Marlon Who?
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Standing in the checkout line at the market last week, my eyes were immediately drawn to the clerk’s nametag. The word "Marlon" was printed in bold white letters. As he bagged my groceries, I promptly asked, "Were you named after Marlon Brando?"

The young man, plastered with tattoos up and down his arms, looked at me in bewilderment. "I think I’ve heard of him," he responded.

I was stunned. Doesn’t everyone know Marlon Brando, one of the most legendary actors of all time? However, I must admit that upon hearing the name Brando, my mind immediately focuses on the aging Don Vito Corleone in the 1972 drama, The Godfather, as opposed to the sexy heartthrob of the 1950’s. How quickly I forgot his image engulfing the screen in Streetcar Named Desire (1951) and On the Waterfront (1954).

  
 
I remember as a child watching Barbara Stanwyck as a television actress, portraying the matriarch in the long-running western, The Big Valley. I was shocked to see her as a femme fatale and cold-blooded accomplice to murder in Billy Wilder’s Double Indemnity (1944). Her co-star, Fred MacMurray, who was a debonair leading actor for several decades is most remembered by a later generation as the gentle, understanding single dad in the 1960’s television series, My Three Sons.

Are the movies and actors of the 1940’s, ‘50’s and ‘60’s doomed to be forgotten? Maybe they should be. I mean do the films represent an unrealistic, naïve way of looking at life? Can the suspense and thrillers of the 1940’s, and those even up to the 1980’s compare with movies of today? I can only answer that Janet Leigh’s chilling scream in Alfred Hitchcock’s 1960 classic Psycho still haunts me, as does the memory of her hands clenching the shower curtain in despair. How about when our hearts pounced as a crazed Jack Nicholson startled us with "Heeere’s Johnny" in Stanley Kubrick’s The Shining (1980)?

Classic movies remind us of a past—sometimes ours, sometimes that of our parents. Does exploring the country with Wyatt and Billy in the 1969 classic Easy Rider give you a glimpse of the days that your father keeps bantering about? Even if we don’t look at these movies in a stand-alone context, it’s still intriguing to view them in the framework of their own time. How did WWII affect the great Film Noir of the mid-1940’s and 1950’s? Why were so many movies centered on alienation, obsession, or even paranoia, exhibiting the dark side of human nature?

Welcome to Rick’s Place. Each month I will feature three classics based on a central theme. Of course they will not be all-inclusive, as there are so many notable films to choose from. Your thoughts and comments will always be welcome at jacqueline@nightsandweekends.com.

(By the way, for those of you who are scratching your heads and wondering, "Who’s Rick?" just microwave some popcorn, plop yourself on a cozy couch and watch Casablanca, one of my all-time favorites. Then let me know how you enjoyed it.)

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