Americans are living longer and reinventing both work and retirement, but Hollywood movies barely hint at this reality of contemporary society.
In many popular films, older characters fade into irrelevance, inactivity, or absurdity, or else they stay in the background as wise elders while younger characters provide the action.
Most American films do not attempt to portray the rich variety of experiences or the sensitive aging issues that people confront in the years beyond fifty. Fade to Gray offers one of the first extended studies of the portrayal of older people in American cinema from the silent era to the present.
Writing in an accessible style for both general audiences and scholars, Timothy Shary and Nancy McVittie examine social attitudes toward aging through an analysis of hundreds of individual films, including such classics as You Can't Take It With You (1938), Rosemary's Baby (1968), Grumpy Old Men (1993), and Nebraska (2013).
They show how representations of the aging process and depictions of older people embracing or enduring the various experiences of longer lives have evolved over the past century, as well as how film industry practices have both reflected and influenced perceptions of aging in American society.
Exposing the social and political motivations for negative cinematic portrayals of the elderly, Fade to Gray also gives visibility to films that provide opportunities for better understanding and appreciation of the aged and the aging process.