Monday, March 2, 2009

Converting the Non-Classic Film Fan

During the course of our love affairs with classic film, we probably all have encountered “classic film virgins” who know next to nothing about classic films. Every once in a while, these CFV’s are open to losing their classic film virginity. This past weekend my roommate, who has never thought I was weird for loving the classics, decided she wanted to be initiated into the world of classic film. I was absolutely thrilled. Most people are so absolutely against watching classic films that they won’t even humor me by at least trying to watch one. Anyways, the movie night was a success and I believe she has crossed over to the good side, aka the classic film side. We only had time for two movies, but they were good ones: Bye Bye Birdie and Rebecca. She loved them both. She especially liked Rebecca (one of my all-time personal favorites), so much that she went and rented two more Hitchcock movies the next night and watched them with her boyfriend. Mission Accomplished.

My roommate is certainly not the first person I have converted to classic films and she certainly will not be the last. Through my many experiences, I’ve developed a set of guidelines that help with the conversion process.

Step 1: Evaluate the person’s openness to and prior experience with classic film.

Type 1: The Anti-Classic

Anti-Classics visibly glaze over at the mere mention of a film made before 1985. These people consider films made in the 80’s as “old” and are absolutely content with renting Saw V. Not easily converted, Anti-Classics need to be slowly eased into classic film over a matter of months, possibly years, depending on the severity of their hatred for “old stuff”.

Type 2: The Technicolor Classic

Technicolor Classics are much more open to classic film than Anti-Classics. They will occasionally watch classic films, but only if they are in color. Black and white films are avoided like the Bubonic Plague. Technicolor Classics stick to well-known color films such as The Wizard of Oz, Breakfast at Tiffany’s, and Grease. As opposed to the close-minded Anti-Classic, the Technicolor Classic is usually willing to branch out; they just need the right movie to broaden their horizon.

Type 3: The Classic-in-Training
Classics-in-Training are the easiest to convert. They are on their way to becoming Classics, but just need a little nudge in the right direction. However, their film knowledge is stuck in the beginner phase because they are not quite sure how to get out of the mainstream classic film rut. They have moved out of the well-known color films and are dabbling in the well-known black and whites. A Classic-in-Training is every Classic Film Fan’s dream.

Step 2: Find the perfect film to start the conversion process.

The Anti-Classic

Don’t start with anything made before 1950. It would be like chucking a nut at a squirrel, they are only going to run even faster in the opposite direction. Hitchcock is usually a good choice, because even if they don’t know any of the movies he made, they’ve at least heard of him (well, you hope they’ve heard of him). Also, try to make a connection between the film and something that he/ she likes for example:

You: “Hey, you liked Disturbia, right? Well, then you will love Rear Window!”

Rear Window
The Birds
North by Northwest
The Godfather
Breakfast at Tiffany’s
Rebel Without a Cause

The Technicolor Classic

These people love color, hence their avoidance of black and white films. Start them off with some of the well-known black and whites such as Casablanca or Some Like it Hot. If you don’t think they can last an entire movie without color, pick one with a color sequence like The Women. Tell them that black and white films give them a chance to imagine what the colors are for themselves.

Some Like it Hot
The Women
Citizen Kane
It’s a Wonderful Life
Mr. Smith Goes to Washington
Roman Holiday

The Classic-in-Training

You really can’t go wrong with your choice for the Classic-in-Training. Stick with well-known stars, but introduce them to some of their lesser known works. A fan of Olivia de Havilland? Show them The Snake Pit. Love Cary Grant? Suggest Topper or Only Angels Have Wings. Let them know that there are ton of hidden gems out there just waiting to be discovered.


The Snake Pit
The Devil and Miss Jones
Ball of Fire
Stella Dallas

Step 3: Encourage them to keep at it!

No matter what type the person is, they need to be encouraged to keep expanding their classic film knowledge. Suggest other movies that they might like, tell them to check out the trivia on imdb, do what ever you can to help them through the rest of the process. Most of all, they need some type of support. They probably don’t have anyone else around to show them that it’s okay to like classic films so show them what they are missing out on.


Kate Gabrielle said...

What a great post!! You really nailed the non-classic film fan types! Those anti-classics are a pain! :)

I always wanted to write something about converting-- my idea is like six degrees of separation. You slowly work your way back by connecting actors or directors.

Nicole said...

Seriously this is the greatest thing ever, I've been trying to convert my family to liking old movies and it never seems to work. I remember watching "The Best Years of Our Lives" with my Dad, and all he thought about it was that it was boring. I was like what?! that movie is amazing. Hopefully I can slowly get him interested in old movies. :)

Matt said...

Good post.
I would recommend most of the films of Howard Hawks, Preston Sturges or Ernst Lubitsch. They seem to do the trick for many because their films are very smart as well as fast paced. And today's younger film goers tend to like a quickened pace. Also many of the Screwball comedies of the 30's are fun to share.

Sarah said...

LOVED this! Unfortch, basically all my friends are either anti-classic or technicolor people. I've been successful in getting 2 people into old movies, and by that I mean we watched The Apartment and it was "good." Ah, sometimes these people are so aloof.

Lolita said...

Really great post!
I have a Type 3 friend, to whom I introduced Sunset Blvd, The Philadelphia Story and the three Marx Bros films I wrote about. That did the trick! One classic film noir, one screwball comedy and three totally mental comedies (though she was a bit sceptical to Duck Soup... maybe that one is too crazy for a newbie).

I should print out this post and out it on my wall!

Nik said...

This was so funny and interesting to read!

Alas, although film is my religion, I have tried but failed too many times at trying to convert people into classic film fans. As long as they know who both Hepburns and Greta Garbo are, I am happy.

Raquelle said...

Superb! On this plan, all classic movie heathens will become faithful believers in no time.

I have a "Classic film starter kit" that I created recently to help people get started on old movies. I cater it to people's needs.

Genevieve said...

Kate: Yeah, I'm not a big fan of anit-classics either!

I would really love to read about this six degrees of separation thing. Very interesting...: )

Nicole: Aww..thanks. Keep trying to convert your dad! Try some westerns, those are the only ones my dad will watch.

Matt: Those are some good choices as well. I agree with you that many non-classics need fast paced films. Of course, you can never go wrong with screwball!

Sarah: Same here! Most of my friends are type 1 or type 2. They just don't know what they are missing out on!

Lolita: Film noir is also a good choice for newbies. Haha..there are some films that are just a little too far out for them.

Wow, thanks! I would be honored : )

Nik: Yeah, converting people is definitely not easy. I try my best to at least spread a little film knowledge to everyone.

Raquelle: Haha, I sure hope it works!

I would love to hear about your "classic film starte kit". The conversion process is definitely on a case by case basis.

Wendymoon said...

Love this post. I had an idea like this in mind a while ago but you beat me to it and did it wonderfully!

Just wanted to let you know I named you on my blog and am sending a Dardos award your way. :-)

Lolita said...

Dear Genevieve!
I've given you the Premio Dardo's Award. Read more about it, and the motivation for you to have it, on my blog:

Nicole said...

I've just given you the Premio Dardo's Award, I have it on my blog. :)

Genevieve said...

Wendymoon; You should still write that post! I would love to see what your approach is.

Thanks for the award!

Lolita: Thank you!

Nicole: Yay! Another one, thank you so much!