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A 20th Century Fox Retrospective Scrapbook: 1961


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1961 opened with a musical comedy Swingin' Along.

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Susan Hayward worried that husband James Mason was taking too much of an interest in Julie Newmar in The Marriage Go Round

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Back to the West for The Long Rope

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Sniper's Ridge was a tale of the Korean War

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Sophia Loren and Peter Sellers took on George Bernard Shaw in The Millionairess

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Bradford Dillman and Suzy Parker, the leads of Circle of Deception entered into a long marriage after this British war film.

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Sanctuary was a remake of the notorious The Story of Temple Drake.

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The Wizard of Baghdad was a comic adventure.

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The Canadians was a northern western. (Northwestern?)

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Days of Thrills and Laughter was a tribute to silent cinema

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Ice Cold in Alex was about an hour shorter here then it was in England. It told of an Ambulance unit in Africa.

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Pat Boone entered the Navy in All Hands on Deck.

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The Trapp Family was a German take on the tale that would eventually become The Sound of Music.

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With a name like Ferry to Hong Kong, you knew you were in for an exotic adventure.

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The Fiercest Heart was set in the Africa of the 1800s

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Gail Russell made her final appearance in the boy and his dog film The Silent Call

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Return to Peyton Place was an OK sequel to the 1957 hit, but the first one was better. Still a good cast though, including Eleanor Parker, Tuesday Weld, and Mary Astor.

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The Big Show was the last major studio film with Esther Williams. It told of a circus with a power-mad manager.

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The Right Approach was the tale of a cad.

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Snow White and the Three Stooges. I  think the title says it all.

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The Little Shepherd of Kingdom Come was coming-of-age against the backdrop of War.

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Battle at Bloody Beach was a WWII saga

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Misty was a children and horse film

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20,000 Eyes was a tale of the perfect crime that went wrong

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Elvis had some pretty dynamic love interests in Wild in the Country.

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Irwin Allen took to the adventure Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea with two fine leads in the form of Walter Pidgeon and Joan Fontaine.

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Francis of Assisi was a wonderful religious drama that was very affecting. Worth noting. Dolores Hart played a famed saint, St Claire, foundress of an order of nuns, several years before leaving to join the religious life.

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Marines, Let's Go was another Korean war tale involving 3 soldiers both on the battlefield and on leave.

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Adventure all over the world in The Big Gamble.

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Pauyl Newman scored one of his biggest hits with The Hustler.

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Seven Women from Hell was a female POW in Japan tale. (Fox would return to this theme over 35 years later in the overlooked Paradise Road)

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Pirates of Tortuga was a swashbuckler.

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John Wayne returned in The Comancheros

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Fox stayed it the west with The Purple Hills

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Two boys turned into The Two Little Bears

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Debbie Reynolds went West in The Second Time Around

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The year ended with the smashing and highly effective psychological thriller The Innocents, with Deborah Kerr in prime form.

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Just now, LawrenceA said:

That's a rather terrible bunch of movies. The Hustler and The Innocents stand far and away ahead of the rest.

At least it went out on a high note with The Innocents. but it is true, things became a bit tight for a few years there in the early 60s. And this was shown in some... puzzling films.

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Some excellent offerings from the studio in '61.

Here's my Top 10:

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1. THE HUSTLER. Newman doesn't get any better than this. Led by Ritt's intelligent direction, aided by sharp supporting performances from Gleason and Laurie. Rack 'em up.

2. THE INNOCENTS. A bit overrated. But memorable performances and creepy atmospheric touches make it must-see.

3. RETURN TO PEYTON PLACE. I like it better than the original, mainly because of Mary Astor's performance. And it proves that Jeff Chandler's career would have continued for awhile if his life hadn't been tragically cut short.

4. VOYAGE TO THE BOTTOM OF THE SEA. Certainly a bit cheesy but it's a lot of fun. I like seeing Fontaine cast against type. She hadn't played a villain since BORN TO BE BAD, eleven years earlier.

5. WILD IN THE COUNTRY. Another winner from Elvis and company. 

6. SANCTUARY. Acceptable remake is hindered by the production code. Lee Remick is sensational though!

7. BATTLE AT BLOODY BEACH. Audie Murphy's first of two films at Fox. He hadn't made a war flick since TO HELL AND BACK six years earlier at Universal. 

8. THE TWO LITTLE BEARS. Surreal but effective. Jane Wyatt's first film after Father Knows Best went off the air.

9. THE SECOND TIME AROUND. Debbie Reynolds western comedy. Our star is surrounded by well-chosen supporting players. It's a highly entertaining way to spend 99 minutes.

10. THE BIG SHOW. Not a bad way for Esther Williams to wrap up her motion picture career.

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21 hours ago, CinemaInternational said:

At least it went out on a high note with The Innocents. but it is true, things became a bit tight for a few years there in the early 60s. And this was shown in some... puzzling films.

I agree. A few years hence they'd be blaming all their woes on Cleopatra, but this lineup shows they were already beginning to lose their magic touch. I agree that The Hustler and The Innocents are movies for the ages, but that's attributable more to individual directors and scripts than to the studio's creative chops. I'd call Francis of Assisi a success too, though from today's standpoint it may be eclipsed by Zefferelli's Brother Sun, Sister Moon.

Wild in the Country was a decent showcase for Elvis and paired him with some of the best ingenues of the day, but (apologies if they're needed) Clifford Odets' writing always seems turgid to me.

Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea was kind of a giddy treat to my young self at the time and I still get a kick out of it today. It's the kind of corny fun with pretensions to "science" which can make for good box office in the right hands.

The poster says that Return to Peyton Place picks up where Peyton Place left off, but I say no way. I totally agree with TB that Mary Astor is one of the best things about it, but her character was too much of a wretch for an audience to fully invest in. I also agree it's a good showcase for Jeff Chandler, but two things Hollywood usually got wrong were the world of theater and, in this case, the world of publishing and poor Jeff got himself stuck in the middle.  Probably a lot of the negative things which could be said about the movie fall at the feet of Grace Metalious, who struck pay dirt with Peyton Place but truthfully wasn't that great a writer. The shooting script for Peyton Place actually managed to wrangle some decent throughlines from Metalious' meandering storytelling style, but I don't think Return was that lucky.

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