Has anyone else found themselves annoyed with movies of late? Perhaps I'm the only one, but I frankly find the jerky camera work, intensely saturated colours, and overly CGI'd/animated subjects rather tiring. I’ve been thinking lately about the heyday of Hollywood and the notion that there is truth to the idea that “They don’t make ‘em like that anymore.”
Consider 1939 and imagine having to choose which of the movies produced that year was best. Variety alone is a bugger:
Gone with the Wind gave us a landmark epic film that stunningly showcased a panoramic story of history and human strife – not to mention a list of memorable characters like sassy Vivien Leigh, I don’t know nutin’ ‘bout no Hattie McDaniel, and ol’ charm-boat himself, Clark Gable.
Then there was the Wizard of Oz which, like Gone with the Wind, has become one of the most popular films of all time. It was a fantasy film based on a classic children’s tale that taught grass isn’t always greener on the other side of reality. We all remember the munchkins doing what munchkins do, the wicked witch melting, and that yellow brick road leading us home. More than that, this film gave us one of the most beautiful songs that simply appears when you least expect it (like at the end of 50 First Dates), ‘Over the Rainbow’. Technically, I appreciate the mood filmmakers created when they shot Kansas sequences in sepia-tone, while the Oz sequences were filmed in newfangled 3-strip Technicolor.
Next we have Mr. Smith Goes to Washington. Ahhh – ordinary man, idealistic, standing tall against the corrupt political elite, attempting to restore faith in democracy. Jimmy Stewart’s passionate filibuster in the final moments of this film should be required viewing for everyone ... especially today.
Before Stagecoach, hardly anyone knew of a man named John Wayne. More importantly, westerns were not considered serious genre. This quintessential landmark film was shot in the majestic Monument Valley and show-cased courage and heroic self-sacrifice. It is hard to imagine a western film being cutting edge, but it was in 1939, and many a great movie would follow in this masterpiece’s footsteps.
And, last on my list is The Hunchback of Notre Dame. The 1939 version of this classic story is considered by many to be the best film adaptation of this tragic love story. It features a grotesque outcast who rings a bell and a beautiful Gypsy dancer (Maureen O’Hara) who is mistaken for a witch. **spoiler** At least she doesn’t get hanged.
There were more great films produced that year. The players were beautiful, the costumes delightful, the music divine. There was something for everybody and I know that I, as a kid, aspired to be like those monumental people on the big screen. It’s not that I wanted to be an actress, it was more than that. The images on film stirred my imagination in ways that paved the way for creative things of the mind.
Hollywood used to bring us magic and inspiration ... and that magic, for me, was the human touch. Today I’m overwhelmed with technology and I am inclined to give a shout-out to the past and a simpler way of telling the story. Seek out any of the movies listed in my poll and I promise solid entertainment and thought provoking masterpieces.