Which movie seen in childhood was, upon adult viewing, the biggest shock?
When I was five or six, my parents took my sisters and me to see Gigi at Grauman’s Chinese Theatre. I loved it, especially Leslie Caron, who was like Ludwig Bemelmans’ Madeleine come to life. I loved how Caron’s Gigi rolled her eyes at her elders who tried to teach her how to cut an ortolan and use her manners. I loved the music, perhaps because afterwards Dad warbled “Thank Heavens for Little Girls,” which made me feel special. I loved the color, because really, is anything as eye-popping as the scarlets and yellows in a Vincente Minnelli movie? (The film was produced after the demise of Technicolor, but the Eastmancolor was…scintillating.)
Most of all, I loved how the awkward, duckling-like Caron is transformed to a creature who swans around Paris at the finale.
Flashforward, 15 years later: I am driving down the Pacific Coast Highway on my way to college, AM radio blaring show-tunes. Maurice Chevalier is singing “Thank Heaven for Little Girls.” I sing along, replaying the movie in my mind. I barely avoid an accident when I realize that what I remember as a wholesome, coming-of-age tale of an Ugly Duckling’s transformation is a satiric story about a courtesan who defies family tradition by holding out for marriage. I wrote about the ramifications of that experience here. Only Minnelli could have made a G-rated movie out of a saucy Colette satire.
Have you had a similar experience? Which movie seen in childhood was the biggest shock to you when you considered its deeper meaning as an adult?