The Music Man (1962)

The Music Man

Released: 1962

Rated: G
Length: 151 min.
Age: 6+  (for comprehension)                     Commonsense media sez: 6 +

Scary: nothing violent, only the talk of angry townsfolk about tarring and feathering Hill

Sexual Innuendo: in some dialogue and songs, but all G-rated and too oblique to be picked up by small children

Interests: musicals, song and dance, marching bands, history, small town life, con men

More

Top 5: Old Comedy Clips

Oh boy do I have a treat for you today! Sometimes it takes a little digging around, but there’s a wealth of great stuff on youtube to share with your kids. I’ve discovered some classic old movie moments from the comedy masters for you. If you’re wondering about how to introduce your children to the look and the style of silent movies and early talkies, short clips are fantastic.

Enjoy!

1. Charlie Chaplin – “Dance of the Dinner Rolls” from The Gold Rush (1925)

Sweet and simple. Entry level viewing for the brilliance that is Chaplin.

 

2. Marx Bros. – Mirror Scene from Duck Soup (1933)

This has been copied a thousand times since, and it’s likely even Groucho and company were borrowing this routine from someone else, in the old vaudeville tradition, but nobody does it better.

 

3. Buster Keaton – Chase Scene from Seven Chances (1925)

Ah, there was a time when people did their own stunts! Buster Keaton never ceases to astonish me.

 

4. Laurel & Hardy – Pie Fight

I’ve never been a huge fan of the pie-in-the-face gag myself, but this is a pretty epic example of the genre. And it all starts with a banana peel!

 

5. Abbott and Costello – “Who’s On First?” from The Naughty Nineties (1945)

And finally, something a little more ‘talkie’… This routine delighted my 5-year-old and my 9-year-old nephew this summer. The writing, the delivery, the timing… perfection.

The Gold Rush (1925)

The Gold Rush  (1925)

Written, directed by, starring: Charlie Chaplin

Rated:  — (unrated)

Length:  95 min. 1925 release / 72 min. 1942 re-release

Age: 5 and up          Commonsense Media sez: 8 +

Scary Factor: Little Tramp menaced periodically for comedic effect; two men struggle over a shotgun which is always pointing at the Tramp; he is also chased by starving, hallucinating miner with a gun and then an axe; cabin tipped precariously on edge of precipice; all threats are treated comically and violence is bloodless and kept at a distance

Intense Scenes: a wanted criminal shoots and kills two police officers before perishing in an avalanche

Other: a bear is shot offscreen for food; some smoking and drinking

Interests: old movies, silent movies, arctic adventure, history

Versions: restored 1925 print is 95 minutes long, with piano music and title cards; 1942 sound release is 69 minutes long, has an orchestral score, no title cards, narration written and performed by Charlie Chaplin

Next: other Chaplin – Modern Times, City Lights

See also: Top 5 Silent Movies for Preschoolers
More

Top 5: Silent Movies for Preschoolers

It’s often hard to find silent movies on DVD, but the classics are out there, as well as collections of short subjects. Be aware of how your child might react to real knock-down slapstick humour – some may find it a little upsetting. (I tried a few Chaplin shorts on my 3-year-old and they were a little too much for her!)

Of course you’ll have to read the title cards… though a version of The Gold Rush is available that’s narrated by Charlie Chaplin himself!

Here are five brilliant and funny silent movies for the whole family.

1. Sherlock Jr. (1924) – Buster Keaton – 4+

Meek projectionist dreams of being a world-famous detective. Visual effects and stunt tour de force. See full review.

2. Safety Last (1923) – Harold Lloyd – 4+

A department store clerk arranges for a stuntman to climb the building as a publicity stunt, but then finds he must make the daring climb himself. (You all know the famous clock-hanging shot!)

3. The Gold Rush (1925) – Charlie Chaplin – 5+

Charlie’s Tramp goes to the Klondike in search of gold, goes through hard times, falls in love. Some menacing with rifles, a bad guy shoots Mounties, then dies in avalanche. A bear is shot (offscreen) for food.

4. Steamboat Bill Jr. (1928) – Buster Keaton – 6+

Bill Jr., a puny and delicate lad, tries desperately to impress his burly steamboat captain dad.

5. Modern Times (1936) – Charlie Chaplin – 6+

The Tramp struggles to survive in the modern world, undergoes a stint in jail and another in a factory. Some gunplay, usual slapstick stuff, plus smoking, accidental drunkenness, and accidental ingestion of “nose powder”, resulting in crazy behaviour.

Top 5: First Movie Musicals for Preschoolers

I’m not including here the animated Disney ‘musicals’, first because they are pretty obvious choices, and secondly because, with some exceptions, the music is often forgettable. I’ve chosen to focus instead on glorious, old-school, Broadway-style live action movie musicals. (Mary Poppins being a borderline case, but it’s mostly live-action.)

The grand old MGM musicals should boggle your child’s mind with the brash, over-the-top craziness of it all. I showed That’s Entertainment to two four-year-old girls last summer, and during the Esther Williams swimming sequences, well, their jaws were on the floor. Remember, that which you and I find cheesy, they may regard as nothing short of miraculous.

5 MUSICALS

1. Mary Poppins (1964) – 2+          (This title on amazon.)

2. Meet Me in St. Louis (1945) – 4+          (This title on amazon.)

3. The Wizard of Oz (1939) – 4+          (This title on amazon.)

4. Singin’ in the Rain (1952) – 5+          (This title on amazon.)

5. Annie (1982) – 5+          (This title on amazon.)

Singin’ in the Rain is the only one of the five with a plotline that isn’t immediately child-relateable – that is to say, it doesn’t have a child or teen protagonist with problems children can easily identify with and understand. However it should still grab young viewers with its humour, energy and verve.

If you’re not sure about the plotlines, and whether your child will find them interesting or even comprehensible, here’s my bonus suggestion:

6. That’s Entertainment, Vol. 1 (1974) , Vol. 2 (1976) – age ? (both rated G) : These DVDs are simply compilations of song and dance numbers plucked from many old musicals. An excellent introduction to the world of old movies and musicals, though you may have to fast forward through the ‘modern-day’ introductions from aging stars.

I’ve got a long list of runners-up, so keep tuned for “the next top 5 musicals”…

Watching Old Movies

Wouldn’t it be pleasant to sit down and watch a movie with your kids that wasn’t presold on sequels and Happy Meals? Or take them to an action movie that didn’t either freak them out or weigh down their little bones with premature irony? – Ty Burr, The Best Old Movies for Families

When I talk about Old Movies I don’t mean going back to Toy Story 1, or even aaall the way back to the first Star Wars (though 1977 does seem long, long ago in a galaxy far far away)… I’m talking about Oooooold movies here.

You may not have any interest in old movies, indeed, I realize not everyone has spent a lifetime loving them like I have. But if you are old enough to be a parent, you are certainly aware of how much movies have changed since the flicks you watched as a kid. They’ve changed for the better, in terms of technology. The complex visual and sound effects of modern movies absolutely boggles the mind. (Just compare a Harryhausen Sinbad movie to Avatar!) And they’ve also changed for the worse… can you even imagine a world in which there were no teen slasher horror films?

Whether or not you know much about old movies, when it comes to picking films for family movie nights, there are many good reasons to turn to the oldies…

More

Treasure Island (1950)


(Disney live-action)
Rated: PG (US & video rating in Canada)
Length:  96 min.
Age: 5 and up.                 Commonsense Media sez: 7 +

Scary Factor: lots of adventure, threatening situations too numerous to count; sword battles, shooting, mutiny; Jim fights a pirate and is wounded before he shoots the pirate in the face

Also: much drinking of rum (only by adults)

Interests: pirates, action, adventure, ships, islands, treasure, British history

Next: other pirate films Captain Blood, The Sea Hawk; books Treasure Island, Kidnapped, Robinson Crusoe

More

Captain Blood (1935)


Black and White

Rated: TV-G (TV rating)

Length:  119 min.

Age: 6 and up (more for complex plot and slow pace at start)

Scary factor/Violence: slaves are beaten, and one is branded as punishment (not graphic – offscreen); many battle scenes, but generally bloodless; one big swordfight on beach, but not graphic or disturbing

Sex: scene in which pirates party in a brothel/bar is pretty harmless

Other Bad Behaviour: fair amount of boozing, especially among the naughtier French pirates

Interests: pirates, sailing ships, history, old movies

Next: Treasure Island, The Adventures of Robin Hood, The Sea Hawk
More

A Midsummer Night’s Dream (1935)

Black & White
Rating: USA: Approved
Length: 133 min – other versions: 117 min (edited version), 142 min (with overture and exit music)
Age: suitable for 3, but for plot comprehension 4 or 5

Scary Factor: Oberon in black and his bat-people minions are a little unnerving, particularly when they seem to be rounding up the beautiful fairies at the end. Other than that there’s nothing violent or threatening. Viewers may wonder about the small orphan boy fought over by Oberon and Titania, but the toddler keeps smiling whether he’s with one or the other and seems to be treated well, so it shouldn’t be an issue. (He weeps only when Titania ignores him during her fascination with Bottom.)

Interests: magic, fairies, Shakespeare, old movies

Next: MOVIE: A Midsummer Night’s Dream (1999) is more for 12+ crowd (PG-13); BOOKS: traditional fairy tales, Peter Pan, Tales from Shakespeare by Charles & Mary Lamb, Shakespeare’s The Tempest (in a picture book version)

Preparation: picture books or other abridged versions of the Midsummer Night’s Dream story – helpful to know the plot first!

More

The Adventures of Robin Hood (1938)


Rated: PG for adventure violence
Length:  102 min.
Age: 4+                                      commonsense media sez: 9+ *

* There’s a big gap between our age recommendations here, which I have given a lot of thought to. Commonsense usually rates a year older than I do, but five?!   If your child likes action, and is okay with violence at a beginner level (arm’s length, non-gory), then I really think 4 or 5 is all right for this film. My daughter was a ‘slightly brave 4’ and had more trouble with the plot points than the violence. She quite enjoyed it, especially the jumping out of trees, which our stuffed animals still re-enact from time to time. … Plus, both Peter M. Nichols (The New York Times Essential Library : Children’s Movies: a critic’s guide to the best films available on video and DVD), and Ty Burr (The Best Old Movies for Families) agree with me – they both rate this film good for 4 years old and up.

Scary Factor: montage of dastardly doings to the peasants is upsetting but brief. Battles are not intense, see below. Robin is captured, which was hard to watch for my daughter, but just made his inevitable escape more exciting.

Interests: history, action, medieval life, England, knights, castles, old movies

Next: books on Robin Hood, MOVIES: other Errol Flynn: Captain Blood; Disney’s animated Robin Hood (1973)

More

Previous Older Entries Next Newer Entries

All writings posted here are © Kim Thompson, unless otherwise indicated. For all artwork on this site, copyright is retained by the artist.