The Marriage Circle

Ginny and I watched “The Marriage Circle” last night. It’s not often we’ll sit down to a 1920’s silent movie, but we wanted to see this one because it was restored some years ago by our friend Claudine Kaufman. Claudine has worked for years at the Cinémathèque Française in Paris where she lives. She once worked on a team of editors who edited a François Truffaut film “Two English Girls.” She used to tell us about Truffaut giving her rides home after work. Truffaut!

We got to know her when her then husband was going to medical at UND. Back in 1979, she and Jack invited us to visit them in Paris. We did, of course.

Watching “The Marriage Circle” last night reminded me of how Ginny and I would sometimes spend our Saturday nights in the winter. We would shlep up to the third floor of Merrifield Hall on some of the coldet nights of the year to take in UND Film Society offerings.

The UND Film Society was run almost single-handedly by Dr. Donald McCaffrey who taught film at the U forever. He and his wife Joanne, I should say. After choosing the films and somehow getting the money together to get them here, they would take tickets (I seem to remember admission was a buck), project the movies and then talk informally with students after the showings about them. Then, I suppose, clean up. Don would also write wonderful one-page summaries of each film to hand out. I wish I had saved them.

If I know anything about film today (and I’m not saying that I do) it’s because of Don. Now retired and living in warmer climes, it was wonderful to see him at a little over a year ago at a UND Theatre Department reunion.

One of the biggest regrets I have is not taking Don’s film class as a UND student. (Another is not taking Dr. Elwyn Robinson’s class on the history of North Dakota.) One semester I did have a class in the same classroom right after Don’s. Many days he and his students would still be discussing some wonderful film they’d just seen long after the class was over. Lucky.

I did take a community class he taught once. I still remember his remarks after we watched the Beatles’ “Yellow Submarine.” I could have seen “Yellow Submarine” a hundred times and not “gotten” what it has to say about authority without Don’s commentary. He is world-class writer whose books about Bob Hope’s movies and many others remain in print, a Charlie Chaplin expert and, maybe most importantly, a professor’s professor.