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Old films offer a balm for today’s harshness
By ROB HEDLET
The simple act of living in today’s harsh and unforgiving world wears on us all. One minute, we’re saddened but not even shocked to see the latest mass shooting in a movie theater, a parking lot, a mosque.
The next, we’re watching gas prices shoot up again, our jobs bludgeoned by the weak economy and the value of savings suffer from happenings halfway around the world. Everyone from politicians to TV’s talking heads range from harsh to nasty, intolerant and mean to anyone who could possibly see things in a different way.
Travelers are suspicious of strangers, drivers lock their doors in city spots that feel sketchy, and the language you hear offered up unapologetically on street corners and in malls—by everyone from 16-year-olds to those with my shade of gray—is spiced with enough obscenities to make a sailor blush.
Too many kids are obese, our food is filled with chemicals that give us cancer and today’s younger generation may well be the first to fall short of the economic performance of their parents.
Whew, put it all together and it kind of hits you like a bag of bricks.
But one thing this month is keeping me sane, taking me to a world where the good guys usually win, there’s grace and elegance, people are nice to each other and the notion that things will get better is shared by all.
It’s all a refreshing balm to the bruising reality of today—even if it’s all in the movies. I’m talking about Turner Classic Movie’s “Summer Under the Stars” this August, which is giving those of us who love the old, classic films some of the best ever.
Turner’s twist is that every day of the month provides a handful of films from a selected actor or actress. Last weekend, I spent about 12 hours watching John Wayne on PT boats in the South Pacific, in a submarine out of Pearl Harbor, on a horse in the Wild West and on the gridiron as a coach in America’s heartland.
Yes, he and his team—be they football players, submariners or the guys in the white cowboy hats—may have suffered through some pretty tough times, but in the end, they either won or they were on their way to a better day. Just by doing the right thing.
Giving myself over to all these films of “The Duke,” then gladly giggling through “Some Like it Hot” the next evening didn’t smooth any of the rough edges of today’s world. But it was a refreshing tonic, an escape that brought me back with a little pep in my step.
The good news, for those who might enjoy the trip as well, is that the rollout of classic actors and their films continues all month. You’ll be able to see Katherine Hepburn in “Lion in Winter,” “Adam’s Rib” and “Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner” on the 17th.
And catch Jack Lemmon in not just “Mister Roberts” and “The Apartment” on the 22nd, but also the dramatic “Days of Wine and Roses,” where he demonstrates his skills as a serious actor.
Yes, the times many of these films are set in weren’t really as great and problem-free as the films make them out to be. Issues such as poverty, racism and other stark facts of life are often ignored.
Yes, sometimes we do like films that peer into the dark, tough corners of everyday life. But we also like movies, many of them on TCM this month, that either let us wear rose-colored glasses or take us on exotic adventures far from the everyday.
To places where there’s no chance of a gunman opening up on a theater full of folks eating popcorn.
For more info on the movie series, go to tcm.com.
Rob Hedelt: 540/374-5415