I’ve been trying to get my sisters into classic movies for a couple decades now. I have failed utterly. Their objections are:
- The acting is stagey.
- Who can get over the black and white?
- Just as technology has improved, so have the films using it.
I have to give some share of the blame to my mother, who has a weakness for Hayley Mills Disney flicks and insisted the three of us view them as kids; Pollyanna, That Darn Cat! and The Parent Trap may have done irreparable damage. Mom tried to make up for these deplorable choices with some Shirley Temple movies and The Song of Bernadette, but though these films represented a qualitative improvement, they still didn’t demonstrate any perceptiveness about her children’s likely preferences.*
Some of the blame for my sisters’ hostility toward classic film must go to my father too, as he shares his daughters’ innate sarcasm and should have known to discourage the viewing of such sugary slosh, which would shade their opinion of all classic movies thereafter. (Had I not caught a five-minute clip of Ball of Fire as a teen and been lured into AMC addiction, I might possess my sisters’ baffling convictions myself.)
Luckily, my sister Rachel wants me to watch Breaking Bad so much that she has accepted a trade: I watch the show; she watches 10 classic films.
In terms of time, of course, this is not a fair exchange, as Rachel knows me well enough to predict I’ll be sucked into all five seasons. However, I am desperate enough to go along.
I’m sure you can see what’s at stake here: this is my best chance, possibly my only one in the (hopefully) decades left until I croak. Would anyone who either knows my sister or these films weigh in with advice on or alternatives to my tentative list?
My choices are based on my sister’s love for sports films; interest in the media, crime, and politics; sense of humor; and previous film favorites. Since she hates stagey acting, I’m a little hesitant about melodramas not of the dark variety—Sweet Smell of Success, perhaps; Grand Hotel, not so much. I’m thinking of James Garfield, Barbara Stanwyck, and their ilk for acting style—the more natural, the better. Rachel lists the following as among her favorite movies: The Big Lebowski, Absence of Malice, …And Justice for All, Good Will Hunting, Shawshank Redemption, Office Space, Ordinary People, Il Postino, Some Kind of Wonderful, and The Legend of Billy Jean.
One note: I’m better at predicting her taste in dramas than comedies, as she tends to be annoyed by my love for broad humor. She’s appreciated my Coen brothers and Arrested Development recs, but is disturbed by my appreciation for Judd Apatow.
Here’s my first try, with options (in no particular order):
- Scarface (1932) (since a remake, she might be interested)
- Ace in the Hole (since she liked The Paper)
- Notorious/Shadow of a Doubt (both reminded me of My Cousin Rachel, a Daphne du Maurier book she liked—I don’t think she’d appreciate the du Maurier adaptations)
- 3:10 to Yuma (for the Glenn Ford-Van Heflin interchange)
- Mr. Smith Goes to Washington (since she’s into politics)
- His Girl Friday (she’s seen Switching Channels and likes good dialogue)
- It Happened One Night/The Awful Truth/Libeled Lady/The Lady Eve (Which one???)
- On the Waterfront (as she likes some of Brando’s admirers)
- Hud/Out of the Past (since she likes Paul Newman, and might appreciate the style & looks of Robert Mitchum)
- The Third Man (perhaps iffy–I can’t come up with plot objections, but she really hated Citizen Kane and might therefore dislike Orson Welles.)
Films I haven’t seen yet she might like: Body and Soul, M, or possibly a noir such as Kiss Me Deadly or They Live by Night. I worry about any films with bad acting, as that will confirm her prejudice against old films. She couldn’t get past the mysteries’ quality in Psych, so I have no hopes for her with The Thin Man.
Any help you can give me?
*I should admit that Mom may have some odd favorites, but she is willing to read about all of mine; she has been my most loyal blog reader.