Vintage Movies: Will They Disappear?

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Vintage Movies
A young Lionel Barrymore.

Vintage movies – what will become of them?

The previous few generations were the first to enjoy movies and television. Video added another dimension previously unknown in recorded entertainment. First there were the silents. Not offering speech, rather than presenting films in dead silence, musical accompaniment, perhaps by an organist, was provided. Later, approximately 1927, “talkies” began to feature human speech.

A New Era

Black and white films experienced tremendous growth in quality of cinematography, although some of the actors–those with a background in the silents—over-dramatized their characters. In the late 1930’s, basically black-and-white films had embedded within them a few scenes in color. Of course, in time, most motion pictures were entirely filmed in color.

Moving On Up

Larger screens and filming in foreign lands were next to enamor the viewing public. And toward the end of the twentieth century, special effects produced using computer technology, became commonplace. In fact, special effects have at times been excessively used. During all of this, vintage movies were not available to most persons for purchase, or viewing, with few exceptions.

Older movies were either maintained in storage or disposed of. Quite a few of the very early ones experienced film degradation because of the material from which they were made, such as nitrate. Only the most important films were initially restored, though the number of less spectacular films that are restored increased. Many films have continued to suffer and remain unavailable.

Looking Up

Now more and more vintage movies are becoming available for purchase or free viewing and download by larger segments of Society. Unfortunately, the question must be raised: Is it too late? Not just for the reasons discussed above, but for additional reasons as well. What additional reasoning can be provided that suggests it may be too late for many or most vintage films?

The younger portion of Society really has no knowledge of actors who either died before they were born or shortly thereafter. That is one of the most important reasons why vintage films fall by the wayside. Another is that changes in technology no longer occur about once per generation, but more often than that.

All Things New

As I was growing up radio was losing ground to television. If someone were to quiz me about radio programs and their actors, I’d receive a very poor grade. As for silent movies, some of those were still being broadcast on television during the 1950s. However, many of my generation never watched such gems. None of my children have ever watched them.

All of this, “at some level” doesn’t really matter. But somehow, it seems a shame that so many truly great actors and wondrous movies are essentially unknown. Young adults have heard of “Attack of the Killer Tomatoes,” a film that probably should be rated “T” for Tripe. Yet, have they ever heard of John, Ethel or Lionel Barrymore? Tyrone Power? Olivia deHaviland? Errol Flynn? Gene Tierney? Wallace Beery? Marie Dressler? Edward G. Robinson? Linda Darnell?

Or, if they have heard of a few of those, go back further. What about Charlie Chaplin? Emil Jannings? Mary Pickford? John Gilbert? Greta Garbo? Lillian Gish? Rudolph Valentino? Clara Bow?

Vintage Movies: Sometimes It’s Too Late

Even if all the films in which each of these individuals appeared were to be restored to pristine condition, it is probably too late for such vintage films. Persons alive in the twenty-first century are not likely to take the time to view them. And the saying proves true, you can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make him drink.


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One thought on “Vintage Movies: Will They Disappear?

  • Of course, another element that must lead to the demise of vintage movies is the evolution of culture and the degradation of society. Changes with regard to the concepts of love and family life.

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