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Culture Corner: In Defense of Old Movies

Discovering the lost world of the fantastical and the emotional.

Movies of today are blockbusters in every sense of the word. From grand budgets to all-star casts, even the lower-key films are built to explode into the media cycle. But are they any good? Once the green screens, the emotive pauses, and the set-piece action/tearful scenes are removed, are we left with a good story?

It’s hard to believe that James Stewart was acting in the Frank Capra classic, It’s a Wonderful Life, 75 years ago. The story is as fresh and meaningful today as it was then. Sticking with the Capra/Stewart duet, Mr. Smith Goes to Washington is celebrating its 82nd birthday this year. The climactic filibuster scene could be read today on the front page of any national newspaper. These stories were built to last.

And what of the Charlton Heston classic, Soylent Green? Set in 2022 – just a year from now – the population is being forced to eat processed food that comes from questionable sources. It seems, in some ways, almost prophetic of the present day and the push for legalized euthanasia. Edward G. Robinson’s final credited performance as Sol Roth capped a career that began more than 100 years ago.

Some films are made for profit, and some for prosperity. But some also are made for both, and this requires the art of storytelling.

Has there been a greater or more moving tale than Roman Holiday in terms of sacrificing happiness for duty? The scene of Gregory Peck and Audrey Hepburn saying a private and personal farewell surrounded by the crowd of media has such beauty and depth that it remains today a heart-swelling moment. One year later, in 1954, Hepburn would tame the enigmatic Humphrey Bogart in Sabrina.

Stories survive because they are told again and again. But why have remakes of such classics when the original tellings still serve as a reminder that, even across a century of time, we are still subject to thrilling emotions and tender moments as real and relevant as they ever were?

~

Read more from Mark Angelides.

Read More From Mark Angelides

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