1967: The Year Cinema Changed Forever

I know there is at least one book on this subject and I haven’t had a chance to read it yet, but thanks to TCM showing several movies from that year, I have to agree completely. What I mean by Cinema, is Hollywood and American Cinema, because a lot of how it changed was based on things French New Wave directors had already been doing for almost ten years.

One way to see this change is by looking at the five films that were nominated for Best Picture at the Oscars that year. Four of the films are harbingers of the new Hollywood. One is old guard and because of that in addition I want to talk about another film that, although nominated for four Oscars, was not up for Best Picture.

The five films up for Best Picture were Bonnie & Clyde, Doctor Dolittle, The Graduate, Guess Who’s Coming To Dinner and In The Heat of the Night. The film sixth film I’m going to discuss is In Cold Blood.

Of the five aforementioned films, In The Heat of The Night was the big winner that year. It was nominated for seven Academy Awards, winning five: Best Picture, Best Film Editing (Hal Ashby, who later went of to direct Harold and Maude, was the editor), Best Actor Rod Steiger and Best Adapted Screenplay. Norman Jewison, however, lost the Best Director race.

To be honest, I’ve yet to see this film, but I have seen the infamous “They call MR. Tibbs” scene. From what I’ve heard it is a dynamic look at race relations, as well as a groundbreaking police drama.

Sidney Poitier starred in another groundbreaking film dealing with race relations, and more specifically interracial marriage – Guess Who’s Coming To Dinner. The film was nominated  for ten Oscars: Best Actor Spencer Tracy, Best Actor Cecil Kellaway, Best Actress Beah Richards, Best Art Direction,  Best Director Stanley Kramer, Best Film Editing, Best Score, Best Picture and won two – Best Actress Katherie Hepburm  and Best Original Screenplay.

This film I’ve seen several times. I love everything about it. I love all the performances. If you’ve never seen it, you really need to. The amount of sheer Hollywood star power in this film is almost overwhelming and there isn’t a single scene that isn’t electric because of it.

Warren Beatty starred in and produced Bonnie and Clyde, which was also nominated  for ten Oscars: Best Actor Warren Beatty,  Best Supporing Actor Gene Hackman (who would win this award almost 25 years later for Clint Eastwood’s Unforgiven), Best Supporing Actor Michael Pollard, Best Actress Faye Dunaway (this was her first nomination; she was also nominated for 1974’s Chinatown and won for 1976’s Network), Best Costume Design, Best Original Screenplay, Best Director Arthur Penn, Best Picture and won two awards – Best Supporting Actress Estelle Parsons and Best Cinematography.

This film is one of my favorites. It’s a wild ride from start to finish, an aspect of the film that was highly criticized at the time. It’s also what marks this film as the beginning of the change away from Old Hollywood. The subject matter was dark – violent bank robbers during the depression, but the film is full of light and energy and romance; it is an undeniably hip film. It also contains one of the most shocking and even to this day bloody endings in film history.

It’s loud and it’s brutal and it’s uncompromising – perfectly fitting for the way Bonnie & Clyde were portrayed throughout the film.

Another film that was full of energy and frank about sex was The Graduate. The film was nominated for seven Oscars: Best Actor Dustin Hoffman (his first of seven nominations in this category; he won for 1979’s Kramer vs. Kramer and 1988’s Rain Man), Best Actress Anne Bancroft, Best Supporting Actress Katharine Ross, Best Cinematography, Best Adapted Screenplay, Best Picture, ultimately only winning in one category – Best Director Mike Nichols.

This film contains one of the most iconic scenes in film history: Ann Bancroft’s leg framing Dustin Hoffman’s face as he calmly states:

Benjamin: Mrs. Robinson, you’re trying to seduce me.
Mrs. Robinson: [laughs] Huh?
Benjamin: Aren’t you?

That scene is pure cinema perfection. The film as a whole is a wonderful look at not only the “generation gap” of the late sixties, but also the void that is post-college life, a theme that is just as universal today as it was forty years ago. It would not be right to talk about this film and not at least mention the classic soundtrack provided by folk music heroes Simon and Garfunkel.

The last film up for Best Picture that year is pure Old Hollywood, the flamboyant, animal filled Rex Harrison musical Doctor Dolittle. The film was nominated  for nine awards: Best Art Direction, Best Cinematography, Best Film editing, Best Original Score, Best Music Treatment (this category no longer exists), Best Sound, Best Picture and won Best Special Effects and Best Song.

Aside, from 1968’s Oliver! (which won Best Picture that year) this film was one of the last gasps of the Old Hollywood Musical, whose heyday had been long gone by 1967. Times had changed and musicals just did not fit with them. In retrospect this is one of the more ridiculous Best Picture nominations in the latter half of  Oscar’s history.

Which brings me to a film that should have had its spot, the masterful film adaptation of Truman Capote’s In Cold Blood. The film was nominated for four awards: Best Cinematography Conrad L. Hall (who was nominated for ten Oscars in all, winning three for 1969’s Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, 1999’s American Beauty and posthumously for 2002’s Road to Perdition), Best Score Quincy Jones, Best Director  and Best Adapted Screenplay Richard Brooks.

What is so wonderful about this film is how gritty and how realistic it feels. Although some of the decisions Richard Brooks made while filming – using hand held cameras, filming in black and white, etc. are elements that at the time were considered highly stylized, the film doesn’t feel stylized at all. Apparently Brooks, who had directed such Old Hollywood classics like Cat On A Hot Tin Roof,  fought the studio, who wanted Paul Newman or some other big Hollywood star to play one of the killers and instead cast one-time child star Robert Blake, who had been one of the original Little Rascals and new comer  Scott Wilson (who, oddly enough, was also in In The Heat of The Night). Wilson is effortlessly charming as Dick Hickock and Blake is delightfully troubled as Perry Smith.

The film’s score, by Quincy Jones, is almost certainly influenced by such French New Wave films as Godard’s 1964 film Bande à part. But it also seems to have influenced long-time David Lynch collaborator Angelo Badalamenti. In fact, a lot of the film seems very Lynchian, except that it pre-dates Lynch’s first major film, 1977’s cult classic Eraserhead. You can see parts of In Cold Blood in 1997’s surreal Lost Highway for sure, and even 1999’s The Straight Story and his television series Twin Peaks, most specifically in the character Audrey Horne.

So really what I’m saying is, when you think of classic Old Hollywood vs. Modern Cinema, 1967 is the year Hollywood changed forever.

If you’re interested in buying any of the film listed above, you can do so here.

About Marya E. Gates

Cinephile to the max.

Posted on May 23, 2010, in Classic Film and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 12 Comments.

  1. I once met someone who claimed that The Graduate totally changed his life. It was amazing. I loved Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner because Katharine Hepburn was my favorite actress and seeing her with Spencer Tracy as he was dying was of course instensly moving for the audience at the time. Don’t you love the way the style of Bonnie and Clyde mimics their life? People were actually sad in a way at the end although they certainly deserved it. I didn’t like Doctor Doolittle at all. In the Heat of the Night was stunning. Now finally seeing In Cold Blood I think you are right about that nomination. Unfortunately because I was living through this cinematic change I didn’t even notice it was happening. 🙂

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