I enjoy old movies. When everything was black and white. Linda always yells at me, "Will you put something on that's in color!" But that is not the black and white I mean. If you watch a western, the guy in the black hat was bad, the white hat good. There was always a definite dividing line between good and evil. Not true today. It hasn't been true for the past 50 years. Watch "Clockwork Orange" from 1971 and you'll be rooting for Alex, the charming bad guy. Go back to 1969 and you'll be cheering for Butch and Sundance. 1967 had us rooting for death row inmates in the Dirty Dozen.
Yet, in the 1950's and earlier, we knew who was bad and who was good on the silver screen. And we responded accordingly. We cheered Charlton Heston in 1958's "Touch of Evil" and booed when Orson Welles pulled his underhanded tricks. When William Holden tricked Gloria Swanson into hiding him and his car in 1950's Sunset Boulevard, we knew his dead floating body (which started the movie) was his just rewards. Even a little underhanded deserved the ultimate punishment. I cannot recall any 1940, or earlier, movie where someone is killed accidentally and the person responsible does not end up on death row. "I was driving and this guy jumped in front of my car." To which the law says, "Too bad, he died, it's the chair for you!"
Help any bad guy and by the end of the movie you will be dead. Even if you did not know he was a bad guy. Drop a nickle in a fake blind man's cup and a safe will fall on your noggin. Drop a nickle in real blind man's cup and the love of your life is waiting around the corner. It don't matter if you knew he was legitimately blind or not, you will pay the appropriate price.
That's why I love those old movies. Sex hadn't been invented yet. Everyone slept in a single bed only by themselves, except for the Three Stooges. Children were really brought by storks. Even innuendo was so vague you needed a microscope to see it.
Today I watched "Act of Violence" starring Robert Ryan, Van Heflin, Janet Leigh and Mary Astor. The story was after WWII where Ryan and Heflin had been in a POW camp, and Ryan wants revenge for Heflin telling the Nazis about an escape attempt. Right in the first few minutes, when this was revealed, I knew Heflin would die by the end of the flick. It didn't matter that Heflin was trying to save the POW's lives. Talking to the Nazis is a movie death sentence. This was a first time viewing for me, and I enjoyed the premise. It was every POW's responsibility to try and escape. Heflin sees the British try an escape and sees the Nazis kill a British POW for every escaped man. He then finds out Ryan and nine others are planning an escape. Heflin knows that the Nazis would kill ten of the remaining POW's when this occurs. He cannot talk Ryan out of the escape, so he tattles to the Nazis where they agree not to punish the men attempting the escape. Of course, the Nazis do not keep their word and when the escape happens, the Nazis are waiting and kill nine of them, Ryan is the tenth and is crippled in the escape attempt. It is then three years after the war and Heflin is with his wife, Janet Leigh, and their baby when Ryan finds him and wants revenge. So Heflin runs away and Ryan pursues. So what do you think should happen? Should Ryan gun down Heflin to avenge his fellow escapees? Should Heflin stop Ryan and be permitted to live out a post-war life with Janet Leigh? If Heflin does stop Ryan, should it be with Ryan's death? Ooh, the suspense!
Well, I already told you ending. Black and white, remember. When Heflin talked to the Nazis, he signed his own death warrant. Heflin dies saving Ryan's life. A predictable ending yet still a fascinating movie. It is worth a watch. One last note: Janet Leigh was twenty at the time and had a three year old baby. This means she was sixteen when Heflin impregnated her. Another big Hollywood no-no demanding a death sentence. I was surprised Janet did not die also.