January 20, 2015

Only in the movies...

Movies have always been a big part of my life. I’m the youngest of five, with my siblings ranging between five and ten years my senior. That feels like half a generation when you’re six or so. But somehow, when we would gather around that huge (the console itself, not the screen, which was actually only about 15 inches), old television set in my youngest brother’s room (where it was relegated after my parents purchased a smaller, more contemporary Zenith for the living room), the years separating us melted away.

We watched youth-oriented programming, cartoons and those silly situation comedies. Believe it or not, in the early 1960s three of the five of us were not allowed to stay up late enough to watch the #1 rated program, The Beverly Hillbillies, which came on at 9PM.

My fondest memories involved the movies we watched, those sword-and-sandal Steve Reeves epics depicting ancient Rome, Abbott and Costello comedies, and fantasy monster movies. I was enraptured by King Kong’s wild rampages, and to this day I adore Mighty Joe Young, in spite of the transparently crude special effects in the original low-budget B-picture version, and consider it to be one of the few films with an excellent remake.

Today, over 50 years later, I love to spend the early morning and afternoon hours as I work on my latest novel in front of the television screen, watching Turner Classic Movies. Over the years, I’ve noticed things that happen regularly in old movies that are highly unlikely to occur in real life, then or now. Maybe you’ll recognize a few (or share some I might have left out in the Comments):

  • People dressed in their best to go rob a bank.
  • People leave town carrying all their clothes in a single, not-very-big suitcase are then seen wearing wardrobes that can only be described as extensive.
  • Poor widows often dress in Chanel suits (most famously Lana Turner in Imitation of Life), and their one cocktail dress looks like it came straight out of that month’s Vogue.
  • The clothes that the escaped convict pulls off some stranger's clothesline are always his exact size.
  • The casts of Westerns are always remarkably clean, considering the scarcity of bathtubs at that time, and so are their clothes. And everyone’s teeth are pearly white, even if they’re always seen chewing tobacco.
  • Speaking of Westerns, funny how someone usually gets knocked through a glass window but never seems to get cut.
  • No matter what type of fall the hero takes in the fight scene, he always jumps up and keeps fighting…even if it’s six feet down landing flat on his back onto a glacier...yes, a glacier. I saw this once in a Victor Mature movie set in Montana's Glacier Park, and I howled with laughter. Anyone else would have broken their damn back.
  • When the good guy who is being wrongfully pursued has to beat it quickly the car always stalls once, twice, starting up the third time, just as they’re about to be captured.
  • A woman being chased always falls and sprain her ankle, then will have to be carried.
  • People ride with convertible tops down in the dead of winter, with neither hats blowing off nor hair moving more than a cursory half-inch.
  • Drivers look at their passenger for long stretches while talking (usually while driving said convertible), not watching the road for long stretches but never crashing.
  • Gas tanks always explode in a crash.
  • People in midtown Manhattan always find a parking spot right in front of their destination.
  • No one in midtown Manhattan ever has a hard time getting a cab.
  • People entering packed nightclubs always manage to get a choice table right up front.
  • Pretty gals in their 20s and 30s always fall for men in their 50s or 60s. (C’mon, if you looked like Audrey Hepburn, would you want Humphrey Bogart?)
  • Women always awaken with perfectly coiffed hair and in full makeup, with no blemishes.
  • Men's chests are just about always hairless.
  • The orphanage or other building is on fire with people trapped inside, and the fire department is nowhere to be found.
  • The solder in a war movie who talks about his postwar plans to marry his sweetheart, go to work at the town's mill and have a houseful of kids, etc., dies in the very next scene.
  • Anyone who coughs on film is dead two scenes later (I saw this plot device used as recently as 2007, in the movie Daddy’s Little Girls).
  • No one is ever buried on a sunny day; it’s always storming outside.
  • Golfers always have caddies, but who supplied Robin Hood with that endless supply of arrows?
See you at the movies!