Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Series films

TCM recently ran a slew of “Andy Hardy” films in a Thanksgiving Day marathon. What distinguishes this series of films is perhaps not the depiction of an ideal American family, but the fact that we get to see them so often, a new one almost every year. They were not exactly sequels in the sense that we have come to understand the blockbuster sequels of today, a.k.a. “Rocky 17” and “Star Wars 23”. There were just the continuing saga, and one did not have to see any of the previous films to understand the plot. Many other series films have been shown in the past month as well.

There used to be a lot of series films, some of them B-movies which were shot on slim budgets, but also feature films that carried characters, if not a storyline, onto the next film. “Mr. Moto” films, “The Falcon” and “The Saint” were typical of popular detective features of the day. “Ma and Pa Kettle” and “Mexican Spitfire” and the “Maisie” films took over comedy. “Dr. Kildare” gave us drama, and “Torchy Blaine” gave us yet another “girl reporter.”

Series films weren’t exactly serials, either, like the “Crash Corrigan” type of chapter-by-chapter short. They were full-length films which featured characters already so familiar that they did not need to be explained or established. You knew what to expect when Andy Hardy met a new popular girl at school, or Mr. Moto took on a new case.

It was a hybrid type of film that perhaps morphed into episodic television and sitcoms. Possibly the closest thing we have today to series films are the James Bond movies, which feature the same character in different adventures.

4 comments:

operator_99 said...

Those series on TCM, a new one every weekday, had my DVR humming. I had quite a few, but this month was great for filling some gaps and discovering new series. I do have a fondness for the Andy Hardy series, but love the detective series as well. Finally able to get all the early Perry Mason's with Warren William, an actor I enjoy. One series that is missing if the Henry Aldrich series from Paramount. It was made to compete with the Hardy series and had a number of good entries in it's nine or ten outings. I have only been able to locate 2, both on ebay - Henry Aldrich Haunts a House and Henry Aldrich Gets Glamour, both amusing and fun.

Jacqueline T Lynch said...

Thanks for your comment,and the info on the Henry Aldrich series, which is not one I know much about. I'm more familiar with the radio version of the squeaky-voiced teenager. It's amazing how many series there were though, isn't it? Andy Hardy was a bit more polished than some of the others, but TCM really dragged out some forgotten ones.

Raquelle said...

I've recently discovered the beauty in old movie series. Watched The Falcon one recently on TCM. Was very confused with the plot but still loved Sanders and Conway!

I totally see how this was a precursor to television. Makes sense. I'm sure lots of people wanted characters they could visit again and again on the screen.

Jacqueline T Lynch said...

Welcome, Raquelle, thanks for stopping by. Yes, I suppose you're right, that the audience liked familiar characters they could re-visit. The studios must have thought so.