A few weeks ago I checked out Ty Burr’s new film guide, The Best Old Movies for Families. Burr, a film critic for the Boston Globe, is clearly a man after my own heart: this book is all about getting kids to enjoy films from the early ’60s and before. I LOVE the vintage-y vintage, and our Netflix queue is now clogged up with things like Bringing Up Baby and Easter Parade and The Adventures of Robin Hood.
So far, we’ve had great success with Singin’ in the Rain. It took us a couple of days to watch it, and at first the kids were kind of puzzled by the whole thing, but by the time we got to the “Broadway Melody” sequence at the end, Jeffrey and Eleanor were dancing around the room, trying to imitate Gene Kelly and Cyd Cherisse step-by-step. (Really — Eleanor wouldn’t just wiggle her hips to the music, but she would earnestly attempt to mimic the style of dance she was seeing, whether it was tap, ballet, or jazzy-jazz-hands-ness.) When Kelly picks up Cherisse and spins her around, Jeffrey tried to do the same with Eleanor. Unfortunately, he kept grabbing her around the neck and shoulders, so it didn’t quite work out.
Eleanor also really liked the “Beautiful Girl” song, where different models show of fashions of the ’20s. She’d pose in front of the television, her blankie artfully draped around her body in imitation of flapper chic. Fabulous.
Meet Me in St. Louis has gotten mixed results — the kids were scared of the Halloween sequence, although they love the “Bamboo Tree” song, and Eleanor has been holding a cup up to her ear in imitation of the 1903-style telephone sequence. As for Laurel & Hardy’s The Music Box, Jeffrey thought it was hee-lar-i-ous, but Eleanor didn’t get it. I just love the pompous professor, a classic comedy stock character if ever there was one.
The only fly in the ointment so far is that Netflix doesn’t carry any Busby Berkeley films.
I know! There was a big box set that came out last year, for pete’s sake. It’s exactly the kind of thing that Netflix was MADE for. So, we have to content ourselves with watching the dance routines on YouTube.
We all love “By a Waterfall” from Footlight Parade. Brian and I dropped our jaws to the floor the first time we watched it.
But the kids’ favorite has to be the Carmen Miranda “Lady in the Tutti-Frutti Hat” from The Gang’s All Here. And can you blame them? Anything that involves a banana xylophone has GOT to be good.
Yesterday Jeffrey had to have major dental work done — cavities filled, and two crowns on his molars.* He had to go under general anesthetic to get the work done, and he was majorly woozy and exhausted afterwards. On the way home, we told Jeffrey he could pick out any movie he wanted to watch that afternoon. Sleepily, Jeffrey wobbled his head up from the collar of his puffy winter coat.
“I want Singin’ in the Rain, Mommy,” he said softly. The boy couldn’t have made me happier.
*Yes, YES, we DO brush his teeth. Assiduously. And we said good-bye to juice a long time ago. Jeffrey has simply inherited the soft teeth gene from his dad. Let me just state for the record that Jeffrey was amazingly well-behaved for the procedure and didn’t fuss or cry a bit, even though he wasn’t allowed any breakfast that morning.