Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Free to Be... You and Me (1974)

As a child in the 1970s this children's anthology movie was shown to me at school assemblies on at least two occasions. Certain segments stuck with me though I could never recall the name of the movie. Back in 2004, I was describing the scenes I remembered from the movie while talking with a friend who is passionate about old school AV films. He told me the title was Free to be... You and Me. I looked it up online, found it on DVD and immediately purchased a copy. It was surreal to see the film again after so many years. I also found it strange that I'd been listening to a sound byte from the movie for years without realizing it; an audio sample had been used on Too Much Joy's album Son of Sam I Am (one of my favorite albums of all time).

Free to Be... You and Me started out originally as an album and book a couple years prior to it becoming a made for TV special. It was the brainchild of actress Marlo Thomas, who wanted to create something that would go against the gender stereotypes she witnessed in most children's fiction.

The TV movie has a number of other celebrities involved; Mel Brooks and Alan Alda in particular are featured heavily along with Marlo Thomas. Other celebrities who make appearances include a teen-aged Michael Jackson, Dionne Warwick, Rosie Grier, Harry Belafonte, Kris Kristofferson and Carol Channing. I have a hard time not smiling when a young Michael Jackson sings a song in which he asks if he'll be "big and strong" when he grows up. It is also difficult not to laugh out loud seeing football player Rosie Grier singing song about crying while decked out in his 70s attire. It looks like he could use his shirt collar as a hang glider. However, the film makes some solid points about gender stereotyping and the message is still valid even if the look is comically dated.

While originally purchased for myself, the DVD has become one of Kyra's. She was watching it again this morning which made me think about it. The movie is full of songs, stories, animation, puppetry and live action performances. Even 34 years later, Marlo Thomas's creation continues to entertain my own daughter. She's watched it many more times at the age of three than I did throughout my childhood. Then again, she's also seen The Wizard of Oz many many more times than I did growing up too. DVD is awesome, but it does make some films seem less special due to their availability no longer being limited.

Someone uploaded the entire Free to Be... You and Me movie to YouTube in chunks. If this blog has made you curious, it is possible to watch the entire thing online for free. The opening of the film (with its haunting carousel music) can be seen here. You can select the next segment by searching through the scrolling menu on the right side of the screen.

Thank you, Marlo Thomas, for making it safe for me to play with dolls and cry.


Robot Nine said...

That's funny, I don't remember that one exactly but similar things. I posted on Robot Nine some filmstrip clips from those days. Remember filmstrips? With the record soundtracks? Check 'Change You Underwear" post, as there was one called Change you underwear twice a week! Ick. I started a new blog too- LaidBackThinkTank, check it out, just some of my unique thoughts, lol. Until today I had somehow never noticed the 'Dawn of the Dad' thing. COOL!

Tom G said...

I'll check out the new blog. I do remember the film strips/slide shows of my childhood. I seem to be one of the few who remembers the Lollypop Dragon series. I was also treated to showings of The Red Balloon and Hardware Wars in school.

A friend of mine recently posted old educational videos about Halloween safety on a message board I frequent. They were hilarious.

Lisa Bee said...

This brings back memories. I had the album and listened to it a ton when I was a kid. But I never saw the special and didn't realize all those folks were in it. I'll have to check out the clips on You Tube.

King of New York Hacks said...

Those old shows warped many a mind.