WE DO NOT do movie reviews in this part of the paper, for which the people who make movies and also those who go to them are probably grateful: they wouldn't be very good -- high-minded, perhaps, but not very good. So what follows should not be regarded as the beginning of movie criticism or even as an isolated review. It's just that we feel compelled to note a cultural phenomenon that was present in our town Wednesday night and which is the work of a Washingtonian, George Stevens Jr. Mr. Stevens, who is the co-chairman of the American Film Institute, has written, directed and narrated a movie that is a loving and informative cinematic history of his late father, the distinguished Hollywood director and pioneer in the development of the American film.
What makes this event of particular interest to us is not the social whoop-de-do that went with the special showing of the film the other night. It is not even the substance of the film itself, interesting as that might be both as the portrait of one of the industry's acknowledged giants and as a nostalgic trip through some of the world's great old movies. What caught our attention was the novelty of the filial attitude embodied in the movie.
The offspring of Hollywood's titans have had rather a lot to say about their parents lately of a debunking, if-you-knew-what-I-knew sort. People known to the public only as superstars have been cut down to size by their aggrieved, score-settling kids. Maybe -- who knows? -- all the angry and embarrassing revelations have portrayed these idols as they were. Maybe they all really were that rotten. We don't presume to know, any more than we presume to review movies in this space. But we do presume to say that there is something truly gratifying and reassuring, not to say unusual, these days about taking the testimony of a Hollywood son who reveres his late, great father. What's the matter? Didn't George Stevens Jr. get the word?