As a collector and reader of vintage etiquette books, I often pine for the days of thoughtful manners, the days when rules of etiquette were carefully taught and practiced at home and were considered necessary for a polite society. We sacrifice so much with the “like it or lump it,” ego-centric attitude that seems to prevail in our culture today.
I think this is part of my attraction to old black and white movies. Watching these movies, my husband and I will often remark about the days “when men were men and women were women.” What we really mean is when women acted lady-like and men acted like gentlemen.
Perhaps contradicting myself, our family has always been big fans of Mystery Science Theater 3000 (especially, the Joel Hodgson years), being introduced to MST3K by my sister, Heide, who worked as business manager in those early years at the Best Brains company while they were producing the show. We particularly enjoyed when a feature movie was not quite long enough for the time slot and needed to be padded out with a short, as they were called.
The short was usually about a ten minute, black and white educational film produced in the 50’s, meant to round out a student’s education with topics related to health, social skills and character development. The films seem cheesy to us today (as the MST3K lampooning attests), but they were instructive in their day. If we can get past the overacting, we catch a glimpse of a more polite time in American history, when thoughtful niceties and common courtesies were the norm, not the exception, and adults took the time to teach and re-teach these lessons to the next generation.
I share the following black and white short as a window to a kinder, gentler time…when men were trained to be gentlemanly and nice girls aspired to be lady-like. Enjoy!
[Black and White title photo is from the movie, The More the Merrier, starring Jean Arthur and Joel McCrea; a personal favorite of mine.]