14 May 2008

The Classics

"The Cradle"

"Life is like a good black and white photograph, there's black, there's white, and lots of shades in between." -Karl Heiner

Some time ago, I made mention that I wanted to take some time to watch some old classics. This was brought on by a Nevada Public Radio segment in which Dustin Hoffman was interviewed for the 40th anniversary of “The Graduate” from 1967, which effectively put him on the Hollywood map. I had actually never seen the movie and it made me realize how many classics I had never seen despite my love of movies. As a kid, I never wanted to watch old movies preferring the blood, gore, violence, and sex of the modern era of film. But then over the last decade or so, I’ve noticed a decline in the quality of film. Oh sure, there are always the blockbuster franchises that come out and the sequels of other popular films, but everything seemed to be a remake. Originality was lost.

The same was happening with television as well. Much has gravitated toward the reality genre, but sometimes browsing the channels late at night, I’d catch an old sitcom, or drama series. Maybe I’ve grown up since then, but I have been able to appreciate good TV. Sometimes its just funny watching shows from back then and noting the dress styles or the politically correct way of addressing an issue that wouldn’t even get a second look today, such as teen pregnancy or drugs in school. These issues, while remaining important, are not the tender subjects they once were. School shootings are much more of a factor now. I can recall seeing an episode of Sesame Street from way back in the day. Kids were being followed playing in a local city dump using old refuse for play things. That kind of stuff would never fly today!

A few days ago, I watched The Graduate and Casablanca. These films don’t need my review by any sort of the suggestion, but Ben, in The Graduate, would have been considered a stalker if he were casing a school and following a young girl around campus. I thoroughly enjoyed the movie, but Casablanca was brilliant to me. I especially enjoyed the lighting. Nothing is lit very brightly and the shadow play is much like I try to do with my photography now. The B&Ws are still a fave of mine and the low key, sometimes soft imagery was especially to my liking. I now know where some of these famous quotes come from: "Of all the gin joints in all the towns in the world, she walks into mine.", as well as some that were misquotes, “Play it again, Sam”. According to IMDb trivia, that line was never in the movie, but was misquoted from Bogart’s actual line, "You played it for her, you can play it for me. Play it!". Ingrid Bergman also has a line that’s close: "Play it, Sam. Play 'As Time Goes By". So I am wondering what classic I’ll watch next…maybe The Maltese Falcon, Lawrence of Arabia, Citizen Cane, A Streetcar Named Desire, or maybe To Kill a Mockingbird? Suggestions?


Dave Rudin said...

Glad you're catching up on the some of the classics, Terrell. A few great BW films to look for are "Laura," "The Day the Earth Stood Still," "The Scarlet Pimpernel," "Wuthering Heights," "All About Eve,""The 39 Steps," "Rebecca" and of course, "Dr. Strangelove." There are just too many to mention.

Don't forget one of the best sets of dialogue from "Casablanca':

"Your Nationality?"
"I'm a drunkard."
"Well, I guess that makes him a citizen of the world."

unbearable lightness said...

Oh do catch up on these!!! Until you've seen Marlon Brando in "A Streetcar Named Desire" and "On the Waterfront," you have not lived!!! He is brilliant. You'll love the b/w photography, too, and the low camera angle when Brando's Stanley bullies Vivien Leigh's Blanche.

Don't get me started. I wrote my doctoral dissertation on Tennessee Williams' "Baby Doll." Look that one up, too. Carroll Baker was a barely 20 fashion model cast as Baby Doll. That's where baby doll pajamas came from. She was shown in a crib sucking her thumb in a billboard promo of the film. When that appeared in Times Square, the movie was banned by every U.S. theatre chain. But it won the British equivalent of the Academy Award for best film.

Hollywood collaborated with the U.S. government during WWII, and "Casablanca" was really a propaganda film to turn the tide of U.S. public support toward the North African campaign. Notice how Rick is unpatriotic at first, and then risks everything at the end. "This could be the beginning of a beautiful friendship" Rick says to the French in the final scene.

These films have timeless richness. And I am Mrs. Robinson, btw.

TLNeasley said...

Great! Lots of good suggestions. Thanks Dave. Thanks "Mrs. Robinson"!

Dave Rudin said...

Another great World War II 'propaganda' film is "Mrs. Miniver," with Greer Garson, Walter Pidgeon and Teresa Wright. (I think Garson won an Oscar.) For a film about GI's returning home from the war see "The Best Years of Our Lives" with Dana Andrews and Fredric March.

I also forget to mention last time one of my favorite BW films about WW2, "Twelve O'Clock High" with Gregory Peck. Also see Peck in the color WW2 film, "The Guns of Navarone" - another classic.

Like I said, there are a lot more to see.

unbearable lightness said...

OK, Dave, you reminded me--another great WWII propaganda film is Alfred Hitchcock's "Notorious" with Cary Grant and Ingrid Bergman.

Terrell, lock yourself in a room until you've scratched the surface of decades of film greats. I was lucky to stay up and watch the late night movies with my dad in the 1950s. That's the beauty of being Mrs. Robinson and not Elaine (now you know what I'm talking about).

TLNeasley said...

Yeah, I would imagine there are several Alfred Hitchcock movies I should check out. I saw "the Birds" when I was little and it scared the crap out of me. That, "Jaws", and "the Omen" were the only movies to ever really do that. I've got a good list to get me started now at least. Is Notorious the one I see where Grant is being chased by a plane?

unbearable lightness said...

No. That's "North by Northwest." "Notorious" is about Bergman marrying a Nazi, Claude Rains, so she can spy on him. She's really in love with Cary Grant, of course. It's hair trigger excitement.