Each month, the CMBA profiles a classic movie blog. Today we're featuring Jeannie from Classic Hollywood.
CMBA: What makes a film a “classic” in your opinion?
Classic Hollywood: Classics share a timeless freshness. The stories are universal. The characters feel real. The performances are subtle (not hammy – woe to those actors using the dreaded Mid-Atlantic accent). The dialogue is spare, smart, and never feels dated. A classic makes me care about the characters, makes me forget I’m watching a movie, and stays with me long after the picture has ended.
CMBA: What genres do you favor?
Classic Hollywood: Pre-Codes are my go-to “comfort food” genre. I love the brazen naughtiness of Baby Face and Three on a Match. I will always stop whatever I’m doing to watch Film Noir: all those doomed suckers in fedoras, led astray by “bad” blondes and smoking. So. Much. Smoking.
CMBA: Why should people care about “old” black and white movies?
Classic Hollywood: Because they are snapshots of 20th century American life and culture. I love history, yet I can learn plenty from films. Example: At the beginning of King Kong, Fay Wray is accused of stealing an apple and briefly faints from hunger. It’s 1933, the depths of the Depression, but I never really thought about millions of people going hungry back then until I saw that scene. Movies always leave me wanting to know more about the era that produced them. Plus, who doesn’t love to escape for a few hours, sharing a good laugh with friends while watching a comedy by Preston Sturges or Buster Keaton? And don’t get me started on the pleasures of MGM’s lush productions from the ‘30s...gowns, jewelry, cloche hats, and those wonderful satin bedspreads!
CMBA: What classic films do you recommend to people who may not have seen many older films?
Classic Hollywood: A “buffet” of genres to give them an overview of the greats. My Top 10: Sunset Boulevard, Double Indemnity, Casablanca, Stagecoach, The Cameraman, The Thin Man, Out of the Past, Singin’ in the Rain, The Best Years of Our Lives, and a tie between Sullivan’s Travels and The Apartment.
Once people get past their bias about black and white movies, I recommend gems in each genre: In a Lonely Place, The Killers, The Asphalt Jungle, Mildred Pierce, Ace in the Hole (Film Noir); The Story of G.I. Joe, Stalag 17, The Search (WWII); Red River, The Searchers (Westerns); Libeled Lady, It Happened One Night, Ninotchka, Twentieth Century, Mr. Blandings Builds His Dream House, Born Yesterday (comedies); All About Eve, Dodsworth (dramas); Meet Me in St. Louis, Golddiggers of 1933 and 42nd Street (musicals).
CMBA: What is the most rewarding thing about blogging for you?
Classic Hollywood: The same thing I find so rewarding about hosting classic films: Sharing backstories and juicy tidbits about each movie with audiences. I started blogging (for one of the theaters where I host) because I wanted to continue the conversation with people who attend my presentations. Writing twice-monthly posts has deepened my movie knowledge because I do a ton of research for each story. Blogging has also given me the opportunity to interview Nancy Olson (Sunset Boulevard) and the grandson of director William Wellman about Hollywood’s Golden Age. Even 70, 80, or 90 years after their releases, the classics still teach us so much about our world – and ourselves.