My Totally-Subjective Classic Movie Guide, Part 1

My attempt to introduce you to some Golden Age movies, including both some universal favorites and some of my personal favorites.

John I. Carney
14 min readNov 9, 2022

Eric Blore, left, and Joel McCrea in “Sullivan’s Travels” (1941).

Part 2

Part 3

The Golden Age of motion pictures is generally reckoned from the full conversion to talkies, in about 1929, through the late 1940s or early 1950s. If there’s a fixed end date, it would be related to the 1948 court decision which forced the major studios to sell their theater chains, which upended the industry’s finances and led to the decline of its “movie factory” production process just as television was about to reach a mass audience. Television did not kill the movies, of course, but it, and the antitrust decision, dramatically changed what the movies were, how they were produced and presented, who their target audience was and what role they played in daily American life.

The Golden Age still holds a fascination for a lot of us. I understand that not everyone is interested in classic movies; to some people, they seem quaint, simplistic, and irrelevant. But to others, the movies of the 1930s, 1940s and early 1950s are a unique treasure, something to be preserved, enjoyed and shared with future generations. I was not born until 1962, 14 years after the United States vs. Paramount Pictures Inc. decision, and yet I spend an inordinate amount of time with my TV tuned to Turner Classic Movies. I don’t enjoy every genre of classic movie, and not every Golden Age movie is, in fact, a classic. There were turkeys released in 1939 just as there are turkeys released in 2022.

My Facebook friends, whether they like it or not, are well aware of my TCM-watching habits, as I frequently post about some great movie that’s coming up on the channel’s schedule. In my own imagination, I always hope that I’ll introduce someone to that movie for the first time, and they’ll get to enjoy it the way I do. When I was in college in the early 1980s, I was campus film chairman for 2 1/2 years, and even though I wasn’t as big a classic movie fan then as I am now, I still loved introducing people to great old movies they’d never seen before.

John I. Carney

Author of “Dislike: Faith and Dialogue in the Age of Social Media,” available at