I was born and raised in New York City and can still remember the first film I ever saw in a theater, when I was four: THE LONG, LONG TRAILER. It scared me silly because I kept thinking Lucy, Desi, and the trailer were going to fall off a cliff. Years later, I learned Vincente Minnelli directed and that I was supposed to find the film funny. (I still don’t.) A couple of years later, in 1956, I saw the New York TV premiere of KING KONG, which ran on Channel 9’s “Million Dollar Movie.” KING KONG made me cry—yet another sign of the impact of movies on my emotions. As it happens, in the ensuing years I have seen KING KONG at least 50 times on screens and on TV. One might say I’ve grown up with the big ape.
On a more formal level, in 1976 I received an MA in Cinema Studies from New York University. Until recently, I hadn’t done much professionally with the degree—but in 2012, I began teaching Film History in the spring as an adjunct professor at Southwestern Illinois College (SWIC), followed by Film Appreciation in the fall. In essence, much of who I am encompasses the films I watched alone as a child, the films I tried to understand as a teenager, the films I viewed as a twentysomething with fellow auteurists, the mainstream films I enjoyed or tolerated as an adult, and the classic films I shared with my daughter—who received her undergraduate degree in Film Studies.
Something else about me, apropos of nothing: I have Alfred Hitchcock’s autograph, which I obtained in 1965 when my parents took me on a Europe-on-$5-a-day tour. We were at the airport in Frankfurt, Germany, and so was Hitchcock, presumably at the time he was filming TORN CURTAIN. My mother encouraged me to ask him to sign my travel diary. Hitchcock obliged with not only his distinctive signature but also his famous caricature profile.
One last thing: For the past 30 years or so, my favorite film has been Elia Kazan’s SPLENDOR IN THE GRASS—probably because it has the power to make me cry.