We’ve just been watching Big Bang Theory that finished with Leonard, Sheldon, and Amy at the theatre to see Penny in A Streetcar Named Desire. I remember that of course from the 1951 movie with Marlon Brando, Vivien Leigh, Karl Malden & Kim Hunter. It was noteable for being the first movie to land Academy Awards for best supporting actor (Malden) and best supporting actress (Hunter) – as well as best actress for Leigh. I first saw it maybe 25 – 30 years ago watching late night TV. I became enthralled, particularly at Vivien Leigh’s performance, and was desperate to find out what happened to Blanche & Stella.
TV then was very different from now. Late night TV 30 years ago generally saw some great old movies on at 11pm or later, usually on a Friday night. Classic movies could be enjoyed in solitude, letting you fully appreciate some of Hollywood’s finest offerings from its golden age. Another was The Asphalt Jungle. Another movie that maybe isn’t bursting with all out action as modern movies are, but it still manages to draw you in. Somehow, seeing it late at night made it a better experience than seeing in the day time. I suppose we’re traditionally used to seeing movies in the evening. Jane and I only go to the cinema during the week when I have a day off, and it seems strange and somehow decadent to come out of the cinema in daylight!
It was late night though that brought me face-to-face with one of my top five movies of all time. Its the great British movie, A Canterbury Tale, starring Eric Portman, Sheila Sim, Dennis Price & John Sweet. I had already fallen in love with the movies of the 30s and 40s before I encountered this gem. Its loosely based on Chaucer’s Canterbury Tale (of course) and its setting in wartime rural Kent paints an idyllic image of rural England. Ultimately the central characters make their way to Canterbury on a pilgrimage for their own personal reasons. Its a lovely movie that I never tire of seeing. I’ve bought it on dvd, and enjoy it ( http://www.amazon.co.uk/Canterbury-Tale-DVD-Eric-Portman/dp/B00004CZVF) every time I see it. I’m not sure what it is about this film I love so much – and other movies of the 30s and 40s. Maybe its the image some of them paint like that of rural England, or the biggest of Hollywood’s stars from that golden age (I also love Casablanca) – but these movies are wonderful.
All of these movies were available to me before we had dvd (or a VHS player even in our house) and I doubt if I’d come into contact with them in today’s TV age of dedicated movie channels. There’s been a shift in late night TV with movies being given the elbow, more-or-less. Its a shame really that some people won’t be able to enjoy some of Hollywood and British cinema’s finest offerings.
Maybe tomorrow I’ll watch A Canterbury Tale and remember back to my late childhood and reflect on how good late night TV was in years gone by.