Spring is popping out all over, and—living in the Texas Panhandle—it’s created a coat of dust all over my house. Thus, I began the ritual known as spring cleaning.
I dusted, vacuumed, and straightened— the works. I went through boxes and baskets and stacks of books. On the lower shelf of an end table, I found my collection of vintage LIFE magazines that date from 1938 to the mid 1970’s. I went through each one, carefully dusting the covers, and I stacked them in chronological order.
I found myself in awe. Most of the covers included the movie stars of the moment, posed and flashing beautiful smiles or piercing stares. There were a few covers featuring politicians and astronauts, but mostly I saw the stars of the classic movies that I love.
These aren’t magazines like you find in the newsstands today. Yes, they have the celebs, but these vintage pages show the regency ofHollywood’s golden age. Instead of airbrushed bodies and pouty lips, these images convey personal emotion and the powerful splendor of imperfection.
My collection is more than just a stack of decades-old pictures. Every issue contains a bit of history that only LIFE magazine could capture. I found articles about the war efforts in 1942. I found Buick ads and photos of King George VI. I found an article about a Maine murder trial in 1938. I found an extended story celebrating the 150th birthday of Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein.
The pictures are amazing, of course. The articles are rich with personality and timely flavor. These stories give me insight into the lives of many of my favorites that have since passed. It’s much more than I could ever glean from Wikipedia or even IMDb.com.
Reading about how Lana Turner graduated from playing opposite Mickey Rooney to starring as Clark Gable’s leading lady in Honky Tonk, I marveled at her quick ascent inTinselTown. It gave me a perspective I never had before.
Yes, going through my collection did slow up my cleaning process. On the other hand, it shifted my brain into gear with all sorts of thoughts about cinema’s influence on American culture.
The actors featured on the covers made history, changed history, and participated whole-heartedly in the news of their day. They didn’t push political agendas too much. They pushed patriotism. They supported their soldiers. They made movies that gave war-weary Americans a moment of joy.
Wandering through the dusty fragile pages, I rediscovered a glimpse of that joy.
That’s a wrap for this Toast to Cinema. Thanks for reading!