Happy Birthday, William Castle: An Open Letter to a Dad and a Legend

Happy Birthday, Dad; you’re 103 and look marvelous. Or you would if I could see beyond the veil. I know you died thinking you were unsuccessful, but boy, have I got a surprise for you.

You have fans, lots of them, even lots of brand new ones who love your movies. They love your films not only for the fun that they are, but for the fun you made them feel just like you made every day fun for me.

You would be amazed at the horror films out these days. Some you would love. Some would scare you to death (oh, that’s right… you’re already dead; I talk to you a lot so sometimes I forget that pesky problem), and some you would find troublesome. But the news today is troublesome, and since horror reflects the time we live in—buckle your seat belt.

I know just how to celebrate tonight. And since we don’t need to worry about time and space, it will be epic.

We’ll start the afternoon with a cigar at the beach – a Don Diego No. 5. You’ll walk me down to the shore and look at the horizon. You’ll tell me all my dreams are possible. I won’t worry about all your cigar smoking ‘cause you’re dead, remember? Then we’ll go to Scandia on Sunset. It’s your favorite restaurant. Closed now, but for your 103rd, anything’s possible. You’ll have the Great Hamlet Dagger and a filet with béarnaise. And dessert, many desserts. Again, you’re dead, live it up! You’ll tell great stories as you twirl the ice around in your scotch and soda puffing away on an endless Don Diego.

You’ll look at your watch, eyes wide, “Hurry, we’ll miss the movie.” We don’t have to hurry; the movies now wait for you.

Heard so much about ‘Get Out,’ can’t wait! Jordan Peele says it’s a cross between ‘Rosemary’s Baby’ and ‘Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner.

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We’ll buy a large popcorn and sit together in the darkened theater. Mom and Georgie will be there, too. I’ll introduce you to my husband, Tom, and son Kyle. My youngest, Will, named after you, will be holding your hand. He looks just like you. You always wanted family close. We will all be next to you in that darkened theater with our giant bags of popcorn.

We’ll scream and laugh in Get Out!, and when the lights come back on, you’ll be amazed. “What a storyteller that Jordan is, what a storyteller. I absolutely loved that film. Wish I had made it. Well, good for him! I did see a bit of Rosemary in it, but the way he used humor mixed in with the horror, just brilliant. Love to make a film with him!

I’ll tell Dad what he always told me, “Anything is possible!

Dad would ask one important question, “Is race still an issue?” I’ll nod. “Damn,” he’ll say as he lights up another Don Diego. “Human race needs to do better.

We’ll end the night with a cake that has 104 candles. One to grow on.

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Mom would have picked it up earlier from Hansen’s Cakes. You’ll blow out your candles and make a wish. I wonder what you’ll wish for?

Then, as we eat, you’ll tell us about a story. “It’s about love and fear,” you’ll laugh, a bit maniacally. “It’s a monster movie. They’re coming back, you know. All this talk of nuclear war.” He’ll shake his head in disbelief. Sadness in his eyes. But then, in an instant his eyes would change and suddenly shine with the playful wit of a storyteller getting ready to weave a tail.

They’re on a crescent-shaped bay, all playing on the sand and in the water. Each has their own story, their own brand of sorrow, grief, happiness. But none of that matters when a huge sea monster comes roaring out of the water.

He’ll take another puff of his cigar.

What happens next?“ I’ll ask excitedly.

You’ll have to see the film,” he‘ll laugh.

Come on Dad, please???

He’ll leave me hanging.

But I have the gimmick,” he’ll smile. “The sea monster will step out of the screen and into the theater. I can do that now, you know, ‘cause I’m dead.

As I make my way to bed, I’ll turn. “Love you, Dad. Happy Birthday.

Forever, Terry. Forever.

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Written by Terry Castle

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