My niece, Destiney, is helping me to enter the 21st century. She has taught me about blogging, given me numerous tips and helps when it comes to the computer, has tried to explain iPhones and all the other latest technology to me (not that I truly understand, mind you), and has even introduced me to a bunch of recent movies. But she and I have a deal: for every recent one that I watch, she has to watch an old movie that I’ve chosen.
When I say I love old movies, I don’t mean movies from the 70’s & 80’s. I mean any movie pre-1960, with a special interest in those from the 1930’s and 40’s. I love the style and the fashion of the 30’s and 40’s, and it shows in my taste in music, in how I decorate my home, in much of the decorative objects that I collect, and in the movies that I love. I appreciate the writing in those old movies; the lack of technology and the censorship codes of that era made good writing a must. Filmmakers could not rely on shock value or on awesome special effects. Good writing and good acting were essential.
I guess you could say that my mom is to blame for my love of vintage movies. When I was a little girl, Sundays meant Mass in the morning, grocery shopping after Mass, lunch, then movies in the afternoon. One of the local TV stations in LA aired the "Family Film Festival" every Sunday at 3:00 p.m. Most Sundays, the movie was either a Shirley Temple, or one of the Sherlock Holmes films starring Basil Rathbone and Nigel Bruce. To this day, I have an inordinate fondness for both Shirley and Sherlock.
On Monday nights (and then in later years, Saturday night), “The Carol Burnett Show” aired. If you’re not old enough to remember that show, you can watch clips on YouTube, and I dare you not to laugh. That show was laugh-out-loud funny, and my mom and I LOVED it. (In fact, we loved it so much, we got tickets 2 or 3 times to see tapings of the show.) Well, anyway, if you remember it, the cast often did parodies of famous movies (the "Went with the Wind" sketch comes to mind). After the parody, my mom would always say, “Have you ever seen that movie?”
Well, of course I usually hadn’t, so Mom would tell me just enough of the plot to get me interested, but not so much that it spoiled the ending. Mom loved going to the movies, and would tell stories about spending every Saturday afternoon at the movie theater in downtown Detroit, watching all her favorites. She was a big fan of the stars of the 30’s and 40’s and had all their autographs: Cary Grant, Bette Davis, Clark Gable, Joan Crawford, etc. Sadly, my grandmother threw out Mom’s autographs when Mom moved to California in the early 50’s. What I wouldn’t give to see that collection.
I remember the first old movie I watched: Frank Capra’s “It Happened One Night”, from 1934. Claudette Colbert plays a spoiled heiress who goes on the run when her father threatens to annul her marriage to a fortune hunter; Clark Gable plays the brash news reporter out to get the story. It’s a classic screwball comedy, romantic and funny. It deserved the five Academy Awards that it won (Best Picture, Actor, Actress, Director and Screenplay).
Well, I’m glad that the first classic movie I watched was as good as “It Happened One Night”, because from that night on, I was hooked. I fell in love with the romantic screwball comedies of the 30’s, the “B movies” of the 30’s and 40’s, film noir, colorful 1950’s musicals, and anything directed by Alfred Hitchcock or Frank Capra. I came to realize that my favorite actors and actresses are all dead.
So, even though my life has had a lot of big changes in the past four months, and I'm learning a lot of new things, it’s good that some things have not changed. Although most of the changes are for the better, and I'm always glad to learn new things, I recognize that all of it is stressful and scary, so, I cling to the good things in my life that have remained the same. Sunday still means Mass in the morning and old movies in the afternoon.