FRIDAY, DECEMBER 22, 2017
Interlude—Cary's concern: As the union continues to fall apart, we're almost sorry we started this award-winning reverie regarding this off-point topic.
We'd long been struck the peculiar sexual politics of 1950s Hollywood films. We decided to research the topic in response to the recent moral panic about Roy Moore's mother-approved dating from the 1970s, as opposed to his alleged sexual assaults.
We thought what we found was funny, but also sadly instructive. Let's start today with Gary Cooper's bride.
He took his bride as part of the iconic 1952 film, High Noon. The bride was played by Grace Kelly, in her first major role.
By conventional norms, the bride was visually stunning—was perfect in her appearance. Though she was 23 in real life, she didn't look a day over 22 in the film itself.
Cooper was 51 in real life. A peculiar norm was being established.
Such pairings weren't unique to films of the 1950s. In The Fountainhead (1949), "Coop" had been paired with Patricia Neal.
Coop was 48 in real life. Neal was 23.
Such pairings had existed before. But in the films of the 1950s, Hollywood's male moguls began indulging their fantasies, in a major way, right up there on the screen, not just on the couch.
"Codger chic" became the norm. In Kelly's next film, Mogambo (1953), she dumped her same-age husband for a rapidly aging Clark Gable.
In real life, Gable was a somewhat moldy 52. Kelly was 24. And so it would go through the era, until these visually, conceptually improbable pairings couldn't be sold any more.
Audrey Hepburn, Leslie Caron? Sophia Loren, Grace Kelly, Kim Novak? They were rarely allowed to kiss anyone their own age during this ridiculous era. In best fairy tale fashion (more on that in Part 3), they spent this decade kissing the frog.
Some say these aging, established male stars were "robbing the cradle" during this peculiar era. Increasingly, conservative propagandists, always eager to blame the women, have started accusing these female stars of "invading the nursing home."
However one chooses to view these transactions, we think the overall story is funny, but also sadly instructive. We'll continue our award-winning report after Santa, who isn't getting any younger himself, has finally come and gone, squeezing his way up the chimney and making a mess of his suit.
We want to talk about those fairy tale formats. We want to talk about Hitchcock's musings. We'll plan to discuss some better gender/romance role models from Hollywood, of which a few were to come.
We'll start next time with Cary Grant's concern, as described by the leading authority on the matter. He was too old to be paired with Hepburn! So, to his credit, he apparently thought as of 1962.
In Hollywood, some male mogul knew what to do. A change in the script was ordered. Instead of Grant pursuing Hepburn, the much younger woman would now pursue the much older man!
By the rules of the game, that made perfect sense. This was the comical way of a blinkered, unfortunate era.
In fairness, Eisenhower was president then. On the other hand, full disclosure:
He wasn't married to Jackie!
Historical upshots: Not too many years later, at least two mothers in Alabama were thrilled by the fact that their teenage daughters were dating Roy Moore, who seemed like "good husband material."
Forty years after that, a moral stampede occurred. When we researched the Hollywood history, we thought the facts were wonderfully comical, but also instructive and sad.