Sunday, November 24, 2013

Easy to Love: A Whole Bunch of Other Classic-Film Suggestions

The Siren rarely crowdsources anything; it feels like asking someone to do her homework. But she thought that this one time, it would be great to ask for recommendations on Facebook. So the Siren asked people for one (1) film that they’d suggest to a top-flight college student as a gateway to Hollywood movies made before about 1960. She had a vague notion that it would clarify her thinking, narrow her choices, maybe give her a couple of useful quotes.

And holy cats

What followed was a deluge, a cacophony, a landslide of recommendations ranging from Cat People to The Passion of Joan of Arc. Which, in retrospect, was entirely predictable. The Siren’s Facebook collective is what’s known as a self-selecting group, i.e., people willing to see day after day of old movies in their feed.

Most people were no more able to limit themselves to a single choice of film than they’d have been able to obey a sign over a bowl of french fries proclaiming “ONE PER PERSON, PLEASE.” The Siren had summoned up the conviction lurking in the hearts of cinephiles everywhere, that life without classic film is like that New Yorker cartoon above.

One cinephile Millennial posted gloomily, “I apologize for my generation,” but that isn’t the point of this exercise in any way, shape or form. First, Lance Mannion’s students are smarter than smart. Second, if it took the Siren until her 20s to get satisfaction from abstract art and until her 30s to appreciate classical music (and it did) that doesn’t mean she somehow enjoyed them less, or that she was dense for not having adored them from the time she could say “Mama.”

And the Siren has an oft-stated evangelical conviction, that the world of early-to-mid 20th century American film is vast and so brilliant that truly, there is something for everybody who isn’t the cinematic equivalent of tone-deaf.  

The conversation was incredible, but the Siren couldn’t possibly hit the honors students with a list so long it prompts the urge to close the browser and uncork a beer. So the Siren has appended a non-inclusive list of the suggestions she got from her film-mad (and highly film-knowledgeable) Facebook friends. The Siren’s also including two gentlemen she buttonholed at a party, a few who sent her emails and one gentleman whose opinion was solicited at the Nehme family dinner table. The writers and people whose work appears online are identified as much as possible. The others are nothing if not eclectic in their pursuits, including academics, medical people, museum curators, musicians, computer programmers, a couple of attorneys and a psychotherapist.

A rough tally of the films that got mentioned more than once, but that the Siren didn’t include in her own list:

Out of the Past
On the Waterfront
North by Northwest
The Maltese Falcon
The Searchers
Night of the Hunter
The Best Years of Our Lives
Sunset Boulevard
The Philadelphia Story
Bringing Up Baby
The Thin Man
The African Queen
Baby Face
Marked Woman
The Women
The Lady Eve

Samuel A. Adams, critic and editor of Criticwire: My kids, who were art-school students, really took to THE PASSION OF JOAN OF ARC. (I'd been cautioned by the department head not to try and show them the whole thing; but I ignored the advice.)

Miriam Bale, film writer and programmer, critic at The New York Times: I agree with Night of the Hunter and Out of the Past. But I'd add The Birds, and Red Headed Woman, a great introduction to the naughtiness pre-code!

Kendra Bean (author of Vivien Leigh: An Intimate Portrait): Gone with the Wind. It's easily available and you can break it up into two sittings. Bonus: watching it with me!

Christianne Benedict of Krell Laboratories: Harold Lloyd's Girl Shy, mainly because its last third is one of the most jaw-dropping action sequences ever filmed, but also because it's hilarious.

Karie Bible, film writer: Baby Face. “Always a great crowd pleaser! What better way to get them hooked on pre-code?”

Jill Blake, Sittin’ on a Backyard Fence: Right at 1960, but THE APARTMENT is a must. Honorable mention for ACE IN THE HOLE. Hell, let's throw in all of Billy Wilder's filmography. And I love that I'm seeing so much love for THE BEST YEARS OF OUR LIVES. It should be mandatory viewing for sure.

Tom Block: “I've yet to meet the person that didn't respond to Scarface.” [That’s the 1932 version, of course!]

Wesley Blount: On the beaten path: It Happened One Night, The Maltese Falcon, Mildred Pierce (there oughtta be Joan too), Swing Time. Off the beaten path: June Bride (Davis that holds up well), A Letter to Three Wives, The Palm Beach Story.

Trudy Bolter: “Political films like The Mortal Storm and Gentleman's Agreement can fascinate students.”

Robert Cashill, film journalist:  “I showed parts of The Heiress to a college audience. Many said they planned to seek it out on their own. Compelling on so many levels.”

Philip Chambers:  “I have two movies from different periods that might work. For example if you want to give them an idea of the sordid realism of films of the early thirties, try Barbara Stanwyck in Baby Face. If they think early movies are full of the pleasures of Andy Hardy and lavish innocuous musicals, they're in for a surprise...My choice for the forties would be Nightmare Alley, primarily because Tyrone Power is a good looking stud and he'll rope them in, but they'll soon find out that looks, contrary to Hollywood iconography, are not all that important when your mind is full of ruthless greed and the need to claw your way to the top no matter how it affects you morally and psychologically.”

Jason Chervokas: “I second Sunset Boulevard for the mission at hand. Classic noir with a modernist trick of sorts -- narration from beyond the grave -- and an old movie about old movies, that, if it doesn't suck you in with both the romance and the hustle that is old Hollywood, well, you'll never care about old movies.”

Elizabeth Cody, author of the Lily B. series, which happen to be my daughter’s favorites: All About Eve. The African Queen.

Tony Dayoub, Cinema Viewfinder: Kiss Me Deadly, Night of the Hunter, and The Searchers. I guess the reason would be the same for all three. For any newbies who believe that pre-1960 films are too naïve or light for contemporary sensibilities, each of these will prove them wrong in their own unique way.

Brian Doan, Bubblegum Aesthetics: One of my happiest moments teaching film was the loud, sustained-through-the-film laughter My Man Godfrey got when I showed it in an intro class. They loved the film, and it was really great to see them connect with its blend of slapstick and dizzy romance.

David Edelstein, chief film critic, New York Magazine: “I don’t know if it’s the perfect intro, but Night and the City showed me that noir can be not just cynical, but tragic.”

Roy Edroso, political writer and possessor of great film taste, proprietor of Alicublog: “They haven't seen Citizen Kane. I know they haven't. So you can show that to them, and then go back to Biograph and begin the long story.”

Chris Edwards, Silent Volume: “I'm tempted to say The Best Years of Our Lives, which is a top-five favourite film of mine. But my suggestion is The Pride of the Yankees--not because it's the best pre-60s film I've seen, but because, as a biography made in a style totally different from biographies today, made a year after the man died, and co-starring his colleagues, I think it's both a fine film and a real teachable moment. Seeing that film is good for you.”

Steve Elworth: “Detour, because it is great and it was made for $1.75.”

Paul F. Etcheverry: “I just want to see the expressions on the students' faces when they watch Three On A Match and see that Ann Dvorak has been snorting cocaine with Lyle Talbot.”

Marilyn Ferdinand, Ferdy on Films: “My 12-year-old grandson responded extremely well to Went the Day Well? I think it's got a lot to recommend it because it is British, so therefore not American but also not subtitled, it is action-packed, deals with a subject that could seem contemporary (internal terrorism), and it has some really great roles for women. It shows the costs of war and the importance of bravery and sticking together.”

David Ferguson: “For the girls and gay boys I'd try The Women and Old Acquaintance since they're kind of like Real Housewives. Imitation of Life (either 1934 or 1959) is always a grabber and can stimulate very interesting discussion of race.”

David Fiore: “I don’t see how The Lady Eve could fail to delight anyone.” [He also suggests a field trip to the Toronto Cinematheque for the Bette Davis retrospective playing there.]

Stephanie Fowler: “Now Voyager for Bette Davis would win hands down for me, such a stylish and well acted movie classic; and Laura, a great mystery movie that still doesn't feel dated to me. It's only the being in black and white that dates it I reckon.”

Larry Frascella, co-author of Live Fast, Die Young: The Wild Ride of Making Rebel Without a Cause: “When I was going around showing Rebel Without a Cause at colleges some years ago, I often heard a variation of the comment: ‘I didn't know a movie could get you so emotionally stirred up.’”

Beth Ann Gallagher: “What about the classic film silent comedy Safety Last? When a restored print showed at the San Francisco Silent Film Festival the audience was so vocal and appreciative of all the jokes and stunts, and they are all hardcore silent film viewers likely to have seen that movie before. I can imagine it playing well for the class and getting them to love a silent film classic!”

Klara Tavakoli Goesche, Retro ACTIVE Critiques: “Can I also suggest Rear Window? Only because those of us who've seen it countless times can take it for granted that the young'uns might not have seen it even once.”

William Goss: The Adventures of Robin Hood (1938) “The comfort of a familiar tale, the sprightliness of a legendary lead's in color. DVD/Blu.”

Annie Gugliotti, Blogdorf Goodman: “Did anyone suggest Now, Voyager....because that tears me up ever time.”

Mark Harris, author of Pictures at a Revolution and Five Came Back (the story of directors John Ford, Frank Capra, John Huston, William Wyler and George Stevens during World War II, due in March 2014):  “This is going to sound like exactly the kind of movie at which they might roll their eyes, but have you seen Shane lately? It's really simply made but so adult, so controlled, so emotionally powerful and disturbing about families. Every scene, every shot, every line means something. I think it might fit your criteria.”

Lokke Heiss: “I lived in Columbia, Missouri the last seven years before coming to NYC, and my friends who taught the intro film classes at the university there talked to me about this constantly. The film that pops up on most people's lists, a great 'gateway drug' film for pre-60 newbies, is It Happened One Night. A film I also recommend strongly is Cat People, because besides being a great movie, it shows that you can make a really scary movie in ways other than using special effects.”

Meredith Hindley, writer and historian: Rear Window. “Who hasn't spied on their neighbors and wondered what was going on? Young women will also be enchanted by Grace Kelly's forwardness and wardrobe. (We're talking haute couture, not yoga pants and a hoodie.) Plus, the unpacking of the Mark Cross bag is seduction itself. Kelly's character (Lisa Fremont) also uses her brains and takes a huge risk, so she's not a passive participant in solving the mystery. There's also Hitchcock's lush visuals and slow cranking tension.”

Jordan Hoffman: “A nice entry level screwball comedy. Everybody loves ’em. The Thin Man or Bringing Up Baby . . hell, I don't need to tell you . . .one of the big honkin' fat screwballs.”

Hannah Huckaby: “Modern Times speaks to today's economic troubles and is soooooooo funny.”

Ed Hulse, author of Lone Pine in the Movies: Where the Real West Becomes the Reel West: “I don't pretend to have any great insight on this subject, but I'll pass along something that gave me hope. Back in the early Eighties, when the most popular revival house in NYC was the Regency, I attended a screening of the then-recently-restored The Adventures of Robin Hood, which is my all-time favorite film. Upon entering the theater I was startled to see many young people, including baby-boomer parents with children. To be frank, I was afraid the film would be treated as a campy artifact and girded my loins to be annoyed by snarky comments and inappropriate laughter. But to my amazement and delight, the audience got caught up in the film and even the kids -- weaned on smarmy sitcoms and brain-dead video games -- whooped and hollered in all the right places. After the screening, trudging up the aisle behind two young families, I overheard one dad telling the other, ‘Boy, that's one old movie that still works.’ The reply: ‘You know, I saw it on TV when I was a kid but I didn't remember how good it is.’ Maybe it was the gorgeous new 35mm print and the theatrical venue that made the difference, but that particular screening of Robin Hood--a film I've seen at least two dozen times--still ranks among my most enjoyable moviegoing experiences.”

Andrew O’Hehir, film critic, One shouldn't pick these things for defensive reasons, but The Searchers will blow their minds if they believe westerns are stodgy, antique and easy to laugh at. It's also a key text in American cinema, Echo the thoughts on noir, a lot of which pre-echoes contemporary issues. Also, if I may invoke the Hammer of Obviousness -- Casablanca. Bizarre as this may seem to those of us above the dividing line, many younger people haven't seen it. If it doesn't exactly help them understand WWII, at least it begins teaching them about the cultural importance of that war.

Peter Labuza, The Cinephiliacs: “It's a Wonderful Life seems to do it for a lot of my peers; I wonder (this is untested) if something with a little more "naturalism" like On The Waterfront would play well.”

Lou Lumenick, film critic at the New York Post (and the Siren’s boss there): Sweet Smell of Success worked on my daughter. Also The Manchurian Candidate. [Slightly out of time range, but truly great so the Siren’s leaving it in.]

Daniel Lunsford: On the Waterfront. It's only a few years before 1960 and proto-modern in many ways, yet it has many of the charms of 1940s films. I bet it could be a decent gateway drug to earlier movies.

Cyndi Mortenson: I run a repertory cinema that shows exclusively classic films. We have a large young audience, but I've had to convince some of them to try a black-and-white film (they aren't interested if it's BW)--I'll tell them they can go in free and if they don't like it, they don't have to pay. It's so rewarding to see them excited after seeing Rebecca or The Philadelphia Story or It Happened One Night for the first time.

Jad Nehme: Hard to Handle or Picture Snatcher. “All the pre-Codes we’ve watched were great; James Cagney is wonderful. Also, I saw East of Eden in class at lycee and we all liked it very much. It spoke to young people and their emotions, at least at the time. Maybe 20 years later it won’t. But it’s a great movie.”

Sheila O’Malley, The Sheila Variations: Only Angels Have Wings. “A perfect movie, something for everyone, looks great, sexy, adventurous, etc. Amazing action sequences, fantastic dialogue and atmosphere.”

Doris Palmieri:  Rear Window. “But, for introducing a younger audience to Bette Davis, Whatever Happened to Baby Jane? will shake things up.”

Vincent Paterno, Carole & Co. (a blog about Carole Lombard): “One more vote for My Man Godfrey (an ideal film for the Occupy crowd) and one more against Bringing Up Baby. (I admit a Lombard bias, but there are many other films that feature Katharine Hepburn, while many younger audiences aren't aware of Carole's timelessness.) Several other candidates: Libeled Lady, Ninotchka, Gold Diggers Of 1933, The Miracle Of Morgan's Creek, plus as a twin bill, Remember The Night and Double Indemnity, if only to show the versatility of actors under the studio system. Oh, and how I could forget Stagecoach, still the greatest western of them all?”

Barton Plunkett: Rear Window. “Still plays. Great intro to Hitch, Jimmy and, hubba hubba, Grace Kelly (plus a scary Raymond Burr for good measure).”

Gloria Porta, Rooting for Laughton: “I think that Night Of The Hunter and Witness For The Prosecution are fairly approachable by the general public.”

Scott K. Ratner, actor: “I've never personally known anyone to dislike or be totally bored with Rebecca (surprising, as it kind of rolls into low gear in its final quarter), and two dark horse favorites that have always worked for me are And Then There Were None and A Matter Of Life And Death. North By Northwest always does well and, cliche as it may seem, Casablanca I've found pretty safe.”

Christina Rice, author of Ann Dvorak: Hollywood’s Forgotten Rebel: “Gentlemen Prefer Blondes and It Happened One Night are two films I showed to my kid sisters when they were in grade school and they loved them. Light and fun but still classic. Most have certainly heard of Marilyn but maybe have not seen her in action; and everyone deserves an introduction to Gable.”

Carrie Rickey, critic: His Girl Friday. “I find that Howard Hawks almost always works for college students.”

Gabrielle Roh: “Private Lives with Norma Shearer...if only the sound quality was better.”

Graham Russell, Bitterness Personified: Angel Face. “I can't see how they couldn't respond to Robert Mitchum--his sexy insolent tough guy persona is timeless!”

Mark Schoeneker: “Can't believe no one's mentioned Treasure of the Sierra Madre. It's the ideal gateway movie, every bit as fresh & exciting today as it must have been on the day it came out, & 100% capable of converting ALL nonbelievers. Also, plays really well alongside Double Indemnity.”

Daniel Shaw: “The More the Merrier (because Jean Arthur, and Joel McCrea); Notorious (because Hitchcock, Ingrid, Cary and Ben Hecht).”

Ceil Shissler: “I am the person you are trying to educate….I liked The African Queen.”

Tom Shone, film writer and critic for the Economist’s Intelligent Life and the Guardian Online: “Any of the great Hitchcocks--Rear Window, Strangers on a Train...But if it’s just one, North by Northwest. All the Bond films come straight from that one.”

Michael Simmons, writer: “A couple of years ago we had a couple of English girls staying with us. They were in their gap year and getting ready to attend University back home. Anyway, we took them to see Breakfast at Tiffany's and Roman Holiday. They were looking forward to Breakfast because they had heard so much about it over the years but it just bombed with them...Roman Holiday, on the other hand, just won them over, and came off as timeless rather than old. They were predisposed to hate it (black and white, a princess, the bad aftertaste of Breakfast) but it completely slipped under their defenses. Because Roman Holiday is not really part of mainstream pop culture, they had no idea how it was going to end. They were just weeping when it was over. The best part was that it made other movie suggestions easy. Like Audrey? Try Sabrina. Like the European romance? Try Jules and Jim. Like the unscrupulous newsman? Try His Girl Friday. Like pretty women riding on motor scooters wearing iconic clothing? Try The Singing Nun. Well, maybe not that one…”

Ellen Smith (no relation but the Siren’s good, good friend since the third grade, so she’s used to me): Sunset Boulevard.

Lauren Stieber: The Thin Man and The Philadelphia Story. “Bringing Up Baby for extra credit.”

Cassandra Sophia B: The Third Man, without question.

Philip Tatler IV, Diary of a Country Pickpocket: Out of the Past.

Charles Taylor, critic and NYU faculty member: It might be cheating but what about some Method stuff? I can't imagine On the Waterfront won't hold them.

Ella Taylor, critic, NPR: All About Eve, of course. But also Now, Voyager, a not-great movie with some really great Bette moments: Emerging from frump to glamor-babe; saying no to monster mom, but nicely; not asking for the marital moon because she already has the stars; and so on.

Rachel Thibault: Gold Diggers Of 1933 and some Sam Fuller--I'm partial to Pickup On South Street (1953). Don't think i have to explain the need to watch Busby Berkeley (fun musical numbers, sexual innuendo) and Pickup is great Cold War hysteria noir. Funny, too.

Steve Timberlake, Linkmeister: The Best Years of Our Lives. It's easily relatable to current war vets.

Melodie Warner: The Women, Carmen Jones, Notorious, The Letter and Little Foxes. “I love films in which women are more than just a pretty face.”

Tinky Weisblat, author of Pulling Taffy: A Year with Dementia and Other Adventures:  It. Young people are amazed that something in black and white (and silent!) can be so lively. Or maybe someone.

Marisa Young, The Timothy Carey Experience: Sunset Boulevard. Perfect Hollywood Gothic. All About Eve is my absolute go-to; it's perfect in every way. If they dig horror, The Black Cat and The Bride of Frankenstein never fail to impress.

Robert Ward, author of Renegades: My Wild Trip from Professor to New Journalist: I had a noir seminar at Claremont College. Seven students to it and I picked movies which came from novels: The Postman Always Rings Twice (1946), Out of the Past, The Killing (short story), Double Indemnity, The Big Sleep, The Letter...and a few others. No one had ever seen Robert Mitchum or Jane Greer but everyone thought Out of the Past was great. They loved Postman and Double Indemnity.

Noel Vera, Critic After Dark: Stalag 17. [Billy Wilder is] not my favorite filmmaker, not even the best of his works, but the kids simply love that film. Just can't get enough of it.

Bart Verbanck: The Crimson Pirate.

Bob Westal, Forward to Yesterday: “For college age and older people, film noir seems to have a special status and might feel more contemporary than other films, so starting with Double Indemnity or The Killing (Stanley Kubrick has a lot of younger fans, and can tie in the structure to early Tarantino) might make sense.”

Angie Wojak: Rear Window, Safe in Hell, The General, Double Indemnity, Out of the Past, The Women, Dinner at Eight, Female.

James Wolcott, author of Critical Mass and a visitor to the Public Intellectuals class himself: “The first title that popped in my head was The Maltese Falcon because it has a great cast, moves fast, is quite funny and atmospheric.”

Jeff Zak: Out of the Past. I was a student in Glasgow, around 1996. I remember they were showing a series of film noir films every friday night. I have to say, after watching Out of the Past, I just fell in love with Robert Mitchum...the coolest film I’d seen at that time. I love it! Kids will love it! Smokers will love it! Err...

Adam Zanzie, Icebox Movies: High Noon. "It’s short, innovative and easy to relate to."


Vanwall said...

This could easily be a primer list for any film appreciation endeavor.

Peter Nellhaus said...

I was thinking about a Facebook comment made about how a younger generation's idea of an old movie doesn't go further back than Star Wars. Then I thought a bit about my own cinephilia. I was about thirteen years old when I "discovered" and had a crush on Ruby Keeler, sneaking downstairs to watch Busby Berkeley musicals on TV when everyone else was sleeping, with the volume up just enough to hear what was going on. I also remember when I saw the Marlon Brando version of Mutiny on the Bounty and my parents and their friends saying something to the effect that the only version worth seeing had Clark Gable and Charles Laughton. I say, give the kids a break. One guy's Ruby Keeler is another guy's Carrie Fisher.

Noel Vera said...

Still a thrill to be mentioned, thanks!

Wilder knows his audience, like him or not; you can't go wrong with Double Indemnity, Sunset Boulevard, Some Like It Hot, if we're talking at least teenagers and above, and I tend to think of them as a tricky crowd.

Hitchcock is also reliable: I got a good response from The Birds, Vertigo and above all Rear Window, arguably the perfect entertainment (certainly Hitchcock's).

Also got a good response from His Girl Friday--even with the ADHD generation, you can't exactly call this film slow.

And then there's The Gold Rush. I remember one of my students saying "Chaplin is my MAN!" His appeal appears to cross not just generations but cultural and racial boundaries.

Marilyn said...

You mention your own list, but I don't see it. What is it, Farran?

The Siren said...

It's at the top of the blog. :D I don't blame you for getting lost; this is an awfully big chunk of text to get hit with, even divided into two posts.

Handsome said...

Excellent choices all around, but I'm a little disappointed that there is just one mention of a Preston Sturges film. The Great McGinty was my personal entry into the world of pre-1960 movies, and what a treat it was.

Buttermilk Sky said...

Don't use the word "masterpiece." Just show them "Citizen Kane." And there's not enough Cagney here -- maybe "Public Enemy" or "The Roaring Twenties" or that sneaky little musical "Something To Sing About." Trust me, they'll go looking for more.

VP81955 said...

If I had known silent films were part of the equation, I probably would have added "Girl Shy" (the chase scene never fails to thrill) and "Show People" (Marion Davies' charm transcends some of the dated in-jokes).

Lemora said...

I'll go along with "The Best Years Of Our Lives!" I'm glad so many of us love this one. Also, "It Happened One Night," "The Adventures Of Robin Hood." Favorite Scene: "I'll us every means in my power to fight you. I'll exact a death for a death, etc." "Baby Face" is Barbara Stanwyck at her best. Can't imagine a Gateway List without her. And "Laura," the intelligent girl with the collection of dopes. "Out Of The Past" for sure. I'm curious as to why no one mentions "The Wizard Of Oz." Margaret Hamilton still packs a wallop and Judy Garland was never better. The men behind the curtains can always use the exposure. Too hokey? I'm not on Facebook, and so I don't know what goes on there.

gmoke said...

Today I was asked to name my favorite film and finally came up with "Ikiru" but I'd suggest "Seven Samurai" as a gateway to film history for the "kids these days." Or perhaps you'd want to go with "The Hidden Fortress" from which "Star Wars" is partially derived. There's a sequence in that film where Toshiro Mifune rides a horse the way John Wayne dreams he could.

Almost all the films mentioned have been American.

hum'n'mum said...

okay, so it's twenty (in no particular order:

grand hotel, I am a fugitive...
dark victory, Julius Caesar
grapes of wrath, duck soup
double indemnity, notorious
body and soul, crossfire
shane, bad day at black rock
black narcissus, bringing up...
Casablanca, the best years of...
sunset blvd., strangers on a...
robin hood, singin' in the rain

what did I leave out?

Anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Laura Nolan said...

I'm really surprised no one mentioned Sullivan's Travels, which 1) is quicksilver funny, 2) concerns itself with things Millennials and Post- Milliennial are obsessed with: celebrity and wealth disparity, 3) is in b&w, so it can help obliterate visual prejudices, and 4) has Veronica Lake. But mostly because it is about the very point of this survey: the pleasure movies give (and pre-1960 movies, at that!).

Lemora said...

Speaking of black and white and the younger generation, wasn't "Good Night And Good Luck" a big hit within the last seven years or so? Did anyone under 35 actually see it? I seem to remember younger viewers in the audience when I saw it. I grew up on TV in the 1950's and actually watched Edward R. Murrow, so I thoroughly enjoyed it. As a student watching classic films at UCLA in 1968, I got introduced to them, seen as originally intended in pristine, restored prints, without commercials or in butchered form, on the big screen. The old silver nitrate film stock absolutely glowed. And, we were enthralled. Bob Epstein was the professor, and he would lecture before each movie, exhorting us to pay attention to this or that. And he dragged everyone connected to that era in to take our questions and answers. I, as a twenty year old, began to consider all the various artisans on the other side of the camera and how they made those movies inimitable. I was convinced that I had been born in the wrong era. I wanted to be dressed in tennis whites, headed for cocktails at a country house weekend with Ronald Coleman, rather than to the auditorium to listen to Timothy Leary lecture us on the virtues of dropping acid. (I did go hear him and thought he had taken a few LSD trips too many, even then.) I still feel that way. I'd recommend "Dinner At Eight" for the gateway list. Surely people who love "Downton Abbey" could relate to the social climbing and competing agendas. And it's Jean Harlow at her best, telling Marie Dressler that someday they're goona have machines that will do the work, instead of people. ("My dear, I don't think you have anything to worry about!") The ADHD generation! So THAT's what's wrong with the people in "His Girl Friday!"

Lemora said...

Oh dear! That's Ronald Colman I was talking about. And Jean Harlow mentioned that she was reading a book (!) where the guy says "that machines are gonna replace all the professions!" In response, Dressler gives her the once over and declares, "Oh my dear, that's something you never need worry about." It could be Lady Violet cracking wise to a young flapper, (Lily?) as they walk in to dinner.

john said...

Did not know that the N.Y was into non-Héxagonale Cinéma!