Sunday, September 20, 2009

The Top Stars of Tomorrow of 1966

In 1941, the same group that produced the “top box office stars” list started polling with the question, “who are the individuals most likely to achieve major stardom?”. The results were generally an interesting mix of those who would become long term stars and those whose fame only lasted for a short time. These were the choices of 1966.

10. Chad Everett

Chad Everett first got attention with a small part in a 1960 episode of “Surfside 6”. He got his first film role the next year in “Claudelle Inglish”. In 1963, he was in the cast of ABC’s “The Dakotas”. In 1966, the year he made this list, he appeared in three films: “Made in Paris”, “The Singing Nun” & “Johnny Tiger”. It was three years before he would score the role he was most famous for, Dr. Joe Gannon on CBS’s “Medical Center”. The series ran to 1976 and netted Everett two Golden Globe nominations. He has gone on to work steadily in movies and television up to the present day.

9. Sandy Dennis

Sandy Dennis got her start with a two month stint on “The Guiding Light” back in 1956. In 1961, she appeared in “Splendor in the Grass”, her first movie. Going back to the stage, she won Tony Awards in 1963 and 1964. In 1966, the year she made the list, she appeared in the film version of Chekhov’s “The Three Sisters” and won the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress for “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?”. She continued to receive great critical acclaim throughout her career. She died of cancer at the age of 54 in 1992.

8. Beverly Adams

Beverly Adams’ first credit was an episode of “The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet” in 1963. She continued to get small roles in movies and television, but made her first big splash in 1965 with her appearance in “How to Stuff a Wild Bikini” with Annette Funicello. She appeared in four films in 1966 including two films as Lovey Kravezit, Dean Martin’s secretary in the Matt Helm series. She also married famous hair stylist Vidal Sassoon in 1966 and soon retired from acting to raise her children.

7. Robert Redford

Robert Redford first made the scene in 1959, doing Broadway and appearing as a guest star on most of the best shows of the day (Maverick, Playhouse 90, Perry Mason, Alfred Hitchcock Presents, The Twilight Zone, The Untouchables). He even scored himself an Emmy nomination for an episode of Alcoa Premiere in 1962, but lost to Don Knotts. In 1965, he got his first major film role with “Inside Daisy Clover”. In 1966, he starred in “The Chase” & “This Property is Condemned”. When he made this list, he was three years away from “Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid” and mega-stardom. Today, he’s an Oscar-winning director and a film legend, so it looks like they made a good pick here even if he is only number seven.

6. Guy Stockwell

Guy Stockwell got his start in theatre in the 40’s along with his younger brother Dean. While Dean became a major child star right away, Guy had to wait a few years for his big break. It came in 1961 when he joined the cast of “Adventures in Paradise” after a couple of years of television guest spots. Universal hired him as a contract player in 1965 and started starring in several swashbuckler type roles for them. In 1966, he was in three films: “And Now Miguel”, “The Plainsman” as Buffalo Bill, and the title role in “Beau Geste”. He worked steadily in film and television until 1990. He taught acting until his death at 68 in 2002.

5. Geraldine Chaplin

Geraldine Chaplin, the daughter of silent film legend Charles Chaplin, made her first film appearance at the age of eight in an uncredited role in her father’s 1952 film, “Limelight”. She returned to the screen in 1965 when David Lean chose her to play the part of Tonya in his epic “Dr. Zhivago”. The role got her a Golden Globe nomination for Most Promising Female Newcomer. Her only role in 1966 was in an Italian film called “Andremo in Città”. She has continued working very prolifically appearing in at least four films a year over the past decade and has received much acclaim including two more Golden Globe noms. I look forward to seeing her in next year’s remake of “The Wolfman”.

4. Raquel Welch

Raquel Welch started making the rounds in Hollywood in 1964 and did several bit parts and TV appearances. Her first featured role was in a 1965 beach party film called “A Swingin’ Summer”. In 1966, when she made the list, she was in four films: two Italian movies and two really big and well-remembered films that made her a star. “Fantastic Voyage” and “One Million Years B.C.” turned Raquel into one of the predominant sex symbols of the 60s and 70s. She has had a long and varied career since, including a Golden Globe win, and is still considered one of the world’s great beauties.

3. Alan Arkin

Alan Arkin made his first film appearance in “The Russians are Coming, The Russians are Coming” in 1966. He got an Oscar nomination for Best Actor and placed third on this list of the most promising new stars. He was nominated for Best Actor again just two years later for “The Heart is a Lonely Hunter”. He finally won the Oscar in the Supporting category in 2007 for “Little Miss Sunshine”. He has continued to work prolifically and is still one of the finest actors in the business. They made a really good choice putting him on this list.

2. George Segal

George Segal’s first film role was in 1961’s “The Young Doctors”. He got good reviews for 1965’s “King Rat” and “Ship of Fools”. In 1966 he had a hell of a good year with roles in “Lost Command”, the fine spy film “The Quiller Memorandum”, and an Oscar-nominated performance in “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?”. He went on to be one of the biggest stars of the 70’s, although his career faltered somewhat in the 80’s. He was wonderful in the 90’s on the NBC sitcom “Just Shoot Me” and is still working today.

1. Elizabeth Hartman

Elizabeth Hartman’s first film role was as the abused blind girl who falls in love with Sidney Poitier’s character in 1965’s “A Patch of Blue”. The performance earned the 22 year old beauty a nomination for the Academy Award for Best Actress. At the time, she was the youngest actress who had ever been nominated for that award. In 1966, she appeared in “The Group” and “You’re a Big Boy Now”. She worked sporadically through the 70’s and her last role in a film was as a voice actress in 1982’s “The Secret of NIMH”. She suffered from acute depression and was working in a museum in Pittsburgh while an outpatient at a psychiatric hospital when she fell from the fifth floor window of her apartment in June of 1987. It was believed to be a suicide. She was 43 at the time.

I won't be posting again for a little over a week. I'm not going AWOL again. Leo the Listmaker is going to his 20 year high school reunion, but I'll be back with the news of 1966, television, books, comics, and more.

Thank you for your interest.

Friday, September 18, 2009

The Top Stars of 1966

The International Motion Picture Almanac has annually polled theater owners since 1933 to determine who they consider to be the top box office stars of the year. This is their 1966 list.

10. Elvis Presley

Down from number six. In 1966, Elvis Presley starred in “Frankie and Johnny”, “Paradise, Hawaiian Style”, and “Spinout”.

9. Paul Newman

Re-entering the list after holding the number nine position in 1964. In 1966, Paul Newman starred in “Harper” and “Torn Curtain”.

8. Doris Day

Down from number three. In 1966, Doris Day starred in “The Glass Bottom Boat”.

7. John Wayne

Down from number two. In 1966, John Wayne starred in “El Dorado” and appeared in “Cast a Giant Shadow”.

6. Cary Grant

Up from number seven. In 1966, Cary Grant starred in “Walk Don’t Run”, his last film.

5. Richard Burton

Up from number ten. In 1966, Richard Burton starred in “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?” and was nominated for the Oscar for Best Actor.

4. Jack Lemmon

Up from number five. In 1966, Jack Lemmon starred in “The Fortune Cookie”.

3. Elizabeth Taylor

Up from number nine. In 1966, Elizabeth Taylor starred in “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?” and won the Oscar for Best Actress.

2. Sean Connery

The number one box office star of 1965. In 1966, Sean Connery starred in “A Fine Madness”.

1. Julie Andrews

Up from number four. In 1966, Julie Andrews starred in “Hawaii” and “Torn Curtain”.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

The Top Grossing Films of 1966

10. Alfie

9. The Professionals

8. Grand Prix

7. The Russians are Coming, The Russians are Coming

6. Lt. Robin Crusoe, U.S.N.

5. A Man for All Seasons

4. The Sand Pebbles

3. Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?

2. The Bible

1. Hawaii

I want to thank everyone for their interest and encourage people to comment with their own opinions.

Coming up we'll have the top stars of 1966 and the top stars of tomorrow of 1966.

Monday, September 14, 2009

The Top Ten Movies of 1966

This is my list of the ten best films of 1966. The top five represent the five films that I would have nominated for best picture.

10. Georgy Girl

Georgy didn’t think very highly of herself. The daughter of the domestic servants of wealthy Mr. Leamington, she found herself to be too plump and too plain. However, she was filled with life and love and when she found the confidence to let herself go, her beauty and talent shined through. This story of an innocent girl seeking love and happiness in 60s London was very touching. Lynn Redgrave gives us a character worth rooting for in her first starring role. The supporting cast also gives memorable performances including; James Mason’s reserved Mr. Leamington, Charlotte Rampling’s narcissistic and cruel Meredith, Alan Bates’ eccentric Cockney Jos, and Bill Owen as Georgy’s discouraging father. Silvio Narizzano, the director, skillfully brought out the feel of the city during this vibrant era. The film is inspiring and enjoyable throughout with an ending that will have you smiling all day.  

9. The Russians Are Coming, The Russians Are Coming

Norman Jewison directed a wonderful comedy about a very dangerous situation. A Russian submarine commander patrolling near the U.S. border decides that he wants to take a closer look at the coast of America and gets himself stuck in a sandbar near a small New England island town. He sends Lt. Rozanov (Alan Arkin) and a small party to the island in search of a boat that can drag the sub off the sandbar. When rumors of a Russian invasion spread amongst the townsfolk, hysteria ensues. Carl Reiner and Alan Arkin are exceptional in their leading roles and there are great performances from Brian Keith and Jonathan Winters as the local police. It was one of the top comedies of the year and it carried a powerful message about the need for us all to be a little less paranoid and a little more understanding.

8. Hawaii

George Roy Hill’s vision of James Michener’s novel was epic, a grand tale of a young Calvinist minister who takes a wife and goes off to the Hawaiian Islands to convert the natives in 1820. Hawaiian history from 1820 to 1841 is covered and I don’t know how accurate it was but it was certainly convincing. Max Von Sydow was memorable as a very stiff and strict man who is upset when the natives don’t immediately convert to his ways. Julie Andrews was wonderful as his wife. Jocelyne LaGarde was a revelation as the Queen in her only acting role. Manu Tupou was also a strong presence as the converted native returning home after living amongst the whites. A sweeping epic full of moments both comic and tragic; if you haven’t seen it, you should. It was the highest grossing film of the year for good reason.

7. Closely Watched Trains

Closely Watched Trains is one of those beautiful little foreign films full of quirky and lovable characters. It is set during the German occupation of Czechoslovakia near the end of World War II, but it isn’t about the war. It is about a young man working at a small train station who desperately wants to lose his virginity. A bad experience inspires a botched suicide attempt. Our young hero enlists the help of the train dispatcher, a notorious ladies man. He has a great many failures on the road to his goal, but things finally resolve themselves in unexpected fashion. The film was beautifully shot and so enjoyable that I wish it were longer. It won the Oscar for Best Foreign Language Film at the following year’s Oscar ceremony. I really wish this hidden gem of a film were better known today. 

6. The Fortune Cookie

This was the best American comedy of the year. Billy Wilder, one of the all-time great directors, teamed up Jack Lemmon and Walter Matthau for the first time. They both gave Oscar-worthy performances. Lemmon plays a TV cameraman who suffers minor injuries from a sideline tackle while filming a Cleveland Browns game. Matthau is his brother-in-law, a lawyer who convinces Lemmon to fake more serious injuries so they can both benefit from a big lawsuit. Matthau is hilarious and won a well-deserved Oscar. Lemmon also gave a tremendous performance as his guilt started to catch up with him, especially when he discovers that the guy who hit him is an incredibly nice guy eaten up with his own guilty feelings who does everything he can to make sure that Lemmon is comfortable.

The actual nominees for Best Picture were…


The Russians Are Coming, The Russians Are Coming

The Sand Pebbles

Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?

The winner was…

A Man for All Seasons

My nominees for Best Picture are…

5. The Battle of Algiers

“The Battle of Algiers” covers the period from 1954 through 1960 in the city of Algiers during the Algerian War of Independence. It was a brilliantly produced film that is very relevant in today’s world. One of the great things about the film was the neutrality of the story. They show the atrocities that were committed by both the French military and the French colonizers as well as those committed by the Algerian FLN. The film also shows how overwhelming force and the use of torture may win short-term goals, but only serves to harden the opposition. In winning Algiers, the French lost Algeria. Pontecorvo’s direction was masterful. Only one cast member was a professional actor, all other cast members were regular Algerians. The power of the crowd scenes in particular was very impressive, especially when you consider that the events being portrayed had happened on those very streets not more than ten years earlier and many of the people in the crowd being filmed were probably also in the crowd being portrayed. This moving and still pertinent movie should have been a contender for Best Picture.

4. Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?

This was a groundbreaking film with amazing performances. There were only four characters and each actor was awarded with an Oscar nomination (two were winners). Burton and Taylor’s verbal sparring was riveting and Segal and Dennis were also very impressive as the young couple along for George & Martha’s wild ride. As Hollywood was finally moving into its maturity and abandoning the restrictive Hays code for Jack Valenti’s new ratings system, this film was one of the first to present mature themes with realistic language. The producers were opposed to changing even a word of Edward Albee’s Tony winning play. Mike Nichols, in his directing debut, displayed tremendous aptitude in adapting the play to film. This was a well-deserved nomination for Best Picture.

3. King of Hearts

The madness of war has rarely been more convincingly illustrated than it was in this film. Alan Bates gives a fine performance as a WWI-era Scottish soldier sent into a small French town to defuse a bomb that was set by the retreating German forces. When leaving a small asylum where he was hiding from enemy soldiers, he leaves the gate open. The “lunatics” walk out and begin to populate the town, taking over the storefronts and costuming themselves as the people of the city. As our protagonist searches for the hidden explosive, he must also deal with these townspeople who have proclaimed him to be the new king. When more soldiers reach the town and sad reality hits the idyllic community, it begs the question, “Who are the real lunatics?” This funny and moving classic deserved the recognition of an Oscar nomination.

2. The Sand Pebbles

“The Sand Pebbles” takes us to 1920’s China on the USS San Pablo, a US Navy gunboat patrolling the Yangtze River. It’s the story of a machinist’s mate named Jake Holman, who was portrayed brilliantly by Steve McQueen in, arguably, the finest performance of his career. The film is incredibly deep with several memorable characters played by Mako, Richard Attenborough, Candice Bergen, and Richard Crenna. Robert Wise, the veteran director, did a masterful job of intertwining Holman’s story, a couple of interesting subplots, and the larger conflict that was happening in Chinese society at the time. Filled with action, romance, and intrigue, this film thoroughly deserved the nomination it received and was, in my opinion, the best of the nominated films. It would have been my choice for Best Picture, if not for one overlooked masterpiece.

and the winner is…

1. The Good, the Bad & the Ugly

My choice for the Best Picture of 1966 is “The Good, the Bad & the Ugly”. In fact, I’ll go even further. I consider this film to be the best ever made in the Western genre. Sergio Leone basically invented the “spaghetti western” and reinvigorated the genre with his earlier classics; “A Fistful of Dollars” and “For a Few Dollars More”. The final film in this trilogy would prove to be the best of them. With iconic performances from Clint Eastwood, Lee Van Cleef, and Eli Wallach in the title roles, he couldn’t go wrong. The story of three men on a search for buried Confederate gold who eventually wind up in a Mexican stand-off at the climax is captivating from beginning to end. There are more great scenes and memorable lines than I can recap in this space, so let me just say this. If you haven’t seen it, see it. If you have seen it, you know exactly what I’m talking about. This was the best movie of 1966.

Friday, September 11, 2009

Best Director of 1966

The nominees for Best Director of 1966 were…

Michelangelo Antonioni for “Blow-Up”.

Richard Brooks for “The Professionals”.

Claude Lelouch for “A Man and a Woman”.

Mike Nichols for “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?”.

The winner was Fred Zinnemann for “A Man for All Seasons”.

If I chose the Oscars, these would be the results…

The nominees are…

Philippe de Broca for “King of Hearts”. It’s a shame that de Broca went unrecognized by the Academy after crafting one of the finest anti-war films ever made. His vision of the madness of the First World War, told as a comedy, highlighted the absurdity of the main character’s situation. The originality of this great French filmmaker nets him a nomination for one of my Oscars.

Mike Nichols for “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?”. Nichols was the only one of the nominated directors to make it into my top five. Amazingly, this was his first time directing a film. The masterful craftsmanship displayed throughout the production certainly gives the impression of a far more experienced director. He would win the Oscar the next year for directing “The Graduate”. He certainly deserves this nomination.

Gillo Pontecorvo for “The Battle of Algiers”. He was not nominated for the award this year, but he did get nominated for Best Director for this same film two years later even though the film was actually released in 1966. The Academy was a little late rewarding foreign films back in those days. “The Battle of Algiers” was a magnificent war movie shot on the streets of Algiers using many of the actual locations and cast with many local non-actors. The difficulty for the director must have been intense, but he carries it off beautifully. Special mention must be made of his skill in directing large crowd scenes. He did a hell of a job and deserved his nomination, although the Academy should have gotten the year right.

Robert Wise for “The Sand Pebbles”. Despite a grueling and problematic seven month shoot in Taiwan and Hong Kong, Wise created a masterpiece with “The Sand Pebbles” He was a greatly experienced director who was already responsible for several classics like “The Day the Earth Stood Still” and “West Side Story”. He had already had three nominations and two wins in this category. It makes little sense that the Academy did not recognize him for this film, but I will rectify that by placing him amongst my nominees.

And the Oscar goes to…

Sergio Leone for “The Good, the Bad & the Ugly”. He may not have invented the “spaghetti western”, but he certainly defined the genre to the point where his name has become synonymous with it. This film was that genre’s crowning achievement and is arguably the greatest Western ever made. Leone’s use of extreme close-ups paired with wide-screen panoramic long shots was a trademark of this idiosyncratic master. I cannot praise this movie highly enough. Although the Academy never gave Leone the acclaim he deserved, I say he should get the Oscar for Best Director of 1966.