How Understanding Film History Impacts Your Film Appreciation

film history

Hollywood’s Golden Age


While watching Marlene Dietrich’s sultry performance of “The Laziest Gal in Town” in Alfred Hitchcock’s 1950 thriller,”Stage Fright”, I asked my husband if the song and performance seemed familiar. Because¬†I’ve raised him right (on film history that isūüėé), he remarked, “of course, Madeline Kahn’s performance of “I’m Tired” in the Mel Brooks satirical Western comedy classic, “Blazing Saddles” (1974).

Marlene Dietrich “Laziest Gal in Town”

Madeline Khan

Madeline Kahn “I’m So Tired”

I loved hearing his response because it’s the main reason I pen this post; for the history and appreciation of films. Understanding a writer or director’s references to past movies in theirs adds to the richness of the production. It helps young people comprehend that few things in life are original and imitation can be the sincerest form of flattery.



History of Film


Sometimes the homage in a movie isn’t to a particular scene in a film but the music. I love Minions period but I especially enjoyed the “Minions” movie’s 1960’s soundtrack that made the perfect nod to James Bond type villains (“Minions” Scarlet Overkill) and the time period of the setting.


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As a child of the ’60’s I remember turning to my husband in the theater saying, 99% of the people in here weren’t even born yet and I wonder if any of them appreciate the inclusion of the classic songs of this era.


The song is “Hair” from the iconic 1968 counter-culture and controversial¬†stage and film production¬†“Hair”



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I’ve spent my lifetime watching and loving the cinema and have educated my children with a more sophisticated palette for black and white films and how they just don’t make them like that anymore.ūüėä

Hundreds of full-length films were produced during the decade of the 1940s; during Hollywood’s Golden Age. The great actor Humphrey Bogart made his most memorable films in this decade. Frank Capra’s masterpiece It’s a Wonderful Life and Orson Welles’s cinema genius production of¬†Citizen Kane were released. The film noir genre was at its height. Alfred Hitchcock made his American debut with the film Rebecca¬†and made many classics throughout the 1940s. (Wikipedia)


1940's/ 1950's Movie Stars

(Top) Cary Grant, Audrey Hepburn, Marlon Brando (Middle) Lauren Bacall, Marilyn Monroe, Grace Kelly (Bottom) Humphrey Bogart, Marlene Dietrich, Clark Gable

Movie Stars of the 1940’s & 1950’s


Of course, I want you to visit my website as a source of reference material, but if you want to see these full-length gems for free, I recommend tuning into the Turner Classic Movies channel. They show everything from the great silent films, Chaplin, Buster Keaton, etc. through Hollywood’s “Golden Age”.


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These classic films bring me great joy and I hope you’ll find a special place in your heart for them, too!


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What We Do in the Dark!

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“We didn’t need dialogue. We had faces!” Norma Desmond




As she descended the well-worn stairs of her aged and decadent mansion steeped in long past memories, Norma Desmond uttered the declaration that forever remains in the memories of those who witnessed her performance in the 1950 classic, “Sunset Boulevard.” It’s impossible to forget those delusional words spoken by the creepy Norma Desmond as she is escorted through the end scene for her deadly deed; not surprisingly surrounded by gawkers vying for a tiny glimpse of the reclusive silent film star.



Before the film, I had only heard of Gloria Swanson but hadn’t seen any of her films. After witnessing her tour-de-force performance as the legendary diva, Norma Desmond, I sought out every movie of hers that I could. Wow, she inhabited the role of Norma Desmond with intimate knowledge of the silent film era since those were Swanson’s actual glory days. By the way, the dialogue is both fantastic and hilarious.


Gloria May Josephine Swanson (March 27, 1899 ‚Äď April 4, 1983)


“Sunset Boulevard” (stylized onscreen as SUNSET BLVD.) is a 1950 American film noir¬†directed and co-written by Billy Wilder¬†and produced and co-written by Charles Brackett. It was named after the boulevard that runs through Los Angeles and Beverly Hills, California. (Wikipedia)


The film stars William Holden as Joe Gillis, an unsuccessful screenwriter, and Gloria Swanson as Norma Desmond, a faded silent film star who draws him into her fantasy world where she dreams of making a triumphant return to the screen, with Erich von Stroheim as Max Von Mayerling, her devoted servant.


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Erich von Stroheim, William Holden, Gloria Swanson


Nancy Olson, Fred Clark, Lloyd Gough and Jack Webb play supporting roles. Director Cecil B. DeMille and gossip columnist Hedda Hopper play themselves, and the film includes cameo appearances by leading silent film actors Buster Keaton, H. B. Warner, and Anna Q. Nilsson.


Praised by many critics when first released, Sunset Boulevard was nominated for eleven Academy Awards (including nominations in all four acting categories) and won three. Deemed “culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant” by the U.S. Library of Congress in 1989, Sunset Boulevard was included in the first group of films selected for preservation in the National Film Registry. In 1998, it was ranked number twelve on the American Film Institute‘s list of the 100 best American films of the 20th century, and in 2007, it was 16th on their 10th Anniversary list. (Wikipedia)


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I’ve never been a famous movie star (maybe stageūüėé) But God help me¬†if I ever get that Norma Desmond look in my eyes, dial 911!

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