I believe that many classic movie lovers fear the same thing I do, namely, political correctness. I remember a few years ago when the United States Postal Service released an honorary stamp in tribute to the great blues artist Robert Johnson. The most famous picture of Johnson that we have is of him looking into the camera holding his guitar and smoking a cigarette. The Postal Service decided to digitally remove the cigarette from his mouth because of political correctness. They changed Robert Johnson as he was to a false Robert Johnson who would fit their ideas of what is acceptable. That is a horrifying travesty. Anyone who has ever read George Orwell's "1984" is aware of what can happen when such thinking is taken to the limit.
Our beloved classic films could very well be treated in the same way in the current climate. Obviously there are things in classic films that society has evolved enough to realize are offensive, i.e. racial stereotypes, social habits that are no longer acceptable, etc. However, this is history on film, and to change history is to crack the foundation of truth. I fear that possibly in the near future, these movies will be cut and pasted to remove any dance numbers, comedy bits or habits that no longer fit a society of political correctness. Removing smoking alone would be a full-time job, especially with a Bette Davis or Humphrey Bogart movie!
This is not a paranoid fantasy. It happened to Robert Johnson's picture. I have already seen a movie so chopped up, certainly not a classic one by any means, "Robin Hood - Men in Tights" by Mel Brooks. Whoever edited this movie for the particular channel that showed it removed all references to gay jokes. If you have seen that movie, you know that this resulted in its being chopped to pieces. This may not be a stirring call to arms because of the particular movie, but it illustrates my fears. If it could happen to one movie, it can happen to another. Those of us who love classic film must be alert to this kind of trend and speak out if and when it finally hits the films we love. History is history and truth is truth. Neither should ever be changed.
Friday, December 11, 2009
Wednesday, November 18, 2009
For those who are old enough to remember Carol Burnette's movie spoofs, the above was the title for one her best. The actual movie is 1950's Born To Be Bad, and it did indeed live up to its name. Miscasting, an unbelievable storyline and melodrama to the nth degree made this movie, in my opinion, one of the great turkeys of all time. Even a cast of solid, talented actors could not save this disaster.
Wednesday, October 7, 2009
There are obvious examples of classical music in movies, i.e. the movie biographies of composers themselves. A Song of Love comes to mind, with Katharine Hepburn and Paul Henreid, the story of Schumann and his accomplished pianist wife, Clara. Made in 1947, the movie also stars Robert Walker as Johannes Brahms. The music throughout is of course by Schumann, with some Brahms thrown in, and is a delight to the ear. As Schumann’s mental health declines, his most beautiful music accentuates the sorrow. 1945’s A Song To Remember is the biography of Frederic Chopin. Although it stars Cornel Wilde as Chopin and Merle Oberon as George Sand, even Paul Muni as Chopin’s teacher, the movies is kind of a dud. But the music – oh the music – Chopin throughout and beautiful enough to make the movie seem better than it is.
Then there are well-loved movies that incorporate classical music into the score, or use particular pieces almost in place of a score. One that I love is a 1945 British film, Brief Encounter, starring Trevor Howard and Celia Johnson. One of the most decent love stories about two people, each married, who deal with their feelings about one another, this movie could stand by itself. But the music of Rachmaninoff’s Second Piano Concerto weaves throughout this beautiful story and enhances it immensely.
The final film I like for this category is more recent, 1980’s Somewhere in Time with Christopher Reeve and Jane Seymour. A love story of two people who live in different times, this movie is famous for its glorious score by John Barry. But it is even more famous for the love scenes which are lushly enhanced by Rachmaninoff’s Rhapsody on a Theme by Paganini. An unwieldy name for a gorgeous piece of music, the movie’s romance would have been just another love story without it.
There are so many examples of classical music in movies, and too little time and room. I have offered a few for your consideration. Maybe you know others you would like to bring to our attention, and that would be wonderful. All input is welcome from all movie lovers
Tuesday, September 29, 2009
I hope that you will enjoy my reviews and articles about books and music.