The Classic Movie History Project Blogathon: the 60s: The Bold & The Beautiful

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HOSTED BY THOSE BRILLIANT, PROLIFIC & WITTY WRITERS- FRITZI FROM MOVIES SILENTLY, RUTH FROM SILVER SCREENINGS AND AURORA FROM ONCE UPON A SCREEN!

THE 60S:THE BOLD & THE BEAUTIFUL: 1960-1969

bold |bōld|
adjective
1 (of a person, action, or idea) showing an ability to take risks; confident and courageous: a bold attempt to solve the crisis | he was the only one bold enough to air his dislike.
• dated (of a person or manner) so confident as to suggest a lack of shame or modesty: she tossed him a bold look.

“I am my own woman” –Eva Perón

(source edited)- by Jürgen Müller‘s for TASCHEN’s Movies of the 60s- “Like no other decade before or since, the 60s embodied the struggle against a jaded, reactionary establishment. As the Vietnam War dragged on, the protests grew in scale and intensity. Revolution ran riot, in the streets and on the silver screen. The movies of the epoch tell tales of rebellion and sexual liberation, and above all they show how women began to emancipate from their traditional roles as housewives or sex bombs…”

Drew Casper writes, “Some films still styled along classic lines while others simultaneously embodied both the old and new approaches… Stirred the placid waters of the classical with grittier degrees of realism with their accompanying darker sensibilities.” –Postwar Hollywood 1946-1962

Women like Jane Fonda, Anna Magnani, Simone Signoret, Audrey Hepburn, Ann Bancroft, Piper Laurie, Angie Dickinson,Bette Davis, Joanne Woodward, Patricia Neal and so many more became iconic for breaking the old mold and grabbing a new kind of individualism without judgement and new kind of self expression.

Barry Keith Grant writes in American Cinema of the 1960s-“The decade was one of profound change and challenge for Hollywood, as it sought to adapt to both technological innovation and evolving cultural taste.”

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In the 1960s we began to see more films like The Group 1966, Valley of the Dolls 1967, Bunny Lake is Missing 1965, Who Killed Teddy Bear 1965, Mr.Buddwing 1966, Walk on the Wild Side 1962, A Patch of Blue 1965, The Explosive Generation 1961, The Young Savages 1961, Look in Any Window 1961, Pressure Point 1962, Claudelle Inglish 1961, One Potato Two Potato  1964, Lilith 1964, Butterfield 8,(1960), Cul de Sac 1966, The Pumpkin Eater 1964, Sanctuary 1961, Belle du Jour 1967, Lolita 1962, The Children’s Hour 1961, Breakfast at Tiffany’s 1961, Rachel Rachel 1968, Up the Junction 1968, Darling 1965, To Kill a Mockingbird 1962, A Rage to Live 1965, Kitten With a Whip 1964, The Naked Kiss 1964, The Roman Spring of Mrs Stone 1961, What Ever Happened to Baby Jane? 1962 , Juliet of the Spirits 1965, Psyche 59 (1964) ,Lady in a Cage 1964.  & Hush Hush Sweet Charlotte 1964

And of course the films I’m covering here. These films began to recognize an audience that had a taste for less melodrama and more realistic themes, not to mention the adult-centric narratives with a veracious Mise-en-scène

PS: I would have included Mia Farrow in Rosemary’s Baby but that is my favorite film and plan on doing a special post in honor of this brilliant timeless masterpiece… and Mia’s quintessential performance.

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Though I’ve decided not to include Breakfast at Tiffany’s this is my little nod to Audrey Hepburn and cat…

As a little glance into a portion of cinematic history over the decade of the burgeoning sixties -The following are particular favorites of mine… Bold & Beautiful ‘as is’ and Beyond need of Redemption!

1960

ELMER GANTRY with JEAN SIMMONS as Sister Sharon Falconer & Shirley Jones as Lulu

Shirley Jones as good time girl Lulu Bains!

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Lulu Bains: “Oh, he gave me special instructions back of the pulpit Christmas Eve. He got to howlin’ “Repent! Repent!” and I got to moanin’ “Save me! Save me!” and the first thing I know he rammed the fear of God into me so fast I never heard my old man’s footsteps.”

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Elmer Gantry is always chasing dreams and always telling dirty stories is the smooth talking traveling salesman, brought to life by Burt Lancaster who portrays his character with a bit more sensuality than Sinclair Lewis‘ cold predatory con man. Gantry is a hard drinking provocateur and a lady’s man. Raised by a father who quoted verse, he has a swift grasp of the Bible and uses it to insinuated himself into Sister Sharon’s hell fire traveling road show. Though he is a skeptic, he sees a great light in Sister Sharon and the potential to fill the coffers with riches!

The sublimely beautiful Jean Simmons is as ethereally angelic as she is a pure sensuality. Sister Sharon Falconer is a young revivalist in the style of Aimee Semple McPherson. Sharon is at first righteous and unwavering in her convictions, she begins to awaken unto the spell of the charming and bigger than life Elmer Gantry. Elmer starts out poetically ruthless as he insinuates himself into Sharon’s life, until she loses her firm grip on her faithful mission and their attraction blossoms into a physical one.

One night he craftily sweet talks Sharon’s virginity away from her, though she is a very willing participant ready to be freed from the confines of her stifling religious prison.

Sharon struggles with her identity as a pious figure and a sexually aroused woman. Simmons is an actress of fine distinction who can work with that duality bringing to the screen a role with great complexity. She is also stuck in between the conflict that ensues between Elmer and her manager Bill Morgan (Dean Jagger) who doesn’t like nor trust Gantry’s influence over Sharon.

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Bill Morgan –“That’s pitchman’s talk, what do you know about the background of our work. The nature of revivalism is fertile it grew out of frontier life. Big city people are apt to be more cynical” Elmer Gantry “They’re more sinful too, and more lonely and more unhappy and Shara they need you more…” Bill Morgan “I’m against this!” Gantry “Bill Morgan you’re an old sourpuss. This is a passport to the promised land.” Bill Morgan- “I am not your boy, I don’t know how you deluded her but to me everything about you is offensive You’re a crude vulgar show off. And your vocabulary belongs in an outhouse” Gantry “Crude, vulgar, show off ha…you know something you’re right Bill. Let’s put it this way. You’re a five dollar text book, me… I”m a two cent tabloid newspaper… You’re too good for the people… I am the people…sure I’m common, Just like most people”. Sharon “The common people put Christianity on the map in the first place…Bill -“What are you saying that you want to go to Zenith?” Sharon says- “I wonder what God wants!”
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Sharon tells Gantry,“You’re so outrageous! I think I like you. You’re amusing, and you smell like a real man.”

Sister Sharon created herself from nothing and is now pragmatic and independent with a vision to capture the world, by building a temple for the people so she can share the good word of God. No more traveling as a revival side show attraction. She is brave, dedicated and faithful to the end. And I won’t spoil the ending– at least I will say that she is a true believer and a real woman filled with passion on both sides of the coin. She allows herself to be seduced by Gantry, yet still is fiercely dedicated to building her own tabernacle so she may offer comfort and inspiration to those in need.

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Sharon “ God chose me to do his work” Gantry-‘ Me Too Sharon “No I chose you…”

Shirley Jones is fabulous as Lulu Banes who was first seduced by Gantry while she was the Deacon’s daughter now…. a call girl from Elmer’s tawdry past, who tries to rake up a little gossip and cash as payback for Mr. Gantry ditching her. Okay, there’s some blackmail involved when she sees the opportunity because there’s sour grapes as Gantry left Lulu in the lurch, with a broken heart. But in the end, Lulu’s got integrity. She’s plucky, and has some of the best lines in the film and hey she’s not only a call girl… she a nice girl…

She’s so lovable that Shirley Jones won the Oscar for Best Supporting Actress that year!

Elmer and Lulu

It’s interesting to hear that it took actor Author Kennedy to get Simmons potted on milk and gin before she felt comfortable enough to do the scene where the revival tent catches fire and flaming debris is falling around her head.

Both Jean Simmons and Shirley Jones caught the spirit in this film!

Elmer Gantry wound up being a very controversial film when it was released directed by Richard Brooks, adapted from the book by Sinclair Lewis with lush and pulpy cinematography by John Alton and a stirring score by the great André Previn. And terrific costume designed by the brilliant Dorothy Jeakins (The Sound of Music 1965, The Way We Were 1974).

THE FUGITIVE KIND with ANNA MAGNANI as Lady Torrance

“Let’s get this straight, you don’t interest me no more than the air you stand in.”-Lady Torrance to Val

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Directed by Sidney Lumet, The Fugitive Kind is based on the play Orpheus Descending by Tennessee Williams who also penned the screenplay. At this point there’s shouldn’t be any doubt about my passion for Mr. Williams or Anna Magnani.

Anna Magnani is a primal force of sensuality winning an Academy Award for Best Actress for her portrayal of Serafina Delle Rose in the marvelous, The Rose Tattoo 1955. (“A clown with my husband’s body!”)

The Fugitive Kind has a gritty, allure not only due to the level of acting by Magnani and Brando or the evocative material it’s partly due to Boris Kaufman’s  (12 Angry Men 1957, On the Waterfront 1954) edgy cinematography.

Anna Mangani delivers another impassioned performance as Lady an equally potent role as a shop owner in Louisiana who is chained to a brutal marriage by her vindictive and dying husband Jabe (Victor Jory) when along comes Marlon Brando as Valentine “Snakeskin’ Xavier a guitar playing roamer who takes a job in the shop until Lady’s jaded loneliness and Valentine’s raw animal magnetism combust..

Brando plays the solitary Val, a drifter who’s presence is as commanding as a lion stalking. Val comes into the small town where Lady Torrance runs the shop, her husband Jabe is mostly bed ridden, dying of cancer, but also eaten up with jealousy and hatred toward his wife, foreigners and outliers. He’s vicious and controlling and Lady lives out her days caring for this angry and miserable man, until Val comes into her life, changing Lady’s stoicism awakening her heart releasing her desires.

Magnani gives a powerful performance of a woman starved from sexual pleasure, mentally abused by her husband and bemoaning the days when the wine flowed like a river at her father’s vineyard that was suspiciously burned to the ground.

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Lady-“What are you doing with a snakeskin jacket?” Val-“It used to be a trademark I was a, I used to be an entertainer in New Orleans.” Lady-“It fits warm alright Val It’s probably warm from my body Lady You must be a warm blooded boy,,, what are you looking for around here?” Val-“You might have some work for me.” Lady-“Hhm boys like you don’t work Val-“What do you mean boys like me” Lady “Ones that play the guitar and go around talking about how warm they are. I can hire no stranger with a snake skin jacket and a guitar and a temperature like a dog”

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Magnani manifests an authenticity that comes from a battered past and present, yet she exudes an enduring sense of love and passion. Lady dreams of fixing up the outside part of the store as a confectionery festooned with white lights and delicate atmosphere and Val can sing and play his guitar.

At first interviewing for a job is an awkward exchange. Once Lady and Val have a very intense and thoughtful conversation, she decides that she likes this strange talking boy and hires him to work in the store. The tension is visible even in the darkly lit scene and through the diffuse patch of light you can see their chemistry brewing.

Lady is taken with this strange talking boy who begins to tell her about people. “there’s two kinds of people in this world, the buyers and the people who get bought.” Then he tells her about a type of bird that has no legs so it can never land. It’s a meditative moment, and Brando is magnificent.
“…cause they don’t see ’em, they don’t see em way up in that high blue sky near the sun they  spread their wings out and go to sleep on the wind and they only alight on this world just one time, it’s when they die.”

Val is pursued by Carol Cutere, (Joanne Woodward) the quirky local tramp from a wealthy family, who worships his snakeskin jacket as well as his incredible ‘hot’ body. But, Val finds himself drawn to the evocative and more complex Lady. They begin an affair, fall in love and Lady gets pregnant. Will they be like the bird that can never land, only sleep on the wind and the day they land is the day they die…

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Lady Torrance: Are you a lady’s man? Valentine ‘Snakeskin’ Xavier: It’s been said that a woman can burn a man down… But I can burn a woman down, if I wanted to.
Lady -“Let’s get one thing straight… You don’t interest me no more than the air you stand in”

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1961

A COLD WIND IN AUGUST with LOLA ALBRIGHT as Iris Hartford

If you care about love, you’ll talk about a teenage boy and a woman who is all allure, all tenderness… and too much experience! – tagline

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“What’s more I don’t like to work in New York. I never have. I live here. I like it. I like this house. I like eating at home, I like living like a human being. Why should I knock myself out. this is my retreat you know.”

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Directed by Alexander Singer  with a slick burlesque/modern jazz score by Gerald Fried. 

Lola Albright  stirs the libido as a very classy ex-stripper Iris Hartford a very intoxicating woman who seduces a naive and inexperienced working-class boy, Vito Pellegrino (Scott Marlowe) who falls deeply in love with her. Soon Vito begins to feel the disparate reality of their relationship. Once his reality is shattered, discovering that she is a stripper, Vito ends the affair with Iris, seeking out a neighborhood girl who is of his own age.

Lola Albright has a very sophisticated way of coming across on screen with a reserved yet palpable dignity. But Iris generates an undercurrent of provocative and alluring intelligence. Marlowe has always been great as a either a clever playboy or whiny young man, who isn’t quite getting what he wants.

A Cold Day in August examines an authentic journey for a young boy who experiences his first sexual awakening with an older woman. And their socially unorthodox relationship not only serves the film’s exploitative narrative it comes across quite genuine because of Albright’s very real sexual magnetism and the attraction by an impressionable boy.

Hey you need a hair cut boy hasn't your mother told you?
“Hey you need a hair cut boy hasn’t your mother told you?”

Of course the film works on the level of titillation & taboo because Iris is not only older than Vito, she is ALL woman and then some for any man. She would be considered a tramp because she used to take her clothes off for a living. Her ex-husband comes back into the picture and pleads with her to fill in for a week in NYC, but that life was far gone by now.

When Iris first seduces Vito she feeds him a dish of ice cream after he fixes her air conditioner. It’s as if she’s rewarding a little boy for doing a good job. In the midst of these queer moments where she desires him yet infantilizes him, they do carry on a sexual relationship. Iris is a free sexual being who makes no apologies for who she is. It doesn’t take too long before Vito realizes that he’s way out of his league, but Iris does initiate him into the world of sex.

I have come to adore Lola Albright this year. In A Cold Wind in August she manifests a kind of existential sensuality as she can offer a nurturing kiss and then go on to take what she needs. She yearns for pleasure which is literally illustrated by her stripper costume of a sort of Queen of Outer Space gold lamé number complete with eye mask, it’s alluring and vulturous at the same time.

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Iris strokes Vito’s face tenderly “You’re a baby… such a beautiful baby” 


THE HUSTLER with PIPER LAURIE as Sarah Packard

Sarah Packard: How did you know my name was Sarah? Fast Eddie: You told me. Sarah Packard: I lie. When I’m drunk I lie. Fast Eddie: Okay, so what’s your name today? Sarah Packard: Sarah.

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Robert Rossen (The Strange Loves of Martha Ivers 1946, All the Kings Men 1949, Billy Budd 1962 & Lilith 1964) wrote of all his films, they “Share one characteristic: The hunt for success. Ambition is an essential quality in American society.”

The Hustler is the story of Fast Eddie Felson (Paul Newman) who has a penchant for self punishment and self destructiveness and in his cockiness likes to take on high stakes pool games. He has a dream of bumping Minnesota Fats (Jackie Gleason) off the pedestal of fame. Eddie and Fats meet up and by the end of a very long marathon, Eddie is wiped out and whipped, which doesn’t help his enormous ego.

Eddie meets Sarah (Piper Laurie), a highly educated modern woman. She’s an independent loner, a bit morose, a bit jaded, but somehow she allows Eddie to work his charms on her until she is hooked. Still no matter what happens in the end, Sarah Packard speaks her mind and lives life on her own terms…

Sarah has a physical disability as she walks with a limp, and is referred to as a cripple.

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Finally, as the film progresses, whether Sarah feels that she is perverted and twisted because she sleeps with the repugnant opportunist Bert Gordon (George C. Scott) or drinks too much, or has the need to be loved because of her physical disability, Sarah Packard is such a real character that it breaks your heart.

Tensions arise when manager Bert Gordon signs on to promote Eddie. He’s a shady predator who tries to drive a wedge between Eddie and Sarah, and takes advantage of her one night while Eddie’s away.

Sarah reads poetry and uses alcohol as a way to balm her loneliness, but there’s a strength in her honesty that is very endearing. Talk about guts, Piper Laurie wanted to get a feel of authenticity for her character and so she hung out at the Greyhound Bus Terminal at night.

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IMDb fact: Piper Laurie didn’t make another film for the next 15 years, devoting the time to her marriage and raising her only daughter. She returned to the screen in 1976 in ‘Brian de Palma”s Carrie (1976), earning her second Oscar nomination.

And we all know how bold that performance was…. memorable & cringe-worthy!

At the party that Bert invites Sarah to come to, he whispers something in her ear that makes her toss her drink and run away in tears. The actress talked about this scene in her autobiography. She had met up with George C Scott many years later and “I finally asked him what he had whispered into my ear in the big party scene in The Hustler that elicits a violent response from me. We shot it perhaps three or four times and I could never figure out what he was saying… He told me he chose to use just gibberish, knowing he could never invent words or phrases as powerful as what my imagination could summon up. Probably true.”

That was a very cool approach to the scene which came off beautifully!

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The words Sarah writes on the mirror are “perverted”, “twisted” and “crippled”.
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Sarah Packard: I’m a college girl. Two days a week – Tuesdays and Thursdays – I go to college. Fast Eddie: You don’t look like a college girl. Sarah Packard: I’m the emancipated type. Real emancipated. Fast Eddie: No, I didn’t mean that… whatever that means. I mean you just don’t look young enough. Sarah Packard: I’m not. Fast Eddie: So why go to college? Sarah Packard: Got nothing else to do on Tuesdays and Thursdays. Fast Eddie: What do you do on the other days? Sarah Packard: I drink..

THE MISFITS with MARILYN MONROE as Roslyn Tabor

Roslyn: “If I’m going to be alone, I want to be by myself.”

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The Misfits was initially written as a short story by Arthur Miller who was actually waiting for his divorce in Reno to go through before he could marry Marilyn Monroe. Based on a short story in Esquire Magazine, he specifically wrote it for his then wife Marilyn Monroe.

A beautiful divorcée Roslyn Tabor (Marilyn Monroe) who has been put through hell, takes up with a faded cowboy Gay Langland who is still strutting like a lady’s man in early-sixties Nevada. He’s a rugged individualist who wants nothing to do with earning wages. At first she meets up with Isabelle Steers played by the inimitable Thelma Ritter who can throw out a one liner like no one else, anything out of her mouth is gold.

Roslyn is in Reno to divorce her husband Ray. She meets up with Guido (Eli Wallach) who is building his ‘unfinished’ dream house for a wife who died during child birth years ago, yet he still holds a candle to her memory and suffers from WWII bombing raids He sets his sights on Roslyn but his friend Gay Langland (Clark Gable) a crusty old cowboy moves in first and the two start a tenuous relationship. Roslyn is kind and loves all animals, and still thinks kindness is always just around the corner.

Montgomery Clift plays an ambiguously sexual bachelor who drinks to try and take the pain away. All four are non-conformists who begin to form a type of family. Roslyn is thoughtful and sensitive and Gay is a typical male on the prowl. Along for the ride is Perce Howland (Montgomery Clift) who is the most trusting and kind. He is not committed to trapping the horses for pet food, and wishes to stop it too. The horses that roam free are symbolic of the beautiful spirit that Roslyn possesses. A bit sad but tender and kind. Roslyn tags along on a trip up in the mountains with Gable, Eli Wallach and Monty Clift much to Roslyn’s horror that they are capturing horses in order to sell them for dog food.

Marilyn meets Isabelle Steers right after her divorce is granted by the Washoe County Courthouse
Roslyn (Marilyn) meets Isabelle Steers (Thelma Ritter) right after her divorce is granted by the Washoe County Courthouse.

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Roslyn: If I’m going to be alone, I want to be by myself.

Marilyn Monroe later said that she had hated both the film and her own performance. I feel like she is selling herself short. She managed to navigate around the incredible testosterone on screen and off. Perhaps it was her innate sadness that shone through, but she brought a tremendous sensitivity that was an inner sort of beautiful… The Misfits is probably one of my favorite performances by Monroe, it seems like a close look into her sad yet dreamy soul.

A RAISIN IN THE SUN with RUBY DEE as Ruth Younger, CLAUDIA MCNEILL as Mother Lena Younger and DIANA SANDS as Beneatha Younger

Lena Younger crying “Oh God, please, look down and give me strength! “

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Lena Younger crying “Oh God, please, look down and give me strength! “

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A RAISIN IN THE SUN, Claudia McNeil, Ruby Dee, 1961
A RAISIN IN THE SUN, Claudia McNeil, Ruby Dee, 1961

Written by Lorraine Hansberry for the stage then adapted to film and directed by Daniel Petrie

Sometimes there are films and stories that I just immediately have to say “It’s some powerful good.” Maybe it comes from watching a lot of The Andy Griffith Show that has rubbed off on my conversational style. But regardless, A Raisin in the Sun is some powerful good! That’s what happens when an ensemble of incredible actors get together and tell a poignant story about family struggles, in particular, a Black family struggling in a privileged world that works very hard to keep Black people on the ‘outside’ of success, making them continually grasp at that mythical American Dream that just doesn’t exist, at least for most people.

Directed by Daniel Petrie  a story about racial oppression and assumptions. Illustrated vividly in the scene with the marvelous character actor John Fiedler who plays Mark Linder. from the Clybourne park un- “welcoming committee.”

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The woman form a strong wheel that keeps the family moving even when Walter Lee Younger (Sidney Poitier) takes his time coming to terms with his pride.

Mama Lena lived in a time where Black folk had fought so hard during the Civil Rights movement to witness a generation of young Black people to demand and obtain their rights. But there exists in the home a generation gap between her and her children. Walter Lee is a very proud young man who is frustrated with just being a chauffeur. When Lena’s husband’s insurance policy comes to the family, they each have ideas of how to spend it. Three very strong female characters satellite around one man whose identity rests on false notions of success reflected back at him through the lens of a white social class. But Walter Lee is continuously grounded by the strength of the women around him.

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Diana Sands as Beneatha (Dropping to her knees) “Well – I do – all right? – thank everybody! And forgive me for ever wanting to be anything at all! (Pursuing Walter on her knees across the floor) FORGIVE ME, FORGIVE ME, FORGIVE ME!” Beneatha sarcastically apologizes for having dreams. To Walter, her dream seems kind of far-fetched. However, Beneatha is determined and she stands up to her brother for her right to want to become a doctor.

Beneatha is a progressive woman who railed against being a traditional wife and mother. She was way too independent and a strong female figure for 1962.

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1962*

Cléo FROM 5 TO 7 with CORINNE MARCHAND as Cléo

Florence, ‘Cléo Victoire’: Everybody spoils me. Nobody loves me.

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Cléo is a famous French Chanteuse awaiting the results of a biopsy. She is afraid that she will be told that she has cancer. We as are the spectators we watch Cléo spend two hours in her day until she finds out whether she is going to die. Sounds morbid, but director Agnès Varda (Varda herself was Bold & Beautiful– trained as a master photographer… and at the core or the soul of the French New Wave Cinema) weaves a whimsical visual dance as Cléo walks through the hours of her possibly tenuous life. The film is marvelous and Corinne Marchand as Cléo is a very captivating figure. In France it is said that the hours between five to seven are when lovers gather. Cléo wants to just keep moving in hopes of avoiding the results of her test. Throughout Cléo’s journey she is subtly restrained by the knowledge that she may be dying. Even as she sings torch songs, shops for hats and walks through the streets of Paris.

At 5pm she even visits a Tarot Reader. And just from experience, pulling The Hanged Man in a tarot reading is never really a good thing. And of course Death shows up as well. And the Death card should never be regarded as literal, but under the circumstances it would be frightening to a woman waiting for test results. She asks the woman to read her palm but she refuses, and so Cléo leaves frustrated.

Throughout Cléo wanderings, there are little interactions that lay on the periphery. Knowing that death could be looming overhead, Cléo seems to develop a heightened sense of awareness, even if the actions of  unessential characters are truly incidental surrounding Cléo while she is walking through her two hours.

Cléo wanders through out the streets of Paris with her maid in tow or her friend the nude model. The next stop is at the hat shop, where she proceeds to try on many fashionable hats. Several mirror shots showcase the use of iconography of the female image as seen reflecting back. Cléo looks magnificent in even the most outrageous of hats.

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Cléo and her maid come back to her apartment, that has a nice vast playful quality to it, with a piano, and a wonderful swing, and of course an opulent bed. Cléo reposes in her bed like royalty, as two fluffy kittens toss each other around. José Luis de Vilallonga credited as The Lover comes to see her. There doesn’t seem to be much passion between the two.

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great filmmaker Agnès Varda who fills the screen with photographic images so beautiful so rich… She too is bold & beautiful!

SATAN IN HIGH HEELS with GRAYSON HALL as Pepe

“You’ll EAT and DRINK what I SAY until you lose five pounds IN THE PLACES WHERE I SAY!” -Pepe

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I couldn’t resist paying homage to at least one exploitation film seeing this is about the 60s! With a flavor and atmosphere of night club noir surrounded by decadence and the sordid lives of it’s inhabitants it comes across with a low budget appeal, Satan in High Heels was filmed in New York’s old La Martinique cabaret. This isn’t a film about immorality, it’s plainly just some high art sleaze that is so fun to watch, mainly because of Grayson Hall. Hall has a languid graveled voice that is almost intoxicating to listen to. Putting aside the other two leading ladies voluptuous Sabrina who plays herself, Meg Myles as Stacy Kane a second rate stripper whose wardrobe consists of various leather outfits and riding crop, it’s Grayson Hall (of Dark Shadows fame) that brings the story to a boil as the ultra domineering Pepe– as cool as the center seed of a cucumber.

She’s jaded and cynical and is a New York City kind of Marlene Dietrich with her quick asides and Sapphic strut. Even when she’s taking long drags of her cigarette she can deliver a curt line that cuts to the point, “Bear up, Darling, I love your eyelashes.”

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After Stacy working the carnival circuit discovers her ex husband hanging around the dressing room with a load of cash, she grabs the doe and heads to New York City. Once she arrives she auditions at a night club as a singer, and is hired by the libidinous Pepe who wants to do a Pygmalion on the tramp. Belting out torch songs like “I’ll beat you mistreat you til you quiver and quail, the female of the species is more deadly than the male.”  Neither Stacy (Meg Myles) or Sabrina (Norma Ann Sykes) Yikes get points for being buxom.

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Couldn’t resist this shot–Sabrina plays herself… Sabrina

It’s Pepe who is sophisticated and wicked that makes you quiver & quail? Hmmm I need to look that up!

THE L SHAPED ROOM with LESLIE CARON as Jane Fosset

“Everybody can’t wait to help me get rid of it!”-Jane

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Pregnant by this guy who offers her money to get rid of it
She is pregnant by this guy who offers her money to get rid of it!

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When it’s Bryan Forbes (Seance on a Wet Afternoon 1964,The Stepford Wives 1975) directing you know to expect something deeper and quietly intense. In The L Shaped Room Leslie Caron plays Jane Fosset a melancholy unmarried woman who is pregnant and on her own. She takes a room in a boarding house in London. While there Jane meets all the inhabitants of the decadent house where there dwells a collection of various misfits and outliers of society. Two working girls of the night persuasion, Pat Phoenix as Sonia, the man-eating Landlady who isn’t quite friendly, and the lovely old lesbian Mavis (Cicely Courtneidge).

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Cicely Courtneidge as Mavis the kind neighborly Lesbian

And then there’s the struggling on edge Toby (Tom Bell) who is a writer living on the first floor. The two strike up a relationship, as Jane decides whether to get an abortion or keep the baby. There’s also Johnny a black Jazz Musician ( Brock Peters) who gets upset when Jane and Toby start a sexual relationship. The story is human and moving and as deeply whimsical as the tenants who come and go. Leslie Caron is superb as a solitary girl with a serious dilemma, so much so that she was nominated for Best Actress. Caron is splendid as Jane who manifests a courage and striking dignity to live life on her own…

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1963*

THE BIRDS with TIPPI HEDREN as Melanie Daniels

Mitch Brenner: What do you want? Melanie Daniels: I thought you knew! I want to go through life jumping into fountains naked, good night!

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Alfred Hitchcock’s cautionary tale based on Daphne du Maurier’s best selling novel. The Birds was Hitchcock’s film , that not only demonstrated the precarious security of everyday life by contrasting a quaint California seaside town inexplicably besieged by angry birds. One of Hitchcock’s most frequent theme is the precariousness of social order and morality. And the introduction of Tippi Hedren as Melanie Daniels definitely shakes things up. There’s almost a supernatural connection, if not the mere symbolic one.

I couldn’t resist Tippi Hedren as Melanie Daniels who is no shrinking violet. She may be a relatively straightforward central protagonist – the rich spoiled girl from the big city whose complacency is then severely shattered. Melanie is still an independent woman who mostly keeps it together right up to the end. Okay once she’s trapped in the attic she sort of goes a bit fetal but come on people the natural world is attacking! –with beaks and claws!

Behind the scenes she might have had a mini melt down thanks to Hitchcock’s maneuvering to have her attacked for real. Melanie Daniels ascends into Bodega Bay like the birds, she is a warning of the dangers of strong, and non-conformist women, especially strong willed sexually free women. Are the people being attacked by just the birds or is the strength of Melanie Daniels presence to tear apart the claustrophobic relationship between son and mother and the quiet conventional community.

From Carol Clovers Men, Women and Chainsaws -Her Body, Himself.
in Poe’s famous formulation , the death of a beautiful woman is the “most poetic topic in the world.”

Hitchcock during the filming of The Birds said: “I’ve always believed in following the advice of the playwright Sardou”. He said ‘Torture the women.’

Clover comments that what the directors don’t reveal out loud about the women in peril theme is that “women in peril are at there most effective when they are in a state of undress” and assailed by a totally phallic enemy.

Melanie Daniels while trapped in the attic and justifiably shaken from the ordeal does not lose her ability to protect herself and give up and die.

In one of the most vivid and unforgettable scenes in film history (I would wager my one-of-a-kind Columbo doll that other people agree) is when Melanie is waiting outside the schoolhouse sitting on the park bench with the jungle-gym behind her. She sees a few birds gathering on it. As Hitchcock is known to do, he drags out the suspense until we are at the very edge. She sees a few more birds join in. She lights up a cigarette, as this extends the scene further. There isn’t the composed style of filming a scene where it would go right to the fright factor. Hitchcock manipulates Melanie and us the spectator. Once more she follows the movement of another crow heading toward the jungle-gym which now is revealed has hundreds of birds waiting to attack…!

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Melanie Daniels: I have an Aunt Tessa. Have you got an Aunt Tessa? Mitch Brenner: Mm-mm. Melanie Daniels: Mine is very prim and straight-laced. I’m giving her a mynah bird when she comes back from Europe. Mynah birds talk, you know. Can you see my Aunt Tessa’s face when this one tells us one or two of the words I’ve picked up at Berkeley? Mitch Brenner: You need a mother’s care, my child. Melanie Daniels: [pause] Not my mother’s. Mitch Brenner: Oh, I’m sorry. Melanie Daniels: What have you got to be sorry about? My mother? Don’t waste your time. She ditched us when I was eleven and ran off with some hotel man in the East. You know what a mother’s love is. Mitch Brenner: Yes, I do. Melanie Daniels: You mean it’s better to be ditched? Mitch Brenner: No, I think it’s better to be loved. Don’t you ever see her? Melanie Daniels: [pause] I don’t know where she is.

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Tippi Hedren and children in a scene from THE BIRDS, 1963.

HUD with PATRICIA NEAL as Alma Brown

“Boy… somebody in this car smells of Chanel No. 5, It isn’t me, I can’t afford it!”

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Directed by Martin Ritt and based on Larry McMurtry’s novel. From -Drew Casper Postwar Hollywood from 1946-1962 “Ritt Caught the parched, circumspect, empty quality of a middle-class WASP life in a Texan cattle community.”

The raspy attractiveness of Patricia Neal can make any film worth watching. In Hud she conveys a weary yet wise housekeeper/mother figure for the elderly widower Rancher and the Bannon men Hud and Lonnie. She has to deflect all the lustful advances by Hud, but she has grown comfortable with the blueness of her isolation, and has made peace with her troubling past. She handles the volatile Hud (Paul Newman) and nurtures the impressionable Lonnie (Brandon deWilde)

Patricia Neal won an Academy Award for playing the housekeeper Alma in Martin Ritt’s Hud, although she only appears in the film for 22 minutes! James Wong Howe creates a desolate, moody sense of Americana with his cinematography and Elmer Bernstein contributes his magnificent score.

Patricia Neal was particularly proud of one unscripted moment that made it into the film. While talking to Hud about her failed marriage, a huge horsefly flew onto the set. Just as she says she’s “done with that cold-blooded bastard,” she zaps the fly with a dish towel. Martin Ritt loved it and printed the take.

Paul Newman is the cold blooded Hud Bannon. He’s a ruthless reckless cowboy and a heartless uncaring miscreant who hurts everyone in his life. He’s self confident, drives a pink Cadillac and when he’s not swaggering slow like he’s a meandering playboy, who still lives on the isolated farm with his elderly father and his nephew Lonnie (Brandon deWilde) who worships him, he’s sleeping around.

Melvyn Douglas plays Homer Bannon, his father whom he clashes with. His father is a righteous man, filled with principles but his son is a self-indulgent outlier of society who cares for nothing and no one. Life is just about having ‘kicks’ It was that time in film history that the youth archetype were all looking for those ‘kicks’

Hud’s amoral lifestyle and the struggle between the good people who satellite around him create a dismal world for everyone. Alma and Hud develop a sexual banter between them. She’s attracted to his prowess and his good looks, but Hud only sees her as the help. He want’s what he can’t have, so she is a challenge to him that’s all. But Hud is abusive to Alma, he even parks his Cadillac in her flower bed.

Alma has a hearty strength and takes all the masculine posturing with stride. She’s as laid back as a cat taking a nap in the sun. Alma too has a sensuality that lies open, on the surface as she flirts with Lonnie and is aroused by Hud’s beautiful torso. The theme that is underlying through out Hud or I should say Alma’s part in the narrative is that women like to be around dangerous men. Alma doesn’t expect anything from Hud, understanding his nature all too well. He possesses a merciless kind of sexual desire that cannot be satisfied. But Alma does create a conflict for him…

In his cynical exchanges with Alma, he is contemptuous toward women and boasts a sexual confidence, that makes him one cocky bastard. But Alma is not a child nor is she an inexperienced woman. she is equally world weary and is titillated by his sexual innuendos.

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Hud Bannon: Man like that sounds no better than a heel. Alma Brown: Aren’t you all? Hud Bannon: Honey don’t go shooting all the dogs ’cause one of ’em’s got fleas. Alma Brown: I was married to Ed for six years. Only thing he was ever good for was to scratch my back where I couldn’t reach it. Hud Bannon: You still got that itch? Alma Brown: Off and on. Hud Bannon: Well let me know when it gets to bothering you.

Patricia Neal and Newman in Hud

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Hud Bannon: I’ll do anything to make you trade him. Alma Brown: No thanks. I’ve done my time with one cold-blooded bastard, I’m not looking for another. Hud Bannon: Too late, honey, you already found him.

1964

NIGHT OF THE IGUANA with AVA GARDNER as Maxine Faulk

Directed by John Huston based on the story by Tennessee Williams, Night of the Iguana.

John Huston loved placing a group of interesting people in a landscape that was inhospitable and sweltering.

Ava Gardner as Maxine Faulk is a sultry beauty that inhabits the tropical night like a panther moving through the brush.

A defrocked Episcopal clergyman the Rev. T Lawrence Shannon (Richard Burton) working as a tout guide in Mexico leads a bus-load of middle-aged Baptist women and a teenage girl on a tour of the Mexican coast. It is there that he wrestles with the failure and doubts that haunt his wasted life. While temporarily stranded he takes respite with Maxine who runs the small out of the way hotel. Ava Garner wields heavy dose of sensuality as she burns up the screen with her raw and unbound sexuality. Surrounded by young men whom she swims with at night. And not taking any crap from the busload of repressed Baptists and Sue Lyon as a young Nymphomaniac.

Shannon was kicked out of his church when he was caught with one of his parishioners, and now Charlotte Goodall (Sue Lyon) is a troublesome nymph chasing after him provocatively. Her guardian is Judith Fellowes (Grayson Hall) an uptight lesbian who seems to hate all men, bus rides and humid weather besides. When Fellowes catches Charlotte in Shannon’s room she threatens to get him in trouble, so he enlists the help of his friend Maxine Faulk, and leaves the group stranded at her remote hotel.

Once Hannah Jelkes (Deborah Kerr) and her elderly grandfather arrive, the atmosphere seems to shift and Shannon is confronted with questions of life and love. Everyone at the hotel has demons and the rich and languid air seems to effect everyone… Ava Gardner as Maxine waits patiently for Shannon to realize that they could have a passionate life together if he’d stop torturing himself..

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Judith Fellowes: (Grayson Hall) [Yelling at Shannon] You thought you outwitted me, didn’t you, having your paramour here cancel my call. Maxine Faulk: (Ava Gardner) Miss Fellowes, honey, if paramour means what I think it does you’re gambling with your front teeth.
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Hannah Jelkes: Who wouldn’t like to atone for the sins of themselves, and the world, if it could be done in a hammock with ropes, instead of on a Cross, with nails? On a green hilltop, instead of Golgotha, the Place of the Skulls? Isn’t that a comparatively comfortable, almost voluptuous Crucifixion to suffer for the sins of the world, Mr. Shannon?
The Night of the Iguana (1964) Directed by John Huston Shown: Ava Gardner (as Maxine Faulk), Richard Burton (as Rev. Dr. T. Lawrence Shannon)
Maxine Faulk: So you appropriated the young chick and the old hens are squawking, huh? T. Lawrence Shannon: It’s very serious. The child is emotionally precocious. Maxine Faulk: Bully for her. T. Lawrence Shannon: Also, she is traveling under the wing of a military escort of a butch vocal teacher.

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From Ava Gardner: “Love is Nothing” by Lee Server
Ava Gardner loved the chance to work with director John Huston.

The play had opened on Dec 28th 1961 at Broadway’s Royale Theatre with Bette Davis, Margaret Leighton and Patrick O’Neal.

“A typical Williamsian study of desire, dysfunction and emotional crisis. set in a frowzy Acapulco Hotel where defrocked alcoholic horny minister now tour guide The Rev T Lawrence Shannon haphazardly battles for his salvation aided and abetted by lusty innkeeper Maxine Faulk and wandering spinster Hannah Jelkes.”

Producer Ray Stark regarded the film’s formula should be a “mix of soul-searching, melodrama and lowlife exotica” which would capture Huston’s imagination.

Ava was cast to play the ‘earthy widow’ Maxine- Huston considered Gardner perfect as she was a Southern actress with ‘feline sexuality’. perfect to play one of Tennessee Williams’hot-blooded ladies!’

Ava Gardner wanted the role to be really meaningful. She did have several volatile scenes, for instance when she is exasperated by Shannon, to spite him Maxine impulsively rushes into the ocean to frolic with her two personal beach boys.

According to the book, “Ava had become sick with fear— of the physicality of the scene (how could she not look bad falling around in the water with her hair all soaked?), the sexuality of it (the two boys roaming all over her body as the surf rolled across them). and the physical exposure (the scene called for her to be wearing a skimpy bikini) Huston told her in that case, kid they would rewrite and shoot the scene at night and with minimal lighting. As she got more uncomfortable Huston suggested that she simply go in the water in her clothes (Maxine’s ubiquitous poncho too and toreador pants). ‘It’ll look more natural like that anyway’- Huston said.”

Houston even waded into the water with her, they had a few drinks, he held her hand and waited til she was ready to shoot the scene. And it came out beautifully with one take!.

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THE KILLERS with ANGIE DICKINSON as Sheila Farr

Johnny -“Pretty Cool aren’t you Miss Farr”
Sheila “Only when there’s nothing to be excited about”

Angie THe Killers 1964

Directed by Don Siegel This remake of Ernest Hemingway’s taut thriller has been given a 60s sheen of vibrantly slick color. In contrast to Robert Siodmak’s masterpiece in 1946. The femme fatale in this Post-Noir film is Angie Dickinson as opposed to Ava Gardner.

Don Siegel’s 1964 adaptation of Ernest Hemingway’s short story The Killers is quite a horse of a different colour. first off the obvious is that it is not in haunting B&W… The double – crosses are still in the picture. the big heist and the hidden doe…

And we don’t have Ava Gardner, but we do get Angie Dickinson. Cassavetes is a race car driver Lancaster was a mechanic… we don’t have the primal sexuality of Burt Lancaster we have the pensive arrogance of John Cassavetes.

The viewpoint of the story is not seen through the eyes of the victim, but the Kiilers who want to understand why the protagonist just stands there and lets himself be gunned down in cold-blood “just stood there and took it.

While Siodmak’s version is drenched in shadow and nuance, Siegel’s version is gorgeously played out like a taut violin string in the brightly mod colors of a 60s world. It was no longer the year of the dark and dangerous femme fatale that hinted at promises of a sexual joyride alluded to with suggestive dialogue and visual iconography. Now we have Angie Dickinson’s character Sheila Farr a modern sexually liberated woman who struts her stuff in the light of day.

In exchange for the two odd misanthropes —William Conrad and Charles McGraw as Al & Max who walk into the diner and make the first 12 minutes of the ‘46 classic incredibly memorable and a noir essential— now we have Lee Marvin and Clu Gulager as a snarling thug and a creepy neurotic. Henry Mancini scored the music for 1964 slick production which became a 60s cult classic and Miklós Rózsa scored the 1946 noir masterpiece

The two hit men Lee Marvin and Clu Gulager walk into a school for the blind and shoot down John Cassavetes. On the way back to Chicago Marvin’s character wants to know why he didn’t try to run when he had the chance. Also told in flashback, it pieces together the reason for him wanting to die. After Cassavete’s is washed up as a race car drive when he has a near fatal crash- he takes up with crime boss Ronald Reagan and tries to steal his woman- Sheila.

Lee Marvin The Killers 1964

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Angie on the set of The Killers The Red List

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Johnny -“You have money written all over you what do you want with me?” Sheila- “A hamburger and a beer” Johnny “na na I’m serious” “You know my story…. I’m pretty” Johnny-“and what does that make me?” SheilaSomebody I admire somebody I’d like to know “ Johnny -“put it in English Sheila “Alright, you’re a winner and I don’t like losers cause I’ve been around them all my life. Little men who cry a lot. I like you do I have to write a book?

DEAD RINGER with BETTE DAVIS as Margaret DeLorca & Edith Phillips

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Margaret: “Oh Edie I wanted to marry Frank so desperately” Edie “But you never loved him, you never made him happy… you ruined both our lives.”
Margaret “I’ll make it up to you. Remember remember when we were children? You were the one person I really loved.”

Edie“LOVED!!!!! You never loved anybody but yourself. Margaret “You have all the time in the world to find happiness. You can get rid of this place. You can get rid of it and take a trip.” Edie-“To outer space!” Margaret- “Money’s no object. How much would you like?- “YOU haven’t got that much!” ( Edie smacks the money out of Margaret’s hand.)

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Margaret DeLorca: You really hate me, don’t you? You’ve never forgiven me in all these years. Edith Phillips: Why should I? Tell me why I should. Margaret DeLorca: Well, we’re sisters! Edith Phillips: So we are… and to hell with you!

I simply couldn’t choose the 60s and not include a little psycho-melodrama, a bit of Grande Dame Guignol–without including my favorite of all… Bette Davis. Directed by actor/director Paul Henreid this extremely taut suspense thriller starring Bette Davis in two roles is a captivating story that grips you in the guts from beginning to end.

It’s 1964 Los Angeles and Bette plays twin sisters Margaret de Lorca and Edith Phillips.The film opens at Margaret’s husband’s funeral. The two sisters haven’t seen each other in twenty years.

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Margaret has married very rich, with the man that Edith had planned on marrying. Edith lives a modest life and is dating a very fine police officer Sgt Jim Hobbson played by the wonderful Karl Malden. He loves his Edie who has a little jazz bar, is kind and simple and doesn’t share the arrogance and ruthless nature like Margaret. Margaret tricked Frank into marrying her, claiming she was pregnant.

One night Margaret comes to visit Edie and insults her by offering her some cheap clothes as a hand off plus Edie learns from the chauffeur that the pregnancy was all a lie. That Margaret ruined her chances of happiness. Adding to Edie’s troubles the property agent has give her the boot, since she’s 3 months late with the rent.

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Money's no object how much? You haven't got that much Now sit down!

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In a moment of rage with several ounces of premeditation -Edie shoots Margaret, assuming her identity, hopping into her sisters chauffeured limo and moving into the great house with servants and wealthy snobbish friends. Unfortunately it’s only a matter of time before Margaret’s smarmy lover Tony (Peter Lawford) shows up and discovers right away about the masquerade. Of course he blackmails Edie for his silence. Also Detective Jim Hobbson starts coming around thinking that Edith’s death was suspicious and not a suicide. What makes the film interesting is how Jim is the one person who could recognize Edie behind the elegant clothing, and at times there is a spark of awareness, but it just might be too late for Edie playing Margaret to turn things around. One particular exchange that is wonderful is the unspoken sympathetic relationship between Edie and Henry the quintessential Butler played Cyril Delevanti who has the most marvelously time worn face.

Cyril Delevanti Dead Ringer

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1965

FASTER, PUSSYCAT! KILL KILL! with TURA SATANA, HAJI AND LORI WILLIAMS

“What attracts audiences is not sex and not really violence, either, but a Pop Art fantasy image of powerful women, filmed with high energy and exaggerated in a way that seems bizarre and unnatural until you realize Arnold Schwarzenegger Sylvester Stallone, Jean Claude Van Damme and Steven Seagal play more or less the same characters!”-Chicago Sun-Times

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Russ Meyer’s exploitation film to end all campy exploitation films… When you got a formula that works! And what works for this trashy treasure is that black maned beauty Tura Satana she was a purely powerful figure in the 60s

From Jürgen Müller’s book on 60s cinema he mentions how: The American Film Institute catalogs all movies ever to receive an official U.S. release with a list of plot keywords. Those for Russ Meyer’s Faster, Pussycat! Kill! Kill! include-go go dancer, wheelchair, brother, voyeurism, drunk and disorderly, sadism, mental retardation, lesbian gang, rape, robbery, murder seduction, family affair, desert, gas station, sports vehicle, karate and race car driving!

Three go-go dancers go to the desert to race their sports car. Varla (Tura Satana) Rosie (Haji) (Loved her in Motor Psycho 1965 with Alex Rocco) and Billie (Lori Williams) And just so you know… There is no nudity in this Russ Meyer’s gem. As Müller points out the only set pieces areplywood shanties and the California desert.” While tooling around out in the sun drenched sand, they meet a couple, Tommy a racing enthusiast (Ray Barlow) and Linda (Susan Bernard). The couple have come out to the desert to do some racing too.

When Varla challenges him to a race, she drives like a devil and one thing leads to another and she kills him. They kidnap Linda and drive into town to fill up on gas. Now they meet a huge muscle bound ape who takes care of his wheelchair bound father (Stuart Lancaster) The gas station attendant tells the women that the muscle bound son who he refers to as ‘the vegetable’ and that the old man is rich and has loads of money stashed away.

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They decide to follow them and see if they can grab that supposed fortune. Forcing Linda to play a rich runaway, that they’re taking back home. Unfortunately, the old man is a psychopathic misogynist sexual sadist who kidnaps girls for his son, the vegetable.

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Now these three strong and kick ass women must fight their way out of this deviant miasma! The film also casts three bold women who illustrate that women can be violent and forceful and self sufficient. The exploitation films often tantalize the audience with either explicit sex or violence, but if it’s done right, there’s always a subtle lesson and a squint at some sociological challenge to be gleaned. And say, before women were kicking ass in contemporary films, Faster, Pussycat! Kill! Kill! offers the idea of objectification in reverse as these three ogle a man’s body, and they can throw a great karate chop and kick to the solar plexus. It’s the ultimate in boldness…

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Quotes from FPKK-Varla: I never try anything. I just do it. And I don’t beat clocks, just people! Wanna try me? Billie: (bisexual reference ) You really should be AM and FM. You one-band broads are a drag! Varla: Go get her! Rosie: So I have to get all wet because the Lady Godiva wants to swim?

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1966

WHO’S AFRAID OF VIRGINIA WOOLF? with ELIZABETH TAYLOR as Martha

“You are cordially invited to George and Martha’s for an evening of fun and games.”

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“I swear to GOD George, if you even existed I’d divorce you.”

The film is directed by Mike Nichols and based on the play by Edward Albee, Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf shadows the poetic intensity of Tennessee Williams. All the characters spew biting blasphemous satire and are each neurotic in their own ways. George a history professor and Martha taunt each other with verbal assaults. The principles are two couples who live in Academia (shot on the campus of Smith College). One couple is tortured by being childless, the other Nick is impotent and Honey’s hips are too small to carry. Something told in confidence while playing games with George and Martha, oh what fun… what ‘camp’ As in the opening of the film Martha arrives home and does a nod to Bette Davis saying,“What a dump.” While Martha is taking off on an iconic symbol of Hollywood she is also condemning her own personal space and the state of her marriage. Only Davis herself could take on the role of Martha and bring it to a whole other level!

Elizabeth Taylor gave a tour-de force performance despite the ugly tagline:The Violet-Eyed Venus Becomes a Boozing, Tired, Greying “Virago”

From American Cinema 1960s Themes and Variations edited by Barry Keith Grant “The actors bite into Albee’s bitchy dialogue with relish, milking each line for it’s fullest release of irony and sarcasm.”

From Newsweek: “Albee is using his harrowing heterosexual couples as surrogates for homosexual partners having a vicious, narcissistic, delightedly self-indulgent spat. He has not really written about men and women, with a potential for love and sex, however withered the potential may be. He has written about saber-toothed humans who cannot reproduce, and who need to draw buckets of blood before they can feel compassion for each other”

Perhaps Albee might have actually been exuding a critical eye to a bourgeois heteronormative world and the majority of a culture that is homophobic, equally vicious and narcissistic. And if anyone could be campy and volatile on screen and still maintain a magnetism, strange poignancy and mesmerizing individual power… I would think it would be Elizabeth Taylor.

Taylor and Burton play a volatile middle aged couple who are marinated in alcohol and use verbal assaults brutal tirades and orgies of humiliation as a form of connecting to one and other. As Jurgen Muller puts it its a “sadomasochistic variation on marriage therapy.”

Elizabeth Taylor (Martha) and Richard Burton (George) steeped in alcohol (Burton in real life struggling with his drinking), use a hapless young couple George Segal (Nick) and Sandy Dennis (Honey) to fuel anguish and emotional pain towards each other, though somehow it is imbued in a mutual odd love. When alone they are miserable so they need an audience to perform their vicious marriage in front of. An American dream gets beaten up and shattered.

Martha capitalizes on using the successful Biology professor Nick as a trigger for George, a sort of vengeful insult to her impotent husband whom she hails misery down upon constantly casting him as a weakling.

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George is an associate History professor and Martha’s father happens to be the President of the University which adds a layer or resentment to the dynamic of their turbulent relationship.

The film centers around this one night when Nick and Honey (George Segal and Sandy Dennis) are invited to come over for cocktails.

Nick is a professor in the Biology Department and his wife is a bit of a dormouse. During the course of the evening after having partaken in the Bacchanalian ceremony of getting potted, Nick and Honey become submerged in the hurt games…

Jurgen Muller “For Martha and George, their gruesomely playful dealing with their repressed terrors are part of a shared ritual, which is remarkably suggestive of a kind of psychotherapy. In essence the entire evening is nothing but a series of cruel games, each of which has a weird associative relationship to the real world. Nick and Honey are forced to join in and play by the existing rules.”

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IMDb fun tidbit: Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? (1966) reunites the four following people from Joseph L. MankiewiczCleopatra (1963): actors Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton, costume designer Irene Sharaff, and composer Alex North. All of whom received Academy Award nominations for their work on Virginia Woolf.

IMDB fun tidbit: In this film, Elizabeth Taylor does an exaggerated impression of Bette Davis saying a line from Beyond the Forest (1949): “What a dump!” In an interview with Barbara Walters, Bette Davis said that in the film, she really did not deliver the line in such an exaggerated manner. She said it in a more subtle, low-key manner, but it has passed into legend that she said it the way Elizabeth Taylor‘s delivered it in this film. During the Barbara Walters interview, the clip of Bette Davis delivering the line from Beyond the Forest (1949) was shown to prove that Davis was correct. However, since people expected Bette Davis to deliver the line the way Elizabeth Taylor had, she always opened her in-person, one woman show by saying the line in a campy, exaggerated manner: “WHAT … A… DUMP!!!”. It always brought down the house. “I imitated the imitators”, Davis said.

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Martha: I disgust me. You know, there’s only been one man in my whole life who’s ever made me happy. Do you know that? [pause] Martha: George, my husband… George, who is out somewhere there in the dark, who is good to me – whom I revile, who can keep learning the games we play as quickly as I can change them. Who can make me happy and I do not wish to be happy. Yes, I do wish to be happy. George and Martha: Sad, sad, sad. Whom I will not forgive for having come to rest; for having seen me and having said: yes, this will do.

Elizabeth Taylor as Martha: “You’re all flops. I am the Earth Mother, and you are all flops.”

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Elizabeth Taylor was only 33 during the film of the movie. Martha in actuality was supposed to in her early 50s.

1967

GAMES with SIMONE SIGNORET as Lisa Schindler  

“I tend to be too mystical.”- Lisa Schindler

Directed by Curtis Harrington, Games is a superb psychological thriller with an incredible cast. Simone Signoret enters the lives of a wealthy NYC couple who like to dabble in mind games. Shortly after her presence in the the house, things turn dark and dangerous. With perhaps a nod to Diabolique 1955 which also starred Signoret.

In Games, Signoret is an offbeat character with an air of mysticism to her. Mysterious, colorful and perhaps a bit dangerous. The set is sort of an important artifice in the film itself as it’s modern pop culture design in the 60s Manhattan brownstone. The set adds to the feeling of displaced reality in a contained world that the young couple have created for themselves. But the degree of danger is heightened once Signoret enters the picture.

IMDb tidbit: The part of Lisa Schindler was written for Marlene Dietrich. Producers vetoed the choice, and Simone Signoret was cast.

IMDb tidbit-According to director Curtis Harrington, the credited set decorator provided by the studio proved unusable so he was given a paid vacation during the production. Costume designer Morton Haack actually did the set decoration but, because this was against union rules, he was not credited for his work.

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The claustrophobic fable-like dreaminess of the cinematography is credited to William Fraker if you consider his work on One Flew Over the Cukoo’s Nest 1975 and Rosemary’s Baby 1968, you can get an idea of how Fraker style with close spaces.

Katherine Ross is Jennifer Montgomery married to Paul (James Caan), socialites in the Manhattan scene. They own an exclusive art collection worth big bucks and throw opulent/decadent parties to impress their friends. One day a cosmetic saleswoman Lisa Schindler (Simone Signoret) shows up at their apartment pretending to know a friend of Jennifer. Once Jennifer realizes that it’s a scam, Lisa suddenly collapses as if from starvation or heat exhaustion. The Montgomery’s allow Lisa to rest at their apartment until she is feeling better.

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While staying with the young couple, they show her a peak into their little parlor games. Lisa enters into this bourgeois constructed fancy seamlessly as she offers them a pair of guns. They are “Old but Valuable” she tells them.

When the delivery boy Norman (hunky Don Stroud -meow) comes to the apartment they use one of the guns, thinking it is loaded with blanks, and he is shot and killed.

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Since this film is all about illusion and the art of misdirection I won’t give away too much of the plot. Let’s just say that Lisa begins to play a larger part in the couples lives now, and Norman winds up encased in a large plaster cast of himself from head to toe. Being art collectors it wouldn’t look odd for Paul to be crating and transporting a life size statue. The couple is also now fearful that Lisa has the goods on them to either go to the police, or even try blackmail.

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Did I mention that Lisa is also a medium, tarot cards are a feature in the film. Oh yes, and now Lisa senses the presence of a restless disturbed soul who is now hanging around. Lisa contacts the spirit using a crystal ball and Jennifer winds up having a vision of Norman who had been shot through the eye. His bloody eyed ghost continues to torment Jennifer.

Games had been Curtis Harrington’s first big budget film. The interiors are spectacular with the pop art of the 60s and the apartment set up like a modern Gothic funhouse with candles and masks and Organ music, it sets a moody air of trickery and self-indulgence.

The film also possess quite a great cast with Estelle Windwood who plays the eccentric cat lady next door, Marjorie Bennett is the Montgomery’s maid, Ian Wolfe and Kent Smith.

An interesting theme that gives the story it’s almost fable-like quality is how at the moment Jennifer pricks her finger on a rose thorn, that’s the moment when Lisa appears. Lisa, who is a liar trying to gain access to her home is foreboding. Lisa has a mesmerizing presence as she may not be who she says she is, and there is a romanticism surrounding her because she is mysterious and her eyes and eternal pouty lips are so compelling. She appears as if she is an otherworldly fortune teller who knows the secrets of the world.

Though the couple enjoy their games, it is Lisa who tells them that their entertainments are juvenile and the stakes are too low, these things don’t interest her. She is a Virago, an elegant intruder who raises the stakes on the Montgomerys and forces them to stretch over the boundaries of morality.

Simone Signoret was wonderful in Les Diaboliques 1955 and won the Oscar for her performance in Room at the Top 1959. I loved her in “Thérèse Raquin” and her supporting role in Ship of Fools 1965 ( a film I’ll be covering in a special collection of 60s films I love)

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Review from Bosley Crowther of The New York Times …{…} A strong enigmatically humoress performance from Simone Signoret who gives authority to the eerie make-believe -September 18, 1967


BONNIE & CLYDE with FAYE DUNAWAY  as Bonnie Parker

They’re young… they’re in love… and they kill people.

They met in 1930. She was stark naked, yelling at him out the window while he tried to steal her mother’s car. In a matter of minutes they robbed a store, fired a few shots and then stole somebody else’s car. At that point they had not yet been introduced.

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Bonnie Parker: I don’t have no mama. No family either. Clyde Barrow: Hey, I’m your family. Bonnie Parker: You know what, when we started out, I thought we was really goin’ somewhere. This is it. We’re just goin’, huh? Clyde Barrow: I love you.

Directed by Arthur Penn this is a biopic of the notorious couple of thrill killers who went on a spree as they traveled across the country robbing banks and spreading violence in the wake of their criminal careers.

Faye Dunaway started a fashion trend with her magnificent wardrobe designed by Theodora Van Runkle. Thousands of berets were sold worldwide after Faye Dunaway wore them in this film.

Dede Allen did a fantastic job editing the film so it traveled like a car out of control keeping the pace as exciting as the story line itself. Dunaway is probably at her most sensual. That dangerous pout and ‘I dare you’ demeanor on her face is iconic.

During the early 30s, 1934 to be exact Bonnie Parker works as a waitress. Clyde Barrow has just been released from prison. With the instant magnetism that usually creates a Folie à deux –they are drawn to each other at once, when they meet. Bonnie is drawn to Clyde’s criminal history and Clyde feels comfortable with the way Bonnie accepts who is he and how he lives his life.

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There is a sexual problem between the two -though they feel kindred with each other, Clyde can’t seem to get it up. Clyde being impotent was also alluded to that he might actually bisexual. Well whether they’re hitting the sheets or not, they begin an onslaught of criminal activity and their sexual energy is channeled into hitting banks and living a life of crime. They form a little gang, which includes C.W. Moss (Michael J Pollard ) a mechanic who can take care of the getaway cars they steal and Buck Barrow played by Gene Hackman one of Clyde’s older brothers who’s heart really isn’t into wielding large guns and robbing banks. Buck’s wife, Blanche, tags along reluctantly. She is played by the wonderful Estelle Parsons.

Bonnie Parker: [to Clyde] You’re just like your brother. Ignorant, uneducated hillbilly, except the only special thing about you is your peculiar ideas about love-making, which is no love-making at all.

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The story of Bonnie Parker smoking a cigar in a picture is accurate. She did it as a joke. But after the shootout at the bungalow in Joplin, MO, police found the photos the gang had taken and published the photo of Bonnie, thereby leading to her unearned rep as a “Cigar Smokin’ Gun Moll”.

1968

BARBARELLA with JANE FONDA & ANITA PALLENBERG-as the Great Tyrant

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Barbarella still maintains itself as one of the great cult sci-fi/fantasy films of all time!
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Barbarella is a five star double rated astronautic aviatrix on a top secret mission- to find Durand Durand on the evil planet of Tau Ceti before he uses his new laser weapon!

The Great Tyrant: Hello, pretty pretty. Barbarella: Hello… The Great Tyrant: Do you want to come and play with me? For someone like you I charge nothing. You’re very pretty, Pretty-Pretty. Barbarella: My name isn’t pretty-pretty, it’s Barbarella.

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Our Heroine who’s purity proves to be her greatest weapon-from
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Director Roger Vadim creates a psychedelic sci-fi Opera, acid trip exploitation frolic with his Barbarella who is an unflappable super-heroine! Based on a popular French comic series by Jean Claude Fores. And a screenplay by both Vadim and Terry Southern. The film showcases the best of the pop art, lava lamp, shag carpet, beads and free love era. Everything from the set design, visual effects art department, too many to mention here so check out the IMDb list –that allow Barbarella and (my heart beats faster –John Phillip Law) as the dreamy angel Pygar to romp in this violent and sexual wonderland of phantasmagoria and sin….

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Barbarella opens with one of the most provocative scenes for it’s day, as Jane Fonda does a cosmic space aged weightlessness striptease. The film is painted with surreal fluff and pop art erotica… I get nostalgic when watching this gem, and I wish I could fly with Pygar too! (Oh my!)

She’s a 41st century astronaut with the BEST wardrobe by Gloria Musetta & Paco Rabane. Her mission is to find the mastermind Durand Durand in the city of Sogo, an interplanetary Sodom & Gomorrah. Barbarella may come off as casual but she is anything but. In a place where new sins and ways to torture people are created every hour, including a machine like a pipe organ that can pleasure you to death! Barbarella does find her sexuality awakened by all this chaos, as she comes from a world where sexual contact has been reduced to popping a pill and touching hands…

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She must navigate this treacherous terrain and not be thwarted by the evil Durand Durand ( played mischievously by Milo O’Shea or The Great Tyrant pulled off to a tee by the sexy Anita Pallenberg who sleeps in a bubble like dream chamber and is lusting after Barbarella.

I must mention that the flesh eating dolls with teeth are almost as frightening as zombies and just for edification, they predate the film Doll 1987 which I adore from the bottom of my little MonsterGirl heart or any of Puppetmaster films using very similar reanimated souls in killer dolls with sharp teeth or grotesque weaponry.

“THERE’S MANY DRAMATIC SITUATIONS THAT BEGIN WITH SCREAMING!”

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Lobby card stills and set photographs survive, showing footage of a seduction scene between Barbarella and the Black Queen on a bed. However this footage has never appeared in any print of the film.

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THE BRIDE WORE BLACK with JEANNE MOREAU as Julie Kohler

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Priest hears Julie’s confessionRevenge is hopeless revenge is futile where does it end. it would be necessary to avenge too many wrongs, too many crimes. Too much ignorance. The evil thoughts of people. No you must give up this sinister mission  you’ve taken on yourself”

Julie-“It’s not a mission. It’s work. It’s something I must do”

Priest“Give it up”
Julie“That’s impossible, I must continue til it’s over”
Priest“Have you have no remorse in your heart?… don’t you fear for your soul?”
Julie-“NO… no remorse, nor fear.”
Priest-“you know you’ll be caught in the end”
Julie-“The justice of men is powerless to punish, I’m already dead. I stopped living the moment David died. I’ll join David after I’ve had my revenge.”

The Bride Wore Black

François Truffaut directs the Cornell Woolrich novel. Using an absolutely fluid homage to Hitchcock, even using the great Bernard Herrmann for the musical score.

It’s no secret that Francois Truffaut admired Alfred Hitchcock’s work and with The Bride Wore Black it was his very complimentary homage to the director. Even the score was done by Bernard Hermann. Jeanne Moreau glides around with ease as the anti-heroine you care for. At least I do.

There are the typified plot devises as the use of cloaked identity, retribution and redemption. It is a superb crime thriller with striking imagery laid out by cinematographer Raoul Coutard. With some frames as beautiful as paintings, and at the central core is Moreau  beautiful, bold and earnest in her mission to exact revenge on the men who were responsible for killing her husband on their wedding day and ruining her life ever after.

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But there is a dark humor that runs through the narrative, and the use of irony. Like a good mystery thriller it utilizes very classic iconographic motifs that run through out the film. The Bride Wore Black is enigmatic as Moreau’s presence antidotes the morbidity of the murders and the sense of calculated desire for revenge. She is a captivating figure of sadness and passion put out at the height of it’s flame. Once passion for her late husband, and now passion for revenge. It’s playful and sexy.

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THE SWIMMER with JANICE RULE as Shirley Abbott

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Shirley Abbott: Did you know I went to spy on you once in the lobby of the theater? Ned Merrill: [Surprised] Spy on me? Shirley Abbott: It was a long time ago… You were meeting your family to take them to the ballet. I saw your daughters in their white gloves and patent-leather slippers, and that aging Vassar-girl wife of yours in her understated little suit. And you… there you were, shaking hands with people, smiling, saying hello. One hour before that you had been in bed with me. *I* put that smile on your face, you DAMNED HYPOCRITE!… Listen, Ned, I want you to get out of here now. Swim the pool, do whatever you have to do, but get out!

THE SWIMMER,  Janice Rule, Burt Lancaster, 1968.
THE SWIMMER, Janice Rule, Burt Lancaster, 1968.

Based on the story by John Cheever and directed by Frank Perry (David and Lisa 1962, Man on a Swing 1974) who deals very much with narratives that delve into the complex psyches of his characters. Janice Rule is yet another actress that I’ve come to appreciate of late. After Ned Merrill (Burt Lancaster) who seems to be either running away from or running toward something, decides to swim home by way of every neighbors pool until he reaches his own house, one of his last and most meaningful stops is at Shirley Abbott’s house. They had carried on a very tumultuous affair and the scars are still very raw for her. This film is quite unique in the way that the story unfolds, as we know nothing really about Ned, yet we see him through the eyes of his neighbors and friends. As if they know things that they dare not say, and we the spectator have to wait until we finally understand what is happening or what has happened. Along the way he meets up with various characters, but none as potent or emotionally charged as when he visits Shirley, who is not ready to open herself up to him again.

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Shirley Abbott: Did you know I went to spy on you once in the lobby of the theater? Ned Merrill: [Surprised] Spy on me? Shirley Abbott: It was a long time ago… You were meeting your family to take them to the ballet. I saw your daughters in their white gloves and patent-leather slippers, and that aging Vassar-girl wife of yours in her understated little suit. And you… there you were, shaking hands with people, smiling, saying hello. One hour before that you had been in bed with me. *I* put that smile on your face, you DAMNED HYPOCRITE!… Listen, Ned, I want you to get out of here now. Swim the pool, do whatever you have to do, but get out!
THE SWIMMER, Janice Rule, 1968
THE SWIMMER, Janice Rule, 1968

1969

SWEET CHARITY  with PAULA KELLY as Helene AND SHIRLEY MaClaine as Charity & CHITA RIVERA as Nickie

Fandango Taxi Girls: “Hey Big Spender, Spend a little time with me. Fun! Laughs! Good times! Fun! Laughs! Good times!”

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Directed by Bob Fosse this was his first major musical, written by Neil Simon for the stage. Based on Fellini’s Nights of Cabiria

Dance hall girl Charity Hope Valentine (MaClaine) is just barely making ends meet, always down on her luck. She patiently awaits the wealthy guy who will come along and rescue her from this sad and unsavory life.

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Along side Charity for the struggle are Paula Kelly as Helene and Chita Rivera as Nickie.

The choreography is out of this world, I have been a sucker for Broadway ever since I was tiny, a gift my theatre mother bestowed on me. And the memorable music by Cy Coleman and costumes by Edith Head what else do you need to be BOLD…..

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THE KILLING OF SISTER GEORGE with BERYL REID, SUSANNA YORK, and CORAL BROWNE

Alice “Childie”: Not all women are raving bloody lesbians, you know. George: That is a misfortune I am perfectly well aware of!

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Robert Aldrich loves his collections of misfits and outliers of society. In this frank and uncomfortably funny story Beryl Reid plays a famous BBC soap opera character that they are killing off in the next season. She is a belligerent alcoholic and closet lesbian in a relationship with a much younger woman, who dresses in baby doll clothes. Until Coral Browne who plays BBC executive Mercy Croft comes sniffing around and has a strange fixation on George’s girlfriend Alice ‘Childie’ McNaugt (Susannah York) herself… The film has Aldrich’s inherent condemnation for the movie and show biz industry that he weaves into many of his films.

This is a frank and brave statement about being a lesbian in the 60s. During a time when being queer in cinema meant that they were emotionally disturbed, self-loathing, monstrous, perverted, and/or worthy of either suicide or death come knocking. Sister George examines the life of a belligerent, alcoholic older woman in show business who lives in a private hell of her own making, until she can no longer contain the situation and is at the mercy of a culture that has no use for older women let alone an older “butch dyke….”

Beryl Reid is extraordinary as she delivers barbs and vitriol but at the point of them are lasting poignant revelations, about a lonely woman who is about to lose everything.

Mercy Croft: People are always telling me how cheerful you look, riding around on your bike. George: Well, you’d look cheerful too with fifty cubic centimeters throbbing away between your legs!

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No Merchandising. Editorial Use Only Mandatory Credit: Photo by Everett Collection / Rex Features ( 534946B ) THE KILLING OF SISTER GEORGE, (ctr) Susannah York, Beryl Reid, Coral Browne - 1968 FILM STILLS

Mandatory Credit: Photo by Everett Collection / Rex Features ( 534946B )
THE KILLING OF SISTER GEORGE, (ctr) Susannah York, Beryl Reid, Coral Browne – 1968
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CORAL BROWNE HAS THE PERFECT REPRESENTATION OF THE 60S CHIC LESBIAN- MAKE UP AND HAIR STYLE -WELL KEMPT CHILDIE IS BEAUTIFUL BUT THE INFANTILIZATION OF HER CHARACTER MAKES HER A RATHER DEVIANT FIGURE

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The Killing of Sister George can be considered a kind of ground breaking film for the sixties. The original play by Frank Marcus starred Beryl Reid who won a Tony Award on Broadway, though the word lesbian was never mentioned. But it changed Reid’s career who had for many years been a popular actress on British Variety shows. Her agent warned her not to take a risk with such an “unwholesome” subject, but she did take a brave move to play a difficult character.

The film was the sixth to receive an X rating from the MPAA.

Reid wrote in her autobiography So Much Love “In Bath, we were deafened by the old chaps in their bath chairs being wheeled out by their nannies. Their urine bottles rattling as they went saying “disgusting, disgusting…”

After a long run in West End at the Duke of York in 1965 Reid went to America and opened at New York’s Belasco in October 1966, it was received with much praise. Robert Aldrich directed the film version with the screen play by Lucas Heller in 1968.

The story is about an aging closeted lesbian actress in a very popular BBC soap opera playing the sweet natured district nurse who’s joyful demeanor has her bouncing on her bicycle all around the little community touching everyone’s lives, spreading cheer and making sure all are healthy.

In private she stirs up trouble, by being hostile, loud and aggressive going into alcoholic tirades about this or that which cause her downfall. The very stylish predatory BBC executive Mercy Croft (Coral Browne) judges George and her crime is not so much that she is gay, it’s because she is being offensively BUTCH! Which is another layer of criticism and commentary about being a lesbian in the 60s.

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George is rather vulgar and uncontrollable on and off the set, including the sexual assault of nuns in the back of a taxi and belligerence toward her fellow cast members.

But George’s private life has caused a commotion at the studio as well as her attack on two nuns in a taxi cab. It seems that George’s personal problems are spilling out into the real world. George is now going to be written out of the show and a polished BBC executive starts menacing and insinuating herself into Georgles life in order to ensure her demise, both personal and professionally. Mrs. Mercy Croft (Coral Browne) is sent to break the news to George.

No excuses, George is foul-tempered and inappropriate, but she’s also terrified, and so she takes it out on her girlfriend Childie (Susannah York) whom Mrs. Croft is all too ready to console. For authenticity there is a scene filmed at a famous lesbian club where Aldrich used patrons as extras, The Gateways, where Mrs. Croft angles herself in order to steal Childie away from George.

George loses her girlfriend and her job. And is demoted to impersonating a “flawed and credible cow.” The idea of her playing a “cow,” doesn’t get past my critical eye, that older women are all cows. Not that I think Aldrich believes this, in fact he’s been a director who shines light on that ugly picture of how women are perceived in the industry. It’s partly what drives most of his protagonists batty!

Anyhoo… George’s ‘moos’ bring down the curtain on a genuinely poignant moment that can escape the most cynical. Aldrich had a love scene written into the film but Reid flatly refused to do it,even if it meant losing the role. Now from reading Frightening the Horses Gay Icons in the Cinema by Eric Braun, he writes that the role was

… coveted by Bette Davis who had it put about as a fait accompli that she would do the film. Davis mad the mistake of saying to Robert Aldrich “I won’t be wearing those awful clothes Beryl Reid wears on stage” He replied “ No, you won’t” because she’ll be wearing them.” However Reid held firm about the sex scene. Ironically Coral Browne was more than happy to snog with Susannah York. if on a closed set. Reid saw that it would be a good publicity angle for the film but insisted that “I never did think all that nipple sucking was necessary”

People assumed that Reid was actually gay in real life. From her autobiography. She tells a story that while in New York, a cab driver asked “May I kiss you? I’ve never kissed a lesbian before” she replied “well, you may , if you like, but you still haven’t.”

Sister George’s heart-felt and ever cheery disposition onscreen is a complete departure from her impudent and puffed up uncivil temperament off camera. George is over bearing and controlling, and a foul mouthed alcoholic who is sadistically possessive of her much younger girlfriend, Childlie. A character who’s infantilization is explicitly displayed by her wearing skimpy baby doll night gowns and having a fetish for dolls. I suppose that George rather likes to keep her in that subordinate position so there won’t be a threat of Childie ever leaving her. .

The Studio executives ever watchful and her younger lover are all suggestive of George’s growing anxiety at the prospect of losing her hold on her job and the domestic life she has secretly contrived at home. Because of the fuss, the BBC decides to kills off her character. But George doesn’t leave quietly; At a studio going away party she verbally assaults the BBC execs. Especially the one who has had the nerve to offer her the part as the voice of Clarabelle the cow…  in a children’s series.

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In the ironic unhappy ending, the film shows a semi-graphic sexual encounter or lesbian eroticism between Coral Browne and Susannah York, in George’s flat no less. Mercy Croft will now possess Childie as she takes her away to her fabulous apartment where she will be ever so much more discreet.

George eventually follows her fate as well… She commands the empty studio set and in her final act of rage, smashes the set with all the props that represented her career, now her death. In a powerful scene she quietly expresses her last thoughts… ‘moos’

The film shows how there’s such a painful struggle between repression and displaying or un-closeting George’s resistance against being marginalization by the conformist culture and domestic life.

“Sister George like the years other films The Sergeant with Rod Steiger show being gay as both torturing and tortured state.”-Eric Braun

The side of George who longs for acceptance and affection is rarely seen in the film, what has manifested as her desire became her misdirected crass humor, her overcompensation of the role of the man in the domestic partnership, she is seen as a “dyke” who bullies and intimidates, and who is so self-loathing that even her intimate dealings with Childie at times turn abusive, as when she makes Childie eat the butt of her cigar. Paging Dr Freud, we have a case of oral fixation and phallus envy!

Also as an older performer she must face her obsolescence as well. So there are two whammy’s operating in the film that condemn Sister George a) the fear of losing her star status and b) she has fears of being replaced by younger lovers… In private she is loud aggressive, butch who goes into alcoholic escapades and petty tyrades that precipitate her downfall. The interference of the predatory BBC exec Mercy Croft see her crime not from being queer but from being so offensively BUTCH

QUICK NOTE : BECAUSE I LOVE BARBARA STEEL SO MUCH I JUST HAD TO GIVE HER A SHOUT OUT FOR HER DANCE NUMBER IN FREDERICO FELLINI’S 8 1/2.  For it is that scene that inspired the exact performance of Uma Thurman and Travolta in Tarantino’s Pulp Fiction. As cool as that scene is, you saw it first in 1963

HONORABLE MENTIONS

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Constance Powers as Kelly and Virginia Gray as Candy the madame in Sam Fuller’s The Naked Kiss
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The Dolls, well not the pills, the actual dolls- Barbara Parkins, Sharon Tate and Patty Duke in Valley of the Dolls

Whether the women of cinema in the 60s were beginning to bare their wounds and show signs of a resilient empowerment, whether strippers, professional girls, nice women in their old maid 40’s (insert my laughter then my snarling nostrils), housewives or superheroes, women who chose to claim their bodies back and make choices based on their own sexual and individual freedom. It all started up again in the 60s. Even is the role itself was a risk taker for the actress that might bury their career or turn them into icons. You may see a pattern of rolls showcasing, women who are sexually liberated, hard working whores, crazy, outliers or dear lady they’re just past their prime which was what back then 35?. Again I snarl… but this is was the slim pickin’s for actresses and regretfully so, still seems to be the case.

In the past I’ve written extensively on a few BOLD women, the actresses themselves an particularly the roles they chose to inhabit. Of course I mean Bette Davis and Joan Crawford in Robert Aldrich What Ever Happened to Baby Jane? (1962) Even Maidie Norma as Elvira Stitt showed a pair of brass balls when it came to not taking any of Jane’s inevitably dangerous mischief. Add Mary Astor as the gusty Mayhew who doesn’t forget a grudge in the next Aldrich Grande Guignol offering Hush… Hush, Sweet Charlotte with Agnes Moorehead as Charlotte’s devoted maid Velma, and Olivia de Havilland as Charlotte’s ruthless cousin Miriam.

I’ve always talked about the incredibly subtle role of Lilith brought about by Jean Seberg who did a superb job as an emotionally disturbed sexually indulgent young girl living at a high end sanitarium.

Patricia Neal had hysterical blindness since the death of her child. Her husband flirting with her younger sister Sammatha Eggar. in Psyche 59 (1964). In a heartbreaking role Barbara Barrie chooses to marry Bernie Hamilton and must stand up to racism and the threat of her first husband trying to win custody of her little girl. And Carol Lynley didn’t shrink like a violet when her little girl Bunny went missing when no one else would believe her, in Bunny Lake is Missing 1965

I’ve shown my love of Elizabeth Taylor in Butterfield 8,(1960) and Barbara Stanwcyk with Capucine in Walk on the Wild Side 1962. Kim Stanley is completely off the wall yet exhibits a queasy poignancy in Seance on a Wet Afternoon. I”ll always have my favorite lady who just bared her soul, took life as it came and showed she was better than anybody! Constance Towers as Kelly in Sam Fuller’s The Naked Kiss. Can’t forget the gang from Valley of the Dolls!

SPECIAL MENTIONS GO OUT TO THESE FINE FILMS I’ve either covered before from the 60s or THEY JUST DESERVE A MENTION!

1960
THE TRUTH OR LE VERITE WITH BARDOT “Suppose I’m a tramp… why can’t I be in love?
*PSYCHO WITH JANET LEIGH **BUTTERFIELD 8 WITH LIZ TAYLOR *PLAYGIRL AFTER DARK WITH JAYNE MANSFIELD* CONSPIRACY OF HEARTS WITH LILI PALMER, SYLVIA SYMS AND YVONNE MITCHELL

1961
CLAUDELLE INGLISH WITH DIANE MCBAIN*THE SINS OF RACHEL CADE WITH ANGIE DICKINSON
*BREAKFAST AT TIFFANY’S WITH AUDREY HEPBURN *SANCTUARY WITH LEE REMICK AND ODETTA
*THE ROMAN SPRING OF MRS STONE WITH VIVIEN LEIGH

1962

PHAEDRA WITH MELINA MERCOURI A violent drama of profane love* LOLITA WITH SUE LYON
*WALK ON THE WILD SIDE WITH BARBARA STANWYCK AND CAPPUCINE *THE MANCHURIAN CANDIDATE WITH ANGELA LANSBURY *WHAT EVER HAPPENED TO BABY JANE? WITH MAIDIE NORMAN*THE MIRACLE WORKER WITH ANNE BANCROFT*HOUSE OF WOMEN WITH CONSTANCE FORD, SHIRLEY KNIGHT AND BARBARA NICHOLS

1963

8 1/2 WITH BARBARA STEEL*THESE ARE THE DAMNED WITH VIVECA LINDFORS*
LOVE WITH A PROPER STRANGER WITH NATALIE WOOD*THE HAUNTING WITH CLAIRE BLOOM* THE INSECT WOMAN WITH SACHIKO HIDARI*BELLE DE JOUR WITH CATHERINE DENEUVE

1964

STRANGERS WHEN WE MEET WITH KIM NOVAK*HUSH HUSH SWEET CHARLOTTE WITH BETTE DAVIS, MARY ASTOR AND AGNES MOOREHEAD*KITTEN WITH A WHIP WITH JANE FONDA*
THE NAKED KISS WITH CONSTANCE TOWERS *DEAD RINGER WITH BETTE DAVIS

1965

A RAGE TO LIVE WITH SUZANNE PLUSHETTE*A PATCH OF BLUE WITH SHELLEY WINTERS AND ELIZABETH HARTMAN*THE SANDPIPER 1965 WITH LIZ TAYLOR*DARLING WITH JULIE CHRISTIE*BRAINSTORM WITH ANNE FRANCIS*SHIP OF FOOLS WITH SIMONE SIGNORET*
SYLVIA WITH CARROLL BAKER*JULIET OF THE SPIRITS WITH GUILLIETA MESSINA AND SANDRA MILO

1966

THE THREE SISTERS WITH KIM STANLEY, SHELLEY WINTERS AND GERALDINE PAGE
*PERSONA WITH LIV ULLMANN AND BIBI ANDERSRON*HARPER WITH SHELLEY WINTERS
CUL-DE – SAC WITH Françoise Dorléac

1967

POOR COW WITH CAROL WHITE *IN THE HEAT OF THE NIGHT WITH BEAH RICHARDS AND LEE GRANT* THE GRADUATE WITH ANNE BANCROFT*GUESS WHO’S COMING TO DINNER
IN THE HEAT OF THE NIGHT WITH BEAH RICHARDS AND LEE GRANT
*THE GRADUATE WITH ANNE BANCROFT *GUESS WHO’S COMING TO DINNER WITH BEAH RICHARDS
BELLE DU JOUR WITH CATHERINE DENEUVE *VALLEY OF THE DOLLS WITH BARBARA PARKINS PATTY DUKE AND SHARON TATE

1968

ROSEMARY’S BABY WITH MIA FARROW AND RUTH GORDON
*UP THE JUNCTION WITH SUZY KENDALL *RACHEL RACHEL WITH JOANNE WOODWARD

1969

THE PRIME OF MISS JEAN BRODIE WITH MAGGIE SMITH *EASY RIDER WITH KAREN BLACK
*FLARE UP WITH RAQUEL WELCH

11 thoughts on “The Classic Movie History Project Blogathon: the 60s: The Bold & The Beautiful

  1. Jo! I think you’ve outdone yourself with this thoughtful and insightful post!

    I never really thought about all the strong female roles from the 1960s until you presented them here – both the famous and not-so-famous characters. I confess I’ve seen fewer than half the films on this list, but with the films I have seen, I agree with your analysis.

    Thank you so much for joining the Blogathon with this comprehensive look at women in 1960s film! :)

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    1. I know that Patricia Neal has played some difficult characters, but this role was perfect for her. I agree she deserved the Oscar- Thanks for stopping by the Drive In-Cheers Joey

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  2. Excellent post and dissertation!

    I was hoping that you would include Beryl Reid and ‘The Killing of Sister George’ as I was admiring your paragraphs devoted to Patricia Neal’s “One who got away” in ‘Hud’. And Bob Fosse’s superlative use of Shirley MaClaine in ‘Sweet Charity’.

    Nice inclusions of ‘Elmer Gantry’, ‘The Swimmer’ and ‘The Hustler’. About the only films you didn’t touch on was Eleanor Parker in ‘Caged’. And Barbara Stanwyck in ‘The Strange Love of Martha Ivers’.

    Extreme high marks for Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton in ‘Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?’ Tura Satana and ‘Faster Pussycat…’ Also ‘Games’. Where a young James Caan proves to be just as slimy, creepy bad guy as Vic Morrow in ‘The Blackboard Jungle’ and Alan Arkin’s Harry Roat Jr, from Scarsdale, in ‘Wait Until Dark!

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    1. Thanks so much! There are so many incredibly bold characters and actresses that I would have wanted to include. But I’m long winded as it is and my focus was on the 60s decade. I agree Stanwyck and Parker are wonderful… I appreciate the informative input, please stop by the Drive In again soon! Cheers Joey PS Yes James Caan was creepy but not as brutal as he was in Lady in a Cage- have you seen him in that? Now that’s a bad guy for ya!

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    1. I’m not surprised that you would like any of these films. They’re right up your alley. I love the Fugitive Kind too. The chemistry between Magnani and Brando is combustible or they just are both really fiery and compelling…. either way, it’s a painful yet well done piece of poetry-Cheers Joey

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    1. Thanks so much for your kind words. I do put a lot of love into my blog post, so they’re longer and less often, but I hope interesting! I’m so glad you like it…. Yes some of the films were more offbeat. I could have covered Breakfast at Tiffany’s or something more popular but I felt like I wanted to talk about the gems that are to be seen- Cheers Joey

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