Some of you were no doubt around in the time when black-and-white films were the only kind available (i.e. ones in colour didn’t yet exist).
We’re now living in the age of special effects; films mostly being completely constructed out of computer-generated images. Most modern films are fantastic. Films like E.T. (released in 1982; not that modern, but I use ‘modern’ to describe films made in the computer age) could not have been created without a few special effects done on computer; the bicycle scene is what comes to mind when I think of this film.
Other films like Star Wars, Harry Potter and – much more recently – Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them are all crazily imaginative films. They are all full of the most amazing mythical beasts, space ships (in Star Wars‘ case) and magical happenings, mostly thanks to special effects edited into the shots. So how were black-and-white films so creative and captivating without all of that?
The Dance Routines (and perfect dance partners)
Think Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers: their dance routines were legendary and brought even the dullest ballroom to life with their jazzy tap steps. Their outfits also helped with the ‘no colour’ effect, though. Fred always wore a black suit with white trimmings to reflect the light and Ginger’s dresses often contained a dark colour and a lighter one rather than one solid colour, just like in the drawing I did of them opposite.
The Musical Numbers
Singin’ In The Rain is another great example, although I must admit that the only part of the film I’ve watched is the short scene when Gene Kelly is dancing (and singing) in a downpour, using his umbrella as a prop rather than as a shelter. There never will be another musical number in film that measures up with it, I’m sure.
I’ve been meaning to watch Roman Holiday for ages, and only watched it recently. It’s a black-and-white film, but as with Fred and Ginger films, it’s full of life and humour. Watching Hepburn’s character jump excitedly onto a Vespa and running amuck through the streets of Rome (knocking over a view street vendors in the process) was one of the film’s best bits. The film is living proof that Rome – not Paris – is the most romantic city in the world. Gregory Peck and Audrey Hepburn on the film’s iconic Vespa motorcycle, drawn by me. ⇓
Old films are usually brimming with witty lines; A Hard Day’s Night (1964) certainly is. Most of the film was apparently unscripted, meaning that The Beatles used their quick wit to come up with jokes and comebacks on the spot.
Fun Fact: The opening scene (when the song starts to play) showing The Beatles being chased by dozens of screaming fans was completely unscripted.
The Film Plot
Sometimes films can be stereotypical. It’s the kind of films with original plots full of sudden changes and a turn of events that really captivate you. A case in point would be Rolf Gruber from The Sound of Music: he appears at first as a charming Austrian fellow whom Liesl Van Trapp is in love with, but later reveals himself as a Nazi and betrays the Van Trapp family – ‘nough said.
There are far too many glorious films to write about, so I’ll stop here.
Until next time, then.