I’ll still be posting a new calendar entry every Monday. But if I get additional interesting info between Mondays, I may add special mid-week posts as well.
Monday’s post about my grandfather and the movie “That’s Entertainment!” drew similar e-mail responses from both of my parents. They agreed that my grandfather would have liked the film. And they agreed that, if he saw it, it was almost certainly on television.
“If ‘That’s Entertainment!’ was on TV, then the grandparents saw it; if it was in a movie house, I personally doubt they went,” my mom wrote. “I don’t ever recall (your grandfather) talking about ‘seeing a movie.’ “
As residents of a city not far from New York, my grandparents watched the New York lineup of channels. My dad reminded me that New York City had several independent TV stations, and even if the movie wasn’t a Sunday-night network feature, some other channel might have shown it.
With that info in my pocket, I checked out the New York Times’ TV listings for Nov. 3, 1974. (You can too, if you want to pay to get behind the firewall that guards the Gray Lady’s archives.)
I was sure I was going to nail down exactly when my grandparents watched this movie. Not a quest of any importance to anyone else in the world, sure. But anything worth writing about is worth writing thoroughly about, yes?
You can guess the results. A New York-area TV watcher on that rainy Sunday could have seen numerous movies on the small screen — everything from Cicely Tyson in “The Autobiography of Miss Jane Pittman,” to Errol Flynn in “Objective Burma,” to King Kong and Godzilla in “King Kong Vs. Godzilla.”
But, no showings of “That’s Entertainment!” anywhere on the dial.
(I probably could have guessed this from an astute observation of my dad’s: “It would be like him to write it on the calendar ahead of time to remember to watch it, although it would also be like him to put the time and channel.” You’ll remember that Monday’s calendar entry includes neither time nor channel.)
On a whim, I scanned the listings for “The Band Wagon,” the 1953 movie musical that introduced the song “That’s Entertainment.” I thought maybe my grandfather had watched that instead, and had come away from it with an earworm so persistent that he’d written it on his calendar. But no — no “The Band Wagon,” either.
My thoughts circled back to the small movie theater mentioned in Monday’s post. I thought maybe it was a second-run theater, with correspondingly lower prices.
And I thought my grandfather might have been enticed to break his routine and go to the movies by a combination of thrift, nostalgia, and maybe even romance — like, taking my grandma to a film, the way they might have done when they were young and courting.
Unfortunately, I have to concede that the men in my family, by and large, are about as romantic as parking meters. So my theory has a hole in it big enough for Gene Kelly to tap-dance through. Still, it’s the best — and sweetest — theory I have left. So I’m sticking to it.
In the end, I don’t really know what my grandfather’s calendar entry of Nov. 3, 1974, referred to, or whether he ever saw the movie “That’s Entertainment!” at all.
But that’s OK. For all my fascination with mundane details, exact reproductions of my grandfather’s life aren’t really what this blog is about.
We know some things; we guess at others; and we let the rest slide.
And that, in its own way, is entertainment.