Mulhall column: RIP Ennio Marricone
Last Month, on July 6 actually, amid the tumult of constantly changing COVID statistics and race riots run amok, Ennio Marricone passed away. He was 91.
A renowned movie score composer, Marricone’s music regularly graced one of the most unique establishments Glenwood Springs has ever known.
Built in 1907, the Glen Theater went by several names and owners before 1939, when it earned the moniker featured on the neon marquee that complimented Grand Avenue’s twilight all the years of my youth.
By the time I was old enough to go to a matinee by myself, it was the late ’60s, and Dan and Della Cornwall had managed the movie house for over 20 years.
Mr. and Mrs. Cornwall ran a tight ship. Ask anyone who ever watched a flick at the Glen.
I don’t recall ever seeing Mr. Cornwall as more than a silhouette in the projection booth. Della, on the other hand, was another matter.
One of the shortest adults I’d ever seen, Della would patrol the two aisles of the theater at regular intervals before a movie started, arresting any hint of horseplay and scouting potential displays of affection that might commence once she dimmed the house lights.
One afternoon while waiting on a matinee, I took Della’s flashlight hard to the sole of my right sneaker because I had it resting on the seat-back in front of me.
From that day on, I observed Della carefully and committed to memory a set of rules for theater decorum, and while I never got in trouble again, my little sister wasn’t so lucky.
For reasons never clear from the story, one evening Della hauled my sister and several of her grade school posse out to the sidewalk and told them to call their parents to come get them.
After some time, Della emerged from the theater doors once again only to find my sister and a few other girls still seated on the sidewalk out front.
“I told you girls to call your parents. Go on now,” Della said. “Hit the road.”
At this, my sister clenched her wee fist and with it smacked the Grand Avenue sidewalk about as hard as a little girl could. Then she stared straight back into Della’s eyes, and in a fit of pique, Della spun and went back into the theater.
Back then, the Glen was the only form of motion picture entertainment you could go to without a driver’s license, so it didn’t make sense for a kid to get cross-ways with Della.
My rule book of Glen Theater decorum served me well, for I saw more than my fair share of movies there, and my favorite genre by far was the Western. That’s where Ennio Marricone came in.
I remember like it was yesterday, a sad-voiced trumpet lacing some somber Spanish ballad through the theater speakers, the turquoise art deco lamps on either side of the screen, waiting for some second- or third-run spaghetti western to begin.
Maybe it was 1969 when I first saw The Good, The Bad and The Ugly. I left the theater and taught myself to hand-whistle on the walk home.
A universal skill among boys of my generation, the hand-whistle knew no U.S. boundary, thanks to Marricone. My brother in law grew up in Wilmette, Illinois, and he too can still hand-whistle Marricone’s two-note coyote howl melody to perfection. (He also hand-whistles The Simpson’s theme song like nobody’s business, but that’s a whole ’nother subject).
A Fistful of Dollars, Once Upon a Time in the West, Death Rides a Horse and hundreds of movies like them portrayed the conquest ethic of the American West in what was then a raw, mostly hyperbolic way, and if a young boy wasn’t careful, he might miss the big lesson.
It didn’t take much, watching Tuco atop a horse, shading himself with a parasol and dribbling canteen water off his lips and down his chest as Blondie walked behind in tow, blistering in the desert sun, to learn sometimes friends aren’t all that nice.
Through it all was a Marricone refrain, and though the Glen is no more, and the spaghetti western’s portrayal of the American west is more politically incorrect than ever, Ennio Marricone’s music plays on — at least for me.
Mitch Mulhall is a husband, father and longtime Roaring Fork Valley resident. His column appears monthly in the Post Independent and at postindependent.com.
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