Political correctness has gone wild in the new version of “Birth of a Nation”. Today’s producers of the reprocessed remake feel all good about themselves, because they’ve reversed the roles of good guys vs bad guys. However, we’ll have to wait to see the profit results before knowing how successful the movie will be.
Of course, way back in 1915, D.W. Griffith and everyone else in Hollywood portrayed black people as villains and worse. Rampant prejudice was the general concept throughout America, along with showing them as field hands, humble servants and Stepin Fetchit grovelers. The overt prejudice and discrimination continued through the years until the 1960s.
Looking to make money on old successes, movie makers often reach back into Hollywood history to rehash classics. Most of the feeble attempts have been both critically and financially unsuccessful. Some cynics believe the great originals should not have been touched. For example:
“Gone With The Wind” (1939) can still boast of being one of the very best movies in Hollywood history. This other classic about the Civil War era, featuring lovers Rhett Butler (Clark Gable) and Scarlett O’Hara (Vivien Leigh), defies any attempts to improve on the original.
The infamous Confederate renegade and the young plantation beauty portray their troubled relationship and ill-fated marriage. However, even as Rhett leaves Scarlett with the classic line, “Frankly, my dear, I don’t give a damn”, we loyal fans know in our hearts he will return. We can hope he doesn’t in a cheesy remake.
Several remakes of “The Wizard of Oz”, another 1939 all-time classic, have been attempted, both on screen and stage. However, they can never come close to matching the original’s forever-fresh appeal to ardent fans from age three to 103.
What remake could do justice to the perfections of Dorothy (Judy Garland), the Wicked Witch (Margaret Hamilton), Scarecrow (Ray Bolger), Tin Man (Jack Haley) and of course, the beloved Cowardly Lion (Bert Lahr)? We must not forget to include the Wizard himself (Frank Morgan), and Toto, too.
The original Oz beams out from TV screens every holiday season in all of its Technicolor splendor. The ultimate pleasure for viewers of all generations is a brand new experience.
“Citizen Kane” (1941) follows Charles Foster Kane (Orson Welles) from childhood, youth, midlife, great financial success, personal failure and final moments. This classic earned and still commands the great respect of movie experts both for its effective storytelling and brilliant technical innovations.
With the real-life boy genius, 24-year-old Welles, totally involved with everything on and off the screen, how could anyone ever dare to try to put together a copycat version? “Citizen Kane” will always be in the top ten of every list of the best ever, and will continue to hold that position as long as movies are created.
Another classic from that era, “Casablanca” (1942), was too perfect to ever successfully be rehashed by some current politically-correct Hollywood studio or TV network. Watching the original, we’re fascinated by Rick (Humphrey Bogart), as he slouches around his gin joint, mourning his lost love, Ilsa (Ingrid Bergman). Bogie muttered some of the most familiar lines in movie history.
The story of the bar owner dealing with Nazis occupying the North African city is timeless. We can relate to the reluctant good guy who eventually defeats the bad guys. He then bids a tender farewell to his lost love with, “We’ll always have Paris”.
The final scene is one of the most memorable in movie history, when Rick joins Captain Renault (Claude Rains) on their way to volunteer for combat with the Free French army. The closing line, “Louie, I think this is the beginning of a beautiful friendship” is priceless.
To sum up, watching those classics is not only a great pleasure for fans now old enough to remember seeing them as new Hollywood productions. Those of younger generations can consider themselves fortunate that time has preserved the movies in their original form to be enjoyed today and far into the future.