Georgie Anne Geyer doesn't get out much anymore, and this has led her to take a new interest in "classic American movies" (we all know just what she means, of course).
You arrogant young moderns may think this is mere escapism, or an inability to appreciate bold cinematic statements like August Underground's Mordum, but it just so happens that Geyer is learning quite a bit about our own era and why it sucks.
For one thing, the stars of "classic American movies" were all different people. Guy Kibbee, William Bendix, Wendell Corey, Rondo Hattan, Shemp Howard...they were all individuals, and their like will not be here again. But nowadays, everyone's exactly the same, pretty much:
Hollywood talks endlessly about "diversity," but almost all the leadingUnless you visit the graveyard, that is. look, talk, dress and only pretend NOT to be alike. The women are all Jennifer Anistons, with long, straight blond hair, and the men are all Brad Pitts. Gable? Astaire? Cagney? Kelly? Cooper? Nowhere to be found.
Kidding aside, she's right. I can't hardly think of a single popular actor who doesn't look like Jennifer Aniston or Brad Pitt (or both, thanks to Hollywood's fashionable obsession with androgyny). Whatever happened to film stars you could actually tell apart, like Stepin Fetchit and Mantan Moreland? Furthermore, a fax machine is nothing but a waffle iron with a phone attached.
When you think about this problem carefully, as though it were true, it becomes obvious that everything comes down to race, as it usually does in Geyer's cramped little world:
Virtually the only diversity one sees today is a series of slight -- very slight -- differences in skin color. And here we face an interesting, if disappointing, conundrum: Race, which is not supposed to be important in a supposedly colorless multicultural world, has instead become the only distinction.I think Geyer's mixing up her conservative tropes here. Multiculturalism is not supposed to be "colorless"; it's supposed to be a dystopian nightmare in which the eternal verities of Western Civilization are subordinate to the whims of wise Latinas. By contrast, a "colorless" society is one that has overcome discrimination by insisting it doesn't exist anymore.
That's nitpicking, I admit. Other than that, her argument is sound, unless you're the sort of pedant who objects to arguments that proceed from false premises to false conclusions.
If you are, you probably won't like Geyer's explanation for the Good Old Days, either. See, back in Chicago when she was a girl, ten-year-olds would rollerskate down to the Loop and play the piano all night. Wingy Manone and Miff Mole would sit in sometimes, and Al Capone himself once gave her a lollipop! Hence, Cary Grant. Nowadays, ten-year-olds sit around playing so-called "video-games" and acting like they're geniuses just 'cause they know how to operate the Internads. Hence, Brad Pitt.
And another thing: I'll tell the pop-eyed world youse mugs had better get wise to yourselves already, 'cause believe you me, what I say goes and how, you get me?
The next thing that hit me in our old movies was how often I saw variations on the theme of the "man from outside." He was sent in to cleanse and clarify bourgeois American society. These films ranged from the brilliant "Oh fucking hell. [gets up, lights a cigar, paces the floor, wishes this Geyer dame was in Tophet, plague take her] " to the religious " " to even musicals like " ."
Look. American film studios made lots and lots of movies of all different types and you don't simply get to take a handful of the ones you've watched while lolling around in a haze of racial resentment and use them as evidence of...of....some kinda preening middlebrow monologic social-hygienist weltanschauung that suffused everyone from Fred Astaire to Victor Mature with moral clarity until it ran out their goddamn ears, for fuck's sake. And especially not when your examples of "cleansing bourgeois American society" comprise one instance of shooting people and two of grifting.
Instead of the man from outside, there is a tendency today to portray the man and woman inside, trying to survive under waves of change.Yeah. I was just thinking the same thing, after watching a triple-bill of The Magnificent Ambersons, How Green Was My Valley, and The Crowd at my local Octoplex.
Geyer's pals with the great Hollywood director Garry Marshall -- you may've heard of him, he made The Runaway Bride, which starred Brad Pitt and Jennifer Aniston -- and he has some thoughts on why the industry has changed. In the old days, see, you had to have honest-to-God talent to get ahead, like Charles Lamont. But now, you can be a pandering hack, like Garry Marshall, and no one will notice because they have no basis for judgment anymore, like this one actor Marshall knows who's not sure where El Salvador is, which just goes to show you how low we've sunk, doesn't it?
It's a dreadful world, in short. One tries not to live in it, but they make you.
So what's the solution? As far as I can tell, censorship. Not the silly PC kind we see these days, but the heroic kind that prevented films like Baby Face from including the Money Shot. Also, we need more monocles and cummerbunds, 'cause actors today don't know "crass from class" (why can't they be elegant and refined, like Ralph Meeker in Kiss Me Deadly or Spencer Tracy in Dante's Inferno or Lon Chaney in West of Zanzibar?). We also need less rock 'n' roll, by gum, because it's a "minor genre" that has an unfortunate tendency to make overnight sensations out of vulgar young people. For shame!
The sooner this sort of malign influence is purged from Hollywood, the better. Because otherwise, we face "the final debased egalitarianism of our culture," which would be a tragic betrayal of everything Hollywood once stood for.
Now, if you'll excuse me, I think I see some kids on my lawn. Why can't the little bastards be more like Freddie Bartholomew?