Wednesday, September 3, 2008

what's old is new again...

This weekend, the Tumer Classic Movie channel was having a Spenser Tracy marathon that I happened upon.
Now I like movies...I lean toward 'small' movies, with subtitles is OK too...but quite honestly, I don't really watch older or so called 'classic' movies too often. That may well be my loss I am starting to think, after watch several of Mr. Tracy's movies that I took the opportunity yo Tivo.
What we might tend to forget, in our embrace of the idea that what is new is somehow better, is how very good and very modern these movies often are.

First there were two with his frequent co-star, Katherine Hepburn, Adam's Rib and Without Love. My gosh, how very well written these movies were! What witty, what funny, what smart dialogue these movies had. They really put the writing in many new movies to shame and make them sound so dumbed down. Then there was Captains Courageous, in which Tracy played a Portuguese fisherman on a boat out of Gloucester...a sailing fishing rescues a very spoiled rich boy, played by Freddie Bartholomew, who had fallen off a cruise ship. The boy spends the next two months on the with them before they return to port and of course, comes out learning many lessons about what it means to be a good person. Sounds a bit hokey, but it was really very sweet and quite clever with a very touching ending. Yep, tears were shed.

And the last one I watched was The Seventh Cross, based on a novel of the same name by the German refugee writer Anna Seghers. Set in Nazi Germany of 1936, it is the story of seven men who escape from a concentration camp, and while being hunted down, are often betrayed by those they trust and helped by those you would least expect. Produced in 1944, in the very height of WWII, one would expect it to paint the German people in a very black and white way. But contrary to that expectation, it is really a much more balanced and ultimately hopeful view of the inherent goodness of humanity.
That might be a book worth looking into as well.

I will leave you and my brief homage to the films of Spenser Tracy, with a quote from Without Love that I thought was particularly good. Hepburn and Tracy are married in the movie, but a marriage in name only, in an attempt to help the war effort..well, you have to watch the movie maybe to get it. But of course, they start to fall in love and when Hepburn's character almost considers a dalliance with a handsome friend, she realizes that she actually loves her husband and confesses her almost 'fall'. Tracy's character responds...

“You're not the falling type. You're like the tower of Pisa. You may have certain leanings but you always remain upright.”

Snappy patter, ya gotta love

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