Father’s Day is just a few days away. And it offers me a chance to brag about my dad a little bit. I think the world of my dad, and I owe so much of what I am to him. Anything I’ve achieved (or will achieve) in this world is a testament to him. If I can be half the man that he is, then I’ll consider myself a success. This year, Father’s Day is a little bit more special than most years because I shared a really tremendous movie-watching experience with my father a few months back. We sat down together and watched the first film that he ever saw in a theatre- Across the Wide Missouri, a western from 1951.
It’s exactly the kind of movie I never would have watched on my own. I hadn’t even heard of it. But my dad knew all about it. It’s the story of a wily fur trapper, Flint (Clark Gable), who lives and works in the Rocky Mountains. He weds a Native American princess, Kamiah (María Elena Marqués), and they eventually have a son together. In the meantime, a member of Kamiah’s tribe, named Ironshirt (Ricardo Montalban), resents the white trappers in his territory. His anger towards the trappers eventually leads to war. I shan’t say more lest I spoil the film.
The film itself was solid and entertaining, sort of a perfect 3 star (out of 5) movie, neither great nor bad. But the actual experience of watching it was tremendous, the best movie-watching experience I’ve ever had. Sometimes, it’s not about the movie itself. It’s about the people you watch them with. In this case, it was my dad, re-living his youth. He told me the story of how he came to see Across the Wide Missouri in a tiny little theatre in southeast Missouri. The film features several characters with accents, including quite a few French Canadians. Listening to my dad parrot the accents during the movie cracked me up. You see, it’s a knack that he has. He is a master of hilarious impersonations. It’s part of the humor I’ve shared with him all of my life. Seeing this movie made me imagine my own father, at age 8, exiting a theatre in southeast Missouri and cracking his own friends up with his impersonations.
There’s an extra dimension here, as well. The film is narrated by Flint’s son, Chip. Not only was this the first film that my dad ever saw. And not only did he share it with me. But it also happened to be about a son, reverentially weaving a tale of his own father’s heroic exploits. It’s a lot like what I’m doing right now by writing this article. Happy Father’s Day, Dad.