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A year in Hollywood


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1961

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Weekly movie attendance was down around 41 million, and production costs were rising in Hollywood. Studios tried to find new ways to offset their increasing expenses and maintain profitability. One solution was to sell off buildings that were not being used anymore and only lease space as needed for new productions.

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Some of the studios were able to survive because of recent diversifications into music and television. For example, Columbia Pictures had begun a television arm called Screen Gems that produced a sitcom version of the popular comic strip Dennis the Menace. In 1961, the Screen Gems subsidiary also began episodes of Hazel with Tony and Oscar winner Shirley Booth. It was an instant success and ranked fourth during its inaugural season.

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But not every studio had lucrative TV ventures to offset rising costs. And if films were going to continue to make money for the major Hollywood companies, new ideas had to be implemented. Citing the success of European films, American filmmakers decided that a change in stories needed to occur. It was the only way they could compete with foreign productions.

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Foreign films seemed to be attracting audiences for a variety of reasons. First, the content seemed more sophisticated. And second, the films seemed to have a more stylized approach when it came to specific storytelling conventions. One director who garnered a lot of attention was Michaelangelo Antonioni. His hit LA NOTTE had starred Jeanne Moreau and Marcello Mastroianni as an unfaithful married couple dealing with the deteriorating state of their relationship. The picture became highly regarded and earned top honors at the Berlin Film Festival.

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Another one of the year’s most important films came from Universal. It was a follow-up to 1959’s PILLOW TALK, a raucous sex farce that first paired virginal Doris Day with smooth talking Rock Hudson. The studio decided there would be great value reuniting them, with third wheel Tony Randall, in LOVER COME BACK. It repeated the same basic formula with a few slight variations. Again, the premise relied on Day’s aggressive femininity, as well as Hudson’s rakish childlike vulnerability, played for laughs. Audiences were thoroughly amused, and Universal had another hit.

 

Love your yearly exegesis, TB and this one made me think how wonderful it would have been for Antonioni to direct a Doris Day and Rock Hudson film. Why, it would have broken the mold and maybe have even been in black and white. I can see it now. pregnant silences between Doris and Rock, Tony Randall goes missing in the middle of the movie, and someone named Gelsomina steals Rock away from Doris who later meets up with the Fool and marries him. Okay, so I've combined Antonioni and Fellini but still would make a good film.

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It is interesting studying overall statistics of the different eras. The early sixties probably saw fewer feature films being produced by the major studios than any time since before World War 1. (Remember that 1918 and 1921 probably saw the highest number of films running over an hour in theaters since there was not only no TV competing, but also no radio as well.) Around 1960-61, there was a slight... very slight... increase in the number of shorts, because travelogues running under 20 minutes could be marketed to theaters on the cheap. Also since TV was still mostly black and white, there was a surprising number of wide-screen all-color sports reels like those that Leslie Winik made for Paramount. The federal government was spending a lot of money post-Sputnik on educational 16mm films for public schools and colleges so that US students could compete with Soviet students. This meant that many producers of the sixties who made short films for the major studios (who were simply distributing these rather than making them in-house unless they owned a newsreel like Universal did) were able to stay employed by also working for Encyclopædia Britannica Films and other companies. William Deneen, who launched the Columbia co-owned Learning Corporation of America in 1967 previously made Britannica films for children like CLAUDIUS: BOY OF ANCIENT ROME, using the same sets as Bronston's FALL OF THE ROMAN EMPIRE.

 

In terms of feature films, there is a dramatic increase in film production between the years 1963 and 1965 thanks to the British and Italian "booms". Also there was less censorship by then so people were attending theaters more often as an alternative to all-too-tame TV. By 1967, profits were at least as high as the late '40s. This is the era of the elephantine musical post-SOUND OF MUSIC. It is actually fascinating history seeing how everything inflated like a helium balloon and then it all popped suddenly in one spectacular year: 1970.

 

This is why so many of us label the decade of the sixties as the END of OLD Hollywood and the seventies as the START of NEW Hollywood... in addition to the Coppola/Spielberg/Lucas/Scorsesse hits beginning that latter decade. Everything about the way movies LOOKED changed within just two or three years, including the cinematography (with hardly anything being shot IN a studio any more) and the relaxation of censorship (since it DID increase box-office dollars regardless of what the prudes thought). You watch a movie like CLEOPATRA and it could pass for a 1950s film. I think Disney's THE LOVE BUG was among the last major films with that all-too familiar "back projection" in the driving scenes that have been familiar ever since Technicolor cameras exposed it more blatantly than in black and white. Yet they were starting to use more mobile cameras following the vehicles by then. There was also a lot of GRAIN in seventies films because they were shooting in a variety of lens sizes and blowing everything up to 35mm... because Hollywood was REALLY on a budget post-1970. The natural light was used to cut costs down rather than bring extra "realism" (as some film historians who consider the seventies as the "golden age of movie reality" seem to think... not an aesthetic choice). One bad side effect is that actors didn't look as great in the seventies as they did in the sixties since half their faces were in shadow. Heck, maybe this is why the Quigley lists had no actress top the polls between Julie Andrews (1967) and Julia Roberts (1990)? Just men who, aside from Paul Newman and Robert Redford, were not the "glamorous" sort.

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It is interesting studying overall statistics of the different eras. The early sixties probably saw fewer feature films being produced by the major studios than any time since before World War 1. 

I will actually cover that when I go over 1962. At one point in '62, MGM had no films in production. That had never happened since MGM officially began in 1925. It's one of the reasons they were laying off all their technicians, because they simply weren't turning out new product like they had been.

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ZIV's original programming rivaled and often surpassed the network offerings.  One of them even took over Sea Hunt, one of ZIV's  biggest hits and Bat Masterson scored another on NBC. Others included Highway Patrol, and Tombstone Territory.   That studio kept a lot of people working.  The logo told you that something good was likely to follow. 

 

Prime time began at 7:30 back in the 50's and most of the syndicated shows ran then or before the late news.          

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ZIV's original programming rivaled and often surpassed the network offerings.  One of them even took over Sea Hunt, one of ZIV's  biggest hits and Bat Masterson scored another on NBC. Others included Highway Patrol, and Tombstone Territory.   That studio kept a lot of people working.  The logo told you that something good was likely to follow. 

 

Prime time began at 7:30 back in the 50's and most of the syndicated shows ran then or before the late news.          

Most of the shows you mentioned were bought by UA in the early 60s. And when Ted Turner purchased the old MGM/UA catalogue in the mid-80s, didn't he acquire those titles..? 

 

Presently there is a channel called This TV, which is run by MGM and airs some of the Ziv programs, but with commercials. If they moved away from ad interruptions and broadcast them uncut like Encore does-- it would be a vast improvement.

 

There could easily be a Turner Classic Television channel-- which I would like to see them do, featuring all the Ziv productions without commercials as well as early TV movies.

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1962


_________


Not every Hollywood studio focused on television to the extent United Artists, Columbia Pictures and Universal did. Fox was in the process of selling off chunks of its valuable back lot. This helped keep the company going while several productions– THE LONGEST DAY and a remake of CLEOPATRA– experienced numerous delays and went seriously over budget.


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As CLEOPATRA’s costs spiraled out of control, Darryl F. Zanuck began to worry that his investment in the company was threatened. He stepped back in to oversee day-to-day production, and Spyros Skouras was forced out. Also, many of the men Skouras had appointed to various divisions and subsidiaries during Zanuck’s exile in Paris were let go. Zanuck was determined to return the studio to its former glory.


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Meanwhile, MGM focused on overseas productions. But there was trouble when the studio attempted to re-film an earlier classic, MUTINY ON THE BOUNTY. A lengthy location shoot in Tahiti was rife with problems. Director Carol Reed ended up quitting, and was replaced by Lewis Milestone. Also, the film’s star Marlon Brando was using set designers to decorate a friend’s wedding and borrowed company planes to haul supplies for private parties. When the film finally opened, Brando’s performance was largely jeered and the picture flopped.


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Due to MUTINY ON THE BOUNTY’s disappointing performance at the box office, MGM barely broke even in 1962. The company only turned out eleven other motion pictures during the year, and most of them did lukewarm business. At one point in ’62, MGM had nothing in production—the first time ever since operations began in 1925.


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Several important films released in 1962 were directed by John Frankenheimer. Though Hollywood auteurs were a bit overshadowed by their European counterparts in the early 1960s, Frankenheimer was one who received special recognition. As a storyteller, he relied on instincts he had developed during his days in live television. With ALL FALL DOWN and BIRDMAN OF ALCATRAZ, he crafted compelling social message dramas. But his crowning achievement would be THE MANCHURIAN CANDIDATE, a movie that hit close to home for many about the chilling effects of the Korean war.


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At Paramount, the trend of epic filmmaking continued. The studio decided to green-light CIRCUS WORLD, a big budget spectacle starring John Wayne and Rita Hayworth. It did not premiere until two years later because of on-going production issues. Frank Capra was initially assigned to direct, but he fought with Wayne over script rewrites and left; Henry Hathaway soon took over. In addition to this, Wayne did not get along with Hayworth on set. Plus several of the original cast members bowed out, when they realized their roles were being reduced so Wayne’s could be more prominent. Among those who walked off were David Niven and Rod Taylor.


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   To Author-(TopBilled), THIS IS UTTERLY SUPERB, FASCINATING, THE WORKS!!!

 

KUDO'S! :D

 

Sooo many things to ask you about in relation to what you've achieved here???

 

Don't know where to begin

 

(P.S. However, please contact me personally  It looks like you really know your cinephile stuff

(jeffshannon50@gmail.com)

 

Don't know how long you've been into it all, but I started waaay back at age 15 in 1979

 

That's when I first fell in love w/MOVIES, but didn't start reviewing over (5) per year in a theatre until '82.

 

& do you-(like myself) also collect all things movie memorabilia?

 

& now I just check'd out your profile & it's of equal measure

 

 

Such work

 

 

AMAZING

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I think Paramount was the only studio not dealing with TV much in 1962, although they were the first to toy with the medium in the forties. Their big boom came when they took over Desilu (which you will get to eventually, I'm sure). Even MGM had DR. KILDARE at this time. Probably the moment when nothing was in production was between seasons.

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I think Paramount was the only studio not dealing with TV much in 1962, although they were the first to toy with the medium in the forties. Their big boom came when they took over Desilu (which you will get to eventually, I'm sure). Even MGM had DR. KILDARE at this time. Probably the moment when nothing was in production was between seasons.

Good points. MGM spent a large part of '62 focusing on MUTINY ON THE BOUNTY, which it expected to become a cash cow (it definitely did not happen). 

 

As you indicated, Paramount would become very involved in television when it took over Desilu. 

 

Twentieth Century Fox Television had five series in production in 1962, and four of them were cancelled mid-year. The only hit it had on TV was Dobie Gillis which was nearing the end of its run and only had another season left. 

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Good points. MGM spent a large part of '62 focusing on MUTINY ON THE BOUNTY, which it expected to become a cash cow (it definitely did not happen). 

 

As you indicated, Paramount would become very involved in television when it took over Desilu. 

 

Twentieth Century Fox Television had five series in production in 1962, and four of them were cancelled mid-year. The only hit it had on TV was Dobie Gillis which was nearing the end of its run and only had another season left. 

I should know this but who is the image of???

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Although not produced by MGM, The Twilight Zone made excellent use of their Culver City facilities... just as Lorimar used those parts not bulldozed down in the seventies for Dallas.

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1963


_________


Old studio films were showing up on late night television with increasing frequency. This was good news for viewers who enjoyed looking at movies from an earlier generation. But it was bad news for directors, writers and actors who received small residuals for the broadcasts.


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In the meantime, 20th Century Fox released its much-anticipated remake of CLEOPATRA. Though the project was initially slated for studio stars Joan Collins and Stephen Boyd with a million dollar budget, the main roles ended up cast with Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton, and the budget was increased to $5 million. Filming took nearly three years, and during that time, studio heads rolled (Spyros Skouras and his appointees); costs zoomed out of control (forcing Fox to sell parcels of the backlot); and a real-life love story, as dramatic as anything seen on the screen, developed between the leads (causing them both to leave their respective spouses for each other).


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After all the dust had settled, Fox actually had a hit on its hands. The big budget epic needed time to earn its costs back, which it eventually did; and critics praised some of the performances– notably Rex Harrison, who reveled in his occasionally witty lines. Some of the script seemed as if it was rewritten on the spur of the moment, but reviewers noted that the scene where Caesar experienced an epileptic fit was well-staged and played, showing remarkable imagination.


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Another film that hit the screen in 1963 was a romantic thriller called CHARADE. It featured a reverse May-December romance where a younger woman chased after an older man. Cary Grant initially turned down his role in the picture. He reconsidered when he learned that he would not play the chaser, but the one being chased. His pursuer was played by Audrey Hepburn, who incidentally had been on the short list at Fox to play Cleopatra. The Grant-Hepburn pairing worked with audiences, and the storyline, which borrowed heavily from previous efforts by Alfred Hitchcock and his writers, seemed fairly plausible.


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With hits like CLEOPATRA and CHARADE in theaters, Hollywood was selling an average of 42 million tickets per week. Another picture that went over with the movie going public was David Lean’s LAWRENCE OF ARABIA, with Peter O’Toole in the title role. Columbia released it at the tail end of 1962, qualifying it for the Oscars, and it did strong business in the early part of 1963. When it earned seven Academy Awards, including Best Picture, it did even better.


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Other significant British productions dotted the cinema landscape. In September, United Artists released Tony Richardson’s TOM JONES, starring Albert Finney. Produced on a budget of $1.4 million, the picture eventually earned $37 million. Its success was even more notable considering one important fact– before United Artists took over and arranged funding, the project had been rejected at every other major Hollywood studio. With a runaway hit on his hands, Richardson received many offers to work in Hollywood. However, none of his later films would do as well.


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1964


_________



Since Darryl Zanuck had reassumed control of 20th Century Fox, the studio’s situation drastically improved. Not only had CLEOPATRA been making back its costs at the box office, but Twentieth Century Fox Television experienced an upswing.


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Adapting the 1957 melodrama PEYTON PLACE into a regular series with Dorothy Malone and a young Mia Farrow proved to be a good idea. The program aired several nights each week on ABC-TV, and it was an immediate hit with audiences. Its success, combined with the popularity of another Fox-produced television show, Daniel Boone, indicated strong financial gains for the studio. By the end of 1964, Zanuck announced to shareholders a profit of $11.5 million.


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Worried about taking risks on big-budget epics, most studios decided to focus on what they considered sure bets. In 1964, the sure bet was now a big-budget musical. Executives were encouraged by the fact that recent adaptations of Broadway hits like WEST SIDE STORY and GYPSY had done very well with audiences. So Warners forged ahead with its film version of MY FAIR LADY. Though it cost over $5 million to secure the rights, the picture easily made that amount back thanks to George Cukor’s direction and Rex Harrison’s performance as Professor Henry Higgins, a role he earlier played on the New York stage.


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Harrison’s costar from the Broadway production, Julie Andrews, was passed over in favor of Audrey Hepburn. But Andrews quickly bounced back by signing on with Walt Disney, who made a big budget musical of his own, MARY POPPINS. Andrews would earn the Best Actress Oscar for her work as P.L. Travers’ title character.


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Meanwhile, there was a shift in how studios were promoting actors. The old star system of the 1940s and 1950s had radically changed. Performers like Clint Walker who had developed substantial followings on television were all the rage. And actors who had done well for years in character or supporting roles were given opportunities they never had before. These less expensive “movie stars” were cast in expanded B-pictures that often used recycled scripts, and were shot in color and widescreen.


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The more expensive stars of yesteryear were being eased off the big screen. They either retreated to television or into early retirement. A few of the more stubborn ones, like Bette Davis, refused to call it quits. She used what drawing power she still had left to make horror films. A new sub-genre was born– the psycho-biddie. It was a last moment of glory for the actress whose status was diminishing. Her power as a movie star was inevitably slipping away from her.


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1965


_________


Changes were occurring in Hollywood. Adolph Zukor was embroiled in arguments stemming from a takeover attempt at Paramount. The 92 year-old mogul would step down as an active chairman of the board and take on the role of Chairman Emeritus, which he held until his death at age 103. As Zukor became less involved in the daily operations of the studio (a studio he helped create in 1912), it would fall under the control of the Gulf+Western Oil company.


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Since the slump of the 1950s, the motion picture industry was now posting significant gains. But the reporting of profits was somewhat deceptive, because much of the money being earned by top studios did not come from film production. Revenues were largely generated by sales of music recordings and by real estate deals. And from the on-going success of studios’ television subsidiaries.


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Speaking of television, studios were decreasing the amount of time that normally elapsed between the theatrical exhibition of films and their subsequent broadcasts on television. The period of time was now three years, which meant that films produced as recently as 1962 were now airing on TV. Networks were paying substantial fees for the biggest titles, and that was all the incentive studios needed. For example, ABC-TV shelled out $1 million to Columbia Pictures for the rights to broadcast THE BRIDGE ON THE RIVER KWAI. Though most features were fetching in the ballpark of $400,000.


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While other studios were discontinuing their training of new stars, Universal saw a benefit in the practice. Universal still used a talent program and maintained its own studio star system across film and television projects, which it would continue to use into the early 1980s. Among Universal’s “new” discoveries at this time were Susan Clark, Michael Parks and Celia Kaye.


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At 20th Century Fox, Darryl Zanuck was concentrating on hiring talent from European productions. He financed MORITURI, a war drama with Marlon Brando and Yul Brynner, as a means of exploiting the talents of its Austrian director Bernhard Wicki. Zanuck also employed French director Serge Bourguignon to make a picture called THE REWARD. The neo-western starred Max Von Sydow and Yvette Mimieux and did not perform as well as the studio hoped. But Zanuck believed in the abilities of foreign filmmakers, and he even spent part of 1965 trying to entice Japan’s Akira Kurosawa to make a feature for Fox about the life of General Custer.


 


 

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When Gulf & Western officially took control of Paramount in, I believe, October 1966... although they were probably starting their move in '65 as you *hint hint*... they at least made a wise decision to add somebody young and ambitious. I think the "dawn" of "new" Hollywood started with "where did he come from?" Robert Evans giving that company a much needed face lift.

 

Interesting that Zanuck wanted Kurosawa in 1965. He got him for Tora! Tora! Tora! later... only he didn't keep him for long.

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1965

_________

Changes were occurring in Hollywood. Adolph Zukor was embroiled in arguments stemming from a takeover attempt at Paramount. The 92 year-old mogul would step down as an active chairman of the board and take on the role of Chairman Emeritus, which he held until his death at age 103. As Zukor became less involved in the daily operations of the studio (a studio he helped create in 1912), it fell under the control of the Gulf+Western Oil company.

c9abe-487ce-screen2bshot2b2016-05-272bat

Since the slump of the 1950s, the motion picture industry was now posting significant gains. But the reporting of profits was somewhat deceptive, because much of the money being earned by top studios did not come from film production. Revenues were largely generated by sales of music recordings and by real estate deals. And from the on-going success of the studios’ television subsidiaries.

4b54b-screen2bshot2b2016-05-272bat2b4-35

Speaking of television, studios were decreasing the amount of time that normally elapsed between the theatrical exhibition of films and their subsequent broadcasts on television. The period of time was now three years, which meant that films produced as recently as 1962 were now airing on TV. Networks were paying substantial fees for the biggest titles, and that was all the incentive studios needed. For example, ABC-TV shelled out $1 million to Columbia Pictures for the rights to broadcast THE BRIDGE ON THE RIVER KWAI. Though most featured were fetching in the ballpark of $400,000.

7a43b-screen2bshot2b2016-05-272bat2b4-28

While other studios were discontinuing their training of new stars, Universal saw a benefit in the practice. Universal still used a talent program and maintained its own studio star system across film and television projects, which it would continue to use into the early 1980s. Among Universal’s “new” discoveries at this time were Susan Clark, Michael Parks and Celia Kaye.

07fd7-screen2bshot2b2016-05-272bat2b4-23

At 20th Century Fox, Darryl Zanuck was concentrating on hiring talent from European productions. He financed MORITURI, a war drama with Marlon Brando and Yul Brynner, as a means of exploiting the talents of its Austrian director Berhard Wicki. Zanuck also employed French director Serge Bourguignon to make a picture called THE REWARD. The neo-western starred Max Von Sydow and Yvette Mimieux and did not perform as well as the studio hoped. But Zanuck believed in the abilities of foreign filmmakers, and he even spent part of 1965 trying to entice Japan’s Akira Kurosawa to make a feature for Fox about the life of General Custer.

 
 

 

TB, I'm trying to figure out who is in that photo with Michael Parks. Do you know what movie it is from?

 

It almost looks like Susan Strasberg but not quite.

 

Great write-up, as usual!

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TB, I'm trying to figure out who is in that photo with Michael Parks. Do you know what movie it is from?

 

It almost looks like Susan Strasberg but not quite.

 

Great write-up, as usual!

Thanks. It's Celia Kaye. She and Parks were in a 1965 Universal release called WILD SEED.

 

For more: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wild_Seed_(film)

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When Gulf & Western officially took control of Paramount in, I believe, October 1966... although they were probably starting their move in '65 as you *hint hint*... they at least made a wise decision to add somebody young and ambitious. I think the "dawn" of "new" Hollywood started with "where did he come from?" Robert Evans giving that company a much needed face lift.

 

Interesting that Zanuck wanted Kurosawa in 1965. He got him for Tora! Tora! Tora! later... only he didn't keep him for long.

Yes. Zanuck seemed to love those foreign filmmakers. But getting them to work within the studio system and turn out profitable Hollywood films was sometimes impossible.

 

By the way-- I didn't include a paragraph on THE SOUND OF MUSIC, because I felt the piece was running a bit long. But it's worth mentioning the film was an important hit for Fox and cemented Julie Andrews' status as a motion picture star in musicals. 

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Yes. Zanuck seemed to love those foreign filmmakers. But getting them to work within the studio system and turn out profitable Hollywood films was sometimes impossible.

 

By the way-- I didn't include a paragraph on THE SOUND OF MUSIC, because I felt the piece was running a bit long. But it's worth mentioning the film was an important hit for Fox and cemented Julie Andrews' status as a motion picture star in musicals. 

 

Oh... what the heck. You can cover the "after effects" of THE SOUND OF MUSIC. This made the late sixties a fun roller coaster ride of spectacular highs (i.e. OLIVER! and FUNNY GIRL) and lows (DOCTOR DOOLITTLE and HELLO DOLLY!)

 

By the way, I am sprucing up some seventies posts that you can have and edit to your own heart's content if you wish. (Needless to say, each is quite a bit longer and windy-er than yours. Then again, you won't need many pictures. Lol!) Ended at 1980... so far... with bits and pieces of later years done. I hope you allow me more time, boss. You are slapping the sixties here faster than lil' ol' me expected you to.

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Oh... what the heck. You can cover the "after effects" of THE SOUND OF MUSIC. This made the late sixties a fun roller coaster ride of spectacular highs (i.e. OLIVER! and FUNNY GIRL) and lows (DOCTOR DOOLITTLE and HELLO DOLLY!)

 

By the way, I am sprucing up some seventies posts that you can have and edit to your own heart's content if you wish. (Needless to say, each is quite a bit longer and windy-er than yours. Then again, you won't need many pictures. Lol!) Ended at 1980... so far... with bits and pieces of later years done. I hope you allow me more time, boss. You are slapping the sixties here faster than lil' ol' me expected you to.

No worries. I wanted to finish with the 60s before I go on vacation later in June. I look forward to seeing what you have for the 70s.

 

Incidentally, when I cover 1966, it's a little more thematic than other years-- the focus is on the blending of TV and feature films, which led to the creation of the TV movie. 

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