Common Ground: Colorful B&W breaks from gloom

After spending much of the summer overdosing on zombie raids, alien invasions and apocalyptic clashes, it’s no wonder I have switched to Turner Movie Classics and “The Andy Griffith Show.”

It’s a nice break from all of the noisy and sometimes just plain ridiculous doomsday plots that inundate television and movies these days.

Last month, I watched a marathon of Agatha Christie movies and fell in love with Margaret Rutherford, who portrayed Miss Marple, the 70-year-old, silver-haired sleuth in “Murder, She Said.”

My husband wanted to know what was inspiring me to watch so many black-and-white flicks lately. “The movies have a lot of substance,” I said, “and give me something to think about.”

That night, we watched an episode of Christie’s classic, “Ten Little Indians.” My husband immediately recognized the title, a book he once read. For about 90 minutes, we watched the 1965 movie featuring Hugh O’Brian, star of the television western “Wyatt Earp.”

By the way, I interviewed O’Brian in 2000, the year he flew into Baton Rouge to visit students attending his youth program, the Hugh O’Brian Youth Leadership Conference.

I paused the television to tell my husband about my visit with O’Brian, reading back parts of the interview.

“I saw myself less interested in showbiz and more interested in this (youth leadership),” O’Brian told me.

He talked about the popularity of smoking among many of his acting contemporaries at the time and why he advocates against smoking today.

“You’re going to disappear if you don’t stop smoking,” he said he often told teens.

My 9-year-old son is amused with my fascination for black-and-white shows. “Mommy, are you watching ‘Andy Griffith’ again?” he asked me one night.

“No. This one is ‘Whatever Happened to Baby Jane?’”

As my son joined me in the easy chair, Joan Crawford’s character lifted her lunch tray and screamed after seeing a rat placed there by her sister, played by Bette Davis, who suffered from alcoholism and mental illness.

My son was intrigued with the movie’s plot.

When the Syfy network aired back-to-back episodes of “The Twilight Zone,” I had to tell my kids about my interview with one of its stars, Colin Wilcox Paxton, whose credits included “To Kill a Mockingbird” and a 1960s’ episode of the “Twilight Zone,” which she aired for theater students while she directed a play at Episcopal High School in Baton Rouge in 1997.

Over-the-top movie blockbusters are exciting, but sometimes it’s just nice to sit and watch an old-fashioned mystery or drama.

I feel fortunate to have met some talented, early screen stars who helped shape today’s film industry.

Chante Dionne Warren is a freelance writer. She can be reached at chantewriter@hotmail.com.