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Political correctness and media spin is a topic quite common today. Its always tempting to think that you are living in a unique time where historical events are singular and without precedent. But lo, I then see a movie from the dim and distant past like Mission to Moscow. And I think about the movie You Can't Take it With You. There are so many movies that seemed to be made for a peculiar purpose. Sanitization was used in making a great many more.

 

One of the things I enjoy about older classic movies is the historical perspective that can be observed through watching them . It is as though one can actually travel in time for a few moments to see the hearts and minds of those who made and watched them. They were different in many ways, the same in others.

 

I am curious about how people saw these movies-with-a-message at the time they were made.

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?It is as though one can actually travel in time for a few moments to see the hearts and minds of those who made and watched them. They were different in many ways, the same in others.?

 

I agree. It?s fascinating.

 

I read the original book, ?Mission to Moscow? as part of a study I was doing about Stalinism. It was published in the late 1930s. I was surprised at how much the American Ambassador to Moscow tried to justify the mass deaths in Russia in the ?20s and ?30s due to starvation. He accepted Stalin?s excuse that it was just something Russia had to go through to bring itself into the modern industrialized world. This part of the book was cut out of the movie. I read years ago that there were a lot of criticisms against Roosevelt for having this kind of guy as our representative in Moscow.

 

?I am curious about how people saw these movies-with-a-message at the time they were made.?

 

I remember seeing ?Intruder in the Dust? when I was a kid in 1949 or ?50. And I remember parts of the South being just like that, except with no local liberal lawyers anywhere to be found. The liberal lawyers usually had to come from out of state, from Chicago or New York, such as the one in ?They Won?t Forget?. I was living in the South about 200 miles away from where Emmitt Till was lynched and about 100 miles away from where Mack Charles Parker were lynched back in the ?50s.

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?It is as though one can actually travel in time for a few moments to see the hearts and minds of those who made and watched them. They were different in many ways, the same in others.?>>

 

Susanb,

 

That's one of the great things about film, that in my opinion, makes it an art form. Film has the ability to take us back in time, visually show us who were, what we held important, what we believed in and how we lived. We can look at films from any decade and see how we changed as a society, as a culture, as a nation and internationally. It can be done wordlessly, with a gesture, with great fanfare, as a filibuster but the images and the words stay with us sometimes for years to come. Watching good films can change your life, change your opinion, make you more resilute in your beliefs, make you want to know more a person, place or subject. It's an incredibly powerful form of communication.

 

It is one reason why film preservation should be more important in this country. It's our national artform and the history contained in those frames have the ability to teach us something about ourselves while making us laugh or making us cry.

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After my maternal grandmother died I was allowed to keep a box of letters she and Grandpa exchanged during their courtship. This was in the mid 20s. They came from an area of rural south central Nebraska. They were town folk and not farm folk and grandpa decided to go to Omaha to go to barber school. Every week sometimes twice a week he would write and always, always, wrote about all the movies he had been to during the week. There are many listed that I have no clue about and many of those films are gone forever either having rotted away in a storage vault or deliberately destroyed to regain the minerals in them. Every now there will be a film I see that grandpa saw back then and I think about how both of us enjoyed the entertainment of the same film 80 years apart and I gain a little clearer memory of who my grand parents were and the world they inhabited...which I have almost always think must have been as black and white as the beginning of "The Wizard of Oz" because all the pictures I have from their youth and early marriage are black and white. The apricot trees in the side yard are tiny in those pictures and they still stand and bear fruit to this very day.

 

There was a letter from uncle Clete (who was a distant relative of the silent actress Louise Brooks) and Aunt Ruth (grandfathers sister) talking about seeing "The Jazz Singer" and what a deal it was...The saw it at the new and elegant theatre with a balcony that had opened recently in McCook, Nebraska.

 

I remember my mother washing dishes at the window looking out at the clothes line in the backyard while I sat drawing pictures. The windows were wide open as it was summer and there was no air conditioning in those days, and the breeze billowed the sheers in and out, as it blew into the room. She started singing "Smoke Gets in Your Eyes" which I believe was from one of her favorite movies "Roberta" She would talk about the movies she had seen when she was younger and the ones she liked best and we would sit and she would tell me the stories of the movies. I was probably around 10 or 11. But long after she was dead-and she died way too young I would see a film. I saw "Roberta" and when the "Smoke Gets in Your Eyes" came on I just broke down balling.

 

Yes film preservation is important...it is part of the glue that hold us a people together. It is our past, our present and to some extent our future...a part of our collective/national memory, for good and bad, it is what we have to pass on to our heirs...how impoverished they will be if they don't get a chance to see them! And that is why even stupid movies that I hate have a place in the archive...they perhaps really communicate and document what our times are really like.

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thanx hgl3, my family came from a similar background.. i agree about preserviving the fabric of the many cultures that reside within our boarders. ....... my mother always told me me what a hunk clark gable was.........., my dad always made me listen to his ray charles albums.......and i always crave a good story, the older the better

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Hello HGL3,

 

What a beautiful story about your relatives.

As long as you remeber them, they will never die, since they are alive in your mind and part of you......

Please pass on your memories to your children, so that your mother and grandparents will live on for them too....

 

Larry

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