“When Bad Times Make Good Movies “

Photo illustration by Ray Bartkus
Photo illustration by Ray Bartkus

Below is a terrific article by Joe Morgenstern from today’s Wall Street Journal reflecting on the panacea that movies once provided to the public during the throes of the Great Depression and challenges Hollywood to rise to the occasion once more.

Where are you, Fred and Ginger, now that we need you? Back in the darkest days of the Great Depression, the brightest lights of the silver screen sang, danced, quipped and smooched to keep America’s mind off its woes, if only for a couple of hours at a time. These days our economic prospects may not be as bleak — at least that’s the ardent hope. But there’s plenty of grim stuff out there to be distracted from, and big-screen entertainments possess a singular power to take us out of ourselves. The question is whether, and how, movies can rise to the occasion.”
And then:
Fred and Ginger may have moved in wealthy circles, but their characters were often hungry hoofers, living essentially hand-to-mouth. They’re not of the moneyed world, and they invariably poke fun at its emptiness and rigidity, just as the Marx Brothers and Preston Sturges did. They showed that one can live richly, even in the Depression, by virtue of one’s wits and talent. If you’ve got an optimistic, go-with-the-flow attitude, then life will somehow sort itself out … What we’ll want in the foreseeable future is what movies shown in movie theaters can and should provide — a rich variety of comedy, fantasy, adventure, information and drama that opens us up to the world around us and the worlds within us, while reminding us that we’re not alone.”

Well put, Joe. Very well put indeed.

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Film writer and social media marketing professional. 2019 Social Ambassador for the 10th Annual TCM Classic Film Festival. Previously: social media associate at Warner Archive and script writer for Turner Classic Movies. Working on a Montgomery Clift biography due late 2020.

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