Old movie friends always welcome on TV

Published 8:00 pm Sunday, July 29, 2012

     A couple of years ago at a Brookhaven Little Theatre play practice, my friend James Minter asked an interesting question.

     He wanted to know what movies cause me to stop and watch a few minutes of whenever I’m flipping through the television channels. I don’t recall James’ reason for asking the question, but I thought it was a good one and one I’ve pondered myself.

     Without giving the question too much thought, I immediately said, “The Shawshank Redemption.” James and I shared a laugh because it was one his list, too.

     I don’t remember the 1994 movie about a prison in Maine doing all that well at the box office. The IMDb website said it grossed an estimated $58.5 million worldwide, but the movie seems to have found a welcoming audience through its rather frequent showings on various cable channels.

     Perhaps it is Morgan Freeman’s mesmerizing voice as narrator or Tim Robbins’ character Andy Dufresne’s patient determination to escape the prison, but the movie resonates and gives me pause to stop and watch a while whenever I pass by it on the TV.

     A couple of other movies quickly came to mind when contemplating the question asked of me.

     Being a baseball fan, “A League of Their Own” has a special appeal.

     The movie about the women’s professional baseball league during World War II stars Tom Hanks and Geena Davis. I particularly enjoy the opening scenes with Jon Lovitz as a snarky talent scout traveling the Midwest looking for players for the league.

     Perhaps the movie is best remembered for Hanks’ “There’s no crying in baseball” tirade at one of the sobbing players. I’ve heard the “no crying in …” phrase applied to a variety of other areas in the years since the movie came out in 1992.

     Speaking of speeches, I’ve just about memorized Jack Nicholson’s “you can’t handle the truth” courtroom witness stand monologue from “A Few Good Men.”

     Nicholson’s Col. Nathan R. Jessup’s fiery explanation for his actions and existence is captivating and I stop to watch whenever I happen to catch that part of the movie on television. I say I’m close to being able to recite the speech, but the “country has walls” and “saves lives” parts kind of get muddled in my mind if I go too long without seeing the segment.

     At this point, inclusion of movies about prison, baseball and the military on my list probably doesn’t surprise anyone. To borrow a baseball term, now let me throw a curveball.

     Ever since I caught the stage version of “Steel Magnolias” at New Stage Theater in Jackson while attending Hinds Community College in late 1980s, I’ve had a great appreciation for the drama. The play has been performed locally on the BLT stage twice, once shortly before I arrived in Brookhaven in 1991 and again a few years ago.

     The play, revolving around the lives of six women who frequent a beauty parlor in a Louisiana parish, was made into 1989 movie starring Sally Field, Olympia Dukakis, Shirley MacLaine, Dolly Parton, Daryl Hannah and Julia Roberts.

     While I thought Dukakis went a bit over the top with her Southern accent, the movie relays well the hilarious and tender tale of lasting friendships through triumphs and tragedy. A highlight of the movie for me is Tom Skerritt’s character, Drum Eatenton, who delights in tormenting MacLaine’s Ouiser Boudreaux.

     Interestingly, Drum is not seen in the stage version of “Steel Magnolias.” That’s too bad, because I think that would be a fun role to play.

     As could be expected, I have all the mentioned movies on DVD and can watch them in their entirety any time I choose.

     But as in real life, there’s just something about unexpected visits from old friends on film. It makes me pause to enjoy the movie memories.

     That’s all for now.

     Write to Managing Editor Matthew Coleman at P.O. Box 551, Brookhaven MS 39602, or send e-mail to mcoleman@dailyleader.com.