Things in Old Movies You Don’t (or Shouldn’t) See Today

It’s Oscar time!  As a tribute to the Academy Awards, let’s explore some behaviors exhibited in movies from the past (and sometimes the present) that we seldom see today – or wish we didn’t.

1.  The “You’re being hysterical” slapping of a woman

This is so absurd I shouldn’t have to mention it. However, if you watch enough movies from the 1930’s and 1940’s you are bound to see the sanity-gathering strike across the cheek. Recently, I was playing with my daughter and I was acting like I was crying while she pretended to give me a shot with a syringe from her doctor’s kit. Imagine my surprise when my darling 3-year-old reared back and slapped the bejesus out of me. I don’t think she got this from a Humphrey Bogart movie, but probably Monsters Inc. Regardless, I can assure you the preschool beat-down did not bring serenity to my being.

The entire premise of slap calming a woman (or man) is utterly ridiculous (not to mention it’s assault!). If saying the phrase, “Just calm down” doesn’t work, you can rest assured physical battery isn’t going to do the trick.

2.  Whiskey as medicine

Got a cough? Take a drink. Down with the flu? Have a shot. Tummy ache? Sprained ankle? Poisoned? Nursing a gunshot wound? Tolerating a bout of bubonic plague? Drink up!

Now I’m not opposed to a hot toddy to battle the sniffles, but maybe hard liquor isn’t the ideal remedy for… well, everything. It would be nice if it were, but it’s not.


3.  Dressing up to have dinner in your own house

Did people in the 40’s and 50’s really do this? Something tells me this is overdone in movies of the era. I suppose some members of the upper class put on their best dresses and suits so they could stare at each other across the table, but I suspect the masses were no better dressed than most of us are today when having a family meal.


4.  The one-punch knockout

Sadly, this has persisted into modern-day movies. Knocking a person unconscious is not a simple task. I’ve been hit by 200-pound men (and a muscle-bound preschooler – see #1 above) and somehow I’ve never been knocked out. Yet in movies (especially older ones), people get knocked out with a quick jab to the nose. If our physiology made us that susceptible to being sent to dreamland, every football player would be knocked out on virtually every play.


5.  The biting of the hands/fist to stifle a scream

Has anyone in real life ever done this? Really? I’ve only been on this planet for four decades, but I have yet to see a single person throw their digits into their mouth in an effort to control a screaming fit. Cover a mouth? Sure. Gnaw on a few fingers like Curly after Moe and Larry dropped a brick on his foot? Nope. Never seen it. Besides, if you want to stifle a scream you can just slap yourself into serenity. Right?

What would you add to this list?

J.J. Hensley is the author of RESOLVE, which is set against the backdrop of the Pittsburgh Marathon, Measure Twice, and other works. Hensley is a former police officer and former Special Agent with the U.S. Secret Service.
Twitter @JJHensleyauthor


An addict is killing Pittsburgh city officials, but Homicide Detective Jackson Channing has his own addiction.



In the Pittsburgh Marathon, more than 18,000 people will participate. 4,500 people will attempt to cover the full 26.2 miles. Over 200 of the participants will quit, realizing it just wasn’t their day. More than 100 will get injured and require medical treatment. One man is going to be murdered.  When Dr. Cyprus Keller lines up to start the race, he knows a man is going to die for one simple reason. He’s going to kill him.


Finalist – 2014 International Thriller Writers Awards – Best First Novel
Named one of the BEST BOOKS of 2013 by Suspense Magazine!
Top Ten Books of the Year – Authors on the Air



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