Many people say that 1939 was the greatest year in films. I agree it was a great year. It had some huge and memorable movies such as Gone With the Wind, Mr. Smith Goes to Washington, Stagecoach, and more. 1939 was also a year we won’t forget as it was the beginning of World War II. However, there’s a year, which is not only my favourite one but also one of the most influential ones, which brought up many changes and new things in cinema history, a year that was like a breath of fresh air: 1967. You’ll be surprised to know all the movies that were realized during this year and many of them are known by every classic film lovers : Bonnie & Clyde, The Graduate, Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner?, In the Heat of the Night, Les Demoiselles de Rochefort (Young Girls from Rochefort), Valley of Dolls, Cool Hand Luke, Wait Until Dark, The Dirty Dozen, Le Samourai, Two for the Road, Dr. Dolittle, In Cold Blood, The Jungle Book, To Sir, With Love and more. Just like 1939, 1967 was an important year, but also a turning point in the history of the 7th art.
I’ve decided to participate in The Classic Movie History Project hosted by Movies Silently, Once Upon a Screen and Silver Screenings. Well, some great blogs, best known for their amazing blogathons! This event is the occasion for us to write about a particular moment in movie history. That’s why I’m going to talk to you about 1967 in films. Of course, there are many great subjects to explore, but I chose this one, not only because it is my favourite year in films, but also because I want people to realize how important this year was.
1967 historically an important year, and not only for the film industry. It was one of those hippie years and right during the Vietnam War. But that’s not all. Many people were coming to Montreal, Canada for the famous Expo 67. My father attended this event at 11 years old. Even Princess Grace was here! I live in Montreal, and I would have loved to be there. In the music industry, The Beatles released their album Sgt Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band and David Bowie, his very first album. In medicine, the first heart transplant was realized. It’s a year that people won’t forget.
But let’s get back to our films. When we think of “most influential films of 1967”, the first ones that come to our minds are The Graduate, Bonnie & Clyde and Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner. Of course, they were all influential in their own ways. I can’t talk to you about all the films made in 1967. First, because I haven’t seen all of them and, second, because it will be too long. So, I’ll focus on six of them: In the Heat of the Night, The Graduate, Les Demoiselles de Rochefort, Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner?, Bonnie & Clyde and Cool Hand Luke.
The Graduate (Mike Nichols), story of a young man, Benjamin (Dusting Hoffman, who is seduced by his parent’s friend, Mrs Robinson (Anne Bancroft) and then falls in love with her daughter, Elaine (Katharine Ross) could be known as the “sexual revolution” film of 1967. This dramatic comedy indeed broke up a lot of taboos around sexuality in films. That was shown in different ways: the editing (let’s remember the subliminal shots of Mrs. Robinson’s breasts and belly). Also, simply the fact that we knew that the characters were having sexual relations or were talking about sex was something new. I mean, that was sometimes suggested in old classic films, but in a much more implicit way. This film also made a scandal because it involved an affair between a young 21 years old man and a mature woman. Well, Lolita, an earlier film, also approached this kind of thematic. The Graduate also had an impact on music history for its memorable soundtrack composed by Paul Simon and Art Garfunkel. Who is not familiar with the songs “The Sound of Silence” and “Mrs. Robinson”? Even if this film produced a scandal, it was a great a great success at the box office and among the critics.
A famous scene from the film
Bonnie & Clyde
If The Graduate was breaking the sexual taboos, Bonnie and Clyde (Arthur Penn) was breaking the violence taboos. This film tells the true story of Bonnie Parker (Faye Dunaway) and Clyde Barrow (Warren Beatty), two bank robbers of the early 30’s. Many times they succeed to escape the police, but were finally trapped in a police ambush in Louisiana and died riddled with bullets. Their crimes didn’t only involve bank robbery, but also murder as they killed many policemen. So, that’s how the violent side of this film was developed. Here, blood and gunshots aren’t hidden from the spectator. It’s shown in quite an explicit way. Of course, the most violent scene is the final one, when Bonnie and Clyde are killed by the police. What is quite terrible about this scene is the fact that they are literally transformed in skimmers. The police wanted to be REALLY sure they were dead. For Bonnie and Clyde, only one gunshot was enough to kill someone. Bonnie & Clyde is my favourite film of 1967.
Final scene of Bonnie & Clyde
Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner?
What was special about Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner (Stanley Kramer) was the fact that it is the story of a Caucasian girl, Joanna “Joey” (Katharine Houghton) and a black man, John (Sidney Poitier), who had fallen love together and now want to get married. However, John will marry Joey only if her parents, Christina (Katharine Hepburn) and Matt (Spencer Tracy) accept. This film was maybe the most beautiful and touching one of the year. It was a great revolution as the main theme is interracial marriage. At the time, this was illegal in 17 states until June 12, 1967. This film was pure brilliance as it makes us think about what real love is. Showing to people of the 60’s, living in a still quite racist country (USA), that, whatever color the persons are, if they love each other, this won’t stop their love to grow. One line in this film expresses this greatly, when John says to his father: “You see yourself as a colour man, but I see myself as a man”. Just like The Graduate and Bonnie & Clyde, Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner? was another box office success.
In the Heat of the Night
In the Heat of the Night ( Norman Jewison) was a little similar to Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner? for its main theme. It was another great Syndey Poitier’s film. It tells the story of Virgil Tibbs (Sidney Poitier), a black cop, who is involved in a murder investigation in a little town of the South where most of its citizens are racist. This film was one of the numerous ways to express the necessity of civil rights for the Afro-American people. When we first saw Sidney Poitier in the film, he is arrested by a cop who thinks he is a robber only because he has a lot of money on him, but also, because he has a different skin colour. Oh, and he also believes he is the murderer…Only he doesn’t ask him questions… Virgil Tibbs will work on the murder investigation with Bill Gillepsie (Rod Steiger) who will eventually understand that not only Caucasian men can be good cops. In the Heat of the Night won the Oscar for Best Picture. Sidney Poitier was also the first black actor to win an Oscar, for Lilies of the Field in 1964.
They call me MISTER TIBBS!
Cool Hand Luke
Cool Hand Luke was maybe a less “scandalous” movies, but it certainly was one of the best of 1967. After having destroyed some parking meters, Lucas “Luke” Jackson (Paul Newman) is condemned at 2 years of imprisonment and forced labor. Three times he will try to escape. He and Dragline (George Kennedy, winner of an Oscar for Best Supporting actor) will develop a complicity and Luke will also have to face the sadist captain of the jail (Strother Martin). Yes, there is some violence and some allusions to sex in this film, but nothing to compare with The Graduate and Bonnie & Clyde. Cool Hand Luke can easily be considered to be one of the greatest jail movies.
Les Demoiselles de Rochefort
We finally move to France with Les Demoiselles de Rochefort (Young Girls from Rochefort) a musical directed by Jacque Demy. That was maybe the most joyful film of the year. For the occasion, the walls of Rochefort were painted in pink, blue, yellow, etc. to accentuate the “joie de vivre”, one of the main themes of this film. The cast was quite marvelous, involving both French and American actors: Catherine Deneuve, Françoise Dorléac (Catherine Deneuve’s sister who unfortunately died in a car accident not long after shooting the film), Danielle Darrieux, George Chakiris, Grover Dale, Michel Piccoli, Jacque Perrin and even Gene Kelly! What’s special about this film is the fact that, if the golden age of musicals what at its end in Hollywood, it was the beginning of it in France. Of course, there were not many musicals realized in France, but some memorable ones. Jacque Demy was maybe the king of French musicals with movies like Les Parapluies de Cherbourg, Les demoiselles de Rochefort, Peau d’âne and Une chambre en ville. The excellent score of Les demoiselles de Rochefort was composed by Michel Legrand and the choreographies were created by Norman Maen. Of course, with George Chakiris and Gene Kelly, two excellent dancers, they couldn’t go wrong. What’s also special about this film is that it was both shot in French and English. I would like you to watch my favourite musical number of the film: “Nous voyageons de villes en villes”.
If 1967 movies were known for breaking some taboos, that’s because Production Code what at its end in Hollywood. This was the beginning of the “New Hollywood”. I haven’t talked about it, but let’s not forget The Jungle Book who was also made in 1967. That was Walt Disney last animated feature before its death.
I hope my article will make you want to see many 1967 films! Of course, don’t forget to read the other entries of the blogathon, a perfect to learn more about cinema history:
Today, I’m participating to a very creative and nice blogathon: the “And…Scene! Blogathon hosted by Sister Celluloid. This blogathon is the occasion for us, movie bloggers, to review, not an entire movie, but one precise movie scene, a scene we love, a scene we find interesting, a scene we can watch over and over, etc. I like that, because you may have notice that, in my movie reviews, I often talk about my favourite scenes of the film. Of course, choosing only one scene for this blogathon was not something easy, because there are so many movie scenes that I love! I have a playlist on iTube with some of my favourite movie moments (many from Bringing Up Baby!) so that was a good way to start my choice. I finally decided to go with the opening scene of To Be or Not to Be. It’s a scene I have, indeed, pleasure to watch over and over.
To Be or Not to Be is a comedy directed by Ernst Lubitsch is 1942 and starring Jack Benny and Carole Lombard in her last film before her tragic death. Of course, when we think of Carole Lombard, we think of comedy movie. Even if I haven’t seen a ton of her films, I’ve always felt that she was the Queen of Comedy. To Be or Not to Be takes place in Warsaw (Poland) at the beginning of the World War II. A troupe of stage actors is staging a play about Hitler. When the Germany invades Poland, the troupe will use its talent to save the Polish resistance.
During the opening scene, a narrator introduced us to the city of Warsaw by presenting different theatres. The country is still in peace and life seems quite normal for the citizens, but suddenly everybody stops what they are doing, they can’t believe what they are seeing: Adolf Hitler is walking alone on the street. How can that be possible? Then, with a flashback, we understand what happened. In the headquarters of the Gestapo, two nazi officers are reciving a little boy whose father had said funny things about Hitler. They gave him a little tank (just a toy) so it’s father will stop saying funny things about Hitler. But, very soon, we’ll discover that these are just the comedians repeating for the play about Hitler! That happens when Hitler (Mr. Bronski) makes his first entrance on stage and says “Heil Myself.” Then, the producer, Mr Dobosh, gets mad and asks him to respect the script. All the actors seems now that they have to give their point of view about the situation or the play in general. It’s a real chaos. Then, Mr. Dobosh realized Mr. Bronski is not quite convincing as Hitler. Insulted, Mr. Bronski tells him that he knows he looks like Hitler and will go on the street with his costume to see people’s reactions. So, that’s how “Hitler” got to walk alone in the streets of Warsaw. Of course, Mr. Bronski’s little comedy ends up when a little girl comes next to him and asks him “May I have your autograph Mr. Bronski?” And that’s the end of this part.
I will now invite you to watch this scene. Don’t worry, if you haven’t seen the film, there isn’t really spoilers as it is the beginning of the film.
What I like about this scene, it’s that it immediately makes me want to watch the rest of the film. It really is the perfect scene to grab your attention. Yes, this movie really begins in a strong way. It’s funny, it’s creative and it also has some great lines. Of course, this “Heil myself” gets me every time I heard it. I also like Carole Lombard’s entrance when she says to Mr. Dobosh “How do you like my dress?” in a very natural way while he is getting angry with Mr. Bronski who didn’t respect the script. The problem is that she’s supposed to play a prisoner in a concentration camp, but the dress she’s wearing is too fancy for that. Well, she thinks it will make a marvellous visual effect for the audience. This really is a typical “Carole Lombard’s moment”. Silly, but clever. One of my favourite lines in this part is also when Mr. Rawitch says “How dare you call me a ham?!” to Mr Greenberg who had just told him: “Mr. Rawitch, what you are I wouldn’t eat.” Of course, that’s completely absurd, but that’s what makes it so great.
What’s special about this film and this scene is its main themes: Hitler, the nazis, the war. Of course, we all know what awful things happened during this war, that Hitler and its Nazis were dreadful men and that it was not something to laugh at. Of course, To Be or Not to Be is a comedy, so that was, of course, a delicate thing to do. Well, the way Ernst Lubitsch directed it was pure brilliance and it gives us the right to laugh about it. Not about what Nazis did, I want to make myself clear about that, but about who they were and they’re ideology which was, of course, completely ridiculous.We also ought not to forget that this film was realized in 1942, so right during the war. At the time, people still didn’t know everything about Nazis’ and Hitler’s actions. Ernst Lubitsch said something quite interesting about this film and the main themes it involved:
“What I have satirized in this picture are the Nazis and their ridiculous ideology. I have also satirized the attitude of actors who always remain actors regardless how dangerous the situation might be, which I believe is a true observation. It can be argued if the tragedy of Poland realistically portrayed in To Be or Not to Be can be merged with satire. I believe it can be and so do the audience which I observed during a screening of To Be or Not to Be; but this is a matter of debate and everyone is entitled to his point of view…” (Ernst Lubitsch- IMDB)
So, he gave us the right to have our own point of view about this film. As a matter of fact, To Be or Not to Be will have to wait until 1960 to be projected on German screens. It’s one of these films that, we know, was not just something “innocent”. That makes me thing, the french title is interesting : Jeux Dangereux (that means “Dangerous Games”). It’s quite appropriated for the movie itself but also for what it involves. On my side, I think it’s one of the funniest and most intelligent and challenging film (and scene) ever made, but I think it can’t be strong enough to let us forget the horrendous things that happened during the World War II.
It was, of course, an honour to participate to this blogathon. I think it was a tremendous idea and it gave us many opportunities as there are so many great movie scenes to review. Of course, I invite you to read the other entries. You can simply click there: “And… Scene!” Blogathon.
See you soon with The Classic Movie History Project!