As a child, my world was primarily a visual one. Although my mother was untrained in art, she was talented at drawing, sewing, and had a highly developed sense of color. (Sadly, her daughter was born with two right thumbs, to match the two left feet, and found sewing on a button to be a major achievement.) But I did watch when she studied the texture of cloth or examined the variance in hues, and we both shared a love of painting, flowers, and how the lights danced in the northern sky on clear winter nights.
We also shared a love of the movies.
Even my father had time for them, and he often worked nights. Each week, we’d walk up to the Odeon on Sixth Street for the double feature, Movietone news, and cartoons. The films were also a part of our daily lives since our phone number was only one digit different from that of the Odeon. (My mother, surrendering to reality, kept the paper handy to tell callers when the shows started.). Thank goodness my parents didn’t censor my watching (and argued on my behalf when the ticket lady thought the film too “mature”) because I saw some great stuff, even if I didn’t exactly understand what was going on in Miss Sadie Thompson or Laura.
Contrary to what censors fear most for young eyes (sex corrupts, but violence is acceptable, especially if the “good guy” has a gun), I really didn’t care about the mostly subtle sexuality. What did capture my imagination was the tension created by a storm, a shadow lurking in an alley, a hand slipped behind the back. Even when I was old enough to get the sexual tension with Marlon Brando in Streetcar Named Desire, I was more interested in the impact of shadings of gray or Brando’s sweaty undershirt. In short, I learned the value of detail, background, and action that heightens the tension of a story. Not a bad education for an eventual writer of mysteries.
Of course, now that I am in my late 60s, maybe the censors won’t mind if I watch those early films on TV and enjoy the sexual subtleties. On the other hand, maybe they do. After all, they still “bleep” words they don’t approve of, even if the dialogue requires subtitles. But they do allow blood and exploding heads as long as the “good guy” is the one with the gun…