My husband and I, lovers of old movies, stumbled onto a good one that’s perfect for the holidays.
“Remember the Night” (1940) features Barbara Stanwyck and Fred MacMurray in the story of a district attorney whose effort to get out of town so he can get home to Indiana in time for Christmas results in a shoplifter being detained in jail until after New Year’s…unless he takes responsibility for her over the holidays. So he drags her along on his road trip back home, where she meets his kind family, who treat her much better than most thieves would expect.
My husband is a Hoosier, with several wonderful relatives still living “back home in Indiana,” so the movie had special relevance for him. But I liked it a lot, too, and I’m amazed that Stanwyck and MacMurray could play characters that are so very different from those they played in “Double Indemnity,” their most famous movie pairing (and not a movie for kids).
This is a different kind of holiday movie with a surprise ending; we really liked it, and will probably watch it next Christmas, too.
I see that Hollywood is worried because DVD sales are down. I’m sure the increased popularity of Netflix and other methods of watching movies (including downloading them illegally) account for some of the decrease. But the quality of the movies we’re seeing these days has to take some blame, especially from those of us who have children.
You just never know what objectionable thing will appear in a modern movie. The plot may be interesting, but the f-word keeps popping up for no good reason at all. Or perhaps a movie has a ridiculous amount of nudity that does nothing to further the plot. It’s enough to make a parent very irritable.
This has been going on for quite a while; it’s one of the many reasons why my husband and I have been watching mostly old movies (pre-1980) for years. Even if our kids weren’t actually watching the movie, we never had to worry about what they saw as they passed through the family room. And though our youngest is now 18, he’s a young man with developmental delays and completely normal male hormones, so it’s a good thing we don’t watch more recent movies with all the female nudity, or we’d never get back the tv remote.
Twenty years ago, when our oldest kids were young, I had hopes that watching old movies would help them develop an appreciation for good stories with strong plots. I held that dream until they hit their early teens, when one of them announced that they thought Adam Sandler movies were the best movies ever. I consoled myself with the fact that my taste in movies was pretty unsophisticated at that age too.
That said, today the jury’s still out on whether the influence of old movies had much effect on my kids. I’ve noticed a definite generational difference of opinion, particularly about what’s funny and what’s not, but also about what constitutes good acting, good plot and especially good endings. Not surprisingly, I prefer an ending that makes clear what happened to the main characters. That’s how most old movies were written. When I watch a modern movie and am left hanging, I’m disappointed. But my kids don’t seem to mind that at all.
Now that our kids are grown, and some are out of the nest, my husband and I continue to enjoy old movies. Below are some we’ve watched recently. Got any favorites to add to the list? Please share in the comments; I’m always up for watching a “new” old movie.