We can all be guilty of not watching a wide range of movies, especially those made way before our time. The Golden Age of Hollywood, roughly dated between 1930 and 1960, was one of the most successful and influential eras in cinema history. There’s so many classics to be found here. Our writers have looked into the archives and chosen their favourite of these older movies – read on to see their picks…
Rebecca (1940), dir. Alfred Hitchcock
“Last night I dreamt I went to Manderley again.”
One of the most well-known opening lines in cinema, this line from the start of Rebecca directly deposits the audience into the diegesis of Hitchcock’s haunting world, establishing the voice, location and dream-like quality of the film. Hitchcock’s adaptation of Daphne du Maurier’s novel is perfectly cast, with Laurence Olivier portraying the cold, controlling Mr de Winter, Joan Fontaine as the mousy, submissive protagonist, and a stand-out melodramatic performance by Judith Anderson as the oppressive housekeeper Mrs Danvers. Although the Hays Code forced Hitchcock to change a major plot point, the film is largely a faithful adaptation and retains the mystery of du Maurier’s classic. The breathtaking cinematography in Rebecca emphasises the grandiose qualities of Manderley, and Hitchcock anthropomorphises the house through long shots and low angle shots, making Manderley just as sinister as Mrs Danvers. Rebecca is one of my favourite old movies as, despite the entire film being about Rebecca de Winter, by the end of the narrative the titular character still remains an enigma, representing an unattainable mythical fantasy of womanhood just out of reach.
A Streetcar Named Desire (1951), dir. Elia Kazan
A Streetcar Named Desire hit the big screens just a few years after the play’s original release, starring Marlon Brando as Stanley Kowalski and Vivien Leigh as southern belle Blanche DuBois. When transferring Tennessee Williams’ controversial work to film, director Elia Kazan was made to edit the ending as, in the original screenplay, Stanley would not be punished for his cruel treatment of Blanche. Instead, the movie remoulded the conclusion to show Stanley’s wife Stella and new-born child leaving him. The movie is full of visual symbolism, from the streetcar to the moth, but the most amazing part of the movie is its ability to recapture the importance of colour in the play despite being a black-and-white film. It is almost symbolic of the dim world Blanche lives in, and the ability for us to see the changing lightness and darkness of the image throughout shows the genius behind it. Unlike most Hollywood films of the period, we are given the chance to delve into the real lives of many Americans, the juxtaposition of the American Dream and reality marking a turning point in the narrative. A Streetcar Named Desire was highly criticised for its controversial view on sexuality. However, this didn’t stop its indelible impact on the film industry.
Some Like It Hot (1959), dir. Billy Wilder
A masterpiece from Billy Wilder, Some Like it Hot is one of the funniest and most entertaining movies ever made. That’s simply an indisputable fact. The film follows two men (played by Tony Curtis and Jack Lemmon) who dress in drag to escape the mob, running away to join an all-women’s jazz band led by blonde bombshell Marilyn Monroe. What’s not to love? For many, Some Like It Hot is THE Marilyn Monroe movie. From The Seven Year Itch to Gentlemen Prefer Blondes, opinions vary on what is her best role – but Some Like it Hot is it for me. Sugar Kane is such an iconic, likeable character, with some killer one-liners (“I always get the fuzzy end of the lollipop!”) and good comedic timing from Monroe herself (such as when she’s caught drinking in her introduction to ‘Josephine’ and ‘Daphne’). Curtis and Lemmon are comedy legends, both showing massive charisma on the screen both in and out of drag. ‘Daphne’ and Osgood’s sudden romance will always hold a special place in my heart; that final line (no spoilers!) will forever be iconic and hilarious. The music is pretty darn good too! ‘Running Wild’ is a tune, and the costuming throughout is absolutely breathtaking. Truly, Some Like It Hot is a film that has withstood the test of time and should be on everybody’s watchlist.