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Riverstages. Column I

The Old Guys Did It Best

By: D. Andrew Kern

Capra, Hitchcock, Bogart, Hepburn, Welles, Brando, “Citizen Kane”, and “Casablanca”, the names roll off the tongue much like Emerson, Kipling, Fitzgerald, and Lewis might, amazing in their own right and remembered by a few loyal fans, but largely forgotten by much of young America. It is a sad truth that such greatness is only remembered by connoisseurs of film and movie history, people who know intricate details of cinematic progress, and not by the simple moviegoer, the average American; for in not knowing these great stalwarts of immense talent they are surely missing out.

Without understanding how Orson Welles’s Citizen Kane influenced modern cinematography and photography, or how the character development of the suave Humphrey Bogart changed the typical models of character analysis and portrayal, and how his classic film “Casablanca” challenged all the old ideas of script writing, how can today’s moviegoers truly appreciate what they see on screen?

I suppose some may say, in response, that it doesn’t matter if they understand, who cares if we are educated moviegoers, why can we not just pay our 10 bucks and enjoy the film as it stands on its own? Well first of all because no movie today, just stands on its own, just like no album by Switchfoot, Kanye West, or Kenny Chesney stands on its own. Sure, every artist brings their own creative flair to their product (or at least it is reasonable to hope they do), but no artist, in any industry, is completely un-influenced by past greats.

This is certainly true in literature as well. The great writers of past generations are too easily and too often forgotten, their words fading away into the pages of high school textbooks and outdated editions, their ideas obscured and confused between library woodworking and bookshop shelves. And this is a great injustice to the dignity of their work. Their words ought to be thought about, discussed, enjoyed, and most importantly, read. To banish the great writers of past generations to categorized realms of disinterest is to cheat the newest generations of readers of a great wealth of thought, imagination, and revolutionary concepts. In so doing we are, ultimately, banishing our own minds from realms of wonderment and amazement.

And so, I say the old guys got it right. Let’s bring them back. Let’s remember what they did. Let’s use their talents to better understand how to make movies, how to write; lets not cheat ourselves of the great wealth we can have.

That’s what I propose to do in this column, to review, in the truest sense of the word, what the “old guys” did, review the old classic films and books, the actors, directors, and writers. The worlds they created and the characters they brought to life. Let’s talk about Casablanca, Hitchcock, Fitzgerald and the rest. Because the “old guys” truly did do it best.

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