I have a Sunday morning ritual. A guilty pleasure. It has been going on for years. It is my special time, or as the Americans like to call it “me time.” Every Sunday morning on HRT 1 there is an old black and white movie. A cup of steaming coffee, a few chocolate biscuits and I am as happy as a pig in shit as I watch early morning movie in bed.
You’ll need to wake up a little early as they tend to start around half past seven, but it’s well worth it. Cary Grant, Doris Day, Marilyn Monroe, James Stewart, Fred Astaire, Richard Burton, the list goes on and on, these were the big time movie stars of the golden age of Hollywood. Roman Holiday, Some Like it Hot, Casablanca, Citizen Kane, It’s a Wonderful Life, again a plethora of never-ending classics.
Some people will tell you, “they don’t make movies like that anymore.” Well the truth is they probably don’t. The movie business, just like any other entertainment business, is a reflection of the times in which we live. These old classics from the 1940’s and 50’s show a different time; they are like looking through a peephole into history. And they also didn’t have the technology to make computer generated graphics.
Don’t get me wrong they have they have their explosions and car chases, just not to the same scale. But what they did have was a good story, great writers who knew how to tell a real story. Our movie industry today is dominated by action heroes, sci-fi franchises and fantasy worlds. And of course these worlds are made possible by NASA style computers. However, many of them fail terribly on the most important thing, the writing. Just look what happened when the Game of Thrones series ran out of books, the end was pretty much written by two producers, and to put it mildly it was a disaster. In fact, if you Googled “bad writers” then a photo of the two producers came up.
Some Like it Hot from 1959
These old black and white movies cleanse my soul from the superhero movies. Don’t get me wrong I watch and indeed enjoy the odd Marvel comic superhero, but I also feel the need to reboot with some Marlon Brando or Gregory Peck. It could also be a childhood memory. As if it was yesterday I can remember watching these old classics, mainly in the run-up to Christmas, on TV as a child. We finished school ten days before Christmas and would flick through the TV guide (yes we used to actually buy a TV guide) and circle the movies. I grew up on a diet of booming musicals, such as Oklahoma and Seven Brides for Seven Brothers, romantic comedies with Cary Grant and Audrey Hepburn, to tense thrillers such as The 39 Steps. Even today I can still sing many of the sings from these Hollywood musicals. What you see, do and experience as a child really does stay with you for the rest of your life.
And I am not the only one who wakes up early on a Sunday morning. “Did you watch it?” asks my mother-in-law every Sunday after the movie finishes. Every Sunday she asks the same question and every Sunday I answer the same answer.
““When you photograph people in colour, you photograph their clothes. But when you photograph people in black and white, you photograph their souls!” once said the famous Canadian photographer Ted Grant. That sums up why I love old movies, they have a soul. They haven’t spent half of the budget on special effects but on writers and actors.
I once remember watching an interview with the great Sir Laurence Olivier. He was working on a movie with the then young and upcoming actor Dustin Hoffman. They were filming a scene where Hoffman made just run up some stairs and was out of breath. The prepare for the scene Hoffman ran around and around the movie set in circles. Olivier stopped him, “what on earth are you doing young man,” he asked. “Preparing for my scene,” Dustin answered. “Please stop running,” a rather angry Olivier replied. “But how am I supposed to get ready for my scene, to be out of breath,” quizzed Hoffman. The English actor looked at him and replied “You are an actor….well act, dear boy…act.”
Oh, I have just seen that this Sunday is Gentlemen Prefer Blondes, the film that brought us the phrase diamonds are a girl’s best friend, and inspired a Madonna video and of course starred Miss Monroe. Can’t wait!