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A 20th Century Fox Retrospective Scrapbook: 1964


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There were 25 films brought out by Fox in 1964, 6 more than there were in 1963 to brighten things up a bit....

Surf Party was a beach film released in January

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Man in the Middle was a courtroom drama starring Robert Mitchum.

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The Last Man on Earth was AIP in the US but Fox everywhere else.

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The Third Secret was most distinguished by the work from Stephen Boyd and Pamela Franklin

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The Curse of the Living Corpse. What a forbidding title.

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The Eyes of Annie Jones found a sleepwalker caught up in murder.

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Shirley MacLaine was the most beautiful jinx in What a Way to Go, a dark comedy with plenty of bright moments

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Horror then took a detour to the beach.

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Shock Treatment took Fox to the shocking psychiatric ward. 

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The Horror of It All was a spoof of the horror genre.

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More horror was in store in Witchcraft.

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Murder on the rails in Night Train to Paris

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Ingrid Bergman was out for revenge in The Visit.

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The Brits tried their hand at sci-fi in The Earth Dies Screaming

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Rio Conchos brought Fox back to the west.

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Moro Witch Doctor was an independent pickup from the other side of the world.

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Fate is the Hunter had a few too many longeurs, but its central disaster plot was gripping, and there was much good acting on display from Glenn Ford, Suzanne Plechette, Nancy Kwan, Dorothy Malone, and Mary Wickes.

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Guns at Batasi was a big war film. It was also (unless you count a little non-speaking bit part in 1959) the film debut for Mia Farrow.

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Goodbye Charlie found a murdered man brought back to earth as Debbie Reynolds.

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Audie Murphy headed west in Apache Rifles

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Back Door to Hell was back to WWII

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Raiders from Beneath the Sea was adventure underwater

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The year closed with three big ones one a semi-musical romp in the How to Marry a millionaire/Three Coins in the Fountain mold....

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Another a much successful and much loved horror film with a remarkable cast (including Mary Astor in her final film)

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And lastly, the one Fox Best Picture nominee of 1964, and the signature role for its leading man. (Oh, and Lila Kedrova became the first Fox acting winner of the decade)

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My selections for 1964:

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1. THE VISIT. I consider this Ingrid Bergman's best performance. Tony Quinn is also very good in this one. But it's Bergman's film from start to finish. She plays a very unlikable woman, in grand fashion. But there are still subtle shades of goodness in her. 

2. ZORBA THE GREEK. This was Quinn's year. He's over the top and fantastic. Good supporting turn by Lila Kedrova. Originally Quinn wanted Ann Sothern to do Kedrova's part, but Sothern's agent passed on it, without her knowledge.

3. RIO CONCHOS. Sturdy western. Excellent cast. Familiar story well-handled by everyone.

4. GOODBYE CHARLIE. Clever gender bending comedy. One of Debbie Reynolds' best. Tony Curtis is a delight, and I thought Pat Boone did well as the "other man." 

5. GUNS AT BATASI. Top-grade British war film has extraordinary cast. Should be better known.

6. MAN IN THE MIDDLE. This film should also be better known. Mitchum does well with the material, and it gives Keenan Wynn one of his meatiest assignments.

7. HUSH HUSH SWEET CHARLOTTE. Olivia De Havilland was a last-minute replacement for Joan Crawford who quit after her first few scenes had been shot. Bette Davis is extremely over the top. So is Agnes Moorehead who somehow nabbed an Oscar nomination. But I think Joseph Cotten's smoother, more understated performance has them all beat. 

8. THE THIRD SECRET. Intriguing drama made in Britain with Stephen Boyd and Pamela Franklin.

9. THE PLEASURE SEEKERS. Remake of THREE COINS IN THE FOUNTAIN was hardly necessary but is still enjoyable. Gene Tierney has a supporting role and it's her last film for the studio. In fact it's the last feature film she did, though she would work sporadically on television after this.

10. THE HORROR OF IT ALL. Pat Boone stars in an amusing retelling of THE OLD DARK HOUSE. Filmed in England.

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I've seen a TV production of the play The Visit, but not the film, which sounds exceptional. As TB suggested, Ingrid Bergman was one of those actresses who could simultaneously create a façade and let you see behind it at the same time, so I'll watch it the next opportunity I have. And I agree it was Quinn's year; Zorba was the kind of career-defining role actors dream about.

The Third Secret interests me. Looking back from today's perspective, Stephen Boyd's career was kind of blink-and-you-missed-it, but he did some really fine work and I don't blame him personally for The Oscar. Great supporting cast too: Jack Hawkins, Richard Attenborough and Diane Cilento. Definitely one I'll look for.

What a Way to Go was a major release and I like it, but there's something a little off about it, a problem with tone maybe which a different director might have fixed. It's too bad that Jean Negulesco, one of Fox's regular go-to guys, couldn't have directed this as well as The Pleasure Seekers. J Lee Thompson was known for things like The Guns of Navarone and seemingly didn't have the right light touch for this kind of stylized comedy. Comden and Green's script was pretty broad; their stage roots showed and maybe some kind of Fox script doctor like Nunnally Johnson should have been brought in or, better yet, maybe Johnson should have just written it. 

I know plenty of people who look at me sideways when I say Hush Hush, Sweet Charlotte just doesn't grab me the way Baby Jane did, but it was a pretty good money-maker for Fox, though.

Overall, the slate of releases looks like a lot of "programmers", the kinds of thing which would be the bottom of a double bill in earlier days. Movies in general were moving toward a grittier look and feel, rather than the glossy Technicolor splash Fox featured in the 1950's (and which I loved them for) and I think Fox was still grappling with how to reinvent themselves for the changing tastes and audiences.

 

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