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A year in Hollywood


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1966

_________

 

The line between cinema and television had become blurred. Several factors were causing the merging of the two formats. In 1966, networks sought more opportunities to air feature films after theatrical exhibition. For instance, ABC-TV had shelled out millions to broadcast recent 20th Century Fox movies. Part of the package included two airings of CLEOPATRA. Of course, this was an expensive practice, but network executives saw great value in it, because TV broadcasts of feature films almost always garnered high ratings.

9c679-ec7c8-screen2bshot2b2016-06-032bat

At the same time, studios that made television series were developing what might be called expanded episodes. Some shows had 90-minute running times on television, or else they were 60-minutes but had stories told in two or three parts. This was so a studio could edit and re-sell the longer dramas as theatrical films overseas. In some cases, this was done several years after something had aired on American TV.

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Universal was the most TV-friendly film studio at this point. From 1963 to 1965 it had an anthology series on NBC called Kraft Suspense Theatre. A two-part episode, ‘The Case Against Paul Ryker,’ had featured Lee Marvin in a lead role as a military officer undergoing a court-martial. Universal execs decided to combine the episodes and distribute it internationally as a feature film. This was because Marvin had just earned an Oscar for CAT BALLOU, and his career was hotter than ever.

a4d9e-screen2bshot2b2016-06-032bat2b11-4

In addition to networks airing feature films, and studios turning TV shows into feature films, there was something else that blurred the lines. Now networks were making their own telefilms– commonly known as TV movies. These ventures typically employed fading movie stars and foreign directors. The credits revealed a new pecking order in Hollywood. Young rising stars had top billing, and older established stars were listed as ‘special guest stars.’

791f5-screen2bshot2b2016-06-032bat2b11-5

One fading star who found new life on television was Joan Bennett. It had been several years since she appeared in a feature film. After her divorce from producer Walter Wanger, she relocated from Los Angeles to New York. Now comfortably ensconced on the east coast, she was approached about the idea of starring in a daytime serial. It had an interesting title, and it was to become a hit with viewers and a cult classic. It also signaled Bennett’s return to the big screen in the 1970s, when it inspired one of the first feature films to be based on a TV series.

7e707-screen2bshot2b2016-06-032bat2b11-5

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1966

_________

 

The line between cinema and television had become blurred. Several factors were causing the merging of the two formats. In 1966, networks sought more opportunities to air feature films after theatrical exhibition. For instance, ABC-TV had shelled out millions to broadcast recent 20th Century Fox movies. Part of the package included two airings of CLEOPATRA. Of course, this was an expensive practice, but network executives saw great value in it, because TV broadcasts of feature films almost always garnered high ratings.

9c679-ec7c8-screen2bshot2b2016-06-032bat

At the same time, studios that made television series were developing what might be called expanded episodes. Some shows had 90-minute running times on television, or else they were 60-minutes but had stories told in two or three parts. This was so a studio could edit and re-sell the longer dramas as theatrical films overseas. In some cases, this was done several years after something had aired on American TV.

5d72c-screen2bshot2b2016-06-032bat2b11-5

Universal was the most TV-friendly film studio at this point. From 1963 to 1965 it had an anthology series on NBC called Kraft Suspense Theatre. A two-part episode, ‘The Case Against Paul Ryker,’ had featured Lee Marvin in a lead role as a military officer undergoing a court-martial. Universal execs decided to combine the episodes and distribute it internationally as a feature film. This was because Marvin had just earned an Oscar for CAT BALLOU, and his career was hotter than ever.

a4d9e-screen2bshot2b2016-06-032bat2b11-4

In addition to networks airing feature films, and studios turning TV shows into feature films, there was something else that blurred the lines. Now networks were making their own telefilms– commonly known as TV movies. These ventures typically employed fading movie stars and foreign directors. The credits revealed a new pecking order in Hollywood. Young rising stars had top billing, and older established stars were listed as ‘special guest stars.’

791f5-screen2bshot2b2016-06-032bat2b11-5

One fading star who found new life on television was Joan Bennett. It had been several years since she appeared in a feature film. After her divorce from producer Walter Wanger, she relocated from Los Angeles to New York. Now comfortably ensconced on the east coast, she was approached about the idea of starring in a daytime serial. It had an interesting title, and it was to become a hit with viewers and a cult classic. It also signaled Bennett’s return to the big screen in the 1970s, when it inspired one of the first feature films to be based on a TV series.

7e707-screen2bshot2b2016-06-032bat2b11-5

 

I think Joan Bennett's panache really added to the allure of "Dark Shadows". Now of course the show was not really doing that well in the ratings, until a family relative of the Collins clan, of which Joan was the matriarch showed up in town and started getting the show a really big following, with the addition of vampire Barnabas Collins. Being that the show was on every weekday it has something like over 1,200 episodes both in the original black and white and then later color, that are in dvd collections. It costs a mint to own the whole series but it is worth it as vampires may come and go but there is only one Barnabas. Joan really made the family seem believable and it was a fine end to her career.

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I think Joan Bennett's panache really added to the allure of "Dark Shadows".

Completely agree. The show needed a well-known face, someone with class and dignity-- especially when the plots started to get more and more outlandish. 

 

Joan Bennett has never been a Star of the Month on TCM...can you believe that?! 

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1967


_________


Elvis Presley had three musical films in theaters. The first one, released in March, was Paramount’s EASY COME, EASY GO. Producer Hal Wallis cast him as a former Navy frogman and nightclub performer. It barely made back its costs and was the last time Elvis worked with Wallis. The other two pictures were at different studios– United Artists’ CLAMBAKE; and DOUBLE TROUBLE, at MGM, which brought a $750,000 paycheck. None of these releases did too well at the box office, but Elvis was probably too distracted to care. He was busy getting married.


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Elvis’ movies weren’t the only ones struggling at the box office. Across the board, studios were having difficulty keeping audiences interested in what they released. Weekly ticket sales were down to a very low 15 million. Budgets were tightened once again and more employees were laid off. During this particular time, unemployment in Hollywood reached 50 percent. Studios survived, because most had been taken over by industrial giants that could absorb the losses.


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Expensive productions were still exhibited using the roadshow system. The last picture overseen by Walt Disney, THE HAPPIEST MILLIONAIRE, was not drawing crowds. A new advertising strategy was devised, downplaying the period piece aspects of the story and making it seem more contemporary. It didn’t work. Another problem with roadshow practices is that it meant exhibition took longer. This delayed a film’s eventual broadcast on television, where a company might be able to recover some of the costs.


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While Disney’s latest was not clicking with moviegoers, a newer type of Hollywood cinema began to catch on. Former satirist turned director Mike Nichols was leading the pack. A year earlier he had a critical and commercial success on his hands with the de-glamorizing of Elizabeth Taylor in WHO’S AFRAID OF VIRGINIA WOOLF?, and in ’67 he was back with what is perhaps his best known film, THE GRADUATE. It dealt with the angst of a younger generation in suburbia. The boy got the girl, but he went the roundabout way of sleeping with her mother first.


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Another director at the forefront of Hollywood’s new wave was Arthur Penn. With BONNIE AND CLYDE, he presented a tale about prohibition era killers on the run. Faye Dunaway and Warren Beatty starred as the title characters. The same basic story had already been handled in Fritz Lang’s YOU ONLY LIVE ONCE as well as Joseph Lewis’ chilling noir GUN CRAZY. But this time, the two young criminals symbolized the anti-establishment feelings of a generation coming of age in the sixties. And their violent death at the end spectacularly mixed carnage with martyrdom.


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I think the years 64-68 were good years, partly because the movies were gradually eliminating the censorship (a plus combating sanitized TV). '69 would have been a great year had the studios not already spent a fortune on so many bombs by that point.

 

I think the Elvis movies always eventually made money (if not initially)  since they were pretty cheap productions. EASY COME, EASY GO boasts, in my opinion, the dumbest Elvis song of all time "Yoga Is As Yoga Does"

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I think the years 64-68 were good years, partly because the movies were gradually eliminating the censorship (a plus combating sanitized TV). '69 would have been a great year had the studios not already spent a fortune on so many bombs by that point.

 

I think the Elvis movies always eventually made money (if not initially)  since they were pretty cheap productions. EASY COME, EASY GO boasts, in my opinion, the dumbest Elvis song of all time "Yoga Is As Yoga Does"

That's the one he sings with Elsa Lanchester, yes? 

 

In my opinion, '67 is one of Hollywood's vintage years (not counting Elvis, Elsa and Yoga).

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Elsa was kinda cute there, wasn't she?

 

'67 had some great movies, but they are showing their age. THE GRADUATE is still a masterpiece, as is BONNIE & CLYDE. Yet there is a peculiar quality to them, probably because Faye Dunaway looks like a sixties model rather than the real Bonnie and the second half of the former feels like a different movie: after being seduced by Mrs. Robinson, Benji suddenly decides to marry Elaine Robinson despite forgetting what color her eyes were when looking at her portrait in the beginning. Don't get me wrong. I have watched BOTH films at least 5-10 times because they are so entertaining, but there is an odd "taste" to them.

 

IN THE HEAT OF THE NIGHT is a dull crime investigation drama apart from the two commanding performances.

 

I do think THE PRESIDENT'S ANALYST is a funky film of its period and raises some interesting questions for today. Yet I think they could have picked a better controlling company besides telephones to rule the world.

 

Then we have that great French import BELLE DE JOUR. You just have to watch Catherine in REPULSION (made two years earlier) just before that one in order to get the whole point of her. (Suppressed about sex in one while others are enjoying it, then making a living with it because all of the men in her life are suppressed.)

 

I do like DR. DOOLITTLE though. Don't ask me why. I memorized this song as a kid:

 

 

 

I think '68 was better, but that is because I am biased. Yeah... the real year 2001 was not how it was presented in A SPACE ODYSSEY. Yet HAL is still lots of fun. Lindsay Anderson's IF... is a pretty provocative anti-authority piece and I just love that look on Malcolm McDowell's face that begs to be smacked. Even FUNNY GIRL, THE ODD COUPLE, ROMEO & JULIET (which is as equally effective as a silent movie just with Leonard Whiting's facial expressions alone), PLANET OF THE APES, RACHEL RACHEL and THE LION IN WINTER are fun films for all times. Re-watching THE LOVE BUG (even if it went nationwide in '69, the view masters all sport '68 copyrights), I am surprised how much better it held up in comparison to any comedy Disney did in the seventies. I also think OLIVER! is unfairly treated simply because it won and 2001 wasn't nominated, but it is pretty close in quality to the David Lean version two decades earlier.

 

I guess Steve McQueen in BULLITT is kinda dry, but we only watch that one for the car chase anyway. Dodge Chargers and Mustangs are worth quite a lot on the market place today.

 

STAR! was a much better film than THOROUGHLY MODERN MILLIE, even if the former was the money maker.

 

Not to mention we got WINNIE THE POOH AND THE BLUSTERY DAY and my avatar, TWINKLE, TWINKLE, LITTLE PINK

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Thanks Jlewis, for your fun comments about 1967.

 

I will be posting 1968 on Wednesday. Then I will wrap the decade up with 1969 on Saturday.

 

For those who follow this thread on a regular basis-- first, thank you; and second, Jlewis is going to take over with 1970. I have had the privilege of reading the columns he's written all the way up to 1980 so I know this thread is in great hands. And everyone should learn as much as I did from Jlewis' very well-researched material.

 

3c1de-screen2bshot2b2016-02-292bat2b3-02

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1968


_________


It was the end of an era for the production code in Hollywood. Since 1934, the American movie industry had been practicing a rigorous form of self-censorship. But since challenges to the code had succeeded over the past decade, that method now seemed out of fashion and unusable. Jack Valenti, the new chief of the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA), advocated the switch to a classification system, allowing audiences to choose what sorts of films it would watch according to specific ratings. The ratings ranged from G to X; with a G rating meaning the film was exhibited for general audiences, and an X indicating material for adults only. There were other ratings in between.


2774a-screen2bshot2b2016-06-102bat2b3-54


More takeovers and mergers occurred. An independent exhibitor named William Forman bought the Cinerama Corporation, and Joseph Levine’s Embassy Films was taken over by AVCO. Warner Brothers was still under the ownership of Seven Arts; and Paramount was operating under the auspices of Gulf+Western. One major studio managed to maintain its independence– 20th Century Fox.


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But Fox was in trouble again. It had stumbled badly with Robert Wise’s biography STAR!, where Julie Andrews played a somewhat fictionalized version of Gertrude Lawrence. The studio edited it down and re-released it with a new title, but that didn’t help. Nor did Fox do as well as it hoped with its adaptation of DOCTOR DOLITTLE, featuring Rex Harrison as the title character.


2c010-screen2bshot2b2016-06-102bat2b3-55


Behind the scenes, there were greater issues threatening to divide the company. When Darryl Zanuck returned to power as chairman, his son Richard Zanuck had become the president of 20th Century Fox. Soon the younger Zanuck closed his father’s office in Paris and terminated a contract with his father’s latest discovery (and mistress), a French actress named Genevieve Gilles. This caused a rift between the two Zanucks, and it eventually led to Richard taking an executive post at Warners.


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Despite all the problems, there were several big hits with audiences in 1968. The Warners-Seven Arts group enjoyed success with Steve McQueen’s latest action adventure film, BULLITT. And Paramount had an unexpected cult classic on its hands with Roman Polanski’s supernatural tale ROSEMARY’S BABY– it didn’t hurt that the picture was produced by a master of the horror genre, William Castle. Also, Columbia made back seven times its costs with Carol Reed’s spectacular musical OLIVER!; the film would be named the best picture of the year.


9800a-screen2bshot2b2016-06-102bat2b3-56


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Thanks Jlewis, for your fun comments about 1967.

 

I will be posting 1968 on Wednesday. Then I will wrap the decade up with 1969 on Saturday.

 

For those who follow this thread on a regular basis-- first, thank you; and second, Jlewis is going to take over with 1970. I have had the privilege of reading the columns he's written all the way up to 1980 so I know this thread is in great hands. And everyone should learn as much as I did from Jlewis' very well-researched material.

 

3c1de-screen2bshot2b2016-02-292bat2b3-02

 

I will try to get my "proofed by Topbilled" ;) post on 1970 up before next weekend (24-25th?). I will have to put it out to the readers here if they want a slightly lengthy post presented in parts or all at once. Nice thing about all of these posts is that they are easy to re-edit even after they are published on line.

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1968

_________

It was the end of an era for the production code in Hollywood. Since 1934, the American movie industry had been practicing a rigorous form of self-censorship. But since challenges to the code had succeeded over the past decade, that method now seemed out of fashion and unusable. Jack Valenti, the new chief of the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA), advocated the switch to a classification system, allowing audiences to choose what sorts of films it would watch according to specific ratings. The ratings ranged from G to X; with a G rating meaning the film was exhibited for general audiences, and an X indicating material for adults only. There were other ratings in between.

2774a-screen2bshot2b2016-06-102bat2b3-54

More takeovers and mergers occurred. An independent exhibitor named William Forman bought the Cinerama Corporation, and Joseph Levine’s Embassy Films was taken over by AVCO. Warner Brothers was still under the ownership of Seven Arts; and Paramount was operating under the auspices of Gulf+Western. One major studio managed to maintain its independence– 20th Century Fox.

fbaf6-screen2bshot2b2016-06-102bat2b4-00

But Fox was in trouble again. It had stumbled badly with Robert Wise’s biography STAR!, where Julie Andrews played a somewhat fictionalized version of Gertrude Lawrence. The studio edited it down and re-released it with a new title, but that didn’t help. Nor did Fox do as well as it hoped with its adaptation of DOCTOR DOLITTLE, featuring Rex Harrison as the title character.

2c010-screen2bshot2b2016-06-102bat2b3-55

Behind the scenes, there were greater issues threatening to divide the company. When Darryl Zanuck returned to power as chairman, his son Richard Zanuck had become the president of 20th Century Fox. Soon the younger Zanuck closed his father’s office in Paris and terminated a contract with his father’s latest discovery (and mistress), a French actress named Genevieve Gilles. This caused a rift between the two Zanucks, and it eventually led to Richard taking an executive post at Warners.

25320-screen2bshot2b2016-06-102bat2b3-58

Despite all the problems, there were several big hits with audiences in 1968. The Warners-Seven Arts group enjoyed success with Steve McQueen’s latest action adventure film, BULLITT. And Paramount had an unexpected cult classic on its hands with Roman Polanski’s supernatural tale ROSEMARY’S BABY– it didn’t hurt that the picture was produced by a master of the horror genre, William Castle. Also, Columbia made back seven times its costs with Carol Reed’s spectacular musical OLIVER!; the film would be named the best picture of the year.

9800a-screen2bshot2b2016-06-102bat2b3-56

 

Now you know, TB that with Jack Valenti at the helm that moral standards in films would have to loosen up.

 

I mean he was friends with Jack and Bobby Kennedy, and I'm sure those playboys would want a little more earthy films available than what some of the previous censoring heads would have allowed.

 

Of course I'm kidding that they had any influence, but Valenti was a much more open-minded individual and had worked on the Kennedy/Johnson ticket in the media field.

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...Valenti was a much more open-minded individual and had worked on the Kennedy/Johnson ticket in the media field.

Interesting. I don't know too much about Jack Valenti's background. The MPAA and Hollywood censorship turned a major corner in 1968.

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1969


_________


Issues facing studios in 1968 carried over into the new year. At 20th Century Fox, a hit was sorely needed. But the latest productions were bombing at the box office, and Darryl Zanuck’s continuing disagreements with his son Richard didn’t help. By the time the next stockholders’ meeting was called, Fox would incur $47 million in debt and barely break even.


d624c-a678a-screen2bshot2b2016-06-102bat


In order to make stockholders happy, the Zanucks did a few things to ensure profits. Primarily, they rented studio facilities to independent producers; continued television production; and considered something that MGM was about to do– sell off costumes and set pieces. Gradually, Hollywood’s history would begin to leave the filmmaking lots and fall into the hands of individual collectors.


b393c-screen2bshot2b2016-06-102bat2b10-1


But MGM had other concerns besides selling costumes. It was fighting off a takeover from real estate mogul Kirk Kerkorian, who owned a chain of hotels. The Las Vegas-based tycoon eventually succeeding in wresting control of the lion. And before the year was out, he had hired an executive from CBS named James Aubrey. Known for his extreme cost-saving measures, Aubrey took charge of MGM and reconfigured its production model.


d9ee2-screen2bshot2b2016-06-112bat2b3-25


Meanwhile, the Warners-Seven Arts partnership came to an end, when the two companies split apart. Warners was taken over by Kinney, a publishing conglomerate. Ted Ashley, who had previously run his own talent company, was placed in charge. Jack Warner, still on the board of directors as vice president, objected to the changes. One of the first films Ashley oversaw was a concert documentary about Woodstock. It would be a huge success when it was released a year later; and more hits followed under his guidance, re-establishing Warners as a major studio.


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Another studio enjoying great success was Columbia Pictures. Not only did Columbia score with its recent Oscar winner OLIVER!, it had another important hit when the landmark countercultural film EASY RIDER was released. The story featured a trio of actors who would come to represent the freewheeling, drop-out philosophy of their generation. Dennis Hopper, who had built a career in westerns, directed the film and wrote its script with costar/producer Peter Fonda. They were joined by Jack Nicholson, who had previously worked with Roger Corman as an actor and writer. The road was wide open to them now.


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G

 

 

1969

_________

Issues facing studios in 1968 carried over into the new year. At 20th Century Fox, a hit was sorely needed. But the latest productions were bombing at the box office, and Darryl Zanuck’s continuing disagreements with his son Richard didn’t help. By the time the next stockholders’ meeting was called, Fox would incur $47 million in debt and barely break even.

d624c-a678a-screen2bshot2b2016-06-102bat

In order to make stockholders happy, the Zanucks did a few things to ensure profits. Primarily, they rented studio facilities to independent producers; continued television production; and considered something that MGM was about to do– sell off costumes and set pieces. Gradually, Hollywood’s history would begin to leave the filmmaking lots and fall into the hands of individual collectors.

b393c-screen2bshot2b2016-06-102bat2b10-1

But MGM had other concerns besides selling costumes. It was fighting off a takeover from real estate mogul Kirk Kerkorian, who owned a chain of hotels. The Las Vegas-based tycoon eventually succeeding in wresting control of the lion. And before the year was out, he had hired an executive from CBS named James Aubrey. Known for his extreme cost-saving measures, Aubrey took charge of MGM and reconfigured its production model.

d9ee2-screen2bshot2b2016-06-112bat2b3-25

Meanwhile, the Warners-Seven Arts partnership came to an end, when the two companies split apart. Warners was taken over by Kinney, a publishing conglomerate. Ted Ashley, who had previously run his own talent company, was placed in charge. Jack Warner, still on the board of directors as vice president, objected to the changes. One of the first films Ashley oversaw was a concert documentary about Woodstock. It would be a huge success when it was released a year later; and more hits followed under his guidance, re-establishing Warners as a major studio.

76c6c-screen2bshot2b2016-06-112bat2b3-27

Another studio enjoying great success was Columbia Pictures. Not only did Columbia score with its recent Oscar winner OLIVER!, it had another important hit when the landmark countercultural film EASY RIDER was released. The story featured a trio of actors who would come to represent the freewheeling, drop-out philosophy of their generation. Dennis Hopper, who had built a career in westerns, directed the film and wrote its script with costar/producer Peter Fonda. They were joined by Jack Nicholson, who had previously worked with Roger Corman as an actor and writer. The road was wide open to them now.

 

Great write-up, TB.

 

Wasn't James Aubrey married to Phyllis Thaxter? They had a daughter named Skye Aubrey who did act in a few things.

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Great write-up, TB.

 

Wasn't James Aubrey married to Phyllis Thaxter? They had a daughter named Skye Aubrey who did act in a few things.

Yes, that was him, the husband of Phyllis Thaxter. Skye Aubrey appeared in several MGM films.

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I will try, try, try to cover 1970 this weekend.

 

Now...

 

Don't all of you get mad at me for not being TopBilled. My posts will be similar in style in some ways, but different in others. I can't help the fact that I'm a different person.

 

Also my posts will be a little long. 1970 will be covered in three parts.

 

Don't fret though. I have been pruning them, so the rest of the decade through 1980 will only have just two parts for each year.

 

I hope. Ha ha!

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A Year In Hollywood: 1970 

 

Part 1: A Brave New Decade

 

By the dawn of the new decade, the Old Guard studios were operating quite differently than they had in decades past. Approximately three quarters of the cameras running in California were producing for the smaller, not larger, screen. Fortunately this helped Columbia Pictures to delay its troubles thanks to its profitable television branch Screen Gems and other sound investments, such as increased licensing of its motion picture library to television and a larger role in school educational films (with the successful Learning Corporation of America, headed by William Deneen). Likewise, Universal only suffered a small loss-- again, thanks to its hit TV shows-- and an old fashion disaster epic released at the start of the year called AIRPORT.

 

MGM-David-Weisz-Wardrobe.jpg

 

Other studios were not so lucky. MGM had lost $35 million and, under Kirk Kerkorian and James Aubrey, a huge chunk of memorabilia and props were sold off at auction to the highest bidders. Auctioneer David Weisz was given the properties for a mere $1.5 million to distribute starting May 3rd and these included surviving pairs of Dorothy's ruby slippers from THE WIZARD OF OZ worth a lot more than that.

 

Paramount was in the red to a more modest $22 million, but its 40 year old “boy in charge” Robert Evans still had to do some kissing up to his Gulf+Western bosses. Likewise, United Artists lost roughly $30 million (50 if you go by the full season starting fall '69), and its mercurial conglomerate owners at Transamerica were now begging for previous heads Arthur Krim and Robert Benjamin to return. (They had put David and Arnold Picker in charge three years earlier.)

 

MoviePoster4.jpg

 

Warner Brothers was still scrambling to recover after its disappointing performance during the previous year, but it was encouraged by the success of WOODSTOCK. It was obvious that Jack Warner's company had been focusing on the wrong age group until Ted Ashley stepped in. Among the editors on this popular rock concert documentary was Martin Scorsese, soon to be a key player in seventies “New Hollywood”.

 

Eager to take on the changing tastes on movie screens, Ken Russell and Stanley Kubrick started filming THE DEVILS and A CLOCKWORK ORANGE respectively in England. However, these two “avant garde” experiments would be quite a challenge for the marketing department at Warners to sell to the Sunday afternoon crowd in middle America. An earlier feature starring Rolling Stones singer Mick Jagger, directed by Donald Cammell and Nicholas Roeg and titled PERFORMANCE, had spent almost two years sitting on the shelf on account of its provocative violence and sexuality. A brave Ashley agreed to release it this summer, with the hope that at least the WOODSTOCK crowd, if not middle America, would embrace it.

 

rzfd4izu-720x340.jpg

 

20th Century Fox was quite pleased, however, to take on the U.S. distribution of Albert and David Maysles' more ominous rock concert documentary GIMME SHELTER, also featuring Jagger. Fox definitely needed an easy pick-up release, with the Zanucks' studio now accumulating a staggering $100 million loss. After a year-long battle in the board rooms, a climax was reached in December when Darryl F. Zanuck and his fellow board members fired his son Richard as production chief.

 

Shortly before his departure, Richard had ironically green-lit THE FRENCH CONNECTION, which would contribute to Fox's gradual emergence from almost total shut-down. As he once was quoted of saying: “The rule book has been thrown away. Today almost anything goes. Frankly I go on what pleases me personally because I just can't tell what pleases the audience anymore.”

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Sorry I couldn't get the font to match exactly. I am using the correct one though. Yet the forum re-formats you if something doesn't "fit" right.

 

Oh... what the heck. I might as well plop Parts 2 and 3 down.

 

I seriously doubt it will take an average reader more than ten minutes to read through it all.

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A Year In Hollywood: 1970

 

Part 2: Which audience to please?

 

20th Century Fox did boast three of the biggest hits in 1970, even if overall profits fell into a sinkhole. BUTCH CASSIDY AND THE SUNDANCE KID, which had been released in September 1969, had done very well, as did two radically different war films released within weeks of each other the following January and February. The first one was Robert Altman’s M*A*S*H, an allegorical war satire that had Korea standing in for Vietnam. And the other title was PATTON, a more traditional military biopic which would later be named the year’s best picture.

 

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The simultaneous successes of these two films represented a key question that studio bosses were asking themselves: Which audience should we court? Both M*A*S*H and PATTON were in wide release during the spring of 1970 when the Kent State shootings ended the lives of some protesting students, an incident that exposed just how far Nixon's America had become polarized by age and ideals. Of course, Altman's biting satire reflected the increasing anti-establishment attitudes of the Baby Boom generation. Fox's marketing crew tried to appeal to the same crowd of young moviegoers by advertising PATTON with a subtitle: A SALUTE TO A REBEL. Yet there was little question that much of its paying audience was the same group that flocked to earlier elephantine and nostalgic WWII epics like THE DIRTY DOZEN.

 

Unfortunately Fox met with failure when it released TORA! TORA! TORA! eight months later. Both Zanucks had hoped Nixon's “silent generation” would view it as the definitive recreation of the Pearl Harbor attacks, just as Fox's earlier THE LONGEST DAY captured D-Day, but that didn’t happen. In many ways, the fate of Fox echoed the fate of all of the old guard Hollywood studios in adapting to the changing times. Sometimes they got it right; sometimes they got it wrong.

 

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Paramount, on the other hand, managed to pull itself out of the red towards the end of the year with a relationship picture catering specifically to the Baby Boom generation called LOVE STORY. Starring Ryan O'Neal (veteran of Fox's recently ended TV series PEYTON PLACE) and Ali MacGraw (wife of mogul in charge Robert Evans), Erich Segal’s romance drama was basically a re-working of CAMILLE and many disease-of-the-week dramas on TV, but with more matter-of-fact language (earning it an R-rating) and a leading lady who wasn't about to cry like the sobbing heroines of yesteryear. She was, fittingly, the new independent woman for the new decade who was even stronger than her man.

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A Year In Hollywood: 1970

 

Part 3: To X or not to X

 

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Hollywood was still confused about how to deal with the new decline on censorship, especially when those operating outside of the industry were expanding a new market.

 

In an effort to cash in on the late sixties boom in soft core erotic entertainment, 20th Century Fox executives knew lightning could strike by hiring Russ Meyer to helm BEYOND THE VALLEY OF THE DOLLS. Two years earlier, Meyer had made VIXEN! on a budget of $73,000; and it had earned over $8 million just as the new MPAA ratings system went into effect and people were suddenly (if temporarily) leaving their living rooms to see what was not being shown on Lawrence Welk's show.

 

While Meyer’s sequel to Jacquelyn Susann’s story became a hit, Fox fell flat with its adaptation of Gore Vidal's best-seller MYRA BRECKINRIDGE. Both pictures had been slapped with X-ratings, but the second one brought bawdy Mae West back to the screen. Apparently moviegoers in 1970 were still uncomfortable with the concept of transgender surgery, even if it was all presented as a dream (unlike the contemporary THE CHRISTINE JORGENSEN STORY from United Artists). More importantly, the film’s dismal performance at the box office indicated a shunning of Myra’s attack on male dominance and ego. It didn’t help that Shirley Temple Black and Loretta Young became upset and sued their former studio for including vault material of them in montage sequences. 

 

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For those who wanted to see a lot more skin on screen, there was always San Francisco's art-house district where James Broughton's experimental all-nude (but no sex) shorts like THE BED and GOLDEN POSITIONS held wide appeal. And there was also the first feature-length hard core film that was not an educational documentary imported from Sweden or Denmark. It was Bill Osco's MONA: THE VIRGIN NYMPH, which had been released without opening credits in order to avoid legal prosecution troubles.

 

Yet not all films receiving the notorious X-rating were necessarily “pornographic”. The MPAA issued such ratings on any feature showing any sort of nudity or questionable activity for sensitive parents. This included MIDNIGHT COWBOY, which won the Best Picture Oscar in April. MGM earned its first X rating for a fairly tame (but with nudity) documentary called THE BODY. In order to distinguish their product, independent producers of the fledgling porn industry soon advertised with triple X ratings.

 

Coming up next week: a wave of nostalgia grips Hollywood in 1971 as MGM and 20th Century Fox auction off more studio props and there’s an invasion of Italian imports that make dreamy cinematography and moody music scores fashionable once again…

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OK... you folks can relax now until next week. 1971 will just have 2 parts.

 

Prepare for things to get a trifle provocative the next few years since we are no longer under The Production Code. Yet I will be sure to include the kinder, gentler stuff as well, like Woody Woodpecker's retirement, Will Vinton's claymation and The Muppets before the decade ends.

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