The sign image I have uploaded above, is a plastic, hand etched sign my dad made for all the Lowes movie theaters back in the 1940s-1950s. Back then, an adult could see a full screen movie for only thirty five cents (.35) Kids were only a quarter (.25). Because my dad sort of worked for Lowes, my mother, sister and I used to see all the movies we wanted, for free!
My mother loved the movies. She said it was the greatest escape from human life there ever was. My mom and dad grew up through The Great Depression and World War II. What better way, my mom used to say, was there to spend 2 hours simply forgetting all your care and woes and escaping from the drudgery of every day life? I’m certain my mom’s movie viewing reasoning is as applicable today as it was back in the 1940’s.
Some of these movies came to TV but only the most successful ones, such as Casablanca (1942), starring Humphrey Bogart and Ingrid Bergman), It Happened One Night (1934)(starring Clark Gable and Claudette Colbert and the infamous Frank Capra holiday favorite, It’s A Wonderful Life (1946), starring Jimmy Stewart and Donna Reed. The lessons and/or the movie’s meaning is as vital today as they were back then.
You can’t get movies like these anymore today nor can you get actors and actresses as wonderful and talented as the likes of Ingrid Bergman, Clark Gable, Myrna Loy or Barbara Stanwyck. Today, most scripts are computer generated and written through a series of algorithms of what mass audiences would want to see and pay to see. Ditto for actors. Sometimes computers and CGI graphics take over so much for basic human functions, it leaves most actors useless. Even the gossip columns today can’t conjure up any more scandalous scandals because even your basic human being has done it all, seen it all and played it out all. Actors and actresses today aren’t special.
That’s why I am so excited to tell you that I have found a treasure trove of all those old time, old fashioned, real-to-the-bone movies, dating back to the 1930s, 40s and 50s (and even some silent movies dating back to the 1920s) on Amazon Prime! The scripts and story lines have been written by real live people, with real writing talent and experiences that portray human life and all it’s angst, woes and happiness in actual terms. Some of the story lines are so intense, a bit risque and so-true-to-life that for the oftentimes two hours of play time, you really do forget your own woes, your own depressions or disenchantment with life’s realities. Let’s admit that nothing on the earth was as harsh and as difficult as The Great Depression or the aftermath of World War II. Loss of loved ones, food shortages, work and job shortages, death and war, how did those Americans (or the world for that matter) keep a stiff upper lip and carry onward and upward?
According to my mother, it was the movies that were her refuge. Maybe you think that Star Wars can shelter you from our current realities but wouldn’t it be more beneficial to see the likes of Myrna Loy or Barbara Stanwyck deal with food shortages, quests to find the true meaning of life, true lost love or how to resolve a boring retirement (Yes! they used to retire back in the 1930s! Who knew?)
Here are just a few samplings of the many, many old time movies Amazon Prime is offering its customers, for free!
I’ll start right off and tell you I’ve a hankering for Gary Cooper. His ‘aw sucks’ kind of humility and humbleness you just don’t find in a human being today, especially as an actor. He’d be laughed right off of the film imprint. But Gary Cooper had a way of showing his true feelings yet maintain his masculinity and manliness, making you swoon over him all the more.
I’m sure we are all familiar with his big movie hit Pride Of The Yankees (1942), the story of Lou Gehrig and his battle with Alzheimer Disease (which BTW there was no name for the disease back then, so it was called ‘The Lou Gehrig Disease’). Back in the day, no body talked about it, no one mentioned it….the disease was whispered about it but never openly discussed with anyone, especially family members. In retrospect, love of America and baseball was supreme and the police force were actually your friends. It’s also good to see Walter Brennan as a sports writer. Brennan was actually a very good actor before he took on the role of a limping Grandpa McCoy in the TV hit, The Real McCoys from 1957 to 1963. Brennan was so good with that limp that even I believed it to be real until I started seeing Brennan in different roles. Yup. Pure perfect acting!
A few weeks ago, I started watching some of these old movies, dating back to the 1930s. The Great Depression was raging outside those movie walls but you’d never know it. I found most of the story lines enchanting, well written, well acted (sometimes by actors I never knew, such as Walter Huston) and for two hours I didn’t think about our own raging pandemic, our loss of life, of loved ones, our burning cities, our mass chaos, our hatred, our anger, our food shortages, the newest hunger affecting our school age kids, the inability to attend school, our lying news media, our lying politicians, our inability to travel, enjoy life, eat out in restaurants, food shop, ride mass transit, visit friends or family and the upcoming holidays that many of us will have to spend alone.
I found great comfort in the 1933 hit, The Wedding Night starring Gary Cooper and Anna Sten. Broke and out of opportunity, Gary Cooper and his wife must give up their city life and go live, for free, at the family’s farm in Connecticut. Sound familiar? As city people they have no idea how to live on a farm, light a fire, cook their food, warm their house. They even brought along their butler who leaves at the first sign of a snowflake. Cooper’s wife also leaves as soon as Cooper sold some of the farm land to a next-door neighbor for $5,000. Five thousand dollars was A LOT of money back in the mid 30s as it is now! The wife takes the money, runs back to the city leaving Cooper alone, who then falls in love with his next door neighbors daughter, who is betrothed to another via her Polish heritage and a very mean father. Are you loving this plot already? I recommend this movie highly! My advice is to watch it to the very, very end. That’s all I’ll say!
Next movie I would highly recommend is Dogsworth (1936) starring Walter Huston and Ruth Chatterton (who? I had no idea who these people were till I watched the movie). The movie gives credit to three writers in four categories. The movie plot is about a recently retired automotive tycoon and the trials and tribulations he and his wife go through during their early retirement years! Who knew, back in 1936 that people worried about their retirements? The couple each has their own different view of what retirement life should be. The husband wants to travel and see the world. The wife doesn’t want anyone to know they are retired nor that she even is a new grandmother because the wife wants to retain her youth, live the good life in Paris and Vienna and take on a lover or two or three! without her husband finding out!! As I stated above, you have to watch this movie to the very end because the plot twists and turns continually. You just never know, as in real life, how your retirement can turn out.
I’m currently watching Stella Dallas (1937) starring Barbara Stanwyck and John Boles. Many of the movies back in the 30s and beyond had a lot to do with class struggle. The rich against the hard working man/woman. The struggle for money, power, fame and political standing in many a small town USA. Stanwyck as Stella knows the only way she is going to get out of a hard knock life is through marriage. So, she schemes and plots and skedaddles her way into a marriage of wealth and convenience only to lose it along the way due to her inability to keep up the fake ruse. Eventually she will have to give up her only daughter to a life of wealth and extravagance thinking that that was the only way she could give her daughter a better life. Get out the hankies ladies. This is a soaker!
Nothing can make any woman cry harder than giving up their only child in a desperate effort to provide a better life for one’s child. And to see it all, through a window, while you stand outside, cold and shivering, in the rain, on the street, as you watch your daughter get married, get dressed up by her step mother and not you, because you don’t have the standing, the education, the status one needs in this world to have a better life. (gosh, I’m crying again already)
Nope. They just don’t make movies like they used to. They don’t have actors and actresses like they used to. And yet, we still have the same problems like they used to with no solutions in sight. Just a means to escape them for an hour or two. And then keep a stiff upper lip and move forward.
That’s about all we can do. And watch these wonderful, fabulous movies!!!
Another two that I can recommend is My Foolish Heart (1949) starring Susan Hayward and Dana Andrews. (Plot: After being visited by an old friend, a woman recalls her true love, the man she met and lost years ago). How many of us ladies dream and long for the man who got away? I love it!
The second is Enchantment (1949) starring David Niven and Teresa Wright. Again, another movie about class status. Adopted by a wealthy family, a young, newly orphaned girl named Lark, grows up in a mean household overrun by her over-jealous and controlling ‘step sister’ but buffered by the love of her two ‘step brothers’ one of whom she falls in love with. The movie takes place during the war, so time is of the essence. It is a story of lost love, lost chances and how one decision in life can change the course of many people’s lives. Don’t miss it!
Happy viewing. And if you have any other movies you would like to share with me and all our readers, please leave the name of the movie in the comments section. With a long cold winter looming out there, it will be a very welcome sight to view more “new” movies!!
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