The first time Don Mabry saw “The Wizard of Oz” in a theatre he was seven years old and accompanied his aunt to Pulaski Theatre.
Friday night marked the second time the Pulaski native saw the classic film on the big screen. It was the same theatre, but this time he was with his daughter-in-law and grandchildren.
Although 75 years have passed, Mabry said the movie was just as impressive Friday night as it was when it opened in theatres, including Pulaski Theatre, in 1939.
“That was a highlight for me,” Mabry, 82, said of his chance to see the movie at the same theatre so many years later. “I’m proud of the resurrected theatre.” Pulaski Theatre shows a classic film on the first Friday of each month.
Mabry spent quite a bit of time at Pulaski and Dalton theatres when he was growing up, even though he lived about six miles out of town in the Thornspring/Back Creek area. His aunt “really loved” movies, so she would often take him, his brother and her children with her.
He said his mother “screened them (movies) pretty well” to make sure they were age appropriate. Most of the movies they saw were Disney cartoons, such as the premiers of “Snow White,” “Dumbo,” and “Pinocchio,” double feature westerns or Charlie Chan detective films.
Friday night was only the second time he got to see “The Wizard of Oz” in a theatre, but he, like many, has seen it “quite a few times” on TV. So, what’s the difference?
“It’s more impressive and has more impact,” he said.
For example, he pointed out how the audience cheered when Dorothy’s dog, Toto, escaped from the basket of mean Mrs. Gulch as she was taking him away to have him “destroyed” for biting her leg. “If it was their dog, they would want him to escape, too,” he said.
He called the tornado that carried Dorothy’s home to Oz a “masterpiece of filming” for its time. “It was a fairy tale, but it really carried you along. Everyone wanted to see Oz.”
The switch from sepia toning to the use of Technicolor when Dorothy opens the door and first sees Oz also carried a lot of impact with audiences 75 years ago. Mabry said there weren’t many color films produced when the movie was released, so the “brilliant color” left quite an impression.
Friday night marked the first time Mabry’s daughter-in-law, Charon, and his grandchildren, Brent and Reece, saw the movie in a theatre. He said they enjoyed the opportunity to see it on the big screen, as opposed to the usual television broadcast.
Movies seem to run in the family blood. Before Pulaski Theatre shut down in 1991, Mabry said his sons, Eric and Todd, worked there, selling concessions and tickets.