Wednesday, January 15, 2014

My Top 25 Films of the 1960s

Some friends & I have been (and will continue to be) counting down our favorite movies by decade... and I thought I'd share my lists with you, my faithful readers.

#25: Psycho
 At the special effects show at Universal Studios back in 1996, I played Mother. I do so wish I could find the picture of me in the outfit with the knife.
#24: The Absent-Minded Professor

Far superior to the sequel and/or the excruciating Robin Williams remake... good enough that you can show it to kids today and they still enjoy it.
#23: The Love Bug

Who doesn't love Buddy Hackett? Or Herbie? (Dean Jones was just the car's straight man.)
#22: Thoroughly Modern Millie

Extraordinarily silly, campy... and flat out wonderful. (Would love to have seen Sutton Foster in the Broadway production - btw, if you didn't watch the one season of Bunheads, you missed out on some very good TV).
#21: Planet of the Apes

I don't think I'd enjoy this as much now (and I hated the Tim Burton remake)... but it wowed me as a kid... especially the whole Statue of Liberty shot.
#20: West Side Story

Not a perfect adaption of the stage show - but incredibly good. "America" and "Cool" are classic movie musical numbers.
#19: Chitty Chitty Bang Bang

Unlike one of my friends, I remember this being shown on Memorial Day weekend before the Indy 500 each year. Either way, it's a supremely twisted children's musical, which starts like a bargain basement Mary Poppins... then turns into a much darker film when they get to Vulgaria.

Couldn't hate the strong "Truly Scrumptious" any more... but "Me Ol Bamboo" is so very, very good.
#18: Never A Dull Moment

More Dick Van Dyke... I have fond memories of this one from childhood - and watching it as an adult was fun, too. It's dated, mind you - but fun. It's a mistaken identity crime caper with over-the-top slapstick.
#17: The Guns of Navarone

Not the best Alistair MacLean novel (that goes to The Golden Rendezvous), but the best movie adaption of one of his novels.
#16: One Hundred & One Dalmatians

Ignore the horrible live-action remake (which attempted to cross this lovely animated film with a Home Alone set of physical gags)... this is what you want to be watching. And remember - they animated all those dogs with hand-drawn animation, not computer!
#15: Cool Hand Luke

What we have here is a failure to communicate - and a brilliant piece of filmmaking.
#14: Butch Cassidy & the Sundance Kid

Hire some of the most charming people on the planet, get William Goldman to write them a splendid script, just add cameras.

 Butch: No, no, not yet. Not until me and Harvey get the rules straightened out.
Harvey: Rules? In a knife fight? No rules!
[Butch immediately kicks Harvey in the groin]
Butch: Well, if there aint' going to be any rules, let's get the fight started. Someone count. 1,2,3 go.
Sundance Kid: [quickly] 1,2,3, go!
[Butch knocks Harvey out]
#13: The Apartment

Dark & funny & insightful & thoughtful... and Jack Lemmon! How to go from being a schmuck to a real hero... and never pick up a gun.
#12: The Sound of Music

I go through phases with this one - where I love it and then I get tired of it. Currently, I'm in an "enjoy it immensely" phase.

I will say that some of the rocks thrown at the live TV broadcast unfairly compared a filmed version of the stage show with the film...
#11: How To Succeed In Business Without Really Trying

Brilliantly cynical, witty musical about big business... would make a great double feature with The Apartment. Reminded me a bit of one of my dad's favorite books - Robert Townsend's Up the Organization.
#10: The Magnificent Seven

It was... magnificent. (You had to know that was coming, right?)

Seriously - I remember the awesome feeling when the guys decide to do "the right thing"...
#9: Inherit the Wind

This is historically about as accurate as Oliver Stone's JFK - but it's a tremendous piece of writing & Spencer Tracy is amazing.
My comment about historical accuracy got a lot of folks wondering... so I did a bit of research to make sure my memory of hearing one of the playwrights speak was correct. (It was.)
Inherit the Wind is a fictionalized account of the 1925 Scopes "Monkey" Trial, which resulted in John T. Scopes's conviction for teaching Charles Darwin's theory of evolution to a high school science class, contrar...y to a Tennessee state law. The characters of Matthew Harrison Brady, Henry Drummond, Bertram Cates and E. K. Hornbeck correspond to the historical figures of William Jennings Bryan, Clarence Darrow, Scopes, and H. L. Mencken, respectively. However, Lee and Lawrence state in a note at the opening of the play on which the film is based that it is not meant to be a historical account, and many events were substantially altered or invented. For instance, the characters of the preacher and his daughter were fictional, the townspeople weren't hostile towards those who had come to Dayton for the trial, and Bryan offered to pay Scopes' fine if he was convicted. Bryan did die shortly after the trial's conclusion, but his death occurred five days later in his sleep. Political commentator Steve Benen said of the drama's inaccuracies: "Scopes issued no plea for empathy, there was no fiancee and the real Scopes was never arrested. In fact, the popular film that was nominated for four Academy Awards and has helped shape the American understanding of the 'Scopes Monkey Trial' for decades is an inadequate reflection of history." Lawrence explained in a 1996 interview that the play's purpose was to criticize McCarthyism and defend intellectual freedom. According to Lawrence, "we used the teaching of evolution as a parable, a metaphor for any kind of mind control [...] It's not about science versus religion. It's about the right to think." (from Wikipedia)

#8: Goldfinger

Not the last Bond on this list... but the last Connery. My favorite of the Connery Bond films.

#7: Mary Poppins

Man, do I want to see Saving Mr. Banks... which I expect to about as historically accurate as JFK.

This was my first "live-action" movie in the theater... and my mom's favorite film. We had the soundtrack record & I can still pretty much sing all of it by heart.

Documentary tip: for a beautiful & sad look at the Sherman Brothers (who wrote so much of the music we Disneyphiles love), see "The Boys".

#6: On Her Majesty's Secret Service

My favorite Bond film - bar none. Wish George hadn't freaked out and become afraid of being typecast.

Main reason I like it - well-written plot to go with typical Bondian exploits. And an appropriate if downer ending, beautifully acted.

#5: The Jungle Book

My first movie - in a double feature with "Charlie the Lonesome Cougar" - and the last film Disney had a personal hand in supervising. The English vultures are a 60s pop reference - but the genius of Disney is that they work well 40+ years later.

#4: Hello, Dolly!

I loved this before it was used so beautifully in Wall*E... I always wanted to play Cornelius Hackle. (However, I don't have the pipes for that role - my second choice is Horace Vandergelder.)

This is the last of the really big splashy over-the-top movie musicals... and I love it even more for that.

#3: The Music Man

Robert Preston is perfect, as is the rest of the cast... and it is just about one of the best musicals ever written for stage OR screen.

#2: The Parent Trap

I fell in love with Hayley Mills... not realizing, of course, that when I saw The Parent Trap on Wonderful World of Disney she was no longer a teenager but a full-grown woman. (I was probably 12 years old at the time.)

While the remake did a better job of making the plot less ludicrous (and had some nifty stunt casting as well), the original still has amazing charm.

#1: To Kill A Mockingbird

One of the best novels ever written - adapted for the screen with class & real, earned emotional weight.

"Miss Jean Louise. Miss Jean Louise, stand up. Your father's passing."

Seriously, I teared up typing those words.


Mark Johnson said...

EVERY father worth his salt aspires to be Atticus Finch.

Mark (aka pastor guy) said...

I could not agree more, Mark...