When I cook, if no one else is at home, I like to watch movies I’ve seen before. Usually, it’s a movie I’ve seen so many times, I only have to look up on the very best parts; when the music swells, or a dissonant chord lets me know that something important is going to happen. Now, these movies are more current, and popped in with a DVD that I choose from my “feel good” collection of sappy chic films. You know, the kind that you grin through, sigh about, and avoid telling your friends you really like? Like Sleepless in Seattle, Notting Hill, or Cousins with Isabella Rossellini. But the real films I long to see are the ones I spent my adolescence watching on our first color TV. Hilarious when you think about it, because most of these old movies were in black and white. Cable shopping channels, and craft shows were nonexistent, so local channels ran old movies. In the summertime, or late at night and on weekends, I could watch one movie after the other in blissful, non-thinking, oblivion. I could fry my impressionable young self on Esther Williams, who was my authority on smiling under water, or holding breath even longer than Houdini, or Rock the Hunk Hudson and Humphrey Bogart. They’re more difficult to find these days, though. If I took the time in my not so busy life, I could check the guides for Turner Classic Movies or American Movie Classics and maybe I’d get lucky. But I don’t. I rot my brain with this blog now, instead.
Unfortunately, these two movie channels, although continuing to show “classic” films, also show… ahem…classics like Conan the Barbarian, Halloween, and Basic Instinct. Huh? Oh, I get it. Someone in ratings land thinks thirty-somethings wax prolifically for films like this to re-live the great days of their adolescence. Sharon Stone’s shadowy nether regions? Classic? Uh…Nope.
What I want to watch are those glorious black and white movies that that loser Ted Turner colorized thinking he could dupe those less fortunate from a younger generation into watching. It’s sort of an “oooh — look at the pretty colors” concept instead of think about the films themselves, because, well, it’s all about making money, right? He should have been arrested for that.
The really good films are ones you just want to curl up in bed with on a cloudy day. They’re even too good to cook by, because although you’ve seen them what seems like a million times, you don’t want to miss anything. Films like The Ghost and Mrs. Muir, the most haunting love story you’ll ever see. Or Alfred Hitchcock’s Rear Window — yes that creepy guy is really Raymond Burr, the old Perry Mason and can you believe how great Grace Kelly and James Stewart are together? I never could see what that whole go to Monaco and marry that prince guy was all about. Any movie with that hunky Cary Grant, and especially North by Northwest, the ultimate twisting chase movie, is worth watching. Or The Philadelphia Story, or Laura. Does anyone even know who Gene Tierney is anymore? You should have seen her in Leave her to Heaven. Or any and all of the Frank Capra films — especially if Carole Lombard was in them.
Who? I know. You’ve never heard of her. This is Carol Lombard with Jimmy Stewart who were both in another fabulous film, Made for Each Other.
I’m not sure about why I’ve always had this love affair with movies in general, but old films and movie stars in particular. Maybe it’s the result of spending about five years of my early childhood living without television. We went to the movies instead. Watching all those gorgeous people on that huge screen was the ultimate fairyland for a little girl who wanted to be as gorgeous as Audrey Hepburn was in Roman Holiday, sing like there was no tomorrow, and clack across an enormous stage just like Fred and Ginger.
Life just looked so grand. And no matter how hard I tried, I couldn’t dance by myself like that in our living room.