Our Backstreets #24: Yours Truly

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By Marilyn Ferdinand

Over the past few weeks, a few of my fellow movie bloggers have revealed parts of their home movie libraries. They weren’t big show-and-tells, but they provided a glimpse at the person behind the curtain, so to speak. Now, I’ve never hidden my identity or a lot of the details about my life, but I am a bit private when it comes to my home. Not that it’s some kind of sanctum sanctorum, mind you, though the computer room/den comes very close to being a staging area for macabre rituals thanks to the hubby’s delight in collecting gargoyles, mini-guillotines, pagan altar pieces, and other bizarreiana. But I’m ready to show you just what kind of a film geek I am.

As a collector, I’m as piddling as someone who never goes to the movies. I don’t have a lot of books or DVDs. I had a lot of videos, mostly recorded off my TV; it was hard to rent or buy them at a reasonable price for quite a while, so my VCR was once my best friend. I don’t have a lot of memorabilia other than ticket stubs, because I live in a condo without a lot of storage space and I really hate the feeling of clutter. So what you’ll see here represents the items I’ve deemed worthy of taking into my home, some rather randomly, some foisted upon me by others, but mostly because I feel better knowing they are giving off energy in the place I am most relaxed and inspired.

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I have a lot more artwork than I have room to hang it, but this piece will always have a place of honor in my home. The advertising cards are all from films I’ve seen, and none of them ever made a big splash, though most film buffs will recognize them and may have seen them. The card on the right in the second row is my version of historic preservation—the 2001 line-up of films from the late, lamented Shooting Gallery; two of the cards in the frame, The Low Down and The Day I Became a Woman, are from that series. I have the most awesome framer who I’ve been going to for decades, so I’m really pleased with how this looks.

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On to the memorabilia. Above is one piece in a small collection of Rudolph Valentino items that includes a couple of vintage photos and a paper doll collection. I keep the bulk of the collection at work, but this cookie tin kept rolling off my desk, so I brought it home where the hubby has surrounded it with other vintage items from my mother and his.
Now the ticket stubs. Here’s what holds them:

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I can’t show them all to you, so I’ve selected some that have some special interest for me. The first Ebertfest had some beautiful tickets. (They got grayer and more subdued over the years.) A three-piece band from Michigan called Concrete played their own score for Battleship Potemkin. Director Paul Cox did a Q&A about his wonderful A Woman’s Tale.

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Here’s one from the Silent Summer Film Festival. Do you know that I forgot I saw Twinkletoes? Unbelievable. But going through all these ticket stubs, I saw a lot of film titles I didn’t recognize at all, including, believe it or not Bunuel’s The Milky Way, which I claimed not a week ago to never have seen and, in fact, to have avoided! However, the other two on this page, Lost in Translation (Did I really see that at the Siskel Center? How odd.) and Cloverfield, I remember well.

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Here are a few from the defunct Taos Talking Picture Festival. Sorry I didn’t get a better picture. The significant ones for me are Vera and Whale Rider, which was unknown in the States when I saw it. It didn’t stay that way.

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Below are some different styles of Chicago International Film Festival ticket stubs. I quite like the first ones, with elegant type for the festival name over a grayscale image of the festival logo—Theda Bara’s eyes. By 2004, the stubs were the usual Ticketmaster style they are now. No character. Oh well. The stub for The Exiles is not from the CIFF; it’s sort of my way of bragging that I discovered this film a long time before the hordes of cinephiles who now, thankfully, have easy access to it.

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Finally, I’ve got a smattering of films I saw at the Siskel Center. The tickets not only tell what film was shown, but what series it was a part of; for example, Sound of the Mountain was part of an extensive Naruse retro. The Iberia ticket means a lot to me because Carlos Saura was there for the screening, where I got a chance to thank him for his unique dance films and get his autograph on a VHS tape of Carmen and a DVD of Blood Wedding.

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I like to go to films when I’m on vacation. I had a few stubs from Hawaii, but the photo didn’t come out. I wish I had the stubs from my trip to Johannesburg, where I remember seeing Center Stage and the first X-Men movie. Then again, I wish I had all the stubs over the decades. “What we’ve missed, Lucia, what we’ve missed.”

On to the DVDs. This is pretty close to all of them; a couple of photos didn’t come out. Yeah, I know: “Is that all?” Hey, I’ve got a kickass library collection and Facets to rent from. The hubby is responsible primarily for the horror films and stuff like Mondo Bubba, Dogville, and Dogma. A number of the films have Chinese characters on them; those came from my Shanghai connection.

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I was going to put up pictures of my books, but there are only about 35, and none of them is all that “important.” Nonetheless, I have a few favorites: Silent Star, Colleen Moore’s autobiography, Foster Hirsch’s Film Noir: The Dark Side of the Screen, and Andrew Bergman’s We’re in the Money: Depression America and Its Films.

Whew, I’m glad that’s over! It’s not as easy as I thought it would be to put this out into the world. I don’t exactly know what you’ll make of all this. Let me know. l

  • Rod spoke:
    5th/12/2008 to 7:43 am

    Ah-hem. We got special tickets to a pre-release special screening of Lost In Translation at the Siskel Center and went with Matt to see it. We even got the Miracle Car Space. Remember now?
    Tut tut…

  • Marilyn spoke:
    5th/12/2008 to 8:19 am

    I really do need these brain jogs. Seriously, I look at the physical evidence and have no memory at all, though I knew from the date that I went with you. I don’t remember the miracle parking, but I now remember that we were lucky to get these tickets – they were sold out as I recall. And yes, I do remember going with Matt.

  • bill r. spoke:
    5th/12/2008 to 8:48 am

    Yes, I would have thought you owned a lot more movies than that. And seeing the Thirteen Ghosts remake next to Song of Bernadette is more than a little jarring (although why I say that, I don’t really know, since I haven’t seen either film).
    I used to hold on to my movie stubs, every single one. There wasn’t much variety to the appearance of them, but I liked having them. I don’t know whatever happened to them all, but I know they’re gone now. How very sad. Now how will I be able to prove to people that I saw Happy Gilmore in a theater?

  • Marilyn spoke:
    5th/12/2008 to 8:58 am

    13 Ghosts is the hubby’s acquisition; nonetheless, I liked it when I saw it. When it comes to horror, he has pretty good taste – though he’ll also watch any horror movie that’s on, so maybe he just shows his good taste in his purchases.
    My ticket stubs range widely in appearance, from plain white pieces of tissue paper to Coca-Cola emblazoned ads, to coats of many colors. Around here, the Landmark Century Theatres have the most visually interesting, actually improving over time from some rather small tabs with an unimaginative filmstrip image.
    Interestingly, the Siskel Center is running a Czech film called Beauty in Trouble this week. I have a stub proving I saw it before, but even reading the synopsis for this week’s showing, I have the spottiest of memories of it. I guess that’s a sign I didn’t like the movie. I still remember vividly films I saw at the 36th Annual CIFF in 2000, but they included some real classics like Yi Yi and George Washington.

  • Jonathan Lapper spoke:
    5th/12/2008 to 9:01 am

    I love your memorabilia! That’s the stuff that inspires me too. I have my framed mini-posters of It Happened One Night and The Maltese Falcon over my computer, publicity stills to the side, a decades old super-8 camera and plenty of movie books that keep me going every time I sit down to write. I don’t keep stubs though but I like that you do. And as written on my own blog, my DVD collection is pretty sucky but slowly improving.

  • Marilyn spoke:
    5th/12/2008 to 9:25 am

    I have a couple of full-sized posters that were gifts, but honestly, I have so many lithos, paintings, photos, etc. that I have no room for that I haven’t even bothered framing them (cost-prohibitive for that, too). The hubby thinks I should do what museums do – rotate the collection.
    I should add that the hubby recently acquired a Beta machine and about 40 tapes that go with it. I hit the ceiling when he showed me the tapes (“Where are we going to put them?”), but I’m such a softie where he’s concerned. I just learned to live with a little more clutter, which he has thoughtfully kept hidden in his closet.

  • bill r. spoke:
    5th/12/2008 to 9:37 am

    I have three movie posters, none of them vintage, or anything that could count as memoribilia: one for Citizen Kane, one for The Hustler (the same poster, by the way, that you’ll see in almost any mid-level pool hall in the country), and one that is just a publicity photo of Hitchcock (the one with the crow (raven?) on his elbow). They’re all hanging over the bed. It’s like a college dorm. I told my wife recently that, if she liked, we could take them down, but she said she was fine with them, in the current absence of anything to take their place.
    As for clutter, my wife puts up with a lot. Apart from the DVD collection, I have somewhere in the neighborhood of 4000 books, although now it’s probably closer to 5000. And we live in a two bedroom apartment. She knows they make me happy, so she doesn’t complain about it, unless I leave piles of them lying around, which I sometimes do.

  • Marilyn spoke:
    5th/12/2008 to 10:32 am

    Don’t you worry for your safety, Bill? Do you have a fire extinguisher in every room?

  • bill r. spoke:
    5th/12/2008 to 10:50 am

    Oh, please don’t bring that up, Marilyn. That’s one of my phobias.

  • Jonathan Lapper spoke:
    5th/12/2008 to 11:38 am

    I’ve thought of rotating photos too but who wants to take everything off the wall and replace it with something different at a set time once or twice a year. It sounds tempting to me but I never get around to it.
    And I prefer small to the full sized posters. I like publicity stills in a simply black frame or a 12 x 18 poster in two dollar frame. Smaller pics make the room look bigger.

  • Marilyn spoke:
    5th/12/2008 to 12:53 pm

    I know, Jonathan. I can hardly be bothered rotating pictures. I collect small things, like sterling silver charms from every place I’ve visited. I can stroll down memory lane with my treasures that only take up about 6″ of space.
    Moviezzz – I’m really not the acquisitive sort. I don’t do this for a living, so I don’t need to own everything, nor can I afford to. I mainly buy things I can’t rent or that I view over and over. There’s very little I can’t rent. I don’t have people over a lot to watch movies, so I don’t need them for entertaining. And I have this idea that if I own everything, then nothing is special.
    I have noticed that men tend to be greater collectors than women, at least among those I know. The 5,000 books Bill has – I’ve seen that with other men I’ve known. I knew one guy who was into British military stuff, and he had, I don’t know maybe 700 model soldiers (you know, the red and white ones with the bearskin hats), everything from tiny models to full-size replicas in full regalia. You couldn’t move in his place for want of space.
    How did these comments get out of order?????

  • Moviezzz spoke:
    5th/12/2008 to 6:41 pm

    My goodness Marilyn, I think I bought more films than are in your entire collection just this past week, what with Black Friday sales, and getting the Busby Berkeley box sets. You make me feel like I really have to cut back!

  • Patrick spoke:
    6th/12/2008 to 11:44 am

    I think you are right about men being more acquisitive than women. I went through a book buying phase, that got into the hundreds, I learned you can buy them faster than you can read them, the buying impulse seems now to have shifted to DVDs, although I don’t have too many yet. A friend of mine was collecting laser discs, he probably got up near a thousand by the time the DVD came along, I wouldn’t be surprised if he now has 1000 DVDs, including many he already had on laser disc.

  • fox spoke:
    9th/12/2008 to 12:54 am

    Wow… so many wonderful things to comment on here… but I will use this first comment for the DVDs. I really like the mix you and your hubby have here.
    I mean, I would doubt that anyone else has David Arquette’s The Tripper next to Melville’s Un Flic.
    And I love Streets of Fire, so I got super-excited to see that you had a homemade copy of it in your collection.
    p.s. Now you’re really gonna have to keep Jonathan and Bill from coming over.

  • Marilyn spoke:
    9th/12/2008 to 9:09 am

    Streets of Fire was always a favorite among a group of people I used to spend time with. Of course, they were all Harley-heads.
    I really don’t like Un Flic very much, but don’t tell anyone.

  • Daniel spoke:
    15th/12/2008 to 1:45 pm

    I find this fascinating, Marilyn. Thanks for sharing. I don’t have nearly as much memorabilia as you, but I do have as many ticket stubs as I’ve been able to hold on to. One day I should really organize them…
    Funny that you mention Beauty in Trouble – I saw it only a couple of months ago but have almost completely forgotten about it. Whoops.

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