In the last few weeks, my wife and I have been watching old movies on a more or less regular basis. I used to watch old movies all the time before I got married in particular when I was working afternoons and evenings for AT&T. In recent years, given how often I was away for work, I rarely watched anything with my wife, in fact when I was away I didn’t watch anything at all other than news and weather.
I did enjoy old movies when I was young but times have changed and what was not so old when I was a child looks very old now. When I first saw movies like Casablanca they were less than 20 years old. Now when one looks at Casablanca, or any old Bogart movie, one is looking at something over 55 years old. Many old movies were filmed in studios with scenes played against a projected background. Most driving scenes were like that many other scenes too, such as the sleighride scene in The Magnificent Ambersons. Today’s technology for that is better (even if not fully convincing). Things we didn’t notice sometimes loom large. In Casablanca, Sam the piano player and singer, is called ‘boy’, as many adult black men were called at the time. When I first saw the movie it didn’t register, now it does and I wince when I hear it. In any event in the past few weeks, we’ve watched a few Bogart movies, a few Bette Davis movies, a more modern movie, Forbidden Planet, and a trifle, Three Coins in the Fountain. I find that I still enjoy the Bogart movies. Film noir was a favorite of mine and it still is. What has changed is that I enjoy the scenery as much as the plot. I love the old cars. I also love the look of old city offices. As a child I spent quite a bit of time in old offices and the desks and furnishings remind me of my own past.
In order to enjoy older movies one has to understand the time period and accept the limitations. Three Coins in the Fountain is a light weight movie about 3 secretaries in Rome who are looking for romance. It was a wide screen CinemaScope release. The photography is the most important part of the movie and contemporary reviews recognized that. It is beautifully filmed. The actors and actresses are all good and the plot has some lovely turns. The scenes in which Dorothy McGuire gets drunk are fun. The family party with Rossano Brazzi and Jean Peters is another. It is no great movie, but it does its job well. It was released in May 1954 and it made a good summer movie for a world in which color movies were not yet the norm. I can imagine that they had a bit of cooperation from the city of Rome. The streets have almost no people (watch an Italian made movie and you will see crowds in Rome). I read some negative modern reviews before I watched it, but when we saw it I can say we both enjoyed it. It is not a great work of art but it wasn’t ever meant to be. Again it does the job and it does it well.