Monday, August 22, 2011

Read any good books lately?

The summer languorously ambles toward its demise. I'm not a big fan of hot weather so I am vigorously preparing for its departure by cleaning the den. This is strenuous labor which requires heavy lifting, not to mention the willingness to part with years of accumulated junk. Our exclamations are pretty standard stuff by now: "Why did we ever keep THIS?", predictably followed by "Oh look: here's a picture of Aunt Mabel dated 1942, Narragansett Pier".

In 1942, I was five years old, but even at that tender age, I was a big fan of the movies. "Bambi" was released that year and though the seat upon which my baby bum sat has long since vanished, it once contained DNA evidence of my over-wrought reaction as I wept uncontrollably. My father whispered "It's only a movie", but I was beyond consolation.

The Hollywood of 1942 produced some of my all-time favorite films, including (but not in any particular order): "Pride Of The Yankees", "Mrs. Miniver", "Madame Curie", "Random Harvest" (wasn't Greer Garson a busy lady!), "King's Row", "Holiday Inn", "The Man Who Came To Dinner" and of course the best of all, "Casablanca".

The fact that I was so young and couldn't possibly have understood complex story lines made no difference. Explicit sex and/or violence were unknown factors in these films. (For example, in today's cinema would we ever see Humphrey Bogart remaining immaculate in his white tux jacket even after Ilsa has just confessed: "If you knew how much I loved you ... how much I still love you", followed by that passionate kiss? Fade ... Next, he's turning from the window, holding a cigarette in his hand and without the slightest crease in his formal attire, delivers the memorable line: "And then?" as she explains why she was a no-show at the train station.)

The Community Theater in our town and others around the country provided great incentives to entice my mother and other devoted movie fans to fork over the 50-cent admission: A complete set of china, one dish at a time, service for six. Or a book. Not just any book either: Ibsen, Conan Doyle, Shakespeare, Whitman, the Brontes. I read them all eventually. As if being handed a free book wasn't enough, I forced my mother to take me to the small corner variety store where the latest Nancy Drew Mysteries were on sale. They cost more than the movie but my mother nurtured my love of reading and always bought the treasured tome for me.

I realize "Read any good books lately?" is an old-fashioned line, and shares its somewhat dated message with "Mind your own business", "How dare you?" and "Do you know the way to San Jose?" All the same, if you share my enthusiasm for black and white films of the 1930's and 1940's, send your list along. At the very least, I will have a better idea of the average age of my readers. Just click "Comments" below.
[Disclaimer: I was born in 1937 ]


Bill said...

You had to be sixteen in Montreal to go to the movies (exception -Snow White) so mine is a forties list.
Casablanca, Grapes of Wrath, Shadow of a Doubt, Laura, Hail the Conquering Hero, Brief Encounter, Best Years of Our Lives, Third Man, and Postman Always Rings Twice.

Doug Ramsey said...


I just finished "Tinkers" by Paul Harding. It's more a prose poem than a novel. The beautiful writing nearly overwhelms the story, but who cares? In place, it's breathtaking. It's the first book I've read on a Kindle, which works fine.

Since Amazon let me download "Don Quixote" (the Ormsby translation) on Kindle for $1.05 and I've been meaning to read it for years, I've begun it, but I've only cracked the introduction so far. They say it should be read in the origina, but my Spanish has deteriorated to the point that it would take me six years.

Abrazos (at least I haven't forgotten that one),


Marce said...

Favorite movie: Laura, with my heart throb Dana Andrews.
d.o.b. 1935 originally from Bellingham, MA

Chrys said...

Some of my favorite B&W flix:
1)I'll Be Seeing You, with
Ginger Rogers, Joseph Cotten, And teenaged Shirley Temple
2)The Apartment, with Jack Lemmon and Shirley MacLaine
3) Faces, with John Cassavetes, and Gena Rowlands
4)Sabrina - Audrey Hepburn, Wm Holden and Bogey
5) Laura - Dana Andrews and Gene Tierney
6) And my very favorite:
Random Harvest - Ronald Coleman and Greer Garson

Chrys Page

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Aging Lady said...

Yup, Greer Garson was a busy lady, but I still love "Mrs. Miniver" and "Random Harvest." "Lost Horizon" is another James Hilton novel that became a black-and-white movie, again with Ronald Coleman. Actually, Sloane, I think the novels are better than the movies.

Another of the wonderful black-and-whites is "The White Cliffs of Dover." This one stars Irene Dunne, Gladys Cooper, Roddy McDowell (as a kid), a very young Peter Lawford (when he could still act), and Elizabeth Taylor as, of course, the most beautiful child. It is melodrama but GREAT melodrama.

Two nights ago, my daughter-in-law, Allison, and I watched "Dark Victory" which stars Bette Davis and Humphrey Bogart with Ronald Reagan in a supporting role. It is maudlin and hilarious, particularly watching Bogart attempting to use an Irish accent.

And, I have read a few good books lately, but, if you want to know about them, you will have to respond.


Sloane said...

Your pics are all dear to me as well. Thanks for taking the time to write.

Anonymous said...

Enjoy you posts.

A few good books this year:

"As Always, Julia: The letters of Julia Child and Avis Dvoto"

"Apollo's Angels" (a history of ballet)

"Let the Great World Spin" (fiction)

"Tomatoland" (Will you ever eat another grocery store tomato?)

poyklr said...

I just stumbled on your blog through Eric Jackson. Great writing! As a former musician "in the life", I'm going to add my picks among musicians:
1. High Times, Hard Times by Anita O'Day: great tell-all by a great singer.
2. Thelonious Monk: The Life and Times of an American Original by Robin D. G. Kelley - the best bio of Monk out there. Lots of new detail, and some surprising portraits of Monk as a person.
3. The Birth of Bebop: A Social and Musical History (Roth Family Foundation Music in America Book) by Scott Knowles DeVeaux: an interesting social history of how bebop really started
4. Bouncin' with Bartok: The Incomplete Works of Richard Twardzik - Jack Chambers: the ONLY bio of Boston's unrecognized jazz genius

And as for movies...
'Round Midnight' - Bertrand Tavernier's homage to Prez, Bud, and especially Dex.