Hollywood classics are back

(Shanghai Daily)
Updated: 2008-04-22 15:50

Whenever the familiar melodies of golden Hollywood oldies flow from the ancient gramophone, it's like a blast from the past. Time stands still in our memories, and everything seems to settle on a point in time somewhere.

Maybe it was some thrilling dance or a marvelous melody. Maybe we were touched by the lingering effects of some love story. Or we find ourselves immersed in illusions we can't explain and expectations we can't fulfill. Whatever the case may be, it's as good a time as any to get nostalgic, starting with a retrospective on classic Hollywood movies.

The 1930s-1970s witnessed the golden age of Hollywood, during which the musical also reached its splendid pinnacle.

Musicals are not as superficial as they seem, nor are they meant to be. They're reflections of a rich and colorful existence. Artistic elements that are stylized and transcendent are infused into musicals, representing a new type of cinematic expression. Because of these characteristics, musicals tend to express romanticism and heightened emotions: joy, sadness, dreaminess, and so on. American musicals enjoyed enormous success, and were celebrated for extraordinary artistry. They often landed on the grand stage of the Oscars, especially prior to the 1970s.

Out of all the memorable American movie musicals, perhaps the best remembered and most enjoyable remains 1952's "Singin' in the Rain." Directed by and starring Gene Kelly, it represents the pinnacle of film musicals, which occurred during the 1950s, courtesy of MGM studios.

Though relentlessly poking fun at Hollywood, it's a backstage story that wants to make a difference. And the fact that Hollywood can laugh so heartily at itself only adds to the film's appeal.

"An American in Paris" is another magnificent movie musical from the golden era. It is the story of a struggling American painter's experiences in life and love, set in Paris. The final 17-minute ballet sequence combines the title symphony, impressionist set styling and Kelly's unique talent for telling a story through dance. This lifts the winner of six Academy Awards into the pantheon of timelessness.

When it comes to classic Hollywood movie making, we find that legends are created, not simply through fancy visuals, but heart-fluttering characters, stirring plots, and a love that never grows old.

It was during this golden era that we encountered Vivien Leigh and her "Gone with the Wind." Described as "the romance of a baggage and a bounder," it had no peer in literary history considering its longevity, not to mention profitability.

Three years, US$4 million, more than 60 major actors/actresses and over 9,000 supporting players were devoted to this earthshaking film, featuring a surge of heavy "wind" and a storm of Scarlett O'Hara.

"Gone With the Wind" stands among the greatest epic dramas ever filmed.

As her fame escalated, the next year saw Veigh starring in "Waterloo Bridge" - one of the three immortal love stories in film history. The eternal melody of "Auld Lang Syne" passes down from generation to generation.