The Wisdom of Intermissions

July 1, 2024 at 12:42 p.m.
Sy Rosen
Sy Rosen Sy Rosen

There are lots of theories about what’s wrong with society: too permissive, too conservative, too much poverty, too much wealth, etc., etc., etc. Well, forget all that, I know where we went wrong. It’s the simple fact that there are no more intermissions in the movies. 

Okay, I know it sounds a little weird, but it was during intermissions that I learned some of life’s most valuable lessons. I remember my father putting his arm on my shoulder and wisely telling me during the intermission of West Side Story that, “Gangs are bad.” I nodded my head solemnly while eating my chocolate-covered peanuts. And during the intermission of South Pacific, he looked at me and said, “Prejudice is bad.” Again, I nodded my head solemnly while eating my peanuts.

Of course, my Aunt Gussie had more important things to discuss during the intermission of South Pacific . . . “When I was younger, people always said I looked like Mitzi Gaynor. I think I still do.”

It was during the intermission of South Pacific that I learned another valuable lesson. I noticed a cute girl from my school across the lobby and, gathering up all my courage, went to talk to her. Unfortunately, what I learned was that you should never be singing, “I’m gonna wash that man right out of my hair” when you walk up to a girl. And it would probably help if you didn’t have chocolate-covered peanuts caught between your teeth.

My family often went to movies with intermissions as a group because it was considered an event back then. During the intermission of The King and I, my relatives discussed how sexy Yul Brynner looked with his bald head. My Uncle Harold, for obvious reasons, loved that discussion. Uncle Harold tried to bring up the baldness issue during the intermission of Spartacus, but since neither Kirk Douglas nor Tony Curtis were bald, the conversation really didn’t take off.

During the Spartacus intermission, my Aunt Gussie said, “When I was younger people said I looked like Jean Simmons. I think I still do.”

Intermissions also helped you learn the skill of planning ahead. This was particularly true for my mother. Movie bathrooms for women were notoriously crowded. Therefore, my mother had to move towards the lobby just before intermission started. And she had to use all her catlike instincts to know when that final scene was coming. I remember her grabbing her purse during the dream sequence in Oklahoma. I was sure she had miscalculated. But my mother’s intuition, enhanced by her need to go to the bathroom, had assumed almost supernatural proportions. And, half crouching, half sprinting, she reached the double doors to the lobby just as the word “INTERMISSION” flashed on the screen. My mother turned back to the theater for one brief second, did her version of a power salute and then rushed to the bathroom. It was a feat that my family still talks about with awe.

Thinking it over, maybe it’s for the best that there are no intermissions today. I mean, I’m not sure what I would talk about even if there was a mid-way break. But I suppose the real reason there are no intermissions is that everything’s shorter these days. An average movie is only an hour and forty minutes, a half hour TV show is twenty-two minutes, and the last foot-long hot dog I ate was only 10” long. I know it’s bizarre that I measured it, but I had some time on my hands. 

I only had one opportunity to pass the magic of the movie intermission on to my daughter. When she was ten, I took her to a rerelease of Fiddler on the Roof. I remember holding her hand in the lobby and wisely telling her, “Hatred is bad.” She solemnly nodded her head while chewing a mouth full of Gummy Bears.

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