The decade began with Doris Day and Rock Hudson as America’s most beloved sweethearts. And it ended with Dennis Hopper and Peter Fonda as the nation’s most beloved chopper-riding druggies. What a long, strange trip, indeed. Along the way, the 1960s were as tumultuous at the movies as they were on the streets, with the counterculture battling the mainstream for predominance on the screen (Hello, Dolly! versus The Wild Bunch, True Grit versus Midnight Cowboy). Of course, if you actually remember partaking of the decade’s psychedelic cinema explosion, then you didn’t truly experience it. Now that you’ve sobered up, check them out on video.
Janet Leigh showers in Psycho: June 16, 1960
Today, it would be so easy: Strip the actress down, chuck her into the tub, and stab away. But when Alfred Hitchcock filmed Janet Leigh’s Psycho shower scene 40 years ago, any trace of nudity or weapon penetration was forbidden. Psycho’s most impressive trickery — beyond the shock of killing a big-name star 47 minutes into the movie — was in Hitchcock’s camera and editing work during the sequence (perhaps the most analyzed in history), creating a mind-blowing What did I just see? effect that forever changed the way movies scare us.
”That is where Mr. Hitchcock was such a genius,” says Leigh. ”He had the ability to lead the audience to the point where they took over and actually finished the creation. A friend and I were talking at this dinner recently and she said, ‘Oh, I’ll never forget the knife going in and the blood spurting all over.’ And I said, ‘I rest my case.’ ” Leigh remains spooked to this day as well. ”I’ve never taken a shower since,” she says. ”Literally.”
#2 Moment West Side Story’s Natalie Wood — and audiences — weep for a dying Tony: Oct. 18, 1961
Does it take a peeled onion to make you cry? See how long you stay dry-eyed during the reprise of the heartbreaking ”Somewhere,” Maria’s farewell to her beloved Tony in West Side Story, one of the last truly great movie musicals. Unfortunately, some of the cast weren’t up to the rigorous score, including Natalie Wood, so Marni Nixon (who dubbed Deborah Kerr in The King and I and Audrey Hepburn in My Fair Lady) was called in to sing for Maria. ”They didn’t tell Natalie at first that I was dubbing her, because they were scared she’d walk off the set,” says Nixon, who found the score as moving as the audience did. Well, almost: ”I was ordered to cry when we sang ‘One Hand, One Heart.’ It was a little hard to sustain so much sadness.” Rank 47
America embraces Italy’s sexual revolution: 1961-63
Back when Roberto Benigni was a bambino, we had our first love affair with Italy. It was the early ’60s, and America was in its repressed, pre-Age of Aquarius phase, while Italy, says Italian-American author Gay Talese, was ”infusing postwar upheaval into pure sexuality.” Films like Federico Fellini’s 8 1/2, Pietro Germi’s Divorce — Italian Style, and Vittorio De Sica’s Two Women brought such torrid stars as Marcello Mastroianni and Sophia Loren to our full attention, and we liked what we saw. As Loren, who won an Oscar for Two Women, puts it, ”Sexiness was a stimulating subject.” Adds Talese: ”Back then, our film ratings people wouldn’t allow a man and woman in the same bed. These films liberated a lot of men of Bill Clinton’s age.” Rank 60
November 1963: Birth of the Hollywood press junket: United Artists flies in journalists to do press on It’s a Mad Mad Mad Mad World.
April 23, 1964: Peter Sellers bows as Inspector Clouseau in The Pink Panther. He’ll reprise the bumbling detective role five times.
Summer 1966: Shaking fans and stirring up press, Sean Connery announces that You Only Live Twice will be his last pass as 007.
Nov. 8, 1966: Former actor Ronald Reagan is elected governor of California.
Dec. 15, 1966: Walt Disney dies of complications from a lung tumor, just 10 days after his 65th birthday. Rumors of his body being cryogenically frozen are proven untrue.
Dec. 18, 1966: Feature films go full-frontal, part I: A glimpse of a nude woman is seen in Blow-Up.
April 1967: Aspiring director Oliver Stone enlists in the Army. His tour inspires three screenplays, including Platoon.
June 29, 1967: B-movie starlet Jayne Mansfield is killed in a car crash.
Fall 1968: Nixing med school, future uber-agent Mike Ovitz becomes a trainee at the William Morris Agency, working as a mail sorter and errand boy.
Oct. 11, 1968: The sci-fi sexploitation flick Barbarella features an opening-credit striptease by Jane Fonda. The film becomes a cult hit.
Nov. 6, 1968: No wonder they got the funniest looks: The Monkees make their film debut in the incomprehensible Head, scripted by Jack Nicholson and Bob Rafelson.
Dec. 15, 1968: Robert De Niro makes his debut as a leading man in Brian De Palma’s X-rated draft-dodger comedy, Greetings.
March 10, 1969: After lengthy legal entanglements, I Am Curious (Yellow) makes its U.S. debut. The “dirty movie” sets box office records in New York.
Aug. 19, 1969: Woody Allen’s directorial debut, Take the Money and Run, opens in Manhattan.
Aug. 27, 1969: Feature films go full-frontal, part II: On the tail of Yellow, Robert Forster and Marianna Hill appear nude in Medium Cool.
Name: Jack Lemmon
Oscar wins: Best Supporting Actor, Mister Roberts (1955); Best Actor, Save the Tiger (1973)
Oscar Nominations: Best Actor, Some Like It Hot (1959), The Apartment (1960), Days of Wine and Roses (1962), The China Syndrome (1979), Tribute (1980), Missing (1982)
Moment we love: “Ahh… oh no…aghh…ahhh!” Felix Ungar has a back spasm in The Odd Couple (1968).
Name: Rod Steiger
Oscar win: Best Actor, In the Heat of the Night (1967)
Oscar nominatinos: Best Supporting Actor, On the Waterfront (1954); Best Actor, The Pawnbroker (1965)
Moment we love: Police chief Gillespie’s simmering racism finally boils over as he confronts Sidney Poitier’s Virgil Tibbs in In the Heat of the Night.
Name: Jon Voight
Oscar win: Best Actor, Coming Home (1978)
Oscar nominations: Best Actor, Midnight Cowboy (1969), Runaway Train (1985)
Moment we love: The conclusion of Midnight Cowboy, when naive hustler Joe Buck cradles his dead friend and mentor Ratso Rizzo on a Florida-bound bus.
Dr. Strangelove goes boom: Jan. 30, 1964
When Stanley Kubrick’s Cold War fable, Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb, hit theaters, its premise—what would happen if an insane U.S. general ordered a nuclear attack on the Soviet Union?—set off shock waves coast to coast. Even more outrageous was Kubrick’s treatment of this scenario as fodder for the most frighteningly funny black comedy ever seen. “It was the first time anybody stuck their neck out that far with a subject that taboo,” says director Sydney Pollack. “I remember watching it the first time, seeing Slim Pickens riding that bomb, thinking, How does somebody think that up?” Thirty-five years later, Kubrick’s cautionary cataclysm has lost none of its megaton kick. Rank 45
The Beatles run for their lives: Aug. 11, 1964
By spring 1964, John, Paul, George, and Ringo were well versed in the rigors of international fame. But according to A Hard Day’s Night director Richard Lester, they had no idea what making a movie would get them into. “Basic logistics were impossible,” Lester says, especially on London’s Beatlemania-stricken streets. “As soon as I had them run to their marks and do a scene, 2,000 crazed fans would appear, popping up out of manhole covers. Then the police would crash down and say, ‘Piss off!’ We’d have to find another location to do take two. Then the whole bloody thing would start again.” So how does Lester feel about being the father of music video? “I demand a blood test.” Rank 94
McCalls fires Pauline Kael: May 1966
In ’66, Kael had yet to be recognized as the most insightful movie critic of our era. Back then, she was writing about films for the women’s glossy McCall’s. After panning the hit musical The Sound of Music, she was dismissed by then editor Robert Stein (he called her reviews inappropriate “for a mass-audience magazine”). “Apparently, they thought my material was too sophisticated, or too something or other, for their readers,” says Kael. “It was also said that I was costing them advertisers.” She spent a year at The New Republic before being hired by The New Yorker, where for 24 years she would make her mark. As Kael herself dryly remarks, “It certainly turned out well.” Rank 72
Richard Burton and Elizabeth Taylor shout a blue streak: June 22, 1966
Released with an R-like age restriction, Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? is the film that led to the creation of the ratings system. The sensational reception accorded Edward Albee’s play gave comedian-turned-first-time director Mike Nichols license to use language never heard in a studio movie—and to put it in the mouths of the world’s most famous couple. “We’d do two and three takes where various degrees of expletives were said,” recalls cinematographer Haskell Wexler, “to allow the editor and studio flexibility.” Nowadays, the language may seem tame, but Taylor and Burton’s scary nonstop verbal skirmishes still make Woolf the ultimate domestic horror film. Rank 87
Heat’s Sidney Poitier demands we call him Mr. Tibbs: Aug. 2, 1967
At a pivotal time in the civil rights movement, Poitier’s defiant declaration of identity electrified audiences (it was even used as the title of a 1970 sequel). But just as daring was Rod Steiger’s bitter Mississippi sheriff. Steiger, who won an Oscar for his role, says neither actor thought his character should morally trump the other: “They were like two gunfighters who learn to respect each other through their actions.” In the Heat of the Night‘s social significance helped propel it past Bonnie and Clyde and The Graduate for Best Picture, but the film endures best as a taut murder mystery. It “entertains first and delivers a message second,” says Steiger. “The way it’s supposed to be.” Rank 88
Bonnie and Clyde blows critics and moviegoers away: Aug. 13, 1967
Arthur Penn’s elegiac, bloody Bonnie and Clyde shot movies into a violent adulthood—and helped film criticism grow up. A week after calling the film “squalid,” Newsweek’s Joe Morgenstern did the unthinkable. “I saw it again, and the audience was going berserk,” he says. “I realized I’d blown it.” The next issue published a mea culpa: “I am sorry to say I consider that review grossly unfair and regrettably inaccurate. I am sorrier to say I wrote it.” Says star-producer Warren Beatty: “He put his ass on the line. We didn’t know each other, and people thought, What’d you do to that guy? But when a movie doesn’t live up to what you think it is, you tend to think it failed…. The fact is, you shouldn’t have all those criteria.” Rank 23
Dustin Hoffman submerges himself in The Graduate: DEC. 21, 1967
For a generation adrift in the sea of possibilities that was the ’60s, the image of Hoffman scuba diving aimlessly in his parents’ pool remains an enduring one. Like so many of us, his character was in over his head—infected with a serious case of postcollege blues and some sticky love problems. We could relate to this curiously sexy nebbish. So could Hollywood, which saw in this quirky persona nothing less than the future. “Dustin wasn’t a typical handsome leading man,” says Katharine Ross, who played Elaine. “But you felt he was real. He gave everyone hope that you didn’t have to be gorgeous to succeed—or to get the girl.” Rank 44
#6 MOMENT Stanley Kubrick looks ahead to 2001: April 3, 1968
In one of the great edits in movie history, 2001: A Space Odyssey jumps from the Dawn of Man to the dawn of space-age filmmaking. The scene, in which a bone thrown skyward by an ape dissolves into the image of a futuristic spacecraft, is a metaphor for the arc of human existence. It’s also downright cool. Space had never been pictured so realistically. Classical music—in particular, Strauss’ “Blue Danube”—had rarely been put to such elegant use. In short, 2001 lived up to Kubrick’s high-art motto, “If it can be written or thought, it can be filmed.” Not that everyone liked it. (Pauline Kael called it “the biggest amateur movie of them all.”) But the public was drawn deeper. Says star Keir Dullea: “I remember a guy running down the aisle during a screening. He ran right through the screen screaming ‘It’s God!’ ” Kubrick would have approved.
Charlton Heston sees the Statue of Liberty and goes Ape: Feb. 8, 1968
“You maniacs! You blew it up! Damn you!” Heston’s histrionics in front of a fragmented Lady Liberty at the end of Planet of the Apes may have been the decade’s most shocking surprise ending (not to mention a great bit of neck-slapping, teeth-grinding acting). But—damn you all to hell!—don’t expect Heston, 75, to do it again. “Absolutely not,” the actor says of appearing in a long-planned, long-delayed remake (rumored to be on Armageddon director Michael Bay’s to-do list). “I might consider playing Dr. Zaius if the make-up wasn’t so difficult, but I’d charge them an obscene amount of money.” Rank 92
Funny lady Barbra Streisand stars in Funny Girl: Sept. 19, 1968
A spunky Jewish girl from New York gets a lucky break into showbiz and never looks back. That’s the plot of Funny Girl, and the trajectory of its star as well. When Streisand bolted from Broadway to reprise her role as Fanny Brice in William Wyler’s musical film adaptation, she earned herself a tie for Best Actress (“I didn’t want to win and I didn’t want to lose,” she says). “I resisted [Columbia’s] request to cast a more traditional movie star in the lead role,” says the film’s producer, Ray Stark. “I told them if they didn’t want Barbra I would take it to another studio. There were no more arguments after that.” Rank 75
John Cassavetes creates the independent film: Nov. 24, 1968
It was a year for shocks to the system, from assassinations to riots. But the helter-skelter mood of 1968 set the perfect stage for Faces, the cinematic hand grenade that writer-director Cassavetes called an “expression of horror at our society.” The blueprint for DIY filmmaking—Cassavetes financed Faces out of his pocket, shot it in his own home, and cast wife Gena Rowlands and buddy Seymour Cassel in key roles—this grainy portrait of lonely, lecherous Angelenos blazed a trail for the indie revolution to follow. “People were incredibly impressed,” Cassel remembers, “but a lot were scared of it.” Rank 32
The Wild Bunch shoot-out pushes the bloody envelope: June 18, 1969
Three decades before Steven Spielberg earned Oscars for his stomach-churning assault on Omaha Beach, Sam Peckinpah was getting raked over the coals for Bunch‘s blood-soaked slow-motion finale. If any genre seemed ill equipped to grapple with the senseless violence of the assassin-mad ’60s, it was the Western. But Peckinpah changed all that with an unheard-of number of bullet squibs, gallons of stage blood, and slabs of steak rigged to shred like flesh. Was it a harrowing message against gun violence, or just a nihilistic orgy of carnage? The critics were split. But, says Wild Bunch star Ernest Borgnine, “we didn’t see it as radical at all. The whole point was how terrible violence can be—it’s about how men treat other men.” Rank 62
Best Picture Oscar winners
1960 The Apartment
1961 West Side Story
1962 Lawrence of Arabia
1963 Tom Jones
1964 My Fair Lady
1965 The Sound of Music
1966 A Man for all Seasons
1967 In the Heat of the Night
1969 Midnight Cowboy
Beyond the top-10
A selective guide to some other ’60s treasures
1. What Ever Happened to Baby Jane? (1962) Robert Aldrich’s unhinged comedy-horror about a couple of ex-movie star sisters is macabre camp of the highest quality.
2. The Manchurian Candidate (1962) John Frankenheimer’s gripping thriller captures all the paranoia of a nervous American society freaked by the Cold War.
3. 8 1/2 (1963) Federico Fellini’s gaudy carnival of self-analysis defines Felliniesque; later it became a cinematic bible for Woody Allen.
4. The Pink Panther (1964) In a decade of sleuth-caper flicks, the inspired bumbling of Peter Sellers tweaked the genre and established a new one: the smart spoof.
5. Blow-Up (1966) Cool work from Michelangelo Antonioni on a subject that has only become hotter: the passive/active bond between watcher and watched.
6. The Good, the Bad and the Ugly (1966) The spaghetti Western perfected by Sergio Leone was never tastier, thanks to Clint Eastwood, and Ennio Morricone’s spicy film score.
7. Point Blank (1967) From John Boorman, a beautifully astringent thriller that’s utterly American in look (all that ’60s burnt umber), pace, and Lee Marvin grit.
8. Two for the Road (1967) A snapshot of romantic and marital possibilities—if only we could be Albert Finney and Audrey Hepburn—with Stanley Donen’s signature touch.
9. Vixen! (1968) From porny auteur Russ Meyer, a small-budget, big-breasted encyclopedia of id-driven schlock that’s like a peek into Everyslob’s basement.
10. My Night at Maud’s (1969) An exemplary, intelligent, characteristically talky self-described “moral tale” from the compassionate Eric Rohmer.
Best of the Rest
Best entrance: Elizabeth Taylor riding into Rome in Cleopatra
Best exit: Gert Frobe getting sucked out of an airplane window in Goldfinger
Best performance while being attacked by a giant white corpuscle: Raquel Welch in Fantastic Voyage
Best nuclear nightmare: Fail Safe
Best breakfast: Paul Newman eating 50 eggs in Cool Hand Luke
Best date movie: Doctor Zhivago
Best movie if you can’t get a date: Barbarella
Best wild-party scene: Breakfast at Tiffany’s
Best couple (off screen): Liz and Dick; (on screen) Liz and Dick
Best opening credits: Ann-Margret’s blue-screen number in Bye Bye Birdie
Best (Italian) Western: The Good, the Bad and the Ugly
Best dad: Gregory Peck in To Kill a Mockingbird
Best mom: Mia Farrow in Rosemary’s Baby
Best backstabbing bitches: Bette Davis and Joan Crawford in What Ever Happened to Baby Jane?
Best Nazi: Kenneth Mars in The Producers
Best improv: Jack Nicholson’s “Venusians” riff in Easy Rider
Best astronaut movie: The Reluctant Astronaut
Best friends: Bob & Carol & Ted & Alice
Best death: Warren Beatty and Faye Dunaway in Bonnie and Clyde
1. “Mama, face it: I was the slut of all time.”
2. “Honey, the only question I ever ask any woman is ‘What time is your husband coming home?’ ”
3. “Cutting off her nipples with a pair of garden shears. You call that normal?”
4. “We rob banks.”
5. “Hitler was better-looking than Churchill…a better dresser than Churchill, he had more hair, he told funnier jokes, and he could dance the pants off Churchill!”
6. “I want him to know the sneaky, subtle, important reason he was born a human being—and not a chair.”
7. “No, Mr. Bond. I expect you to die.”
8. “What we have here is a failure to communicate.”
9. “Take your stinkin’ paws off me, you damned dirty ape!”
10. “Gentlemen, you can’t fight in here. This is the War Room!”
11. “Mother…isn’t quite herself today.”
12. “I didn’t bring your breakfast because you didn’t eat’cher din-din.”
13. “Hello, gorgeous.”
14. ” ‘We are all out of cornflakes. F.U.’ Took me three hours to figure out that F.U. was Felix Unger.”
15. “Kid, the next time I say ‘Let’s go someplace like Bolivia,’ let’s go someplace like Bolivia!”
Who said ’em
1. Elizabeth Taylor (Butterfield 8) 2. Paul Newman (Hud) 3. Elizabeth Taylor (Reflections in a Golden Eye) 4. Warren Beatty (Bonnie and Clyde) 5. Kenneth Mars (The Producers) 6. Jason Robards (A Thousand Clowns) 7. Gert Frobe (Goldfinger) 8. Strother Martin (Cool Hand Luke) 9. Charlton Heston (Planet of the Apes) 10. Peter Sellers (Dr. Strangelove) 11. Anthony Perkins (Psycho) 12. Bette Davis (What Ever Happened to Baby Jane?) 13. Barbra Streisand (Funny Girl) 14. Walter Matthau (The Odd Couple) 15. Paul Newman (Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid)
January 1960: Roger Corman shoots the camp-fest Little Shop of Horrors in just two days. (P.S.: That’s Jack Nicholson as the dental patient.)
Jan. 26, 1960: Ocean’s Eleven, the first movie from the Rat Pack, goes before the cameras in — where else? — Las Vegas.
1960: Spartacus’ “snails and oysters” scene is deemed homoerotic and snipped out.
Jan. 20, 1961: Marriage-on-the-rocks rumors prove true when Marilyn Monroe and playwright Arthur Miller call it quits.
March 1961: Chill Wills’ supporting-actor nomination for The Alamo begins an over-the-top Oscar campaign in the industry trades. Considered tacky at the time, the guerrilla tactics soon become business as usual.
July 19, 1961: Aiming a Bell & Howell projector at a screen, TWA shows the first regular in-flight movie, Lana Turner’s By Love Possessed.
May 1962: A hit in My Fair Lady on Broadway, Julie Andrews is snubbed when producer Jack Warner casts Audrey Hepburn — whose singing is dubbed by Marni Nixon — in the film.
Oct. 24, 1962: The political-assassination thriller The Manchurian Candidate debuts. A year later, star Frank Sinatra pulls the film because of its purported resemblance to the JFK slaying.
The going rate: 1966
Avg. Ticket Price: 87 cents
Avg. Movie Budget: $1.65 mil
Style: From Raquel Welch’s fur bikini to Apes’ monkey suits, ’60s flicks provided hair-raising fashions
Best beachwear: Ursula Andress’ bikini in Dr. No
Best winter wear: Raquel Welch’s fur bikini in One Million Years B.C.
Best Western wear: Jon Voight’s jacket in Midnight Cowboy
Best evening wear (formal): Elizabeth Taylor in Cleopatra
Best evening wear (informal): Janet Leigh’s bra and slip in Psycho
Best school clothes: Sue Lyon in Lolita
Best accessory: Julie Andrews’ umbrella in Mary Poppins
Best star vehicle: Steve McQueen’s car in Bullitt
Best drag queen: Anthony Perkins in Psycho
Best drag queen (female): Bette Davis in What Ever Happened to Baby Jane?
Best hair: Mia Farrow’s pixie cut in Rosemary’s Baby
Most hair: Roddy McDowall and Kim Hunter in Planet of the Apes
Mike Myers’ Five Most Shagadelic ’60s Movies
Casino Royale, 1967 “Peter Sellers is hilarious. Ursula Andress is outrageously sexy. Woody Allen is hysterical. Burt Bacharach’s soundtrack is genius. It was a happening.”
The Party, 1968 “Peter Sellers’ masterpiece about Hollywood. It’s an amazing artifact: a movie told through booze drinkers’ eyes.”
The Thomas Crown Affair, 1968 “Faye Dunaway is crazy sexy, and I love the heist genre. Steve McQueen is the coolest guy ever, which is why there’s a lot of his clothes in Austin Powers’ closet.”
Dr. Strangelove, 1964 “Peter Sellers is a tour de force. Anybody who can play three characters the way he does has a true gift.”
2001: A Space Odyssey, 1968 “Stanley Kubrick is amazingly shagadelic. My father’s biggest regret was that he didn’t take me to see this movie. He thought it was pure poetry. I do too.”
Legends … Vanessa Redgrave
Resume: 61 films, 1 Academy Award, 6 nominations
Most recently: Plays a psychiatrist in James Mangold’s Girl, Interrupted and a countess in Tim Robbins’ Cradle Will Rock, both opening in December.
Relatives in the biz: Parents Michael Redgrave and Rachel Kempson, siblings Lynn and Corin Redgrave, daughters Natasha and Joely Richardson, son Carlo Sparanero
How she does it: Intensity. Unpredictability. Complete commitment. What characterizes Redgrave as an activist is what characterizes her as an actress—and what has kept viewers riveted for 35 years. The secret? As with all of the greats, it’s in the eyes, and the voice, the body, the brain. Let others talk of their talent as an “instrument.” Redgrave’s is an orchestra.
Real people: Isadora Duncan, Mary Queen of Scots, Agatha Christie, Renee Richards, Oscar Wilde’s mother, concentration-camp survivor Fania Fenelon
Fictional Greats: A genteel dying mother in Howards End, the introspective title character in Mrs. Dalloway, Olive Chancellor in The Bostonians, Jean Travers in David Hare’s Wetherby
Just for fun: Played Joan Crawford’s role in a TV remake of What Ever Happened to Baby Jane? opposite her sister; played Tea Leoni’s mom in Deep Impact; mopped the floor with Tom Cruise in Mission: Impossible