From the Oakland Daily Tribune:
“I get it. I know I have really one distinction,” said Nick Clooney. “I know precisely, word for word, how my obituary will read:
“Nick Clooney, brother to Rosemary, father to George, died today. Period.”
With that out of the way, Clooney launched into a lively and memorable conversation — to call it a lecture sounds too dry and formal — for the Macomb Town Hall Lecture/Luncheon Series at the Ukrainian Cultural Center on Tuesday.
Clooney’s lecture was titled “The Movies That Changed Us: Reflections on the Screen.” Attendees heard a wealth of film facts and insights, but also a lot more as Clooney took questions from the audience after lunch, sharing stories about son George; George and Nick’s travels to Darfur to raise awareness; and why so many Clooneys (George, Rosemary, Betty) have gone into show business. “We always wondered that ourselves,” he joked.
Clooney said he was approached by a publisher about writing a book about movies. His first thought, he confessed, was “Who needs another book about movies?” But when the publisher asked how movies have changed his life, he got to thinking. “How many times have I said, ‘Here’s looking at you?’” He got to wondering “which movies changed our world or how movies were done.” The movie buff and the journalist were aroused and the book was born.
Clooney makes it clear up front that his list doesn’t have “Citizen Kane” or “Gone With the Wind.” Both are “one of a kind,” he said. They stand alone. However, there are other films that, if they didn’t break the mold, they made it, and not always positively.
D.W. Griffiths’ “The Birth of a Nation” is one example. The 1915 silent film centers on the Civil War and Reconstruction period. It had epic battle sequences and star power, but it also was “one of the worst things to happen in movies in our country,” Clooney said. Why? The film’s racist portrayals of blacks revived the Ku Klux Klan.
Clooney then jumped ahead a few years and noted, “Women became dominant in our motion pictures … which has not happened since.
“For eight of 10 years of the 1930s the top box office draw was a female,” said Clooney, citing a star-studded roster that still sparkles today: Bette Davis, Ginger Rogers, Katharine Hepburn, Shirley Temple, Hedy Lamarr and more. “(Women) had a zenith in the 1930s and it went downhill from there.”
Men still get the most money for films….
Another film of the era — 1932’s “Love Me Tonight” — Clooney calls the greatest movie musical ever made. The film starred Maurice Chevalier and Jeanette MacDonald with music by Rodgers and Hart, including that classic “Isn’t It Romantic?” But the film, directed by Rouben Mamoulian, was revolutionary in how it integrated songs into the story.