It’s dark outside, a bowl of popcorn is in hand, and a comfortable couch is calling your name at the end of a long week. But if young children are part of the night’s movie-watching audience, and should you happen to want to expand their (and your?) knowledge of film, I have a few titles that I can recommend! All are available via hoopla, all are light-hearted, and all are sure to provoke some good-natured questions from everyone:
Why’s it black-and-white? Where’s the color?
This feels like a play, not a movie. Why?
This looks like a different country. Which one?
Were all the actors back then from New York City? (To which I answer “See, some of your relatives’ accents don’t sound so strange now, do they?”)
Sure, sometimes a pep-talk is needed beforehand to properly set the kids’ expectations: this movie is going to look AND feel different. But that’s okay – it’s all part of the experience. Introducing your children to classics is essentially the same in spirit as if discussing books, music or sports; it spurs conversation about history, culture and art. You can connect the dots between who and what (stories, characters, actors…) came before and who and what your children know now. The possibilities to compare and contrast the past and present are nearly limitless… and why not use movies as another vehicle to do just that?
So, sit back, relax and enjoy these classics… and the 20-questions discussion that is sure to ensue!
My Man Godfrey, 1936 Watch Carole Lombard in the role as a fast-talking, wealthy and zany socialite who tries to befriend and help a local tramp by offering him (William Powell, playing against-type) a job as the family butler. This early screwball comedy features crisp dialogue, witty one-liners and a social satire befitting the time: The Great Depression.
The Little Princess, 1939
Based on the classic book by Frances Hodgson Burnett, The Little Princess stars Shirley Temple in the imperial role. In this riches-to-rags story, Sara Crewe is sent to stay at a private school for girls while her father is away at war. When he is declared missing-in-action, Sara’s life at the school takes a turn for the turbulent. The princess finds that life as a servant is very disagreeable. She is determined to prove her father is alive and does so while keeping a stiff upper lip and warming the hearts of those around her.
His Girl Friday, 1940 Hildy, played by Rosalind Russell, is an ace reporter torn between journalism and housewifery. She feels she needs to divorce her editor boss (played by Cary Grant) and move on to a life at home, because as history tells us, it was not possible to do both in 1940. Her editor/ex will have none of it. Driven by jealousy, respect for Hildy’s journalism skills and of course true love, Walter uses all of his tricks, including putting her on the trail of a big story to keep her from running off to marry the boring guy who has the unfortunate situation of following Cary Grant.
Ball of Fire, 1942
A take on the classic tale, ‘Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs’, this flick features a group of socially-awkward-yet-brilliant scholars (led by Gary Cooper with a great ensemble of supporting character actors) and their befriending and protection of a nightclub singer (Barbara Stanwyck) hiding from the law. Enjoy the early ‘40s-era big band soundtrack and goofy situational pairings between a staid, stoic Cooper and a flashy, hep-cat Stanwyck.
The Red Balloon, 1956 Directed by Albert Lamorisse, this critically acclaimed short film explores the whimsical but powerful relationship between a boy and his balloon… which happens to have a mind of its own.
Yours, Mine, and Ours, 1968 Henry Fonda as a widowed naval officer with ten children marries a widowed nurse, Lucille Ball, who happens to have eight children of her own. Confusion, stress and hilarity ensue as they form a unique, unconventional and enormous family.