1960s

The Yellow Rolls-Royce (1964)

The Yellow Rolls Royce 1964

The Yellow Rolls-Royce follows the journey of a single yellow Rolls-Royce as it changes ownership three times and the role it plays in all their lives. The Rolls-Royce is originally purchased by Charles (Rex Harrison), the Marquess of Frinton as an anniversary gift for his wife Eloise (Jeanne Moreau). It’s their tenth anniversary, so he wants to get her something truly special. Unbeknownst to him, Eloise has been having an affair with another man. Charles is enthusiastic about horse racing and dreams of winning a big title, but when the day of the big race comes and his horse comes in first, Charles’ day is tainted by catching Eloise together with her lover in the brand new Rolls-Royce. He isn’t about to divorce her; it wouldn’t look good. However, he does sell her new car.

Next, the Rolls-Royce is bought by gangster Paolo Maltese (George C. Scott) as a gift for his girlfriend Mae (Shirley MacLaine), who are on vacation in Italy. Not long after they buy the car, Paolo has to leave to tend to some “business,” so he has his associate Joey (Art Carney) to take her out and keep an eye on her. Mae is bored of Italy, but her trip gets a little more interesting when she meets photographer Stefano (Alain Delon) and falls in love with him. Joey allows their affair to carry on, but when the news of Paolo’s “business trip” (a brutal murder) makes headlines, he feels the need to remind her of who she’d be dealing with if she left. Although she loves Stefano dearly, she reluctantly decides to leave with Paolo.

The third owner of the Rolls-Royce is Gerda Millett (Ingrid Bergman), a wealthy American woman taking a trip in Europe, who decides to buy the car on a whim. She meets Davich (Omar Sharif), who is looking to get back into Yugoslavia, to avoid a Nazi attack. She reluctantly agrees and isn’t happy about being involved, until she realizes just how serious the situation is. After getting a taste of what the Nazis are capable of, Gerda becomes active in smuggling people to safety. She works very closely with Davich and the two begin to fall in love, but they realize they can do more good for the cause by working apart than they can together.

The Yellow Rolls-Royce has a similar concept to The Earrings of Madame De…, a story about how an object finds its way to different owners. While I really liked The Earrings of Madame De…The Yellow Rolls-Royce didn’t do anything for me. The only story I found interesting was the one with Ingrid Bergman and Omar Sharif, but since that was the last chapter, that wasn’t enough to redeem the movie for me. The first two stories didn’t hold my interest at all. The movie is full of great stars, but none of them are at their best. It’s one of those movies that made it hard for me to muster up any reaction stronger than, “meh.”

The Rise and Fall of Legs Diamond (1960)

Rise and Fall of Legs Diamond 1960Jack Diamond (Ray Danton) gets his start in the criminal world as a small-time crook in New York. He wants to start dating dance instructor Alice Scott (Karen Steele),  but when she turns him down, he sabotages her intended dancing partner so she’ll choose him instead and when they’re in the middle of a dance competition together, he sabotages their top competition to win. Later that night, while he’s at a movie with Alice, he sneaks out and robs a jewelry store. But he has his eyes set on bigger and better things.

Working with his ailing brother Eddie (Warren Oates), he decides he wants to get ahead by stealing from criminals because he knows they can’t call the cops on him. Not wanting to start small, Jack decides to go after the notorious Arnold Rothstein (Robert Lowery) by trying to get a job working as his bodyguard so he’ll have access to all his tricks of the trade. Of course, Arnold Rothstein is not an easy man to get close to and Jack has to resort to buying thousands of dollars worth of clothes and charging it to Rothstein, knowing he’ll send some of his men to bring him to Rothstein to explain. Rothstein is impressed, but not enough to hire him — not yet anyway. But he does get there eventually and he begins to think he’s invincible.

It isn’t long before Jack plans to kill Rothstein and takes over his crime syndicate. He runs the syndicate with ruthless abandon, his yearning for power never satiated. But sooner or later, Jack learns the hard way that what must come up must come down when even his closest henchmen and Alice, now his wife, can’t deal with him anymore.

I love a good gangster movie, so The Rise and Fall of Legs Diamond was naturally a hit with me. I don’t know much about the life of Legs Diamond, so I have absolutely no idea how historically accurate it is, but it was at least entertaining. I don’t know that I’ve ever seen a Ray Danton movie before, but I was very impressed by his performance as Legs Diamond. I’m not sure why it isn’t better remembered as one of the all-time great gangster performances in film, but he was really fantastic. The movie, as a whole, may not be one of the all-time best gangster flicks, but it’s still a very entertaining movie. Absolutely worth seeing for Ray Danton and Lucien Ballard’s great cinematography.

The Roman Spring of Mrs. Stone (1961)

Roman Spring of Mrs. Stone 1961Karen Stone (Vivien Leigh) is not going through an easy time in her life. Her illustrious stage career seems to be drawing to a close now that she’s nearing the age of 50 and her husband recently passed away, so she’s feeling quite lost in life. She decides to bow out of the spotlight and spend some time in Rome. While there, she meets Countess Magda Terribili-Gonzales (Lotte Lenya), who makes a living by pimping out her band of young gigolos to rich women. Naturally, Karen is precisely the type of woman she wants to target so she introduces Karen to Paolo (Warren Beatty).

Although Karen has her reservations at first, she slowly starts to become infatuated with Paolo and the feeling is mutual. Karen is happy with Paolo, but she’s afraid of what her friends would think. However, unlike the other types of women the Countess usually deals with, Karen prefers to lavish Paolo with expensive gifts like new clothes and fancy dinners instead of giving them cold hard cash. The Countess has an arrangement with all of her gigolos that she gets half of everything they get so the Countess isn’t getting anything out of those dinners in nice restaurants.

Realizing Paolo’s feelings for Karen, and of Karen’s fragile mental state, the Countess tries to direct him toward a much younger American actress, Barbara Bingham (Jill St. John), who is more likely to be profitable for her. She knows that Paolo having an affair with Barbara would absolutely destroy Karen.

The Roman Spring of Mrs. Stone had the potential to be a really interesting film, but unfortunately, it missed the mark. Both Vivien Leigh and Warren Beatty have made much better films. The movie is only about an hour and forty-five minutes long, but it felt like it was longer than that. I kept looking at the clock to find out how much longer I had to listen to Warren Beatty’s terrible Italian accent for. That accent and wearing copious amounts of self-tanner are pretty much Warren Beatty’s two big acting choices for this role. Vivien does a good job with her role and if I were to come up with my own reworking of the film to make it more interesting, I’d probably keep her in it. But oh, dear, I don’t think I could have listened to Beatty’s accent for any longer. I’m usually into movies that feature some beautiful Italian scenery, but that wasn’t even enough to keep me even remotely interested.

Made in Paris (1966)

Made in Paris 1966

Maggie Scott (Ann-Margret) works at Barclay’s Department Store as an assistant fashion buyer. When the head fashion buyer Irene (Edie Adams) suddenly leaves to get married right before she’s supposed to go to Paris for some fashion shows, Maggie is sent in her place. Maggie isn’t sure she’s up to it, but Irene thinks she can handle it and her boss’s son Ted (Chad Everett) recommends her for it, even though he’s been trying to pursue her romantically and she keeps turning him down.

Maggie has never been to Paris before so Ted asks his friend Herb (Richard Crenna) to take her out and make sure she’s okay. It turns out Herb has designs on her, too. Before Maggie leaves, Irene tries to tell her that fashion designer Marc Fontaine (Louis Jourdan) needs special attention, but she leaves before she can elaborate. Once Maggie arrives in Paris, she’s brought to a lovely apartment to stay in. While she’s sleeping, who should walk in but Marc Fontaine. It doesn’t take long before Maggie finds out Marc and Irene had been seeing each other and he didn’t know she wasn’t coming to Paris.

When Maggie goes to see Marc’s fashion show, they have yet another tense encounter, but they eventually make peace with each other and Maggie begins to fall in love with Marc. Before long, Maggie’s stuck in the middle of a crazy love triangle.

Made in Paris may be total nonsense of a movie, but it’s at least fun nonsense. Well, at least it’s fun if you like Ann-Margret and 1960s fashion. Ann-Margret and the fashion are the two biggest redeeming values Made in Paris has going for it, so if you’re not a fan of either of those, you might want to sit this one out. It’s not a great movie by any stretch of the imagination and it’s certainly not one of the best movies for Ann-Margret or Louis Jourdan, but I was pleasantly surprised that I had as much fun with it as I did. Not the kind of movie I’d go out of my way to watch, but I’d watch it again if nothing else was on.

The Lion in Winter (1968)

The Lion in Winter 1968

Just before Christmas in the year 1183, King Henry II (Peter O’Toole) knows the time has come for him to choose an heir to his throne. He has three surviving sons, Richard (Anthony Hopkins), John (Nigel Terry), and Geoffrey (John Castle), with his wife Eleanor of Aquatine (Katharine Hepburn). Henry ordered Eleanor imprisoned for organizing several civil wars against him, but he allows her to be released for holiday courts and other special events. Henry would prefer for John to inherit the throne, but Eleanor wants the crown to go to Richard, and Geoffrey isn’t happy about being overlooked by both parents.

When Eleanor arrives to join Henry, their sons, Henry’s mistress Princess Alais (Jane Merrow), and Alais’s brother Phillip II (Timothy Dalton), the King of France, for Christmas court at the family’s primary residence at Chinon, choosing an heir to the throne is the primary subject for discussion. Henry and Eleanor are both very conniving and do everything they can to get the son they want next in line for the throne, while Geoffrey is busy making plans of his own to be the next king. All of their schemes and plots unfold over the holiday, culminating with Henry deciding that none of his sons will do and he’d rather have his marriage to Eleanor annulled so he can marry Alais and have new sons. Henry throws all of his sons down in the wine cellar and plans to kill them, for the sake of protecting his future heirs with Alais, but Eleanor refuses to let that happen.

I’m not generally the biggest fan of these types of historical dramas, but The Lion in Winter is most definitely an exception to the rule. For all of the incredible roles Katharine Hepburn had the chance to play over the course of her career, trying to pick the absolute best of all of them isn’t an easy task, but it’s safe to put Eleanor of Aquatine pretty high on that list. It’s truly a role she was born to play; she’s an absolute tour de force. Not only is Katharine Hepburn absolutely phenomenal in it, she’s got an incredible supporting cast with Peter O’Toole, Anthony Hopkins, Timothy Dalton, Nigel Terry, and John Castle. Everybody involved in the film brought their “A” game. The script is full of razor-sharp dialogue and much more humor than you might expect. I keep trying to think of something I didn’t like about The Lion in Winter, but I just can’t think of anything. A truly magnificent film.

More Than a Miracle (1967)

More Than a Miracle PosterSpanish prince Rodrigo Fernandez (Omar Sharif) could have his choice of any princess his mother (Dolores del Rio) wants him to marry, but Rodrigo refuses to have anything to do with them. One day, he meets a magical monk and when Rodrigo explains who his ideal woman is, the monk gives him a sack of flour and a donkey. He is to find a woman who will make him seven dumplings with the flour and the donkey is to take him to her. As he rides along on the donkey, he meets the beautiful peasant Isabella (Sophia Loren). Isabella detests him, but he can’t resist her beauty and convinces her to make him the dumplings.

However, she gives him six dumplings, not seven — she ate the seventh one herself. To teach her a lesson for disobeying her, he plays dead, attracting the attention of the neighbors, then suddenly vanishes. In an attempt to bring him back, Isabella gets some help from some local witches, who create a spell for her. But when Isabella tries to cast the spell, she doesn’t do it right and instead casts a spell that paralyzes him and can only be broken with a magical kiss.

The prince’s guards find Isabella and bring her to the palace to break the spell and even though they have both fallen in love with each other, he still punishes her by sealing her in a barrel and sending her out to sea. That’s not enough to stand between, though, and Isabella is rescued by some children who help her get back to the palace. She gets in by working as a maid, but Rodrigo is under more pressure than ever to get married within seven days and to pick a bride, there will be a competition between the princesses. Rodrigo disguises Isabella as a princess and arranges a dishwashing competition, figuring she’d be a shoo-in to win. But when a rival sabotages Isabella’s plates, Isabella is about ready to end it all when she’s encouraged to make one last attempt to be with her true love.

More Than a Miracle isn’t a particularly noteworthy movie, but I enjoyed it just because it’s very different from the types of movies I typically go for and I was really craving something different today. It’s a cute movie; a pretty standard fairy tale fantasy story with some comedy thrown in for good measure. A pleasant little diversion that’s purely entertainment for entertainment’s sake. It’s certainly not one of the best movies Sophia Loren, Omar Sharif, or Dolores del Rio (who I was pleasantly surprised to see; until now, I don’t think I’d seen anything she made after Flying Down to Rio) ever made, but for what it is, there are far worse ways to spend a little over an hour and a half.

Harper (1966)

Harper 1966When Elaine Sampson’s (Lauren Bacall) wealthy disappears, she calls detective Lew Harper (Paul Newman) to track him down. Elaine doesn’t care if her husband is dead or alive, but she knows he’s likely drunk and with another woman and she just wants to find out where he is before he gets too generous in his drunken state and gives away something valuable yet again. He starts by talking to Sampson’s daughter Miranda (Pamela Triffin) and personal pilot Allan Taggert (Robert Wagner). After finding out Sampson had been keeping a bungalow in Los Angeles, Harper takes a trip there to investigate and finds a picture of washed-up starlet Fay Eastabrook (Shelley Winters). Harper spends an evening with Fay, and when he brings her home very drunk, he answers a mysterious phone call from a woman thinking she was talking to Fay’s husband.  The woman calling says she saw Fay out with a strange man that night and that she ought to get rid of before “the truck comes through.” From there, he keeps following lead after lead until he finds himself tied up in a conspiracy involving Taggert, Fay, Troy, drug-addicted singer Betty Fraley (Julie Harris), a cult leader, and that mysterious truck.

This movie is just plain awesome. I absolutely loved Paul Newman in this role. Lauren Bacall was a flawless choice to play the jaded, bitter wife. Pamela Triffin was so campy and over the top, but when she was on screen with Lauren Bacall, their two attitudes were so big, that it was just too much and I mean that the best possible way. If drag queens are not already re-enacting that scene in their acts, they are missing a golden opportunity. But fun, campy moments aside, Harper is a quality mystery.  The story’s got enough twists and turns to keep you on your toes the whole time and there’s a great twist at the end. From start to finish, it’s nothing but good, quality entertainment.

The Happening (1967)

The Happening 1967

After an all-night party they had been attending is broken up, hippies Sandy (Faye Dunaway), Sureshot (Michael Parks), Taurus (George Maharis), and Herby (Robert Walker, Jr.) head off on a boat looking for adventure. Along the way, they stop to play soldiers with some kids they see and in the excitement, they all run into the home of former mafia kingpin turned legitimate businessman Roc Delmonaco (Anthony Quinn). When Roc wakes up to all the commotion, he fears some of his old enemies have come to kidnap his children and insists they take him instead.  The hippies figure, hey why not, and decide to hold Roc hostage.

But there’s one little problem the hippies never considered — nobody wants to pay the $200,000 ransom they’re demanding. Roc tries getting the money from his wife Monica (Martha Hyer), his business partner Fred (Milton Berle), his old mob cohort Sam (Oskar Homolka), even his mother, but nobody is willing to come up with the money. Angry that his dearest friends won’t pay his ransom, he decides to kidnap himself and blackmails his wife, friends, and mother into giving him $3,000,000. Roc takes control of the whole gang and teaches them everything they need to know to have a successful life of crime.

The Happening is only really noteworthy for two reasons: being Faye Dunaway’s first film and for its theme song by The Supremes.  This is the sort of movie where I saw the description “A kidnapped gangster joins forces with the hippies who abducted him,” saw that the cast included Faye Dunaway, Anthony Quinn, and Milton Berle, and decided I needed to see this movie just because it sounded so insane. Pretty much the only reason to watch The Happening is just for the pure ridiculousness of it all. Definitely don’t watch it for the plot; it’s an hour-long story that got dragged out to an hour and 40 minutes. It might be tempting to watch it for the cast, but it will just leave you thinking that everybody in this movie deserves so much better. (And I’ve really got to hand it to Faye Dunaway because she made The Happening very shortly before doing Bonnie and Clyde and The Thomas Crown Affair. Faye knows how to upgrade fast.) But at least it has a good theme song, I’ll give it that.

La Notte (1961)

La Notte

When writer Giovanni Pontano (Marcello Matroianni) and his wife Lidia (Jeanne Moreau) go to the hospital to visit their terminally ill friend Tommaso Garani (Bernhard Wicki), the experience effects them each in different ways. While Giovanni is largely unbothered by seeing his friend in such a state, he’s more bothered by the strange woman he encounters in the hallway who tries to seduce him. As for Lidia, seeing her friend in so much pain is too much for her to stand. As they drive home, Giovanni is unconcerned with how upset his wife is and she’s unconcerned about the incident with the woman in the hallway.

Later while Giovanni is at a party for his new book, Lidia goes off by herself to visit the neighborhood they lived in as newlyweds. Giovanni and Lidia have been married for ten years any love they once had has long since gone. As they continue their night by going to a nightclub and a party, the emptiness of their marriage becomes more and more apparent. During the party, Giovanni spends his time pursing Valentina (Monica Vitti). Lidia takes a moment to call the hospital to check on Tommaso, only to find out he had just died ten minutes earlier. Now even more despondent, she starts spending time with Roberto (Giorgio Negro). Neither of their pursuits works out and when Giovanni and Lidia leave the party together the next morning, they are left to face just how empty their marriage is. When Lidia reads aloud an old love letter Giovanni had written to her, he doesn’t even realize that he had written it.

La Notte is a prime example of 1960s Italian filmmaking. But that being said, it’s a style of film that simply not everyone will enjoy. I liked La Notte, which is a pleasant surprise since Antonioni has generally been kind of hit-or-miss with me. The overall moodiness and sense of emptiness really grabbed me. It’s hard for movies to convey a sense of emptiness without actually feeling empty. So many movies have tried to do that and failed miserably, but that’s exactly what La Notte does perfectly. I almost wish I hadn’t chosen this movie to write about during one of my post-a-day events because I can’t really give it the proper analysis it deserves.

Period of Adjustment (1962)

Period of Adjustment PosterWhen Korean war veteran George Haverstick (Jim Hutton) spends some time in the hospital, he’s lucky enough to end up with Isabel (Jane Fonda) as his night nurse.  During his stay, the two of them fall in love and when George is discharged, one of the first places they visit is the Justice of the Peace. They’re married just before Christmas and head off for a honeymoon in Miami.  But before the ink has time to dry on the marriage certificate, Isabel and George begin to realize how little they really know about each other. For one thing, George has suddenly quit his job without consulting Isabel.  And it turns out that the car George had been talking about is, well, a hearse. And to top it all off, they end up spending their wedding night in a dingy, run-down roadside motel; hardly what Isabel had envisioned.

Along the way, George decides to stop and visit his war buddy Ralph (Anthony Franciosa). Ralph has been married to Dorthea (Lois Nettleton) for a few years, but his marriage’s future is just as shaky as George and Isabel’s. Ralph married Dorthea for her money and because he would stand to inherit her father’s business when he died. Dorthea’s father was in poor health at the time but survived. Although Ralph grew to genuinely love Dorthea, he could never stand her parents and abruptly quits his job at her father’s company after an argument. Worried that he might leave her just as suddenly, Dorthea decides to leave Ralph.

George and Isabel arrive at Ralph’s house on Christmas Eve, barely speaking to each other by the time they get there. As the night progresses, Ralph does his best to help solve his newlywed friend’s problems while coping with his own. At one point, Dorthea’s parents come over to collect their daughter’s things and the situation gets so far out of hand, all of them wind up down at the police station. But when things start to settle, both couples begin to have renewed confidence in their futures together.

Period of Adjustment is based on the play by Tennessee Williams and marked  departure from the typical Tennessee Williams fare. When the play was released, Williams dubbed it “a serious comedy,” which is a pretty accurate description. There’s drama, but it’s got some more lighthearted moments as well. I wouldn’t say it was one of my favorite movies, but I’m glad I saw it. The cast, particularly young Jane Fonda, was great. And although I prefer the movies based on more typical Tennessee Williams plays, this was a welcome change of pace. Period of Adjustment is also noteworthy for being the directorial debut of George Roy Hill, who went on to direct hits like The StingButch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, and Thoroughly Modern Millie.