Like Kris Tapley, my father turned me into a cinephile. (Cineaste, as Dave Kehr is wont to point out, is strictly reserved for filmmakers.) Raising two (and later three) kids in Manhattan, my father took us to the movies every weekend at the local movie houses: the Riverside and Riviera, Symphony, Nemo, Olympia, Thalia and New Yorker.
His taste was eclectic: we saw The Mouse that Roared, The Russians Are Coming! The Russians Are Coming!, Lord Love a Duck (three times–it must have been Tuesday Weld in those cashmere sweaters), To Kill a Mockingbird, Lawrence of Arabia and Dr. Zhivago, El Cid, A Hard Days Night, Singing in the Rain, Gypsy, Meet Me in St. Louis and Damn Yankees. (We drove into the Bronx for that one.) And he eagerly looked forward to every new James Bond–From Russia with Love was his fave.
Torry had a booming laugh. One night from the balcony at the New Yorker during a Marx Brothers marathon, I could hear him guffaw from the orchestra below. (He also loved W.C. Fields.) He taught me the phrases “they were rolling in the aisles” and “not a dry seat in the house.” I used it once in a live CNN interview!
My father is responsible for my love for World War II movies such as Battleground and Tora! Tora! Tora!. He adored Angela Lansbury and Peter Sellers (The World of Henry Orient), Alec Guinness (Bridge on the River Kwai), John Huston (The Maltese Falcon, The African Queen, The List of Adrian Messenger), and had a healthy appetite for horror, from Hammer dracula flicks starring Christopher Lee and Peter Cushing to The Haunting and Attack of the 50 Foot Woman. We watched Chiller Theatre on TV every Saturday night over spaghetti and garlic bread. On our walls were movie posters: The Creature from the Black Lagoon, Un Messe Pour Dracula and Le Bon, Le Brut et Le Truand.
Did I have any choice? But my father was a Cornell-educated snob who wanted me to become a high-falutin’ academic (my brother Peter took on that mantle). He couldn’t understand my decision to enroll in the Department of Cinema Studies at NYU. But he came around later when I worked at Film Comment and he donned a tuxedo as my date for the opening night of the New York Film Festival at Lincoln Center. He was a proud father then.
[Charles and John Thompson, circa 1969]
Originally posted on Variety.com