Disaster!

Today is the anniversary of the Wall Street Crash in 1929 that started the Great Depression. My great grandmother had invested in some Texas oil company stock and lost a good bit of money. My parents would often talk about the closing of the banks. It was a huge disaster for them and really influenced the trajectory of their lives.

I have never been a great fan of disaster movies. I just don’t like the suspense. I think the worst one I ever saw was a fairly modern one in which the magnetic poles changed position, and the North Pole was somewhere around Minneapolis, and all the oceans flooded dry land, exposing new dry land, and anyone who survived was on this one ship which contained survivors and all that remained of Western Civilization. I have no idea how or why I came to be watching it. I was most tolerant of disaster movies when I was in high school. The Poseidon Adventure comes to mind.

What are your favorite or least favorite disaster movies? Which movies to do think are real disasters? How did your family fare in the Great Depression? Why do you think that disasters are such popular fodder for entertainment?

44 thoughts on “Disaster!”

  1. Interesting! Just last night I was reading about the opening night gala at the Metropolitan Opera on the eve before the crash, and how that crash affected the lives of the rich and powerful, and eventually so many more. Russel Baker’s memoir “Growing Up” really brought home to me how that financial disaster affected ordinary people. I highly recommend reading it if you haven’t already if you want some insights into this disaster. It’s extremely well written, and with a great deal of compassion; a good read that despite it’s topic is not depressing. Love that book.

    Both mom and dad were born in 1920. Mom in Drogheda, Ireland; dad on Bogø, Denmark (Bogø is a small island) to an unwed mother. Neither of them had what you’d call a good start in life. While I can’t rule that the Great Depression probably affected their lives, I have my doubts that it changed the trajectory of them all that much. Other disasters did. WWII and it’s consequences in Europe probably the major influence.

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        1. I know, but even in jest I’d never agree that Hitler was anything but pure unmitigated evil. If I thought you were serious, I’d never speak to you again.

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  2. I don’t like disaster movies, and have watched very few. I don’t want to see horrible things, real life is bad enough.
    My number one film that’s a disaster is, of course, Grease. How could it fail? Pathetic, weedy, pretend Rock’nRoll. I’ve never watched it and never will. I’ve had enough clips foisted on me unawares to know what it’s like.
    I’ll clarify my position further. Classic, vintage, antique, call it what you will. That is real. Even faithful reproduction or replica.
    Retro is fake. “This is how I think it should have looked.” Not how it did look. I hate retro.

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  3. I don’t know how my family was affected by the Depression. My mother’s family was rich. I don’t think they are now. But they were Scottish, you know. A lot of alcohol about.

    That sounds lighthearted. But I believe there was some serious alcoholism in that family, which could well have had a disastrous effect on finances.

    Dad’s family were professional photographers. I’m not sure how that all came to an end, but I think it was the war rather than the Depression.

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    1. Probably a matter of timing, I think, unless your family had serious money prior to the Great Depression. Mine didn’t.

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  4. I had a friend–in fact, PJ has met her–who worked hard all her life and carefully nourished an investment that would take her comfortably into her old age. Her financial adviser was really high on the jewel of her portfolio. Guesses, anyone? Enron.

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    1. Yes, I met Marilyn (don’t know if I’m spelling her name right). Wise old woman by the time I met her, and we had an interesting visit.

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        1. I thought I remembered there was something unusual about the spelling of her name but couldn’t remember what. Thanks.

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  5. When I wrote a book about my parents, I came to an odd observation. They experienced all sorts of challenges, but two in particular.

    One was my father’s realization that the company in Ames that he had served for many years did not respect him and was determined to keep him in his place. It was a crushing moment.

    The other was when the investor in his new factory decided that my father was not fit to run the company he had created. That led to a terrible marathon of legal meetings intended to force my father out of his business. The impact of those meetings was brutal, to the point of making my father ill.

    And yet, guess what? The first crushing blow led my father to create his own stuffed toy factory, a work of love of which he was justly proud. Getting forced out of that business was equally positive, for it gave him a small fortune and the freedom to live the last years of his life without feeling he had to sacrifice everything for his factory.

    The two harshest disasters of my parents’ lives turned out to both be blessings in disguise.

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  6. Worst disaster movie: The Happening.
    Trees are making humans commit suicide.
    Mark Wahlberg cast as a high school science teacher and Zooey Deschanel as his wife. Wahlberg acting: furrowed brow.
    Deschanel acting: camera shots of her eyes.

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  7. My dad’s family took a hit when my grandfather lost the lumberyard he owned, but I don’t know much about that. They didn’t go hungry because they had a cow for milk and chickens… My mom’s also had a rough time, grandpa was part of a family of carpenters who built houses, schools… but again I don’t have many details. My parents were always frugal, but not “too a fault”.

    Disaster movies – I’m sure the ones I can remember seeing aren’t that great artistically – Twister, Deep Impact – except for Titanic. And Poseidon Adventure seems so campy at this point, but I’ll never forget seeing that wall of water on the screen coming toward us..

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  8. Both of my parents were born in the mid 20s and so were children to early teens during the depression. I never got a strong sense they were traumatized by it. Neither family had much money to start with. My mother’s parents were separated and she lived with her mother and brother on a rented farm. I don’t really know how they got by.

    My father’s father built himself a house during the depression. There was some sort of government aid to employers at that time and he and a friend took turns employing each other to build each other houses. My father and his brother were sent to live with relatives in a small town in northwest Minnesota each summer, memories of which he treasured all his life.

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    1. As I recall now, it wasn’t the magnetic poles that shifted, it was the Earth that turned somehow so that it was in a different position to the sun.

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      1. Did it have Will Smith and Jeff Goldblum in it? And an awful lot of testosterone, and the President having to fly Airforce One himself?

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      1. Wait, wait, I thought the latest information indicates that the earth is flat! What’s this talk about magnetic poles and what not? Next you’ll be telling me that vaccines are a good idea. Sheesh!

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  9. Rise and Shine Baboons,

    As a child I heard unending stories about the Great Depression from my parents who were children in those years and from my Grandparents, both sides who were farming. They were also affected by the weather variations of that time (Dust Bowl, Armistice Day Blizzard, etc). My father always said that both sides of grandparents had to be masterful farmers and money managers to live through those events and hang on to their farms. They could feed their families because the grew so many crops and animals that could also be food.

    On my mother’s side my Grandpa was a rigid Republican who loathed FDR. So when I sorted through my mother’s belongings in 2009 after she was unable to live alone anymore, I was surprised to discover the papers documenting a New Deal farm mortgage with which her dad re-financed their farm in Pipestone, MN. I always thought his political attitudes were not thought out well, and entirely based on emotion. That discovery reinforced that thought. I donated that paperwork to the PIpestone Historical Society along with my comments about his hypocrisy.

    I try not to watch disaster movies for the same reason Renee sited—who needs the extra tension? Our last 5-6 years in the USA have felt like a disaster movie to me, what with the 2016 election and all that wrought, then the pandemic.

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  10. ‘The Squid Game’ is the hot new thing on Netflix. We watched one episode and it made my chest hurt. I just don’t need to see people being mean just for sport; As Jacque said, we’ve been living this for the last few years, I don’t need to watch more of it.

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    1. Well I guess I won’t be watching it then. I have of course heard of it but didn’t know what it was. I don’t even like to watch cooking shows where people get thrown off so I don’t think squid game will be for me.

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  11. My parents were also born in 1925 and 1926. Dad said the depression didn’t affect them much; they grew most of their own food anyway and farming was farming. Mom was also on a farm and had the same situation. Both talked about people coming to the door looking for work or food, and it sounds like their parents would do what they could to help. Moms family was considered wealthy and I think there was some loans given over the years…

    I haven’t watched enough disaster movies to comment. Can we count ‘Wall-E’? That’s a post disaster movie I suppose. And it’s really sweet.

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  12. Why are disaster movies popular?
    “That could happen! But I’m safe for now. And if it did happen, I am a survivor.”
    Psychology of the survivalist.

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  13. My two favorite disaster movies are after hours by Martin Scorsese and Brazil by Terry Gilliam I can’t remember I’ll wait to describe the way the story goes other than the story opens and stuff starts happening and it gets worse and worse and worse for 2 1/2 hours and you are so relieved at the end of the movie that that is the pay off both movies are exceptionally wonderful

    my families brush with the depression what is that my fathers family all lived up in Fargo and he had the Irish half that were farm people his father was a bricklayer and the farmers ran into trouble during the depression because the banks all called in their loans not that people couldn’t make their payments but the banks didn’t give them the opportunity to instead of allowing them to farm and sell their products the banks wanted all the money now And then repossessed the farms one that couldn’t be done
    my dad grew up through the depression but got to go to the movies every week and have a haircut at the barber school he was given a dime to get a haircut at the barber shop but if he got it down to barber school for a nickel he could go to the movies he played catcher on the baseball team because they furnish the Mitt he followed the iceman to get the ice chips and all those great depression stories but his father was the foreman on the bricklaying crew that built many of the buildings in downtown fargo
    My great grandfather on my mother side is the Native American turned successful lawyer athletic Director businessman who got pretty much wiped out during the depression but he had invested in land and so he was able to sell off land
    My mothers dad quit working for the state and begin his own bridge and road construction company at that time and did fairly well he wasn’t rich but he wasn’t poor he ended up being rich
    His claim to fame most of his family was from Hoople North Dakota which is the absolute dead center of the North American continent
    that didn’t change during the depression

    The amazing thing to me about those times used it when I was a kid that felt like it was really really really the olden days from way way way back when when in reality it was simply 20 years ago which is like nothing today and my folks never corrected me and never questioned my interpretation of the timeline

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  14. My parents were born in 32 and 33 respectively. They were both extremely poor as children and their earliest memories are formed by this. It’s interesting though that my father’s response to growing up very poor was to spend money like water when he had it. He liked nice things, he liked art, he liked travel. My mother’s response was to be very frugal and very cost-conscious, which she still is. I never heard or saw them arguing about money but I always wonder if they did.

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  15. Almost forgot about the disaster movies. I can’t stand them. I don’t like eerie suspense and I don’t like unhappy endings and I don’t like movies and or books where the string of misfortunes just go on and on and on. There’s a great scene in National Treasure in which Nicolas Cage is hanging onto a board and then the board starts to pull away m, the nails pulling out. He says “you’ve got to be kidding me.” That’s how I feel about most disaster movies.

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  16. why are disaster movies popular topics? they have the story done before you start
    i once got to chat with edward albee and asked him if he only wrote about dysfunctional families and he replied that they were the interesting one to write about
    disaster themes are filling in minutia around the theme of disaster before during and adter
    tsunami, earthquake, avalanche

    ooohh remember steven spielberg’s first movie with dennis weaver and the truck following him

    the poor kid who couldn’t pull his finger out of the dyke without killing all of the netherlands…

    great premise

    Liked by 2 people

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