Passing on traditions: A day watching old movies

There are days, usually damp, cold Sundays in February, when you simply have to give yourself permission to do nothing. Not a solitary thing. Zilch. Apart from a shuffle to the kitchen for toast, or to put the kettle on, that is. And, whatever your mother might say, this is not lazy behaviour. Oh no, this is essential downtime, especially when hung over. Any thoughts of a to-do list must be scoured from the mind: it is time to step away from the computer.

The only activity to be done on such a day is to watch old black-and-white movies. Modern action movies or rom-coms won’t cut it: you must stream or dig out DVDs of Eton Comedies, Hitchcock thrillers and French classics. Tucked up on the sofa, snug under a woollen blanket, a cat curled up at the knee, the murky outdoors is forgotten as you watch Grace Kelly and Cary Grant catch a jewel thief, Alex Guinness murder his family and Jules et Jim fall both fall in love with Jeanne Moreau. And then, mind refreshed and body rested, you can go to bed guilt-free knowing it has been a day well spent. 

Here is a selection of films recommended by The Simple Things team.

The Apartment - Frances Ambler, Contributing Editor

It’s got to be The Apartment. Sweet but not too sickly, a reminder that although life can be a bit rubbish it’ll probably be okay in the end, and the pleasure of having a heroine that shares my name (see also Dirty Dancing). Give me old-style New York, Shirley MacLaine’s haircut, and a good game of gin rummy and I’m happy.

Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers movies - Cinead McTernan, Gardening Editor

I have a lovely memory of my mum and I watching old Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers movies in the morning during the Christmas holidays when I was at school. They were on every morning at the same time for one week and it was heavenly!

Some Like It Hot - Lottie Storey, Digital Editor

Some Like It Hot is everything an old movie should be – beautiful Marilyn Monroe in a brilliant comedic performance, Tony Curtis and Jack Lemmon cross-dressing and joining an all-female band to avoid the mob, and the best closing line of any film, ever.

The Great Escape - Jackie Swanson, Picture Editor

The Great Escape with Steve McQueen as Hilts, 'The Cooler King' and one of the most memorable theme tunes of all times.

Another vote for The Apartment - Eithne Farry, Books Editor

I love Billy Wilder's The Apartment. It's funny, melancholy and edgy, and I've watched it over and over. Jack Lemmon, straining spaghetti with a tennis racquet and Shirley Maclaine, with her broken compact mirror, that - 'Makes me look the way I feel' is just brilliant. It redefines romance. 


Words by Clare Gogerty

Compiled by Lottie Storey