Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Christmas Gifts

Christmas 2011 is almost here.  I was thinking about the many gifts we have that keep us happily entertained all year long.  Here are some of the things I am thankful for having.

First, for my loving wife who is enjoying classic movies with me.  She has learned a lot about these old films, and guess what, she really likes them!  She has found favorites in Bette Davis, Fred and Ginger, Busby Berkeley, William Powell and many others, and is fast becoming a Barbara Stanwyck fan.  She even likes old Sherlock Holmes films.  More than once she has come home from Costco with a collection of classic movies on DVD, and she is currently reading the biography of Siegmund Lubin.

Turner Classic Movies.  One of the best gifts we have is TCM.  And not just for the wonderful, seemingly never ending, list of movies they broadcast.  Yesterday morning, as a filler between movies on TCM they showed the faces of all the actors and actresses who passed away during 2011.  It was a true tribute to them all.  And not just the big stars like Elizabeth Taylor, James Arness, Peter Falk, Jackie Cooper and Harry Morgan, but ten names of lesser known people for every name you know.

TCM also shows some wonderful one and two reelers as fillers.  Old newsreels, travelogues and comedy shorts added between films make you feel like you are back in the old days at the theater.  I just saw a clip of Mario Lanza from The Great Caruso (1951) singing Ave Maria.  It was obviously shown in theaters as a holiday treat between shorts and feature films back in the day.

TCM has also given us Robert Osborne, one of the most knowledgeable movie historians on TV.  I know that TCM has a research department second to none and they give Mr. Osborne much of his material, but he will probably forget more about classic films than I will ever know.  He interviews stars, and hosts films in the Hollywood Essentials series with various stars who add their own insight.  Every film intro includes something I don't know, and that only enhances the experience.

The IMDb and TCM web sites are two valuable resources for any film buff.  How can these things be free?!?  They have more information than you could ever want, and I find myself absorbed in them almost every day.  A wonderful gift to us all, if you ask me.

One of my favorite things is the Encore Western channel.  Almost every night I can see "Have Gun, Will Travel" and "Gunsmoke" plus some great movies.  They will be showing Apache (1954) starring Burt Lancaster tonight.  What a great way to watch good TV without having to think too much.

While I am talking about TV, let's not forget FiOS.  We switched from old metal cable to a fibre optic system as soon as it was available in our area.  What better way to send great old movies, than to speed them on as light.  The quality is very good, the DVR is a great invention, and it is so versatile to use.  If I see that a movie is going to be on, I can set up the DVR to record it from any computer on the Internet.

Movie Blogs are also on my grateful list.  I started blogging almost two years ago because there wasn't much being written about Bit Actors.  It seems to be catching on, and hits on my blog are gradually increasing every month.  I have also met some wonderful friends here, though not in the flesh.  Bloggers are located all over the world, so it doesn't matter much where you are, we can be friends.  And groups like the Classic Movie Blog Association keep us together.

I am going to replace my old desktop computer in January, so that should give me more flexibility to capture content, and have pictures and maybe film clips available.  Who knows, maybe an HDTV and Blu-ray are in my future.

I am hoping for the new Laurel & Hardy: The Essential Collection DVD set and a bottle of good Scotch for Christmas.  Simple pleasures for a simple mind.  And if I don't get a chance later, I hope your holiday season is as happy as it can be, and it is filled with classic films.