I used to read much more than I do now; before TV became so pervasive. There didn’t used to be a lot of choices of what to watch. Living in a rural area we had 5 channels …. and only 2 had good reception. We would fiddle with the rabbit ears, adding coat hangers, taping copper wires to curtain rods. Daytime TV was soap operas or game shows. So sitting down with a book to lose yourself in another world or time was good relaxation. I read a lot but I also always loved old movies.
It started back in my early teens when babysitting was a career. I lived in a high rise apartment building with not many teens but lots of young couples with kids. With some slick marketing in the laundry room I always had work. The old classics movies were on late, after the news at 11:30. If the clients weren’t home by then I would be struggling to stay awake. I didn’t like to be caught sleeping, bad for business, so I would watch the late movies. Cary Grant, Veronica Lake, Humphrey Bogart, Carol Lombard, the comedies, the romance and the styles; all great stuff at 12, 13,14 years old. I can remember making my parents laugh doing impressions of Marlene Dietrich. I would tell them about the movies and they would recall their teenage days going to the movies. They would shake their heads and chuckle that I could like that old stuff.
Married couples in movies couldn’t sleep together; they had two single beds with a night table between. If they were going to get into bed together, it got blurry and faded quickly. You knew what they were going to do; they didn’t have to do it in your face like they do now. The scene of Burt Lancaster kissing on the beach with Debra Kerr was hot stuff for many…. scandalous to others.
I would always watch Saturday Night at the Movies on TVO with Elwe Yost. I found someone who loved movies as much as I did. He taught me the importance of directors and editing. I became a huge fan of Alfred Hitchcock. It’s sad when he’s only remembered for Psycho, and the Birds. Before those were he made some spectacular movies, true Classics, North by North West, Rear Window and Rope; must see movies!
I used like many of the movies Humphrey Bogart was in but I wasn’t drawn to him then the way I am now. I didn’t think he was so great when I was young because he wasn’t good looking. But now I will watch any movie he is in. When he is on screen you can’t keep your eyes off him. He plays such a great bad guy, so good at playing flawed characters you have sympathy for. One of my favourite scenes is in the Maltese Falcon. He grabs Peter Lorre by the shirt, slaps him back and forth across his face while saying ,”… you’ll take it and you’ll like it!”. And he’s the good guy!
Three movies with Bogey, directed by John Huston, I can still watch over and over; The Maltese Falcon, Treasure of the Sierra Madre ( we don’ need no stinkin’ badges….), and Beat the Devil…… so damn good! It took me years of seeing them few times to realize they all end in laughter. Great stories, great characters all obsessed by greed only to find it was all an illusion.
There is so much in a movie. All those people come together; writers, directors, actors, stage crew. Sound, lighting, acting and editing; all come together to bring us a jewel in time. A story we can see and hear. You can watch a truly great movie again and again. They are a window into the times; the fashion, the lingo, the music… a snapshot of society at that time.
And now I have Turner Classic Movies and a PVR. I am never without great classics to watch. I’ll paraphrase Robert Osborne and say, “Some choose to sit with a book on a rainy afternoon but I’ll sit with an old movie”