1) Busby Berkeley-esque choreography - Women and men move in and out of shapes. It's a beautifully complex feast for the eyes. 42nd Street (1933) , Dames (1934) and The Gold Diggers of 1933 are among my favorites.
2) Men lighting Matches - Oh so sexy. They light them in unconventional ways. These men exude confidence and are not scared of a little flame. Wow. Fred MacMurray lit one with his thumb in Double Indemnity (1944), Kirk Douglas lit one on a typewriter in Ace in the Hole (1951) (see below) and William Holden lit one on another man's shirt in Stalag 17 (1953). S'all good.
3) Women's silk robes/negligees - Complete with fancy slippers or some other frou-frou. It made going to bed look like a red carpet event. Like Jean Harlow in Red-Headed Woman (1932).
4) New Year's Eve - It looks like so much more fun in an old movie than it is in real life. How I would love to have a night like Ginger Rogers had in Bachelor Mother (1939) . David Niven dolled her up and took her out for a fancy meal, dancing and a final countdown in Times Square. ::sigh:: New Year's Eve celebrations in The Divorcee (1930) and The Apartment (1960) are memorable too!
5) Coffee & Pastries - So much more delicious (and less fattening) when actors consume them on screen. There is the famous Breakfast at Tiffany's (1961) scene with Audrey Hepburn balancing a pastry and cup of coffee in front of the famous Tiffany's store. Jane Wyman offers Rock Hudson a coffee and a roll in All That Heaven Allows (1956) and they fall in love over lunch. Robert Mitchum sips at a cup of coffee when he romances Janet Leigh in Holiday Affair (1949).
6) Clothes Shopping - The Women (1939) anyone? "Zips up the side and no bones." Young models wearing the latest fashions, walking and posing for potential buyers. You'd have to be famous or an industry professional to get this kind of showcase these days. It puts me in mind of How to Marry a Millionaire (1953) too.
7) Impeccably dressed Men - Cary Grant, Clark Gable, Jimmy Stewart. They all look good in a suit. Sure the women's fashions were great. But a well-dressed man is a sight to behold. If they just happen to be wearing a pocket watch, I absolutely swoon. Even ratty trenchcoats are wonderful, because they wore them well. My absolute favorite? Dennis Morgan in uniform in Christmas in Connecticut (1945). Someone get me the smelling salts! I feel a faint coming on.
8) Art Deco Architecture & Design - I'm getting really specific here. The clean, elegant lines and shapes of Art Deco were beautiful and very conducive to bringing a sense of sophistication to movies. Pools seem to fit very nicely here for some reason. I'm thinking of the communal swimming pool in Their Own Desire (1929) as well as the private one in Female (1933) (see image below).
9) Title Songs - Very popular in the late '50s and early '60s, especially for the sex comedies. Titles were taken from the song name or a song was written for the title. My favorite is Pillow Talk (1959) sung by Doris Day. But I also really love Where the Boys Are (1960) (sung by Connie Francis), Come Fly with Me (1963) (sung by Frank Sinatra) and If a Man Answers (1962) (sung by Bobby Darin).
10) Physical Comedy - We have physical comedy these days, but not to the extent of the great comedians back in the day such as Buster Keaton, Harold Lloyd, Charlie Chaplin, The Three Stooges and Laurel and Hardy, just to name a few. They threw their bodies into their work and the results were hilarious. Even Donald O'Connor did amazing physical comedic work in Singin' in the Rain (1952). The Make 'Em Laugh number sent him to the hospital, but has kept us laughing for decades afterwards.