Most of my classic film watching has been at home, but I’ve been catching some old flicks on the big screen lately. Today I saw a Hitchcock double-feature. First up was Rear Window; it’s my favorite of his, and I was particularly mesmerized seeing it in a theater for the first time. The audience was sparse and well-behaved.
For the second film, The Wrong Man, the theater filled up. I hadn’t seen it before, and I have to admit, backed up to Rear Window, it seemed pretty dreary; there’s little or no humor to break the tension, and Henry Fonda makes for a pretty milquetoast paesan. But it’s a decent docudrama, has some cool NY street scenes, and I was glad I got to see something a little different from Hitchock.
The thing that got under my skin, however, was the tittering from a certain subsection of the audience (maybe 15-20 people out of 100). It mostly started after Anthony Quayle hit the screen; he plays an attorney who represents Fonda’s character, and I guess his acting style seems a little dated. The laughter intensified when the scenes between Fonda and Vera Miles, playing his wife, become a tad melodramatic as she descends into madness.
So, you see what I’m getting at; the laughter wasn’t due to any Hitchcockian winking and nudging, but because a portion of the audience couldn’t move past the old-fashioned acting and concentrate on the story. It’s the sort of thing I remember from watching old movies in high school, but I was sorely disappointed to encounter it sitting in an art-house theater.
Am I overreacting?* Is it disrespectful to essentially scoff at the movie that other patrons are trying to view objectively? Or should they be forgiven for recognizing that this particular movie, while perhaps well-made, is simply not “timeless”?
*Not that I’m too worked up about it, but it felt like an SMDB post.