Guest Post by Jeanine Lebsack
Lately I have been doing a lot of reminiscing about all the things I did as a child.
My mother suffered from insomnia after years of my father’s night shifts, and as a baby I didn’t sleep very often. It took its toll, and on those late nights when she would just stay awake I would keep her company while everyone else was sleeping.
I knew more about Errol Flynn, Clark Gable, Mickey Rooney, and Marilyn Monroe than any other five year old. I followed their lives, and I was always finding elusive movies and magazine articles in the library to surprise my mom.
I enjoyed staying up late with her, and watching old black and white movies. We’d watch classic movies like Citizen Kane, Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner, Gone with The Wind, Some Like it Hot, and all the Shirley Temple movies I could find. I loved Shirley temple; her cute little voice, sweet singing, and talented acting made me want to be her when I grew up.
My favourite actor was a talented man by the name of Jack Carson. I did a book report on him in Grade 3 and my teacher was amazed I even knew he was! I found out he was a fellow Canadian, and that made me love him even more. He was always cast in MGM movies as the wise cracking, fun loving, smug character. I would enjoy seeing him in the comedic roles as well as the dramatic ones. I first saw him in a supporting role in 1939 Mr. Smith Goes to Washington. My mom was a fan of James Cagney, and when I first laid eyes on Jack I was smitten.
I swear to you that he even resembles my husband with that easy going smile and his size; the only thing different is his slicked back hair compared to my husband’s military cut.
Jack was your classic actor that had a lot of film roles to his credit but never reached the notoriety of other leading actors of his era. I followed him from 1938’s Carefree, (with Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers), The Saint in New York (with Louise L. Hayward), to 1958’s Cat on a Hot Tin Roof (with Elizabeth Taylor, Paul Newman, and Burl Ives).
The first time I saw Gone With The Wind in the late night hours in my living room, I was transfixed by the beauty of Scarlet O’Hara, played by the talented Vivien Leigh. Her co-star Rhett Butler, played by the amazing Clark Gable, mesmerized me with his handsomeness and classic one liner. “Frankly my dear, I don’t give a damn.”
1941’s Citizen Kane fascinated me right from the start as I saw Orson Welles as the triple threat of acting, producing, and co-writing the script. His multiple talents and the subject matter of the movie (telling the tale of Charles Foster Kane) had me mesmerized as a little girl. The curiosity of discovering who or what Rosebud was had me hanging on to the mystery till the very end. A phenomenal actor who took the Oscars by storm when his film was nominated for nine awards, Welles’ and Herman J. Mankiewicz Citizen Kane won best original screenplay.
As I got older I developed an appreciation for Marilyn Monroe and started studying her film career. I read all the books written about her and watched every movie I could find. One of my favorites of hers was 1959’s Some Like it Hot. With Marilyn’s beauty and sweet nature as Sugar, the vocalist of the band, and Jack Lemon and Tony Curtis as her pursuers dressed in drag to hide out from the mob they bring this movie to life. Due to their comedic talents, this movie was named in 2000 by the American Film Institute as the greatest American comedy film of all time.
Sidney Poitier in 1967’s Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner had me enthralled with the subject matter of an interracial and controversial marriage set in the late 60’s. Interracial marriage was illegal in most states, at least seventeen of them, at the time. Sidney’s strong character paired with the talents of Spencer Tracy and Katherine Hepburn made this one of my top five favorites of that era. It’s the classics that always had me transfixed to the TV whether in black and white or colour, and I fondly remembering those precious late nights with my mom.