Monday, September 05, 2005


Remember the Late Movie? Or: How TV Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Movies

It 2:15 AM as I start to write this and I was thinking...Remember when broadcast television offered us The Late Movie, followed at times by The Late Late Movie? The Late Movie would usually start around midnight. As a child, it was always a challenge to watch these. It meant I was staying up later than I should, but these movies (now gone in the advent of 500 channels, vertical programming, and digital cable) were a glorious grab-bag of cinematic highs and lows. I saw The Bride Came C.O.D. on The Late Movie. It starred Bette Davis and James Cagney and was a comedy!! It was always a rare treat for me when this middle-of-the-night showcase aired a Charlie Chan mystery or even better a Jerry Lewis comedy. Of course, it was also a receptacle for grade Z-horror flicks starring Bela Lugosi. The Late Movie was a distant cousin to The 4:30 Movie, which aired daily in NY on WABC. The 4:30 Movie existed before networks attempted to fill every hour of afternoon programming (not taken up by soap operas) with news and later insipid talkshows. I loved the 4:30 Movie because often it would offer theme weeks like Planet of the Apes films or Biblical epics or John Wayne movies or Monster Week! The Late Movie and The 4:30 Movie were the beginning of my love for cinema. Of course, I wouldn't know until much later (when VHS arrived) that these films were horribly edited to allow for commercials. Sunday afternoons had their own movie treats with Abbott & Costello a staple every Sunday morning. And, again locally in NY, later in the afternoon, The Million Dollar Movie came on (using the theme from Gone With the Wind to introduce itself). Here you could find grade A films from the Hollywood of yesteryear (Yankee Doodle Dandy, etc). Of course, some may argue that TV is even better now for film buffs with paid movie channels like HBO, and free ones like AMC, TCM, etc. But there was something magical about NOT having the ability to choose a film (as you can now on digital cable). Something magical about just opening up your copy of TV Guide and seeing "what was on." Especially if it was late late at night.

I remember the late night movie here was hosted by the "Cool Ghoul." These were the cheesey horror movies. Etched even further into my memory was the Sunday afternoon movie marathon. Not because I found it particularly interesting but because it was Sunday afternoon after church and my mom would "watch" these movies while taking a nap. She would know the minute you changed the channel too.
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