Old films make me smile and even though film making has evolved, many old movies endure and are current despite the passage of time.
Case in point: Mildred Pierce starring Joan Crawford. So somebody uses a rotary phone instead of a cell phone. Big deal. The situational conflicts are timeless. Mildred indulges her spoiled child to the point of excess and then ultimately, destruction. I see parents every day over-indulging disrespectful unappreciative kids. I know a lady who can't pay her utilities but her 12 year old daughter gets her hair colored and cut, her nails done, and her eyebrows waxed every month. Just yesterday, the parents spent their grocery money to get the girl her third new cell phone since Christmas. "What am I supposed to do?" asked the mother, "It wasn't her fault somebody spilled a drink on her phone and she's got to be able to call me because we can't afford a house phone."
On the flip side, when I was watching The Damned Don't Cry, another Joan Crawford film, I was struck by the opposite. The film doesn't translate today and it's not the lack of 3D or CGI. The gold digging seducer is unconvincing and the gangster element is even less believable for today's audience. I am unable to overlook the dated cars, guns, and phones the way I do in films like Mildred Pierce, Sunset Boulevard, and All About Eve. Everything about The Damned Don't Cry has me stuck in 1950 and the dialogue bounces between stale and on-the-nose to somebody-please-make-it-stop. The bloodless acrobatic shootings don't even render a bullet hole and remind me of Bugs Bunny saying "you got me, Doc, you got me." Part of my reaction may have been brought about by my recent viewing of Johnny Depp's Public Enemies. In fairness, there is no comparison. But the point is that The Damned Don't Cry was probably a great film in its day. Today is no longer that day.
A lot has changed in 60 years. But, a lot has not. Those films that capture the "a lot has not" are timeless and have eternal themes. They are the ones that have sipped from the cinematic fountain of youth.