At Verbum Dei, the Catholic all-boys high school I graduated from in Watts, we didn't have a big budget for extracurricular activities like schools in the then-predominantly white and upscale neighborhoods did. For us, the faculty got discounts on quality films showing exclusively in the Hollywood area. A weekday field trip on the bus to go see a matinee of those films was part of our fine arts program. Some of the dudes in my class would get off those buses sporting Afros the size of radar dishes. Our student body was African-American and Mexican-American. The movies we saw, the movies that inspired us to check out the source material in the school or local neighborhood library, did not match the TV news images you saw of young Black and Chicano males in Watts. But we did see these films and later discussed them in our English Lit. classroom:
FAR FROM THE MADDING CROWD starring Julie Christie...
That movie was such a hit with young moviegoers that its soundtrack was also a hit. The theme was tops on the record charts.
The longest film I've seen is, to this day, one of my favorite foreign films. I wish that it would be remastered and restored for DVD. I saw this film more than once in my adult years long after my high school graduation. We students got on the bus twice to go to the Hollywood area for WAR AND PEACE.
Every single guy except one returned to the see the second half. The one who did not join us had a medical excuse. He'd broken his ankle on campus during football practice. Verbum Dei High School still stands in Watts. The Watts Riots of the 1960s happened just a few years before we started high school. This was our Watts community when that rebellion made national headlines.
Those were quality films that we African-American and Mexican-American high school students in South Central L.A. went to see on fine arts field trips. I'm still proud to have been in that class. And I'm grateful to the teachers who connected us to the arts in and out of the classroom.
I owe a great deal of the success I've had in my TV career to arts education in school.