Sorry, Alfred Hitchcock, that script needs a tweak. Impressive structure, Frank Capra, but there's been a technical glitch. Actually, a technology glitch.
Some of the greatest films of all time probably wouldn't be greenlighted today without some serious script doctoring because the advent of modern technology has removed the feasibility of the plot points that so many of them turn on. Consider what would happen to these classics if they were made today:
—"It Happened One Night" (1934)
The setup: In this Oscar winner from Frank Capra, Peter (Clark Gable) is a recently fired newspaper reporter who meets heiress Ellie (Claudette Colbert), who is on the lam after a fight with her father. Set and filmed during the Depression, the comedy features Ellie bribing Peter to keep her whereabouts secret.
The 2011 knockdown: In this day and age, Ellie Andrews would be a cottage industry for TMZ, National Enquirer photographers and Nancy Grace. Her photo would be all over CNN. In fact, rich girls who have fights with Dad don't try to hide, they merely post it on Facebook.
—"Sorry, Wrong Number" (1948)
The setup: Bedridden Mrs. Stevenson (Barbara Stanwyck) is somehow connected to a phone call between two men planning a murder — a party line, perhaps? Turns out, they're talking about her murder. She spends much of the movie on the line to an operator and, of course, she's upstairs, so when the killer knocks the phone downstairs off the hook, she's out of luck.
The 2011 knockdown: Give her a cellphone plan with anytime minutes and 911 on speed dial and there's no movie.
—"North by Northwest" (1959)
The setup: In this Alfred Hitchcock masterpiece, Roger (Cary Grant) realizes during a business lunch at the Plaza Hotel that he must relay a message to his mother, and therefore must send her a telegram. (For readers born after the Clinton impeachment, Google "Western Union.") With unfortunate timing, he flags down a bellboy who is paging someone else at the time, leading to an identity mix-up and his kidnapping by foreign spies.
The 2011 knockdown: What successful businessman would leave the office without his 4G smartphone?
—"The Terminator" (1984)
The setup: One of the first things the futuristic machine (Arnold Schwarzenegger) does after warping back in time is go to a phone booth and tear the Sarah Connor listings out of the white pages to track down the future mother of the rebel leader.
The 2011 knockdown: Good luck finding a phone booth in L.A. today — especially one with a current phone book.