CMBA profiles one or two of our classic movie bloggers every month. This week, we’re featuring Kayla Rhodes, of Whimsically Classic
Kayla, who writes the "Whimsically Classic" blog, describes herself as an "old soul," which may explain how she has so much to say about classic film. Her posts tend to be very detailed and informative, and her responses to our questions are no exception to her verbosity and wit. She would like readers to take a look at this post, her entry in last year's "National Classic Film Day" blogathon. She reviews her five favorite classic movie performers and shares why they mean so much to her. She also admits to using the opportunity to re-post favorite images of Errol Flynn and Gene Kelly, because, as she says, "If you can't post (and re-post) beefcake photos on your blog, where can you post them?"
Here are her responses to our questions:
What sparked your interest in classic film?
Growing up in the 90s, I always watched the annual viewing of "Wizard of Oz" and also enjoyed watching AMC with my dad. Back when AMC actually showed classic films and wasn't over saturated with repeats and commercials. I remember Bob Dorian introducing the films much like Robert Osborne did for TCM. Every Saturday morning, AMC used to show Laurel & Hardy and Three Stooges shorts. I also seem to remember AMC airing a New Years Eve marathon of The Marx Brothers. I had always been aware of classic films and had no issues with them. I would say, however, that I truly became infatuated with classic film when I discovered "I Love Lucy" on Nick at Nite in 1995 when I was 11. I remember one summer evening I was bored and looking for something to watch. I came across Nick at Nite and on it was an old black and white show. As I watched it, I became entranced by the woman on the screen--Lucille Ball. If I remember correctly, the very first episode of "I Love Lucy" that I saw was "L.A. at Last!" guest-starring William Holden. I remember laughing so much when Lucy wears her fake nose and subsequently has to keep re-doing it when she accidentally moves it. The next evening, I watched "I Love Lucy" again and soon I was hooked. Every night at 8:00pm, I had to watch "my shows." In addition to 'Lucy,' I became a big fan of the other shows in the lineup as well. However, my heart will always belong to "I Love Lucy." From my love of 'Lucy,' soon I wanted to know everything I could about her. I was also an frequent visitor to the city library where I checked out every Lucille Ball biography that was available. It was from these books that I learned about the movie career Lucille Ball had prior to "I Love Lucy."
It was about at this time when TCM debuted on cable. I remember seeing it on TV and learning that it was wholly dedicated to classic film. From then on, every Sunday, I would scour the new TV Guide insert in the newspaper to see if TCM was airing any Lucille Ball movies that week. When they'd air, I'd try to watch them, or try to set up the VCR to record the films. I remember that one of these recordings ended up being "The Long, Long Trailer," my absolute favorite movie of all time. I also remember seeing "Du Barry Was a Lady" starring Lucy and Gene Kelly. It was from this film that I discovered Gene Kelly. I remember seeing "Singin' in the Rain" in the TV Guide once and I made a point to watch it. From then on, I loved Gene Kelly and subsequently loved Debbie Reynolds and Donald O'Connor. This pattern of discovering new actors and films continued on and has continued since.
What makes a film a "classic" in your opinion?
Many people like to assign a specific time frame (e.g. Silent era through Studio Era) to declare a film "classic," however, I don't agree that that is entirely accurate. To me, a classic is a film that still resonates with an individual over time. "Citizen Kane" is often touted as a classic, but if a person dislikes the film, he or she may be hesitant to declare it a classic. There may be another film that was universally panned by critics upon release and may still be considered mediocre today, but if a person absolutely loves it, then who are we to say that that film isn't a classic? It is a classic to the person who loves it. I think the term "classic" is very personal to the movie fan. Watching a film can be a very personal experience and people can come away with very different perspectives.
What classic film(s) do you recommend to people who say they hate old movies?
Before suggesting any type of film, first I would pity this person for having such a narrow outlook on film and immediately dismissing decades worth of filmmaking purely because it might lack phony special effects like CGI or color. After I got over my initial annoyance, I'd ask the person questions and try to gauge if they'd even be open to watching an old film. Some people are just so set in their ways that trying to get them to watch an old film would be meaningless. If they are open to watching a classic film and maybe they just haven't been exposed to the right film, I'd ask them what types of films they enjoy. If someone loves mystery/thrillers, I may suggest an Alfred Hitchcock film like Rear Window or To Catch a Thief. If someone were interested in horror, I might suggest Frankenstein or Psycho. Someone who loves romance might enjoy Brief Encounter or perhaps Sabrina. If someone loves musicals and thinks that La La Land is the greatest thing ever, I might suggest an infinitely better musical like Singin' in the Rain or Funny Face. For comedy lovers, I'd suggest my favorite The Long Long Trailer or maybe Some Like it Hot. It someone loves overwrought dramas like I do, I would suggest Picnic or maybe A Summer Place. Finally, if the person is into movies about teenagers like High School Musical, I might suggest Gidget or maybe one of the Beach Party movies.
Why should people care about classic film?
People should care about classic film because these are the films that provided the foundation for all films that have come since. Without Alfred Hitchcock, we might not have the unique storytelling devices like the McGuffin that we have today. Without Hitchcock, maybe Stan Lee wouldn't be making cameos in all the Marvel films! Orson Welles' innovative filming techniques for Citizen Kane were a landmark in cinematography and storytelling. The innovative special effects in films like The Wizard of Oz and King Kong provide the groundwork for the special effects that have come since. Classic films also serve as a time machine. Since time travel does not exist, movies are one of the very few ways we have to see what life may have been like during previous eras. As someone born in the mid-80s, I am interested in films made before then so I can see what things may have been like before I was born. Don't get me wrong, I love 90s movies too, but I was there. I want to see what World War Two era might have been like in the United States. Maybe I want to know what cars looked like in the 1950s. Movies can answer my questions. I've learned a lot about what types of technologies were available in different eras. Who doesn't love the big computer in Desk Set? Or the Auto-Mat in Easy Living? Along those lines, classic film can also serve as an escape. When you just can't bear seeing one more message film trying to make a point about racism or domestic violence or what not, what's wrong with going back in time to 1930s New York and spending the evening drinking martinis with Nick and Nora Charles? I love to use movies to escape into another a world, a world I cannot visit without film.
What is the most rewarding thing about blogging?
Having a space to share my enthusiasm and love for a particular film, television show, actor, song, etc. Even if it's the smallest little thing about an episode of "The Brady Bunch" or what not, I love being able to have a space where I can be a total fangirl for a second and gush. I love focusing on everything I love about classic film and television. I also enjoy receiving comments about my articles and even having small discussions about them, because it's rewarding to know that someone actually spent time reading what you wrote. I do read other members' blogs too and need to become better at commenting, because I truly appreciate everyone's articles and sometimes am in awe of what they produce.
What challenges do you face with your blog, and how do you overcome them?
Having enough time to write in the blog and being motivated to do so. Sometimes I overwhelm myself by signing up for too many blogathons, because everything sounds like so much fun. I also worry that I need to vary my content more and have other articles aside from blogathons. I also struggle with trying to figure out what niche I want my blog to fill. I don't have issues finding my voice, because I can write and know what I want to write. I am still trying to figure out how I can organize my blog so that I feel like it's unique from others but isn't consuming all my time. I have a lot of great ideas, but I need to figure out if I can execute them without getting overwhelmed, becoming frustrated and quitting.
What advice would you give to a new blogger?
Write about what you love. Don't worry about having a gimmick. Be genuine. Don't pretend to like something just because it's in vogue. If you have a controversial opinion, then share it--for example, I am not a fan of Marlon Brando. I don't think he's that great (except for in his 1950s career, when I do like his work) and I truly despise his mumbling. I also find The Godfather incredibly boring. Don't be ashamed of what you love or dislike. Take these words from Dr. Seuss to heart--"Be who you are, and say what you feel because those who mind don't matter and those who don't matter don't mind." I love blogs that truly show someone's personality. I dislike blogs where someone is pretentious and writes a whole lot of words to say nothing. Finally this is basic, but edit and proofread. And use separate paragraphs! Bad writing is a turnoff.
Thanks so much Kayla! We'll see you and your boyfriend Errol Flynn at the next gala event!