I’m a big fan of old movies, no lie.
It took me a while to realize why I liked them so much, and while the awesome outfits, lack of internet, and simpler lives are definitely a draw, I finally figured out that one of the main reasons I love them so much is for the chivalry of so many leading men.
Dictionary Definition of a Gentleman:
A well-mannered and considerate man with high standards of proper behavior.
A man who is cultured, courteous, and well-educated
A man whose conduct conforms to a high standard of propriety or correct behavior.
In 1899, The Baltimore Sun ran an essay competition for the best definition of a gentleman. The winner, Dr. John Walter Wayland, submitted this description:
“The True Gentleman is the man whose conduct proceeds from goodwill and an acute sense of propriety, and whose self control is equal to all emergencies; who does not make the poor man conscious of his poverty, the obscure man of his obscurity, or any man of his inferiority or deformity; who is himself humbled if necessity compels him to humble another; who does not flatter wealth, cringe before power, or boast of his own possessions or achievements; who speaks with frankness but always with sincerity and sympathy; whose deed follows his word; who thinks of the rights and feelings of others rather than his own; and who appears well in any company, a man with whom honor is sacred and virtue safe.”
When I think of gentlemen with qualities like these, it is the men who weren’t in every tabloid who stood out to me. These were family men who brought genuine passion to the screen and set aside much of their time and wealth to help out others.
I mean, look at some of the icons from the last century:
Yes, his face is on the salad dressing, but Paul Newman was also known for his humanitarian efforts and his strong sense of family. When he was asked about infidelity, this was his famous reply: “Why go out for a hamburger when you have steak at home?”
Known as the the best-dressed actor in American movies, he was known for his warm heart, impeccable sense of style, and love for jokes.
Roman Holiday…swoon. The famous Atticus Finch was given the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 1969 to honor his humanitarian efforts.
These men were known above all for courteous natures, their dedication to their families, and their innate sense of honor.
Our definition of a gentleman in today’s society has certainly evolved with the times (carrying a cane and wearing a suit every day are not de rigeur anymore), but there are certainly characteristics that still a chivalrous man make.
These are some of my top picks for modern-day gentlemen:
Hugh Jackman, Samuel L. Jackson, Tom Hanks, & Antonio Banderas
Talented, committed to their families, and intent on helping the world, these are men who definitely hold up to my definition of a gentleman.
Now here’s the real question. Am I just full of it, or do gentlemen still exist? Propriety for both guys and gals has gotten extremely lax these days, so maybe I’m a wishful thinker in hoping that there are true gents and ladies still around.
What do you think? Do real gentlemen still exist? If so, what qualities do they hold that make them so?
(Pics courtesy of Google Images.)