Old Movies And Movie Stars

A Geezer’s Notebook, By Jim Foster

For no particular reason I started to think about Al Jolson and if he would have been accepted in this day and age. Now that I think about it, I probably thought about him after a torrential downpour and his April Showers came to mind. Jolson was one of the greatest entertainers of the 20th century. Could he make it today?  Of course, he certainly had the talent, the personality, and the audiences loved him. When he died in 1950, it was estimated 20,000 fans showed up for the funeral.

On the other hand his blackface numbers would never go over now and that should be no surprise to anyone. Although black musicians were some of his greatest fans at the time since he loved and sang their music. I wondered when I was writing this if his act was offensive to some people at the time he was a Broadway star. Jolson, himself, was not racist. There are many articles on line that confirm that.

I really don’t know but I wonder if Larry Parks wearing black make-up is the reason The Jolson Story and Jolson Sings Again are never shown on the movie channel.

Moving on, I don’t know about you, but I think it’s kind of fun watching some of the old movies, especially some film from way back before the talkies. Some of them were pretty corny by today’s standards, but maybe they weren’t when they first came out. Someday when I am no longer an active athletic wonder, I should take the time to study the transition of films from the old black and white movies to the lavish colour spectacles of today. It is hard, if not almost impossible, for viewers to decide what is really happening on the screen and what is computer animated special effects. I’m sure the term is long out of date but I can do without the mind-blowing stereophonic sound, although that is surely a factor in the staggering advances being made in the hearing aid business.

I know they still make 3D movies, but I can only remember seeing one. I thought they would have been so perfected by now the heroine would sit on your lap and watch the show with you and with a bit of luck even go home with you after the movie was over.

There are fewer and fewer of us still around who spent every Saturday afternoon in the old Oxford theatre on the Danforth rapt in awe as Johnny Weissmuller swung from vine to vine. If you will recall from your first childhood, not this one, your second, Tarzan was raised by apes which may account for his abominable table manners and his poor choice of undergarments. The most memorable thing I remember about the Tarzan films was his weight. In the earlier films he was quite athletic, Johnny was an Olympic swimmer, but over the years he began to put on a pound here or there until in his last outings he had bigger boobs than Jane (Maureen O’ Sullivan), which must have been quite unsettling for both of them. Plus he had a proclivity for stumbling into giant spider webs, and that couldn’t have been good when you were trying to plan supper.

I hate to be judgemental but what did Jane see in him anyway? I don’t think they were all that sexually active since in one movie they found their only son under a banyan tree or someplace. And while I think about it, surely they could have come up with a better name than Boy.

My favourite serial was The Phantom. Years later they made kind of a super hero out of him, dressed him in haute couture until he cut quite a stylish figure. But my Phantom was in the old black and white serials of the 40s. He was clad in what appeared to be someone’s long underwear with a hood on the top. Come to think of it his long-johns may have been the forerunner of the teenagers’ hoodies and jeans we see today. Although I don’t remember the ass of the Phantom’s pants hanging down by his knees.

Strange, I can’t remember what it was the Phantom actually did for a living, too long ago for my failing memory I guess. I do remember he fell into quicksand a lot, or was that Jungle Jim? It doesn’t matter, but he must have done something really heroic occasionally to keep us bozos coming back week after week. On the other hand for 25 cents a week which included the show, five cartoons, and a box of popcorn, we knew we weren’t going to be watching Shakespeare.

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