Classic movies: What makes them so good?

· Popular culture

People have different opinions about classic movies. Many people do not like to watch films that are not in colour, but instead are in black and white. However, sometimes this can considerably lend itself to a great atmosphere. For example, think about film noir. Some classic films in this genre include Double Indemnity and The Postman Always Rings Twice. These are both in black and white, and I do not think they would work so well in colour. Noir means black in French, after all, so black and white films and film noir are a natural match.


Before 1930, movies were silent. Greed, The Merry Widow, The Big Parade, The Wind, Flesh and the Devil, Ben Hur, and many others are fascinating to watch if you can get beyond the primitive style of filmmaking, compared to today’s standards. If you are curious about classic movies, then I would suggest movies after 1930 and then work your way gradually back to their silent counterparts. It can take quite an imaginative leap backward to enjoy them if you are not even used to black and white films.


However, the best argument that someone could make if they want to interest their friends in watching classic movies is that the glamour is so much greater, as well as the star power. Think Greta Garbo in the 1920s and ’30s. Rita Hayworth in the ’40s. Marilyn Monroe in the ’50s. Elizabeth Taylor in the ’60s. The closest actress we have today to being glamorous is Angelina Jolie. Nowadays actors want to be better technically at their craft; for example, Meryl Streep immerses herself in the characters she plays, and is generally acknowledged to be the best technical actress of this generation. In classic movies, stars tended to be associated more with one type of role, or two at most. Bette Davis was either a mean woman, or a romantic heroine but she always had screen presence. Garbo of course was the exotic foreigner who gave up everything for love. Katharine Hepburn essentially played herself. Joan Crawford reinvented several times, from shopgirl on her way up, to horror queen with several types of roles in between but she was always glamorous Joan Crawford. There’s a place for technically great actors as well as people with a strong screen presence. Films need both. That is the problem with today’s movies. Technically great actors can be boring sometimes without that spark of exciting personality. Actors today do not want to be typecast, unfortunately. Garbo, I would argue, was one of the few who was both a great actress and a great screen presence as well.


Classic movies are a treasure if you go into them with the right attitude, know what to expect, and not what to expect.

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