CLASSIC FILM FAN

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Submitted Date 09/03/2019
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I admit it. I never really began my love of classic films until after the age of fourty. My Mom was a HUGE fan of all the films that were made during the "Golden Age" of Hollywood which started at the end of the silent era in America from the late 1920's to the early 1960's. When I was a kid growing up she always told me how I was missing out by not watching the films made during that time. I would do what all kids do and roll my eyes and sigh never knowing that one day I would come to realize how right she was. Supposedly the start of the Golden Age was when the Jazz Singer was released in 1927, ending the silent era which in turn caused a huge increase in box-office profits for films as sound was introduced. Nestor Studios of Bayonne, New Jersey was the very first studio built in Hollywood in 1911 and was owned then by David and William Horsley. They later merged with Universal Studios; and the Horsley's other company, Hollywood Film Laboratory, is now the oldest existing company in Hollywood, now called the Hollywood Digital Laboratory. Something I was never aware of was that Thomas Edison owned almost all the patents relevant to motion picture production on the East Coast and those who chose to work independently of his control were often sued by Edison and his agents while movie makers on the West Coast could evidently work independently of Edison's control.

Within a few years of the early 20th century men such as Samuel Goldwyn, William Fox, Carl Laemmle, Adolph Zukor, Louis B. Mayer and the Warner Brothers (Harry, Albert, Samuel and Jack) entered the Hollywood landscape and became figure heads of the iconic studio systems. By the 1930's almost all of the first-run theaters in the US were owned by what were the "Big Five" studios: MGM, Paramount Pictures, RKO, Warner Bros., and 20th Century Fox. The studios kept thousands of people employed, not just the actors. Writers, directors, producers, technicians, the list goes on and on. MGM however, dominated Hollywood and was instrumental in creating the "Hollywood Star System". It was a method used by the studio(s) to create, promote and basically exploit their "stars". They would select up and coming young actors and then proceed to create whole personas for them, giving them new names and sometimes even new backgrounds. This put the emphasis on their "image" rather than their acting abilities although it was not uncommon for them to offer acting, voice and dancing lessons on the quiet to enhance their performances. The women were expected to act "ladylike" in public and never allowed to leave their house without full make-up and proper wardrobe. The men were expected to act "gentlemenly" whenever in public. Morality clauses were also a common part of their contracts.

All of this seems very amusing, considering how so many of these stars conducted themselves in their private lives. It seems as though not much has changed with regard to Hollywood "stars" even with the end of the studio system. It's all still a facade, only now it's created by the agents of the actors or sometimes even the actors themselves. These were also the days of the "gossip" columnists. One who was extrememly influential during this era was a woman named Hedda Hopper. It was well known in Hollywood circles that she could either make or break a career with just one tell-all article in her column for the newspapers. She once said, "Smart writers never understand why their satires on our town are never successful. What they refuse to accept is that you can't satirise a satire". She was such a comical character, also famous for the crazy hats she always wore. The studios were also notorious for creating "sham dates" between popular male and female stars to generate publictiy. But even with the appauling studio system, there was a certain mystique to that period of time which was the Golden Age of Hollywood.

Films created during this period focused solely on telling a story, there was no CGI or other special effects and the vast majority of them were shot in black and white. And the writing, oh my.....it was amazing! So many prolific screenwriters came out of that era. My personal favorites are Joseph Mankiewicz, Philip Dunne, Frances Marion, Billy Wilder and David O Selznick. Unfortunately today, a great deal of audiences seem more interested in seeing buildings being blown up, gratuitous violence and sex, and completly implausable things happening through special effects rather than those things being used sparingly in an attempt to enhance the STORY being told. For me, it started with just one film, which was Gone With the Wind. After watching it I found myself enraptuted with the films from this era and my love for them has continued to this day. Not that there were not total "stinkers" that were made but there are far more great films than bad ones. Maybe its because I have always had a love for a well written story that I ended up being drawn into watching so many of these incredible films that have stood the test of time. Or it could be the legendary actors and actresses, so many incredible ones to choose from....or maybe its a combination of both. In any case, if you have never ever given much thought to watching any of them, I implore you to give them a try. You might just end up like me and get totally hooked on TCM!!!

Here are some to get you started:

Gone With the Wind (my personal favorite), Casablanca, To Have and Have Not, North by Northwest, The Philadelphia Story, All About Eve, Penny Seranade, Now, Voyager, Some Like it Hot, Vertigo, Rear Window, Breakfast at Tiffany's, On the Waterfront, Citizen Kane, It Happened One Night, Mr. Smith Goes to Washington, The Bad and the Beautiful, A Streetcare Named Desire, Mutiny on the Bounty, The Grapes of Wrath, Mildred Pierce, The Maltese Falcon, Double Indemnity, Bringing up Baby, The Best Years of Our Lives

 

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  • Rick Doble 1 year ago

    My favorites from that era are Film Noir which you mention such as Double Indemnity. My own favorites are Out of the Past, The Postman Always Rings Twice, and Humoresque. The writing, the acting, the story, the photography -- are all incredible.

    • Julie Nunn 1 year ago

      Yes! I also enjoy film noir....TCM has something called Noir Alley, I think its on Sundays....they show many different ones. Double Indemnity is such a good one, I enjoy it too!

    • Rick Doble 1 year ago

      Billy Wilder, the director, is not as well known as he should be. He almost invented Film Noir with Double Indemnity and then Sunset Boulevard.

  • Ceara 1 year ago

    Great little history of films! The classics are truly wonderful and unbeatable. Thanks for sharing!

    • Julie Nunn 1 year ago

      Your welcome, glad you enjoyed it!!

  • Kiersten Felch 1 year ago

    An old dog can always learn new tricks!!!