TCM Film Festival, Carole Lombard, Finest Friend
I attended the TCM (Turner Classic Movie) Film Festival in Hollywood over the weekend, seeing 9 films – many I had seen before and a few new to me. I started the festival with a screening of the 1936 classic screwball comedy, “My Man Godfrey”, which I’ve seen many times, but this is the first time on the big screen. It was literally like seeing it for the first time – and what a fantastic film! Wow! Afterwards, it got me thinking…
William Powell and Carole Lombard in “My Man Godfrey”
The film stars William Powell and Carole Lombard, both of whom were household names at the time (and both were nominated for Academy Awards for their performances). In real life, Powell and Lombard were already married and divorced by the time this film came out, and this was several years before Carole famously married Clark Gable. William Powell started in silent movies and hit superstardom in the 1930’s and 1940’s – including his success as Nick Charles in “The Thin Man” series of movies opposite Myrna Loy (who was dubbed the Queen of Hollywood in 1936). He had a flair and a very likable quality, and was a wonderful actor and comedian. He was also my Grandmother’s favorite actor! Carole Lombard is one of my favorite actresses of all time and she is fabulous in “My Man Godfrey”. She had a rare combination of being gorgeous AND being a great actress and top notch comedienne. She was so natural, and her performances are still modern today. She was known as the queen of the “screwball comedy” (a style of comedy popular in the 1930’s and 1940’s, usually with a strong female character making zany choices amidst fast paced dialogue and farcical situations), and Carole was even the idol of Lucille Ball (TV’s queen of comedy). In “My Man Godfrey”, she was at the top of her game in creating the archetype of the screwball comedy heroine – fast talking, ditzy, and glamourous – paving the road for stars such as Goldie Hawn, Julia Roberts, Cameron Diaz, Lucille Ball, and so on. Again, this got me thinking…
Movies were big in my family for the past three generations – since the beginning of film. I was raised on classic Hollywood movies, and have a college degree in film directing, so I am pretty knowledgeable about “old” movies. I would rush to see any Alfred Hitchcock or Katharine Hepburn or Cary Grant or Jean Harlow or Ingrid Bergman or Montgomery Clift film I could find to watch (among many others). So they are a huge part of my life and upbringing. I have a memory as a very young child, being at my grandparents house when the movie “There’s No Business Like Show Business” came on the TV. My grandfather asked me if I ever saw a Marilyn Monroe film, and I hadn’t yet. Surprised, he said, “you have to see one”, and we sat down together to watch the film. I loved it and wanted to see more of her. I couldn’t get over how beautiful and appealing she was. Marilyn definitely had something special.
As I left “My Man Godfrey”, I started thinking about how Lombard and Powell, who were world renown at the time (Lombard was even the highest paid star in Hollywood in the late 1930’s), are probably not known to very many people today. How can someone who made such a huge impact during their lifetime be so forgotten? (Funny enough, William Powell’s character in “My Man Godfrey” is labelled as a “forgotten man”!) Many “old time” movie stars and directors are not known by today’s generations. I would guess that Marilyn Monroe is probably the most famous person still recognized from “old” Hollywood, but how many people today have actually seen one of her movies?
That is the way of the world. Time moves on no matter what. I guess what is of value is the impact we have while we are here. It’s not about being remembered once we are gone. If Buster Keaton can be forgotten, we all can – and will – be forgotten at some point. Screwball comedies impacted all films that came after them in ways we can never know. The same with actors, musicians, writers, teachers, friends, and so on. We may not be remembered for it, but we are each part of the bridge that takes human beings to the next place. It is like a stone that is thrown into a river. The stone disappears but the ripples caused by it can be seen for a while after the stone is gone from sight. And although it may not be visible to the eye (depending on how large the stone or how big the pond), the stone even alters the water line ever so minutely. This is a great reminder to me to enjoy living my life and not to focus on results. To be in the moment and soak up and enjoy what I am doing while I’m doing it.
This feeling of rekindling times past leads me to reflect on a song from my first CD (“Infinite Man”), titled, “Finest Friend”. It was written about a couple of specific childhood friends (merged into one), and the impact they had on my life. There is a desire to hold onto things and relive them, especially things that give us meaning in our lives. But one can’t hold on to anything. Eventually everything slips by, much like a great Carole Lombard performance. When I think back to the times I wrote about in “Finest Friend”, I tried to bring back to life the innocence and joy in the moments I felt back then.
That’s one of the things I love about music. While there is no real way to bring it back to life, music seems to be the only way to explain or share emotions from the past. Hopefully, the combination of the guitar, banjo and lyrics can communicate those days from my childhood somewhat. You can have a listen and judge for yourself below:
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