Vintage Hollywood Movies are my absolute favourite genre of movies. If you have read my post outlining 10 random facts about me – you will see this is high on the list. I’m sure the fact that I’m 58 has got something to do with it. However the main driving force behind this is the many happy hours spent alongside my late mother watching these films. I did not have the best relationship with my mum at all but watching her favourite films with her brought some of our happiest times. It has also provided me with this passion for Vintage Hollywood movies. My mother was quite starstruck and had a stack of photographs of Hollywood stars from her era. Publicity photographs were what the studio’s gave out to fans. Well before the poster era of my generation. This was the ‘thing’ in her younger days. I remember she had beautiful images of classic stars such as Janette MacDonald and Nelson Eddy, George Raft, Robert Taylor and James Cagney. They were all sepia and the stars looked so glamorous. Obviously they weren’t vintage to her but of her era. She was born in 1926.
We used to spend many afternoons watching old classics, drama’s and showstopping Busby Berkeley musicals with huge dance ensembles.
I will watch Vintage Hollywood Movies over and over again, and will always choose a Black and White Classic over a new release, however that does not mean I don’t watch new releases.
In recent years there has been a resurgence in this type of genre in a modern day form, Films like La La Land. The Greatest Showman and A Star is Born, which incidentally was first made in 1937. These have proved to be very popular, suggesting to me that there are many modern day film-goers out there who would appreciate an original classic.
With this in mind I thought I would share with you 5 of my absolute favourites. There is sex, violence and intrigue in them all without the need to be explicit and graphic. I think they are all fabulous stories and tissues are needed for all of them.
Here they are then- my top 5 vintage Hollywood movies
This stars my favourite actress of all times – the late, great Bette Davies. The storyline in it’s simplest is “A frumpy spinster blossoms under therapy and becomes an elegant, independent woman” It is way more than that. The synopsis according to IMDb reads:
Overweight Boston spinster Charlotte is a repressed, self-esteemless woman completely dominated by her wealthy mother, Mrs. Henry Vale. When her sister-in-law Lisa Vale brings her friend Dr. Jaquith, a renowned psychiatrist, to visit Charlotte, he invites her to spend some time in his sanitarium. Soon Charlotte transforms into a sophisticated, confident woman and takes a cruise to South America. She meets married architect Jerry Durrance and they have a love affair in Rio de Janeiro. Six months later she returns home and confronts her mother with her independence. One day they have an argument and her mother has a heart attack and dies. Charlotte inherits the Vale fortune but feels guilty for her mother’s death. She decides to return to Dr. Jaquith’s sanitarium, where she befriends Jerry’s 12-year-old daughter Tina, who has been rejected by her mother. Charlotte takes Tina home to Boston with her and one day Jerry brings Dr. Jaquith to visit them there.
It is a fabulous story of one woman’s battle to overcome mental health issues and dominance to become a happier person. She does not get the complete outcome she would like but is happy to settle for a compromise helping another similar girl with similar fragile nerves and low esteem in Tina.
My favourite line in any film is from this when she shares a cigarette with Henreid, Oh Jerry don’t lets ask for the moon, we have the stars!
(Note – You have to remember this was made in the days when cigarette smoking was deemed to be very glamorous! Before the dangers to health were discovered)
This heart wrenching film stars 2 of Hollywood’s most beautiful stars, Robert Taylor and Vivien Leigh. Leigh is world famous for portraying Scarlett O’Hara in Gone with the Wind.
The film is set in London and the famous Waterloo Bridge is featured prominently, hence the title. They speak in the fabulous clipped English accents that have been lost over the years.
The outline of the plot is that During World War I, believing her fiance to be dead, a young ballerina loses her job and is forced to turn to prostitution. From there, things only get worse for her in this tragic, heart-wrenching, love story.
This fabulous film was nominated for 7 Academy Awards and starred Essex born Greer Garson, a major star at MGM. Her co- star and love is Ronald Coleman another English born actor who went on to conquer Hollywood.
An amnesiac World War I veteran falls in love with a music hall star, only to suffer an accident which restores his original memories but erases his post-war life.
This has the most fabulous melodramatic storyline set in London and Liverpool and the ending is just sublime. In my opinion Random Harvest is a must see weepy.
Thanks to the beauty that is YouTube I can share a trailer with you.
Imitation of Life
This is a 1959 romantic drama dealing with the subjects of race, class and gender. Lana Turner is the female lead in this movie – to me she is one of the most beautiful actresses to grace the Hollywood screens.
Storyline: Aspiring actress Lora Meredith meets Annie Johnson, a homeless black woman at Coney Island and soon they share a tiny apartment. Each woman has an intolerable daughter, though, Annie’s little girl Sarah Jane, is by far the worse. Neurotic and obnoxious, Sarah Jane doesn’t like being black; since she’s light-skinned (her father was practically white), she spends the rest of the film passing as white, much to her mother’s heartache and shame. Lora, meanwhile, virtually ignores her own daughter in a single-minded quest for stardom.
This has a compelling plot involving the 2 mothers and their daughters, leading to a most dramatic ending. As I stated earlier just because a film is vintage does not mean it does not tackle issues that are still relevant today. You would have to be made of stone not to be moved by the ending. Can I tempt you with a clip of the official trailer?
Angels with Dirty Faces
This film is different from the other 4 vintage hollywood movies I have discussed. This is a crime drama with the fabulous James Cagney and Pat O’Brien in the lead roles.
Rocky Sullivan (James Cagney) and Jerry Connolly (Pat O’Brien) were brought up in one of New York’s toughest neighborhoods, Hell’s Kitchen. While his buddy Rocky gets caught up in racketeering in reform school, Jerry decides to become a priest. Years later, Rocky is released from prison and returns to Hell’s Kitchen, where Jerry works with at-risk children. Rocky wants a temporary safe haven with his old friend before resuming his life of crime, but Jerry hesitates, testing their relationship.
The movie follows the relationship between these 2 men, seemingly poles apart but with a life long bond. James Cagney is famous for many roles in Gangster films as well as being a sublime song and dance man. I could recommend a couple more of his films but I’ve chosen this as my favourite. Again courtesy of youtube I can introduce you to this movie via the trailer.
So I hope you find at least one of these vintage hollywood movies to your taste and I can tempt you to watch. They are all available on various platforms such as Youtube, Google Play and are available to buy from Amazon.
If you have a favourite old classic let me know I’m sure there are many more I have yet to watch in my retirement!