“Thank God for film. It can capture a performance and hold it right there forever. And if anyone says to you, “Who was he?” or, “Who was she?” or, “What made them so good?” I think a piece of film answers that question better than any words I know of.”
A few weeks ago, I participated in a very disappointing game of Apples to Apples. It was disappointing because it helped to confirm a growing epidemic among adults of my generation and younger (I’m nearly 25). The symptoms are as follows: a man will say he doesn’t know who Lucille Ball is until someone prompts him by saying “I Love Lucy.” A girl will have to look up the name Grace Kelly in the hope that it will ring a bell (it doesn’t). The eyes gloss over at the mention of Katherine Hepburn. The list goes on…
I noticed it during my game that night and I’ve been noticing it more and more over the last few weeks, months, and years. This condition I like to call “I can’t name a single Cary Grant movie” is sweeping the nation and infecting our country’s youths at an alarming rate.
So, what’s a girl to do about this? I’ll get to that. First, I want to take a moment to explain why I think this condition is so tragic and why it is so important to have a favorite Cary Grant movie (to clarify: having a favorite means you chose from among several…meaning you’ve seen multiple Cary Grant films).
When I was growing up, my parents started introducing me to classic films and musicals the moment I outgrew Barney. My earliest memories of falling in love with the movies come from watching “Meet Me in St. Louis” and “Seven Brides for Seven Brothers” and “Roman Holiday” among many, many others. I grew up singing along with Louis Armstrong, Julie Andrews, Nat King Cole, and Bing Crosby. I fell in love with Cary, laughed at Lucy, and wanted to be like Grace and Audrey. Ann Miller inspired me to dance. Judy Garland made me want to sing. Debbie Reynolds was the girl next door. I saw so many Fred Astaire and Gene Kelly movies, I started to feel like they were friends of mine (at this point, I think it’s important to clarify that, yes, I had plenty of real friends too).
So, these movies and these people were a large part of my childhood. So, what? Just because I grew up with them instead of the movies my peers grew up with, does that make them better to anyone else but a nostalgic girl like me? I say yes.
I say yes for a couple of reasons. First of all, there’s the talent issue. Whether you’re watching a gravity-defying dance number by Gene Kelly or the range of emotions in Ingrid Bergman’s face while she’s listening to Sam play it again, it is absolutely impossible not to be left breathless by an amazing performance in a classic film. These people, these performances deserve to be remembered. They deserve to be passed on from generation to generation.
Secondly, these people were pioneers. Movies were brand new and Hollywood was in its infancy when these actors and actresses started out. They created something fresh and remarkable and they did it all without following in anyone’s footsteps. It’s hard to wrap our minds around this as a society that can’t remember the last time we went an entire month without a sequel or a reboot coming out, but it happened. I tend to think of classic movies as being from the 1920’s on through the 1960’s (some people may argue me on that point, which is fine), and just look at what happened during that time frame: we saw silent films turn into “talkies,” we saw the first big production musical numbers on film, we saw singing and dancing, we saw people like Lena Horne, Louis Armstrong, and Bill Robinson breaking racial barriers, we saw the first epics, the first feature length animated movies, we had Walt Disney and Alfred Hitchcock for crying out loud!
In the first 40 years we saw so many actors, directors, and studio heads breaking new ground (and they did it all while remaining suitable for children). Can we say as much about the last 40 years? Every so often there will be a movie that feels fresh and original, but it also seems like we’ve run out of ways to break new ground so we’re spending time thinking of ways to take off more clothes instead.
So much for why I think these performances are so important (I promise I could say much more on the subject). Now why the blog? I decided after much mulling it over, that I wanted to have a place where I could talk about these movies as much as I want. Someplace to give my opinions, write reviews, encourage discussions, and hopefully educate others (I’ve tried geeking out on Facebook, but found that any video I posted would only get traffic from my mom and occasionally my aunt Tracy). And if it turns out that I end up just talking to myself, that’s fine too. However, I also figured that a blog should have some sort of definable purpose or goal, so…
I wanted to watch classic movies and talk about them. So, after some consideration, I’ve decided to go through the American Film Institute’s list of the 100 Greatest American Movies of All Time. Yes, starting with number 100 and working my way all the way down to numero uno, I will watch and discuss every movie on that list! Here’s how it’s going to work:
- I will watch one movie a week for the next 100 weeks (just over two years)
- As I am certainly capable of watching more than one movie a week, I will also be going through the AFI’s list of Top 25 Musicals simultaneously (one per week) and then move on to the top 50 Screen Legends list (one per week)
- For the remaining 25 weeks without 2 movies per week, I will supplement with my own movie choices, actor profiles, etc.
- Most weeks, I will try to watch my movies and write my posts on Tuesdays and Thursdays (I’m sure some weeks will vary, such as this week when my first movie will be on Thursday)
- I realize that a few of the movies on the list are not classic movies, but the vast majority of them are, so I’m still considering this to be a blog devoted to classic films
So there you have it. I fully expect no one to read or watch along with me. I expect I’ll mostly be talking to myself. But I’ll have a great time of it anyway. And anyone who wants to watch along with me (for one or both of the lists) is more than welcome to join! We’ll lick this “I don’t know or care who Irene Dunne is” epidemic yet!
I’ll see you back here on Thursday with the first movie on the list: “Yankee Doodle Dandy” 🙂 In the meantime, watch if you will, as Fred and company say it best…that’s entertainment.