I’ve always loved old movies. Really old movies.
Long before streaming videos, DVD’s, or even VCR’s, I’d wheel the ancient portable TV into my room and stay up late, mesmerized by them. It didn’t even matter that my mom was a throwback who decreed color television a needless invention, because most of the movies were made in black and white anyway. And I didn’t mind.
Although, when my husband first met me and discovered I’d never owned a color TV, he was convinced I’d been seriously deprived. Keep in mind, however, that this is the man who believes that if you have kids and haven’t taken them to Disneyland or Disneyworld or some other Disney experience by the time they’re five, then you need to brush up on your parenting skills. So yes, bright colors loom large in his world.
But I digress. Okay. We’re back in my bedroom and I’m watching those old movies. And movie stars.
These were not the stars of my generation, yet they enchanted me. Cary Grant’s elegance. Bette Davis’ bite. Fred Astaire’s lightness. Jack Lemmon’s quirks. Ingrid Bergman’s class. Gene Kelly’s power. Marilyn Monroe’s fragile, stop-you-in-your-tracks sexuality.
And of course, I can’t forget Jimmy Stewart. That sweet, gentle, Everyman of the movies.
As luck would have it, my quest for more fun and play recently led me directly back to him as I watched his delicious performance in Harvey, for, I don’t know, maybe the tenth time? But who wouldn’t love a character who spouts lines like these:
Well, I’ve wrestled with reality for 35 years, Doctor, and I’m happy to state I finally won out over it.
I always have a wonderful time, wherever I am, whoever I’m with.
Years ago my mother used to say to me, she’d say, “In this world, Elwood, you must be oh so smart, or oh so pleasant.” Well, for years I was smart. I recommend pleasant. You may quote me.
If you’re unfamiliar with the story, Jimmy Stewart plays Elwood P. Dowd, a slightly addled middle-aged man who lives with his sister and niece. His constant companion is Harvey, a six-foot-plus rabbit. Harvey is a magical rabbit, a pooka, a mischievous spirit drawn from Irish folklore. A lucky few can see him; most cannot.
You can probably imagine the commotion that arises as Elwood introduces each person he meets to Harvey. I won’t give it away, but let’s just say that after a few close calls, a case of mistaken identity, and visits to a sanatorium, there is a final happy ending.
So, there I was, enjoying another dance with this film. Cradled in a comfy leather chair. Smiling. Giggling. Lost in its world, until the scene where Elwood explains what happens when people sit down with Harvey and him:
They talk to us. They tell us about the great big terrible things they’ve done and the great big wonderful things they’re going to do. Their hopes, their regrets. Their loves, their hates. All very large, because nobody ever brings anything small into a bar.
Nobody ever brings anything small into a bar. That line took me out of the movie for a minute. And it stayed with me for days afterwards. It even got me ruminating about how we don’t hear or see much that’s small nowadays.
It’s all very BIG.
Big business. Big muscles. Big dreams. Big problems. Big debt. Big special effects. Big goals. Big losses. Big gains. Big lives. Big partisanship. Big boobs. Big houses and cars. (Okay, maybe those are starting to change a bit.)
And I can’t forget to mention how we tend to idolize people who make it big.
Or how we want BIG for ourselves, right here in the virtual world: big bunches of friends on Facebook, big tribes of followers on Twitter, big audiences for our blogs.
Big? It’s everywhere.
Sometimes it throws me a curve, and causes me to step back to consider how we go about finding that sweet spot between big and small. For me, I’ve discovered that watching a small little black and white movie and believing, for a time, in a big magical rabbit, is one meaningful way to do it. An excellent Meaning Monday endeavor.
How about you? How do you discern that sweet spot for yourself? Or, if that’s just too BIG a question to face on a Monday (or whatever day you’re reading this), why not simply tell us about one of your favorite old movies and why you love it.
WHY NOT START NOW?