Remembering My First Movie

I remember the first movie I ever went to by myself — Billy Budd.  I was only about 8 years old and the movie played at the Squirrel Hill Theater in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.  I wandered in on a rainy Saturday to watch a matinee.  The theater, now a fourplex, was big and spacious and I remember a curved screen that displayed the full visual effect of the projection.  The film starred Peter Ustinov, Robert Ryan, Terrence Stamp and Melvyn Douglas, who all turned in fine performances.

The film’s story, about a young sailer who’s accused of killing the ship’s master at arms (Ryan), is a powerful shipboard fable with a talky script directed with finesse by Ustinov.  He had a long, distinguished and enchanting career as an actor and raconteur, but he also directed 9 quirky movies.  He could ham it up sometimes as an actor, but he turns in a fine performance here as the captain.  He played classical types well (he’s great in “Sparticus”).

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