Logo for Joe Sobran's newsletter: Sobran's -- The Real News of the Month

 Old Movies, Eternal Morals 

December 28, 2006 
MoviesThey’re still making James Bond and Rocky movies, and the latest ones are getting surprisingly good reviews. A guy named Daniel Craig has now taken the role of Bond, which I guess means that George Lazenby has lost his box-office magic, but Today's column is "Old Movies, Eternal 
Morals" -- Read Joe's columns the day he writes them.Sylvester Stallone is still playing Rocky Balboa, who, at age 60, is making another comeback in Rocky Balboa.

MoviesThis suggests an idea for another movie. Why don’t they make a beach-party movie, with an eye to the aging Baby Boomer market, called Old Gidget? Gidget would still wear a bikini and retain her virginal innocence, but now she would carry a cell phone and deal with such contemporary problems as Islamofascism. Of course her blonde hair might be silver now. And she’d wear Depends under her bikini bottom.

MoviesI love old movies, because I learn so much from them. They remind me how much we have changed. In fact, they are among the things that have changed us. They are paradoxical that way. Light romances like the Gidget movies celebrated monogamy and unconsciously undermined it at the same time.

MoviesThe old prudes who were suspicious of all movies had a point. So do the later liberals who deplore violence in films; maybe they don’t go far enough. The movies teach us to expect too much from romantic love and to think violence can make the world just.

MoviesThe films I like best treat love and violence with irony. I think this may be why Alfred Hitchcock’s movies wear so well. They respect moral norms, but they show happiness and justice coming at a price. It’s no accident that Hitchcock never made a war movie, not even during World War II. Frank Capra could make stirring patriotic propaganda; Hitchcock couldn’t. He was too aware of the other side, the dark obverse of things. Maybe it has something to do with religion. Not that he could do religious propaganda either, but his Catholicism, as many critics have noted, seems to color his work, even Psycho.

[Breaker quote for Old Movies, Eternal Morals: Bond, Balboa, and Gidget]MoviesThe morality of a great writer, as G.K. Chesterton says somewhere, “is not the morality he explains, but the morality he forgets to explain.” A Shakespeare doesn’t spell out his moral; he makes it felt through his characters, through the situations, and so forth. Hitchcock’s morality is implicit that way. When I watch his films, the last of which was made a generation ago, I never feel I’m watching something essentially quaint, like a period piece; I feel its moral immediacy. The passage of time hasn’t really changed our reactions to Notorious or Strangers on a Train, despite certain differences in moral fashion.

MoviesBy contrast, even a Christian watching Ben-Hur today feels that it was obviously trying to manipulate the emotions of the audiences of another time. The spectacle is still thrilling, but the dialogue feels dated.

MoviesThe moral law is eternal, but elusive. At times we easily confuse it with our own desires, passions, opinions, customs, and fashions. We marvel when other people do this, but we often fail to notice when we do it ourselves. It becomes more obvious in retrospect, which is why movies — reflections of our former selves — may assist our insight and help us to see ourselves more objectively. Those old war films can make us wonder why we hated our enemies so much. Had we perhaps gone a little mad? And are we still doing it today?

Joseph Sobran

Copyright © 2006 by the Griffin Internet Syndicate,
a division of Griffin Communications
This column may not be reprinted in print or
Internet publications without express permission
of Griffin Internet Syndicate

small Griffin logo
Send this article to a friend.

Recipient’s e-mail address:
(You may have multiple e-mail addresses; separate them by spaces.)

Your e-mail address:

Enter a subject for your e-mail:

Mailarticle © 2001 by Gavin Spomer
Archive Table of Contents

Current Column

Return to the SOBRANS home page.

FGF E-Package columns by Joe Sobran, Sam Francis, Paul Gottfried, and others are available in a special e-mail subscription provided by the Fitzgerald Griffin Foundation. Click here for more information.

Search This Site

Search the Web     Search SOBRANS

What’s New?

Articles and Columns by Joe Sobran
 FGF E-Package “Reactionary Utopian” Columns 
  Wanderer column (“Washington Watch”) 
 Essays and Articles | Biography of Joe Sobran | Sobran’s Cynosure 
 The Shakespeare Library | The Hive
 WebLinks | Books by Joe 
 Subscribe to Joe Sobran’s Columns 

Other FGF E-Package Columns and Articles
 Sam Francis Classics | Paul Gottfried, “The Ornery Observer” 
 Mark Wegierski, “View from the North” 
 Chilton Williamson Jr., “At a Distance” 
 Kevin Lamb, “Lamb amongst Wolves” 
 Subscribe to the FGF E-Package 

Products and Gift Ideas
Back to the home page 


SOBRANS and Joe Sobran’s columns are available by subscription. Details are available on-line; or call 800-513-5053; or write Fran Griffin.

Reprinted with permission
This page is copyright © 2006 by The Vere Company
and may not be reprinted in print or
Internet publications without express permission
of The Vere Company.