Sunday, December 7, 2008

Ten Things I Like About Old Movies

Jacqueline over at Another Old Movie Blog, did an excellent post called Ten Things I Like About Old Movies. She set aside obvious things like acting, script, camera work, etc. and listed only quirky things that she enjoyed. Self-Styled Siren also did a similar post. I'm going to join the bandwagon and do one too! It's not stealing if I give credit to folks, right?

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.


  1. What I wouldn't give to stay in an Art Deco hotel suite like the one Fred Astaire had in TOP HAT (1935)! It's truly a world of its own.

  2. Love the list. One of my favs: Cocktails!

  3. Haha, I love the choices you made, especially the ones about clothing. People just dressed so much better back then. Come on, women dressed up more to go to bed than most women today do when they actually leave the house.

  4. For me the night scenes, complete with torch singer and orchestra, beckoned. And men wearing hats ... And no wonder there was a past generation of smokers - the b&w's made smoking very cool.

    And I really want to have cocktails with Nick and Nora!

  5. Excellent choices. Your mention of the Art Deco design, especially. A great list.

  6. Raquel,
    Brilliant as usual. One remark worth to note: Audrey Hepburn absolutely hated Danish pastries and is reported having been seconds from barfing at several occasions that glorious morning. Usually I try not to think about it since it's a fantasic opening, and Audrey barfing is a no-no in my book.

    Brakfast At Tiffany's also has one of the most gorgeous theme songs ever. Moon River by Henry Mancini. It was written with Audrey's limited singing abilities in mind. Mancini was simply told to keep the melody whithin a certain range. I guess one could easily say he made the best out of it. The song was also really close to be cut from the movie when some mogul thought it was stalling the picture. The reason it's still there is thanks to Audrey who fought hard for it's inclusion, and right she was!
    Yay! for Mancini and Audrey!

  7. Jonas,

    People on Google are going to type in "Audrey Hepburn" and "barfing" and come to this site!

    I got to hear Mickey Rooney sing Moon River live! What an experience that was. A beautiful song.

  8. D*amn! I knew I did something wrong! :)

    I hope Mickey Rooney didn't sing Moon River as Mr Yunioshi :)

  9. Yay! More fun stuff! :)

    I tell you...I need to get on this 'list' wagon of yours.


    I too thought of writing a post on Why I love classic film, but mine was gonna be way serious (cough, cough, incredibly long and boring). Perhaps I should got this way instead.

    Your choices are delightful. :)

  10. Thank you all for your comments!

    Ginger - Lists = Awesomeness.

  11. My favorite thing in old movies has to be the "newspaper montage." Nothing gets the plot moving like a spinning paper hot off the press and into those newsies grubby little hands! Love 'em!


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