Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Oldies but Goodies

(Totally spaced titling this one first time around...Need more coffee....)

Though not an afficianado, I've been on a classic movie kick of late. Yesterday, I watched The Big Sleep and The Maltese Falcon back to back. Yes, I loves me some Humphrey Bogart, Lauren Bacall, Sidney Greenstreet, and even creepy Peter Lorrie. I'm also a fan of the Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers movies, the Thin Man series, and anything with Katherine Hepburn, particularly when she's paired with Spencer Tracy. Or Cary Grant. Or anyone, for that matter.

Today, you'd be hard pressed to find such great banter between the sexes as many of these films offer. I'm not saying more recent movies aren't fun or sexy. But to have the interplay, the subtext, and the sexual chemistry come through without actually using certain words or the physicality that is present today is a lost art. When was the last time you got the impression a couple was hot for each other when, on screen, all that was shown was some snappy, not suggestive give-and-take and a 3 second kiss? (Side note: back in the day, screen kisses could only last 3 seconds. No kidding.) I'm sure they're out there, but it's not the norm.

Don't get me wrong, I'm no prude, and I like more graphic movies too. But there is a part of me that smiles and is deeply satisfied by the dance between men and women as shown in those old films. When the raciest lines are like this, from The Big Sleep:

A female taxi driver, who has followed a car with Marlowe in the back, hands him a card.

Driver: Call me if you need me again.

Marlowe: Day and night?

Driver (putting taxi in gear): Make it night. I work during the day.

Brilliant!

Will that sort of interplay ever be popular again? I don't know. I'd hate to think we always have to be hit over the head with sexual content. I'd love to hear about recent films you've seen that defy typical "in your face" sexuality. Any suggestions?

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6 Comments:

At 12:45 PM, Blogger LVLM said...

Oh, a woman after my own heart. One of my favorite films is "His Girl Friday" with Cary Grant and Rosalyn Russel. The dialogue is just so snappy with lots of innuendo.

I think those movies are so good because of the sexual tension had to be expressed and released through dialogue. And you are right, it's a lost art.

I still read it in some books, but don't see it so much in movies anymore.

I can't even think of a recent one that I've seen that has that kind of dialogue and vibe to it.

I think also that the sexual double entendre of the past, if done today, would come off as silly. It worked back then though. And I don't know why it changed.

It's kind of sad.

 
At 1:55 PM, Blogger Cathy in AK said...

I agree, LVLM, that the same dialogue of days gone by might seem a bit silly today.
It would be a challenge for a modern writer to capture that vibe and still sound "right" to the audience. But I would love to see it. Yes, I'm throwing down the gauntlet, screenwriters : )

The documentary I saw about sex in the media was very interesting. It sort of went behind the scenes to show how writers, directors and actors skirted the edges of what was allowable through dialogue, action and facial expression. A kiss is permitted to last only 3 seconds? Well, no rule on how *many* 3 second kisses you could have in a row : )

 
At 3:08 PM, Blogger LVLM said...

I was a huge old movie buff when I was in my teens and loved Greta Garbo. She did a silent film with John Gilbert I think and they kissed, but a tiny string of spittle was there between their mouths after the kiss was over and the movie people were forced to take it out. Wow, huh? That was too racy back then.

On the other hand, I think of someone like Mae West who was the queen of double entendres and sexual innuendo, and think it would be just as racy and shocking today. Of course, she was a special case I think. For some reason, she was able to get away with it.

Maybe you and I like those films because we were brought up with them, not that we grew up in the 30's-50's, but that they were still shown a lot on TV and such when we were kids. It's normal for us.

But today's younger audience would probably think it very dull. I think it might be cool to super impose such dialogue on a really high tech film. Maybe that would appeal.

 
At 3:26 PM, Blogger Cathy in AK said...

RE: spittle--yeah, I'd imagine any sign of body fluid was a no-no. It meant they kissed with more than their lips pressed closed : )

Oh, Mae West! Such a naughty lady : ) I'm not sure how she got away with all her stuff either (blackmail photos of producers in drag maybe?), but she was a ground breaker, to be sure.

It would be fun to see a remake of some of the old movies, complete with original or close to original dialogue. It's funny, because in at least one of the Bogart films I watched he was using terms like ditzy and "high as a kite" and others that seemed sort of modern. So maybe with just a little tweaking of the vernacular without the more obvious sexual verbage it could work.

Something to think about : )

 
At 4:44 PM, Blogger Writer and Cat said...

Hm, maybe the Barbie movies? They're not too terribly in your face sexually, and Barbie usually picks career over boyfriend in the end. Heh.

 
At 5:15 PM, Blogger Cathy in AK said...

Not exactly the direction I was thinking, W&C. I can't see Barbie and Ken having the same witty exchanges as Hepburn and Tracy or Bogart and Bacall : )

 

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