by Paul Batters
Classic film lovers are passionate about the films they love and all share a special feeling for those films with others. The classic film community is one bound by that love for classic film and it is a romance that will not die. If love forever after ever exists, you will certainly find it amongst those who love it and also write about it.
This article will be the first of two parts which will celebrate the films which brought people to love classic film. A number of people have shared how they came to love classic film as well as the film or films which began that journey for them.
I can’t name just one movie. Each film I watched was like a piece of a puzzle with the right ones fitting the overall picture. It was an assembly of films and filmmakers that gave me inspiration and a love of cinema.
Many noir and crime films were early influences of both my love of movies and in my fiction writing. The first gangster films I remember seeing were “Al Capone” and “Baby Face Nelson.” On television, I discovered “The Maltese Falcon,” “The Roaring Twenties,” “The Public Enemy,” and many others. A bit later, I discovered Alfred Hitchcock’s “Rear Window,” “Psycho,” “North by Northwest,” and many others. After Hitchcock, I started following the careers of film directors, and it was works like Polanski’s “Repulsion” and “Rosemary’s Baby,” John Frankenheimer’s “The Manchurian Candidate,” “Seven Days in May,” Billy Wilder’s “Double Indemnity,” “Some Like it Hot,” “Ace in the Hole” that cemented my love of celluloid. There were plenty of others, Wyler’s “The Collector,” Penn’s “Bonnie and Clyde,” Lumet’s “The Pawnbroker,” Brooks’ “The Professionals,” Kubrick’s “Dr. Strangelove,” and Hiller’s “The Americanization of Emily” were and are influences and all still rank high in my admiration.
Blog: Outspoken And Freckled Twitter: @IrishJayhawk66
For me, my love for old movies came to me as a child when we lived in Taos, New Mexico. The local art center would screen slapsticks on Saturday mornings such as the hilarious Laurel & Hardy, Our Gang, and Mack Sennett. My maternal grandmother had a love for classic film and considered it a vital part of my education. I recall an early memory of her introducing a certain film being broadcast on tv, “Pay close attention, Kellee. This is an important film.” She was right, I still love WITNESS FOR THE PROSECUTION to this day and I included it in a film course I taught. Classic comedies were an early love in particular. For many of us fans, old movies, especially comedy, is a form of escapism. Some of the other films my grandmother brought into my life: “ THE GREAT RACE,” “IT’S A MAD, MAD, MAD, MAD WORLD,” and “THE QUIET MAN.” That last film mentioned, a John Ford classic, was not just a silly film to her, it was propped up as the family how-to manual in our Irish Catholic family. These films are more than simply entertainment, they actually helped to shape my identity.
Michael W Denney
Blog – ManiacsAndMonsters.com Twitter: @ManiacsMonsters
As a horror movie fan, I have a deep admiration for the classic films from Universal Pictures: Frankenstein, Bride of Frankenstein, The Invisible Man, Dracula, et al. And yet, they were not the gateway to my love of classic film. Growing up, I regularly watched The Little Rascals, Laurel & Hardy, and The Three Stooges and I am certain that those short films planted the initial seed. I am also a long-time aficionado and collector of shorts and memorabilia from the golden age of animation and in particular the Warner Bros. cartoons. Those cartoons further developed an appreciation for the aesthetics, humour, and timing of classic film. But if I have to designate a single feature film that cemented my love for the classics, I would have to choose the Marx Brothers’ A Day at the Races. The first time I saw it, I was immediately enthralled by both the slapstick and the clever word play. The frantic nonsense in the last act as the Marx Brothers do everything in their power to delay the steeplechase and then help jittery Hi-Hat win the race made me a devotee of that era of film making.
Patricia (Paddy Lee) Nolan-Hall
Blog: https://www.caftanwoman.com/ Twitter: @CaftanWoman
Shane is the movie that made me love movies. I first saw Shane on a theatrical re-release in the mid-1960s when I was around 10 years old.
The enlightening experience began with Victor Young’s score. The music had such power and melancholy that it pulled me into the story. Years later when I read Shane I realized that I lived the movie the way the character of the young boy lived those weeks with Shane – observing, sensing, and understanding. I had laughed and cried at movies before, but never had the emotions felt so crystallized.
Strangely, the experience of Shane wasn’t purely an emotional response. One part of my brain was buzzing with the revelation that movies didn’t just happen. Movies had a how and a why to them. That must be why my dad always made us read credits. A switch was flipped and the whole movie experience became alive. I understood why the music moved me, why Shane was often framed away from the other characters, and so much more. It was all too thrilling. Every movie was better after Shane, but it still stands alone as the movie that made me truly love movies.
Blog – watchingforever.wordpress.com Twitter: @toniruberto
My love for classic movies can’t be traced to one film but to an entire genre: horror movies. As a kid, I watched the “old movies” (as we called them) on TV with my dad: Universal Monsters, the giant bugs of the 1950s B-movies, the fantastical creatures of Ray Harryhausen. “Them,” “The Thing” “Tarantula” and are among those we watched over and over again – and still do to this day. I never tire of hearing that screechy sound of the big ants in “Them” or seeing the fight against the giant crab in “Mysterious Island.”
Classic horror movies bring back wonderful memories of sitting on the floor by my dad’s chair as we watched them together. I love to hear similar stories from others who share they also were introduced to the classics by a family member. Because of my comfort in watching the old horror movies, it never bothered me to watch a film in “black and white” like it did my friends. So I kept watching. Thanks to dad and all the creatures who helped me discover my life-long love of classic movies.
Blog – The Classic Movie Muse Twitter: @classymoviemuse
I fell in love with classic movies before I knew it was happening to me. As a one year old (I’m told) I would watch The Wizard of Oz (1939) repeatedly. It seems that I had a penchant for musicals. When my parents visited a family friend who owned Show Boat (1951), that became my go-to while the adults chatted.
In our home we owned a few Gene Kelly musicals that introduced me to the dancing man and some MGM stars: Take Me Out to the Ball Game (1949), Anchors Aweigh (1945), and Singin’ in the Rain (1952). I also remember watching The King and I (1956) and The Sound of Music (1965) frequently in my adolescence.
In my teenage years I was introduced to Gone With the Wind (1939) and my life changed. I had to know more about this movie, the actors, and how in the world did they make something so grand in 1939? Thus began my endless journey of research and love of this golden era of film.
Jill -Administrator of The Vintage Classics Facebook Page and Group and Instagram.
The films that got me into Classic films were “East of Eden” & “Rebel Without a Cause.” I owe that to my Dad. James Dean played a huge part. My love for classic films has grown so much over the years. I love so many. I prefer the classics to the films of today.
Blog – Hollywood Genes
My dad and I were very close when I was growing up. He loved old movies and used to tape a few (remember VHS?) off of TCM for us to watch. The incredibly fun Bringing Up Baby filled with Katharine Hepburn and Cary Grant’s madcap antics was a favorite. Desk Set was another. I would sit at the coffee table while I watched with my dad’s work stationary and the giant pink Electronic Dream Phone (from the Milton Bradley game) in front of me. I mimicked Joan Blondell and her fellow ladies in the research department as I blew the minds of callers with my vast array of know-how.
My dad died when I was 11, but those tapes bearing labels with his handwriting remained on the shelf. I think I clung to them as a way to keep us connected. Though I’ve seen many more classic films since then, Bringing Up Baby and Desk Set remain two of my favorites. Good memories make all of the difference.
A huge thank you to our contributors for sharing the films that started their journey with classic film. Hopefully we are all inspired by their words to remember the films that also start our own love for classic film.
Tomorrow, we will continue with Part Two of The Films That Brought Us To Love Classic Film.
Paul Batters teaches secondary school History in the Illawarra region and also lectures at the University Of Wollongong. In a previous life, he was involved in community radio and independent publications. Looking to a career in writing, Paul also has a passion for film history.