Monday, November 2, 2009

Diversions from real life

I have been (slowly) reading Maureen O'Hara's autobiography 'Tis Herself. It's been many years since I have read a biography of a film actor or actress from Hollywood's Golden Age. I read quite a few as a teenager and for a while was just a wee bit obsessed with all things Gone With the Wind. I read every biography of every actor in that movie. I also read the biography of Margaret Mitchell. I even own an original Gone With The Wind theater program from 1939.

Ah, those were the days when I had nothing better to do than read books about beautiful people long dead.

Anyway....Tis Herself is interesting enough to be diverting. I am enjoying reading about the behind the scenes development of the movies in which Maureen O'Hara performed. So of course, it will be necessary to watch the movies too. It's great how modern technology has made that possible.

The kids these days (Ugh... isn't that something only grandmothers say? Wait a minute...I am a grandmother!) don't realize how privileged modern life has become. When I wanted to see a movie as a young person, I had to wait until the movie-powers-that-be decided to play that movie where I could see it. Thankfully, Gone With the Wind came on television once a year. Here's how obsessed I was with that flick: during one broadcast of GWTW, I parked a cassette tape recorder in front of the TV and made a Memorex tape recording of it, stopping and starting the tape to edit out the commercial breaks. That's four hours of movie on audio cassette. This was before VCRs people. Back in the olden days when we couldn't record a movie for viewing later as is so easily done today. And I was strangely happy with my audio copy from which I could listen to the dialog from the movie at will.

I remember scanning the TV guides to find out when my must-see movies would play. (Hey, it beat studying for biology exams.) I'd look for something like Wuthering Heights because I had read the book and simply HAD to see the movie but of course it would come on at some ridiculous hour like 3 a.m. and would be on a snowy far-away station that our TV antenna would not pick up.

But today- glory be!- if I want to see a movie like Maureen O'Hara's How Green Was My Valley, all I have to do is stop into the local movie rental and pick up a copy. Or beam it into my computer via NetFlix. It really did become the Jetson age just like they predicted in the movies they made us watch in fifth grade in public school.

How Green Was My Valley won six Academy awards including Best Picture in 1941. It is a beautifully photographed story with many memorable images. My favorite was at the very end of the picture when the men in the coal mine are coming up on the elevator after a mine collapse. The scene is so artistically filmed with the positioning and lighting, it's like a bronze sculpture. Gorgeous.

Maureen O'Hara was only nineteen years old when she was in this movie. Even then she was a moving actress and stunningly beautiful.

Next I'll have to get The Quiet Man, another masterpiece that she appeared in with John Wayne.

But I better be careful. It's not like I don't have kids to educate, cookies to bake, and laundry piles to process. And she did appear in about fifty other swashbucklers with that handsome Tyrone Power...Jamaica Inn - I read that book too!...Oh! And The Hunchback From Notre Dame!

Somebody stop me.


  1. Love Maureen O'Hara. Last time I saw her she was still beautiful in her 80's. The Quiet Man is one of my all time favorite movies. I've got it on tape and break it out around St. Patrick's Day every year. Then the little jingle will be stuck in my head for weeks.

    I won't tell you the nonsense I recorded from TV with a tape recorder. It definitely wasn't Gone With the Wind.

  2. Recording tv with a tape recorder?? And you weren't the only one who did that? Wow... I can't even imagine thinking of such a thing.

    Now I need to go rent some classic movies...

  3. I did the same thing with The Wizard of Oz! It came on every fall and I would start scanning the tv guide in August just to make sure. Then I'd put a big red X on the calendar when it was showing and repeat to the rest of the family daily that I claimed the tv that night.

    (Now we not only record multiple channels at the same time, we have tvs in every bedroom in addition to the den - heck, my MOM has a tv in her kitchen!) Kids can't imagine having to fight over tv choices, and if Dad wanted to watch a war movie we'd all be overruled.

    When The Wizard of Oz and GWTW came out on tape, I HAD to have a copy. Now for some reason I never re-watch them. I probably haven't seen either one of them in close to 10 years. I could anytime I want to because I have them sitting on the shelf in VHS, DVD and Blueray (Regular AND collector's editions; Re-mastered AND enhanced!) - but because they are so available, there isn't the urgency. Weird.

    I love the old movies, Katherine Hepburn was a favorite and I loved her biography! Especially the audio version she read herself. (her voice! sigh.)

    My youngest (now 25) loved old movies and would watch them with me. Her favorites were Breakfast at Tiffany's and all the corny old Doris Day movies.

    Thanks for stirring up some diversionary memories. I have a trip to the library scheduled this week and I may look for a good biography from the Golden Age of Hollywood myself.

    Que Sera Sera!

  4. I love reading bios of the old actors...another good one that was a surprise was Ernie (about Ernest Borgnine). I never realize ALL he did over the years, very interesting life and now I look for him in the older movies I love watching.


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