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1011

Aging parents

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In many of the movies of the 30s and 40s parents are shown as ancient, although they at most would be in their 40s or 50s. Remember Mickey Rooney's parents, and how many movies show a couple dancing on their 25th aniversary and barely able to move across the floor. It would be fun to see a series of movies showing the development of these ancient parents into today's pseudo siblings of their children. When did it happen? Alana

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Welcome, 1011. Thanks for starting off with such an intriguing question. I know there are plenty of stories of actresses who refused to appear in "mother" roles, fearing it would age them in the eyes of the public. I think Lana Turner had to be cajoled into playing the mother of an adolescent girl in "Peyton Place", even though it was a plum role. That may be when the shift began, as the "youth culrture" of the 60's started to emerge. The expanding younger movie audience made it necessary for older actresses and actors to take more age-appropriate roles in order to keep working. James Deans's parents in "Rebel Without A Cause" actually LOOKED like they could be his parents. I know what you mean about those older movies with the fathers looking more like grandfathers. Maybe age was equated with respect back then. It certainly isn't now.

P.S. There's a programming challenge on the Message Boards every year. It sounds like you have an interesting theme that you could follow through on if you're interested.

 

Edited by: DougieB on Sep 27, 2010 9:56 AM

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This is an interesting topic. What I always thought was that those "older" parents, who usually seemed to be aristocrats or members of high society, simply started their families late. Like if a father had his first child in his late 30s or early 40s, and the main character is in their 20s, then the dad will be 60ish. I always find this to seem like the case with films where Charles Coburn is the father.

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It's funny that you bring this up. A while ago I was watching Shirley Temple's last Fox feature "Young People" (1940). There's a scene where Shirley's school is putting on a musical concert for their parents, and the parents are all in the 50-70 year old range, but the kids are in the 8-12 year old range. These parents looked more like the kids' GRANDPARENTS!

 

I've seen this "old parent" situation in other films of the 1930's and 40's as well, and I've often thought, "Why did they make the parents so OLD? How old were these people supposed to be when they HAD these kids?".

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I just remembered "Marty." There is a scene between Marty's mother and her sister -- both very elderly looking -- the sister is complaining about the treatment of her son and daughter-in-law. She says to Marty's mother "Wait until you're 50 YEARS OLD!!" (or was it 60 years old?)

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Under the studio system there were always "character actors" that had to be kept busy playing "mature" roles. That might be why parents were always "old." The thirty and forty something actors could be made up to look somewhat younger. But after fifty actors looked "mature" or just-plain "old."

 

Last night TCM aired Scaramouche (1923). Lewis Stone, then around 43, looked "old" in that movie. Lewis Stone always looked "old." By the time Lewis Stone was cast as Andy Hardy's father he was around 60.

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Well as Walter Brennen, a guy that typically played characters older then he really was; over time they just had to use less make up!

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What an interesting topic! The correct line in Marty was "I am 56 years old!" Coincidently, this was the same age as Frederic March's character in Chayefsky's "Middle of the Night". Not only was human life expectancy much shorter during the Golden Age of Hollywood but actors did seem to age much faster. Maybe the combination of smoking, drinking and lack of exercise? As for aging parents. the other side of the coin is that, years ago, people married much younger and had children at a much earlier age. You were expected to marry your high school sweetheart, "settle down" and start having kids. A woman who waited past 30 to marry was a borderline "Old Maid" and a single man in his 30s was a "Confirmed Bachelor". So the screen parents of teenagers should have been in their late 30s or early 40s, rather than look like someone's grandfather in their 70s!

 

 

Another "ageist" movie phenomenon that makes me laugh is the relative age and physical condition of actors in war movies. When I see old, wrinkled and paunchy stars going into combat it makes me lose all believability in the movie. My son-in-law is a U.S.Marine Corps Major and he is 33 and his men are both young and in shape!

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It's also interesting to contrast the supposed ages of "parents" in 1930s and 1940s movies with "parents" in 1950s and 1960s (and later) TV shows.

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> {quote:title=talkietime wrote:}{quote}

> It's also interesting to contrast the supposed ages of "parents" in 1930s and 1940s movies with "parents" in 1950s and 1960s (and later) TV shows.

 

Yes, the TV shows of the 1950s and 60s had parents who were much more age-appropriate.....but then we have to deal with the TV sitcom moms who did housework wearing fancy dresses, high heels and pearls!

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Marty is one of my favorite movies so I did the math and the "56 line" is true to life. Marty is 35 and one of 5 or 6 children. If his mom married at 18-20 56 would be about right. That large a family would age a woman. Tommy and Virginia, Catharina's son and daughter-in-law, seem to be in their mid to late 20's so she would be close to sixty. I think both women looked their parts.

 

World War I took a lot of men out of circulation and onto the battlefields which delayed marriage for some who might have done so sooner. This was true of my grandparents. There was 27 years between my mother and grandmother as opposed to 22 between Mom and me. I never noticed the age inconsistency in films before as I was too busy envying the character's happy home lives. This is indeed an interesting topic.

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We are expected not to analyze perceived ages of screen children and parents too much. After all, we are expected to ignore enormous height differences between scrren parents and children, and also the fact that they bear no resemblance to one another, as parents and children normally do.

Could anyone really believe that Lionel Barrymore or Lewis Stone bore a direct family relationship (father, grandfather, or whatever) to Mickey Rooney?

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> {quote:title=finance wrote:}{quote}

> We are expected not to analyze perceived ages of screen children and parents too much. After all, we are expected to ignore enormous height differences between scrren parents and children, and also the fact that they bear no resemblance to one another, as parents and children normally do.

> Could anyone really believe that Lionel Barrymore or Lewis Stone bore a direct family relationship (father, grandfather, or whatever) to Mickey Rooney?

 

Exactly! Like was I really supposed to believe that Lucas and Robin Doolin were related in THUNDER ROAD? No resemblance!

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Well My Three Sons is an exception since Fred was in his late fifties and his kids were very young. Today that isn't so 'odd' but back then he would of been their grandfather.

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I didn't know the exact DOBs but I did know Grant was older. When I told my wife about this while we were watching NBNW (she is a big Grant fan like most women!), she said Grant was still 'hot' and I have I had to admit I didn't view Landis the same way.

 

Margo said it best in All About Eve!

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Women always wore dresses when they did housework in the 1950's. They weren't dressed up but they were quite presentable. Generally they did not wear pants.

 

Women dressed up on TV because it was show business, that's all

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> {quote:title=LoveFilmNoir wrote:}{quote}

>

> Exactly! Like was I really supposed to believe that Lucas and Robin Doolin were related in THUNDER ROAD? No resemblance!

 

Yeah, it is hard to believe that Bob's son could be his brother...

(just in case someone didn't get the joke)

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"Marty" is one of my very favorite movies but the "I am 56 years old" line belongs to Aunt Catarina not Marty's mom. I never gave much thought to WW1 taking many eligible men out of the marriage pool as America's involvement in that war only lasted 18 months. The Great Depression and WW2 did effect a low birthrate in this country, however, making the "Silent Generation" one of the smallest generational cohorts in history, as opposed to the enormous "Baby Boomer Generation" that followed them.

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> {quote:title=cujas wrote:}{quote}

> Women always wore dresses when they did housework in the 1950's. They weren't dressed up but they were quite presentable. Generally they did not wear pants.

>

 

Then I guess my wife and daughters shouldn't give me a hard time when I wear a suit and tie to mow the lawn.....and those of you who know who "MGM Mayer" is know that I MAY not be kidding about that!

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