An Interview with Peter McCrea
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Did your parents go to the movies?

They loved going to the movies forever. They would go out to the movies all the time.

I wonder what they thought of these modern movies.

They weren't too thrilled with a lot of them. What Pop looked for in a film was, "Did the picture have something to say?" Pop felt that every film had a message and he just wanted to believe in what it had to say. Not that he was "rose-colored glasses," or that it had to be a cheery, happy ending...

Well, Ride the High Country for instance.

Right. One of the strongest points of that film was that the so-called bad guys were made broader and more human than just typical villains. The fact was that the bad guys were given some humanity, some sense of honor as they say in one of the lines. Pop recognized that. A lot of pictures that he did weren't just simple good guy/bad guy black and white type things. Like Four Faces West, where he robs a bank but he's the guy that you care about. So, I think that what he looked for was, "Did the picture give you a sense of wanting to be a good person?" That was one of the key things. Did it give you an uplifting feeling? No matter what you see in the film or what happens in the film, do you walk away feeling enriched somehow? Films that wallowed in negativity or degrading things bothered him and Mom.

There were a lot of modern movies that they did love: Dances with Wolves and Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid. Movies that they really loved back when they were still working were The Best Years of Our Lives, Dodsworth and Ben Hur, Gary Cooper films like Meet John Doe. Or You Can't Take it With You with Jimmy Stewart. There were so many great films that were made by directors they knew or had worked with: To Kill a Mockingbird, Roman Holiday, The Searchers, The African Queen, Treasure of the Sierra Madre, The Big Sleep, The Awful Truth, All About Eve.

One thing that Mom always said was, "Don't overly glorify the old days, because when you look back you can mentally blot out the bad. There were plenty of terrible movies made back then. And we say, 'Oh, the good old days!' Remember, each studio made about forty films a year, and there might have been only four or five really good ones."

Pop was a bit more glorifying of the "Golden Era," he knew it was a great time to be in the business and he loved it. I think they were both right in their own way. You know the Golden Era really was Golden. If you take the greatest films from, say, 1935 to 1945 and then from 1975 to 1985, or certainly from 1995 to 2005, I think that there were more classics in the early days than in the later years.

Did your parents speak often of their careers in their personal lives?

Not too often when I was young. But in his later years, after I went into the business and became a film editor, Pop loved to tell me stories about his career. I taped him over the last ten years of his life.

You've told me that there are books about both of your parents in progress. Is there any word of when the books will be published?

Mom's book is basically done. It's by a very good writer and close friend of Mom's. Pop's book will be done in about a year. There are about a thousand pages of transcript to edit.

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