However much I like to complain that I was born in the wrong age, I can’t deny that there are certain aspects of modern life that I love like Instagram, blogging, DVDs, digital photography and online shopping. Not everything was better in the past. But as a lover of vintage glamour and old films, you won’t be surprised to learn that there are quite a few things I regret the passing of and that I wouldn’t hesitate to bring back if I had the chance to. Here are some of them:
There’s just something really cool about hanging out all day at the cinema, seeing two films which complement each other. The Pan-Pacific cinema had a double feature, plus a Disney cartoon and the bargain matinee before 5pm cost just 20 cents. I defy you not to feel nostalgic!
Which brings me to B-movies. There were films made on a shoestring budget, said to be of inferior quality and designed to fit into the second half of a double feature. Some of these weren’t great but a tiny budget meant directors had more freedom and needed to be even more creative to achieve certain effects. Think of the classic horror films Val Lewton produced like ‘Cat People’ (above) and ‘I Walked With A Zombie’ (and how much less interesting his A-pictures were), or ‘Stranger On The Third Floor’, considered today to be the first film noir or the brilliant ‘The Narrow Margin’ with Marie Windsor and Charles McGraw, below.
Comfort and glamour on air travel
I never knew the golden age of travel with comfortable seats, champagne, a huge amount of legroom and decent food on board. But when I had just moved abroad and started flying back to the UK, British Airways still had some tiny planes with single rows of window seats on either side, there were not yet any restrictions with liquids and you could check in less than an hour before take-off. It seems like a lifetime ago. Anyway, these vintage photos show that air travel could be luxurious – there was even a ladies’ powder room on board which should definitely be a standard feature on all flights.
Porter at a railway station, around 1960, by Bob Collins
Unlike air travel, for me travelling by train still retains a certain old fashioned glamour. Until you consider hauling heavy cases off and on, trying to get it into an already cramped compartment or struggling to lift it overhead. And then repeating all this when you change trains. To this day, it remains an inexplicable mystery to me why there are no porters to help you any more.
Will Hay and Moore Marriott in the classic ‘Oh, Mr Porter’.
I’m not a big hat wearer myself, for the simple reason that I’m not sure they really suit me, but I do love to see others wearing them, like in the photo above by Vivian Maier.Maybe if they made a comeback, I’d feel brave enough to wear them regularly too.
There is a great scene in Jacques Tati’s ‘Trafic’ where the woman gets out her hat instead of a spare tyre from the back of the car.
Railway dining cars
These featured in my post about vintage rail travel so it’s no surprise they’re here too. In the UK today, catering is limited to the buffet car if you’re lucky where you can get hot drinks in paper cups, sandwiches, chocolate and packets of crisps. If you’re unlucky, it’s a refreshment trolley which may or may not pass through the coach you’re sitting in. I love the idea of dressing nicely and having a decent meal at one of these tables while glancing out of the window at the countryside and towns whizzing by.
Pneumatic tube systems
There’s a wonderful scene in François Truffaut’s ‘Baisers Volés’ where Jean-Pierre Léaud’s Antoine Doinel decides to send a pneu to the glamourous Fabienne Tabard, played by Delphine Seyrig. We see it through every step, from the posting of the letter and its insertion into the tube, the journey it makes through the network under the different parts of Paris and finally its arrival into the recipient’s beautiful hands. Of course, emails and SMS removed any need for this outdated technology but it’s hard to imagine them being used in a film to the same effect.