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Movies are so different nowadays. Nothing like they were in the thirties through the fifties. Most of us baby boomers remember those old-time stars. People like John Wayne, Jimmy Stewart (my favorite male lead), Barbara Stanwyck (my favorite female lead), James Cagney, and many more. We may have been born in the late forties into the fifties, but, primarily due to TV and the influence of our parents, many of us learned to fall in Love with people who have been immortalized on the big screen.
My Mom had a photograph album, where she collected pictures of old stars like Henry Fonda, Hedy Lamar, and others. Maybe by watching and enjoying old movies reminds me of her, and how she is always in my heart.
But there were other memorable actors and actresses too. They were called Character Actors. People like Margaret Hamilton, who played the Wicked Witch of the West in the Wizard of Oz; Jayne Withers, who played the annoying and spoiled little girl in Bright Eyes; or Edgar Bucannon, who played many bad guy roles in westerns, and ended up doing the part of Uncle Joe in Petticoat Junction.
But I think my favorite Character Actress was Beulah Bondi. I believe she was in almost a hundred movies, which spanned a career that stated before 1900 and didn’t end until 1976. She died just five years later, due to a fall. She was 91.
I believe her last role was in The Waltons, where she played the Matriarch of a Hill Family, which at first put up a fight because they didn’t want to leave the land the family had spent generations on. Miss Bondi (she never married) usually played the Mother of actors like Jimmy Stewart. She was his Mom in four movies, among which were Mr. Smith Goes to Washington and It’s a Wonderful Life. She played Fred MacMurray’s Mom in Remember the Night (a grand Christmas movie, with Barbara Stanwyck).
Unlike many actors, she only changed her name slightly, spelling Bondi with a “I” instead of the “Y” she was born with. Born in Illinois, the family moved to Indiana when Beulah was 3. She waited four more years to begin her career, appearing in a production of Little Lord Fauntleroy, at seven.
One cannot help liking a movie in which she made an appearance. Always a soothing presence, she made you feel that she was not just acting but being the way she must have been in real life.
To me, this is what a good movie does: Involves us in good stories, with the kinds of believable characters you wish you knew. This is as good a way I know of to get us away from whatever problems we may have.
God Bless the Memory of Thomas Edison, for inventing the form!Published in