Ever had that sad feeling of dialing up a great, old movie and discovering it hasn’t aged well? I have. It’s kind of a shame, because it’s not the movie’s fault. Times and tastes simply changed. For instance …
AN AFFAIR TO REMEMBER (1957)
Here’s a classic melodrama that is beloved by many. You’ve got Cary Grant, Deborah Kerr and oodles of sophisticated charm. The problem comes when you get to the tragic plot twist, involving a car accident. From that moment on, the dialogue and acting might as well be from a Victorian era stage play. Cary ends up saying something like, “If it had to happen to one of us, why couldn’t it have been me?” Oh, boy. Give me George Costanza’s “It’s not you, it’s me” speech any day.
DOCTOR DOLITTLE (1967)
This film, once considered a delightful lark about a dude who could talk to animals, now moves so slowly that the animals have time to evolve into creatures with the power of human speech. I don’t think any critters were harmed during filming, but I got a little woozy the last time I tried to watch it.
REBEL WITHOUT A CAUSE (1955)
Great actor, James Dean. And there have been lots of good movies about the treacherous nature of high school. But “Rebel Without a Cause” goes a little over the top, from our vantage point in the age of cyber bullying. Dean tells his weak-willed dad, “You’re tearing me apart!” Today, he’d just give dad a long stare and say, “Seriously?”
DARK VICTORY (1939)
No disrespect to the one and only Bette Davis, but acting styles are MUCH more realistic now than they were when this epic melodrama wowed audiences. For example, today an actress wouldn’t portray sudden blindness by slightly crossing her eyes and staring vaguely to one side. Also, succumbing to an inoperable brain tumor tends to be more complicated than curling up on your bed after spending the morning in the garden. Just saying.
I remember enjoying this movie so much when it debuted. Director Tim Burton’s genius was in every frame – and it still is. He created an original, distinct world for these characters to inhabit. What’s happened is that the Christopher Nolan Batman films of recent years are that much better. Heath Ledger as the Joker made Jack Nicholson look like a second-rate sideshow clown.
EASY RIDER (1969)
Sorry to double-thump Nicholson, but “Easy Rider” got kind of creaky, too. If it’s any consolation, he’s the best thing in this movie. Much of the rest of the proceedings seem incredibly narcissistic and needlessly confusing. The bikes are still cool, though.
AROUND THE WORLD IN 80 DAYS (1956)
Truly an all-star cast, headed by David Niven and Cantinflas and dotted with appearances by Frank Sinatra, John Gielgud, Noel Coward, Shirley MacLaine, Buster Keaton, Red Skelton and dozens of others. The thing is, we’ve come to expect more from our epic, all-star adventures than just special guests. We need pizzazz. We need action. We need a pace quicker than a hot air balloon.
THE GREATEST SHOW ON EARTH (1952)
Not even Jimmy Stewart in clown make-up can save 1952’s Best Picture winner, “The Greatest Show on Earth.” It’s a sprawling, soapy mess of a movie, and it seems to get more antiquated with each passing year. Mainly, it takes itself way too seriously – particularly in the scenes involving no-nonsense circus manager Chuck Heston. And the narration by Cecil B. DeMille, so perfect in “The Ten Commandments,” backfires badly here.
BUTTERFIELD 8 (1960)
Decades after the heyday of the women’s rights movement, “Butterfield 8” now feels more and more like a museum piece. It posits Elizabeth Taylor as a tragic, fatalistic party girl who is trapped by her own sexual allure. Watching it today, you’re struck by how stifling American society was for most women, even as recently as a generation ago. I’d rather wait for “Mad Men” to return.
WITNESS FOR THE PROSECUTION (1957)
Similarly, many years of zesty courtroom dramas have rendered “Witness for the Prosecution” a bit lame. Shocking testimony? Been there. Surprising plot twists? Done that. Marlene Dietrich, you can’t handle the truth!
TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD (1962)
Try not to hate me for this. All I ask is that you hear me out. As stellar as Gregory Peck is as Atticus Finch, and as great as this story is, the set design and overall look of the movie just don’t make the grade anymore. The Finch house and neighborhood look like they were filmed on the old “Leave It to Beaver” lot when the studio security guards were on break. Not to mention, the musical score lays it on a bit thick. Thank goodness, the sound of Peck saying the name “Scout” remains timeless.
So there you have it. And now I ask you, which other old favorites are showing their age?