I’m not really an old movie buff, but I do like some of them. An elderly couple at my mother’s home used to watch those oldies all the time, and I’d ask them to tell me the actors’ names. They knew them all, and I learned a lot from them. One thing I must say, though, is I don’t think the acting was all that good in several of the old flicks. I’m very fussy about acting – it has to be so good that I’m unaware of the actor and into the character. That’s not an easy feat, and many actors never achieve it. In modern times, one of those actors would be Dylan Neal. He used to be in soaps but appeared in other shows. Now, he stars in ‘Cedar Cove’ and other Hallmark shows. He just doesn’t make his characters believable to me. That’s how I feel about many of the old time actors, as well.
My husband’s favorite oldster is John Wayne, and while it may be sacrilegious to say this, I just don’t think he was a good actor. Now Spencer Tracy, Clark Gable, and others can really give convincing performances. When I taught theater, I always told my students the same thing. You have to become the character. Know him/her so well that he/she lives in your skin. Otherwise, it’s just bad acting. You’re watching an actor, not a character.
In those old movies, the men always assumed certain stances, and the women had a habit of almost floating around the set. Add that to poorly delivered dialog, and the result wasn’t good. Now, musicals were a bit different. You almost expect the actor/singer to be exaggerated. And that’s not easy, either. Speaking lines that turn into a song takes practice and didn’t always succeed.
I know I’m being harsh, but I’m calling it as I see it. Perhaps if I lived during those olden days, I’d have felt differently, and I’d be defending it now. But I live from the time that sets were real, dialog wasn’t stilted, and color overcame black and white. Actors became characters and audiences bought into the whole scene. Even now, I watch for good performances, which often fall short, and the director relies on visual effects to cover the inadequate acting.
As I mentioned yesterday, when I hear a song from a movie, it takes me back. My aunt loved romantic comedies, and she liked to go to a theater that showed oldies. I still remember going to see Tammy and the Bachelor and loving every minute of it, even though I was very young. It was showing at a theater with oldies, and my aunt took me to see it. Afterward, I got her to play the record of Debbie Reynolds singing ‘Tammy,’ and I memorized every lyric. I heard it the other night, and I found that I still remembered all the lines!
When musical theater became musical films, I’d compare and contrast, but I also had one more medium to enjoy. Now, I’ll watch those movies again and again, singing and quoting right along. I try to do it when I’m alone, though, because my family doesn’t always appreciate my renditions!