Several years ago, my daughter was having a sleepover party for her birthday. She had the whole evening planned. Pizza, board games, cake, a game of Twister, and a movie.
Not just any movie, but, a classic: The Naughty Nineties, starring my personal favorite duo, Abbott and Costello. Who can forget the baseball routine, “Who’s on first?” This iconic comedy bit debuted in their 1945 film, “The Naughty Nineties.” Here’s a clip:
So, my daughter’s plan was to screen the movie. She couldn’t wait to introduce her friends to this comedic duo, who had given us hours and hours of laughs and guffaws. But, no sooner did the opening credits start rolling, when one of her friends said this:
“Black and white!?? This movie better be so good I forget it’s in black and white.”
And with that, my daughter’s excitement in sharing with her friends something she found thoroughly enjoyable was unceremoniously deflated, like a pin, pricked into a prized balloon.
Which makes me wonder, have black and white films become a relic of the past? Today’s kids, accustomed to movies in color being the norm, not to mention 3D, and out-of-this-world special effects and graphics, seem to have little tolerance for the cinematic gems of the past. Or what I call, the golden age of the silver screen.
Yet, there’s so much these films still have to offer. Granted, they may look dated, but many of the story lines still resonate. Why else would today’s Hollywood moguls pore through the vaults of MGM, Paramount, and United Artists in search of movies to remake?
Films like, The Shop Around the Corner, 1940, which was remade into You’ve Got Mail, 1998; The Big Clock, 1948, became No Way Out, 1987; The Mummy, 1932 and 1999; The Day the Earth Stood Still, 1951 and 2008; King Kong, 1933 and 2005; Cape Fear, 1962 and 1991; and Father of the Bride, 1950 and 1991. And, that’s just naming a few. In fact, plans are underway for a remake of one of my favorites, The Thin Man, which will star Johnny Depp. Yet, when all is said and done, there’s nothing like the original.
Black and white dramas have timeless morals, and the comedies, wit and snappy banter that inevitably leads to a happy ending. The horror films are all the more exciting because they leave much to the imagination, and the singing and dancing are pure delight. It’s not for naught that the American Film Institute’s Top 100 films feature black and white movies in the top two spots: Citizen Kane and Casablanca.
If black and white cinema is a dying art (and thank heavens for The Artist for its attempt to revive it), then it’s up to us to take a second look at the legacy these classics leave us, and share them with the youth in our lives.
So, the next time you have movie night with your family, consider staying home and watching a black and white film. Trust me, you watch them long enough and, frankly, you do end up forgetting they’re in black and white. My kids started watching these films at a young age, and, as a result, black and white is second nature to them.
I have gathered a list of some of my favorites. They are in no particular order, and represent a smattering of the films my kids were raised on. Quite a few of these are Cary Grant films. (Hint: Look for the “CG.”)
To Kill a Mockingbird
A Patch of Blue
All About Eve (Bette Davis at her best!)
Mr. Lucky (CG as a bad guy with a heart)
The Miracle Worker
The Big Clock
The Postman Always Rings Twice
The Lost Weekend
Alfred Hitchcock (He’s in a genre all by himself!):
Shadow of a Doubt
Mystery & Crime:
The Thin Man (see the entire series before you see the Johnny Depp version)
The Roaring Twenties
The Spiral Staircase
Angels with Dirty Faces
Some Like it Hot (gangsters and comedy)
Here Comes Mr. Jordan (remade into Heaven Can Wait, starring Warren Beatty)
His Girl Friday (CG)
The Awful Truth (CG)
Mr. Blandings Builds His Dream House (CG)
The Time of their Lives
Arsenic and Old Lace (CG)
Cheaper by the Dozen
I Was a Male War Bride (you guessed it, CG)
Father of the Bride
Bringing Up Baby (CG)
So, are there any black and white films you recommend? Please add your favorites to the comment section below.