Mike’s Top Ten of 1969
Every time I get to 1969, I feel myself getting more pessimistic. If 1967 is when New Hollywood broke through, and 1968 is Hollywood dumping all the old shit to make room for the new shit, then I feel like 1969 is New Hollywood getting its footing and being like 80/20 in favor of the new shit, with all the old shit really sticking out.
Take a look at the Best Picture crop for this year: Midnight Cowboy, Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, Z… and Anne of the Thousand Days and Hello, Dolly! ‘Anne’ at least is part of that historical drama trend and kind of makes sense, but Hello, Dolly! sticks out like a sore thumb.
There’s such revolutionary stuff that came out this year. There are great, experimental films by radical new filmmakers, most of whom would become established names over the next decade. Most of it is the stuff you know. The ones I really want to talk about are the ones you don’t know. That’s my favorite part of this year.
Mike’s Top Ten of 1969
Anne of the Thousand Days
Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid
The Italian Job
On Her Majesty’s Secret Service
The Secret of Santa Vittoria
The Sterile Cuckoo
They Shoot Horses, Don’t They?
The Wild Bunch
11-20: Bob & Carol & Ted & Alice, Cactus Flower, Castle Keep, John and Mary, Last Summer, Medium Cool, The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie, Support Your Local Sheriff, True Grit, Z
Tier two: Age of Consent, Alice’s Restaurant, A Boy Named Charlie Brown, Gaily Gaily, Goodbye Columbus, Goodbye Mr. Chips, The Happy Ending, Hello Dolly!, How to Commit Marriage, The Illustrated Man, Mackenna’s Gold, The Night of the Following Day, Oh! What a Lovely War, Putney Swope, The Rain People, The Reivers, Salesman, Sweet Charity, Take the Money and Run
– – – – – – – – – – –
1. Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid
“For a moment there I thought we were in trouble.”
One of the greatest westerns ever made. There’s something about the combination of Paul Newman, Robert Redford and George Roy Hill that created perfection, twice.
I don’t even know how to begin talking about this, because it’s unfathomable to me that people haven’t seen this. My instinct is to start quoting lines from it, because I can practically quote half the movie because it’s so iconic.
I guess the things to mention that don’t always get a lot of play for this movie — written by William Goldman, who won an Oscar for his screenplay. He also wrote (and this part is crazy) All the President’s Men (another Oscar), The Hot Rock, The Stepford Wives, Marathon Man, A Bridge Too Far, Magic, The Princess Bride, Chaplin and Misery. Pretty insane. Also the cinematography by Conrad Hall — stunning (and also an Oscar winner for his work). Burt Bacharach did the music and wrote one of the most famous songs ever for the film: “Raindrops Keep Fallin’ on My Head.” Somehow that scene with Newman on the bike and this song playing is the most anachronistic, weird element and yet it totally works. Edith Head did the costumes for this movie too. It’s loaded with class all around.
It’s not just the actors and the director — this movie is perfect on just about every conceivable level. It’s the absolute best movie of 1969 and like top 40 for me, all-time.
Seriously, if you haven’t seen this movie:
2. They Shoot Horses, Don’t They?
“It isn’t a contest. It’s a show.”
I fucking love this movie so much. One of those gems that I recommend to people all the time because it’s so goddamn interesting. I always consider it something I need to sell to people, but apparently this was a huge hit at the time. Sydney Pollack again, who had a hell of a run to this point of films he directed.
The film is about a Depression-era dance marathon. It takes place on the Santa Monica boardwalk. A bunch of people sign up for this thing in the hopes of getting the prize money. What they need to do is dance all day and never stop. That’s it. People pay to come in and sit and watch, but everyone has to dance at all times. They get short breaks throughout the day and get to sleep at night, but otherwise, they have to be on their feet all day. And they put them through these competitions like roller skating and sack races to reduce the competition.
It’s so riveting. It’s an ensemble movie. Jane Fonda stars (Oscar-nominated) with Michael Sarrazin. Gig Young plays the master of ceremonies (he won an Oscar for his role, he’s so good in this). Other contestants are Susannah York (also nominated, and fantastic in this), Red Buttons, Bruce Dern and Bonnie Bedelia. This movie will completely grab your attention and keep it there — it’s like one of those weird documentaries about a subculture you’ve never heard of — and then it takes a crazy twist at the end that you do not see coming and are just like, “Oh, so I guess we’re going there. Okay.”
I love this movie so much and everyone who reads this needs to see it. It’s truly amazing.
3. Midnight Cowboy
“I’m walking here!”
This feels like the quintessential late 60s movie. This is that gritty, New Hollywood movie that deals with subjects no one would have dealt with twenty years earlier that epitomizes what film was becoming. It still mostly holds up, too. It’s the kind of movie that’s generally known as being great, but also one where you’re like, “I kinda wish Butch and Sundance had beaten it for Best Picture, but I also kinda get why they voted the way they did.”
Jon Voight plays a cowboy who comes to New York to be a gigolo. He meets Dustin Hoffman, a low rent hustler, who takes him in and becomes his friend. And the movie’s about the friendship of these two guys living in squalor, trying to make something of themselves. It’s really great. Ratso Rizzo is one of the most iconic film characters of all time and one of Dustin Hoffman’s most famous roles.
The film is really fantastic. Just a classic. One of those movies everyone needs to see and knows they need to see.
4. The Wild Bunch
“If they move, kill ’em!”
One of the most iconic westerns of all time. Hugely successful and groundbreaking in terms of screen violence, alongside Bonnie and Clyde.
Sam Peckinpah’s best film (though I know a lot of people love Straw Dogs, which I understand). It’s a meditation on the disappearance of the west, and the people who only know that existence. Stars William Holden, Robert Ryan, Ernest Borgnine, Warren Oates, Edmond O’Brian, Ben Johnson, Strother Martina and Emilio Fernandez.
It’s so good. The opening scene is iconic, and the finale is just — it’s a bloodbath. A wonderful bloodbath. In a way, this is the exclamation point that is the end of the western genre. This is the explosive climax that ends the story of the genre. (And then the epilogue is The Outlaw Josey Wales.)
5. On Her Majesty’s Secret Service
“There’s no hurry, you see. We have all the time in the world.”
The biggest outlier in the Bond franchise. Sean Connery left after You Only Live Twice, and they hired George Lazenby to be the new Bond. He only made this one film before they lured Connery back for one final film, before moving on to the Roger Moore era.
Most people look at Lazenby as the worst Bond, but that’s because he only got one crack at it, and a severely hampered one at that. Granted, he’s not great in the movie, but the movie’s not doing him any favors, either. After the pre-credits sequence and just before the credits, he literally looks at the camera and says, “This never happened to the other fellow.” And then the credits are basically a highlight reel of Sean Connery as Bond. Why would you do that to the guy?
But anyway, as far as a Bond film goes, this one is one of the actual best. It’s got its own plot and tells a real story. Bond, in the opening sequence, saves a woman from drowning. Turns out, she’s a countess and the daughter of a mob boss. Thus begins a romance between her and Bond, and then there’s a subplot where Blofeld has a ski chalet in the alps and is brainwashing hot women to be assassins, so Bond goes off to foil him and fuck them for part of the movie. It’s fun.
Mostly what this is remembered for is the film’s finale, which I won’t spoil for those who haven’t seen it, but this is actually one of the only films that really deals with Bond the character as a dramatic figure and really crafts a great (and great-looking) movie.
6. The Italian Job
“Hang on, lads; I’ve got a great idea.”
One of the great heist movies of all time. The American remake is fine, but you really need to see this one.
Stars Michael Caine as the mastermind behind a gold robbery that’s gonna involve Mini Coopers as getaway cars. It’s so good. And the basis for a lot of oft-quoted Michael Caine lines (“You’re only supposed to blow the bloody doors off!”).
The best thing about this is that it wasn’t made in the U.S., which allows for a much better ending. Also, terrific car scenes. This is a very oft-imitated film. If you like heist movies and car chases, this is for you. Just an awesome movie all around.
7. The Secret of Santa Vittoria
“It’s nice to have a hot meal before you die.”
“You aren’t going to die.”
“I’m the mayor, no? The Germans come. I greet them. They threaten me! I spit in their face! They put a pistol to my head and blow out my brains!”
“Why would they put a pistol to your head? The whole world knows Bombolini’s brains are in his ass.”
I fucking LOVE this movie. No one remembers this at all, but don’t worry, that’s why I’m here.
We’ll begin with the film’s director: Stanley Kramer. In case the name doesn’t immediately ring a bell, here are the films he directed: The Defiant Ones, On the Beach, Inherit the Wind, Judgment at Nuremberg, It’s a Mad Mad Mad Mad World and Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner. Not a bad resume.
Okay, so now — it stars Anthony Quinn (the best) and Anna Magnani (great). He plays the drunken mayor of an Italian town famous for its incredible wine. However, the Italian government has just fallen, Mussolini has taken over and the Germans are invading. And they are coming to the town to take all their wine and bring it back to Germany. Which — nuh uh. Not here. So, Anthony Quinn has to devise a way to hide thousands of wine bottles from the German. Which they are able to do. But then… they have to keep up the charade and keep the Germans from finding them. And, as you can guess, a battle of wits ensues.
This movie is amazing. Everything about it is amazing, and it’s one of the most underrated movies of the 60s, if not all time. You need to see this movie.
8. Easy Rider
“Where ya from man?”
“Hard to say.”
An all time cultural classic. Hasn’t held up as well as you’d think, but man, is this something different. It’s great because it’s different.
Simple story — Peter Fonda and Dennis Hopper are two guys who wanna ride through the country on their motorcycles and do drugs. That’s it. And apparently proper society doesn’t want to let them do that. Half the scenes are them just high and going places. And there’s a great supporting turn by Jack Nicholson as an alcoholic lawyer who joins them part of the way through. The noises he makes when he takes a drink still make me laugh whenever I watch it.
This is just a great film because you’re watching them cruise along the highway to great tunes. Even now, 50 years later, “The Weight” is still a perfect song.
It’s not the greatest movie ever made, but man, is it a classic.
9. Anne of the Thousand Days
“Elizabeth is yours. Watch her as she grows; she’s yours. She’s a Tudor! Get yourself a son off of that sweet, pale girl if you can – and hope that he will live! But Elizabeth shall reign after you! Yes, Elizabeth – child of Anne the Whore and Henry the Blood-Stained Lecher – shall be Queen! And remember this: Elizabeth shall be a greater queen than any king of yours! She shall rule a greater England than you could ever have built! Yes – MY Elizabeth SHALL BE QUEEN! And my blood will have been well spent!”
The last of the great British historical dramas. Becket, A Man for All Seasons, The Lion in Winter, and this. Those are the four.
This one stars Richard Burton and Genevieve Bujold as Henry VIII and Anne Boleyn. The film is about Henry wanting to leave his wife for Anne, his mistress, because he loves her and she says she can bear him a son and heir, which he so desperately wants. He breaks away from the church and starts his own. And the film is about her time as his wife, coming into her own (almost to a fault), until her untimely end (as we all know).
By this point, these films were passé and somewhat out of style, so I get that it might seem a bit flat and boring comparative to the times. But as a film, I love these and I think they’re great. So I don’t give a shit what’s trendy. Richard Burton is awesome and so is Bujold. It’s a fascinating film with great performances. What more do you need?
10. The Sterile Cuckoo
Tiny little movie I fell in love with when I saw it. Alan Pakula’s first film. After this, he’d go on to direct Klute, The Parallax View, All the President’s Men and Sophie’s Choice. Also Liza Minnelli’s first leading role, which earned her an Oscar nomination.
She stars along with Wendell Burton. The two play college students who meet on the bus on their way up there. Both go to neighboring schools. He’s a shy, introverted kid, and she’s the exact opposite. She talks and talks and talks and he just sits there listening. They start a relationship, but differences start to arise because of their wildly different personalities. It’s a beautiful little film.
Minnelli is incredible here, and the film is a sweet story of college romance. Not for everyone, but for those who enjoy movies like this, you’re really gonna want to check it out. It’s a nice little gem that no one really remembers anymore.
– – – – – – – – – –
Bob & Carol & Ted & Alice — Paul Mazursky’s first movie, leading to a great, underrated career. I put him in the realm of Frank Perry, only I feel like he’s more well-known than Frank Perry. But he’s got a lot of gems that most people don’t really associate with him. This one is a movie starring Natalie Wood, Robert Culp, Dyan Cannon and Elliott Gould. Wood and Culp have just come back from a marriage retreat and are basically free love espousing swingers, and Gould and Cannon are their uptight married friends. We see how this change affects both them and their friendship. Leading to a… very 1969 climax to the film. It’s really good. All the actors are good, and it being dated actually works to its favor in my mind. Very famous ending scene, too, set to “What the World Needs Now Is Love.”
Cactus Flower — Great comedy. Goldie Hawn won an Oscar for it. She plays the mistress of Walter Matthau, a playboy dentist (but aren’t they all). He’s single, but pretends he’s married, and ultimately uses this fake marriage to get out of his flings with younger women. Only Hawn really wants to marry Matthau, and when he seems done with her, she tries to kill herself. This makes him decide to marry her, only that means he needs to have a wive to “divorce” in order to do that. So he gets Ingrid Bergman, his assistant, to pose as his soon-to-be-divorced wife. And complications ensue. It’s a lot of fun.
Castle Keep — Sydney Pollack’s second movie this year. He’s made five movies thus far, and all of them have made these lists. This one stars Burt Lancaster, Peter Falk, Bruce Dern and Jean-Pierre Aumont as American soldiers during the Battle of the Bulge who take refuge in a castle and need to defend it against the Germans. It’s pretty great. One of those truly underrated war films. Nobody knows about this one. There’s under the radar, and then there’s this. See this one out. It’s good.
John and Mary — Very fascinating movie. Might be seen as dated, but having been made in 1969, it seems like it predicted a lot of what these kinds of movies would do later on. Also, great people involved. Peter Yates directed it and Dustin Hoffman and Mia Farrow star. They play a couple who meet in a bar, go home together, and then spend the next day getting to know one another. There’s a lot of their inner voiceover going on, and flashbacks to their other relationships. I liked it a lot. It was 50/50 on whether I was gonna like it or find it pretentious. But I guess since it’s the 60s and not hipsters, I liked it. A nice little gem of a movie.
Last Summer — All right. Here’s Frank Perry again. This is a movie that I have to give the full story for every time, because I’ll never forget the first time I saw this movie. I was in the midst of my Oscar Quest, probably like 60-70% of the way through. And I was combing through for the hard to find movies. And I saw that this was airing on TCM at like 4:30 am one day. And since I was just out of college and home and not doing much, I stayed up to watch it. It was ultimately slightly later than I was going to bed anyway. So I watch this movie and, by the time it ended, just as the sun was rising, I was stunned at what I’d just watched. I don’t want to get your hopes that high, but in the right situation, this movie blew me away. It’s a fairly simple movie — a couple of teenagers meet while on vacation at Fire Island. Barbara Hersey is the girl, and there are two guys. They become fast friends. And then there’s
Medium Cool — Groundbreaking film and an all-time classic. This revolutionized the docudrama style. Robert Forster plays a cameraman working the Democratic National Convention, and it shows the major political differences and social upheaval of the time in the footage he captures. It’s (sadly) pretty reflective of the current times as well. A must see for all film buffs. It’s a masterpiece.
The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie — Adapted from the novel, this movie won Maggie Smith her first Oscar. She plays a teacher in a girl’s school who marches to the beat of her own drum. She teaches whatever she wants, romanticizes fascists, and openly has favorite students she treats better than the others. It’s just a great performance, and a really good film.
Support Your Local Sheriff — Great western comedy. James Garner stars as a really smart guy traveling through the west with great skill with a gun, who stops in a popup town and decides to become its sheriff purely for the money. He knows he’s smarter than most of the people in the town and can use his skills with a gun to deter most people from taking shots at him, so he takes the job, figuring if there’s any sign of trouble he can just run away. Though complications ensue when he starts growing emotional ties to the town, and of course he ends up in a sticky situation he has to find a way out of or be killed. It’s very fun. It bombed at the time but was also nominated as a top ten film by the National Board of Review, which should say something.
True Grit — The original. The remake has probably surpassed this in terms of quality, but this one still has its charm. Namely John Wayne as Rooster Cogburn. When he won his Oscar, he said, “If I’d have known this was gonna happen I’d have put that eyepatch on thirty years ago.” He’s the highlight of this movie. And Glen Campbell as LaBeouf. It’s a great western. Little girl’s father is murdered, so she hires a drunk U.S. marshal to track him down. Terrific western.
Z — Great film. One of the few foreign films to get a Best Picture nomination. It’s a political thriller about the murder of a left wing figure is murdered after speaking out against the right wing government, and all the events surrounding the assassination both before and after it. It’s really great. Costa-Gavras directed it and it’s just wonderfully shot.
– – – – – – – – – –
- Age of Consent
- Alice’s Restaurant
- A Boy Named Charlie Brown
- Gaily, Gaily
- Goodbye, Columbus
- Goodbye, Mr. Chips
- The Gypsy Moths
- The Happy Ending
- Hello, Dolly!
- How to Commit Marriage
- The Illustrated Man
- Mackenna’s Gold
- The Night of the Following Day
- Oh! What a Lovely War
- Putney Swope
- The Rain People
- The Reivers
- Sweet Charity
- Take the Money and Run
Alice’s Restaurant is based on the Arlo Guthrie song. Which is a brilliant song that if you haven’t heard you need to hear immediately. It’s a perennial for me around Thanksgiving and I may still be able to recite almost all the lyrics verbatim. It takes the story laid out in the song and expands on it. It’s great and it’s a wonderful late 60s counterculture touchstone. Arthur Penn got nominated for Best Director for it, if you can believe it. Listen to the song first and then go from there. A Boy Named Charlie Brown is the first feature film based on Peanuts. It’s about Charlie Brown getting the National Spelling Bee Finals. But it’s Peanuts, do you need anything more to see it? Every one of these is wonderful. Age of Consent is a Michael Powell film. One of the few films he got to make after Peeping Tom. This is… a weird one. James Mason is an Australian painter who comes back to Australia looking for inspiration. There, he meets, Helen Mirren, an underage girl. She becomes a source of inspiration for him, and — it’s a weird movie. Though I enjoyed it because it’s weird.
Sweet Charity is Bob Fosse’s first movie. Directed and choreographed by him and written by Neil Simon. Shirley MacLaine stars as a taxi dancer. Don’t know what that is — think of a cab driver but for dancing. The overall story of the musical it was adapted from is based on Nights of Cabiria. She’s a young girl looking for love but always ending up with the wrong dude. The film is famous for the musical numbers (because — Bob Fosse). The most famous song is “Big Spender,” which I think most people have at least heard of. Fosse directed five films. Two of them are really famous, one is moderately famous and the other two are pretty under the radar. But they’re all great. There’s really no reason not to see a movie directed by Bob Fosse. The Gypsy Moths is a movie about skydivers. Burt Lancaster and Gene Hackman are two of the three. They show up in a small town to perform some aerial stunts at a show. They stay at the home of some family members of the third guy. The young one falls for a student boarding in the house, Hackman starts going after a stripper, and Lancaster falls for Deborah Kerr, the (married) woman hosting them at her house. It’s an interesting movie. Jon Frankenheimer directed it.
Oh! What a Lovely War is a British comedy musical directed by Richard Attenborough (his directorial debut). It’s got just about every famous British actor of the time in it. It’s a satirical look at World War I, beginning in a giant ballroom where all the heads of state walk around a floor map of Europe. And they basically recreate all the events leading up to the start of the war. One of the characters is Archduke Franz Ferdinand, who meets his untimely end in a very humorous way. Then once the war actually begins, we cut to an average working class family (the “Smith”s) who literally buy tickets to the war. It’s that kind of movie. The film works its way through the entire war. And oh, I did mention that it was a musical. The cast includes (deep breath): Maggie Smith, Laurence Olivier, John Gielgud, Michael Redgrave, Vanessa Redgrave, Ralph Richardson, Susannah York, John Mills, Kenneth More, Jack Hawkins, Dirk Bogarde and Ian Holm. It’s amazing. See it. The Happy Ending is a film that earned Jean Simmons her only Best Actress nomination. It’s a very 60s movie, and a films that feels dated now. But still, it’s solid and she’s great in it. She met her husband in college and, after a whirlwind courtship, they got married and she dropped out of school. Now, almost two decades later, she’s miserable. She’s a bored housewife who drinks to pass the time. One day, she buys a one way plane ticket and skips out on her husband. While on the plane, we see all the stuff going on with her (spoiler alert, it’s not great). Then she gets there and tries to find the happiness that eluded her at home. It’s solid.
The Night of the Following Day is a great little thriller. A woman gets off the plane at the airport and is abducted. Her kidnappers are Marlon Brando and Richard Boone (aided by Rita Moreno). They’re holding her for ransom. And the film is about her ordeal being held, trying to escape, as well as the complete unraveling of all the kidnappers. It’s fantastic. Rita Moreno is a heroin-addicted stewardess. Brando is the guy that has second thoughts about the whole thing and begins to feel sorry for the kidnapped girl and Richard Boone is the psychotic one. It’s great. Take the Money and Run is Woody Allen’s first official movie that he directed. Technically the first is What’s Up, Tiger Lily, but that’s more of a situation where he redubbed over an existing movie and added in fake scenes. This is the first Allen movie that stars him and has a full on plot. He plays a lifelong criminal who is just terrible at what he does, constantly getting caught. The classic scene is when he tries to rob a bank, only the note he gives the teller looks like it says “I have a gub” instead of “I have a gun.” So everyone is trying to parse through whether the note says ‘gub’ or ‘gun’ rather than actually letting him rob the place. It’s a fun movie.
Putney Swope is a movie directed by Robert Downey Sr. and it’s one of those movies that all your favorite people love. Paul Thomas Anderson loves this movie and named Don Cheadle’s character in Boogie Nights after this, and based the guy throwing firecrackers after a character in this movie. Also, Louis CK loves this movie. It’s a huge influence on a lot of great people. First, you need to know that Robert Downey Sr. as a filmmaker was very much an underground kind of guy whose films were satirical and anarchic. You need to know that going in, otherwise you just won’t get it. And if you don’t get it, that’s fine too. The film is about an advertising firm whose head drops dead during a board meeting, so the board votes for who his successor is going to be. But since they all want themselves to win and can’t vote for themselves, each person votes for the one guy they think no one else will vote for, Putney Swope, the only (and token) black man on the board. So he becomes the new chairman. And boy oh boy, does he change how things go around there. I won’t spoil it for you, but man, is it great. This is not for everyone, but for those who it is for — you’re in for a goddamn treat. The Reivers is a comedy based on a Faulkner novel. It stars Steve McQueen and Rupert Crosse as two thieves getting into all sorts of hijinks. They end up picking up a young boy who constantly steals his father’s car and going on adventures with him. It’s just a fun, offbeat little movie.
Salesman is a Maysles brothers documentary about door-to-door salesmen. We follow a bunch of them (and eventually one in particular) as they try to sell Bibles to families. It’s about them going through with their pitches, being met with constant rejection and the monotony of traveling from town to town, staying in shitty motels and doing the same thing day in and day out. It’s one of the most famous documentaries ever made and is fascinating. It’s the kind of thing I like in a documentary — taking a weird angle on some minor subject that’s just fascinating because it’s the kind of thing you never think of yet has its own entire existence and environment you can be consumed by and brought into. I’m not a fan of documentaries as a genre (especially when they’re not music-related), so for me to recommend them should tell you something. Goodbye, Mr. Chips is the bloated, late 60s musical version of the 1939 film. Peter O’Toole stars as Chipping. Yes, he sings. It’s fun. The story was always great and the film is fine. It’s definitely representative of a dying breed of film, but that doesn’t mean it’s not worthwhile. Always go for the 1939 version if you’ve never seen this story, but if you’ve seen that one already, by all means check this one out. Continuing with the theme of parting titles, Goodbye, Columbus is a romantic comedy with Richard Benjamin and Ali MacGraw. She plays a Radcliffe student, which is funny, because she’d also play one in Love Story as well. They fall in love and then have to deal with differences in background and beliefs, etc. It’s solid. Based on a Philip Roth novel.
Mackenna’s Gold is a J. Lee Thompson western with Gregory Peck, Omar Sharif and Telly Savalas. Oh, and Burgess Meredith, Keenan Wynn, Edward G. Robinson, Eli Wallach, Anthony Quayle, Raymond Massey, Julie Newmar and Lee J. Cobb. If you’re interested in those actors. This is about a treasure map containing the location of buried gold on Native American lands and all the different people who want to find it. It’s fun as shit. Really recommend seeing this one. The Rain People is an early Francis Ford Coppola movie. Most people couldn’t name anything he did before The Godfather. The film is an intimate drama with Shirley Knight as a woman who decides she needs to get away from her husband after finding out she’s pregnant. So she hops in the car and starts driving to nowhere. Along the way she meets James Caan, a former college football player who got injured during a game and had to have a plate put in his head, rendering him mentally disabled, as well as Robert Duvall, a lonely policeman. The film is about Knight and her relationship with these men as well as her discovering who she really is as a person and what she wants. I thought it was fascinating. It was really well done. A nice little gem no one knows about.
How to Commit Marriage is a very dated 60s comedy. BUT, it stars Jackie Gleason and Bob Hope. And Jane Wyman and Leslie Nielson. I love these dated comedies, especially with someone like Hope vs. someone like Gleason. Different eras. Hope and Wyman are a married couple about to get a divorce whose daughter wants to marry Gleason’s son. They’re an uptight, square couple, while Gleason is a record producer whose ideals are way more… liberal. He doesn’t want the couple to get married, feeling that the institution of marriage is an outdated concept. In order to prevent the kids from being married, he lets them know Hope and Wyman are about to divorce, which makes them decide to live together without being married. They start traveling with an Indian guru. Complications arise when the daughter gets pregnant and becomes convinced by the guru to give the baby up for adoption. Hope and Wyman make it so they are the ones who get custody of the child (their grandchild), giving a fake name and background and pretending to be married despite being divorced and seeing other people. You can guess where things go from there. It’s fun, but like I said, incredibly dated. But that’s part of its charm for me.
The Illustrated Man is a film that takes three Ray Bradbury short stories and creates a narrative around them. Rod Steiger plays a dude covered in tattoos who happens upon a dude on the road and tells him his story. Each tattoo has some story behind it, and that leads into one of the segments. Each segment stars him and Claire Bloom (who plays the lady that gave him the tattoos in the fame story) in some form. One segment is based on “The Veldt,” about parents in the future who get worried about their kids, who they constantly leave in a nursery that can change into any environment that they want. Another is based on “The Long Rain,” which is about a bunch of astronauts who get stranded on a planet where it constantly rains. They all slowly go insane because of the constant rainfall. The other is based on “The Last Night of the World,” about a married couple who know the world is going to end later that day and go about their day normally. It’s — an interesting film. It was, if I remember, a huge failure at the time, but I find it fascinating. Late 60s sci fi has this distinct look to it, and I appreciated that here.
Hello, Dolly! is one of the most famous musicals of all time, and even now, over 50 years after its debut is in the middle of a very successful revival on Broadway. Based on the Thornton Wilder play “The Matchmaker” (which itself was turned into a solid 1958 movie with Shirley MacLaine), this is the bells and whistles version. (You’ll hear me mention that phrase from time to time. For example: Pygmalion in 1938 is a great straight film version. My Fair Lady is the bells and whistles version with all the music and is 3 hours long. Or the 1937 A Star Is Born vs. the 1954 A Star Is Born. Same story, one’s got all the music and the expense.) It’s based on a a woman who puts people together. She’s an expert at finding matches for people. Here, she’s played by Barbra Streisand. She’s looking for a match for Walter Matthau. Naturally, we all know she’s gonna end up being the match. But along the way there’s gonna be a lot of comedy and hilarious sequences and songs that Streisand gets to belt out. (At this point, people are vaguely familiar with the songs from this movie because they appear prominently in the movie Wall-E.) It’s fun. Too long and too bloated like all late 60s musicals, but it’s definitely solid and a classic in its own right. Also directed by Gene Kelly, which is worth mentioning.
Gaily, Gaily is a weird one, but I enjoy the hell out of it. This was directed by Norman Jewison. For those keeping score, here’s the run of films Jewison had to this point: The Cincinnati Kid with Steve McQueen, The Russians Are Coming The Russians Are Coming, In the Heat of the Night, The Thomas Crown Affair, and then this. This is clearly bringing up the rear of those titles and it’s been completely forgotten, but still. (Oh, and he followed this film up with Fiddler on the Roof, Jesus Christ Superstar and Rollerball, so I think you can feel pretty confident that he made a movie worth seeing.) It takes place in 1910. Beau Bridges is a naive small town kid who moves to the big city. Almost immediately he gets conned out of all of his money. He then ends up being taken in by a whorehouse. He lives there, befriends all the girls, starts a relationship with one and ends up working for a newspaper. It’s a fun movie that’s for sure a comedy, but a kind of comedy you don’t see anymore. I don’t know why I say this movie is weird, but I feel like that will be the prevailing opinion of it for most people seeing it today. “I liked it, but it was weird.” That’s what this is. But no one’s ever heard of it anymore, so the fact that anyone even sees this, whether they like it or not, is a plus.
– – – – – – – – – –