Lessons From the Big Screen


I watched “The Caine Mutiny” again last night, perhaps for the 10th time, and loved it just as much now as I ever have.

The remarkable thing about the performance of Humphrey Bogart is that it is the opposite of the kind of tough guy he played in so many of the thrillers and mysteries out of Warner Bros (and other studios) in the 30s and 40s.  Captain Queeg is a weak man, driven by demons of perfectionism, trying to fit in, trying to be “one of the boys”.

Bogart

(a great shot of Bogart – this one comes from the LA morgue file in 1957)

I was quite young when I read the Herman Wouk book on which the movie was made, and probably about 11 when I saw the movie. Even at that age, I recognized how painful life must be for the commander who was, after all, doing his duty well before the time most people considered it.

Maybe because I, too, was one of those people who was always looking for a way to fit in, and who tried to be the perfect kid to get there.

I’ve never said that out loud before, and I don’t think it’s affected my life in a negative in the long run.  Still, being short, being the youngest in my classes all the way through high school, being smart (and especially a smart, well-read GIRL) with pretty strict parents all played against me pretty much until university.

You don’t need to fit in when you read good books or watch good movies.  In fact, I think they can help you find a niche that works for you.

If you have read this blog before, you might remember that my favourite book is “To Kill A Mockingbird”.  Reading it again and again, I would think of myself as Scout, a girl who looked up to her smart and bookish father, a girl who was trying to find her place in the world, to understand her world!  Watching the movie gave me the same sense of looking for “fit” and hoping for understanding.

I must have been 14 when I saw “Now Voyager” for the first time.  With one exception, all the serious romantic relationships I have had in my life have been with men who were at least 7 years my senior.  Blame Paul Henreid for this.  His warmth and charm in “Now Voyager” helped give Bette Davis courage, amongst other feelings, and he did the same for me.  Not that I understood exactly what those feelings were completely but I enjoyed them!

Books get so much of the credit for expanding my horizons, opening my eyes and mind, taking me to places I both long to see and hope never to find, but movies have done much the same thing.  From the first movie I saw at the drive-in (“Pinocchio”) and the first one in a cinema (“Mary Poppins”) to the one I’ll be watching later tonight (“Deception”, again with Paul Henreid and Bette Davis) I pull things from them that enrich me in all ways.

It must seem that, with the exception of Disney, I haven’t seen a movie in colour!  I was just at the theatre last week (“White House Down” — the action was so over the top but I loved Jamie Foxx as a very liberal president).  It’s just that I have a special fondness for black & white movies — maybe it’s because of the shades of grey, just like life.  Or maybe it’s because those were the movies from which I learned the Big Lessons.

Be strong. Do right. Fall in love. Be true to your friends. Learn as much as you can. Fight the Nazis.  Smoke heavily and drink more.

Well, maybe not so much the smoking.

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3 thoughts on “Lessons From the Big Screen

  1. I too am an avid fan of black and white films, particularly old French films. I remember during my university days, I would skip classes to watch Renoir, Godard and Truffaut films. They captured an exoticism that was rarely seen in American films of that time. These films were like candy to me, filled with colourful characters, liberal views and lots of cigarettes.,

    • It’s the number of cigarettes that still amazes, eh?

      In American films it was the smoking but also the drinking. “The Thin Man” series was notorious for the booze especially. Well, that & the fact that Myrna Loy never needed a bra in her evening clothes.

  2. You’ve always been the girl to lay it all on the line, bare your soul, and let anyone or everyone read about it. Bogey

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