Keep Laughing, I’ll Just Play With My Friend Tyrone Powers

I grew up in the 80s and 90s, but my media education was heavy on the 50s and 60s. Sure, we managed to get a little contemporary Magnum P.I. and Family Ties in here and there, but I was just as familiar with Cary Grant’s high-waisted pants as I was with Tom Selleck’s high-thighed shorts. Many idyllic summer days were filled with episodes of Flipper and The Rockford Files. Saturday nights were spent watching movies that were heavy on Audrey Hepburn and light on the Kim Basinger.

Tyrone_Powers 2

Unfortunately, there was a one hour/day TV limit during summers in the Bell (Himmler) home, and our mom was pretty diligent in enforcing this rule. This rule still applied when my mom went to Ogden every Wednesday to be with my sick grandma, and we didn’t technically break it by watching more than an hour of TV on those days. We just sort of hung out in the family room with the TV on all day. Like playing with an old, talkative friend, which we were allowed to do. No harm in that.

elam

Now, we all know that as an adult it’s considered hip in some circles to subtly make it known that you like old movies—even better if you call them “films”.  It’s like saying you “dig” Russian literature. But when you’re a kid, telling your friends that you can’t go see Total Recall because your dad rented Roman Holiday for you to watch with your parents and little sister is a real conversation stopper. Admissions like these invite an endless stream of great jokes about your family being Amish, pioneers, Amish pioneers, or the Von Trapps (actually, your friends didn’t know the Von Trapps by name, but referred to them as the “gay family in that singing movie”). Cool kids weren’t into any movie that was black and white, had subtitles, or didn’t have a character whose visage could be seen on a Burger King soda cup

I expected this would change for me when I got married, but when I told my wife I liked old movies and TV, she asked, “Like from the 80s?” Then when she told her younger brother that I like old movies—in the same tone you would tell a person that another person collects Japanese Star Trek stamps—he queried, “Like Bladerunner?” And you know what? I have to admit that there were times when even my faith was shaken. Upon first glance, The Elephant Man just didn’t seem to have the sex appeal of Ferris Bueller’s Day Off. And any additional glances yielded the same conclusion. Forgive me, Mother.

elephant-man

But now that we’re all older, I can talk about how much I still love these old flicks. I love the storied old actors, I love the over-the-top-romantic orchestra music, and I love the strange, highly unnatural kissing. That kind of kissing would break the necks of these soft womenfolk we have today. You need to understand, this older generation of women were from the farm and coal mines, and they were built to survive those collide-and-hold kissing scenes, and recover fairly quickly afterward.  Granted, their underthings were also made of protective whalebone and pig-iron, but the point is, they held up under it all.

maewest

A lot has changed in the last fifty years of cinema. These days actors don’t do those weird, long, dramatic pauses (watch To Catch a Thief or Streetcar Named Desire). And actresses don’t whisper everything they say (see any Grace Kelly or Marylin Monroe movie). Nor do they always look as if they are on the verge of dying or melting out of fragility and the intense admiration they feel for their man (although we could use a bit more of that around this house).

So, yes, much is different. But much is the same. You might say Pitt is the new Redford, Johansson the new West, Buscemi the new Elam, and Cage the new Knotts.

So here’s to the good old days. Here’s to the time when men were men and women knew it.

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17 Responses to Keep Laughing, I’ll Just Play With My Friend Tyrone Powers

  1. Ben Pratt says:

    We watched Breakfast at Tiffany’s last night. Either one of us could watch Audrey Hepburn movies all day. What a classy lady she was, even when portraying an emotionally-challenged socialite.

    My wife and I enjoy the old films now, but I kind of wish I’d gotten started earlier. If I had watched more of Cary Grant, Paul Newman, and Jimmy Stewart as a child and less of their poor imitations, I’d be a better man today.

  2. Ryan says:

    I still remember the feeling of being at a friend’s house watching him flip through channels and being a little taken aback that he would go right past anything black and white, without even checking what it was. I found that very frustrating. “Hey, there’s Peter Fond . . . oh, yeah, Yankess-Marlins. Cool.”

    Your Japanese Star Trek stamps analogy is dead on. That’s how weird a kid was if he liked old movies.

  3. Davis says:

    Hey guys, come over!!! My dad just rented “Mutiny on the Bounty!!!! And my mom bought some Dorito chips!”

  4. Ryan says:

    By the way, who’s the guy in the top photo?

  5. Macy says:

    So funny! I loved this post. I was a big Nick-at-Nighter you know. Every night it was Patty, Doby, Dick, and Donna. Loved it!

  6. Christian says:

    That’s Tyrone Powers. Then Jack Elam, then Elephant Man, then Mae West.

  7. Sara says:

    Funny!
    I learned a teeny tiny appreciation for movies like these in your home.
    I think the only modern one Lize and I watched was Rigoletto.
    I also learned the word “idiot box” from your mom. That’s what I always call it now.

  8. Eliza says:

    Oh my , thank you so much for this post. I was laughing so hard. My poor friends always had to humor me and watch those old black and white movies and then I was always kind of offended if they fell asleep. But ya know, frankly I kind of love that we were raised on that, and I plan to do the same for my kids, not only because of the almost guarantee of cleanliness, I think it just teaches them to slow down and enjoy the plot and characters instead of all the major special effects and the crazy hyperactive pace every movie has now days.

    and wow the kissing thing is sooo true! what is the deal! they didn’t even use their lips, they would just devour and rub each other’s faces off. we need to look that up, maybe there was some rule that you couldn’t do a nice pleasant soft kiss with your lips. : )

  9. Amy Carpenter Meyers says:

    I wasn’t even aware that I should be embarrased about loving old movies until my 7th grade english teacher asked if any of us knew the Don Quixote movie and I yelled out “Man of La Mancha!” to a mass of disgusted eyes. Sad day…. I wanted to cover it up with “Man of the House” or something else with JTT, but it was clearly too late.

  10. Braden says:

    Hillarious, Kook. Your Japanese Star Trek was right on and same with the gay singing family. I’m with Liza, though, I wouldn’t trade it. Speaking just artisitically, not even morally, that stuff is FAR superior even given a few stylistic oddities like the kissing. And I think Ben is right about the real actors vs. their pale imitations.

  11. Jeff says:

    Sorry Ry, Kook is right something about black and white movies triggered my ADD. I did watch my fair share at your house and could appreciate a few but I did find some painful as well. I hope I wasn’t a dink about it and I do know who the Von Trapp family is. They were awesome in Casa Blanca.

  12. Weird, awkward pasuses sort of sums up the Twilight movies for me…so at least that’s still alive and well!

  13. Ryan says:

    Jeff, I think I remember spending a lazy morning one time watching Pirates of Penzance with Andrea. So you get credit for your sacrifices no matter what anyone says. That fact is almost inconceivable to me now.

  14. Andrea W. says:

    Loved that Jack Elam guy, never would have known his name, but totally know his face. I LOVE that we grew up on this stuff. I need to do a better job with my own kids. While my kids haven’t been exposed to much black and white they do love some good ones like “Man From Snowy River”, “Singing in the Rain” and “Hello Dolly.” Great post!

  15. Christian says:

    Ben, the more and more I see of Paul Newman, the more convinced I am that he’s the perfect man.

    Sara, just the mention of Rigoletto sent me into a deep depression.

    Macy, you watched Doby!!! I didn’t know that. Best show ever made.

    Eliza and Braden, so true about the plot hyperactiveness of today’s movie viewers. I remember loving the new Master and Commander, but hearing from everyone that it was lame and boring, and I realized that was probably because it was made much like movies were made 50 years ago.

    Amy, lolol. So sad. Man of the House was a great movie, btw.

    Jeffers, you had body hair and thigh muscles, so you didn’t need the shield of old movies like the Bell boys.

    Danica, here here. I actually read and liked the first Twilight book, but man are they screwing up the movies. The first one just had horrendous effects. And this last one was decent, I guess, but I just wanted to slap Bella out of her sad love, emo funk she was in the entire movie.

    Andrea, Benny will be a better man for having been raised on Ultimate Fighting, so lay off your husband.

  16. Troy says:

    Kook, you’re absolutely right that having an affinity for and knowledge of old movies has a certain chic these days…so whatever feelings of embarassment as a boy paid the dues for you now. You’re far better off than those of us that have no claim to those classics from the 50’s and 60’s yet also weren’t allowed to see many of the cool movies as a kid. That formula results in being stuck in 60’s and 70’s Disney limbo. I learned early on to keep it under wraps that I was reared by the Apple Dumpling Gang, The Shaggy Dog, and Pete’s Dragon. Not the same mystique as Breakfast at Tiffany’s or Roman Holiday.

  17. Christian says:

    Troy, that is so funny to me. I thought we old movie kids were the true underclass all this time. Little did I know there was a true group of untouchables under even us: the 70’s Disney Limbo crowd.

    I remember during the 80’s that there were a lot of families in Mormon Farmington who couldn’t watch TV on sunday except the Disney channel, which played all those awesome shows you mention.It was kind of a big deal in the kid world for a few years. In our house/monastery we couldn’t even watch the Disney Channel and I remember being so jealous of my friends, reclining on their couches watching Old Yeller and Goofy cartoons.

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