Monday, December 16, 2013

A Tribute to Oma Rozalia

Oma in Serbia in 1942
The Christmas season is a mixture of happiness and bittersweet moments for many, because it is a season filled with nostalgia. The happy moments we create anew each Christmas are intertwined with the traditions and memories of years gone past. Familiar melodies, cherished moments, and childhood experiences with dear loved ones are all woven together to create a unique tapestry of memories that warm us all through the winter. 

Some of my fondest winter memories took place on the days leading up to Christmas, those cold December days when my family and I were home bound due to the snowy weather. This was the season that our grandmother - "Oma" as we called her ( we're German ) - loved the best. I rather fancy it was because her own fondest memories were from the winter months she spent as a child in Serbia. 

We were very close to our Oma, and even though she passed on two years ago, she still remains with us in our hearts. Since we feel her presence the most during the Christmas season we decided to make our December issue a tribute to all of the films our Oma loved the best, because - yes indeedee - she was a film fanatic. 

Before we highlight the upcoming features please let us indulge in a little bragging about our beloved Oma....

Rozalia Amstadt was born in Serbia in 1925 and as a teenager worked as an usherette at a movie theatre near the Hungarian border. This is where her love of film was born. She often claimed that she saw more movies than anyone in the world and quite frankly, we don't doubt that. How many Serbian and Polish films do you think Robert Osborne saw?

She use to bring the old movie posters home from work and paste them on her bedroom wall and in the bathrooms of her childhood home. Not only were they interesting bathroom reading material but they kept the room warm too....heat was costly and paper not easy to come by you know. 

Oma with her beloved Rolls Royce, once owned by a general

Oma met my grandfather in the "Lager" ( a refugee camp ) in Innsbruck during WWII when she lived and worked there as a chef. Shortly after they moved to France while they waited for the Catholic church to approve and pay for their passage to America. In France, Oma was not able to watch many movies since the town my grandparents lived in had no movie theatre, but once they arrived in Cleveland in 1956 the first piece of furniture my grandfather ( Opa ) purchased was a black and white television. They couldn't speak a word of English but they - and their three boys - sat enthralled watching Arsenic and Old Lace on television that night. If a good movie was playing on tv their neighbor would reach across the yard with a broomstick and thump on their window holding up a sign with the channel number and airing time on it. How sweet! 

Oma quickly learned the language ( she already spoke four languages so what was one more? ) and despite the fact that she told us everyday " Never forget that you are European " and often criticized "dis kontry", she fell in love with America and its history. Her favorite period of time was the Roaring 20s and always wished she was a saxophone player for a swing band during that era. She would have loved the 1920s...bootleggers and all.

As Oma got older her knowledge of movies grew larger and larger. Aside from cooking and crocheting, her favorite hobby was watching classics. If a classic film wasn't to be found on cable tv then she would enjoy any good thriller. Action flicks were not her cup of tea but suspense films and mysteries she adored....just so long as they didn't have "too much talk". She must have seen every Hitchcock film twenty times over.

We often referred to Oma as "Countess Rozalia" because she loved the good life - fancy cars, sparkling jewelry, mink coats, dapper men in suits, world travel and loads and loads of money. Since she didn't have this herself she enjoyed reading and hearing stories about the wealthy - aristocrats, royalty, stars! We always wished we could have seen Beverly Hills with Oma. 

If she had to pick a favorite film to take on a desert isle I'm sure she would have grabbed Some Like It Hot. That film captured all the wonderful things that Oma loved - the millionaire life, hot jazz music, train travel, jewelry, and gangsters. Our grandma loved everything about gangsters. I believe she rather wished that the Roaring Twenties would return and then she would be a "Ma Barker" herself. The last film she watched before she died was Some Like It Hot. 

Rest in peace Oma, I know you are enjoying "the good life"!

Here is a overview of what you can expect to read about this month :

Scrooge ( 1970 ) : our grandmother's favorite Christmas film. We watch it every December a week before Christmas, usually on a Friday morning. While our father and uncle snuck off to the auto auction in the freezing cold weather we stayed at home and watched this lovely film. Oma simply adored the first hour, especially the December the 25th dance number, but once it got to the grim reaper scene she usually headed to the kitchen to get a head start on making soup. 

How To Steal a Million ( 1966 ) : of all the genres of films that were made, "heist" films and musicals were the themes Oma preferred, and so we're going to feature a behind-the-scenes look at one of her all-time favorite films - How to Steal a Million - and our Nugget Reviews will be a look at some other classic heist flicks of the 1960s. Anyone ever hear of That Man From Rio? 

Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous ( 1984 ) : this show was Oma's bread and butter for many years. When it finally went off the air in 1995 she consoled herself by watching the three episodes we had taped off of television. Eventually The Price is Right became her favorite television show. It was a toss-up for us whether to right about that classic game show or Lifestyles but ultimately we choose the rich one because there isn't much written about it. 

Zsa Zsa Gabor : Dahling, dis was Oma's alter ego, what more could we say?

The Ghost of Jayne Mansfield : Jayne Mansfield was one of those iconic buxom babes that seem to crop up every other generation. Jean Harlow was the Mansfield of the 1930s, Loni Anderson of the 1980s, Anna Nicole Smith the Mansfield of the 1990s. We spent our childhood hearing every tale of gossip from Hollywood that Oma could remember. Most of the time she mixed all the tales together and gave them a good shuffle ( which only made them more juicy ) but there was one she liked to repeat over and over which never changed - the ghostly image Engelbert Humperdinck saw in Jayne Mansfield's home. 

And last but not Impossibly Difficult Movie Scene from an impossibly good film. 


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