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We’ve Come A Long Way From “National Velvet”

(Photo by Keystone Features/Getty Images)

Yesterday, America lost one of it’s last living Hollywood legends.  Liz Taylor was an icon of the cinema, no doubt about it.  I’ve seen only a fraction of the films she made.  People my age (40 and under) are probably more familiar with her multiple marriages or her friendship with Michael Jackson (one of her last public appearances was at his funeral).  What you will hear in the coming weeks from her fans is ‘what has happened to movies since Elizabeth Taylor’s day’?  What indeed.  I’m kind of an anomaly of my generation I suppose.  Rap ‘music’ makes my skin crawl.  I’d rather watch re-runs of “Gunsmoke” or “The Virginian” than “Law and Order”.  John Wayne is my childhood hero.  Don’t get me wrong, I do enjoy some things of the contemporary world.  But I’ve always had a taste for ‘yesteryear’.  My fascination with the American West will likely never end.  Movie stars used to be larger than life.  People were awe-struck at the sight of them.  People still go nuts over them, I guess.  But it’s not what it used to be.  Part of it is the constant presence of them in our lives.  It’s not just movies or t.v. anymore.  YouTube, Hulu, Netflix, pay-per-view, BluRay, iTunes….the famous as well as the infamous are but a mouse click away, 24-7.   Most stars today, frankly, just make me mad as hell.  From Woody Harrelson to Charlie Sheen, it seems that there is little that any of them can say or do that puts them at odds with the industry.  But more and more I meet people who are just exhausted from all the crap on the big and little screen.  Doesn’t anyone have any class anymore?  Is there no shame left?  Not much.  My family  hasn’t taken in many movies lately.  We’ve left the theater too many times disappointed and $30 poorer.  And I’ve all but given up on television.  I kind of like “NCIS”.  Pretty good acting and writing in general.  But is it really necessary to show me a rotting corpse every week?  We sat through seven season’s of “Quincy, ME” and I don’t think I ever saw a single one.  There have been very few movies that I would take a child to in recent years.  Television has become more about senseless, stupid reality shows like “Jersey Shore” than anything that even resembles entertainment.  The most recent attempt at a western series I saw was “Deadwood”.  Very dark.  Good acting.  But, I watched one episode of it and they dropped the F-bomb seven times.  I was done.  It just ruined it all.  Don’t misunderstand.  I’m not a prude, but there some things that happen in private that just should not be on the screen, period.  Things are just too real.  It was their attempt at selling it to a ‘younger’ audience, I guess.  They failed with this cowboy.    What stars like Elizabeth Taylor brought to the screen was talent, grace and dignity.  Even if there personal lives were not so perfect, they gave you what you paid for: a brief escape from reality.    Today’s stars, producers, writers and directors could take a few lessons from the past.

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