Murder & Mayhem in Old Hollywood

Movies are big entertainment at our house. I grew up watching lots of old black and white films on Saturday matinees. Many of these were made during a Hollywood era when there was less concern about plotlines and more interest in actor cache.

Celebrity meant something different back-in-the-day. The public once flocked to theaters to ogle their favorite actors on the silver screen. That’s not to say that there weren’t tight stories and well-developed character studies being produced…but the majority, well, perhaps not so much.

Here are video clips of three films I still really enjoy. These are selected for the sheer fun of the amusement factor, the star quality, and overall ingenuity of plot timing. They may lean toward slapstick but that much-maligned talent has been sucessfully mastered by few performers.

If you’ve never seen these wonderful cinematic bits, give them a look some evening. You might be surprised at how much enjoyment they still deliver. The vintage clothes, the mannerisms and manners of bygone times, the intrigue and suspense, laughter and romance are part of the rich entertainment history bequeathed by Hollywood studios.

Sometimes a new release simply won’t do. Try a classic.

Arsenic and Old Lace

This film by Frank Capra was released in 1944 and starred Cary Grant and Priscilla Lane, as well as a host of other well-known starlets from the period. Anything featuring Carey Grant is not to be missed and this film adaptation of the popular stage production is a gem.

Here’s the tagline from IMDB: A drama critic learns on his wedding day that his beloved maiden aunts are homicidal maniacs, and that insanity runs in his family. 

The Ghost and Mrs. Muir

This film by Joseph Mankiewicsz was released in 1947 and starred Gene Tierney and Rex Harrison, as well as a stellar supporting cast. This was a rather unique approach to a story given the time-period – and it remains popular.

Here’s the tagline from IMDB: In 1900, a young widow finds her seaside cottage is haunted…and forms a unique relationship with the ghost. (inquiring minds want to know the nature of that unique relationship!)

The Canterville Ghost

This Oscar Wilde story has been adapted multiple times but the screen release from 1944 is a perrenial favorite. Directed by Jules Dassin and starring Charles Laughton and Robert Young, the film is a delight.

Here’s the tagline from IMDB: In the 1600s, cowardly Sir Simon of Canterville flees a duel and seeks solace in the family castle. His ashamed father seals him in the room where he is hiding and dooms him to life as a ghost until one of his descendants performs a brave deed. Simon believes he may be saved when he meets Cuffy Williams, an American kinsman stationed with a troop of soldiers at the castle in 1943.


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  1. #1 by Traci Kenworth on April 7, 2012 - 6:00 am

    I LOVE, LOVE, LOVE The Ghost and Mrs. Muir!!

    • #2 by Leslie on April 7, 2012 - 12:21 pm

      I think it’s interesting how many young people have seen these old films. When we all lived close together I’d get together with girlfriends and we’d have a movie night. Cary Grant got featured a lot, but there were many others. Those moments and movies are indelibly mixed in my memory. Good times!

  2. #3 by Alica on April 7, 2012 - 7:38 am

    I love Arsenic and Old Lace and The Ghost and Mrs. Muir!

    • #4 by Leslie on April 7, 2012 - 12:23 pm

      Aren’t these just wonderful? I’m a fan of many modern films but the old movies just have a quality that is hard to replicate. I guess that’s what makes them such vintage nostalgic treasures. So many great stories and actors – thankfully few remakes!

  3. #5 by Ali Dent on April 8, 2012 - 4:18 pm

    I love classic movies. Cary Grant movies are some of my favorites.

    • #6 by Leslie on April 8, 2012 - 9:19 pm

      It’s hard to beat Cary Grant. He’s the original Mr. Suave.

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