One-Man Show: Introduction

Posted by on Jan 2, 2012 in One-Man Show | 0 comments


“Ladies and gentlemen – that should
take care of most of you …”
Groucho Marx in A Night at the Opera

Whenever I turned to this chapter during the writing of this book, I couldn’t escape the memory of something Roger Ebert once wrote. “A child that refuses to watch a black and white movie is one that should be sent to bed without supper until they change their minds.” While his hyperbole is, I think, meant to be comic, I can’t help but agree wholeheartedly. I have encountered dozens of individuals who will refuse to watch a movie that a) has subtitles, b) is in black and white, or c) is silent. Those viewers are missing a hefty portion of the greatest cinema ever made. And why? Because of a color scheme or language barrier? Ridiculous.

A filmgoer that refuses to see any genre, type, or group of cinema will never gain the complete knowledge or gratification of the cinematic experience. I mean, I don’t particularly like a lot of “costume dramas,” but that doesn’t mean I’d turn down the chance to be wowed and refreshed by a great one that comes along (Atonement did just that). It should also be mentioned that any of the multiple choice statements above will make a viewer come off as ignorant and completely devoid of culture and taste. So don’t say them.

With these items in mind, I look to you, parents, as the purveyors of culture, wisdom, and entertainment for our future generations. There are several films in this chapter that are black and white, silent, or both. I’m not trying to push you to screen them for your children simply because they’re “classics.” That sounds like I’m peddling history lessons. I’m giving you a simple list of films that are sure to entertain your children as well as broaden their tastes (and just so happen to center on a comic male lead). Older kids may have some resistance, and that’s simply because of the media they have grown accustomed to. That’s why I recommend starting early and often.

An editor’s note for big-time film buffs and cineastes:

You will immediately notice one name absent from this list, many of which come from the time James Agee famously dubbed “comedy’s greatest era.” That is W.C. Fields. While Fields undoubtedly deserves to have his name alongside Chaplin, Keaton, Lloyd, Abbott & Costello, Martin & Lewis, and Hope & Crosby, he’s a character best appreciated by the twentysomething-and-above crowd. For those of you fitting in that demographic, I highly recommend the full-length features The Bank Dick, You’re Telling Me, and It’s a Gift, and, even more importantly, his phenomenal comedic shorts, all of which feature the booze and golf enthusiast who openly despises women and children at his very finest.

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