During the Oscar season my mind always seems to go back to the Golden Age of Hollywood, which to me occurred from 1939 to 1951. This would be my most favorite time frame when “movies” might rightly be called “films.” The difference being the later are classics in my way of thinking while the former are merely entertainment for the masses on the order of material made specifically for television. In other words, I think films turned into movies once television got a foothold on the American entertainment psyche during the 1950s.
The eleven-year stretch of “films” I mentioned above also had classic actors, actresses, directors and writers. These are the people I think of whenever I hear the word “Hollywood.” In their films, these creative artists were young and in their prime and thought of as gods and goddesses. Their creations from the Golden Era will continue to be seen as long as Turner Classic Films remains in existence or film courses are taught at universities.
TCM recently had a series called “31 days of Oscar” and a documentary entitled “And The Winner Is.” Many of the pictures they included in these specials contained a lot of the films from the eleven–year period. The players in these films are like old friends and as new generations of film viewers arrive on the scene, these classical productions continue to shine. We must realize that it was not only actors and actresses who shone so brilliantly during this time but also gifted directors and writers. Simply put, we had a wonderful mixture of creativity which has not been seen or rarely equaled since.
I know some people do not like reading lists but I think as a memorial to those eleven years which I have labeled “The Golden Age of Films,” it would be fitting that I at least point out a who’s who of that particular time. Just think of how many times you have seen these names or how much they are constantly being mentioned in film folklore. The interesting thing is to many young people who were not even born when these films came out, these people and films are quite familiar. So here we go with these timeless films and their creative population.
Some of the films of this Golden Age were Dark Victory, Gone With the Wind, The Wizard of Oz, Stagecoach, Grapes of Wrath, Rebecca, Citizen Kane, Here Comes Mr. Jordan, How Green Was My Valley, The Maltese Falcon, Sergeant York, Mrs. Miniver, Casablanca, Laura, Mildred Pierce, The Best Years of Our Lives, It’s A Wonderful Life, Gentleman’s Agreement, Johnny Belinda, The Treasure of Sierra Madre, A Letter to Three Wives, The Heiress, All About Eve, Sunset Boulevard, A Streetcar Named Desire, Pride and Prejudice.
Some of the Stars were Clark Gable, Vivian Leigh, James Stewart, Bette Davis, Greer Garson, Irene Dunn, Henry Fonda, Joan Fontaine, Olivia de Havilland, Katharine Hepburn, Ginger Rodgers, Fred Astaire, Judy Garland, Gary Cooper, Cary Grant, Mae West, Orson Wells, Barbara Stanwyck, James Cagney, Rosalind Russell, Edward G. Robinson, Humphrey Bogart, Ingrid Bergman, Claudette Colbert, Gregory Peck, Joan Crawford, Ronald Colman, John Wayne, Loretta Young, Joseph Cotton, Joel McCrae, Frances Dee, Ruby Keeler, Audrey Hepburn, Hattie McDaniel, Butterfly McQueen, Deborah Kerr, Spencer Tracey, Gloria Swanson.
Some of the directors were Frank Capra, John Ford, William Wyler, George Cukor, Alfred Hitchcock, Howard Hawks, Michael Curtiz, Mervyn LeRoy, Sam Wood, Henry King, George Stevens, Henry King, Cecil B. DeMille, Leo Mc Carey, Otto Preminger, Billy Wilder, Clarence Brown, David Lean, Elia Kazan, John Houston, Fred Zinneman, Joseph L. Mankiewicz, William Wellman, Carol Reed.
A few of the writers were Sidney Howard, Preston Sturges, Donald Ogden Stewart, Herman J, Mickiewicz, Michael Kanin, Ring lardner, Jr., James Hilton, Norman Krasna, Julius and Philip Epstein,, Howard Koch, Lamar Trotti, Billy Wilder, Robert E. Sherwood, Sydney Sheldon, Charles Brackett.
All of the above people created the films which you see over and over and are shown all the time on TV. Theirs was a lasting vision which they are still sharing with you and me. These films still manages to give us much joy and entertainment no matter how many times we see them.
The only problem is that all of these people are now dead except for Olivia de Havilland , who is 99 years old and will be 100 this July 1. Over the years people my age watched the film stars from the Golden Age as they “matured” into middle age and then old age and then we read their obituaries. We occasionally saw some of them on talk shows when they were quite elderly and their magic had long since deserted them. We actually wished we hadn’t seen them because we really would like to remember them as they were in the Golden Era— stalwart, strong and projecting their certain enchantment. Through the magic of film though, they still live on. You can see them most nights. Just turn on your TV and relive the Golden Age of Film with them.