Black and White Films: The Next Generation

We had an interesting movie related moment here over the holidays, one that has made me question my daughter’s viewing choices.

As I have written about previously, she voraciously consumes TV series on Netflix. She loves going to theaters to watch movies. When she starts down a TV series or film franchise path, she watches all possible entries. She cannot be stopped.

So, there we were over the holidays, looking for a nice holiday movie to watch. I toss out suggestions like “Die Hard” and “Love, Actually” even though she’s clearly a little young for those two. My wife though, she worked out the right answer, “It’s a Wonderful Life.”

I could spend hundreds of words talking about how “It’s a Wonderful Life” is the perfect movie, the only movie that can make me cry every single time I see it, an utter giant of not just holiday cinema, but cinema in general. That however, is not the point and I’m not going to go down that path. Just accept that the movie is one of the greatest films ever made and let’s move on.

The point is that as we were pitching the movie to my daughter the fact that it’s in black and white came up. Probably something was said along the lines of “it’s a classic, brilliant black and white movie.” The response to that, from my daughter, was “Black and white!?! We have black and white movies?”

We have black and white movies? Of course we have black and white movies. Who would claim to even have a modest library of films and not have a black and white one?

Just a quick look at our DVD library tells anyone, my daughter included, that we do indeed have black and white movies, plenty of them. Again, she’s too young for “Schindler’s List,” but we have a decent number of Humphrey Bogart movies, “Dr. Strangelove,” and a bunch more. They seem to have faded into the background though when my daughter goes to look for something to watch.

Just as she was taken aback by the notion that we had black and white films, we were equally shocked that perhaps she’s never seen one and that she would have an objection to doing so. How could that be possible?

Naturally, this must be corrected. For external reasons that holiday movie night was put on hold and so “It’s a Wonderful Life” wasn’t screened for her, but she’s going to have to see something black and white eventually.

The problem now is that I just don’t know where that should begin. What is the perfect, entry level, black and white movie?

I would love for it, stylistically, to be similar to movies made today, so that she only had to contend with the lack of color. But, that’s now asking for a black and white movie that was 80 years ahead of its time and it feels like a tall order. So that’s probably heading down the wrong path.

The more I think about it, the more I have two different visions of how to proceed. First, there’s Bogie as Sam Spade and Phillip Marlow. “The Maltese Falcon” and “The Big Sleep” are classic noir films with stories she could get into and the man himself in the lead. With success there, it opens the door to so many more detective tales (which she would definitely enjoy) and the rest of Bogart’s work.

The other path is the Universal monsters path. We don’t really do horror, but then these movies aren’t that terrifying (she loved the “Blink” episode of “Doctor Who” which is more chilling than any Lugosi film). She loves franchise movies and getting to explore characters over a series of films, and what are the Universal monster movies if not exactly that? They are an opportunity to see a massive set of movies develop, grow, and change dramatically over the course of time.

But, I’m not sure. I’m just not sure.

For whatever reason, this one feels important. Muck up her introduction to black and white movies and she could walk away with a distaste for decades of great cinema.

Humphrey Bogart? Universal monsters? Maybe just go back to “It’s a Wonderful Life?” I’m sure there is an answer somewhere, some hidden disc sitting on our shelves, and all I have to do is find it.

photo credit: Paramount Home Entertainment

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