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American Cinema of the 1960s

American Cinema of the 1960s: Themes and Variations

Copyright Date: 2008
Published by: Rutgers University Press
Pages: 296
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  • Book Info
    American Cinema of the 1960s
    Book Description:

    The profound cultural and political changes of the 1960s brought the United States closer to social revolution than at any other time in the twentieth century. The country fragmented as various challenges to state power were met with increasing and violent resistance. The Cold War heated up and the Vietnam War divided Americans. Civil rights, women's liberation, and gay rights further emerged as significant social issues. Free love was celebrated even as the decade was marked by assassinations, mass murders, and social unrest.At the same time, American cinema underwent radical change as well. The studio system crumbled, and the Production Code was replaced by a new ratings system. Among the challenges faced by the film industry was the dawning shift in theatrical exhibition from urban centers to surburban multiplexes, an increase in runaway productions, the rise of independent producers, and competition from both television and foreign art films. Hollywood movies became more cynical, violent, and sexually explicit, reflecting the changing values of the time.In ten original essays,American Cinema of the 1960sexamines a range of films that characterized the decade, including Hollywood movies, documentaries, and independent and experimental films. Among the films discussed areElmer Gantry,The Apartment,West Side Story,The Manchurian Candidate,To Kill aMockingbird,Cape Fear,Bonnie and Clyde,2001: A Space Odyssey, Midnight Cowboy, andEasy Rider.

    eISBN: 978-0-8135-4471-7
    Subjects: Film Studies

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
    (pp. ix-x)
  4. TIMELINE: The 1960s
    (pp. xi-xv)
  5. [Illustration]
    (pp. xvi-xvi)
  6. INTRODUCTION: Movies and the 1960s
    (pp. 1-21)

    ʺWhat happened in the sixties was no oneʹs deliberate choice, but one of those deep-seated shifts of sensibility that alters the whole moral terrain,ʺ writes Morris Dickstein (x). Of course one might say the same of any decade—the 1930s, for example, brought the Great Depression and the international rise of fascism, the 1940s World War II and the Atomic Age, the first decade of the new century 9/11, and so on, each event requiring a radical rethinking of the world and our place in it. Still, the 1960s are frequently regarded as a special, unique period in American history,...

  7. 1960 Movies and Intimations of Disaster and Hope
    (pp. 22-43)

    The year seemed to look forward to a period of radical social change following a decade of repression and conformity. But this change would quickly face compromises and contradictions, emblematized in the white mainstream audienceʹs embrace of Chubby Checkerʹs watered-down cover version of Hank Ballardʹs rhythm-and-blues song ʺThe Twist,ʺ which became an instant hit after Checker performed it on Dick Clarkʹs whitebread television vehicle for rock ʹnʹ roll promotion, ʺAmerican Bandstand.ʺ Hugh Hefner opened his first Playboy Club in February, and in May the first birth control pill, Enovid, became commercially available, generating over a half-million prescriptions in the second...

  8. 1961 Movies and Civil Rights
    (pp. 44-66)

    This was a particularly notable year for Hollywood films as the so-called ʺturbulent decadeʺ got under way and radically transformed many familiar social, cultural, political, and economic institutions in American civil society. It was also marked by a number of historic milestones, including the breaking off of diplomatic relations with Cuba on 3 January and the failed Bay of Pigs invasion of Cuba in April, a considerable increase in American involvement in Vietnam, Astronaut Alan B. Shepard becoming the first American successfully launched into space on 5 May, and the invention of the laser. Joseph HellerʹsCatch-22and John Howard...

  9. 1962 Movies and Deterioration
    (pp. 67-88)

    By any measure it was a dreadful year. In the United States and abroad, events seemed to be marked by a steady spiral of deterioration. Certainly, there was some positive news. New Frontier optimism began to see results in the heavens as John Glenn became the first American to orbit the Earth in February. After a number of frustrating postponements, Glennʹs flight ʺput the U.S. back in the space race with a vengeance, and gave the morale of the U.S. and the entire free world a huge and badly needed boostʺ (ʺNew Oceanʺ 11). And AT&T’s Telstar became the first...

  10. 1963 Movies and the Little Soldiers of the New Frontier
    (pp. 89-109)

    This is a pivotal year in the history of civil rights: among the most important events were the highly contested first registration of Black students at the University of Alabama, the shooting death of Medgar Evers by white segregationist Byron de la Beckwith, and President John F. Kennedy’s submitting of a civil rights bill to Congress, all in June; the March on Washington culminating with Martin Luther King Jr.ʹs ʺI Have a Dreamʺ speech in August; and the explosion of a Ku Klux Klan bomb at a church in Birmingham, Alabama, killing four girls on 15 September. It is also...

  11. 1964 Movies, the Great Society, and the New Sensibility
    (pp. 110-129)

    Armageddon was cinematically forecast this year inOn the Beach, based on Nevil Shuteʹs 1957 novel about nuclear holocaust. But aside from the cool, sly fantasy of annihilation at the climax of Stanley KubrickʹsDr. Strangelove, the year passed without the arrival of the impending apocalypse. Instead, as Andy Warhol declared, ʺEverything went young in 1964ʺ (Warhol 69). This pronouncement coincided with the release in January of Bob Dylanʹs epochal recordThe Times They Are aʹChangin.ʹ That elegiac folk anthem would become an all-purpose evocation of the era ever after, but it was not until later the same year that...

  12. 1965 Movies and the Color Line
    (pp. 130-149)

    While the war in Vietnam was escalating to the point that there were almost 185,000 troops in country by yearʹs end, one would be hard pressed to find any evidence of that in mainstream films. By the same token, another war—President Lyndon Johnsonʹs much ballyhooed War on Poverty—also seems to have left little trace on celluloid images of the year. One learned from protest singer-songwriter Phil Ochs that 23,000 U.S. troops landed on the shores of Santo Domingo in the Dominican Republic, but the movies were silent on this score, too. Bubbling beneath the surface, however, even within...

  13. 1966 Movies and Camp
    (pp. 150-171)

    By most accounts, this was not a strong year for American cinema. Commentators observed that Hollywood seemed to be out of touch with the eraʹs countercultural sensibilities. Audiences were turning away from Hollywood films in favor of underground and exploitation films, as well as more idiosyncratic auteur films from Europe such as Ingmar BergmanʹsPersona, Roman PolanskiʹsCul-de-sac, Claude LelouchʹsA Man and a Woman, and Jean-Luc GodardʹsMasculine-Feminine. If and when countercultural audiences attended mainstream Hollywood films, they often viewed them through an ironic lens, a distanced and distanciating reception practice known as camp.

    At its most basic level,...

  14. 1967 Movies and the Specter of Rebellion
    (pp. 172-192)

    If history, as Todd Gitlin once reflected, ʺcould be picked up by the scruff of the neck and made to danceʺ (224), this was surely a choreographic year. The Super Bowl, the Monterey Pop Festival, and the American Film Institute began; Sir Francis Chichester soloed his yacht around the world; Mickey Mantle hit his 500th homer; New Yorkʹs Stork Club vanished; Che Guevara was butchered by Bolivian troops on 9 October; Dr. Christiaan Barnard performed the first heart transplant in Capetown on 3 December; Israel won a six-day war, capturing the Golan Heights from Syria, the Sinai from Egypt, and...

  15. 1968 Movies and the Failure of Nostalgia
    (pp. 193-216)

    During 1968, the actual assumed the status of the harrowing imaginary as history became an unmitigated American nightmare. This traumatic year proceeded with a series of horrific shocks and tumultuous confrontations as establishment and anti-establishment forces clashed on political, cultural, and geographic fields of engagement. Domestic icons, institutions, and policies were attacked, activism climaxed and was suppressed by extremist measures, Vietnam casualties peaked, and the legacy of Camelot was revived and silenced. In the turbulent wake of the assassinations of Martin Luther King Jr. and Robert Kennedy, wartime mortifications, a bitterly fractious presidential election punctuated by the chaos of the...

  16. 1969 Movies and the Counterculture
    (pp. 217-238)

    On 20 July, Neil Armstrong was the first man to step onto the Moonʹs surface, an event captured live on television and broadcast to a worldwide audience. It represented both a high point for American technological innovation and a victory over the Soviets in the space race. Despite this achievement, the year was marked by continuing social and political unrest that had characterized much of the preceding decade. The counterculture, best symbolized by protests against the Vietnam War, was in full gear, and a mood of cynicism following several political assassinations filtered into many aspects of American life. Emerging from...

  17. 1960–1969 Select Academy Awards
    (pp. 239-246)
    (pp. 247-252)
    (pp. 253-256)
  20. INDEX
    (pp. 257-280)