Monday, January 10, 2011


How do you feel when you hear or see the names of people who died last year?

The tributes, the names of the newly dead take away some of my pleasure when I'm watching Jimmy Stewart, Bette Davis, Judy Garland, or Katharine Hepburn and Spencer Tracy, or Gary Cooper, Audrey Hepburn, and Cary Grant -- great stars who aren't around anymore but they're so alive in their films ...

Grant was always so vital -- amusing, unpredictable -- that he's "gone" doesn't occur to me when I'm watching a classic film in which he's featured.

Right now, nostalgia's in the air and many media people are mentioning the names of those who are gone -- famous faces, beloved stars I'm going to miss along with the "names," the older stars who been gone since ... I don't know when.
My favorite stars are mostly in those older classic movies -- yes, they're "old," but they're not dusty, old-fashioned, out of date -- not to me! I enjoy them more than current movies, which, like television, usually start with some bang-crash-thrilling-suspenseful scene that will hook you immediately.

They don't hook me.

In the old classic movies, I like the simple opening credits that give the title and cast list -- who's playing what character, and the character's name.

I like the fact that there's a plot -- a BEGINNING when I meet the people and learn what's on their minds -- what's at stake or who wants what. I like dialogue, real talking back and forth, not grunts, sound effects, pounding music, monosyllabic exchanges, and I'm not excited or blown away by what the movies call "shoe leather"-- visions of action.

(When JC was trying to sell a movie script he wrote based on a book, "The Secret Life of Algernon Pendelton," by Russell Greenan, the turn-downs from producers and agents usually included, ''it needs more shoe leather.")

When watching a classic film, after I've met the main characters, the MIDDLE usually involves will they get what they want -- be it money, a big dream, love, or whatever. And it's resolved in the ENDING, with the director resolving the unresolved issues, and leaving us with a feeling of pleasure, joy, sadness -- chuckling perhaps, or nodding wistfully.

The other night I saw "Some Like It Hot" again, but I was aware that Tony Curtis, Jack Lemmon, and Marilyn Monroe were gone -- the word "dead," of course, isn't used. But they are dead -- Gregory Peck, Ava Gardner, Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin, Grace Kelly -- and Charlton Heston, Burt Lancaster, and yes -- Karl Malden, Patrick Swayze , and ... oh my, Paul Newman ...

I'm not listing Michael Jackson or Johnny Carson, or Ted Kennedy, and I'm not on the verge of mentioning other major, inspiring, powerful people who are no longer around, who were so vividly alive for me, for so many, many years.

You have your own list. I'm just saying into the air that I wish the nostalgia and sense that they're dead would diminish.

It makes me aware of my age and my time -- the sands in the hour glass that are going, going ...

I'm intensely aware that my mother, my father, my younger brother and older sister, and others whom I loved and worked with are gone.

This sense of growing older, and older isn't good for dancing through each day -- nope -- I do better putting away what's gone, and just living in the moments of now.


Linda Phillips said...

I too live in the moment. I don't think about the what will happens. I have no control of those. I do have a modicum of control over now.

I am a great lover of the old Busby Berkeley movies and have watched them all a zillion times over.

Cary Grant as well. I think I have probably seen every movie he ever made including his very first which was a Mae West film called "She Done Him Wrong". I believe that Mae sort of discovered Grant and he owed his start to her.

Mae West, WC Fields and the Marx Brothers all were favorites and again I have probably seen all of their movies many times over as well.

Kevin Daly said...

Those stars remain so vivid thanks to TCM (and years ago, AMC) and I am always grateful for the education. Jimmy Stewart, Cary Grant, Kate Hepburn, Deborah Kerr and a slew of others were responsible for my cinematic education. (My first classic movie recollection - that wasn't required children's viewing - was "The Mad Miss Manton" with Barbara Stanwyck and Henry Fonda when I was 6).

I do think about them being gone when I watch a movie; esp. when you realize that most if not all of a film's cast is now dead (from the late 20s, 30s, etc). It becomes a window, for me, into their lives and their history. There's a tinge of melancholy nostalgia; the sort of feeling I get when I hear a WWII veteran has died.

Stars today are not the same - there's no sense of mystery or this aura of greatness. (I guess part of it is the ever-widening field of celebrity and the ultra-transparency of their personal lives). Many of the film stars are bright talents, but very few have that "Wow" factor that turn a star into an icon/legend.

Maryann Maisano said...

Well Ms. Em u have hit a nerve again!! I am a huge fan of the classics. They have a magic and wonder about them and time after time they can still move me like the first time.
Picinic - The Rose Tatto ( Wowowowowo Anna was amazing ) Gaslight - The Roman Spring of Mrs.Stone - Plaza Suite - as u see I can go on and on....
Even the music of that era inspires me..!!!
So dance the Tango and live in the now and never follow you past - let it follow you

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