How I Came to Love Classic Movies

Discussion in 'Blu-ray and UHD' started by atfree, Sep 17, 2013.

  1. atfree

    atfree Cinematographer
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    Not sure if the thread is appropriate (feel free to move it if not), but I just was thinking about how I came to be such a movie lover, which has led me to my current obsession with collecting Blu-rays, especially catalog titles. While fully aware this may bore the hell out of most people, here goes.

    I grew up in the late 60’s/early 70’s, and this was a time when TV was awash with old movies. For those who can’t remember a time without cable/satellite, in these days we had 4 channels where I lived (Western North Carolina): the local ABC, NBC and CBS affiliates plus a local PBS station. On the networks, almost every night of the week had a theatrical film showing. NBC had “Saturday Night at the Movies”, ABC had their “Sunday Night Movie” and “Monday Night Movie”, while CBS showed at least 2 nights of movies (Thursday and Friday), and sometimes three (Sunday).

    The local affiliates had to fill early mornings (9-10 or 11), weekend days (sports coverage was much less than today) and daily late nights (The Tonight Show was really the only viable late-night show then), and filled these slots regularly with old movies.

    During the summer when I was out of school, I remember our local ABC affiliate showing a daily “Dialing for Dollars” movie each weekday from 9-11am. Movies I saw on this show included “Mutiny on the Bounty” (Brando version, usually shown in 2 parts on consecutive days), “Hell is for Heroes”, “To Hell and Back”, “Pillow Talk”, and “The Wings of Eagles”.

    On weekend days, the ABC affiliate showed “Shock Theater”, including all the classic Universal monster movies. The local NBC affiliate showed Abbott and Costello, Ma and Pa Kettle, Francis the Talking Mule, Mr. Moto, Charlie Chan, and Tarzan films. Late-night on the weekends featured more “Shock Theater” and a ton of John Wayne films.

    Feature films on the networks were a HUGE deal: the premieres of “Lawrence of Arabia”, “Goldfinger” and “The Bridge on the River Kwai” were events and drew huge ratings. When "controversial" films like "Bonnie and Clyde" and "The Wild Bunch" premiered on TV, they were heavily edited (today, you see more graphic violence on network police procedurals) and some stations refused to show them. In the mid-70’s, ABC regularly showed the James Bond films as part of their Sunday night movie slot and they regularly placed in the Top Ten of the Nielsen ratings. In

    Amazing, I remember some long films (over 2 hours) being shown in two parts- ABC showed both “Where Eagles Dare” and “Ice Station Zebra” over two nights (Sunday and Monday). Even more amazingly, CBS would sometimes split a showing into 2-parts, A WEEK APART- part one of “Battle of the Bulge” was shown on Friday night and part two was shown the following Friday night! Can you imagine that happening today?

    One of the most amazing (and ill-conceived) 2-part showings was done for the Bond film "On Her Majesty's Secret Service". ABC decided the only way to fit the 2 hour, 22 minute film into a 2 hour time slot, with commercials, was to split it into two parts; however, ABC felt that the film needed to have some action during the first half, which they felt it lacked. In order to promote the Winter Olympics (which ABC was covering that year), they decided to take a scene from the middle of the film, namely Bond's escape from Piz Gloria on skis, to begin the first half of the film; the film would shift back and forth between this scene, the scenes that immediately followed and the beginning of the film. At a certain point, the scenes set in the middle of the film stopped showing, and, bizarrely enough, the movie flowed into its original order with the scenes (previously shown) re-shown. Part two of the movie did not have any flashbacks. To explain what was happening, ABC hired an unidentified American narrator, who voiced Bond in the context of this edit, but mispronounced key names (most notably, Ernst Stavro Blofeld as Ernst Stravro Blofeld). Part one was broadcast on a Monday and part two was broadcast on the FOLLOWING Monday in 90-minute time slots. For years, I thought this was the way the film actually was!

    I remember when I was ten years old CBS was showing “The Guns of Navarone” on their Friday Night at the Movies (I can even still remember the theme music CBS used for their intro to the film…..”Tonight (dramatic pause), on CBS Friday Night at the Movies…….Alistair Mclean’s pulse-pounding adventure”). My family was going out to eat and to a local festival….I refused to go because I wanted to see “Guns”. I stayed home and ate hot dogs!

    For a while in the mid-to-late 70’s, CBS (having failed to have success against Johnny Carson) showed movies in the late-night (11:30pm) time slot. I can remember many drowsy school mornings when I had stayed up till 1:30 (or later) watching a great movie!

    It’s hard to imagine in these days of TCM, premium movie channels, DVD, Blu-Ray, streaming, and on-demand that there was actually a time when it was a “big deal” to see a movie like “Casablanca”, “Stagecoach”, or even a Johnny Weissmuller “Tarzan” movie on TV. But it’s where I developed my life-long love of classic film.

    Ironically, waiting to hear about one of these classics coming to Blu-Ray is now the equivalent of looking through the new TV Guide in those days to see what movies were going to be on the next week.
     
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  2. Richard V

    Richard V Cinematographer

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    Grew up in much the same manner, cept in San Antonio, Tx. My mother was a HUGE movie buff, and I guess I got the itch from her. Watched movies multiple times a week on TV, and Mom and Dad took me and my siblings to the movies all the time. My mom knew all of the old time stars and I learned to appreciate all the all time greats, Brando, Stewart, Hepburn, Tracy, Cagney, Bogey, Olivier, Peck, Douglas, Clift, Holden, Taylor, Lancaster, etc, etc.
    I too remember when watching movies on TV was a big deal. NBC's Saturday Night at the Movies was the king, and my whole family would gather around the set to watch every Sat night, it was "appointment TV" back in the day. I just can't get enough of the movies, it has been a life-long love affair, and it always will be.
     
  3. Rob_Ray

    Rob_Ray Screenwriter
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    I grew up in Houston. I remember seeing a lot of fifties Fox and Paramount titles on NBC Saturday Night at the Movies and more fifties and sixties Fox titles on the ABC Sunday Night Movie. For a while, ABC would run its Selznick titles over the summertime, including Duel in the Sun and Rebecca.

    Locally, KPRC Ch. 2 had the thirties and forties MGM prestige titles like Mutiny on the Bounty, China Seas, David Copperfield and Mrs. Miniver along with most of the great MGM musicals. It also had the Paramount Marx Bros, Mae West and W.C. Fields comedies. KTRK Ch. 13 prided itself on having the best selection of later (50s and 60s) blockbusters from a wide range of studios. KHOU Channel 11 had most of the 40s and early 50s Fox titles like Laura, Miracle on 34th Street, Leave Her to Heaven and All About Eve. Various UHF stations like the short-lived Channel 16 had the RKO classics, like King Kong, Citizen Kane, Stage Door and all the Astaire-Rogers, along with the Monogram titles with the likes of Judy Canova. Channel 39 had the late 30s-early 40s Warner Bros. package.

    I used to scour the Houston Chronicle's Sunday TV Chronolog's movie section looking for titles that I had heard about but never seen. Before cable and video, my evenings and weekend afternoons were built around what was currently playing on television. It's been a life-long love for me too and I never dreamed I would some day own such a wide range of favorites to be enjoyed again and again.
     
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  4. Steve Tannehill

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    I grew up in Tulsa in the 60's and 70's. I remember being allowed to stay up late to watch the network television debut of Help! I remember movies on network television, including the Bond films on ABC and the non-sensical two-part showing of On Her Majesty's Secret Service. One of the local channels aired movies at 9:00am, and that is where I saw a lot of 30's, 40's, and 50's movies. All the Marx Brothers movies. The Big Broadcast movies (with Bob Hope in one of them). B movies like Mad Dog Caul. The local PBS channel aired classic MGM musicals. And one UHF channel tested its transmitter by broadcasting an old, public domain print of It's a Wonderful Life.As a family, or with my father, we would see movies in the theater. We saw a double feature of Frankenstein and Dracula. We saw Lawrence of Arabia, too. We would also see at least one current film in the theater each year. I saw Patton, The Sting, Jaws, etc.I had a love for movies at a young age, and it stays with me to this day.
     
  5. David Weicker

    David Weicker Cinematographer

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    Chicago area here. Born in 61, so about the same era as many of the other posters.I, too remember the Network showings.But my love of movies comes mostly from WGN. Sundays were king. Mornings they showed Flash Gordon or Buck Rogers. Early afternoon was either mysteries - Charlie Chan or Sherlock Holmes. For a break they would show Blondie movies. But the jewel was Family Classics hosted by Frazier Thomas. Every Sunday (other than during the Summer - Cubs Games), would be a different classic - Adventures of Robin Hood, Mysterious Island, Lassie Come Home, Tobor The Great, When Worlds Collide, Captain Blood, and so on.

    Our PBS would have themes - I remember when they bought a MGM musicals package or the Janus films. And they were the ones who showed It's A Wonderful Life every Christmas Eve.

    New Year's Eve was a competition - one channel showed Astaire & Rogers, the other showed Marx Brothers.

    And the affiliates had their late-night movies (1-5 am) - lots of 30's and 40's films.
     
  6. BarryR

    BarryR Supporting Actor

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    I'm a walking casebook for this thread, having grown up in the '60s and '70s when classic Hollywood was routine fodder, with new movies (well, two years old, generally) being the big deal when premiering on network nights. What's interesting is how a whole new subset of classic history happened on cable in the '80s, when little seen early talkies and performers (such as Wheeler & Woolsey) suddenly found a home on AMC or TCM. And now it's a veritable deluge via discs, YouTube etc.
     
  7. JohnMor

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    I grew up in Houston as well. Fell in love with classic films watching them with my parents. I remember the "Million Dollar Movie" on channel 13 each weekday afternoon. Channel 2 showed classics each Sunday with their "Movie for a Sunday Afternoon" (saw a lot of MGM musicals there.) And classics on Channel 39 at 8:00 each weeknight. My mom would take me to any classic re-release, especially if it was on the big screen, like at the Windsor Theater (Gone With The Wind, My Fair Lady) or Tower Theater (The Sound of Music, Singing in the Rain). Plus, my dad and I would go once in a while to a little local retrospective house, The Bijou. I remember him taking me to see some Marx Brothers films there. And there was a relatively close theater with a big screen, The Oak Village, where a whole bunch of us kids would see most of the Disney re-releases, especially Mary Poppins. We also sat through all five Planet of the Apes movies one Saturday afternoon there. I am so grateful to my parents for exposing me to great classic films and great music.
     
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  8. Joe Lugoff

    Joe Lugoff Cinematographer

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    Yeah, but ... We thought it was so cool to see recent movies like "The High and the Mighty" and "A Star Is Born" on local television, and "How to Marry a Millionaire" on network television, just a few years after they played in the theaters.

    We didn't know any better, but look what we were watching -- movies that were:

    a) cut;
    b) filmed in color, but usually shown in black and white (not that we had a color set, anyway);
    c) recorded in stereo, but broadcast in mono;
    d) constantly interrupted by commercials;
    and, of course, above all
    e) filmed in CinemaScope, and shown in horrendous pan and scan (not that I understood that at all back then).

    I can get nostalgic for the old days of watching movies on television, but it's infinitely better now, to watch them on something like Turner Classic Movies, which has none of the five problems listed above, or on home video.
     
  9. ScottHM

    ScottHM Second Unit

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    I envy you. I can't quite remember what I watched last Tuesday.
    ---------------
     
  10. Ejanss

    Ejanss Banned

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    I remember when movies on TV were All We Had--If you liked a movie in the theaters, you waited the long vigil to see whether it would show up in TV Guide's Fall Preview for movies that would be playing networks later that year.

    Classic films, though? Never heard of 'em. They all played local stations, in those afternoon and late-nite stretches when they needed to show something, and back in those 70's days, we just assumed it was all the same two or three movies, with different stars.
    There was usually one station that had all the classic 40's movies, and one that had the relatively recent 60's movies and 70's that had just graduated from the networks to the minor leagues, but in those days, it was all just stuff that filled paragaphs in TV Guide.
    (That's one of the things I miss--Around the same time there were no more local UHF stations to show movies, it was the same time TV Guide turned to reality-show gossip, because "who wants to read a lot of boring listings, anyway?" :( )

    Nowadays, watching TCM or late-night Instant Netflix, we don't know how good we had it. On one old videotape out of my closet, I'd found an old 40's movie I'd taped off the midnight Movie Loft, and realized..."They were showing us all this for FREE??"
     
  11. Walter Kittel

    Walter Kittel Producer

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    Another Houstonian checking into the thread. I realize that this is about the love of classic films, but honestly I had not developed a taste for them in my younger years when local broadcast ruled the airwaves. I recall watching Citizen Kane on PBS when I was around 19 or 20 and it completely lost me. I could see some of the qualities in terms of the production and lighting but the film did not really resonate with me at the time. Thankfully since then I've developed a much broader appreciation of film. The things that I most fondly recall about televised film on broadcast included...

    James Bond films on ABC on Sunday nights. Always a big deal for me.

    Waiting years for films to appear on television in the days before VHS changed the landscape. I remember what a big deal it was to see Papillon on television. I must've waited years for it to appear. (It's a classic now, not sure about back then.)

    The Leone / Eastwood Westerns were always a big deal.

    Finally, the creature features on Saturday afternoon on the CBS affiliate (IIRC.)

    Of course it was all 1.33:1 A.R. but not knowing better I was fine with it at the time.

    - Walter.
     
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  12. Ronald Epstein

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    Welcome to the forum!

    I am in a different category than most on this forum.

    My appreciation for classic films started with the DVD format.

    Oh, as a kid growing up in the NYC metro area, I used to watch
    many of the top classics on the WPIX 4:30 movie.

    ...but I found it a real turn-off to rent classic films I had never
    seen on VHS during the early 80s. The prints were in pretty bad
    shape and presented in pan and scan. As someone in my late
    teens, I found myself generally bored with the B&W films I was renting.

    It wasn't until the DVD (and more recently Blu-ray) format that I
    began taking another look at many of the classics I had passed up
    before. There is something to be said about being able to watch
    these movies on a large home screen, in their original aspect ratio,
    looking as pristine as the day they were released.

    I often get ribbed on this forum for not knowing classic film as well
    as everyone else. It doesn't bother me, for I am grateful that this
    environment exists where I can ask my fellow HTF members which
    classic films are worth purchasing and then share my experiences
    with them afterwards.

    So, count me in as someone still discovering many of these films.
    My next intended discoveries will include The Best Years of our Lives
    and The Bishop's Wife.

    By the way....

    I suppose this thread should belong in the Movies area. However, I am
    going to keep it here for the time being to garner more exposure. Really
    enjoying reading the responses here thus far.
     
  13. Mark-P

    Mark-P Producer

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    Here's my story. I didn't watch many movies on TV when I was a kid because they were over my head. I watched cartoons and goofy TV shows. However one afternoon in the early 70s for some god forsaken reason after the cartoons were over I started watching a movie and watched it all the way through. I didn't know what it was and as the years wore on the only memory I had of it was one scene where a bunch of children put on a play and used a sheet to simulate a river, stretching it flat when the river was frozen and rippling it when the ice melted and the current would flow. Decades later as an adult I was watching The King and I on video for the very first time and when that scene came up, I screamed "Oh my God! This is the movie I saw as a kid and didn't know what it was!"
     
  14. OliverK

    OliverK Cinematographer

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    Joe, I completely agree! I rather quickly found out that movies on TV were mostly cut and/or cropped and that they had commericals on many stations - that really pi**ed me off!Unfortunately it took many years until I could move to a front projection setup and DVD and some LD at first and since then things have been much better and to this day I try to watch everything OAR and in he best possible quality, within reason of course.I agree with the thread starter that the love for movies also came earlier for me but I only really felt that I EXPERIENCED movies when I watched them bigger and in their proper shape.I think those who get into movies now have the incredible advantage to be able to get a fantastic presentation for very little money - we could only have dreamed of that!
     
  15. Ronald Epstein

    Ronald Epstein Administrator
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    Mark

    Perfect analogy of what I had experienced.

    Most of older classics completely went over my head in my younger years.

    Many times I have revisited these movies only to find myself shocked that
    I didn't know what I was watching the first time.
     
  16. TravisR

    TravisR Studio Mogul

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    I was a horror movie fan when I was young and so I watched the Universal monster movies & lots of other older horror movies. However, I guess my real gateway to classic movies was Psycho. Once I saw that, I saw other movies that Hitchcock had made and my love of classic movies grew from there.
     
  17. Ejanss

    Ejanss Banned

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    Back then, when TV had the monopoly on old classic movies (unless you lived in a big college city like NYC or Boston, that had one or two classic-revival houses out of an old Woody Allen movie), everyone thought it was "tyrannical" that stations could only show old movies cut and with commercials.

    But again, a couple years ago ('11 or so), the digital broadcast channel ThisTV started attracting more and more studios to show more old classic films on weekends. The largely MGM channel had made some deals with Fox and Universal, and for a while was showing vintage comedy Marx Bros. for New Year's, Universal Monsters (including the Criterion "Island of Lost Souls" cleanup just starting to make the vault rounds) for October, and even Heidi, Holiday Inn, Time of Their Lives and Hans Christian Andersen for Christmas. (Is the channel still running, btw? They sort of sank back into their rut, and our system dropped it.)
    Yes, they had commercials, and yes, they were censored (Holiday Inn had that number removed), but I, the now comfortable home-theater owner and classic-film buff as an adult, would leave my Sunday afternoons open to watch a classic movie I hadn't seen, for free. I wanted to make up for all those years that some obscure Bogart or Bette Davis movie was playing on channel 5 at midnight, and I either couldn't stay up or didn't care. Like getting King & I for free without realizing, there was just something valuable to "First classic's free, kid." ;)

    (And on the subject of "What am I watching??", I remember watching PBS afternoon kids' shows in the Electric Company 70's, and later on the station showed a rerun of Richard Schickel's "Men Who Made the Movies" series for the weeks that was originally airing.
    Most of the classics I'd never seen, and these were the Old Stuff we all thought they were in the 70's, but I remember watching the Hitchcock and Vincent Minelli episodes, seeing the carousel crash from "Strangers on a Train", the wandering camera from "Frenzy", Gene Kelly's pirate fantasy from "The Pirate" and Fred Astaire's penny-arcade dance from "The Band Wagon" 100% out of context, and thinking "Um.... :blink: " That's the kind of question you eventually want to go out and answer.
    It's the movies you DON'T know that you spend your life tracking down as an adult...I remember seeing some bizarre 30's musical number on a local station, and it took me literally twenty years to identify "Kid Millions" with Eddie Cantor. That's how local-station movies could work on you.)
     
  18. Scott Merryfield

    Scott Merryfield Executive Producer
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    I grew up in the same time period as the OP, and had a similar experience. Along with the ABC, NBC, CBS and PBS affiliates, though, in the metro Detroit area we also had two independent stations (Channel 20 and Channel 50) and the local CBC (Canadian Broadcasting Company) affiliate. Along with the classic films already mentioned, the independents would show Saturday morning monster movies such as Godzilla, Them, etc. and have a Saturday Night horror film hosted by "The Ghoul". The local ABC affiliate would periodically have an "Apes Week" -- airing all the Planet of the Apes films.
     
  19. David_B_K

    David_B_K Advanced Member

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    My experiences are quite similar to the original poster and the others who like me, grew up in Houston, TX (I am still in Houston). I remember all those multi-part ABC movie showings he mentions, including the bizarre re-edit of OHMSS.

    As a very young kid in Alabama, I remember that my dad watched a lot of classic movies (well, western and war movies). He'd sort of quiz me as we were watching movies. "Do you know who that is?" he'd ask. "Uh, Gary Cooper...?" I'd answer. In that manner, I learned to recognize all the major stars of the classic era. There were only 2 channels in our town in Alabama, and one was shared by two networks. So when Batman was on in the 60's, Part One was Tuesday or Wednesday, and Part Two was on Saturday.

    When the family moved to Houston in 1969, it was a thrill to have more channels (3 network channels and a couple of UHF channels). Every night, KHOU 11 showed The Late Show. Every Wednesday through Saturday they showed The Late Late Show. At some point, they started showing All Night Friday Movies (this was in the days when channels usually signed off at midnight). The all night movies would sometimes be a theme, like all James Stewart, or John Wayne. Channel 11 had acess to many of the great classics. On the weekend, KHOU 13 also showed movies at late night, and also the "Million Dollar Movie" after school at 3:00 P.M. KPRC 2 often showed the MGM classics from the 30's (as mentioned in an earlier post) on Saturday afternoon. This was where I first saw W.C. Fields' films as well as the Marx Bros.

    The UHF channels did not seem to have a very big library, and often showed less than stellar movies, usually in Prime time because they did not have original programming in those days. A few gems were in their lineup. I think I first saw Citizen Kane on a UHF and Zulu would show up fairly often.

    I feel fortunate that I came of age as a movie fan when classics were shown as often as they were. Limited choices in TV programming was actually better for me in that it introduced me to the Hollywood Golden Age. Nowadays, there is basically just TCM.
     
  20. Walter Kittel

    Walter Kittel Producer

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    Thinking about this topic a little bit more, I did come up with more relevant anecdotes.

    One of the classics that I experienced for the first time on broadcast television was a showing of Harvey on channel 39 (KHTV) around 1980 or 1981. I was instantly enamored with the whimsical and strange antics of James Stewart and his best friend. Just a perfect little gem of a film that I fell in love with on a first viewing and which remains a favorite to this day. Stewart's seemingly effortless and guile free performance is the highlight of this film for me.

    A few others that come to mind from broadcast television include:

    Some Like It Hot - "Well, nobody's perfect!" still just kills me every time.

    We're No Angels - Probably one of the first Bogart films I ever saw. Loved the dry nature of the dialog.

    Dr. Strangelove - Enjoyed it more for Seller's absurd Strangelove on the first viewing. I had to get a little older to really appreciate all the nuances.

    and of course, the annual CBS broadcast of The Wizard of Oz. My mother absolutely hated this film (because of the repetition of the broadcast?) I enjoyed it, but never really grew to be completely won over by the film (even to this day.) I'm uncertain why that is the case.

    I'm sure there is more rattling around in that entity I call a mind, but those are some of the ones that standout from broadcast days of viewing.

    - Walter.
     

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