Yes..I know ..I know ….Black and White movies look weird, they are slow, nothing explodes and there is very rarely any sex. Plus they are old. Really OLD.
Here is why – you have to choke down the medicine and redefine your taste for old, dusty, choppy, slow, nonexplosive films….its good for you.
There…I said it. Like a dose of castor oil, sometimes you just have to swallow the bitter slime and take it like a woman. Be strong. Be steady.
It will surprise you with masterful dialogue, clothes to die for and sexy beyond words.
Adam’s Rib (1949, Dir: George Cukor) — Anything written by Garson Kanin and Ruth Gordon will be well worth watching; but its not the only reason to pay close attention to this film. Absorb the just at postwar opulence of Hollywood, the slick nod to women in the work place battle, and the full busy streets of big mean powerful vehicles. If you watch with the intent to enjoy the story but a side glance at some of the deeper historical content – you won’t even notice the lack of color.
A Night at the Opera (1935, dir: Sam Wood) — Because of the choppy after school television showings of the Marx Brothers and the Three Stooges we often forget about the full length feature films. Note in this one the sly side commentary of Groucho as well as the interesting physical comedy bits ….everyone here is overly serious and extremely silly – how wonderful to pull that off on film! Light, silly and extra goofy – fun for all ages.
The Thin Man (1934, Dir: W.S. Van Dyke) – Quick, slick and silly….This is the start of a series of films that has dominated the mind of all Television mystery male characters from Remington Steele to Castle…the quips, the romance, the cozy mystery with a small element of seriousness. This is a film to watch for set design and costuming — incredible clothes and staging……
Serious and Mysterious:
The 39 steps (1935, dir: Alfred Hitchcock) — Certain, Hitchcock is a full study all on his own ..but taken as how to watch Black and White films this is a must do …..from the music to the clothes to the editing …its one of the best mysteries, adding just enough realism and campy elements to get you lost in the frightening moments of ‘ooohh what is going on??”.
The Public Enemy (1931, dir: William Wellman) – James Cagney actually portrayed a well rounded variety of characters but his most memorable and defining roles are those of gangsters and tough guys….This particular film, if you are watching to educated yourself on the genres and styles of black and white film-making becomes important as the prototype for all gangster movies and character developments even in today’s films.
Key Largo (1948, dir: John Houston) – Dark, tense and ugly…from the weather to the film style to the dialogue …everything is clipped and heavy….the dank damp air fills the screen with real tension and terror. Edward G. Robinson’s Johnny Rocco is so edgy and cruel in his desperation to be relevant in a new age of crime syndicates, you know he will do anything to anyone at any moment. John Houston takes crime thriller to a new level staging this film in one small location over a two day period with one of the most incredible casts of the era. While a heavy influence over modern directors, I can’t think of another film that reaches this level of intensity and gloom.