Over at Noir Girl, Casey's post about Carmen Miranda got me thinking about how classic film fans watch movies. There are the times we watch films for substance, looking for stories that speak to our own personal experiences or enrich their lives by exploring the human condition in ways they hadn't done before. Other times we watch for enjoyment, for an escape from our everyday world and into another existence. Some of us lean towards the substance, others lean towards the enjoyment yet we all find our own comfortable balance between the two. We approach films different types of knowledge or lack thereof. We come armed with an arsenal of information either about the film, its stars, the director or the genre or we come completely pure and naive ready to experience something new and different. Again, a lot of us lean towards one or the other side but we find balance between the two.
In one of Casey's comments she says "the films are the ice cream, the lives of the stars are just the sprinkles on the top. That's the way it should stay." I've read a few posts by other classic film bloggers and they pretty much align with Casey's viewpoint which is that certain knowledge about the lives of stars stains the purity of enjoyment when watching the films. I don't really agree with this concept but I can understand it. Reading about Loretta Young in two separate biographies about other stars made me not like her so much and thus I have avoided her films. However, I didn't like her much to begin with so the knowledge just enhanced that. On the flip side, I've read sordid details about the lives of Bette Davis, Cary Grant, Clark Gable, Spencer Tracy, Robert Mitchum, Norma Shearer, etc. and it hasn't affected how I watch their films. I still enjoy them immensely on screen. I can see where that might not work for everyone. Joan Crawford is forever tainted by that one famous line about wire hangers.
I am far too nosy and inquisitive to not learn about the lives of classic film stars yet is it right for me to dig up the dirt? Should I honor their legendary careers by avoiding their personal lives? If so, why should I? If they did bad things, why should I overlook them? What about those stars who were genuinely good people? Should we avoid them too? Jimmy Stewart was raised in my estimation after reading Marc Eliot's biography of him. Stewart gets the bad rap of being a womanizer (total myth) and dirt-digging Eliot couldn't even find much to tarnish Stewart.
Now I ask you dear readers, would you rather know or not know and why? I would love to hear your thoughts.