A couple of years ago, I taught a high school film history class to a group of particularly bright juniors and seniors. Some of them were a little skeptical at first (“Are you gonna make us watch black and white movies, Miss?”), but I made an initial plea with them to “give it a chance,” and, as luck would have it, they all did.
For the most part.
They loved Chaplin in The Kid, as well as Buster Keaton in Cops, Singin’ in the Rain, which I screened to illustrate the transition from silents to talkies, went over BIG, especially with some of the girls, who fell fast and hard for Gene Kelly. My Man Godfrey was appreciated, and the film led to some interesting discussions about history as well as the nature of comedy. When we got to the 1940s, I hit cinematic pay dirt with, of all things, Mildred Pierce. While Some Like it Hot probably proved to be the class favorite, overall, the Joan Crawford tour de force ran a very close second. There was not one snarky comment about her eyebrows or shoulder pads. Those kids were IN!
Way back when, back when I started out in my career as an Educational Professional, I could be found slogging away in an inner-city middle school, attempting each day, in my own little way, to elevate the minds of the squirmy and squirrely little 8th-graders entrusted to my care. I run into one or two of them every or so, now all shiny and grown up, and the fact that they are not drooling and picking at scabs tells me that I at least didn’t completely injure their fragile adolescent psyches. Too much.
Of course, there are the ones I don’t run into, but let’s move on, shall we?
While my avocation may be film, especially classic cinema offerings, my vocation is education. That doesn’t mean I have to renounce my sensibilities for popular culture rooted in a time before I was born just to effectively reach out to that posse of inner-city teens under my tutelage. True story: I actually once convinced a fetching young senior girl to adopt the following slogan for her campaign for Prom Queen: She’s Cool, She’s Keen, Vote Julia for Queen! And SHE WON! So there, hipsters, with your jive talkin’ ways.