The complaint heard most with regards to watching an old movie is “It’s in black and white.” These whiners insist color adds more dimension and vibrancy to films. Yes…that’s true…as far as the image is concerned, but let’s not ignore substance and a very important facet to movie magic: imagination.
Of course, I am from the generation prior to cable. My generation saw the birth of the earliest cable channels. We have since aided cable in its worldwide conquest. Obviously, we are not cool like the sixties generation, but we are the last to be a part of a certain era of American Pop Culture.
What do I mean? How does this tie in with cable TV and black and white movies? Once upon a time, there were only a handful of channels and no reality shows. News programs, soap operas, cartoons, sports, TV shows from different decades, and old movies ruled the waves.
Classic movies, as we now call them, reigned supreme late nights and weekends. I was not allowed to stay up late so the Saturday afternoon and prime time movies kept me entertained. On Sundays, my brothers enjoyed the various incarnations of Godzilla, from evil nuclear fall-out mutant laying siege to Japan to good nuclear fall-out mutant protecting Japan from the evil ones. Let’s not forget the poorly dubbed martial arts movies supplying a generation of comics with material. Every Thanksgiving, the original King Kong and Mighty Joe Young were featured. Before the deluge of TV Christmas specials, we watched It’s a Wonderful Life (repeatedly), Miracle on 34th Street, March of the Wooden Soldiers, as well as other holiday themed oldies.
I met Cary Grant, Katharine Hepburn, James Stewart, Astaire and Rogers, to name a few, via this handful of channels on a TV set with dial controls that you had to get up to use. Then one glorious day, my parents bought a VCR with a remote. My brothers and I rejoiced in joining the twentieth century. This new technology afforded fledgling movie buffs like myself access to uncharted territories. My parents, being baby boomers having endured less than a handful of channels, remembered a plethora of films, a fraction of which actually played on our family TV. The first video stores stocked themselves with old black and white movies; the studios had figured out a new way to make money out of the oldies.
The VCR also enabled our wooden encased TV to receive cable channels. Some of which were conceived as classic or foreign movie channels, uncut, commercial free, and subtitled. Due to the expansion of cable and thus competition, many have altered their programming. However, a few are still thriving.
Today, with literally hundreds of channels, the new generation watches everything but classic movies, even those in color. Anyway, most movies being played on TV are usually no more than twenty years old. Thus is born a pop culture gap.
I have to admit there are many in my own generation who dislike black and white films. I cannot understand why. Perhaps they just did not have the same exposure as I did i.e. their parents were not movie buffs and they did not watch as much TV as I did (I’ll admit it). They are now passing on this prejudice to their children. It is just such a shame. Whether it’s old, new, silent, talkie, color or not, it’s still a good movie to me.