Classic Movies - Will They Be Remembered?
Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers
Jimmy Cagney and Bob Hope
Movie Classics Never Die - Or do they?
Classic movies thrill our hearts, but what may be a classic to an older person may not be too thrilling for those in their thirties or younger. Truth is, many a younger person has never seen many of the great classic movies, and don't have the foggiest idea who the Hollywood stars of yesterday are.
I had a personal experience with this cultural divide a couple of years ago when we were doing a major renovation on our home. We live in a house once owned by Fred Astaire and his wife Phyllis. Phyllis actually grew up here. The house is known around the neighborhood simply as Fred Astaire's house. I can't count the number of young tradesmen who worked on the renovation who asked me, "Didn't some famous guy live here?" "Yes" I would reply, "Fred Astaire." Their response was always the same: "Who's that?"
Now this is not one of those articles that complains about "these young people today." Why should these people know who Fred Astaire was, or Jimmy Cagney, Claudette Colbert, Humphrey Bogart or any of the other Hollywood stars that we older folk know so well? It's less a question of why they should know but how they should know. My wife and I and many of our friends love to watch TMC, the Turner Movie Channel. Not only do they show the great old classic movies, but they always include an introductory commentary discussing the history of the movie.
Would you expect a younger person looking for something to watch on TV to say: "Wow Top Hat is on tonight"? No, and even if he did watch it out of curiosity, he probably wouldn't enjoy it. It's just too dated, with characters that he not only doesn't recognize, but can't relate to. Who calls women "dames"? It doesn't resonate with the experiences of his life. I can understand this. As a first wave Baby Boomer born in 1946, I find movies from the late 20s or early 30s a bit difficult to enjoy. So why should a person born in 1980 find these old flicks interesting?
A Problem That Nobody Caused
No hand wringing here. I'm not suggesting that young folks' unfamiliarity with Fred Astaire is a national emergency. But what I am suggesting is that there is a cultural divide, a natural and understandable one, but one that causes a communication problem between generations. Writers and broadcasters love to use metaphors. It gives writing and broadcasting a certain richness. If someone says or writes, "He pounced on the man like a lion," you get a very vivid picture of what happened. But if someone says "He moved with the grace of Fred Astaire," or "He ran through the defensive line like Gene Kelly dancing through a puddle," the metaphor would carry no punch unless the listener or reader knew about Astaire or Kelly.
It's a Wonderful Life
A Challenge to Hollywood - Cross Generational Movies
A new genre of movie cries out to be created, and one that could be very profitable. Forrest Gump, besides being a wonderful movie, launched something new. Using CGI (Computer Generated Imagery), the film appeared to show Forrest Gump speaking to President Kennedy. There was also a scene where Forrest appears to be standing near Governor George Wallace as the governor tried to block the admission of two black students to the University of Alabama.
CGI has opened up the possibility of blending the old classic movies and Hollywood stars with current day actors, and the combination could be box office magic. Imagine Will Smith, Hollywood's most bookable star , in a scene with Peter Lorre or Humphrey Bogart. How about a musical with Michael Jackson, Gregory Hines, Fred Astaire and Gene Kelly? Computer Generated Imagery not only makes these things possible, but the profit potential could be huge. Why? Besides the attractiveness of having modern day stars performing along with the former matinee idols, there is the movie studio's ability to use old movies for which they do not have to pay huge royalties.
Frank Capra's movie It's a Wonderful Life, starring Jimmy Stewart and Donna Reed, was released in 1946 and achieved disappointing box office results. In the early 1970s TV stations picked it up and the public fell in love with the movie. Because of a copyright dispute, the film aired on TV for minimal royalties. It became a staple around Christmas time the world over. The movie was a cash cow.
Blending the old classic movies with the new. And, because of its profit potential, it could create a new trend.