Endowed statues and the absent chaplain
“A Little Romance” (1979) is about to start on Turner Classic Movies. I haven’t seen it since about 1981 or 1982, and that’s the only time I’ve seen it. I’m not really in the mood to sit and watch it tonight. But I have a story to tell about it.
One of the most fun things I’ve ever done in my life was that I was in charge of the on-campus movies at my alma mater, which I now refer to as Famous Televangelist University, for 2 1/2 years. The year after that, my senior year, I was Student Association vice president for student activities, one click up the organizational chart.
I loved being film chairman. As anyone who follows my Facebook feed can attest, I love introducing people to movies they’ve never seen before. I still remember the night we had a late showing of “Casablanca,” immediately following an ORU basketball game. As students made their way from Mabee Center to Howard Auditorium, it had just begun to snow. By the time the movie let out (and we had a pretty good crowd that night), there were inches on the ground — which led to the most epic snowball fight I’ve ever been a part of.
I also loved making the “Words From Our Sponsor,” parody radio ads that the late Kendall Durfey and I would put together and which I’d play over the PA system before a movie. Kendall was one of 10 killed in 2001 when a plane chartered by the Oklahoma State University basketball program crashed. Kendall worked for OSU producing educational videos and as a broadcast engineer for OSU’s sports radio network.
A few years ago, I found out that the “Words From Our Sponsor” had inspired a freshman named Nick Barre, which then led to one of the most enjoyable nights of my entire life.
I became film chairman midway through my freshman year; the previous film chairman left ORU — er, FTU — during the Christmas break, and I was able to apply for and get the position. That year, the campus chaplain at ORU was the Rev. Bob Stamps. “Brother Bob” was a great chaplain, and I still remember the devotion he gave on the first day of my freshman orientation in fall 1980.
At some point during the spring of 1981, and I don’t remember the circumstances, I got to meet Brother Bob. He found out I was in charge of the campus movies and happily recommended “A Little Romance,” which he thought was charming.
The movie is a story about two teenagers — an American girl (Diane Lane, in her first film role) and a French boy — who are told by an old man (Laurence Olivier) that if they kiss under such-and-such a bridge, their love will last forever. They try to do so, which requires defiance of their parents.
When I was putting together my schedule for the next year, either the fall of 1981 or the spring of 1982, I remembered the recommendation, and sure enough “A Little Romance” was available from one of the distributors which rented 16-mm prints of movies to places like colleges for institutional showings.
It is a truism about my time as film chairman that complaints about content almost always came from overzealous fellow students, not from the administration. The administration would have to approve my list of movies in advance, and I generally knew what to avoid. But then, something would slip through that would set off a student (often, the type of student who’d been raised in Christian schools and had little interaction with popular culture), who would complain to the administration, and then it would get harder for me to get films approved the next semester.
Well, there’s a scene in “A Little Romance” where a group of students is in an art museum and begins making jokes about some of the naked statues. It’s nothing. It’s also a realistic treatment of the types of things kids of that age group would say and do.’
But someone didn’t like it , and complained— the first time I’d gotten negative feedback from the administration about a movie. Our contact in the administration, Bill Techanchuk (I can’t remember whether he was still Dean of Men that year or whether he’d become Dean of Students), was very nice about it, but he let me know there’d been complaints about the movie.
A movie, which you will recall, which had been specifically recommended to me by the campus chaplain.
Unfortunately for me, I couldn’t reach Brother Bob to come to my defense. He’d left the university at the end of my freshman year in order to pursue his doctorate, I believe at a school in the U.K.