I thoroughly blame my Aunt Jan for my obsession with classic movies. Ever since I can remember, we’d watch black and white movies on Saturday mornings at my grandmother’s house. She’s done much more for me in my twenty some odd years, but it’s this love that I return to whenever I feel down.
At first it was a curiosity–who are these men and women filmed in the most basic of colors without fancy special affects, wearing their hearts on their sleeves while spouting poetic lines that rival the masters?
I discovered TCM (Turner Classic Movies) by accident in middle school, racing to my sister’s house after school to watch it while I looked after my niece and nephew. A whole new world was opened to me full of gangsters and Nazi’s and the Big Bad Wolf.
Sydney Pollack’s The Essentials fueled my curiosity, showing me what I may have missed during those distant Saturday mornings. It was where I first saw by far my favorite movie of all time, Notorious, a Hitchcock classic starring Ingrid Bergman, Cary Grant, and Claude Rains. The power of Grant’s attract to Bergman and the measures he takes to keep his heart guarded will forever be the basis in which I grade romance movies and novels. I have yet to find a situation rivaling the emotion in the scene at the races, where Bergman is crying in his arms and Grant looks her straight in the eyes and says, “Dry your eyes, baby. It’s out of character.”
Without The Essentials, I never would have seen Paul Newman’s shining eyes as he ate fifty eggs to win a bet, or seen Cary Grant jump around in a woman’s robe proclaiming he’d just gone gay all of a sudden, or felt the sorrow of one man as he tried to quiet New York City so his sick child can sleep.
I fear that the appreciation of the classics is waning, especially in my generation. People no longer think of Frank Sinatra when you mention Danny Ocean, and Rebecca is thought simply as a woman’s name. With more and more of the legends passing, it’s imperative their memory lives on in their work.
Next time you’re at the video store, check out the classics. Order a Jimmy Stewart movie from Netflix instead of a Brad Pitt one. You won’t be sorry.
Want a taste of what you’re missing?
- “I’m suddenly very intelligent. It probably comes from making love to that French girl last night.” Peter O’Toole, Becket
- “If I am the Phantom, it is because man’s hatred has made me so…If I shall be saved, it will be because your love redeems me.” Phantom of the Opera, 1925
- “God will not damn a poor lunatic’s soul. He knows that the powers of evil are too great for those with weak minds.” Renfield, Dracula, 1931
- “There are far worse things awaiting man than death.” Dracula, 1931
- “I thought all writers drank to excess and beat their wives. You know one time I secretly wanted to be a writer.” Cary Grant, The Philadelphia Story
- “No pope ever visits a city where the newspapers are on strike.” Sidney Blackmer, Rosemary’s Baby
- “The crowd laughs with you always, but will cry with you for only a day.” King Vidor’s The Crowd