The Double Feature

by Rev . Chris Glaser

There are movies that I can watch again and again with pleasure because they conjure up for me the “olden” times of my life.

The Birds and Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner? take me back to a quaint California of the early 1960s, my native state. To Kill a Mockingbird and The Heart Is a Lonely Hunter take me back to books I enjoyed as a youth.

Both were transformative, not only at how I looked at race and disability, but how I viewed myself as an outsider.

Recently I wanted to end a Sunday afternoon with such a movie, and I caught the last half of A Summer Place on Turner Classic Movies. It’s a peculiar story of how I first happened to see the film. My occasionally non-conformist mother and a colleague of hers served as tricksters at the rather staid Christian school I attended, playing practical jokes on each other and exchanging funny, mischievous notes.

He suggested my parents and I—10 years old or so—join him to see Ben Hur at a drive-in movie theater. It happened to be half of a double feature with A Summer Place, a movie my parents had reservations about seeing themselves, let alone letting me see this film about lusty, illicit love. I can’t remember if it was shown first, and we had to watch it, or if last, and we stayed because we had already paid for it! (My parents, while generous, were even more frugal than I am!) But we watched the entire double feature.

In my book, As My Own Soul: The Blessing of Same-Gender Marriage, I wrote how, of all the Hollywood movies about Jesus, I prefer Ben Hur, because the film never shows Jesus directly, but rather, depicts how he affected people—which is what I believe we have in Christian scriptures as well.

I like this less literal and more indirect way of portraying Jesus.

Obviously, it’s strange pairing this quasi-religious film with an incredibly secular film about older star-crossed lovers who leave their disastrous marriages to marry, and their teenage children who fall hopelessly in love, played by (to me, adorable) Troy Donahue and (to me, lucky) Sandra Dee.

But the double feature awakened the double feature of my own life. Yes, I liked Jesus and things religious. And yes, I liked Troy Donahue, and things romantic. Religious or romantic, love would eventually come to me spiritually and sexually, thanks areReligion and Sexuality to God!

Photo via flickr user BJ Alias