Thursday, February 1, 2018

Google: The Buzz Kill for the Thrill of Discovery

If you are not old enough to remember life without Google, this post will most likely seem like ancient history. But, if you like playing games that take you through mazes and dead ends before reaching your treasure, read on.

My first crazy passion for classic film started with New York’s WNEW Channel 5 showing “The Public Enemy” on a Saturday afternoon. I was probably 12 or 13 and I was alone in the house. I was completely taken by this James Cagney guy and, like any good budding film nut, I became instantly obsessed. But how, how, to know more? How to feed this obsession when my friends were drooling over the Beatles and the Four Seasons?
Yep - this was the guy....
Back then there were only 2 sources of information: the local library and the local bookstore. So, I trotted off to the card catalogue, wending my way through the Dewey Decimal system, finding my way to a section of the library that contained books about film. Eureka! A treasure trove! Books by critics, books about stars, books filled with lush black and white photos. And there, little by little, I learned about Mr. Cagney and, by extension, Joan Blondell, Jean Harlow, Ann Sheridan, Bette Davis, Olivia de Havilland and all of the other Warner Brothers usual suspects. Oh, the places this exercise took me! The hours spent alone with armloads of books at my disposal – what bliss! And now that I was armed with a little knowledge, I could scour the reduced price book section at the local bookstore (the local independently owned bookstore, I might add). I still have my treasured first purchase of “The Stars” by Richard Schickel.
This is the photo of Jean Harlow that prompted by Aunt Lois to state that 
Jean (she called her by her first name) never wore anything under her clothes.
Hunting for information at the library became a favorite pastime. Finding information was a thrill. Following a trail of indexes and references to the bingo spot was fun and satisfying. It also helped me develop a real nose for research. I prided myself in pointing myself in the right direction. And sometimes it was fun to go off track in the wrong direction. Once it took me to the Ziegfeld Follies. Oh those beautiful ladies!
Side trips can take you to interesting places
So, fast forward to the world of Google. In recent years I’ve wanted to know more about such stars as Kay Francis, Richard Barthelmess, Miriam Cooper and Marion Davies. Oh, so easy to just type their names and read a bio, see tons of beautiful photos and even see film on YouTube. But somehow, it was more fun having the thrill of discovery wash over me at the Hicksville Public Library and seeing that “The Strange Love of Molly Louvain” was playing at a local college. Hey – what’s the story with that Ann Dvorak?? Must know more…… 
Say, that Ann Dvorak is really something

6 comments:

Caftan Woman said...

I love the way you related the thrill of the search. I remember it well. Also, the pleasure when one of those well-worn tomes would appear for sale in the discard bin. Oh, happy day! Mine! Mine forever and always!

Patricia Gallagher said...

Ah, the thrill of the hunt. While I love the easy access of web information, finding that perfect book on the shelf at The Strand was always pure bliss.

Silver Screenings said...

I know the thrills and frustrations in the hunt for discovery. I remember an "investigative" paper I did in college, and how the desire to piece the puzzle together nearly consumed me. But, after a few weeks, I felt I arrived at a satisfactory conclusion – and there was no better feeling. (I was all, "Look at me, finding this out!") However, the same search today would probably take less than half an hour via google...

FlickChick said...

CW - yes, it's n ice to not always be in a hurry and just browse for treasures.

FlickChick said...

Patricia - so true. It is easier, but, somehow, less satisfying. I guess it's knowing that it takes so little sleuthing ability.

FlickChick said...

Hi Ruth. You bet. It is faster and easier, but it takes almost no effort.