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By Roz Rogoff

About this blog: In January 2002 I started writing my own online "newspaper" titled "The San Ramon Observer." I reported on City Council meetings and other happenings in San Ramon. I tried to be objective in my coverage of meetings and events, and...  (More)

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Past Lives

Uploaded: Mar 19, 2012
I went to Dublin to see The Artist on Sunday. I wanted to see it in a movie theater because I had been very involved with transitional sound films in one of my past lives. By past lives I don't mean I was reincarnated from a silent movie star into the blogger I am today. No all of my past lives occurred at different periods in my current life. If I had any before this one, I don't recall them.

I was very impressed with most of the movie, especially the meticulousness with which the late 1920's was recreated. I was, however, disappointed, that the early '30's wasn't more authentic. The women were still wearing cloche hats and short skirts. No, no, no. Hats went up and dresses went down with the economy. In this movie the only difference between 1929 and 1932 was talking movies. Not only did actors talk in the movie, the plots and characters were quite different too.

I was surprised to see how much Jamie Cromwell has aged. He plays the sympathetic chauffeur, Clifton. Why do I call James Cromwell Jamie? Well that's what we called him when I was in the Carnegie Tech Drama Department 50 years ago. He was a junior when I was a freshman. We all knew he'd be a big success. He came from a very successful Hollywood family too. He should have won the Oscar for Babe!

My Master's Thesis was on "Sound and Film: The Long Engagement," and it was a long one. It didn't start in 1929 or 1927 and end in 1931. It started back in 1895 when Thomas Edison added a cylinder phonograph to a Kinetoscope of William Kennedy Dixon playing the violin. Edison tried soundies again in 1913, but a fire at his film studios in 1914 pretty much put Edison out of the movie business.

Short sound films were being made in the mid '20's and finally a feature, Lights of New York, was released in 1928 as the first "all talking" feature film. I've seen it twice. It was pretty terrible.

The Jazz Singer from 1927 is a much better film, but it was essentially silent with a few breaks for Al Jolson to sing a few songs.

Jean Dujardin's character in The Artist comes closest to Douglas Fairbanks -- pencil mustache, big smile, and lots of athletic heroics. Fairbanks Sr., made three talkies in the 1930's. None of them were very successful.

Fairbank's son, Jr., co-stared in one of the first big talkies playing Edward G. Robinson's protégé in Little Cesar in 1931. Jamie's father, John Cromwell directed Fairbanks, Jr. in 1937's Prisoner of Zenda. No wonder Jamie feels a special closeness to The Artist.

Ah but this movie isn't really about the transition from silent movies to sound films. It's about transitions in life. It's about hanging on to what we are used to and rejecting change.

Now you see where I'm going with this blog. Yes residents of San Ramon who keep complaining about how the City has changed and isn't the place they moved to 30 or 40 years ago, are right. It has changed. I moved here 15 years ago after living in smaller cities and bigger cities, and like Goldilocks, I find this one is "Just right."

San Ramon will continue to grow, and as long as growth is planned and done attractively with a mix of housing and landscaping and parks and open space, the way it has been in the City controlled areas of development (not Dougherty Valley which was developed by the County and not as well), it can be done right. But our City Council and staff should control it and not the State or the County or ABAG or MTC or any of these agencies that try to impose their views on how we should live.

The complainers on these blogs should find out who is responsible for whatever they don't like, whether it's too few schools or too much high-density, low income housing, and complain to the sources, instead of casting blame at those who are doing what they are forced into.
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