The militant classic film fan

October 03, 2009


I like classic movies more than just about anything else in the world, save my cats and family members. Yes, more than grapefruit juice. I love it so much, and feel so passionately about it that I think I'm what you might call a militant classic film fan.

I realized this today when I was talking to my grandmother.

My grandmother was born in 1937, and yet she apparently refuses to watch any movies made before 1990. Despite telling me when I first started liking classic movies that she was a huge Gene Kelly fan, she balked when I offered to lend her some of his movies. "I saw them when I was a kid, Katie. I don't need to see them again."

Today we were discussing her Netflix subscription. She doesn't have a computer, so today she enlisted my mom's help in adding new movies to her queue. Standing at the counter while I made my breakfast, she started telling me how sick and tired she was of these R-rated movies, and bad humor. There just don't seem to be any more good movies to rent!

"Jackpot!," I thought to myself, "my perfect opportunity to get her to watch classic movies. Don't like R-rated movies, you say? Well, most classic films would be rated G! Even those racy pre-codes would barely warrant a PG-13 rating these days." So I slowly approached the topic, dancing around it at first because she can be very testy.

"You know, Grandmom... there are an awful lot of movies made before the 90's that aren't rated R!"

She shot back at me, "Katie! I'm old, I've seen all those movies."
Excuse me?!?! You've seen every movie made before 1990? How then did you find the time to raise two children and work a full time job if you were apparently spending all of your time in movie theaters?

I let it go. I tried again.

"Well, you were only born in 1937. There were a lot of good movies made before 1937!"

"I
can't stand movies from the 1930's!!" The look on her face was like she had just sucked on a lemon. Even the mere mention of movies from the 1930's made her sick to her stomach.

EXCUSE ME?!?! That was the last straw. I left the room, smoke fuming out of my ears. Did she really say that?
To me?

After sulking about it for a few minutes, it dawned on me. I am a militant classic film fan. I will become irate with my own grandmother when discussing this topic. I will abandon conversations midstream if you so much as hint that you don't like old movies. And I really think that if she were a friend and not a blood relative, this discussion would have seriously put a damper on our friendship.

The more I thought about it, the more I realized just how important these movies are in my life. I don't think I could marry a man who didn't love classic film as much as I do. I don't think I could be friends with someone who refused to watch movies made before 1950.

Part of the problem is that people who don't like classic film seem to hate it. They aren't indifferent about it; they
really don't like it. In high school, most people I knew thought I was some kind of weirdo for watching black and white movies, as if I was eating glue in the back of the classroom or something. And like my grandmother, they spoke of the time period as if it had cooties. "The 1930's???? Weren't films, like, not in color?"

It might seem closed-minded, but realistically I spend so much of my time talking about, thinking about, blogging about, or watching classic film that I don't think I could have a lasting relationship with someone who wouldn't share that with me. So call me a militant classic film fan ... I think the description fits.

24 comments:

Kim said...

Looking back I wish I had gotten more into classic films when my grandparents were still alive. I think I would have enjoyed watching the movies with them. It's actually a regret I have. My mom likes classic movies, I should try to watch more with her.

And actually most of my friends are open to classic movies even if they are not as into them as me. I showed a few of them Trouble in Paradise a few weeks ago and they all really enjoyed it. I think sharing classic movies is just as fun as watching them. Anyways I understand how you feel when it comes to being passionate about older films. :)

NoirGirl said...

Shame on your Grandma! Want us to sign a petition asking her to give classic film a second chance? What on earth can she be thinking?! Maybe you should try to find out what has offended her about it?

This post is sheer brilliance! I so agree with everything you've said. I really do have trouble being friends with people who only live in the "modern world." I consider myself to live both in the past and the present. Most of my day-to-day friends have no appreciation for my views on classic film whatsoever. Their disinterestedness very much annoys me actually, since they think I should have sit through endless tirades about their families and all the intrigue going on because of their wedding. (I hate those conversations!)

I've often thought about the marriage issue, too. It's very much the same as believing in a political cause with great passion: I couldn't marry a man who vehemently disagreed with me on my politics or my classic films. ;)

So, chalk me up as a militant, too. I'll wear the title with pride!

Kate Gabrielle said...

Kim- you're very lucky that you're friends are open to seeing classic films! Maybe I just meet the wrong people, but everyone I've tried to convince thinks you have to be loony to like old movies :(

My parents both love classic movies, and I've been watching them since I was little so at least I have some relatives that I can share this with.

Casey- Welcome to the club :D

YES! I sat patiently, and didn't say a word when we had to watch a horrid 2008 movie on her birthday but she acts repulsed when I want to watch an old one. I hate how there is such a double standard.

I don't think I could every marry anyone that disagreed with me on politics and classic film. They have the same level of importance, if you ask me! I can be friends with people I disagree with about politics, though- I just don't discuss it. My best friends are actually on the total opposite side of the political spectrum, but we get along great! We just don't bring it up :) I don't think I could to that with movies, though - I feel like I need to discuss them so much!

NoirGirl said...

I agree with you about politics and friends. I also have many friends who don't have the same political views as I do. I use the "don't discuss" trick for them, too! But, you're right, movies are a different matter all together. Movies are meant to be discussed and analyzed. They are more fun to watch when you can talk to someone about what happened. I feel like the classic film dissenters are missing so much. Although, they are so nasty in their hatred I have no desire to try to convert them. I guess it's just a case of "more for us!" :)

Sarah said...

I TOTALLY agree with everything you said!
I've just tried to make another point in this comment but you basically said it ALL.
Classic film army forever <3 :D

Nicole said...

Oh my gosh, I absolutely am a militant classic film fan. My life is surrounded by old movies and I don't care what the non-old movie fans think. I've tried several times to get my brother, his wife, and my dad to watch old movies but they just never try. It annoys me so much, and they'll go behind my back and make little snickers about "how boring" old movies are. It is so annoying!! I'm surprised that your grandmother doesn't like old movies, you would think she would with such an awesome granddaughter. ;) Lol

Mercurie said...

You want to hear something funny? My sister is 17 years older than me and she complains that I only like old stuff (this just doesn't apply to movies, but to music, TV shows, et. al.)! I probably like stuff made for her generation more than she does! Fortunately, my sister doesn't hate most classic films. She pretty much universally like comedies and she will watch film noir. At any rate, I can understand not having a relationship with someone who doesn't like classic films. I am not sure I would draw the line there, but I think I would draw it other places (if they hated England or loved country music, for instance....).

Amanda Cooper said...

Where do I enlist?!

I can be extremely defensive about my movies. I can get very upset with [someone I know] whenever she says something in an even VAGUELY derogatory tone about old movies. For instance, when I suggest a movie to her, and she asks, "Is it a musical?" The way she asks it drives me UP THE WALL!! Them's fightin' words!

By the way, for any of you that care, she says that Easter Parade is "creepy and weird," she walked out on Roxie Hart, AND she doesn't like Astaire & Rogers!!!

NoirGirl said...

Amanda - How can you stand to be around this person? They don't like Astaire and Rogers?! I thought only people who committed awful crimes disliked Fred & Ginger!

Elizabeth said...

I'm the exact same way, but just narrow it down to silent film. It's weird, but if you don't want to talk about silents, I just don't have anything to say to you. All my conversation is going to eventually head back to silent film. The thing I look forward to all day is getting to sit down and watch a silent film in the evening. I'm studying so I can work with silent films! It's nice to know there are other crazed classic film fans out there!

KC said...

I too can't stand it when people look upon classic movies with horror. I feel they couldn't have possibly given them a chance. I must say though, that I married a man who is not a huge fan of classic movies. In some ways, he doesn't really understand my obsession--though he tries to. The thing is, I don't really understand his obsession with cycling either. However, I have a bike and I go out for rides with him from time to time, and he has been to more classic movie screenings with me than I could even count. As a surprise, he even took me to see Roman Holiday on our first Valentine's Day together. I think it would be a bit too intense around our house if we were totally obsessed by the same things, but it's been fun to educate each other about our favorite things. I will say that what has been absolutely essential is that we support and encourage each other's interests. Because if he said something rude about classic movies, he would seriously be in the doghouse--hahaha!

KC said...

I too can't stand it when people look upon classic movies with horror. I feel they couldn't have possibly given them a chance. I must say though, that I married a man who is not a huge fan of classic movies. In some ways, he doesn't really understand my obsession--though he tries to. The thing is, I don't really understand his obsession with cycling either. However, I have a bike and I go out for rides with him from time to time, and he has been to more classic movie screenings with me than I could even count. As a surprise, he even took me to see Roman Holiday on our first Valentine's Day together. I think it would be a bit too intense around our house if we were totally obsessed by the same things, but it's been fun to educate each other about our favorite things. I will say that what has been absolutely essential is that we support and encourage each other's interests. Because if he said something rude about classic movies, he would seriously be in the doghouse--hahaha!

vivienne strauss said...

great post! I may have to design a uniform for the militant film fan :D

Raquelle said...

Can I join the classic film army as a soldier please?

I don't see how people can be so closed minded about old movies. Why not give it a chance? I had a friend tell me she doesn't like old movies and refuses to watch them. She doesn't like anything old. So I asked her why she read Jane Austen then. That's 200 years old! It shut her up for sure!

Shell said...

i agree with you. I've been watching old movies since i was a kid with my mom.
I can't imagine my life without movies. As an actor, it strikes me as odd how many actors don't watch classic films. They are totally clueless..i'm like this is our profession you should know these films!

Hala Pickford said...

Wow sounds like my Grandmas! My great grandmother was born in 1918, and despite her memory being intact she doesnt really remember much from the silent era...she didnt even remember Mary Pickford!

My grandmother was born in 1941...and she insists the terrible 50s were the best era ever though she seems to watch bad movies more from the 60s and such. We almost got into a knock down drag out fight over whether Charlie Chaplin was a 'boring fat old man or not'.

I think she doesnt like the things I find about her favorites...such as Tab Hunter is gay and I want to say a Tyrone Power (who had 'dreamy eyes') donated his eyes to science. She was however impressed that I had seen Tony Curtis in person.

Carapace said...

I kind of feel for your grandma-- the 30s saw the advent of some GREAT movies, but they were a pretty harsh time to live in. Great Depression depressing everyone, war coming up in Europe, horrible racial and class warfare in the US...I can see why she wouldn't want to dwell on anything that reminded her of that, even the good stuff.

One thing that's hard to grasp, I think, is how non-pervasive pop culture was until very very recently. My FIL was a teenager in the 1950s. He doesn't recognize Buddy Holly, or Elvis, or any of the usual famous 50s music, because he grew up in rural Texas and the only local station didn't play it--it was for weather and local gossip and very local bands. Besides that, he only occasionally got a station drifting out of the big cities. And movies were a once-a-year treat. So he's got no nostalgic attachment to most of the pop culture of his day. I think, in a lot of ways, the recorded culture of past eras belongs more to those of us born later, with the leisure and ability to study it in madss quantities. :)

Me,I LOVE old movies-- and especially the little "extras" that often go with them. Old movies of course weren't all good, but even the less-than-stellar reels are fascinating. And the classics are just gorgeous. Sooo easy on the eyes!

Elsie said...

Oh, I relate to all of this so well! I doubt I could truly be friendly with anyone who had no respect for times that came before them.
Fortunately, my grandmother was always a huge movie fan and therefore a major reason why I enjoy them today. I believe you and I are the same age (correct me if I'm wrong!), but my family tends to be a bit older- my grandmother born in 1920 and her husband 1919. So while they were alive I had the opportunity to ask them about some of the eras I just adore. I hope yours changes her mind someday and decides to look into some older films!

Merriam said...

Wonderful post, so true! I'm rather the same way, though it's more that I get hurt feelings if someone doesn't like old movies than getting angry.

Kate Gabrielle said...

lol glad I'm not alone!!

Carapace- I wish that were the case with my grandmother, but she actually liked a lot of older films and remembers them. She just has no interest in ever seeing them again. My family all grew up in a city, and went to the movies constantly-- She wasn't around during the Depression, so she wouldn't remember it, but also she knows from me that a lot of 30's films were escapism films, designed to make people forget about the Depression. She just has no interest in older movies at all. She loved the films of the 50's when she was living then, constantly relaying to me how much she adored John Kerr in South Pacific and all Gene Kelly films but she refuses to watch them anymore, and shoots me a look of death if I so much as suggest she watch one. She remembers a lot of things about pop culture, but she just doesn't care to see any of it or hear any of it again. She has her own reasons, I just use her as an example of why I have trouble communicating with people who don't share my love of classic films.

My great aunt is 97 years old and she doesn't remember silent movies, talkies, radio, any presidents, the depression, nothing! All she remembers are things about her own life, nothing related to the outside world. I did a documentary about her if anyone wants to watch, it's only a few minutes long-- The Dancer

pjowens75 said...

Good post, Kate. I, too, tend to feel sorry for those who refuse to watch classic films. I tend to be a little more tolerant of older people who feel that way, though. I was born in 1952, and could never understand why my mother didn't care for watching the classics. Once, before she passed away, we discussed it and she explained that they were not good times for her. It is difficult for us to see that the early 20th century was not a good time for Americans in general, with two world wars, the dustbowl, the flu epidemic and the great depression. Having lived through those once, she had no inclination to go through them all again. She lost her mother in the flu epidemic, a brother to World War II, and the family farm to the dust bowl, all before she was even 18 years old. So I finally can understand just why she had no desire to go back to the past. Just as an aside, she didn't watch an episode of MASH until practically forced because she could stand the idea of anyone making fun of war. She soon learned that wasn't what it was about.

On the other hand, I also feel sorry for those who steadfastly refuse to see modern films. I, myself, tend to see more classic films than modern ones because I prefer them stylistically. But I saw ZOMBIELAND yesterday and was thoroughly entertained. I have yet to see anything as scary to me as THE UNINVITED (Ray Milland) and have no real need for the extremes that some fim makers go to these days. But for all the terrible new movies out there today, there are also genuine gems. For example, THE DISH, an Australian film from the 90s about a satellite dish that relayed the broadcast of Armstrong's moon walk. It had me in tears of joy and has become one of my favorites.

I love film as an art form, and although I have my favorite periods, I appreciate its good and bad, regardless of when it was made.

Maggie said...

I have a similar Grandmother experience. I get angry with her when she doesn't know the star or the picture I'm talking about. She is one of the most airy people I've ever met, so I expect it to an extent, but I get internally angry thinking "she was around when these were originally coming out, why wasn't she obsessed with them?"

Graciebird said...

HAHA Kate! This was hilarious! It was so well written, like a story. But I can't believe your mother doesn't like old movies! That is pretty weird, since all you ever hear are people saying how "back then", movies were so much better.

And like you, I find myself thinking and writing a lot more about classic film than anything else I'm interested in. I'm always in the classic actor biograohy section of the library, and I'm always quoting random old movies and stars. One of my friends likes old movies, and got introduced to some through me...I don't think I'm as militant, but I plan on opening up my friends to more stars besides Audrey, Carole, Ingrid, and Grace.

Matthew Coniam said...

God knows how I missed this post before. Just stumbled upon it now. Brilliant: one of your very best.
And my grandmother, sadly, was exactly the same. I remember I once told her that Road to Morocco was on tv and she said she couldn't bear to watch it because it was 'old as the hills'.
Why does new automatically equal good???