Hunt Theatre's Magnificent Obsession Photo of Garnet.

Garnet Hunt White
© Copyright 1998 by Garnet Hunt White

A reel and a real Magnificent Obsession played at Hunt Theatre, Tuesday night, December 14, 1948, one on the screen and one off the screen.

Magnificent Obsession embodied all the passion, drama, and myth making skills of Hollywood, both for the women who are charmed by the perfect face of Robert Taylor and for the men, who related to the courting of the beautiful Irene Dunne.

Why did movie fans take to Lloyd C. Douglas' novel, Magnificent Obsession? It does not lose sight of the redemptive power of love.

The audience came from the surrounding Ozarks of Ripley County and Doniphan, Missouri to see Robert Taylor court Irene Dunne. Settling in their seats with popcorn and soda, the customers never realized that by midnight another magnificent obsession would have played in Hunt Theatre.

While Robert Taylor wooed Irene Dunne in Europe, a young woman, Anna, sat in seat 1 at the foot of the balcony. She waited and watched for her husband who worked in St. Louis to enter the lobby.

Anna came down to the popcorn machine and said to Oma Hunt, "I hope Will gets here before I have to go to the hospital."

"Why? Are you expecting your baby soon?" Oma asked.

"The way I feel," Anna said, "It could be right now."

Oma went to her husband, Garrett Hunt, who had closed the ticket office and was watching Taylor court Dunne. She told him of the situation.

Garrett and Oma Hunt, owners of Hunt Theatre, conferred in the lobby. In a few minutes, Garrett took off to locate one of Doniphan's two doctors. He learned that Dr. Williams was in St. Louis. Dr. Goforth was on two cases in Beaver Dam, a community in the northeast part of the county.

Dr. Goforth was scheduled to deliver babies at the Krefield and the Neckar homes before returning to Doniphan. Neither of these homes had telephones.

Garrett returned to the theatre and told Oma, "Neither doctor is available. What will we do if she starts to have that baby?"

"Ask if there are any nurses in the house?" Oma said.

Garrett asked the movie audience, "If there are.any nurses in the house, will you please come to the lobby?"

Mrs. Miller and Mrs. Hudson came to the lobby. By this time, the water had broken on the pregnant woman.

In one corner of the lobby, Garrett quickly erected a temporary screen using the coming attractions' standees. He placed a cot behind it.

Oma explained Anna's situation to the two women. Mrs. Hudson told Oma to get lots of white cloths and have plenty of hot water available.

Oma went next door to the Theatre Café and made arrangements for hot water, towels, wash cloths, large white fabric, and a sheet.

Mrs. Miller and Mrs. Hudson soothed the painful sobs of Anna to the best of their ability. Garrett had informed the projectionist to play music at the end of the movie to drown out any cries of pain that Anna might have when the customers exited through the lobby.

Garrett made one last trip to Dr. Goforth's house, but the doctor hadn't arrived. When he got back to the theatre, the movie was over. The crowd filed out of the lobby with echoes, "A great picture."

The two nurses took charge of Anna. Oma assisted whenever and wherever she was needed. Garrett walked the floor of the lobby, then in and out of the theatre door. He watched for Anna's husband, Will Barton, to come from the city.

"Go in the Theatre Café and get something to eat and drink." Oma told Garrett. "Talk with the men in there. This is a waiting game."

He went next door, but every once in a while he came out and looked through the window into the theatre's lobby.

At 11:30 that night, Will Barton arrived at Hunt Theatre. About 15 minutes later a wail echoed in the lobby announcing: "The coming attraction now playing: A Baby Boy's Birth." By midnight, Baby Barton had taken top billing over Robert Taylor and Irene Dunne.

The youngest movie fan ever to attend Hunt Theatre made the attraction of his arrival a magnificent obsession.

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