It's a Small World After All

Esther Williams and Cliff Robertson on the set of The Big Show

The first film I screened on a phone was The Big Show (1961) with Esther Williams and Cliff Robertson. The palm-sized screen was much too tiny for comfortable everyday viewing of a film, but the phone would stream movies faster than my sluggish internet service on the laptop.

All of this brings me to a certain moment.

At some point in that film -perhaps the point at which Cliff and Esther start talking marriage and I feel as though I’m intruding on a real conversation- I think, "This is frightfully intimate." Not only are talented people performing at my command, they are in my hand, they are in my pocket; I can take them with me in a way that I'd not done before.

This everyday technology is amazing, but also disturbing for some reason that I can’t articulate.

Robert Wagner mentions in his first autobiography, Pieces of My Heart, that in his childhood, movie stars seemed to be untouchable beings on a 30-foot silver screen that you never thought you’d meet. When television became prominent, TV stars on a smaller screen in your home felt like your neighbors.

What, then, does a tiny screen in your palm do to your experience? Do the people on the screen feel like your toys? That thought makes me uneasy. Still, I’m  interested in what newer media formats will continue to keep classic movies accessible.

What's the first movie you screened on a phone or other mobile device? Did you enjoy the experience?

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  1. Interesting discussion. I've not viewed a film on anything smaller than a laptop, and I feel the destruction of that barrier of discretion between fans and stars has more to do with mores and societal values than technology--but still, the idea of a completely mobile visit with your favorites at your convenience does seem to make the stars available at our beck and call, doesn't it?

  2. If I'm reading you correctly, you're saying technology is only as intrusive as the person using it. And people before today wouldn't have dreamed of being indiscreet with a star. I would agree.

    I do wonder, though, if the bobbysoxers, for instance, had Instagram would they have been as obnoxious as fans can be today?

  3. When it comes to a person being intrusive, and the technology that allows us to be so, I wonder, amusedly, if we're talking about which came first, the chicken or the egg. I suppose the bobbysoxers would have been just as obnoxious, even though they lived in a society far less casual than ours.

  4. Yes, it's probably a chicken-egg thing. Thanks for contributing to this conversation! :)


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