It’s National Classic Movie Day! Groovy, man…
The 60s were a roller coaster of a decade, weren’t they? Fashion went mod. America landed men on the moon. There was the Cuban Missile Crisis. John F. Kennedy, Robert F. Kennedy, and Martin Luther King, Jr. were assassinated. The Beatles played on Ed Sullivan and the British invaded. The Vietnam War escalated. Woodstock and Haight-Ashbury happened. For starters.
It was a roller coaster decade in the movie business as well. Hollywood was changing, people weren’t going to the cinemas as often as they used to, and studios were struggling to keep the cash flowing. The Production Code wasn’t as rigidly enforced, and after 1966 not at all. Naturally, the new artistic carte blanche combined with the decade’s widespread camp fetish resulted in ten years of wide variety on the big screen. Like the movies of any decade, there were stinkers and winners, of course, but either way there was a lot to remember.
Which of the films of that decade are my favorites? Well, that’s easy. In no particular order, I give you my Six from the Sixties…
The Parent Trap (1960)
Best. Summer. Movie. Ever. And I think it’s one of Disney’s best live-action films of all time as well. Don’t get me wrong, I like the 1998 remake too, but the original is just so charming and fun, plus we have the sparky Maureen O’Hara facing off with the suave Brian Keith. And we can’t forget Hayley Mills, of course. What I like is that it doesn’t descend into the camp that was so common to the decade, but then again, that became more of a thing later. Anyway, I’ve lost track of how many times I’ve rewatched this film over the years–it wears that well.
Beach Blanket Bingo (1965)
Got your camp right here, people. Lashings of camp. A whole ocean of camp. Yes, the Frankie and Annette movies could be dumb, but this one was the right kind of dumb. It’s a satisfyingly eye-rolling so-bad-it’s-good mixture of canned music, booty shaking, mermaids, and skydiving. Sound crazy? It is. It really is. And that’s before Eric Von Zipper and his gang of Rats come roaring in on their motorcycles. Or before singer Candy Kane(!) takes the stage. However, the real conflict happens when randy skydiver Bonnie makes a pass at Frankie in midair while a jealous Annette smolders. What’s a girlfriend to do? Why, put on a skydiving helmet of course.
The Fall of the House of Usher (1960)
Longtime readers, feel free to groan because I’ve talked about this film more than once already (You don’t mind, though, right?). I first saw Usher at a Drama On Film club meeting at Sierra College, and both the film and the club were awesome. The movie is just scary enough and stays neatly true to Poe’s original story. It’s great to watch around Halloween, of course, and I’m saying that as someone who isn’t really a horror fan. Plus, it’s cool that Myrna Fahey wears 60s-style false eyelashes and the candles look like giant Red Vines. Director Roger Corman just couldn’t stay away from camp even when he really tried, but that’s all good.
Lilies of the Field (1963)
“Schmidt, you must build us a shapel!” I’ve grown up on Lilies of the Field. It was the first Sidney Poitier film I ever saw, and the interplay between his itinerant Baptist Homer Smith and hardline, no-nonsense Mother Maria, played by Lillia Skala is awesome. Both Mother and Homer are headstrong characters who are each fish out of water in their own way. Mother and her group of sisters are learning how to navigate the strange new American culture they’ve landed in, and Homer observes a very methodical and at times stern way of life. What’s great is that these two worlds learn how to blend. And the song, “Amen,” is an earworm in the best way.
To Kill A Mockingbird (1960)
Oh golly. This is one of my favorite movies of all time. The book is also one of my favorites of all time. Gregory Peck is a perfect Atticus, and the familial relationship he had with Mary Badham and Philip Alford was genuine. It’s clear the film was crafted with a lot of love and care for the story and the people involved, which makes it feel home-y even while it deals with hard issues that some would rather shout down, project away, or just ignore altogether. One of the reasons the film version of To Kill A Mockingbird works is that while it condenses the lessons Scout and Jem were able to absorb and grow into over time, it doesn’t bombard the audience with them. Like a wise parent, it introduces truths and lets them speak for themselves. I think that’s one of the things people continue to appreciate about the movie.
Breakfast At Tiffany’s (1961)
Breakfast At Tiffany’s is a special movie. Not only because of the lovely Audrey and the quirky story (Mr. Yunioshi being the one exception), but because I think “Moon River” is one of the prettiest songs ever written. Lyricist Johnny Mercer employed some beautiful wordplays and wistful nonsense phrasing that summed up the Holly Golightly character. She was always looking for the unattainable. She didn’t know how to get it, but she kept her eye out for it. While she looked, she dreamed, whether it was while standing at Tiffany windows or scoping parties for rich eligible men. All of this is contained subtly and beautifully in the song, which narrowly missed getting cut but has since become a classic. Every night my son wants me to sing “Moon River” to him even though he’s twelve going on thirteen and taller than I am. I can’t blame him.
Et voila. This is the fourth year in a row Taking Up Room has latched on to Rick’s celebratory blogathon. Participating in this event is always a pleasure, and it’s fun to see what everyone comes up with (See all the other posts here). Thanks for hosting, Rick! Thanks for reading, everyone, and I hope to see you tomorrow when we’ll head over to the Great Ziegfeld Blogathon at Hollywood Genes. Happy Classic Movie Day, everyone…