All the answers to life’s riddles can be found in the movies. I approach movie theaters as if they were churches—places where truth, beauty and magic can all be found for the price of admission and a bit of suspended disbelief.
And thanks to DVDs, DVR and TCM, we can have that pseudo religious experience at home. The best movies get richer with age, and we interpret them differently based on where we are in our lives when we watch them. And by where we are, I mostly mean how old we are.
Bette Davis in All About Eve said, “I am not thirty-ish. Three months ago, I was forty years old. Forty. Four oh.” So I made a date with Margo Channing when I turned “four oh” so I could remind myself just how fabulous being forty could be. It worked.
Fast forward ten years to the next age milestone. This time around, I spent the day with my old friend Norma Desmond. When I first saw Sunset Boulevard at maybe 12 years old, she was a crazy old woman living like a Hollywood version of Miss Havisham in Great Expectations. But by the time I reached Norma’s age, I realized that she was a still stylish middle-aged woman who was simply misunderstood. And she had Joe Gillis (as played by a 32 year old William Holden) as her lover, and her house was fabulous.
Of course it does get a bit bad in the end—right about the time Joe tells Norma, “There’s nothing tragic about being 50, not unless you try to be 25.” Not the sort of thing you should say to a woman clutching a pistol.
Lord help us, but move forward another 10 years. What to do? Who to watch? Not Davis—she was already past playing Baby Jane and Charlotte, and those aren’t role models anyway. Not Gloria Swanson—she never had another hit after Norma. Joan Crawford in Strait-Jacket. No thank you. And, Vivien Leigh didn’t even live to 60.
Leave it to Katharine Hepburn to give us hope. She was filming Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner during the month she turned 60. Not bad. Her Christina Drayton is a still beautiful, progressive woman with a beautiful home in San Francisco and an art gallery. Her husband owns a newspaper and is, well, Spencer Tracy. And, she has the best bone structure in the business. I’ll take it.
But time flies, whether you’re having fun or not. And, if I make 10 more years, I’ll have another date with Miss Hepburn. Because at 70, it’s On Golden Pond, and that’s not so bad. Karl will have to watch, too, but it won’t be the first time. After all, On Golden Pond was the movie we went to see on our first date. Honey, you should have known what was coming.
Last week, we went to church, I mean, the movies to see Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri. It’s great—performances, the screenplay, everything. Thought provoking, funny, troubling, sometimes deeply disturbing. As we were leaving the theater, I asked Karl what he thought of it. “It was a really good movie.” That’s it. No analysis. I waxed on and on about Frances McDormand’s performance and how she and I are the same age. Maybe she, like Hepburn, will win her second Oscar at 60.
However, I will refrain from using the character of Mildred as any kind of role model, as I know that the one cocktail I should NEVER get near is a Molotov cocktail. And besides, I couldn’t do that to a bottle of Grey Goose.
When we got to the theater that day to buy our tickets, I realized that I now get the senior discount. (I hate that word.) And I was only slightly disappointed that the guy selling tickets didn’t say, “You? 60? No way.” I just took the three bucks and applied it to the cost of a large popcorn.
But you know the very best part of turning 60? I’m still here. Sing it, Shirley.