Recently I asked you all to send me any classic film related questions that you wanted me to answer. I have been overwhelmed by questions. I really didn’t expect to receive so many! I have had so much fun answering these. Because I have received quite a few questions, I am going to respond to the questions across two posts. I hope you all enjoy reading the questions and my answers to them.
I want to begin by telling you a little bit about how I became a classic film fan in the first place. Films were one of my earliest passions. Films were right up there with reading for me. I have never been happier than when I am reading or watching films. When I was much younger, I went through a phase where I was obsessed with musicals and dancing. If a film had singing or dancing in it, then you could guarantee that I would be watching it.
As my love for musicals grew, I soon found myself watching more and more classic era musicals.I loved the acting, the costumes, the songs and the dance sequences found in these old films. I was swept away into a time that I had not been a part of until now. Top Hat, Singin’ In The Rain and White Christmas were three musicals that I just couldn’t get enough of. My love for these films then led me to check out classic era films from other genres.
Left to right: Singin’ In The Rain, Top Hat and White Christmas. Screenshots by me.
I really loved the modern films I was watching at the time too(A Little Princess and The Secret Garden were two great 1990’s favourites), but I kept finding myself being drawn back much more to the classic era films that I was watching.
A few of the films responsible for me falling in love with classic era cinema. Top left to right: Late Spring, A Night To Remember, The Ten Commandments. Bottom left to right: Forbidden Planet, The Red Shoes, Rear Window and Brief Encounter. Screenshots by me.
I soon started to check out more work from the actors in the classic films that I was loving so much. This then led me to discover new names, new films, new eras etc. It also never seemed odd to me in the slightest that I was watching films made decades before I was even born. These films were new to me and because of that their age didn’t matter to me at all.
A few more classics that got me hooked. Left top to bottom: The Passionate Friends, Heaven Knows, Mr. Allison, Pickup On South Street. Right: Rashomon. Screenshots by me.
I started to get into Foreign Language and Silent films in my late teens and early twenties, it really annoys me that so many classic film fans tend to focus primarily on American classic era films, rather than those which were made outside of Hollywood. There are so many classics that came from other countries: Rashomon, The Apu Trilogy, Les Diabolique, Brighton Rock, The Virgin Spring, The Seventh Seal, Late Spring, La Belle et le Bete, The Life Of Oharu, Rome: Open City, Ice Cold In Alex, Le Jour se Leve, Charulata, The Red Shoes, Battleship Potemkin, A Matter Of Life And Death etc.
I got into classic cinema because of my curiosity and taste. I wasn’t encouraged in my viewing by anyone. I wasn’t even aware of things like film recommendation lists or film reviews at the time I began my classic film journey. I was simply watching these films and their stars because I was drawn to them. I am still loving my journey into the classic film era. I still have so many new discoveries to make and I can’t wait to watch even more classics.
Moving onto your questions now.
MovieMovieBlogBlog asks me what I like about Film Noir.
Everything! Most of my regular followers know of my love and admiration for all things Film Noir. I think I am drawn to these films for several reasons.
Firstly, I love that these films offered such strong and memorable roles for actresses of the time. There are many other strong female performances and characters in other films/genres in the classic era, but there is something different about the female characters in Noir films. Noir women are not afraid to say and show what they want, they are often dominating and independent individuals.
Three strong and memorable Noir women. Phyllis in Double Indemnity(left) Candy(top right) in Pickup On South Street and Mrs. Neall (bottom right)in The Narrow Margin. Screenshots by me.
Noir women don’t sit around waiting to be rescued by the male hero, and they also really don’t care what society thinks about them for making certain choices, or for behaving in a certain way. In some ways Noir women(you can definitely say the same about many female characters in 1930’s Pre-Code films too)are the forerunners of the modern screen woman.
One of the Noir greats. Double Indemnity. Screenshot by me.
I also love Noir films for their visual look. The cinematography, lighting and mood in these films are incredible(influenced somewhat by German Expressionism). I also love that these films reflect the truth of humanity back at us. We are all filled with darkness and light, the world is a dark and harsh place,and very few things and people are actually what they seem. Noir films offer no escapism from reality because they show reality to us.
Dick Powell and Claire Trevor in Murder My Sweet. Screenshot by me.
Noir films may well also be the best type of films to show to a classic film newbie. Noir films have a very modern feel to them. Noir films are gritty and serious, they also often contain lots of thrills, suspense and action. Modern audiences who have never watched these films before, will often be very surprised at how suggestive these films are, especially when it comes to their depictions of sex and violence. It always surprises me just what Noir directors managed to get away with on screen during the infamous film Code era.
Brandon Talks Movies asks me about my favourite classic horror film.
I love The Black Cat. I love Dead Of Night. I love the 1940’s horror films of Val Lewton. I love Hammer Horror films. I love the Universal Monster films. However, there has long been only one classic horror film that I consider to be my all time favourite from this genre.
Deborah Kerr in The Innocents.
That film is The Innocents(1961). This gothic horror has an unmatched eerie atmosphere. It features some very creepy and unsettling moments. In my opinion this is the best ghost story and the best haunted house film ever made. It also features a career best performance from Deborah Kerr. Perfect viewing for a dark night, or on a stormy afternoon. You can read my thoughts on this one in more detail here.
Movie Rob asks me to name my favourite year or favourite film era for classic film.
My favourite decades for film are the 1940’s, 1920’s and the 1930’s. I think that some of the best, most imaginative, most stunning and most memorable films ever made can be found in those particular decades. I am most drawn to the films of the 1940’s and 1920’s.
Shooting Stars(1928), The Wizard Of Oz(1939)and The Ghost And Mrs.Muir(1947). Three films to represent my three favourite film decades. Screenshots by me.
If I had to pick one single year of film as my favourite, then I think that I would have to go with either 1940 or 1939. Both of these years have some incredible films and performances in them. So many of these films and performances are still enjoyed and discussed today by fans of classic cinema.
The Old Hollywood Garden asks what I think of Detour(1945)
I love its realism and grit. It may very well be a low budget Noir, but it is one of the best films in the entire Noir genre!
Ann Savage in Detour. Screenshot by me.
I also think that the casting of relatively unknown actors adds a great deal of authenticity to the film. Ann Savage in particular steals every scene she is in with just a look. Ann also more than convinces as a tough woman who you wouldn’t want to mess with. When I watch Detour, I feel as though I’m right there with these people and am witnessing real events unfold before my eyes.
The Humpo Show asks me to name some classic films that I have never seen.
There are definitely still quite a few on my to watch list. Some notable films that I need to see include Duck Soup, Napoleon(1927),Vampyr, Birth Of A Nation, Children Of Paradise and Little Caesar.
Movies Ala Mark asks me to share some acclaimed classic films that I don’t love. He also asks me to share some disliked/underappreciated films that I do love.
I am a massive fan of David Lean, but his acclaimed classic Doctor Zhivago leaves me cold. The film is visually very beautiful and stunning, the score by Maurice Jarre is one for the ages.
Doctor Zhivago. Screenshot by me.
The performances on the other hand always strike me as being incredibly wooden, this is so strange considering the actors who are starring in this. The other issue for me is that I don’t for one minute care about any of the characters. I have never understood what all the fuss about this one was.
A film I love that nobody else seems to is Paris When It Sizzles. This film didn’t do very well at the time of its release. Nobody thought much of it at it the time and it has become an extremely underrated and little known film. Such a shame as it is very good. I love it so much because it is a fun film and because it gives you a peek at how the screenwriting process works.
Paris When It Sizzles. Screenshots by me.
The imaginary scenes where William Holden and Audrey Hepburn act out the various storylines for the film are terrific. William Holden and Audrey Hepburn are adorable together. There is an hilarious cameo by Tony Curtis as a narcissistic method actor.
Movie Rob asks whether or not I consider Citizen Kane to be the
greatest film ever made.
No. I have never understood how one film can be considered as the greatest of all time. People who say that have clearly never seen many films in my opinion. Film is also so subjective, one person’s masterpiece is another’s rubbish. This is my problem with the Academy Awards, how can you pick one performance or film and claim them as the best of the year? It’s all very silly in my opinion.
Citizen Kane is certainly one of the greatest films ever made, but I do not consider it to be the greatest film ever made. It is a very well crafted film. It is also certainly one to study on a technical level if you want to get into filmmaking. It is a film that I like and admire a great deal. Orson Welles knew what he was doing and this film stands as a testament to his skills as a filmmaker.
Palewriter asks me to name my favourite Noir films.
Murder My Sweet(1944), Daybreak(1948),Pickup On South Street, Cry Of The City, The Long Memory, Kiss Me Deadly, The Narrow Margin, Double Indemnity, Stray Dog, The T-Men, The Big Heat, Out Of The Past, Woman On The Run, The Postman Always Rings Twice(1946), Brighton Rock, The Big Sleep, On Dangerous Ground,The Lady From Shanghai, Vertigo, The Dark Corner, Laura, Body Heat, Riffi, The Big Combo, This Gun For Hire.
No Nonsense With Nuwansen asks me to pick my favourite film from his list of five favourite films. His films are Roman Holiday, Call Me By Your Name, Rebecca,Gone With The Wind and Casablanca.
I think it will have to be a tie between Gone With The Wind and Roman Holiday!
Vivien Leigh in Gone With The Wind. Screenshot by me.
Gone With The Wind is one of the greatest screen epics with so much to enjoy in it. Vivien Leigh’s performance as the determined Scarlett is one for the ages. It’s a film that I love to watch for the characters, I find that the film really captures the change they go through due to the events that happen to them. The costumes, the scope of the film, the use of Technicolor and the music are all stunning.
Audrey Hepburn and Gregory Peck in Roman Holiday. Screenshot by me.
Roman Holiday is an enchanting and uplifting romantic comedy. Audrey Hepburn and Gregory Peck’s natural and moving performances help me to really connect with their characters. We can feel their growing emotional bond and desire for one another as the film goes on. If I am in need of cheering up this is often a film that I will watch.
Movie Rob asks me to name my all time favourite Frank Capra film.
As much as I love the rest of Frank Capra’s work, my all time favourite film of his will always be It Happened One Night. I love it so much because it is so funny and romantic. The film has some hilarious dialogue, many memorable characters and so many unforgettable moments.
Ellie and Peter snuggle up. Screenshot by me.
I’ve always been a sucker for a well told opposites attract story, and It Happened One Night is one of the very best films telling that sort of love story. This has become a real comfort film for me and it is one I watch when I need to escape to a happy place for a couple of hours.
Pfeiffer Films And Meg Movies asks how I define what a classic film is.
To me a film is a classic if it can be enjoyed and admired throughout the generations. There is a reason that so many of the films made in the classic era are described as being classics. These films have stood the test of time and contain stories and characters that resonate with audiences decades after they were made.
Three timeless classics: Gone With The Wind, Sunset Blvd and Rebecca. Screenshots by me.
I think that classic films are films which transcend the time and place that they were made in. A film which continues to delight, scare, surprise and impress audiences decades after it was first released is a classic in my book. Although the majority of classic films are to be found in the classic film era(1920’s-1970’s in my opinion)there are classic films to be found in every decade.
Canterbury Tale asks me to name some of the films and books found on my shelves.
Some of the films which can be found on my shelves include: Singin’ In The Rain, In The Heat Of The Night, North By Northwest, Brief Encounter, Rashomon, Ikiru, All About Eve, The Blues Brothers, Only Angels Have Wings, The Philadelphia Story, Carmen Jones, Pickup On South Street, Woman On The Run, Double Indemnity, Kiss Me Deadly, The Passionate Friends, Lawrence Of Arabia, La Belle et le Bete, Went The Day Well, Black Narcissus, The Red Shoes, A Matter Of Life And Death, How Green Was My Valley, Shooting Stars, Bridget Jones’s Diary, To Kill A Mockingbird, Citizen Kane, True Grit, Sabotage, Man Of The West, Charade, The Ghost And Mrs. Muir,House Of Flying Daggers, The Hustler, The Music Room, Dead Of Night, The Innocents, Quatermass And The Pit, Buster Keaton boxset, The Human Condition Trilogy, The Godfather Trilogy, The Back To The Future Trilogy, Little Women(1994), Labyrinth, Dark Crystal, Jurassic Park, Zodiac, Some Like It Hot, Niagara, M, South Pacific, The Sound Of Music, Hello Dolly!, White Christmas, Finding Neverland, Chocolat, The Right Stuff, The Lord Of The Rings Trilogy.
Some of the film books found on my shelves include: Ever, Dirk: The Bogarde Letters, Ava: A Life In Movies, Barry Norman’s Movie Greats, Audrey: Her Real Story, Loitering With Intent.
Thank you so much for all these thought provoking questions. I have had lots of fun answering you. I hope you have enjoyed reading my responses. Stay tuned for part 2 of my answers!