6 from the ’60s Blogathon for National Classic Movie Day @classic_film #NationalClassicMovieDay

I’m coming so late to this party. But I just had to add my 6 cents once I saw that Classic Film and TV Cafe was hosting a 60’s blogathon. Here are my six favorite films from the decade.

The Birds:
My first official viewing from Hitchcock’s Masterpiece Collection. I remember thinking The Birds was probably going to read a little cheesy. Boy was I wrong. I was terrified through the entire film. The idea of taking a common creature in real life (bird) and turning flocks of them into a terrifying killing machine beats any supernatural premise Hollywood has ever tried to dish out as horror. The Birds is the real deal. Tippi Hendren is resplendent as the lead character Melanie, a mixture of ingenuity and poise. I couldn’t help but wonder if she named her daughter after this character? Rod Taylor is the quintessential rugged all-American male. A guy who loves and respects his mother but can also charm the pants off nearly anyone he sets his sights on. Suzanne Pleshette and Jessica Tandy round out the cast but the real stars are of course the birds. After all the modern CGI special effects, there’s nothing quite so satisfying as a good old-fashioned film where they use real and artificial birds. In a world before computer animation, it was a stunning feat to witness the terror created by the film crew. Hitchcock really hit The Birds out of the park. An easy 5 out of 5. Well-deserving of a spot in his Masterpiece Collection. Oh and the outdoor shots of California in the early 60’s are stunning. Watch it again sometime when you’re in the mood for a good, old-fashioned fright!

Funny Girl:
After watching Glee and listening to Lea Michele’s amazing rendition of the Streisand classic, Don’t Rain on my Parade, I just had to go back and watch Funny Girl again. In academia we call this a primary source. And this primary source is truly a perfect film. Streisand stole the show of course, her debut in Hollywood. She couldn’t have been paired up with anyone better at the time. Director William Wyler is famous for too many movies to list here, but my favorite is, The Best Years of our Lives. Omar Sharif was the most popular leading man of the 1960’s coming off of nearly 15 years of acting including Lawrence of Arabia (1962) and Dr. Zhivago (1965) which made him a household name. Three years later he scored again in a musical of all things. And his look still translates after 40 years… Nicky Arnstein’s devastatingly handsome, all but his hair part which looks a bit odd. Don’t Rain on my Parade was shot in Hoboken, N.J. (across from Manhattan) for a quarter of a million dollars. The real beauty of this scene in 2010 is how incredible it looks knowing there is no CGI. It’s all real. No CGI. They all just worked really hard and spent a lot of money to make it a perfect scene. The other stand-out for me was the sunset scene in Baltimore where Fanny and Nick kiss. It’s obvious that’s really a sunset. It interferes with the camera. It’s hard to re-create that artificially. Such a gorgeous film. Streisand is a mammoth talent. I still to this day look at her and am overwhelmed by her beauty. Funny Girl is the rare film that transferred seamlessly from stage to screen. A truly perfect film experience.

In the Heat of the Night:
Another powerful, classic, first-timer for me. 1967’s In the Heat of the Night stars Sidney Poitier and Rod Steiger and directed by Norman Jewison rightfully earned its place in classic cinema as a searing portrait of American race relations in the turbulent 1960’s South. Poitier plays a homicide detective from Philadelphia who gets pulled into a murder investigation in his mother’s tiny town of Sparta, Mississippi . Did Jane Campion’s Top of the Lake get their inspiration from In the Heat of the Night? Based on a novel by John Ball, the adaptation is a tightly written, harrowing suspense story not about finding the murderer, but whether the bigoted white men of Sparta will kill Poitier’s Virgil Tibbs before he discovers the culprit. Unbelievable and despicable the amount of stress, bullying, harassment, hatred, suspicion and violence African-Americans lived with and continue to live with in many circumstances. In the Heat of the Night is a must-see for anyone interested in outstanding American cinema, race relations in the deep South during the 1960’s, or lovers of classic suspense dramas with a twist. 5 out of 5 for this timeless piece of cinematic history.

The Killing of Sister George:
So happy I saved the lesbian classic, The Killing of Sister George to watch for the first time during my 30 days of Gay Pride film reviews. What a crazy, horrific, sexy and hopeful film it turned out to be. Ordering the DVD from Netflix, I had no idea what I was getting myself into. George and Charlie (groan on the male names for female leads) played to perfection by Beryl Reid and Suzannah York acted more like George and Martha from Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? most of the time – especially title character George. There are crazy parts to this film like Charlie’s doll collection and her obsession with their presence making the older women appear pedophilic. There are horrific scenes of fighting between George and Charlie and in particular a scene where Charlie screams – “we’re not married” to excuse her behavior for not being connected or committed to George. In their defense, it’s a year before Stonewall – 1968 and George is a popular soap opera star – close to 50 years old – everyone’s favorite asexual nurse on tellie. Charlie’s 20 years her junior. Their lives are filled with self-loathing and internalized homophobia and yet they live a fairly open life together considering the times and George’s celebrity. The sexy parts peak during the lesbian nightclub scene. I can only imagine women in theaters everywhere creaming over the groovy, crowded club filled with butch/femme couples dancing slow and sexy, fast and crazy for the first time ever on the big screen. Then there’s the first kiss between George and Charlie – sweet and deliberate and center framed. The sex scene between Charlie and Mercy obviously gave the film its X rating when first released. Today that scene would be a tepid R rating. Nipple sucking can be hot, but it’s certainly not x-rated. Hearing the word lesbian and dyke out of the mouth of a lesbian character must have also been shockingly exciting. I know I cheered and hooted. It’s context after all. Of course there’s self-loathing. The Boys in the Band is The Killing of Sister George‘s male compliment. Both films are full of self-loathing. Yet George ends the film with a definite kernel of hope. She is nothing if not a survivor. She may be a raging drunk, but she manages to take care of herself and do what she needs to do to survive. I loved The Killing of Sister George. I am sure I wouldn’t have loved it as much in my youth. Like The Boys in the Band, these stereotypes were too close to the generation before me and I wanted a happier, more self-loving group of gay people to represent me. With time and distance however, I can see how films like these broke boundaries and paved the way for kinder, more authentic versions of our lives written and created by lesbians and gay men. The Killing of Sister George rocked my world. I laughed and cheered at the end. 5 out of 5 for this historical, classic 60’s drama.

The Music Man: 
Meredith Wilson’s smash Broadway hit The Music Man became an equally smash movie over 50 years ago in 1962.  Most of you know I’m not a big fan of musicals, but I make an exception for certain shows/films – White Christmas, Rent, Victor Victoria, Hedwig and the Angry Inch, Once, and The Commitments come to mind. You also know my history with The Partridge Family and so I thought it would be fun to revisit The Music Man starring Mama Partridge herself, Shirley Jones and my old pal from Victor Victoria, Robert Preston. The Music Man is classic Broadway musical and the film version certainly does it justice. In addition to powerhouse performances from Preston and Jones, The Music Man features Hermione Gingold, Buddy Hackett, Ron Howard, Mary Wickes, and Charles Lane. The best numbers are the big group sing-alongs, Iowa Stubborn, Wells Fargo Wagon, and the silly Shipoopi. Yes, there’s misogeny fairly rampant throughout the show or at least sprinkled in enough to remind you River City still lives in a patriarchal world. Shirley Jones singing Till There Was You sends chills up my spine. Somehow Robert Preston remained at his level of performance 20 years later in Victor Victoria. How does someone sustain such excellence? On a superficial note, there’s also lots of cute dancer boys in tight pants – very tight pants – go 1962! Timmy Everett in particular really knew how to work it. Hard to believe The Music Man is over 50 years old. A 50 year film about a time 100 years ago. Somehow it still works. Credit the creative team behind the original musical – Meredith Wilson and the film’s director Morton DaCosta, their crew and the fine actors who gave birth to one of the classic American musicals of the 20th Century. 5 out of 5 for this Shirley Jones lovefest.

In 1961, U.K. director Basil Dearden did something remarkable. He made a big budget film starring Dirk Bogarde and Sylvia Sims about homosexuality. The title of the film was Victim. Ironically instead of portraying the lead character as a victim, Deardon’s film was the first to portray a gay character as anything other than negative. Bogarde’s Melville Farr is married to a woman, a rising lawyer in London who decides to go after the blackmailer of gay men. The twist is that Farr is gay himself, closeted. He has been with a young man whom he mistakes for being a blackmailer, ignores, and then realizes he must avenge. Victim is so ahead of its time. Of course there are minor characters who spew the hatred we still hear today. But Dearden populated the film with many characters who are more concerned with Farr as a human being that with dragging him down because of his sexuality. Remember this is 1961. An amazing glimpse into the future provided by screenwriters Janet Green and John McCormick who create a world that begins to look a little like the one we live in today. Farr’s life may change drastically, he may lose his social standing and his career. But his decision to live in truth lifts a huge burden off his shoulders making his relationships more genuine and offering him hope for a more honest and authentic life. A lesson as relevant today as it was over 50 years ago. 5 out of 5 for Basil Dearden’s classic film Victim.


Thanks Classic Film and TV Cafe for hosting this great blogathon. Click here to check out all the fabulous entries in this blogathon.
What are your favorite 1960’s films?

11 Responses to “6 from the ’60s Blogathon for National Classic Movie Day @classic_film #NationalClassicMovieDay”

  1. classicfilmtvcafe Says:

    I was pleased to see Victim on your list, a powerful film with an extraordinary performance by Dirk Bogarde. What I love about the film is how the opening scenes don’t give away the lead character’s secret. It’s unclear for a long time just what is happening and why. My interpretation of The Birds is that it’s a relationship drama disguised as a horror film. The birds are merely catalysts with the real story being focused on Mitch’s mother and her inability to let her son go (until the end of the film).


    • reelcharlie Says:

      Thanks, it’s great to hear from you. I read your Twitter posts often. Happy you enjoyed Victim as much as me. I agree Bogarde’s performance was stellar! It’s such a well-made film also ushering in a better world for LGBTQ characters. I particularly liked the character of the wife and her empathetic reaction. Way ahead of its time. So true about The Birds. Hitchcock is my favorite director of all-time. We need to do a favorite Hitchcock blogathon. Has that been done before?


  2. flickchick1953 Says:

    Great choices. Victim is new to me. Amazing how many British films are making the blogathon. The decade would not have been the same without them – music, fashion and film. Cheers!


  3. classicfilmtvcafe Says:

    Yes, we’ve done blogathons and tweetathons on Hitchcock films. But it’s always fun to revisit them periodically.


  4. Patricia Nolan-Hall (@CaftanWoman) Says:

    Basil Dearden’s directorial career is fascinating to explore from early comedies to epics, and delving into society and its many ills. Victim is a perfect example of his work to include on this list.


  5. Silver Screenings Says:

    So glad you included The Music Man on your list. It’s not a perfect movie, but I fall in love with it every time. In fact, you’ve reminded me it’s been waaay too long since I last saw it. 🙂


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