Long, long ago I was watching Johnny Carson and he had on Jimmy Stewart. Yes, I’m that old. Anyway. This was before TCM, probably before cable TV and so definitely before I had the chance to see many of the wonderful classics. Back then the classics that would play on the 3-5 channels we got were Ben Hur, The 10 Commandments (around Easter), Gone With the Wind and maybe Sound of music around Christmas.
Oh and lots of cowboy movies, like my grandfather called them and would watch on loop while here from the old country, often on VHS tapes. Otherwise I really hadn’t seen many classics. I had seen ‘It’s a Wonderful Life’ that would come on at Christmas as well and ‘Liberty Valance’ but nothing else with Stewart.
But that night on The Tonight Show, Jimmy Stewart came out in all his gangly beauty. He wasn’t the sort of heartthrob of say Newman, but his boy next door good looks and elegance and charm were next level. He opened with a poem he had written. The poem, you found out about 1/2 through, was about his dog and at the very end you realized it was an ode because the dog had passed away. His last line was about how he missed his dog. The crowd went wild and that was one of my first and most lasting impressions on the impact and power of simple charm.
It was charming. As was the banter between Carson and Stewart. Charm does not come easy. Without integrity and guilelessness and decency, charm is a smarmy parlor act designed to manipulate. It leaves you with a coat of oil that is hard to wash off. But as an act of honesty, charm is uplifting and leaves you smiling, feeling like the world is a better place than you might have thought.
It doesn’t feel like there is much charm left in the world today. We’ve lost the ability to speak on inconsequential things and to do so with aplomb and class. Everything is strife and we’re all too damn sensitive. We’re filled with snark, thinly masked as humor, and catty girls who lack the in your face honesty of the old screen sirens and men who don’t even bother trying to raise the bar to Cary Grant’s level.
I’m a little cynical right now. Maybe I just need to watch a Jimmy Stewart movie.
And of course the internet has me covered…can’t believe it’s out there. What a blast from the past!