There is a certain charm about the old Black and White (B&W) Hollywood films which draws the viewer into an era where life is a pain, romance rules and crime never pays.
Masters of the craft like John Ford, Billy Wilder, Orson Welles and Alfred Hitchcock among others put the B/W effects to good use.
Here are five B/W films worth watching.
Citizen Kane (1941)
Cast: Orson Welles, Joseph Cotten, Agnes Moorhead
Director: Orson Welles
Welles’ first feature film, which he wrote and directed, became a film noir and is considered one of the finest from the Hollywood stable.
A publishing magnet dies uttering the word “Rosebud” and this leads to a reporter trying to unravel the mystery. The newspaper baron starts the publication as a social service mouthpiece but falls into the trap of yellow journalism and a world of crime and greed. That ruins him finally.
The film is loosely based on the life of three American barons including William Randolph Hearst with a bit of Welles’ own experiences. It did not do well on release but subsequent critical acclaim propelled it into a classic status.
Sunset Boulevard (1950)
Cast: William Holden, Gloria Swanson, Nancy Olson
Director: Billy Wilder
A down-and-out writer is drawn into a fantasy world of a has-been silent film actress who is dreaming of a grand comeback.
The suicidal actress takes the writer on a rollercoaster ride of emotions, drama and dreams. Joe panders to her dreams until finally the illusions turn into reality.
Billy Wilder is in top gear and he weaves an emotional drama where deception and dreams can end cruelly. The film was nominated for 11 Oscars.
A Streetcar Named Desire (1951)
Cast: Marlon Brando, Vivian Leigh, Karl Malden, Kim Hunter
Director: Elia Kazan
An ageing schoolteacher goes to live with her sister after she is rendered homeless and penniless. Her sister is kind but her husband is brutish and tries to cause problems for the teacher.
The teacher is under some emotional stress and has lied about her past. The husband antagonises her and pokes into her past. He discovers that she was dismissed from her school for having an affair with a minor.
The teacher goes berserk emotionally once her tale comes out in the open. The husband beats her and reveals her secrets to her hopeful partner. Her live now shattered, she starts getting delusion.
The film, adapted from a Tennessee Williams play, is among the best in Hollywood and it brought Brando into prominence. It is a bit of the heavy side but totally engrossing.
How Green Was My Valley (1941)
Cast: Walter Pidgeon, Maureen O’ Hara, Donald Crisp, Roddy McDowall
Director: John Ford
A young boy and his family live in an idyllic village in a valley in Wales. His family life is wonderful before the mining barons come there. There are more jobs but mining disasters occur.
Life begins to change for the boy. His innocence is slowly shattered by a series of incidents which has a great effect on his life.
It is one of the best classic films of all time. A must watch for the entire family.
The Last Picture Show (1971)
Cast: Timothy Bottoms, Jeff Bridges, Cybill Shepherd, Randy Quaid, Cloris Leachman, Ben Johnson
Director: Peter Bogdanovich
A declining Texas town becomes the focus of a story of young couples who are caught in the joys and pains of growing up.
The boys have their love interest but some of them are promiscuous. This leads to complications that end in tragedy.
Brilliantly acting by the cast, which includes a young Jeff Bridges and Cybill Shepherd, the film recreates what it means to grow up in America in the early 1950s.
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