December 28, 2011

Dumb, Ditzy Blonde?

I've told the old story about how the local TV stations around Chicago would play marathon old movies after the New Year's midnight countdown was over (this was in the days before cable and VHS tapes, so the only time you could actually see them was in movie theater "retrospectives" or on TV). The biggest things around here, in those days, were the old Marx Brothers and Fred Astaire/Ginger Rogers flicks. All from the 30's and none in what we'd now consider great shape.

But it was kind of a tradition around these parts and a lot of us made a habit of trying to stay up and catch them all. They'd sometimes play them until dawn.

I do wonder sometimes if the availability of everything has somehow diminished the properties of anything. Because they were rare to see they were appreciated for the rarity as much as anything else. Now, of course, you can call them up just about any time, any where; and somehow that availability has diminished their impact. Another bit of something or other lost to the modern age I guess. But, in fact, the ability to view those old Marx Brothers movies any time has exposed the bumps and warts we ignored when we couldn't see them any time. So it's harder to extol their virtues to people who may be a little more sophisticated than we were. Oh well.

I still think it is a good idea to look at old movies, especially around New Year's. It's always something of a cultural marker, and I have this weird disease in which I worry - yes worry - about performers and performances of bygone eras being lost to people. We get very caught up in the cartoonish movies of the modern era, and - in my O - we have a tendency to forget what "class" and "style" are; seeing as how the current day audience seems to like special effect more than specialness.

So it's always around New Year's that I think of this. We're revived Nick and Nora around these parts and you liked that. Now trust me on this one. OK?

Her name was Judy Holliday. She died very young (breast cancer in the 60's) and we never got to see her full capacity or talent. Today if she is remembered at all it is as the ditzy blonde in black and white movies from the 50's. Well today's 50's are the 30's of the 60's, so it's time to put her in the same category as all the other revivals we've had around here.

Judy Holliday, as I say, had the reputation as the quintessential dumb blonde. And that's okay... if you say so. But she also had a fully tested IQ of 172.

My favorite quote? "I'm trying to eliminate every vestige of my own personality, style, approach and get into somebody else's skin. Sometimes I feel I've accomplished it. But when I don't, I'm nobody at all, having left myself at home."

I think we missed out when she died in her 40's. Here's one of her best scenes from "Born Yesterday" with Broderick Crawford. And if you don't remember Broderick, there's another guy you should check into. The last thing he ever did before he died was host Saturday Night Live when he was already an older guy. There were few more under-rated actors in Hollywood than him. And this is a gem.


SK Waller said...

I've always loved these old films. Thanks for this.

B.E. Earl said...

Gia and I are constantly watching these older films on Turner Classic Movies and the like. Love them!

Tomorrow night, they are airing one of the non-Thin Man Powell/Loy pairings. "Love Crazy" from 1941. I could watch those two on screen all day and night.

We just watched "Mister Roberts" the other day. I've seen it many times, but Gia had never seen it. I didn't realize that it was Powell's last film. Although he lived for close to another 30 years, he never returned to acting. Just stayed happily retired. I dig that.

sybil law said...

Man, now I wish there was more to watch.
RW, you tell me to watch and that it's good, I believe you. You haven't steered me wrong, yet.

Dave2 said...


THEN: Drinking. Smoking. Cards.
NOW: Drinking. Smoking. Jersey Shore on TV.