A Lazy Classic Sunday

lavender hillSo it all started when I happened to notice that “The Lavender Hill Mob,” was on Turner Classic Movies at 8 PM. It was a little after 7:30PM, so it was perfect timing really. It is sort of hard not to love Alec Guinness, so now we seemed to know what we would be doing for the next ninety minutes or so.
We scurried down to the kitchen to quickly prepare some cherry pie alongside some Irish Tea, and it was soon clear that we would not be ready to fly by 8pm (Bill Maher sort of has to take a handful of blame—his rants on HBO kept us from keeping on schedule with our Pie Planning for “The Lavender Hill Mob.”
Luckily, we live in a crazy ransack DVR world so at 8pm on the nose, as that strange fellow from SNL was introducing it, I press the PAUSE button on the remote control. We could now make tea and pie in peace.
We took the extra minutes to set up a fortress in the bed, and to condition the air so that we would be in the utmost of comfort. Once settle under sheets with pie and cup in hand, I pressed PAUSE, which, this stroke around, began the flick.
Old films may have slow beginnings to those unused to the pace, but both my sidekick and I were soon enthralled in British Ealing Comedy.

“What’s that?”
“I heard that in one of the American films on one of the few times I went to the chinemas.”
“I think you mean ‘Roger That.’”
“Ah, yes!”

A smart comedy with deft play on words, schemes, and turns-of event, “The Lavender Hill Mob” shows you how funny a film can be whilst not giving up brain power. The direction is more than capable, and the story is more than engaging—allowing the caper to really have full force. What I mean to say, is the story works well enough that the jokes can be turned down for a few so that we can really be enthralled at the caper.
The film fills us with wonder and joy. It even manages to fill us with suspense—and suspense is a rarity in screwball comedies. One of the clever bits of the film is that, at one point in the film, the Police Station becomes something of a revolving door for each member of the Lavender Hill Mob, and each character seems to believe that the other is caught.
Touching too, this film is! Notice Alec Guinness’s facial expression when the two gruffest mugs own up to trusting him and stay behind in London whilst he flocks off to Paris to score the big cash! Now that is something! A film that understands humanity’s need for love and trust in each other. Alec Guinness is a man who has been alone his entire life—a man who lives in books and schemes. If he had somebody to care for him, he probably never would have dared this scheme.
All these things run through us and energize us rather than tire us out! So now it is ten PM and the strange cat from SNL is telling us about other films from Ealing and then the marquee announces that NEXT ON TCM:slight case of murder

Now this film I have never even heard of…but I have heard of Edgar G. Robinson, the star of the film…and he can do no wrong. I look to my partner-in-crime and she is now revved up on the lifeblood of cinema. What was it that propelled us forward? Why weren’t we tired and numb? We felt alive! All from our conditioned little area behind covers and hiding from anything living outside of these walls.
We re-up for the feature and then we get a tale—another comedy. Goodie! But wait, what is this? Why does there seem to be thought here? Here it is—a throwaway comedy…but, let us look closer. It was made in the 30’s…not long after the Prohibition Amendment is repealed…and it follows Marco, as played by Edgar, get it?
EDGAR THAT…, I mean Roger!
And Marco is the kingpin beer distributor during Prohibition. Business was good! But now, as his chums say, the law had to go and get in the way. Will people still drink Marco’s beer? The public says no, “We want real beer!” But Marco doesn’t know his beer is swill because he doesn’t drink the stuff and his friends care too much about him to tell him he is making crap.
This flick is light-hearted and funny but it deals matter-of-factly in the world of bootleggers and beer as business. While Edgar G is a very nice Marco…referring to himself in the third person and seemingly unable to do any wrong other than distribute illegal spirits (one cannot imagine him holding a gun or committing a mean crime, see?,) the filmmakers do not shy away from the fact that, in his world, it is not all that uncommon to wind up with a closet full of corpses. Which he does…thus the slight case of murder the title discusses.
OK…now it is very late, and we really should rest up for Monday’s work. Only…we don’t want to. We want some more classic cinema. It is pumping something new into us. We have smiles on our faces and our spirits are high. What is it about this stuff? Did the code of early cinema actually do the films some good? Does the forced naiveté and sanitation implemented by the Hayes Code actually make for an uplifting experience? Something to think about where the body count is high in even the most family oriented of action-adventures.
Oh no! Some junk with Mickey Rooney is coming up on TCM. They have it linked thematically because it is titled: “A SLIGHT CASE OF LARCENY.”slight case of larceny
But the thing is…I could never really get into the point of Andy Hardy, even when he wasn’t Andy Hardy…and I wish he would just leave me alone.
My sidekick is sad. She wants more of a fix.

But wait! In this zany futuristic DVR world, I had recorded a bunch of TCM programs that I wasn’t around to watch. We click through them, and for some reason I have a bizarre romancer recorded by the name of “The Coast Guard,” featuring Randolph Scott, from 1939.
The film was OK…kind of like an old school version of last years “This Means War,” yet again…it just seemed more enjoyable than that.
Now I know it probably isn’t any better…right?
So what is it, sitting here on this lazy Sunday watching the silver screen tick away the actions of people long since gone, that makes these movies move? Move us so much more than if we were at the chineplex right now watching the latest romantic fodder where two good guys seem to love the same gal?
Could it really be nostalgia and age? No…there is something here. The scripts are stronger, the dialogue better. A lot of these films were made in an assembly line fashion, sure…but there was pride. Look at the opening shipwreck scenes in “The Coast Guard.” coast guardThey are exciting and fascinating!

I don’t know, I don’t know. I am too revved. I want to watch more, but really, we must now sleep. I don’t care enough to examine just what made tonight such a great night of cinema. And I am not going to deny that it is not able to be had with modern films. But the spirit of these films is their power. And they don’t all have it. Just ask old Mickey Rooney. He doesn’t got it. Never did. At least not for me. And that has nothing to do with when he was making films. That’s just between him and me. So it’s not nostalgia….it is not simply the case of the old movies surviving and representing a time and being GOOD OLD MOVIES as opposed to GOOD MOVIES. Thanks Mickey Rooney…I guess you did have some use for tonight.
These films are older than me; they are older than my parents. Therefore, most of my peers will not have seen them and won’t care to. They are:
                                                                                                                                                                NOT IN COLOR
Well, sometimes people dream in color. And sometimes people dream in black and white. If the dream is good enough, you wouldn’t even know which it was. And tonight, from my bed I had the most magnificent times and the most magnificent visions. I’d be willing to share them with you. If only you would open your mind…

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