It was late fall 1968. I just got off the school bus and walked into my childhood home. My father greeted me by saying he had a very special birthday present. We got into the car and 90 minutes later we were in St. Louis, driving up to a movie theater (no, a movie palace). In lights on the marquee it read: Now Playing – Stanley Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey – In Cinerama
I couldn’t believe it. In those times movies weren’t released into every theater of every city on the same day. They opened in the big cities, usually only on each coast, where they played for months before moving to the interior cities. Living in the Midwest and in a smaller town, I would read about films that opened in March but didn’t reach my movie house until November! It was torture.
Films of a certain length frequently had an intermission of 10 to 15 minutes so the audience could stretch their legs, but more importantly, discuss the film. Can you imagine what that would be like in today’s prefab, movies in a box multiplexes? “What’s This? Why did they stop the movie? Well I guess I can make a call on my cell” So many are not worth discussing, but 2001? Tailor made for an intermission. I can recall having a conversation with my father and hearing the buzz around the theater.
I was very keen on the space program, intently following each launch from Mercury onward. It was the age of the record player, and I had an LP (long playing) recording of the first Mercury launch. I think I wore it out. Couldn’t get enough of NASA and the space program. Film was another passion, and 2001 combined both space and movies. 2001 overwhelmed me and the story pushed me from the real science of NASA and the dreamlike trance of film, to count the written word among my active interests. But not just anyone’s written words. Oh no, Arthur C. Clarke’s words.
Mr. Clarke has passed after a longer than average human life. It’s a large loss for our planet and for all who enjoyed his skill with words. He had impact well beyond writing books and there are dozens of articles, books and now obits that do his creative life much more justice than I ever could. He will always be the one (and Stanley Kubrick of course) that gave me that thrilling experience in a theater seat back in 1968, and launched me into the incredible world of books. I miss him already, but am comforted by the fact that his books are neatly lined up in my library and I can share him with my son.