December 19, 2009
Fight for Art, Music, and Love
Gone with the Wind, a national treasure, turned seventy on Tuesday. Turner Classic Movies aired it Tuesday night to commemorate the anniversary of its 1939 Atlanta debut. For an old movie aficionado like me, it was the Super Bowl. The love story depicted in Margaret Mitchell's Gone with the Wind (man as he ought to be in the low state of the world) is irresistible to a romantic realist. And Selznick's uncompromising vision and execution of Mitchell's epic novel is thrilling no matter how many times you see it.
But it is more than just entertainment. This is one of the films that reflects American culture's finest hour. Essentially, such films are a reflection on our values, morality, and art. Ayn Rand said it best:
Art is a selective re-creation of reality according to an artist's metaphysical value-judgments. An artist recreates those aspects of reality which represent his fundamental view of man's nature.
The fundamental view of man's nature reflected in American films of the 1930s, 1940s and 1950s was noble, just, and courageous. Gone with the Wind was made in 1939. That year was the apex, the zenith, of the golden age of Hollywood. The thirties, forties, and fifties boast a treasure-trove of classic, brilliant film masterpieces, but '39 is unmatched. Movie historians and cinemaphiles alike agree that 1939 was the greatest year in film history. Consider the exceptional Dark Victory, Ninotchka, Rules of the Game, The Wizard of Oz, The Young Mr. Lincoln, Love Affair, Mr. Smith Goes to Washington, Juarez, Goodbye, Mr. Chips, Destry Rides Again, Gunga Din, The Hunchback of Notre Dame, Of Mice and Men, Stagecoach, The Women, Wuthering Heights, and Gone With the Wind -- all made that year.
When America was America, films like these were made in large quantities. Rita Hayworth, Humphrey Bogart, Cagney, Ingrid Bergman, Fred Astaire, Gene Kelly, Cyd Charisse, Ava Gardner, Sophia Loren, Deborah Kerr, Cary Grant, Robert Mitchum, Paul Muni, John Garfield, Hedy Lamar, Gene Tierney, Taylor, Burton, Vivien Leigh, Laughton, James Mason, Marlene Dietrich -- I derive succor from these people the way the folks on the Left pop meds.
This is why I do what I do. Islamic law forbids representational art. It forbids music. With its laws allowing polygamy and wife-beating, it forbids love. And these are the kinds of laws they are trying to bring into Europe and America today, right under our noses.
And so that is why I fight: for art, music, and love.
And in American films of the golden age, you can find these concepts in abundance. American music of the same period is just as great. Ella Fitzgerald, Betty Carter, Billie Holiday, Dinah Washington. Coleman Hawkins and Lester Young. Miles Davis and John Coltrane.
And I would be remiss if I didn't mention Frank Sinatra's Only the Lonely -- in which art, music, love, and film all come together. This is my favorite and most deeply personal Sinatra album. It is a masterpiece, Sinatra's finest. His voice was never smoother, richer, deeper, more pained. At the time of the recording, Sinatra's breakup and divorce from Ava Gardner had been finalized. He was so crazy for her. It was one of the great loves of the era. And the arranger of the album, Nelson Riddle, had recently suffered the deaths of his mother and daughter. Riddle remarked at the time, "If I can attach events like that to music...perhaps Only the Lonely was the result." Sinatra was asked at a party in the mid-1970s if he had a favorite album of his. He said straight away: Only the Lonely.
It is a uniquely powerful and uniquely American translation of events and emotions into art that speaks to everyone.
American music, American film. These things should rightly be considered two of our unquantifiable gifts to the world. We ought to look back in order to go forward in the right direction, and so it is useful to revisit them. Grab the popcorn, dim the lights, sit down, kick off the jihad, and indulge in a thoroughly Western pastime! Revisit the days when America was still America. And gather the strength to fight -- for art, for music, and for love.
Pamela Geller is the founder, editor and publisher of the weblog AtlasShrugs.