STARDUST ELEGANCE: An opinion on simplicity and people.

Watching film for the  sheer enjoyment of it can  sometimes be  overpowering in the amount one  views.  I thought it  would a  good time to step back  -a  type of intermission-  and  look one of the admirable aspects of picture watching which is overlooked: its simplicity.  Embodying simplicity and elegance was TCM Networks  on air host Robert Osborne. March the 6th marked the anniversary of his passing  in 2017.  While TCM is not the only channel for film lovers to watch, it  did make Mr. Osborne a welcome and  often comforting presence for many over twenty years.

I recently took a spin through the Michael Curitz directed 1958 picture THE PROUD REBEL with Alan Ladd and Olivia de Havilland, who were ably supported by Dean Jagger, Cecil Kellaway, Henry Hull and a young Harry Dean Stanton among others.  THE PROUD REBEL (1958) has been called an unremarkable film;  “Saturday afternoon light fare,” which really doesn’t bother me. The formula driven story of a former Confederate soldier (Alan Ladd) who is searching for a doctor to cure his son David (David Ladd), happens to meet a female farmer in his search: Linnett Moore (Olivia de Havilland). She takes them in as a result of brushes with the law and aggressive neighbors.  What struck me after the end credits had rolled by was the simplicity of the story.  The warm feeling that it evoked came through its use of that tried and true ‘boy and his dog’ motif.

I also spent some time with an early Joan Crawford picture,  PAID (1931).  Joan did her best with the girl gone unjustly to prison role that was made interchangeable by  Barbara Stanwyck,  Helen Twelvetrees, Loretta Young, and others still worth watching .   The simplicity of the story and  the way the actors and  crew made the story stood out.

Forest Lawn Glendale pictures by the author

Errol Flynn’s grave with flowers placed by the author.

Spencer Tracy’s grave

Jean Hersholt’s  grave

Mr. Robert Osborne articulated some reasons why people watch classic film at a press conference I attended that never occurred to me. Amazingly, these experiences were a part of me I had not previously considered.  It was mentioned that the TCM network could be classed as a caregiver of sorts. Countless letters are received saying that the network gets people through periods of personal loneliness, unemployment, loss of a loved one, or any number of life transitions.

I, for one, went through a medical convalescence a few years ago of six weeks. I would watch one film, sometimes two, beginning very early in the morning as it was my habit to get up at that time. It was pretty cool to be able to catch up on many of the pictures I had stored on PVR. My medical troubles were short as l was fortunate to heal quickly. It is insular of me to not think of this for a person with a long term situation.

Robert Osborne spoke to this when he said that with our current world situation, why would people not want to see something uplifting?  The network has a tremendous loyal following that is like a family that no other network can boast. You don’t see conventions, festivals or cruises for other networks.  Some would say that networks such as this are selling your past back to you. This is fine since that was what the studio system did. Movies eased people though the Depression, wars, societal transitions with larger than life faces. Momentary escape from what was going on was pretty good for a dime.

Mr. Osborne stoically met everyone who wanted to meet him  in the lobby of the Roosevelt hotel and there were many, including myself.   I told him that I always wanted to say this to him:  I greeted him with, “Hello. I am Robert Osborne,” when it was my turn to which he replied, “Well,now you have.”

I have been very lucky in that we have attended the TCM CLASSIC FILM FESTIVAL in Los Angeles in the past as media people with access to press conferences at Mann’s Chinese theater and other  events.   Early morning coffee, muffin, chilly theater and  bleary eyed TCM folk answering questions plus volunteers will be always be a  good memory.    Dare I mention their elegance and simplicity once again? Yes.



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