Monday, October 17, 2016

What Have We Not Learned from the Movies??

Speakeasy and Silver Screenings are hosting the What I Learned from the Movies blogathon, a grand event that gives us film fans a chance to gush about why movies are more to us than simple escapist fare. For my sister and me, classic films have taught us so much that, frankly, it would be easier to list what we have not learned from the movies!  They are apart of our education and, therefore, apart of our lives. Our father even used movies to teach us lessons in history/art/science during the years that we were homeschooled. 

If you are a skeptic about what films can truly teach you, then read on, read on, and question yourself as to whether our experiences are not your very own.


Films have exposed us to the customs, styles, and interests of many generations, and through this exposure have made us realize that we no longer belong only to our own generation, but to every era of the past. If an 80-year old woman were to talk with us about her life as a secretary in the mid-1950's, we would relate to everything she would say because the work environment, the people, the fashions, the slang, the news, and the music of the times is all familiar to us. We grew up in the mid-1950's, too! And in the 1940's, 1930's, 1920's, and 1960's...... vicariously through the movies of course, but we are much more acquainted with the era than anyone who learns about the past merely from history books. These are our generations and they belong to us just as much as anyone born in those times. That's one of the most important things movies have imparted to us. We pity anyone who lives only within the confines of their own generation. 


Movies have forged into us the meaning of being an American, and the pride we have in our nation's journey to the present day. Foreign-born directors such as Frank Capra, Billy Wilder, Cecil B. DeMille, and Michael Curtiz, all arrived in America as young men and embraced the freedom they could enjoy as directors and, more importantly, as citizens. They loved America dearly and passed onto their audience, us, what it is about our country that makes it so wonderful. 

Films such as Shane, Stagecoach, Annie Get Your Gun, The Big Trail, Paleface, Can't Help Singing, and How the West Was Won have instilled in us an appreciation for our West, that vast untamed land that will forever be America's pride and glory. We're mighty proud of the West and everything associated with it, from chuck wagons, prairie lands, cattle herds, stampeding buffalo, and Monument Valley, to Native Americans, gold mines, Gabby Hayes, and silver-spurred cowboys. 


Movies have also taught us to expand our mind, to never get comfortable with our own beliefs and always be willing to see something from another angle. George Stevens filmed each scene in his movies from various angles so that he could later select the very best shot for the final cut. We should do the same with our views in life. Whether it's about living unconventionally ( You Can't Take it With You ), being open to change ( The Late George Apley ), finding gladness in every day circumstances ( Pollyanna ), having religious tolerance ( Gentleman's Agreement ), pursuing education at home (The Corn is Green ), or sharing yourself with others ( Goodbye Mr. Chips ), movies have a wise lesson to teach us. 


The characters of the characters we see in the movies are so wide and varied, they represent a sample of all humankind. By examining these characters, we can learn lessons in human nature that can help us grow into better people. Charlie Chan teaches us lessons in humility and not judging others, Dr. Lao ( Seven Faces of Dr. Lao ) teaches us that every day is a miracle filled with magical moments, Miss Madrigal ( Deborah Kerr in The Chalk Garden ) teaches us the allure of having a little mystery in our lives, Gladys Cooper ( in Separate Tables and Now Voyager ) warns us of the danger of being an overpowering character,  Professor Emelius Brown teaches us to do things in life with a flair, and Mrs. Miniver ( Mrs. Miniver ) taught us the beauty of graciousness. 

More importantly, we've learned what not to do in life from the movies : 


The live-action films of Walt Disney Productions constantly remind us that very few situations in life are worth worrying about. How could our worries possibly compare to finding yourself invisible ( Now You See Him, Now You Don't ), being turned into a dog ( The Shaggy Dog ), and finding your home attacked by pirates ( Swiss Family Robinson )? 
In In Search of the Castaways, our protagonists find themselves up a gigantic oak tree in the middle of a flood with a hungry leopard as a tree companion, and what do they do? Maurice Chevalier breaks into song : "Why cry about bad weather, Enjoy it! Each moment is a treasure, Enjoy it! We're travelers on life's highway, enjoy the trip...each lovely twist and byway, each bump and dip"

Comedians such as Danny Kaye and Bob Hope, too, are always teaching us that ghosts, zombies, international spies, and wanted criminals can never get a good man least, no further than six feet under. 


Lastly, movies are the golden key that open to us a treasure chest of riches to enjoy. How many times has a simple line, a little song played in the background, or the mention of a unfamiliar name, sent us to explore its meaning and, in the process, unearthed new interests.
The music of The Time Machine led to a passion for British light music. The Margaret Rutherford Miss Marple movies lead to a lifelong love of Agatha Christie, her books, plays, and other films. Our love for The Enchanted Cottage led to our discovery of Lux Radio Theater and made us explore all the other episodes in that series ( over 900! ) as well as other radio theater performances. 

The films of Nelson Eddy and Jeanette MacDonald led to a love of operetta and the music of Rudolf Friml and Victor Hubert. Stage Door Canteen introduced us to Gracie Fields which led to watching her films and discovering a slew of great British music hall performers. 

Kate Callender puttering around in her 1906 DeDion Bouton in First Men in the Moon led to an interest in pre-1920 automobiles. The title credits to The Happiest Millionaire made us explore the art of Alan Maley and, in turn, introduced us to numerous other artists of the 1960's. Theses are just a few examples of how movies instigated other interests. 

Have you felt the same way about movies? Leave a comment below and tell us if any of these topics struck a chord with you. Also, be sure to check out all of the great entries in the What I Learned from the Movies blogathon! 


  1. I love this! I think it is my favourite piece in the blogathon. You spoke to me and the effect movies have had on my life.

    1. Thanks CW! That's quite a compliment, and we appreciate it. We're very glad that you enjoyed our post. :-)

  2. Good question! What have we not learned from the movies? You pointed out so many things that we (I) take away from movies. I especially loved your analogy of "The Golden Key" that opens so many treasures. When I watch old movies, I'm often doing online searches about the political climate or technology or fashion back in the day. I find I'm always learning with these kinds of films.

    So glad you joined the blogathon with this thoughtful look at classic film! :)

    1. We're so glad that you hosted it. What a clever idea! Thought-provoking blogathons are always our favorite.

  3. What a lovely, insightful post! I never thought about classic films in this way, but your points are so spot-on. Disney taught me about Tchaikovsky; I learned about Edith Piaf from Audrey Hepburn singing "La Vie en Rose" in Sabrina; I appreciate a number of books and plays because I saw their film versions -- I could go on.

    Part of the reason why I want to share my passion for the classics is because I want to show people this incredibly rich part of our history. There are so many amazing things from our past that people don't know about, and in my opinion, they should. :)

    1. Ha! We learned about Edith Piaf from Sabrina too, and so many, many other performers as well. We're just starting to pick up on vaudevillians too and all their film appearances. One thing leads to another....You're quite right about not enough people knowing about the amazing things from our past.

  4. I wish I could have lived in the 50's. Growing up post WWII. I'd miss having access to the internet the way I do today, but the times were much more suited to my personality. Good post.

    1. Yes, perhaps the times are not as good today but the films that we are watching are so much sharper and vibrant than they were when they were initially released in the theaters. I would miss that. With every era, somethings get a little better and other things get a little worse.

  5. Thanks so much for this post, you hit such a variety of lessons from fun to serious-- so true about learning history and culture from the past. Thanks!