Movie Mania

I saw a wonderful movie – The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel – and I recommend it. I don’t go to the movies much any more and this was a fancy theater with reclining seats, and charming waitpersons. It even serves lunch. Of course, the price of a ticket is $20. I remember the old Granada Theater of my youth which cost 12 cents a ticket. If you had a quarter to spend, you could have popcorn or candy.

It is more than inflation that brings the ticket price so high. The making of movies with all those special effects and exotic locations must cost a fortune. Even so, I suspect the real reason movie prices are now so high is that going to the movies is such a special occasion. Truth told, most of us rent them or wait till they hit cable.

When I was a girl people went to the movies all the time. At 11, I was charged with three younger children and we walked across town to the movies every Saturday afternoon. We made the trip without fail so my parents could take a “nap”.

Those were the days before ratings, when studios cranked out hundreds of flicks every year. We kids saw horribly dramatic pot boilers, B pictures that were almost unintelligible they were so bad, gruesome propaganda war stories, cowboys with only bad Indians, and a few heavy-duty dramas with great stars like Ingrid Bergman and Humphrey Bogart. I don’t remember any brilliant comedies – only Abott and Costello and they were not scintillating.

There certainly were movie critics in those days but I didn’t read them. I don’t remember being very discriminating, although in retrospect, I think I knew that Edward G. Robinson was a better actor than  George Raft. I certainly knew that Cary Grant was a genius.

I remember black and white flicks although Technicolor was around for pirate films and some musicals. But what stands out in my memory is the glorious backlighting and flickering shadows in those old fashioned stories. I still watch black and white movies on the TMC channel and never even miss color. Just as black and white photos have an inherent drama and mystery, so do the films.

Once, I tried to remember the books that influenced me as a child and instead of books, images from the movies kept popping up. That was when I realized that movies were such a great part of my artistic impressions and knowledge.  Like most Americans, I know more about Gene Kelly than I do Shakespeare.

I learned how to be tragic from Bette Davis, how to be glamorous from Rita Hayworth, how to be self-destructive from Ida Lupino and how to be courageous from Greer Garson.  Some of those old stars still hold up when you see them on the silver screen. Gary Cooper, Henry Fonda, Gregory Peck, John Garfield, Clark Gable, Cary Grant, Alan Ladd, and Charles Boyer are the leading men of my adolescent dreams.

Now, I watch the screwball comedies such as The Lady Eve, My Man Godfrey, Sullivan’s Travels. Those, along with Bringing Up Baby, Talk of the Town and It Happened One Night get played at least once a year on my TV. What are some of your favorite old movies?

I find the comedies hold up much better than the dramas. I have also discovered that there were some actors I ignored as an early teen who seem very talented now. Chief among these is William Powell. He had perfect timing and the ability to be dignified in the midst of amazing slapstick nonsense.

It isn’t surprising that I prefer the comedies today. I think they are helping to keep me healthy. From the time I experienced breast cancer about seven years ago, I have deliberately and consistently monitored my movies and books. I select the ones with happy attitudes.

I have long believed that what you put into your mind is important and I now choose to follow through on that belief. I make only cheerful entertainment choices. It doesn’t have to be “spiritual” but I don’t need to have it make me gloomy or distressed.  Do you monitor your selections of movies and books?

As a result of my decision to monitor my entertainment choices, I’ve developed a new appreciation of musicals. I have also learned a great deal about the movies that came before me – those that were created in the early Depression days when so many were struggling with unemployment and poverty. It was then that so many movies with great songs, such as Pennies From Heaven, Sunny Side of the Street and Look For The Silver Lining were produced.

There is no doubt that movies and their music helped my parent’s generation keep up their hope. There is no doubt that movies reflect the age we live in. I understand why those special effect films that I avoid are naturally fascinating to younger people. I understand and wish them well.

We’re all entitled to our own choices. Many of the movies I watch these days are as old as I am. Truth is, I don’t care for many of the modern flicks. So I’m grateful for the last three movies I’ve chosen to see. I loved them all and they were The Artist, The Iron Lady and The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel.

Ask Yourself

Seen any good movies lately?

Do you monitor your books for cheerfulness?

Do you choose movies that are upbeat?

Do you want to try it for a few weeks?