Many of us who remember the Fifties are really just trying to remember them, they’re not really clear to us anymore. We’re struggling to remember our own experiences, and fit them in to what we can remember or read about the details of that long-ago world. (Insert clever, facetious remark about getting older.)
I remember the Million Dollar Movie, but it’s hard to believe that I am remembering it correctly. Did they really show the same movie twice every evening from Monday to Friday, and then three times a day on Saturday and Sunday? The same movie? Sixteen times in the same week? How could they do that? That’s what they did, though, on WOR, channel nine in New York, in the Fifties.
I know that I watched King Kong five or six times in the same week. I remember sitting in Mrs. Lepkeoger’s third grade class dreaming about the movie, and trying to recreate it in my imagination shot by shot, line by line, after I’d seen it a few times. That was 1956, I know that we had a TV then, but it’s hard to believe that I could watch King Kong from seven to eight thirty every weeknight, night after night. What were my parents doing? I know that my father stopped coming home from work at some point, began coming home very late every night, or travelling for days, and thinking about the Million Dollar Movie I suppose that it had happened already when King Kong was showing. But I know he came home sometimes, I know that in ’56 I could still ask him to pick me up a copy of some rock and roll record that I’d heard on the radio. And what about my mother? Did she just watch King Kong with me? Over and over again? My little sister was about four years old, what was she doing? It was a smallish apartment. Boy, I still love that movie.
My little family drama was very ordinary, but it’s amazing to think that a New York City television station, in the Fifties, thought that it was a good idea to show the same movie all week, and kept to that schedule for many years, and made money doing it.