I am an old movie fan, having watched the late late show when I was a pre-teen and allowed to stay up on Friday and Saturday night provided I got up early enough in the morning. I fell in love with Cary Grant, Ingrid Bergman, Jimmy Stewart, Katherine Hepburn and Irene Dunn just to name a few. As time passed and movies continued to be made, there were some good ones that came out that were not in black and white. There were remakes of some of the old stories – like “Little Shop Around the Corner” became “The Good Old Summertime” and then”You’ve Got Mail”.
Many of these met with success. Some however, are so fixed in time, that they could not be remade today, technology and social norms have changed. They would appear quaint and naive.
I inundated my children with these movies, and still enjoy introducing those people I come to love with the treasure of these movies. Social issues were discussed and addressed with a little more reserve and respect. Unwed mothers, single parents, child abuse, sexual immorality and racial prejudice were all discussed and portrayed, with some issues portrayed in a way that only a true “adult” could pick up on the issues. You can also see why some of our problems have been hard to overcome with racial issues and women’s rights because of where we have come from with stereotypes that still linger.
Right now the comedies come in handy. They are subtle and spiced with innuendo that bursts through as an aftertaste that makes you laugh. Screw-ball comedy is probably the most on my plate right now. Frivolous and zany they help lighten the day. “Bringing Up Baby“, “Monkey Business” with Cary Grant and Ginger Rogers to name a couple.
One of my son’s friends told me that my son had introduced him and some of the other friends to these movies. I thought he considered them silly- but obviously not.
I have enjoyed introducing my daughter’s husband to these movies. I think they provide, for a person from a different culture, a glimpse of some of the things our country came through. The dust bowl, prohibition, recession, the civil and world wars, though portrayed with a little more polish than they perhaps deserve, I think they display some of the emotions and concerns that were truly experienced. I think that it shows some of the hope too.
In “The Bachelor and The Bobby-Soxer” an older Shirley Temple coins the term “sklonklish.” I’ve felt that way a lot lately. I have quoted Terry Garr as she turns to berates Dustin Hoffman in “Tootsie” when he tells her he is in love with another woman, and after her tirade she declares, “I will just have to feel this way, until I don’t feel this way anymore!”
Last night as we watched “Our Vine Has Tender Grapes” I saw my face mirrored in the face of Edgar G. Robinson as he stood on the bridge watching for the tub he hoped still contained his daughter (Margaret O’Brien) to come floating down the swollen river.
It is not in the graphic, but rather in the subtle that I see myself, and others. The emotions portrayed appear real. The latest movie, that I think was well done and accomplished its message without too many over-descriptors was “The Help.” When Abileen tells about her beloved son Treelore and the emotions that play over her face. I see myself in her eyes and expression. The actor Viola Davis does an amazing job.
Perhaps it is in this personally disconnected world with every one racing around with their to-do list that the pull of the old movies calls to me. A time without cell phones and when people wrote letters and sent telegrams. A time when every horrible thing that was happening in the world (as it has happened since the world began) is not being broadcast in your face or sent as a message update on your phone. If anything I think all our knowing makes us feel more impotent and hopeless. I don’t know if the world contains more evil, or if we, just by virtue of technology, end up being made more aware of it all.
Thomas Gray sums it up for us in his poem “Ode on a distant prospect of Eton College”
To each his sufferings: all are men,
Condemn’d alike to groan—
The tender for another’s pain,
Th’ unfeeling for his own.
Yet, ah! why should they know their fate,
Since sorrow never comes too late,
And happiness too swiftly flies?
Thought would destroy their Paradise.
No more;—where ignorance is bliss,
‘Tis folly to be wise.
Maybe this is just a part of some necessary therapy. We have to do what we have to do to face another day. Even though my son thought it sounded and felt like styrofoam, I think I’ll pop some popcorn.