in on more, please do.
For the most part, we see in these ads a lighthearted and superficial world that surely could not really have been. Perhaps we were blind to social strains and movements, a tense undercurrent that was there all along, unknown to us until we were forced to see.
If you remember what you were doing and who you were at that time, that weekend, I'd love to hear from you.
The JFK anniversary is also discussed on my New England Travels blog this week.