Recently I came across a blog post written by the fantastic Vanessa over at bawler.blogspot.com. Her post, which can be found here, is about the solitary nature of being a classic film fan. It extends into all aspects of your social life, including your romantic entanglements as Vanessa describes. Her post got me thinking…and inspired me to write one of my own.
I have always been a fan of classic films, even before I knew that they were classic films. I grew up watching THE ADVENTURES OF ROBIN HOOD, and THE GREAT ESCAPE with my Dad. My sister and I watched THE WIZARD OF OZ so many times there are parts of the VHS tape that are worn down. I loved MR. HOBBES TAKES A VACATION, THE TROUBLE WITH ANGELS, and the “Road Movies” from Bob Hope and Bing Crosby from the time I was ten years old. I still remember the summer I was fourteen and had just finished reading GONE WITH THE WIND. What better way to celebrate than by going to see the film as it was re-released in theaters? I have always been watching classic films. It was just a part of who I was. So imagine my surprise when I found out that most people my age didn’t share my passion. Imagine my shock when, after telling one of my friends that I liked “old movies”, she responded “Oh, you mean from like 1980?”.
It was the same story whenever I tried to talk classic films with people my own age. They usually said something along the lines of, “I don’t like black and white movies” or “Old movies are boring”. Boring?! How could they say that? Hadn’t they ever seen the sword fights in THE ADVENTURES OF ROBIN HOOD? Steve McQueen in THE GREAT ESCAPE? The madcap antics of BRINGING UP BABY? The quick patter of any of the “Road Movies”? SOME LIKE IT HOT?! It didn’t matter. No matter what I said or examples I gave, my friends usually just shrugged and changed the subject. Forget getting a boyfriend who liked classic films, I couldn’t even get a friend to watch one with me! So, I spent my time watching classic movies either alone or with my family. And it was fine, really lovely actually, spending that time and sharing those films.
But after reading Vanessa’s post, I started thinking about it again. You see, I have a son. He isn’t old enough to watch movies with me yet, but I am hoping that he will grow up to share Mom’s passion for classic films. I am already planning a ROBIN HOOD viewing party. I also have a husband who, though initially resistant, has started to watch movies with me and even enjoy them. I know that he liked Daphne in SOME LIKE IT HOT, and after watching TO BE OR NOT TO BE he declared his favorite part to be “The part when they were in Poland” which I take to mean that he liked the whole movie. But I still have no friends my own age who share my love of classic film. The only people who have ever looked at me with surprise and recognition when I start talking about Cary Grant, Myrna Loy, or William Powell are well above my age bracket. Why is that? Why don’t more young people love these movies? I don’t mind talking to someone’s grandma or great uncle about why THE PHILADELPHIA STORY is so great (answer, because it is!), but there is a part of me that would really love to have a friend my own age to go to lunch with and discuss who was the better son in the Charlie Chan series (my vote is for number one son).
I have some theories. Maybe it has something to do with the fact that most classic film fans have a love of reading. Not just reading, not just HUNGER GAMES and FIFTY SHADES OF GREY, not just a quick skim of a magazine or an iPhone screen, but READING reading. The kind of reading that means Dickens, Tolstoy, Austen, and even G.R.R. Martin. The kind of reading that goes everywhere with you, on the train, at lunch, even to the shower. The majority of classic film fans that I have come across seem to have a love of reading and books. I count myself among them. I have shelves and shelves of classic films on DVD, and piles and piles of books. Along with a love of classic films, I have always had a love of reading and books. And this is another thing that most of my friends don’t share. Let’s be honest, the majority of people today don’t read that much. For most people in their thirties or younger reading isn’t a pleasure activity, its homework. But classic films are far more literate than the popular films made today. Of course every once in a while a movie is made today with witty dialogue and a complex story. But the majority of films, the ones that make the most money, are not on the same literate scale as THE PHILADELPHIA STORY, HIS GIRL FRIDAY, or TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD. Could this be a reason? Could classic films be considered “too hard” to be enjoyable? Or is it something less intellectual? Is it something as simple as the world has changed? Looking at what is considered important in today’s culture, looking at what is of value to the majority of the younger population, looking at what is considered “cool”, it doesn’t seem to mesh up with the values, standards, and stories put forward in these classic films. With so much emphasis placed on being cool and accepted, no wonder most younger people reject classic movies. But my Dad used to say that certain books and movie were like candy, easy and enjoyable but not that fulfilling. And while I enjoy having candy every now and then, who doesn’t, I really prefer to have something that I can sink my teeth and my brain into.
So Vanessa, if you are reading this, I am a thirty year old classic film fan who loves to read…let’s be friends! 🙂