Fifty Years Ago and Now

Just to write a lighter post than the one yesterday, here are some happier thoughts.

I enjoy seeing TV and movie stars on 1950s game shows shown late at night on GSN (Game Show Network), and then seeing the same stars, with spirit and verve and personality unchanged, on today’s TV.

For example, (besides their other 1950s programs) Carl Reiner was on The Name’s The Same, Andy Griffith was on I’ve Got A Secret, Betty White was on various game shows in the 1950s and Debbie Reynolds, Carol Burnett, Jane Russell, Paul Anka and Jerry Lewis were on What’s My Line in the 1950s.

In the current decade, mainly in the past year, I’ve seen Betty White on Boston Legal and the Ellen talk show, Carl Reiner on Ellen and The Tonight Show and in Ocean’s 11 (remake), Jane Russell on Larry King, Andy Griffith on Larry King, Jerry Lewis on David Letterman, Conan O’Brien, Fox News, and his own telethon, Paul Anka on VH1 and PBS, Carol Burnett in reunion shows with her TV cast, and Debbie Reynolds on David Letterman and other talk shows and documentaries, and in recent movies.

These people have careers spanning more than 50 years. It takes a very special person to achieve that in show business.

And the magic to me is, having not been born yet in the 1950s, those game shows are a time machine. I get to see what life was like in my parents’ time which seemed so very different and more elegant and graceful than my own. Let’s face it, nothing in 1973 looked or felt like how things seemed in 1953 (from the evidence of what has been preserved on film). In contrast, 2006 looks and feels much more similar to 1986 (except for a few great new gadgets). Even looking at my parents’ 1956 wedding films, I can’t comprehend that they lived in that time, the time of Marilyn Monroe and the heyday of Doris Day and Cary Grant, when an effort was still made to make life glamorous, when men wore hats all the time and women wore elaborate dresses or skirts, and everyone flirted, before the hippies and feminists turned us all into unisex blue-jeaned clones.

So hats off to those who have managed to be an important and elevating part of all these different eras in the popular culture. They are very special people.

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