Secret Obsession #5: Old Movies

Where did the obsession with old movies come from?

Maybe the gateway drug was old music.

When I was 18, I ran up to my dad one time and said, “DAD. Have you ever listened to Bob Dylan? This guy is LEGIT.” 

And THIS MAN, MY FATHER, uttered the words: “Ew no, I don’t like Bob Dylan.”

I was shocked, because I didn’t understand how you couldn’t love Bob Dylan and think his music is revolutionary. And, 15 years later, Bob Dylan IS still legit and my dad is still wrong, but we agree to disagree and we listen to Jackson Browne instead.

I’m not entirely sure HOW I got super into old music, but it definitely had something to do with my parents. My mom loves motown and 70s disco and funk, and my dad is all about the 70s and 80s rock. Growing up in the 90s, that and the modern-day country were all we listened to. 

I was perfectly happy to listen to the music my parents liked, but somehow when I turned 18, I went off the deep end with old music. I wasn’t satisfied with just music from the 70s and 80s. My great grandpa and I traded Sinatra CDs. I got into Bob Wills and Elvis. 

Alicia, you say, the title is about old movies. Not old music.  Yeah. I know. But I’m pretty sure my love of old movies came out of my love of old music. Or, should I say, I wasn’t scared of watching old movies BECAUSE I was like, well, I like music from the 1950s, I probably will like movies from the 1950s!

Maybe it was old TV.

And honestly, if you asked my family, they’d probably tell you that’s a pile of lies. They’ll tell you that I was always obsessed with old TV shows, from childhood, and that’s TRUE. I used to watch a LOT of Nickelodeon and every night, Nick at Night would come on, and I was hooked. Back then, they used to play everything from the 50s-70s. For Christmas when I was 12, I asked for (and received) Lucille Ball’s autobiography.  Mary Tyler Moore and Rhoda were my working girl goals. The Brady Bunch house was my house goals. I wanted George Jefferson to be my dad. And to this day I regularly quote “Elizabeth! I’m coming to join you honey!” AND NO ONE EVER GETS IT.

So, for 18 year old me, I guess it’s no WONDER my love of old music and my love of old TV manifested in loving old movies.

What’s the first old movie I ever watched? Hard to say, but probably Gone With The Wind. I remember my mom tried to make us watch that when we were kids. I remember falling asleep in Hour 2. I stand by my decision. 

Starting my obsession with old movies.

One day while scrolling through the TV, I came across TCM -- Turner Classic Movies. And out of sheer interest, I started watching. It was The Lion in Winter (1968). No idea why, but I was ENTHRALLED. It was here I was introduced to Katherine Hepburn, who is possibly my favorite classic movie actress (besides Julie Andrews, ok, because The Sound of Music is my favorite movie of all time.) 

If I had started watching this movie believing even 1% that “classic movies are lame,” every ounce of that was gone from my body by the time the credits rolled. And there’s so many great one-liners.

I went on the deep dive.

Fast forward to last year when Brian’s parents are staying at our house for the winter.  His dad introduces me to a movie called His Girl Friday (1940). I LOVED it. First of all, Cary Grant is a legend and he acts the HECK out of this role. But the banter of the leads, Rosalind Russell and Cary Grant, just really makes this movie shine. And through watching some YouTube videos, I learn this movie is part of a whole GENRE of movie that is the predecessor to the modern rom-com called a “screwball comedy.” 

So I’ve been watching screwball comedies. And yes, I think I’ve found my classic movie niche. 

Alicia, you say, I’ll give this old movie thing a try. I’ll watch ONE old movie. ONE. Which one do you recommend?

***The Philadelphia Story (1941) - you can rent it on youtube for like $3.99. Highly recommend because: 1. Katherine Hepburn is my literal hero. 2. Jimmy Stewart is my favorite male classic movie actor and he’s in this too. 3. It’s funny. 4. It’s thoughtful. The only tragedy? A massively downplayed Cary Grant.

Um, how about another one? Bringing Up Baby (1938). Watch this movie and try to tell me The Hangover doesn’t owe everything it is to this movie.  It’s funnier than the Philadelphia Story but a little less believable and thoughtful. But, man, Cary Grant in this movie is fantastic.

Um, still not finished? Duck Soup (1933). It’s the funniest movie I’ve ever seen. I just have an existential crisis every time I watch that movie that it is almost 100 years old and the jokes are STILL funny. Like, everyone associated with this movie is dead but I’m watching it right now in a manner they couldn’t have even dreamed of, and I’m laughing my butt off right now.  

And I just recently watched It Happened One Night (1933) starring Clark Gable and Claudette Colbert. It’s cute, well acted, and keeps you entertained. But when you realize how many of our modern day movie tropes came out of this movie -- wow. It’s like, legendary. It’s the first rom-com. 

Casablanca (1942) I mean, people love this movie for a reason, ok. It’s just good.

Another vote for The Lion In Winter (1968) because you don’t get a cast like Katherine Hepburn, Peter O’Toole, Anthony Hopkins, and Timothy Dalton (in his first ever movie!) with writing that smart and witty and rapacious. It just doesn’t happen. But somehow IT HAPPENED.

And if you haven’t dived into the musicals of the 1960s what ARE you doing. My Fair Lady (1964). Mary Poppins (1964). Sound of Music (1965). Funny Girl (1968).

If you’re like Alicia, I do not want to laugh or sing. I like action movies….I got some for you:

The Godfather (1972) and do yourself a favor and watch Part II as well, then join the fight about which one is better. (You’re wrong if you say Part I.) 

Vertigo (1958) - my favorite Hitchock movie that does not make me break out into hives when birds are around. But if you and birds are cool, also watch The Birds (1963) and revel in Tippi Hendren’s eyebrows because MY GOD.

All The President’s Men (1976) I just saw this one a few months ago and wow, so good.  Maybe my favorite 70s movie. 70s movies can be kinda weird with their sound decisions. (It’s a lot of...silence.) And their editing decisions. (It’s a lot of...extra long shots that should be...not extra long.) So just be warned about that. But I really like this movie. Dustin Hoffman is amazing. And while we’re on the subject of Dustin Hoffman, watch The Graduate (1967).

If you like Sci-fi, I’m assuming you’ve already seen Star Wars, so either check out Star Trek: The Motion Picture (1979) or Soylent Green (1973). They’re both excellent movies but you’ll also see that everything I just said about 70s movies is 100% true. 

There ya go. If you’ve ever wondered what happened before Star Wars and John Hughes films, here’s a pretty good smattering! Happy Watching!

And if you know me, you know 2 of my other Secret Obsessions are Youtube and Podcasts. So, you KNOW I watch youtube channels and listen to podcasts about old movies. Here are a few rec’s:

Youtube channels:

Be Kind Rewind

The Take