« Full Circle | Main | Gone? Gone Where? »

A Shout From The Attic: Taught By The Flicks

...Westerns let us ride full gallop to wild places with wild people, and the man in the white hat always got the girl, unless he was black-hatted Hopalong Cassidy. Comedies eased my alienation, making me feel good until the feeling wore off somewhere on the way home.,,

Ronnie Bray recalls the influence of Holywood on his early life.

To read more slices of Ronnie's life story please click on A Shout From The Attic in the menu on this page.

The cinemas were showing many films intended either to remind us of the war, the part played by our brave lads, their loyal allies, and the evil nature of our brutal enemies. But there were other films which were meant to transport us from the terrors and anxieties of war, into a world of plenty, fantasy and spectacle. Westerns let us ride full gallop to wild places with wild people, and the man in the white hat always got the girl, unless he was black-hatted Hopalong Cassidy. Comedies eased my alienation, making me feel good until the feeling wore off somewhere on the way home. For the most part, the films they did their jobs well.

It was from the movies that I learned about America, its inhabitants, and its institutions. While I have learned that exaggeration is an essential part of the movie maker’s art, I believe that at least they represented the aspirations of most Americans. I like America in spite of its mistakes and the ignorant foolishness of some of its people. I have never understood what we used to call the colour bar, or racism. All arguments against outsider groups are monotonous, repetitive, and lacking scientific or common sense foundations. Ignorance and fear lie at the heart of prejudice and sinister manipulators overplay their accompanying anxieties. I find all forms of prejudice nauseating.

American films portrayed Native-Americans, Mexicans, Africans, sub-continentals, and Afro-Americans as simple-minded buffoons. Native Americans or ‘Indians’ were untrustworthy, bloodthirsty, and cruel. Irish-Americans came out a little better, usually portrayed as Catholic priests, policemen, corrupt politicians, or simple-minded buffoons. Chinese, except for Charlie Chan, were half shadows, scurrying, pusillanimous simple minded buffoons. Only the ‘All-American’ hero had thunder in his guts and fire in his belly. The American hero was a mixture of devout, invariably Protestant Christian, ethically driven mountain-man, world-class athlete, and all round good guy who smoked like a mill chimney.

Women according to Hollywood were of two types: angels and devils. Angels waited patiently while their menfolk did whatever needed doing without worrying their “pretty little heads about it”, and the devils got involved with the wrong man, fell in love with the hero and died altruistic deaths to save her love rival and prevent any sort of mess being left after the dénouement. This kind of imaging distorted perception in a young lad whose contact with women was generally unsatisfactory, since they were always in positions of authority, but never in sympathy

There was a greyness about the war that overlaid many aspects of life. Its symbols were everywhere: constant reminders that the nation was in danger. Toy aeroplanes, ships, and military vehicles were normal playthings. The language of war - as we understood it from film and fiction - was the common language of childhood, and yet it all seemed so far away, as if it was happening to another people in another place and in another time. It was at once close and distant.


Categories

Creative Commons License
This website is licensed under a Creative Commons License.