Favorite Comedies of the 60’s

If you expecting to find at least one of those Doris Day comedies to pop up on this list, well sorry but Ms. Day, with or without Rock Hudson, will be found nowhere on site. I am not an admirer, or fan. Day does have a nice comedic touch and some of her comedies are pleasant (Pillow Talk and Lover Come Back), but her virginal, sugary, spunky self, I just find annoying. Like Mary Tyler Moore’s  Lou Grant once said, “I hate spunk.”  I don’t mean to turn this into a tirade against Ms. Day, but in the 1960’s, the times, they were a changin.’ and films like With Six You Get Eggroll did not cut it. Anyway, here is my list for the decade that helped defined me.

As you will see most of the films here except for a few are from the later part of the decade. You can check out the previous entries in this series by clicking on the link here. Continue reading

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Richard Avedon and Funny Face

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Richard Avedon was one of the best known and most influential portrait and fashion photographers of his day. He changed the concept of what was fashion photography and how it was presented. He has remains an artistic hero to many, right to this day. Born in 1923, in New York City, Avedon’s parents were both in the fashion business. His father, Jacob Avedon, owned and ran Avedon’s Fifth Avenue, a clothing store. With his family background, young Richard took an early interest in fashion and began photographing outfits from his father’s store. When he was twelve years old, Richard became a member of the Camera Club at the Young Men’s Hebrew Association. Continue reading

Wait Until Dark (1967) Terence Young

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Warner Brothers purchased the film rights to “Wait Until Dark” early on with Jack Warner set to star Audrey Hepburn in the lead role of the blind heroine, Susy Hendrix.  Hepburn wanted Warner’s to announce as soon as possible that she would be starring.  She wanted to avoid accusations similar to what occurred when she took the role of Liza Doolittle in “My Fair Lady” and was accused of stealing the role from  Julie Andrews. In the play, film and stage actress Lee Remick was starring and was a big enough star to have headlined the film. What Audrey wanted known is that from the beginning Warner’s had no intention of having Lee star in the film version

The hit play opened in early February of 1966 at the Ethel Barrymore Theater with Remick and with Robert Duvall, as Harry Roat Jr. It was directed by Arthur Penn who would soon go on to film “Bonnie and Clyde. “Written by Frederick Knott whose first hit play was “Dial M For Murder”, “Wait Until Dark” was Knott’s successful return to Broadway, a woman in peril thriller in the  “Sorry, Wrong Number ” mode.

wait lcProduced by Mel  Ferrer, Hepburn’s husband, the film version opened up  on October 26th 1967 at Radio City Music Hall, just in time for Halloween. The film sets up Susy (Hepburn), a young  woman recently blinded in a car accident, against a team of three criminals led by a diabolical Harry Roat Jr. (Alan Arkin). The men are determined to get their hands on a heroin filled doll that has made its way to Susy’s apartment.

How the doll got to the Greenwich Village apartment Susy shares with her photographer husband Sam (Efrem Zimbalist Jr.) and its disappearance and reappearance takes time to explain as does the convoluted  deception by the criminals including  Roat Jr. dressing up disguised as other people in an attempt to get the doll back from the blind Susy.

The biggest question the film, and the play, leave your with is why did Roat Jr. have to wear disguises when his intended target is blind?  Despite this glitch in the plot and a slow build up, in the third act the film provides an intense finale that will still make viewers tense and jumpy.  I am not going to give anything away here so if you have not seen the film don’t worry.

wait until darkThis was the first suspense thriller for Ms. Hepburn whose career was filled with gentler works like “Charade”, “The Nun’s Story”, “Sabrina” and “Roman Holiday.” She does well in this career change of pace and  received her fourth  Academy Award nomination for her efforts. Also, in the cast are Richard Crenna and Jack Weston as Roat Jr.’s  partners in the evil scheme. Directed by Terence Young, best known for directing the first two James bond films “Dr. No” and “From Russia With Love” and later on the fourth, “Thunder ball.”  Young was good friends with Hepburn and her husband Mel Ferrer and they fought for him to direct the film. Jack Warner was looking to get Carol Reed to direct.wait still

Like Lee Remick did for her stage performance, Hepburn  studied and did much research on the blind, first in Lausanne and then in New York at the Manhattan Lighthouse for the Blind. Alan Arkin got the role of the criminal Harry Roat Jr. after Warner’s was turned down by numerous stars  including George C. Scott. Arkin had just made a name for himself a year earlier in Norman Jewison’s  “The Russian Are Coming, The Russians Are Coming.”

Hepburn wanted to make the film in Europe where she felt comfortable, and while the film is set in New York most of the film involved interior shooting that could have been done anywhere. A few exterior shots of Greenwich Village could have been made in New York and the rest of the film completed anywhere. Jack Warner refused insisting that the interiors be filmed in California. While Warner won that battle he lost the tea at four war. Audrey insisted on a stipulation that they break for tea every day in the afternoon, a British tradition, and was backed up by the Brit director Mr. Young. Jack Warner steamed but the crew had their daily break tea.

Warner Brothers studio used a little bit of Alfred Hitchcock and William Castle ballyhoo when they announced in the coming attractions for the movie that during the final eight minutes of the film the theater lights will be darkened to the legal limits to intensify the action on screen.

In 1998, the play was revived on Broadway with Marisa Tomei and Quentin Tarantino in the roles of Susy and Harry Roat Jr. Changes made to the original play and movie, like the apartment was now on the Lower East Side instead of Greenwich Village, apparently did not add any gloss to the play. It closed after 97 performances.

Charade (1963) Stanley Donen

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“Charade” is a light Hitchcockian thriller with two of the most charming stars to ever grace the screen. A lively screenplay, a catchy title song that you cannot get out of your head and a superb cast of supporting actors, most of who would soon go on to become stars in the late 1960’s and beyond.  Directed with a light touch by Stanley Donen, best known for his wonderful musicals with Gene Kelly (Singin’ in the Rain, On the Town and It’s Always Fair Weather) and without Gene Kelly (Funny Girl, Seven Brides for Seven Brothers and Pajama Game) glides elegantly and smoothly into the world of The Master of Suspense. Donen actually complained about the comparison to Hitch, claiming that Sir Alfred did not have a monopoly on this kind of film. While he is right about that, there no denying the similarities. First, you have the main character Reggie (Hepburn) being accused of something, she knows nothing about (the whereabouts of stolen money). Then we have a script filled with dark humor, another Hitchcock trademark and finally Miss Hepburn’s co-star, Cary Grant, a Hitchcock alumnus with an outstanding record.

    Audrey Hepburn is Reggie Lampert, a UN Interpreter, whose husband is murdered and tossed off a moving train right at the start of the movie. His only possession is a small travel bag that the police will return to her. Just prior to learning of  her husband’s death, whom she was planning to divorce, she meets the charming Peter Joshua (Cary Grant) at a ski resort. They are attracted to each other. At the funeral palor where her husband’s body is on view, an assortment of odd strangers appear, each one substantiating personally that he is dead; one even sticks the deceased with a pin to ensure he is really dead. 

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Soon after, Reggie is requested to come to the U.S. Embassy where she meets Hamilton Bartholomew (Walter Matthau), a CIA agent who informs her that her husband was involved in a robbery during World War II, stealing two hundred and fifty thousand dollars, belonging to the government. Hamilton shows Reggie a photo of three men who were in the Army with her husband and were part of the gang that pilfered the dough. Reggie recognizes the men; they are the same three strangers who came to her husband’s funeral. Bartholomew wants the government money back though Reggie insists she does not have it nor know where it is.  Peter Joshua reappears willing to help Reggie anyway he can to find the money, which he eventually admits he wants for himself. He also informs her that his name is really Alexander Dyle. Soon bodies are dropping like the proverbial fly. Reggie and Peter/Dyle fall in love as they continue to search for the missing money. I won’t reveal the ending but suffice it to say most of the characters are not who they say they are, maybe.

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   The film is filled with twist and turns, and plenty of sophisticated and sometimes ghoulish humor, courtesy of screenwriter Peter Stone. Grant is in familiar territory having covered this type of film with Sir Alfred many times before (North by Northwest, Rebecca, and Notorious). He is charming as ever, even if he is looking a touch older. Grant was concerned about the romantic angle of the script due to the age difference between Hepburn and himself. He requested changes in the script, specifically that they make Hepburn’s character the aggressor in their relationship. Hepburn always seemed to be involved with older men in many of her films (Cooper, Bogart, and Astaire) and it always looked a bit uncomfortable except with Grant who is able to carry it off unlike the others. Despite their age difference, Grant and Hepburn have a magical chemistry working between them. They are perfectly matched. Hepburn is beautiful and sophisticatedly sexy as one could be. There are no two actors today who glow with  the appeal, the sophistication, the style these two stars radiate. They had faces then and charisma. 

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The film’s list of supporting actors is nearly a who’s who of future celluloid stars. Walter Matthau, who already had a long career in supporting roles would soon break out, win an Academy Award for his role as Whiplash Willie in Billy Wilder’s “The Fortune Cookie” and become the oddest of leading man. Here he is perfect as the underhanded “CIA Agent.”  Like Matthau, James Coburn had been slowly building a resume of wonderful character parts, one of which is in this film, and he would soon reach stardom with the “Our Man Flint” films. The great George Kennedy would soon become best known for his role as “Dragline” in the classic “Cool Hand Luke.”   The cast also includes the wonderful character actor Ned Glass best known for his role as Sgt Pendleton in “The Phil Silvers Show” (aka Sgt. Bilko). Finally and certainly not least is Henry Mancini’s wonderful score and title song, which is eerily played throughout the film and an integral part of the film’s success.

    “Charade” was Radio City Music Hall’s Christmas attraction in December of 1963 opening to mixed reviews though the public came in droves. In 2002, Jonathan Demme, made a valiant attempt to remake this light classic called, “The Truth About Charlie.” Unfortunately, Mark Wahlberg is a long distance away from Cary Grant and though the beautiful Thaddie Newton comes somewhat closer to capturing the elf like sophistication of Hepburn, the film remains okay to watch but it is “Charade” you will come back to watch again and again. 

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You may notice on IMDB, they say the screenplay is based on a story (The Unsuspecting Wife) credited to Peter Stone and Marc Behm. If you check out the photo of the paperback above it states, “A novel by Peter Stone.”  On the inside of the book, it reads that it is dedicated to suspense writer Marc Behm. So what goes on here? Stone is a playwright and a screenwriter and he is not known to have ever written a novel. The “novel” is a novelization of the screenplay and “The Unsuspecting Wife” was a short story by Stone that originally appeared in Redbook magazine. The most likely scenario of the credit to Behm is he wrote the novelization based on Stone’s screenplay thus, the dedication to give Behm credit.