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Screen Scene: Golden oldie films provide great escape

What goes around comes around. Busby Berkley and 1930s glam prospered from the public’s need to escape. The country had a serious financial hangover. Jobs were scarce and prospects were grim.

Sound familiar?

But escapism, like most everything else, just ain’t what it used to be. It’s feels harder to get away. Don’t like violence? Repelled by greed? Weary by Nihilism? You may have to re-think escaping to the movie theater.

But wait … Is that really fair? Have movies changed all that much?

Recently I watched, “The Damned Don’t Cry,” a 1950 rags to riches-to-rags story directed by Vincent Sherman and starring the radiant Joan Crawford. It has plenty of violence, greed and nihilistic defeatism. Yet arguably, it was still an escape from the horrors of 2012.

An over-wrought musical score, lighting crazed with foreboding innuendo, caffeinated directing: all contributed to a safe, comfortable place to pull the cinematic sheets over my head and make the world go away, at least for a while.

Besides, when was the last time you heard someone say, “I don’t care for orchids in the afternoon?” as did Joan Crawford when she spurned the flowers and advances of a mobster suitor.

Much like “Release the Kraken!” those are words that everyone should be able to utter at least once in their lives. And when did you last hear “mobster”? That’s such a refreshing break from thugs, ganstas, gangs and cartels.

But back to escapism: What is it that makes classic, older black-and-white films so … escapy?

Perhaps it’s the lack of blood and gore splatter if someone is shot.

Perhaps it’s the sexual stereotyping, unhealthy as butter and sugar but just as comforting to those struggling to keep up with the latest politically correct pronouncement.

Perhaps it’s the directness of the verbal dialog and blatant over-acted facial expressions.

Perhaps it’s the myth of simpler times.

And finally, why did the director choose to reflect three lights in everyone’s eyes but Joan Crawford? She generally sported a single light glistening in her wide, moist eyes.

Inquiring minds want to know, that is when those minds aren’t preoccupied with the need to escape. “The Damned Don’t Cry” is a blessed 103 minutes respite, and I dare you to think of Afghanistan, crooked bankers and bat crap crazy politicians once in that one hour and 43 minute getaway.

Kurt Niece writes about visual arts for SDGLN. He is a freelance journalist from Lakewood, Ohio. He is the author of "The Breath of Rapture" and an artist who sells his work on his website.