During the extended time at home caused by the pandemic, many found new hobbies or picked old ones back up. I did a bit of both, falling back into the practice of watching movies recommended to me by friends and family that had long been added to my neverending watchlist. But specifically, I became invested in watching the classic films I had not yet gotten around to viewing and that I was only tangentially aware of. Despite my academic interest in studying and analyzing film paired with my personal hobby of learning about filmmaking and entertainment news; I was made aware that while I knew all about the history of early Hollywood films, I had not actually watched that many of them.
Starting with “His Girl Friday” (1940) and “The Philadelphia Story” (1940), my drive to integrate myself with the classic film scene all but took over my DVD player. Friends and family members who knew of my endeavors were throwing suggestions at me left and right once they found out that I had never even seen the well-known and deeply beloved classics such as “It’s a Wonderful Life” (1946). Just recently my roommate heard that I am unfamiliar with a personal favorite of hers, “Play Misty for me” (1971), and she stopped everything to call her aunt—who is renowned within her family for her classic film collection the size of a small library—to see if we could borrow the DVD.
With each viewing of a screwball comedy, a noir, a thriller, I was struck by the fact that I had been viewing classic films through the lens of the first works that will inevitably be remade, re-imagined, or otherwise updated—the latter of which formerly applied especially because I used to view them as in some undefined way lacking.
But they are more than the first drafts that made do without the technology that exists presently. They are better than modern audiences give them credit for being. They were novelties, and they are more impressive than much of what comes out today and should be recognized and cherished as such.