Over the past few months, I've discovered Turner Classic Movies. It's one of those cable stations that shows old movies, but it shows them all uncut and commercial free. Nice. So I've been taking the time to watch some classic black & white films that I had never bothered with before – partly because I didn't have access, but mostly because I thought old films were boring.

Turns out that's not true. I guess there is a reason why films like Casablanca, 12 Angry Men, and Psycho have stood the test of time. These all have some pretty interesting story lines and some of them even had wonderful cinematography and vision. Hitchcock filmed some really breathtaking shots!

Pretty much without exception though, overacting abounds in these movies. It's the biggest obstacle to my enjoyment of some otherwise great cinema.

As I understand it, there was a large contingent of actors who grew up doing radio and silent film – and they had to be very melodramatic and over-the-top in order for the emotion to come across. And when talkies finally came about, they were the stars of the day and they had an impact on the work of younger actors, which led to more melodrama. James Stewart just chews the scenery. It can be pretty off-putting.

But I'm still finding it a useful exercise watching these classics. Thankfully for me, bad acting has always been something I can overlook – more so than a bad plot or bad dialogue for instance. Maybe that comes from years of watching indie films with their interesting story lines, but cheap actors.Whatever it is, I'm happy about it. It means that, with TCM, I have a steady stream of interesting films to tap into, all free of charge.

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2 responses »

  1. margotinto says:

    I've also heard that the melodrama comes from the fact that many of these actors trained on the stage. Have you seen Days of Wine and Roses? It was made in 1962, so the melodrama may have worn off, but the acting in this movie is excellent. And as it says on IMDB, this is one Hollywood movie where there is no final redemption, which sets its apart from most.

  2. Nope, haven't seen it, but I'll keep an eye out. I'm currently watching the Maltese Falcon. I had to stop partway through, but it's great fun so far.

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