movie magic sometimes strikes

film-596519_1280My mother is no longer able to follow complex or fast-paced movies, which is not surprising given that she is 89. Her short-term memory is problematic; she tends to do better with long-term memories. Yet, while old movies and TV shows are easier for her to follow, sometimes she still has difficulty following the story and loses track of the characters. At least with old movies, the pacing is slower (as is the flow of text in closed captioning) and the plots are a little more familiar. She also remembers some of the old actors and actresses that she watched when she was younger.  

Two movies always seem to work: The Adventures of Robin Hood with Errol Flynn and Olivia de Havilland (1938) and The African Queen with Humphrey Bogart and Katharine Hepburn (1951). I have no idea how many times Mom has seen these movies over the years, but the important thing is that she can always follow the plot and stays engaged all the way through the movie. Fortunately, I love these movies, too, so I don’t particularly mind that we re-watch them now and again.

The Adventures of Robin Hood ( is just a fun movie with an amazing cast. It’s light-hearted and predictable. There are sword fights. It has romance. It has humor and an underlying theme of honorable actions. It has rousing music and bright colors. In many ways, it’s easy to see why Mom loves this movie. She will even stop knitting and devote all her attention to the film.

The African Queen ( is, in some ways, the opposite of Robin Hood. The movie is quieter, with no flashy costumes or sword fights. Most of the movie features two people on a boat being very polite to one another as they fall in love and plot to destroy a German warship during WWI. Yet, Mom loves this one, too, and will always watch when it is on.

Having these two quite different movies as surefire hits demonstrates how complicated it is to figure out what works. Of course, these movies also have some things in common. They both highlight loyalty, focus on a bigger goal and promote doing the right thing. Of course, it may be that she loves them because she can (at least sort of) remember them – they are familiar and that alone may be enough to score higher points.

With other classic movies, she loves them one day and is frustrated the next. Perhaps she sometimes remembers them and other times does not. Maybe her frustration is because in the back of her mind somewhere, she knows that she should know a particular movie but cannot place it. Often, she misses the gist of the plot and misidentifies the characters, so it’s understandable if she’s not engaged. Amusingly, she often falls for the charm of the murderer or con artist. While it is understandable to fall for the charming and handsome scoundrel (especially when you forget that he’s the bad guy), Mom often is tough on the hero or heroine, finding fault with them and completely misreading the situation. For example, she derides Miss Marple a nosy old bird, which, well, she is but … she’s Miss Marple! Or Mom will call the wife out for being snotty or bitchy to her husband, which is usually when I point out that wife just found out that her husband is having an affair with her best friend!

Anyway, at least The Adventures of Robin Hood and The African Queen are winners for both of us, which is better than Mom’s other surefire category: Westerns. (No offense to those who love westerns, just not my cuppa!) Mom has always loved westerns, perhaps because there usually is an obvious good guy and bad guy, and the stories often are straightforward. Unlike her penchant for the charmer in mysteries or other movies, she invariably goes for the good guy in westerns.

Oh well, we’ll always have Sherwood Forest.

10 thoughts on “movie magic sometimes strikes

  1. Melissa Sharer January 9, 2018 / 2:48 pm


    try “it’s a wonderful life” my mom loved that one over the holidays

    On Tue, Jan 9, 2018 at 9:22 AM, my mother, my cat and me wrote:

    > alphacatonline posted: “My mother is no longer able to follow complex or > fast-paced movies, which is not surprising given that she is 89. Usually, > her short-term memory is more problematic and she tends to do better with > long-term memory. Old movies and TV shows tend to be easie” >


    • alphacatonline January 9, 2018 / 10:33 pm

      Thanks, Melissa, what a great idea. We didn’t watch It’s a Wonderful Life this year. We did watch several other movies on TCM – Miracle on 34th Street, Christmas in Connecticut, The Bishop’s Wife, It Happened on 5th Avenue, etc. Some were hits and others met with mixed reviews. Really – you try explaining that Barbara Stanwyck was only pretending to have a husband and baby in order to keep her job, so it’s OK that she was falling in love with the soldier who was sort of engaged to someone else but that woman actually married his buddy …. Or that the people living in a mansion were actually only squatters except for three people – father, mother and daughter – who were pretending to be strangers but who actually owned the house …. It was exhausting!


      • deb January 22, 2018 / 4:14 pm

        What a good point about formulaic HGTV shows now. I am sure they have been well rewarded for their “rip ’em down” shows and lavish remakes but it’s lost me. “Divine Design” was a favorite of mine, as was one with a woman from Canada. (She started there, then remarried & moved to the southern US, but her name eludes me.) ANYway, it’s too predictable now–buyers walk into places with “gut jobs” on the mind.

        But i digress. I wish you luck in avoiding Welk. Do you think your mom would like “Forged in Fire”? It is a competition wherein blacksmiths forge weapons. Little of that personality stuff so many “reality shows” have, this is just bladecrafting. Neat to watch for me.


      • alphacatonline January 22, 2018 / 10:38 pm

        I’ve not seen Forged in Fire – sounds interesting. It’s hard to know what she will like, but the Great British Bake Off is a hit! She doesn’t have the patience for the drama/personality stuff. I tried Face Off, but she really wasn’t getting it – I thought the creative creatures would be interesting. We watch Nature and Nova and she really enjoys both of those.


      • deb January 23, 2018 / 8:20 am

        Oh my gosh, yes! The British baking shows are perfect. They are fairly calm, no drama and i’ve learned much from them. Indeed, as a reader it’s kinda fun when they bake items i’ve read about in British literature but hadn’t a clue as to what they were. Enjoy that! The US version is nice but doesn’t compare, imo. Or maybe i just have a crush of the calming effect of Mary Berry.


  2. Deborah Whitefield January 17, 2018 / 5:31 pm

    My dad loved westerns, too. Growing up in west Texas, i just assumed he liked them because they reminded him of his youth & watching movies back then. The obvious good guy/bad guy issue hadn’t occurred to me but i’m guessing that would have helped. He didn’t like “singing cowboys”, however. This was a carry-over from his youth, too, btw.

    Interestingly, though, he wasn’t a huge fan of tv westerns. My in-laws really enjoyed watching reruns of “Wagon Train” and “Bonanza” but my dad tried & failed with them. He just didn’t care for them, which is why i think it had to do with reliving his youth as well. (Note: my father-in-law died and his wife’s tv westerns are now “Little House on the Prairie”, which i find amusing.)

    After a very steady diet of movie westerns my dad began to turn to almost any other movie. And in this case they didn’t have to be older ones. Indeed, i knew he was watching too much tv when i saw he was following one of those ’60s hippie-type movies about the zest of being young and breaking rules. LOL!


    • alphacatonline January 17, 2018 / 10:51 pm

      My mom is a big John Wayne fan. He and Cary Grant are probably her favorite actors. I bought a few John Wayne movies and when she’s having a bad day, I’ll put them on to cheer her up. We came across a really old John Wayne movie, where he was playing a guitar and singing while riding a horse! I guess we all have to start somewhere; needless to say, not one of his better-known works. She made me turn it off because she just couldn’t see him that way – fortunately for her, that image was been purged from her memory. She used to listen to the singing cowboy movies but now (fortunately for me) she can’t deal with them.

      We used to watch TV westerns when they ran – “Gunsmoke”, “Bonanza”, etc. but I haven’t seen them in reruns and am kind of hoping I don’t find them running somewhere! LOL on “Little House” – haven’t seen that in ages either. For TV, I try to steer my mother toward TCM, HGTV and reruns of “The Golden Girls”. When she works on puzzles or reads, she turns the TV off, as she can’t really multi-task anymore.


      • Deborah Whitefield January 18, 2018 / 1:28 pm

        Oh, i’d forgotten about “Gunsmoke”. That was their favorite. They also liked watching PBS for the reruns of “The Lawrence Welk Show”. I don’t know about elsewhere in the nation but in Texas Welk is still running and quite popular. I suspect that’ll end with my generation. I couldn’t stand the show but his mom still likes it, as do others in her retirement facility.

        HGTV is probably the “go-to” station for her. Because they traveled (he was in the military), she spent a lifetime decorating homes (& even says she wishes she had pursued that as a career). Therefore the Flip-type shows are a joy for her. Favorite is the Waco couple, the husband of which i cannot stand…”Fixer Upper”.


      • alphacatonline January 18, 2018 / 10:12 pm

        Let’s hope we don’t come across Lawrence Welk while flipping around the dial! She likes HGTV, though I agree with you about Fixer Upper. I think they started out OK but then pumped up the antics. Of course, it doesn’t help that they show that one, the House Hunter variations and the Property Brothers shows virtually non-stop. At a friend’s house, I came across an older show – Divine Design – that used to be on HGTV and it was such a nice change! No tearing down walls or “demo day” where they destroy everything in sight. Just a designer who listened to the client. The channel used to have some terrific shows on, but now it’s just so formulaic. Still, my mom likes it and it’s better than some of the other offerings on TV!


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s