I re-watched Hitchcock’s North by Northwest a few days ago, and found myself more consumed with how different the world was back then than with the story. My verdict? I think the movie is firmly stuck in its own time. On the other hand, a few years ago I re-watched Tod Browning’s 1931 film Freaks, and other than it being in black and white, it seemed timeless.
So, I decided to ask the Misses about which films or books they thought aged well, and which didn’t.
Casablanca aged well. Gone With The Wind did not.
I’m probably the odd person out, but I love old films precisely because they give us a snapshot of days gone by. As a history lover, there’s nothing better than actually visiting the past via a book or movie, not written about the past but in the past. I’m a fan of all the movies starring Fred Astaire and Cary Grant (among others). And musicals like Holiday Inn, which I watch every December without fail. It never gets old for me. Pure unapologetic escapism.
I love the old musicals—reality? Not. But a joy to bask in Never-Never Land. I’m looking forward to watching Cary Grant again, especially Arsenic & Old Lace, His Girl Friday.
Even when I don’t agree with the portrayals (they wouldn’t work today), I like seeing how people thought and acted in the past.
An Affair to Remember aged well. West Side Story not so much.
I think some science fiction has aged well. Some of the technology that seemed fantastical is now science fact. In the original The Day the Earth Stood Still, Klaatu selectively blocks the world’s power for a period of time. Nowadays, that could actually happen, albeit probably not as dramatically as in the film. And I just learned that Jules Verne’s 1865 From the Earth to the Moon, was pretty accurate about moon landings. He described the US being the first to land man on the moon, a rocket much like Apollo, and the return capsule landing in the Pacific Ocean.
Science fiction sometimes inspires real life scientists to try to bring fiction to life. And no one can convince me that Star Trek’s badges didn’t inspire the new US Space Force logo.
I thought of a movie that aged “well” but I wish had not–The Manchurian Candidate (the original with Frank Sinatra and Angela Landsbury). I tried to watch it over Christmas and I saw so many things happening in that movie that paralleled the real-life political situation that I had an anxiety attack and had to quit watching.
Two of my favorites were 12 O’Clock High and The Best Years of Our Lives. They were well-made films that didn’t sugar-coat the horror of war or downplay the troubles veterans faced when they returned home. Casablanca was my absolute favorite. Not the most realistic, perhaps, but, damn, it made me want to go fight Nazis.
A while back I re-watched Grapes of Wrath, which I think holds up well as a picture of an environment under climate stress and people struggling to deal with economic dislocation. But there’s that great moment where they get to that camp run by the government and it’s all so clean and wonderful and seems to summarize all the hopes people, myself included, had for what the government could do, and I still hope the government can do it. But it will never be as shiny and new as it was there. Still love Henry Fonda.
Tracee de Hahn
I can suspend disbelief for some of the classics, Cary Grant’s included. This summer, we’ve done a tour through old war movies and there were ups and downs. Among them, the film version of Graham Greene’s novel The Third Man set in post-war Vienna. It fell into the ho hum category. Mainly pacing, and perhaps I’ve lost my appreciation for black and white visuals. Nostalgia can only carry me so far.
How about you? What do you think only gets better with a re-watch?
Emilya Naymark is the author of the novels Hide in Place and Behind the Lie.
Her short stories appear in A Stranger Comes to Town, edited by Michael Koryta, Secrets in the Water, After Midnight: Tales from the Graveyard Shift, River River Journal, Snowbound: Best New England Crime Stories 2017, and 1+30: THE BEST OF MYSTORY.
When not writing, Emilya works as a visual artist and reads massive quantities of psychological thrillers, suspense, and crime fiction. She lives in the Hudson Valley with her family.