A Little Swing Time

Jeff and I went to a movie today at our local movie theater. On Saturday mornings the theater plays old movies and the theater is packed. People are interested, and that makes me so happy. We saw the Fred Astaire, Ginger Rogers vehicle, “Swing Time”. It was so fun: the clothes, the dancing, the talent of the actors. Ginger Rogers and Fred Astaire had to dance, sing, and act and they did it all so effortlessly, it doesn’t even look hard. We really don’t understand how talented these actors really were back then.

            I distinctly remember my summers as a teen when my mom would take us to the local library where I would pick out VHS movies and spend my lazy summer day watching the limited selection that packed the library shelves. During those summers, I grew to love the old movies that we rented free from the library. As I grew I developed a passion for those old black and white stories of hard-boiled detectives, or the song and dance love stories. I often wondered if people really talked like that back then. Did they say “golly gee” and talk in a quick staccato? I wanted to be transported back and understand the lives of the people who related to these movies. Was this what their lives were like, the viewers of these movies? Or did they often like us think these movies were Hollywood’s version of modern life? Watching these movies takes me to a place of yesteryear where reality and fantasy meet and create something in between.            Today, I still love to watch old movies. My favorite actress, Myrna Loy, often played smart, witty, fun characters. Women you just want to be friends with so very badly. The Thin Man series of movies is a perfect example of this sassy character type. There weren’t too many characters in the movies of yesteryear where a woman could be smart, funny, and know her own mind without being dismissed as emotional, or irrational. But Myrna as Nora Chalres wasn’t dismissed but revered. And that I find that refreshingly modern.

            Old movies are often dismissed in modern times and seen as irrelevant. What is deemed as pushing boundaries to one generation will seem tame to another. Watching a romance in a movie of the 1930s will seem childish to someone born in the 1980s.

            But I think a little knowledge about the time period the movies was created will go a long way in understanding the movie itself. Old movies are a great too to understand history. It lets us see what the values of the past were. They highlighted how society thought people should live their life. What people should deem important, and how people should spend their time. It is a tool where we can see from whence we came. If we understand where we came from we can understand how we got to now. Every generation will view each movie differently and that is a good thing.

            But maybe even more importantly, old movies are entertaining. They are fun, scary, romantic, suspenseful, or enlightening, just like today’s movies. They are a change of scene. Movies have always been an escape. It is so nice to see places that celebrate old movies, by giving people a chance to see them. My hope is that musicals make a comeback. Maybe it will be LaLa Land who brings them back into mainstream cinema. I do hope so.