Many modern Americans live in a societal vacuum. If a movie or a book or a historic event was filmed, written, or occurred before their birth then it just doesn't enter their sphere of existence.
My heart thundered, panicking as Mr. Rochester stepped up behind Jane Eyre and enfolded her in his arms. That huge, expansive chest of his completely engulfed her, and I halfway expected poor little Jane to pop like a bug right in front of my eyes. But it was fine. He clung to her for a moment before sharing some dialogue, and then released her just as I exhaled a huge breath of relief. Such was my introduction to Orson Welles when I was twelve-years-old.
|Orson Welles and Joan Fontaine in Jane Eyre|
|Laurence Olivier and Greer Garson in Pride & Prejudice|
|Marlon Brando and Eva Marie Saint in On the Waterfront|
For me, I could as soon turn off my love of old movies as live without air. It's not going to happen. I may go for months, possibly even years, without plugging in a Marlon Brando DVD. Then the bug bites me, and I spend a month reliving my attraction to his sensual masculinity. I'm the same way with Jeremy Northam or Elijah Wood or Richard Armitage or a host of other big names in Hollywood today. Just because I watch old movies doesn't mean that I don't watch new ones.
So, why is it that many young people never research earlier than their own birth year if they can help it? My parents would never have forced me to watch classic film; I was curious about the movies and the eras that were unfamiliar to me, and so I researched them. I picked up The African Queen with Humphrey Bogart and Katherine Hepburn. I laughed myself silly with Cary Grant in Arsenic and Old Lace.
And I learned that this whole "Now is all that matters" mentality is total BS. I like to know where I've been so, hopefully, I can see where I'm going. There will come a time when Brad Pitt's name is forgotten, just as Orson Welles has been forgotten. But at least with Orson Welles, he left a few substantial roles behind that impacted society like The Third Man. Can Brad Pitt say the same?
My dream isn't for wealth or power, but for American society as a whole to start appreciating the generations that have gone before them. Not that they have to love old movies the way I do, but it would be fantastic if I could mention Bob Hope, and not have my conversation partner's eyes glaze over. It would be nice for a change.