10 Black & White Classic Films Everyone Should See

C: You might think so, but a family of entertainment bloggers does not actually burst into the world prepared to evaluate every show and film to pass before them.  That wasn’t the case with the Quibbling Siblings, anyway.  No, we had someone guiding us into the relatively entertaining world: our father, the film buff.

One of the greatest things good old Dad did for us was to introduce us, in our impressionable youth, to the classics of decades past.  (And some not-so-classics – Dad, if you’re reading, I’m thinking of that Maurice Chevalier fiasco.)  And so, though we protested at first, we eventually learned a great lesson: that only a fool refuses to see a movie because it’s old, or not in color, or has stars you’ve never heard of.

There are gems out there, some well-remembered, some lesser-known, and many of them are funnier or more thrilling than anything we’ve seen on the silver screen in 2009.  Here are a few of those gems:

Harvey_posterHarvey (1950) stars Jimmy Stewart (a family favorite – what’s not to love?) as Elwood P. Dowd, a middle-aged bachelor whose sister, played brilliantly by Josephine Hull, decides to have him committed because his oddity is ruining her chances of a social life.  That oddity?  The fact that his best friend is a six-foot-tall rabbit only he can see, of course.  But as Elwood charms the people who are supposed to be locking him up, we’re forced to wonder if there’s really anything wrong with seeing Harvey.  An entirely wonderful film, that I doubt even Steven Spielberg could improve on.

ithappenedone_posterlongIt Happened One Night (1934) was the first film to win Oscars for Best Picture, Best Screenplay, Best Director (the legendary Frank Capra), Best Actor (Clark Gable in his best role – yes, including Gone With the Wind) and Best Actress (the incandescent Claudette Colbert). But that only tells you that this film is well made.  It’s also pure bliss to watch.  Ellie Andrews (Colbert) is a runaway society bride and Peter Warne (Gable) is the down-on-his-luck newspaper man who offers help in exchange for a scoop.  The banter starts flying, and every romantic comedy made since 1934 takes notes!

midnight_posterMidnight (1939) also stars Claudette Colbert, this time as a down-on-her-luck (someone always is in these old pictures; M: Um, it was the great depression, is that really a stretch?) singer/adventuress who makes a romantic connection with a Paris cabbie played by Don Ameche, but ditches him when she chances to fall in with some wealthy folk she can sponge off.  He starts looking for her, and of course it ends just how you’d expect, but the path they take to get there is full of surprises – and had me laughing so hard I thought I strained a rib.  A keepsake from the days when screwball comedies were also clever.

mrdeeds_posterMr. Deeds Goes to Town (1936) stars Gary Cooper, who was lovely when he wasn’t off doing endless Westerns, as a greeting-card poet named Longfellow Deeds who unexpectedly inherits a fortune.  He has to figure out how to live his own life while dealing with wealth, sudden fame – and a newspaper reporter played by Jean Arthur, who’ll do anything to get the dirt on the new celebrity.  Don’t let the lamented Adam Sandler remake turn you off to this classic, or you’ll miss some lively tuba playing, the origin of the word “pixelated,” a donut-eating horse, and of course, a passel of charm.

ninotchka_altposterNinotchka (1939) was advertised as the film where “Garbo laughs.”  It would be hard not to; this film is exceptionally goofy.  Greta Garbo plays a Communist sent to Paris to sell some jewels appropriated by the Soviet government.  Her disapproval of everything frivolous, decadent, and absurd about Parisian life – embodied by playboy Melvyn Douglas – gradually melts as she and the “Comrades” with her learn that, hey, decadence is fun!  The whole film is a wacky paean to capitalism, but it’s impossible not to love every minute.  Directed by Ernst “Awesome” Lubitsch.

The list continues… 5 more unmissable classics HERE!

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9 comments on “10 Black & White Classic Films Everyone Should See

  1. Heather says:

    Harvey is the only one of these five that I’ve seen. I loved it, and continue to hear it referenced in pop culture.

    • C says:

      Yeah, I love coming across Harvey jokes in pop culture. They made an extended gag of it on M’s beloved Farscape. Since you like Harvey, you should definitely check out some of the others!

  2. Sheri says:

    Hi! I just watched Midnight and it was wonderful! Thanks so much for putting this list together! 🙂

  3. […] to see a link to the most famous of Capra’s films.  Capra, who directed such classics as It Happened One Night, Mr Deeds Goes To Town, Mr Smith Goes to Washington and You Can’t Take It With You, will […]

  4. […] several visits from the Harvey version of Peter.  For those of you not up on either you’re black and white classics, or muppet-infested sci fi for that matter, Harvey was an 6 foot giant bunny that appeared only to […]

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  8. Lots of good ones here. Such a fan of Midnight. Her lies about the skate and the Thousand Island dressing in particular. Colbert just had fantastic comic timing. NOT a fan of Maurice Chevalier, so I was very entertained by the reference to that “fiasco.”

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