Where has Hollywood gone? Over the last fifty years something has drastically changed. Yes, the sign is still there on Mount Lee in the Hollywood Hills of the Santa Monica Mountains , there are men, women and children, even a few from the animal kingdom, who ply their trade before the camera; we think of them as actors and actresses. But how do they compare with their predecessors in the Golden Age of Hollywood and classical films; today’s stars of the silver screen have traveled a long way, but much of it down a path that has lead to the detriment of their profession.
In its earliest developments in the latter 19th early 20th centuries, commonly referred to as the narrative film period, to the Silent era 1913 to 1917, and from there on to what is known as the Classical Hollywood cinema of the Silent era 1917 to the late 1920s, to what many of us are familiar with today, the Classical Hollywood cinema of the Sound era 1920-1960; things have vastly changed both before and behind the camera.
The acting profession of today, with some exception, is what can best be described as a collective of liberal elites, pretentious, narcissistic, and culturally bankrupt, who in their public lives are prone to irrational and hostile outbursts of inane, sarcastic diatribe. They are devoid of objectivity, and do on many occasions’ express malicious criticisms and opinions on matters of social and political importance. Of course they have every right as citizens to say and do, within limits, whatever they feel is their want. But over the last several decades celebrities have morphed into something entirely distinct from those who came before them, speaking out in the vilest and most egregious manner, some even using inflammatory rhetoric toward conservatives, republicans, religion, anyone who does not agree with their corrupt world view.
The actors and actresses of today, in my humble opinion, seem less than their predecessors, who had a certain air of maturity and verve, were dignified, and many were masters of their art and the spoken word. Even more important most were unapologetically patriotic, selling war bonds, and some during the Second World War enlisted in the military to serve and defend their country. What you rarely, if ever heard, were any of these Americans undermining, insulting and demeaning their country or leaders. And there is no evidence that any among them ever threatened to renounce their citizenship because they did not agree with the outcome of a presidential election.
This is not to say that there are no actors or actresses today that are unworthy of praise, and who present a dignified and respectful persona in public. And also, that some of their predecessors did indeed behave in less than a civil manner and did on occasion flaunt society’s conventions. Many books have been written that tell stories of scandal and immoral behavior during the Golden Age of Hollywood, and of course back then there was no internet, and commercial television did not make its appearance until the 1950’s, so the lines of communication to the public involved the local newspapers and radio, and news briefs in movie theaters. But still there is a distinct difference between then and now, in the quality and substance of the men and women who performed on screen, and paved the way for the current crop that is today celebrity Hollywood.
So in tribute to some of the many greats, and as a reminder of what once was and who they were that gave us all many years of laughter, suspense, terror, and unexcelled dramatic performances ; John Wayne, James Cagney, Gary Cooper, Spencer Tracy, Bette Davis, Sir Lawrence Olivier, John Barrymore, Humphrey Bogart, Joan Crawford, Marlon Brando, Cary Grant, Marilyn Monroe, Audrey Hepburn, Orson Wells, Susan Hayward, Lee J Cobb, Kirk Douglas, Joan Fontaine, Errol Flynn, Henry Fonda, Glenn Ford, Judy Garland, Katherine Hepburn, Burt Lancaster, Charlton Heston, William Holden; are just a select few of the hundreds of multi-talented, versatile thespians of the silver screen.
Without the need of all the sex, violence, vulgar language and special effects of today, the performers of yesteryear were larger than life, and each in their own way were a commanding presence on the screen in movie theaters and in the eyes, hearts and minds of the American people. And there was also a time when the film industry had nothing but the highest regard and respect for religion, remember Going My Way, The Greatest Story Ever Told, The Ten Commandments, Barabbas, Bells of St. Mary, Ben- Hur, and many more. Luckily, technology has given us the means to continue to watch and listen to these greats actors and actresses perform.