I’ve been watching some old Oscar winning films, like Cat on a Hot Tin Roof, Bell, Book and Candle, North by Northwest, Mr. Smith Goes to Washington, From Here to Eternity and Anatomy of a Murder. I took advantage of TiVo to squirrel away others for future viewing, like Cat Ballou, On the Waterfront, Easy Rider, The Guns of Navarone and Bob & Carol & Ted & Alice. I’ve seen most of them before, but it’s kind of interesting to watch them again through the lens of time.

I was struck by the cinematography. Many of the films are in black and white with flat backgrounds. And, that was cutting edge back in the 1950s and 1960s. My, oh my, how far we have come technologically.

I was also struck by the acting. By today’s standards, the acting seems amateurish and fake, but I remember watching some of those films for the first time completely engrossed in the characters and character development. Take Jimmy Stewart for example. In the films I watched again, Stewart and his mannerism were the same regardless of his character. We won’t talk about dying scenes.

The dialogue is always interesting as words like “queer” or “gay” had an entirely different connotation. And you can sense the censor’s pen just the way conversations flowed, although an occasional reference to McCarthyism slipped through.

I found myself wondering what these films would look like if they were released today. I mean, From Here to Eternity was almost banned back in 1953 and many felt it was too racy for the big screen. A few years later (1959) Anatomy of a Murder dealt “graphically” with sex and rape. Following the same screenplay, each of these would probably get a PG rating and a ho-hum from audiences. Laura Manion (Lee Remick) may have teased her 1959 Anatomy of a Murder audience, but showed little skin. The signature First Sergeant Milton Warden (Burt Lancaster) and Karen Holmes (Deborah Kerr) beach scene in From Here to Eternity wasn’t the least bit salacious by today’s standards. I thought the most suggestive scene was the fade out when Warden first visited Holmes, his captain’s neglected wife.

Of course, the stories followed the times. There are plenty of cigarettes, immediate physical attractions and suggested hanky-panky. The cigarettes may be gone today and the hanky-panky would be less suggested and more visual. Otherwise, story lines have not really changed that much.

I enjoy watching the old classics for another reason … the cars. I can identify with the boxy Dodges, and needle nose Studebakers, and finned Cadillacs, and rounded Nashes. Convertibles were in {even in the rain} and it wasn’t unusual to see broken door handles, dents and scratches and wing windows. I’m amused at the cabs — all yellow {okay gray in a black and white flick} in New York City — with fares emblazoned on the door. “Twenty-five cents for the first fifth mile, five cents each additional fifth mile.” Riders often pay in coin … with no bulletproof dividers.


THOUGHT TO REMEMBER: Be open to all the grace God wants to give while you’re here.

About wisdomfromafather

I'm just an ordinary guy walking along the journey of life.
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