Phoenix once boasted two Cinerama movie houses: the Cine Capri and the Kachina in Scottsdale. Both were bulldozed. In Seattle, thanks to the stewardship of Paul Allen, the Cinerama theater downtown was saved and renovated. It just completed a three-week festival of movies originally filmed in 70 millimeter, which even with all the technology available to Hollywood today is something worth experiencing. Despite facing the terrible commute and traffic of going one block, I went anyway yesterday to see How the West Was Won, the 1962 epic.
At the risk of provoking readers, I must confess that I was deeply moved. Yes. The film has more than one historical inaccuracy. The cognoscenti will always condemn it as a celebration of genocidal Manifest Destiny, although for the era it shows a much more nuanced portrait of Western expansion. Still, with a grand old-time movie score, a battalion of big stars, surprisingly good dialogue and the scenery on that wide, curved screen, it was hard to resist. (An added treat: One of the card sharks was a dead ringer for JPMorgan Chase CEO Jamie Dimon). At the end, the packed house of Seattle lefties gave long applause.
I was moved partly because the story, which follows four generations of a family from 1839 to 1889, could have been about my family, too. The migration routes were somewhat different and my kin fought on both sides of the Civil War, literally brother against brother, but in both cases the family ended up in Arizona. Yes, in hindsight we were part of the problem, but I can't imagine any nation just walling off settlement beyond the Alleghenies. It wasn't going to happen. But this personal connection wasn't all that provoked strong emotions.