For some, the golden age of cinema is resigned to a chapter of a film textbook, or a category on Netflix. But for Wesley Emblidge, a senior visual and media arts major, the motion pictures of classic Hollywood are just as vibrant and newsworthy today as they were 75 years ago.
The Old Hollywood Times is an online publication and podcast created by Emblidge to cover the movies and events that shaped Hollywood in 1942.
The articles take an extensive look at the lasting legacy each film has made, while critiquing it. Every article headline is written in the present tense to give the illusion that the movies are hitting the theaters tomorrow.
Emblidge said he came up with the idea for the Old Hollywood Times a year ago, when he started to seriously consider what his directed study project for his major would be.
“At first, I thought I was going to do a podcast,” Emblidge said. “Part of the podcast would be me critiquing a movie, analyzing it, talking to a professor about a movie. But as I started working more, it evolved into a website that still has that reviewing component.”
Emblidge was advised by Miranda Banks, an associate professor in the visual and media arts department. He has worked closely with her to turn the Old Hollywood Times from an idea to the website it is today. Banks considers the project a “model” of what a visual and media arts capstone could look like in the future, and has enthusiastically supported Emblidge’s vision since the stages of early development.
“I thought that it was fantastic, and unbelievably ambitious,” Banks said. “His project combined so many of the skills that we in [visual and media arts] want our students to have, like the ability to do deep research into particular historical moments, the history of production.”
While Emblidge enjoys the critiquing aspect of the publication, he’s also devoted a section of the website to taking a deeper look at the industry itself. One article explores how Hollywood responded to the attacks on Pearl Harbor, while another analyzes the behind-the-scenes drama that caused a starlet’s movie to flop.
All of the features are heavily researched, which Emblidge said he enjoys. He said he’s discovered new resources that allow him to learn about the construction of a movie.
“I actually went to the Academy of Motion Pictures Library while I was in Los Angeles,” Emblidge said. “I was able to take a look at things like set memos, which really tell you about the production behind the movie, and how it was made, and how much it might have cost.”
Although Emblidge was already interested in learning about the history of the film industry prior to the Old Hollywood Times, his research was limited to the areas he found interesting. As his advisor, Banks pushed him to look at all aspects of film production.
“It’s lead to a lot of battles between us, and that’s been really fun,” Banks said. “I’ve tried to push Wesley beyond his areas of initial interest, to examine topics that were not his first or second love. His real love is stars and the war effort, and because of my own knowledge, I’m always pushing other areas that aren’t as explored, like distribution and race and representation.”
While Emblidge has used the Old Hollywood Times as a way to investigate and scrutinize the history of filmmaking, he said he’s also used the films of this time to gain a deeper understanding of how the country has evolved socially.
“I guess one of my biggest takeaways from watching all these really old movies is seeing the development of the role of women in society,” Emblidge said. “And it has—you hear some particularly sexist comments and you know that would never fly today.”
Emblidge plans to regularly update the Old Hollywood Times throughout the year, and release a podcast episode at least once a month.
Banks has found the experience of working on the newspaper to be just as exciting as Emblidge has, and considers it the product of not only Emblidge’s own hard work and creativity, but a successful partnership as well.
“A directed study is a partnership between a student and a faculty member, and when it goes well, it leads to something pretty amazing,” Banks said. “This is really something special, he’s created something thrilling. [The Old Hollywood Times] is imminently readable.”