Did you know that Bette Davis never said: Petah, Petah, Petah. Neither did Cary Grant say: Judy, Judy, Judy. Matter of fact, Ingrid Bergman never actually said, Play it again, Sam. But there’s more to the story…read on.
I’ve been addicted to movies since the mid-1940’s, when screens were square, pictures were usually black and white, and actors were actors, not political icons. Before every movie, were cartoons of Tom and Jerry, Mickey Mouse or Elmer Fudd, followed by Movietone newsreels about the war, or the aftermath, narrated by the likes of Lowell Thomas and Gabriel Heatter (who I met in 1950).
Those were the days, my friend, I thought they’d never end… Love scenes were highlighted by a kiss in the shadows, a look in the eyes, a memorable cliché…You had me with; Hello. Today’s love scenes are replete with tongue-first slop-fest kisses which looks more like eating an ice cream cone.
I saw Gone With The Wind at Radio City Music Hall, in 1949, ten years after it’s debut. I howled at comedians like Abbott and Costello, Red Skelton and Danny Kaye. I thought Elizabeth Taylor was the most beautiful creature on planet Earth, though I held a huge crush on Margaret O’Brien, child star of Meet Me in St. Louis and Little Women.
On Saturdays, in the late ‘40’s and ‘50s, kids were treated to a full day at the movie house, with ten cartoons, two week-to-week serial segments of action stories about Superman ( It’s a bird, it’s a plane, no…it’s) or The Lone Ranger, (Hi Yo Silver away – Kemosabe) then two full-length pictures, all for a quarter. It consumed five glorious hours of fun, for which parents were grateful.
Action pictures were made by real actors and directors, not a crew of computer graphic geeks in the back room. Everybody on screen smoked cigarettes…a poor example, indeed, but it was the norm. Rarely did you see a scene with Bette Davis (Buckle your seat belts, it’s going to be a bumpy ride), Gary Cooper (Yup), Bogart (Here’s looking at you, kid), Garbo (I vant to be alone), or Gable (Frankly my dear…) or where they weren’t holding or puffing on a cigarette. It was a poor health message, but they weren’t law breakers. Today, marijuana is glorified by movie icons, young and old, as a cool behavior, the law be damned.
Musicals were the norm, several released every year, with talents like Gene Kelly, Debbie Reynolds, Barbra Streisand, Judy Garland and Frank Sinatra. Today, we’re lucky to see one major musical released a year. In 2012 it was Les Miserables, which couldn’t fare better than 18th in box office revenues.
It’s a Mad Mad Mad Mad World, Some Like It Hot, The Odd Couple, were all hilarious pictures without anyone grabbing their crotch or spewing the “F” word every other sentence. Though I must concede, that we occasionally still have a truly funny movie released today, mostly by non-comedians like Robert DeNiro (Meet the Fockers and Meet The Parents) Of course, for laughs, it would be hard to top any of the Mel Brooks pictures, like Young Frankenstein and Blazing Saddles.
This is not to say that outstanding movies aren’t made any more, they certainly are, though farther and fewer between. But the industry must serve the marketplace, which is driven by the under 25 crowd who is looking mostly for action flicks, robotic characters, fantasy, sci-fi and dirty humor. Plot takes a back seat to technology. Ergo, the top grossing pictures so far in 2013, are Iron Man 3, The Hunger Games and Man of Steel. Dramas with star acting, gripping plots and deep emotion like Captain Phillips and The Butler — both of which will win a share of Oscars – are much farther down the money list.
Like no other medium, movies have given us excitement, adventure, romance and suspense with real-life human beings suffering, struggling, laughing and loving within the plots. So often we mock those phrases and cliché’s that have become part of American lexicon, Hasta la vista, baby; Go ahead, make my day; Bond, James Bond; I am big, it’s the picture that got small….and so on.
If you have ten minutes to immerse into movie nostalgia, enjoy this video: