It’s old movies at lunchtime during the summer months

Published 2:31 pm Monday, June 4, 2007

I’m sitting with my back to the television as I write this column, listening to “Mr. Roberts.”

Genie’s home for the summer and she loves old movies . Actually, I like them pretty well myself but generally I don’t try to listen to them when I’m writing. Sometimes I turn on the Cooking Channel, which usually is no distraction as I write. If something really hot is in the news, I might turn on CNN.

Generally, though, I keep the thing turned off. It can be too distracting, even the lousy shows.

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I will have to learn to ignore the movies, though “Mr. Roberts,” if you remember the book or the show, can be hard to ignore.

The one thing I will never forget about “Mr. Roberts,” though, is what my dad told me about the author, Thomas Heggen. Dad said the poor guy suffered from a malady known as “writer’s block” after he finished working on the stage and screen plays for the book and committed suicide. The Web agrees that he committed suicide, but says it was due to depression. I would surmise, strongly surmise as a writer myself, that “writer’s block” is a severe form of depression.

One thing I have noticed about all the old movies Genie has been watching so far this summer is that they all seem to be war stories, generally from World War II. I don’t know how many World War II movies have been made, but it seems like there must be one for every day the war was fought, which really isn’t surprising. That was our last truly successful, even “innocent,” war.

I’m sure that as the summer passes by, movies concerning other matters will be shown. I just hope they are old enough to be enjoyable.

There are a few good movies made these days, but darned few, at least in my opinion. I wonder if in 40 to 70 some odd years someone will be showing the current crop of movies as old movies that people will enjoy. Somehow, I don’t see many of the ones coming out today surviving that long.

Movies are supposed to be an art form, but somewhere along the way I think somebody fired the artists and put the business types in charge of the content, the writing, lots of the cinematography and other aspects of movie making that lend meaning, or at least real entertainment value, to the enjoyment of movies.

Or maybe I’m just an old grump, which is quite likely also. Still, I like the old movies and find little meaning or value in most of the ones hitting the theaters today.

I could, shucks I will, say the same thing about a lot of entertainment today. We can start with television. I think the last really great commercial television series that were made were “The Dukes of Hazard” and “M.A.S.H.” I still watch those reruns when I can find them.

Ouch! Ensign Pulver just tested his “firecracker.”

Commercial radio is nearly all canned these days, playing the same 40 or fewer tunes over and over again in each of the musical genres, or else it’s idiotic “talk radio.”

ETV and PBR are the saving graces. Even favorites such as the History Channel, the Discovery Channel, the movie channels and the rerun channels and so on don’t really fill the vacuum.

Novels also have fallen on hard times. There is little today that comes close to having the impact and general acceptance in fiction as those books authored by Mark Twain, Charles Dickens, John Steinbeck, Ernest Hemingway, William Faulkner and other authors of that caliber.

There went the palm tree! We’re getting close to the end.

I love my mystery fiction. It’s light and sort of exciting, but it really doesn’t fill the void left by those really good authors of yore. Oh, yes, I have read Maeve Binchy and other good authors of fiction today, but they seem to be far fewer that previously, and frankly, they don’t grab me the same way as those I mentioned before.

One bright spot in the world of books is the quality of a lot of the books on history coming out today. There seem to be more really good writers of history today than ever before.

Maybe one day we will have a renaissance in movie making, the writing of novels, television and radio. I’m not holding my breath, though.

In the meantime, they’re just before rolling the credits for “Mr. Roberts.” I’m not going to tell you the ending, just in case you haven’t seen the movie or read the book. I wonder what good movie will be on when I’m writing the next one of these at lunchtime.

It’s amazing how Naughty Nola can sleep right through something this good. She actually watches some of the television commercials, especially if there are animal sounds, but not the movies.