I could fill a book with lessons learned from Classic Hollywood. I’m sure many of us could. My education started when I was a teenager and the library of knowledge continues to expand. In no particular order, here’s some of the lessons I’ve collected from silents, screwball comedies, pre codes, musicals, and everything in between.
On passing judgment
See: The Philadelphia Story (1940)
“The time to make up your mind about people is never.”
-Tracy Samantha Lord
See: 12 Angry Men (1957)
On difficult/challenging situations
See: 42nd Street (1933)
“You keep your feet on the ground and your head on those shoulders of yours and go out, and Sawyer, you’re going out a youngster, but you’ve got to come back a star!”
I’m Sawyer. You’re Sawyer. Sometimes I gotta be Julian and give myself this talk.
See: The Cameraman (1928)
On getting the most out of life
See: Our Dancing Daughters (1928)
See: Bringing Up Baby (1938)
Life should be more like a screwball comedy. It’s better to embrace the madcap misadventures that life or daffy women have to offer. It may result in plenty of pain, but never dullness.
On cynical wisdom
See: Mr. Deeds Goes to Town (1936), Mr. Smith Goes to Washington (1939), and Meet John Doe (1941), all directed by Frank Capra.
Homespun decency and sincerity triumph over corrupt machines every time.
On love, marriage and relationships
See: It’s a Wonderful Life (1946)
“No man is a failure who has friends.”
Falling in love/delirium
See: practically everything from the 1920s-1950s.
Kissing is best with the swell of an orchestra, love often happens at first sight.
See: The Gay Divorcee (1934), Top Hat (1935), Swing Time (1936), and A Damsel in Distress (1937).
It’s the push and pull in the dance of resistance that makes any romance.
See: The Thin Man series
Marriage is fun (!), usually with a cocktail and while solving a murder case.
On men, those fickle creatures
See: Why Be Good? (1929)
See: Penthouse (1933)
On finding Mr. Right, which is impossible
- Charles Farrell in Lucky Star (1929)
- George Brent in ‘Til We Meet Again (1940)
- Fred Astaire in You’ll Never Get Rich (1941) & You Were Never Lovelier (1942)
- Robert Walker in The Clock (1945)
- Peter Lawford in Little Women (1949)
- William Holden in Born Yesterday (1950)
- Howard Keel in Three Guys Named Mike (1951)
- Gene Kelly in Brigadoon (1954)
- Van Johnson in practically everything
- Ricardo Montalban in general
Even if I wanted to get married, you tell me, when all of the above are dead or “not real”…what is the POINT? Sidney Poitier alas, is also too old for me.
On female empowerment/loving women so much because we’re amazing (the future is female and so was the past)
- Barbara Stanwyck in Baby Face (1931), Night Nurse (1933), Stella Dallas (1937), Ball of Fire (1941), Meet John Doe (1941)
- Bette Davis in Of Human Bondage (1934), Dark Victory (1939), The Little Foxes (1941)
- Myrna Loy in When Ladies Meet (1933), Manhattan Melodrama (1934), The Thin Man series
- Joan Crawford in Sadie McKee (1934), Mildred Pierce (1945)
- Dolores del Rio in In Caliente (1935)
- Olivia de Havilland in The Adventures of Robin Hood (1938), Gone With the Wind (1939), To Each His Own (1946), The Snake Pit (1948), The Heiress (1949)
- Katharine Hepburn in Holiday (1938), The Philadelphia Story (1940)
- Ginger Rogers in Vivacious Lady (1938), Kitty Foyle (1940)
- Maureen O’Hara in Dance, Girl, Dance (1940)
- Rosalind Russell in His Girl Friday (1940)
- Ann Sheridan in They Drive by Night (1940), I Was a Male War Bride (1949)
- Lena Horne in Stormy Weather (1943)
- Judy Garland in Meet Me in St. Louis (1944), The Harvey Girls (1946), A Star is Born (1954)
- Setsuko Hara in No Regrets for Our Youth (1946), Hakuchi (1951)
- Gene Tierney in The Ghost and Mrs. Muir (1947), Whirlpool (1949)
- Susan Hayward in Smash-Up: The Story of a Woman (1947), I Want to Live! (1958), Ada (1961)
- Jane Wyman in Johnny Belinda (1948), Three Guys Named Mike (1951), Miracle in the Rain (1956)
- June Allyson in Little Women (1949), The Opposite Sex (1956)
- Eleanor Parker in Caged (1950)
- Cyd Charisse in Singin’ in the Rain (1952), Silk Stockings (1957)
- Kathryn Grayson in Kiss Me Kate (1953)
- Audrey Hepburn in Roman Holiday (1953), The Nun’s Story (1959)
- Dorothy Dandridge in Carmen Jones (1954)
- Lillian Gish in The Night of the Hunter (1955)
- Elizabeth Taylor in Giant (1956)
- Eartha Kitt in Anna Lucasta (1958)
- Jean Simmons in Home Before Dark (1958)
- Joanne Woodward in The Long, Hot Summer (1958)
- Natalie Wood in Splendor in the Grass (1961)
- Vivien Leigh in Ship of Fools (1965)
Narrowing it down to 30 still only just scratched the surface. And of course, they were all unstoppable off screen too, women who inspire me endlessly.
It’s dancing and singing in the rain.
It’s doing just whatever I like, the whole day long.
It’s laughing until you can’t breathe.
It’s changing people’s lives and their outlooks on life.
It’s glorious technicolor, breathtaking cinemascope, and stereophonic sound.
Happiness is watching and loving classic movies!