International Writers Magazine: The World Through Cinema's
lessons in Cinema
1961 a West End stage production directed and acted by the late
Anthony Newly was based on a poignant phrase, written as graffiti
by an unknown author on a forgotten wall. It is still resonant today.
It read: Stop the world, I want to get off! The
story line was simple enough. A circus performer, who marries the
boss daughter is disillusioned with his existence and begins
to sleep around only to find in latter life that he
wasnt so badly off after all.
A sort of moral that lives in most of us when we think that we are in
bad shape and want to stop the world and get off and then
find, under reflection that were still alive and kicking and thats
what really matters.
The world today is in a bloody mess! No doubt about. But if we take stock
of the situation what do we find? Theres nothing much we can really
do about it. Can I stop the Iraqis from killing themselves? Can I put
back the clock 100 years and stop the mass production of gas guzzling
motorcars and other oil producing planet killers? I cant.
But neither can the vast majority of humanity regardless of where they
are in this world. In fact if you go back to the movies industry, Hollywood
and all the other great sectors of the industry have been advising us
for years on the frailty of mankind and the injury he is inflicting not
only upon himself but on the rest of the life on the planet. They also
point out the good side and how most of the worlds population is
simple and the citizens just want to get on with their lives the best
I spent hours brooding over this, not because I wanted to stop the
world and get off but because I love the movies, especially the
old ones and thanks to all the reproduction systems invented up to and
including the CVD we now have on record the history of mankind as seen
through the screen dreamers.
Enter Internet to back up my thesis!
Thanks in particular to two websites, I can navigate and dive into the
depths of the movie industry and not only research to the nth degree but
catalogue and synthesize the meaning of each script and the hidden messages
in them that tell me what has been happening on Earth over the last century
and a half and why we are in the mess we are. Wikipedia to start with
followed by IMDB, or as per the initials, Internet Movie Database.
The first for basic information and the second as the inexhaustible encyclopaedia
on the cinema. www.Imdb.com
contains practically every film ever made. It does not only list the cast
as well as the production team but gives a sort of synopsis of the theme,
the biography of all persons involved, and a rating according to the viewers
of the webpage. Fantastic! The page also selects, according to the comments
of the web visitors, the top ten movies ever made. Before
I continue, it is worth bearing in mind that this type of assessment is
also carried out by Time Magazine, Movieline Magazine and the American
Film Institute to name but a few. As if you didnt know! Well, taking
a cross check of these assessments, a sort of common denominator, most
of those selected in the top ranking are more than 30 years old! Some
even date back to the silent days. In fact, there are very few that are
recent, meaning within the last decade.
There are epics like Lawrence of Arabia or Gone with
the Wind that deal with contemporary history; politics, example
All the Kings men and even musical comedies like Singing
in the Rain that relate to the evolution of the movie industry itself.
Each in its own way, as my late father used say, has a moral to
the story. I have listed my own preference because I consider that
the hidden meaning in each can sum up what is lacking in todays
world and ironically was predicted much earlier in the movies that I have
These are in my opinion the greatest ever (not listed in ranking order):
a. Casablanca (1942) Humphrey Bogart, Ingrid
b. High Noon (1953) Garry Cooper, Grace Kelly.
c. The Glen Miller Story (1953) James Stewart, June Allyson.
d. To Kill a Mockingbird (1966) Gregory Peck.
e. Dances with Wolves (1989) Kevin Costner.
f. Schindlers List (1992) Liam Neeson.
g. Gigi (1958) Leslie Caron, Louis Jordan.
h. Educating Rita (1982) Michael Cane, Julie Walters.
i. Water (1985) Michael Caine and Co.
j. Roman Holiday (1953) Gregory Peck, Audrey Hepburn.
There you have my selection with the following morality built in:
a. Most of the worlds movie lovers know the story off by heart.
Refugees running from Nazi Europe with a love story to spice the film.
My moral interpretation is that of a freedom fighter and a hard core businessman
joining ranks to fight against despotism. This no longer happens.
b. A good sheriff does away with a bad gang of cowboys. Great, we can
all see that. But the real message is that the rest of the good guys dont
help him. Isnt a great deal of this going on today?
c. Here we have the story of an Icon. Although Glen was a hit in the thirties
he died at the top of his career during WWII. This movie proves how Icons
live on. Dont Evita Peron, Diana Princess of Wales, Elvis Presley,
Marilyn Monroe, Che Guevarra and many others ring a bell? Die early and
you live for ever.
d. Racial hatred and bias is the background to this one. What I see is
a very lonely widowed lawyer with two kids on his hands that leads a lonely
life until a race related trial brings him back to life. Are single parents
like that today? Im glad am still married to the one and only partner
of my life.
e. Set during the American Civil War, a cavalry officer is sent out to
the Wild West to claim a Yankee outpost. Joins sides with the Indians
and is ostracised by his own army. Moral that I observed? The beginning
of the destruction of natural resources! The Indians respected nature
in their survival habits until the Cavalry turns up. Lieutenant Dunbar
realised it. We see the rise of consumer opulence and the subsequent destruction
of wild life. The scene where a dumb soldier wipes his bum with a sheet
from Dunbars diary is, in my opinion, the climax of the film.
f. We all remember Oskar Schindler. The non Jewish Nazi who saved a group
of Jews from the Holocaust. My simple verdict is the observation of the
indifference of the mighty (the Nazis) to the fight for survival
of a sector of outcast and sometime opulent humans caught in the onslaught
of horror by their fellow humans. How many millions of humans today are
going through the same horror? Darfur, Somalia, Zimbabwe, Iraq, and all
that mixed bag of Africans reaching out for Europe! Thats what I
saw in this film.
g. Ah! Male chauvinism at its best! France at the turn of the XIX century
was full of them. But that is not my main feeling about this one. Its
Maurice Chevalier when sings, Im so glad, Im not young,
anymore! How true to form this must be today in the minds of many
elderly people. Im included.
h. This is a straightforward not-so-young human, seeking a renewed lifestyle.
Mature student mixes with teenagers in a modern university. I know; Ive
done it! Good heavens! Dont we see this everywhere today? Most people
are wishing to change their existence. How about the story behind the
title of this essay?
i. Now; this brings me to my retired honorary role as a British Honorary
Consul. Set in the Caribbean on a fictitious island, a forgotten British
Governor, on a forgotten British colonial possession, suddenly strikes
richness and is instantly in the limelight of her Majestys Government
back in Westminster. This film simply shows that greed is in all of us
including the British Government. Nobody cared about the islanders until
they struck rich. Todays world, right?
j. Finally we come to this delightful romantic comedy that launched the
career of the unforgettable Audrey Hepburn. Sure, its all about
a very prominent person in the high echelons of society, non other than
a European princess that decides to take a romp on the town. As usual,
there is love in the air. My final sneaky insight? The press! This movie
showed me, rightly or wrongly that there was still an element of ethics
and morality in the media of the day. This princess is seduced (not literally)
by a journalist who is only out to scoop a story. In the end he does not,
and throws $5000 (a fortune in the fifties) worth of story into the Rome
Take a look a todays press and what do you see. Indescribable filth!
Every bastard sector of the media is out to make a fast buck whether they
destroy lives, institutions, countries; it doesnt matter a hoot!
So there you have it; my views of the world, as deviously seen through
the interpretation of many old movies. I have hundreds of others that
could be used for analysis of other sectors of todays society.
Most are in their mid fifties, slightly younger that I am!
© James G. Skinner. November 2007
James is our Spanish correspondent
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