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What Has Hollywood Come To?

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It's 1967.

Now you have an idea of how old I am.

My sister Deanne were I are making our way to our seats at our local movie theatre. As I sat and nibbled on my popcorn, I remember very clearly the feeling that Deanne and I were in for something new and extraordinary, as we awaited the start of a film called The Graduate.

I was twelve years old and my sister Deanne was nine. We attended an afternoon showing of the film not far from our home in Warminster, Pennsylvania. I didn't know anything about the film except that all of my friends at school were talking about it… about this Dustin Hoffman guy whom no one had ever heard of and about how beautiful this Katharine Ross was. The only actress I knew in the film was Anne Bancroft, who I had seen as Annie Sullivan in The Miracle Worker just a few years before at the same theatre.

I didn't know what to expect. At that time, movies of real quality were, in my opinion, in a general decline. I felt this way at twelve years old. I remember feeling bad for stars like Cary Grant and Jimmy Stewart, who were reaching the twilight of their careers, stuck in stories that were as predictable as they were hokey. Much like the big blockbusters of today, back in the mid-'60s every film studio was putting out some uber-expensive movie musical to attempt to match the successes of The Sound of Music and My Fair Lady. Many of them failed (Star!, Darling Lili, Finian's Rainbow, Paint Your Wagon and many more).

Audiences, myself especially, were restless for something more; something deeper, something real. So, you can imagine my surprise when the lights went down and The Graduate began. And what is the first thing I hear? "The Sounds of Silence" by Simon & Garfunkel.

Could it be?

This was my music. I loved that song. I loved that group, but I couldn't believe that my music, the music of my generation that is, was being used in a major Hollywood movie. I looked around to see if anyone else was as shocked as I was and they were. Not disappointed, they were hopeful that this was a new beginning.

And then Dustin Hoffman came on the screen. He was not Troy Donahue or James Dean or Frankie Avalon. He was a normal looking guy… a little awkward, extremely shy. What's going on here?

And then the story played out. Wow. I really connected to this guy, even at my young age. Ben Braddock was like a few of my brother Tom's friends. They all had that self-doubt, that feeling of "Okay, now what?"

I was riveted.

Oh, this is going to be big, I thought in my twelve-year- old mind. I looked around to the other people sitting next to me and they felt it too. Deanne even felt it at nine. Maybe this film about Benjamin Braddock trying to find his way in the world would go on to speak to a whole generation of youth who were uncertain about their futures.

Deanne and I stayed for another showing of the film, just to make sure that this wasn't a dream, and I remember that as we walked out of the theatre, we knew that movies were never going to be the same again.

And we were right. Around the same time, movies like Bonnie & Clyde, The Wild Bunch, Midnight Cowboy, and scores of others were released, telling stories that didn't shy away from the "big stuff," stories that dealt with people and their real issues and it didn't matter if the issue involved sex and violence. It was all about the quality of the work and of the stories that were told.

I'd give anything to have that again.

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About Hannah Marie Ellison

  • http://nickleshi.blogspot.com Nick

    Nice article. I feel your pain, but as I film buff I still love going to movies today. Amid all the dreck there is still some good stuff, even among the popcorn flicks. In the meantime, TELEVISION is better than ever in my opinion, creating some incredible dramas and comedies (let’s not talk about the reality shows, though). :)

    Check out my recent preview of one of ABC’s upcoming sitcoms.