12 November 2006

Fading Stars

Most of the time, old age seems very far away. My connections with children and grandchildren plus an excellent memory of the past, keep me feeling young current on new movies, recent music, personalities, and bulletins in the news. Then something happens that brings me up short.

Two of these events happened this week one silly and the other serious: First there is a current, amusing commercial running with people talking about things that they knew about as a child that no longer exist, and second Jack Palance passed away of venerable old age.

I was almost the age of the child star Brandon de Wilde when Shane debuted. As such the heroism of Ladd and the villany of Palance made an impression. To this day the cry "Shane Come Back" immediately brings back the images. De Wilde died at only 30 in a car crash and Palance at 87 just a few days ago, making him the last of the cast to pass away.

All except one of the movies that appeared the year I was born were in small screen black and white. By the time Shane was released in 1952, virtually every motion picture was in Technicolor, Cinemascope, and Stereophonic sound. It was almost as dramatic a change in motion pictures as the move from silent to sound. Cole Porter even wrote a song about it for Silk Stockings.

The customers don't like to see
The groom embrace the bride
Unless her lips are scarlet
And her bosom's five feet wide

Jack Palance will be sorely missed by those of us from my era even though he lived long enough to be well known by a new generation. Virtually all of the stars of that age are gone now, though Esther Williams and Cyd Charisse are still hanging in there, and I will probably measure by own mortality by Liz Taylor's health.

Now as to that commercial, just a few of the things of my childhood that either no longer exist or have faded from daily use: Washing machines with wringers; unhomogenized milk delivered to the door; toasters shaped like a tent; and party line telephones.

So goodbye Jack. You had a good long run and now you will be missed, particularly by all of us leading edge Boomers running only a generation behind.


AlanBoss said...

Not being one for cowboy movies myself, I didn’t discover Jack Palance until sometime in the mid-seventies when he took a departure from his usual oeuvre and played the title role in a television version of “Dracula.” I have been a fan ever since. Even watching many of those westerns. And though I had heard that he was not well, his death did come as a bit of a shock. It seems like he was doing one armed push-ups just yesterday.

I have commented, on occasion, that I know that I have crossed some sort of age line when my idols no longer die of drug overdoses and car crashes and start dying of natural causes.

I was thinking about that just last weekend when I saw “The Who” in concert at the Hollywood Bowl. “Hope I die before I get old....” Keith Moon, he went as so many rock stars did in the seventies. John Entwistle’s hard living caught up with him a couple of years ago. And then there is Roger Daltry and Pete Townsend. They solved the problem. They just aren’t getting old. Sure, Pete looked old to this teenager’s eyes back in 1976 but today, he hasn’t aged a bit. And just watching his hands fly over the guitar strings made me dizzy. And Roger, at 63, can still let out that soul rending scream during “Won’t Get Fooled Again.” And we should all look half as good as he does! (As my wife put it, “How old is he? He’s hot!”)

Speaking of things that you just don’t see much of anymore. Records. You know, big, black and vinyl. And rotary telephones.

Jamie said...

Vinyl records. How about the 78s? When I was 12 they were just starting to transition from 78s to 45s in the juke boxes. Much to my current dismay, I learned they broke by sitting on a 78 of Elvis Presley's recording of Heartbreak Hotel. (groannnnnnnnnnn)

The passing of those dialing phones and ring down party lines put thousands of women out of work. As late as 1964, every town had a phone company office that employed over 200 women as operators.

9/11 survivor (sort of) said...


Whenever I think of Shane, I now think of Alan Ladd... Jr. Not his Ladd Company but his role in A Dog of Flanders which is a small masterpiece: it relieves the original of its uber-Dickensian sentimentality along with how its mouth starts to purse in sanctimony around the third page.

Terrific film from a great producer who went on to make very good films small and large (the large ones with the great and humane Martin Ritt -- Sounder and Cross Creek).

AlanBoss said...

By the time I was buying records, the 78 had been pretty well phased out. My record player had a 78 setting, but it’s only purpose was to make my 45s sound funny. What were those pre-vinyl records made out of anyway? They were as thick as a pancake and weighed a ton. And, as you discovered, they were fragile. I inherited a crate of 78s from a spinster great-aunt about twenty years ago. Among the stacks of obscure and off the wall (an actual record collector’s term, incidentally) were a couple of gems including The Chordettes’ “Mr. Sandman” and Pat Boone sucking the life out of “Tutti Frutti.”

As for telephones, my rural living in-laws were on on a party line until the early 1980s. And remember when phone number’s prefixes were names. Growing up, my phone number began with “WEBSTER.”

A cute story about the modernization of phones.... About fifteen years ago, my wife the school teacher sent a student that wasn’t feeling well to the school nurse. The nurse told the child to call her mother to come get her. Nearly an hour later, my wife found the child standing in front of the telephone. looking at the rotary dial, near tears. When my wife asked what the matter was, the child answered, “I don’t know how to dial this phone!”

BTW Jamie, you know that I asked what pre-vinyl records were made of just to see if you could resist the temptation to search for the answer. Fight the urge! I know you can do it! >:-)

Jamie said...

I didn't go find out what they were made of, but I did find a place for you to buy, sell, repair, and care for the ones you have.

78 Records