Friday, July 15, 2011

Old Movie Stars

I had a small realization the other day that blew my mind.  The Sassy Librarian and I were watching one of our favorite movies, "On The Town", a 1949 Gene Kelly-Stanley Donen musical about three naive sailors given 24 hours shore leave in postwar New York City.  They don't have much time to see the sights (and find some girls) but they manage to do all of that and more, along with great songs and genuinely funny slapstick humor.   One of the sailors ("Chip") is played by Frank Sinatra, who in the course of the movie falls in love with a vivacious lady taxi driver ("Brunhilde Esterhazy") played by the late Betty Garrett.

It occurred to me that when I think of Betty Garrett, I don't think of her as the singing, dancing star of
 '40's and '50's musicals, or as the longtime wife of blacklisted actor Larry Parks;
instead I think of her from the 1970's sitcoms she acted in when I was a kid.  I don't think of "Hildy" from on the town, as much as I think of Laverne and Shirley's landlady Edna Babish.  This makes a certain amount of sense.  After all, they say that "first impressions are lasting impressions" and I was an avid viewer of tv and movies when I was young.  But I realize that people of, say, my parents' generation, would think of Betty Garrett as she was when she was young.

Honestly, my image of Frank Sinatra is similarly confused.  To me growing up, Sinatra was an old, bloated former star who had a suspect relationship with Nancy Reagan and made a noteworthy guest appearance on Magnum, P.I.  But, of course, when Ol' Blue Eyes guested on Magnum in 1987, it was the last of 61 acting credits he racked, up, not to mention being one of the most famous and iconic singers of the WWII era.  Clearly, my grandparents would think of Sinatra as he looked when THEY were young, not as he did at the end of his life.

So, now that I'm getting old, it makes me think about stars of my youth.  For instance, when I was growing up in the 1980's Madonna was a huge star.  She also came out with a new look in every video for her songs, and continually pushed the limits of decency and sexiness.

  When I think of Madonna, I automatically think of her from her mid-1980's heyday.  But Madonna has continued her career, to the point now where she has recorded in four different decades, along with writing books, acting and being a celebrity (especially in Britain, where they love to call her "Madge", to her lasting displeasure).  Do kids today think of her as she was, or as a muscle-bound old lady?  Or just as Lourdes' mom?

Thought provoking, no?  How's this?  What will the children of today's kids think of when they see this 21st century star?

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