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Jewish World Review
Jan. 5, 2007
/ 15 Teves 5767
Escape to the Past
Are you sick and tired of ugly people yet? If you haven't noticed, most people are ugly. Not just plain looking or ordinary, but really ugly. I'm not referring to bone structure or facial features that we've born with like a big nose, or ears that stick out or things like that. I'm talking about people who purposely set out to be ugly. Inside and out ugly. Loud ugly and stink ugly. Vile ugly and obnoxious ugly. Ugly as fashion and ugly as statement.
Yes, most people are ugly and they're getting uglier. Ugly in dress, ugly in speech, and ugly in social graces. (Ha! Just using the phrase, "social graces," seems absolutely archaic in our current society.) But ugly is definitely the way things are moving and I really don't see any reversal in the offing. Young people want to be ugly, I guess, and other people …well, they make themselves ugly too, to fool themselves into thinking they are young. Of course, they don't succeed in making themselves look young at all; they only make themselves look like ugly middle aged people.
And ugly people produce ugly things. That's why clothing and shoes are ugly. Television is uglier than it used to be. Movies are ugly. Commercials and print ads are ugly. Art is ugly and music certainly is ugly. Newspaper comics are ugly and newspapers themselves now use type faces that make their pages difficult to read and ugly. Language is ugly, and even food presentation is ugly. Almost every aspect of our lives is touched by the ugly fairy. There seems to be no way of escaping it - or is there?
If you'd like an antidote for the vulgarity, crudeness and ugliness found in just about every aspect of today's pop culture, I've got one for you - old movies. It's a surefire way of leaving the 21st Century behind. If you've had enough of the tattooed bodies, the collagen injected lips, coarse language and edgy attitudes simply pop in a DVD or video tape of something like "The Awful Truth," or "North By Northwest," or "A Letter to Three Wives." It's positively therapeutic. The trick is to go back far enough, the sixties won't cut it.
Want to see a man with class? Just fire up just about any Cary Grant picture. How about a classy woman? (Or what they used to call a lady.) They don't get much classier than Greer Garson. William Powell and Myrna Loy in the "Thin Man" movies personify the classy married couple to a T. It's not just the way they looked, either. It has to do with deportment and attitude. It's how they held themselves, how they walked, spoke, and sat. How they reacted to each other and to others. No, it's a lot more than just the clothes they wore - although it certainly doesn't hurt to be dressed well, looking clean and well groomed.
So here is my top ten list (in no particular order) of movies to watch if you need to escape the ugly of today and get a glimpse of what it was like once upon a time in the civilized world. There are many, many other great pictures you could escape with, but these ten will do for starters. If you haven't seen these in awhile, you are in for a surprise - you probably forgot just how much society has changed in a half century or so. If you are a youngish person and have never seen these movies in your life, then hold on - you're in for a real treat. Don't forget to take notes.
1. The Philadelphia Story (and the musical remake High Society)
2. Dinner At Eight
3. My Man Godfrey
4. Love Finds Andy Hardy
5. Mrs. Miniver
6. Now, Voyager
7. All About Eve
9. Since You Went Away
10. The Human Comedy
11. All six Thin Man movies
12. Love Affair (1939 version) and don't forget the remake, An Affair to Remember
13. Sunset Boulevard
15. Any and all Bing Crosby/Bob Hope/ Dorothy Lamour "road" pictures
16. Any and all Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers pictures
17. Dial M for Murder
18. Singing in the Rain
19. Double Indemnity
20. The Adventures of Robin Hood (1938 version)
21. My Favorite Wife
23. Sullivan's Travels
24. To Catch a Thief
25. Our Vines Have Tender Grapes
Okay, so my top ten list ran a wee bit long, I admit. It's just that when you start to list them, it's hard to know where to stop. Any one of these wonderful pictures is a sure-fire guarantee of pure escapism. Classic movies have become my personal remedy to the modern day uglies. Try it for yourself. And after you've gone through this list, come back and I'll give you some more.
P.S. I realize that some cynics might say that the classic movies never accurately portrayed the world the way it really was. I don't dispute that, certainly movies have always been fantasy stories and still are. But the fantasy has changed and that is my point. I much prefer the fantasy of Jimmy Stewart or Cary Grant to the fantasy of Jim Carrey or Sean Penn. And I'll take Myrna Loy or Irene Dunne over Paris and Britney in a heartbeat. Watching well bred sophisticated people is far more appealing to me than watching low-class slobs.
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JWR contributor Greg Crosby, former creative head for Walt Disney publications, has written thousands of comics, hundreds of children's books, dozens of essays, and a letter to his congressman. A freelance writer in Southern California, you may contact him by clicking here.
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© 2006, Greg Crosby