It’s striking that Dick Martin, an "icon of the swingin' sixties" died this year, the 40th anniversary of 1968, which has been marked by commemorations, reexaminations and nostalgia for the period. Around New York City the Film Forum screened Godard from the sixties and The Film Society of Lincoln Center did international programming focused on May of ‘68. I went to see several shows but not nearly as many as I would have liked. I saw Antonioni’s Zabriskie Point, finally, in incredible wide screen; avant-garde shorts including work by Bruce Baillie —I think I am now a fan—and a tiring William Klein doc that ended with a montage of mic tests that had some of the playfulness of Polly Maggoo. At a dreary, empty and freezing Mother’s day screening I saw Killed the Family, Went to the Movies, a Brazilian film, really interesting and conversely I saw towards the end of the fest, lovely, joyful, Jonah Who Will be 25 in the Year 2000. Timely but sweet, and I loved Miou Miou singing in a car “Why oh why oh why did you ever think that you could fly?”
Anyway, according to Martin’s obits, Laugh In premiered in January 1968. Considering its irreverence (which I think greatly influenced me and my peers in many ways good and bad), the mod modernity combined with the familiar vaudevillian/variety show double entendre laden format, I began to think about commercial films made in the late 60s and early 70s that appropriated, profited from and maybe even accidentally exemplified the political, youth, sexual, feminist and freedom movements, the anti war and environmental activisms, and the student-driven quest for comprehensive, cultural, political and spiritually change. How about these other films that came out in 1968? Films that might be even more reflective of the mores and desires of the time but produced for popular consumption. Just a list culled from IMDB and Master-Wiki-P (in no particular order):
Guess Who's Coming to Dinner
Gone with the Wind re-release
Bonnie and Clyde
Valley of the Dolls
The Odd Couple
Planet of the Apes
The Jungle Book
Yours, Mine and Ours
Where Angels Go Trouble Follows
Head…the list goes on and on as I will later…maybe!
Take a look back at the last post--I've put up an improved version of the RW short. When I've shown the video invariably I'm asked, "Why Richard Widmark?" This clip (despite very bad audio) shows why. And if you have a few hours you can peruse all the fan tributes that have turned up on you tube since he passed.
This is a short I made in 2004 about my mother’s (and now my own) favorite actor, Richard Widmark. Mom had odd favorite films and stars (more about them later). She always talked about “Robert Mitchum, you know it’s that movie where he's trying to kill the little children and terrorizes a little old lady" or gleefully, “you know that movie where that terrible man kept a woman’s head in a hat box and terrorized a little old lady in a wheelchair” or “that movie, you know, where he pushes the old lady’s wheelchair down the stairs!”
I became fascinated with the actor after attending a retrospective of his films at the Film Society of Lincoln Center (to celebrate mom's birthday) in May 2001. I attended the opening night screening of Pick Up On South Street where Widmark made an appearance—at that time he was in his 80s and he was very spry and charming. Widmark died earlier this spring. I’ve been thinking about him and my mother a lot.
Happy Birthday Ina Sr. wherever you may be! Perhaps you and RW have finally met.
I was sorry and surprised to hear about Sidney Pollack's death this morning. I like many of his films, sometimes if only for sentimental reasons (Out of Africa), and I really enjoy him as an actor. I saw him speak at the New School in the fall I think it was--it was a fairly large room but he managed to make it seem like he was speaking directly to each person in the room. He really utilized both his training as an acting coach and his authority as a director (instructing the sound tech when his mic was giving feedback). He was also a very charming raconteur. So much so that to everyone's chagrin a woman sitting near me closed the Q&A by asking him for a date! --the whole time I thought it was me he was making eye contact with-- Anyway, the moderator and the audience were flabbergasted but Pollack was suave and said simply that it was his policy not to accept scripts or dates unsolicited and thanked her kindly. His stories about NY and the acting, television and burgeoning independent film scenes of the city in the late '50s and '60/70s were fascinating. I sought out films I otherwise would have skipped like 3 Days of the Condor (especially because I'm not a Redford fan) because of the way the film are set in and related to the city.
Oh yeah, did I mention he was really handsome!
This is a sweet little animation from the Max Fleischer studio which demonstrates the Western Electric process of sound synchronization and theatrical amplification. The main characters are two rolls of film named Talkie and Mutie. The short features beautiful diagrams of the sound on film process as well as some of the surreal nuttiness familiar from Fleischer's Betty Boop, Koko and Bimbo --"B-I-M-B-O!"-- cartoons.
I think we can all relate to Mutie's struggle to "Find His Voice". Well, anyway I sure do!