I just finished watching an old 1947 western called Heaven Only Knows, starring Bob Cummings. I know – most of you can’t begin to relate to 1947 (I was 2 years old), and you probably have no idea who Robert Cummings was (used to be a very handsome and popular actor). But old movies and old actors aren’t the point of this blog. The point of this blog is “hokey” movies and how many of them touched our hearts.
    “Back in the day” movies were made almost specifically to teach lessons about good and bad, and to make people laugh or cry. They were full of dripping-sweet drama, and you almost always knew how they would end, yet you watched anyway.
        The only reason I watched Heaven Only Knows is because I was getting ready to shut off the TV and was going to scan through up-coming movies on Turner Classic Movies. (EVERYONE should have this channel and EVERYONE should watch it – so much to learn about America and what life used to be like and what attitudes used to be like and how people had manners and dressed well and had a lot of pride in their country. Someone let all of that change, but that’s a subject for a different blog.)
       I brought up TCM on the TV and Heaven Only Knows was already playing and over half over, yet I found myself watching – at first thinking what a hokey western it was, with the typical “staged” and silly gunfight, the usual drama of an old movie and all of that – until I realized Bob Cummings was playing the part of an angel, sent to change the life of the “bad guy with a good heart” – my favorite kind of hero. The movie is in B&W of course, and it included an old man who steals your heart, and a little boy who totally breaks your heart – and the classic heroine who loves the bad guy but won’t put up with his “bad guy” ways. He has to change first, and of course Bob Cummings is there to do that. No one knows he’s an angel until the very end when one woman (the little boy’s mother) realizes the truth and also realizes Cummings has come to town to take her son (who has an illness) to Heaven – think “Tiny Tim” in A CHRISTMAS CAROL.
        I knew how this movie would end, and I hadn’t even watched the first part – but I couldn’t stop watching. And yes – I cried at the end when the “angel” rides off with the little boy in a stagecoach pulled by six white horses.
        Silly? Yes. Hokey? Yes. Ridiculously dramatic and impossible? Yes. But I watched anyway, just like I would watch any Shirley Temple movie again and again, or Gone With The Wind, or Casablanca, or It’s a Wonderful Life, or A Christmas Carol, or Miracle on 34th Street, or The Ox-Bow Incident, or High Noon, or The Searchers, or Old Yeller, or The Yearling – and more modern movies – The Boy In The Striped Pajamas (OMG – the ending of that one is almost too much for someone with high blood pressure to watch) – and the two movies that make me need a box of Kleenex each because the actors die – and they really DID die not long after making the movie – Ghost, with Patrick Swayze (if that movie doesn’t make you cry, you have no heart) – and The Shootist with John Wayne. Yes, John Wayne made a lot of hokey westerns in which he was a bit “too” macho – but that’s what westerns were like then, and that’s what John Wayne was like – HOWEVER, in The Shootist, he plays a gunfighter dying from cancer – and in real life he WAS dying from cancer. It’s almost more than the heart can take because - how fitting was it for John Wayne’s last film to be a western about a gunfighter who is dying? To me that movie depicted the end of an era – the era of western movies and stars like John Wayne. And the best movie that actually depicts the end of the cowboy era is Monte Walsh, starring Tom Selleck. The cowboy life will never be like that again.
        The last couple of movies mentioned aren’t really “hokey” like some of those old black and whites, but nonetheless, they touch your heart and make you cry. I miss those truly dramatic, “good vs. bad,” “teach a life lesson” movies. Today they try to bring that kind of drama, but something is missing in most of today’s movies – partly that there is no more “black and white” to life itself. I am sick of modern movies that show people doing drugs as though it’s no worse than drinking a glass of wine - and as though you can’t party anymore without everyone sniffing that white crap up their noses. No, thanks. I’ve had too much heartbreak of my own over a loved one who has allowed the Devil’s Drug to destroy his life. I don’t need to watch it in a movie. But that, too, is for a different blog.
        I prefer the old movies, and I hope they never stop showing them, hokey or not. I love the drama and I love wishing life could be that way again. Where today’s movies are going – Heaven Only Knows.

Coming in June:


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