A Boomer Looks Back at Movies from 1967

Fifty years ago — 1967 — was an amazing year for movies. Mister Boomer’s father and mother relished taking the family to movies, both in theaters and drive-ins. There were three theaters and three drive-ins within a 15-minute drive near Mister Boomer’s home, so there was always a choice of movies from which his parents could choose. Movies were pretty economical for a family, too; the drive-in was around a dollar per car at that time. What increased the cost was the snacks. Mister Boomer’s father was a big movie snacker. He would not see a movie without popcorn and some chocolate, usually non pareils, Mounds bars or Almond Joys, or Raisinettes in a pinch. His mother was all about Dots, Chuckles and Good & Plenty. Mister B never liked snacking in the movies as he found the wrapper noise annoying and did not wish to inflict that on others. As soon as Mister Boomer’s brother was old enough to care for his younger siblings (around age 10), the kids walked to the nearest theater on their own to see Saturday matinees, too.

Family movie time was broken into two branches: times when the entire family would pile into the car and go to a theater, and the times when Mister Boomer’s father took the kids to the drive-in to let Mister B’s mother host her ladies’ bunco card club. The kind of movie the family saw definitely depended on whether Mister B’s mom was in attendance. While his father enjoyed drama, thrillers, crime and mysteries — not to mention any and all James Bond — his mother liked the lighter fare, but would see anything if it starred some of her favorite actors. She was especially fond of anything Peter Sellers or Walter Matthau did.

Here are a few of the 1967 movies Mister Boomer recalls seeing at the movies in his youth:

Comedy/Drama
Casino Royale, with David Niven, Peter Sellers, Ursula Andress and Orson Welles, was unlike other James Bond movies in that it was an outright comedy. Maybe if it had Sean Connery as 007 it would have been funnier. Mister Boomer saw this one with his siblings when they were dropped off at a nearby theater.

The Graduate was a major movie of 1967, having been nominated for a host of Academy Awards. It won Best Director for Mike Nichols. Starring Dustin Hoffman, Anne Bancroft, Katharine Ross, and William Daniels, it was probably too adult for Mister B and his siblings when his father took them to the drive-in to see it. Mister B didn’t appreciate the film until years later when he saw it on TV.

The Producers starred Zero Mostel and Gene Wilder. Mister Boomer and his mother enjoyed Mostel and Wilder movies. This one is still on Mister Boomers’ list of top films of all time.

In Like Flint was a campy spy spoof movie starring James Coburn and Lee J. Cobb. There were two Flint movies, the first appearing the year before, and Mister B laughed through both. He especially like that Coburn’s character Derek Flint could talk to dolphins. There will always be a place in Mister B’s heart for campy movies.

A Guide for the Married Man with Walter Matthau and Inger Stevens had classic Matthau written all over it, so it was one the whole family saw in a theater. Mister Boomer recalls watching it with his mother on TV many times years later. She smiled at Matthau’s antics every time.

Thrillers/Mystery/Crime
You Only Live Twice starred Sean Connery and Akiko Wakabayashi. If by some chance Mister Boomer and Brother Boomer’s father didn’t take the boys, they wouldn’t miss a James Bond movie. That is what happened with this one — they went on their own. Too bad the movie was only so-so.

Bonnie and Clyde with Warren Beatty and Faye Dunaway is another of those classic films from 1967. However, Mister Boomer didn’t think much of it when he saw it as a teenager at the drive-in, or even after a second viewing on TV years later.

Cool Hand Luke starred Paul Newman and George Kennedy. It was another drive-in movie classic for Mister B. He liked the characters right away — especially George Kennedy’s — and has seen it numerous times since. It’s right up there on his best of all time list.

In the Heat of the Night with Sidney Poitier and Rod Steiger was another drive-in movie for Mister B, his father and siblings. It was yet another one that Mister B appreciated years later when he saw it on TV, just not at the time.

Wait Until Dark starred Audrey Hepburn and Alan Arkin. Mister Boomer’s mother picked this one and the family went to a theater to check it out. Hepburn’s blind character made this film memorable.

War Films
The Dirty Dozen with Lee Marvin, Ernest Borgnine, Charles Bronson, John Cassavetes was a romp of a World War II movie. It was as fun as a war movie can be, worth seeing at the drive-in, and again years later on TV.

Tobruk starred Rock Hudson, George Peppard, Nigel Green and Guy Stockwell. Standard fare, almost a B-movie as far as a young Mister Boomer could tell. He saw it at the drive-in, of course, when his father took him and his siblings.

There were dozens of other now-classic movies released in 1967 that Mister Boomer did not see at the movies. However, he saw most of them on TV in the years that followed. Just look at this list of 1967 movies:

Camelot: Richard Harris, Vanessa Redgrave, Franco Nero, David Hemmings
Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner: Spencer Tracy, Sidney Poitier, Katharine Hepburn, Katharine Houghton
El Dorado: John Wayne, Robert Mitchum, James Caan
In Cold Blood: Robert Blake, Scott Wilson, John Forsythe, Paul Stewart
Bedazzled: Peter Cook, Dudley Moore, Eleanor Bron, Raquel Welch
To Sir, With Love: Sidney Poitier, Judy Geeson, Christian Roberts, Suzy Kendall
Doctor Dolittle: Rex Harrison, Samantha Eggar, Anthony Newley, Richard Attenborough
Barefoot In the Park: Robert Redford, Jane Fonda, Charles Boyer, Mildred Natwick
Thoroughly Modern Millie: Julie Andrews, James Fox, Mary Tyler Moore, Carol Channing
I Am Curious Yellow: Lena Nyman, Vilgot Sjöman, Börje Ahlstedt, Peter Lindgren
Valley of the Dolls: Barbara Parkins, Patty Duke, Paul Burke, Sharon Tate
Far From the Madding Crowd: Julie Christie, Peter Finch, Alan Bates, Terence Stamp
The Taming of the Shrew: Elizabeth Taylor, Richard Burton, Cyril Cusack, Michael Hordern
The Born Losers: Tom Laughlin, Elizabeth James, Jeremy Slate, William Wellman Jr.
Easy Come, Easy Go: Elvis Presley, Dodie Marshall
How I Won the War: Richard Lester film with Michael Crawford and John Lennon
How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying: Robert Morse, Michele Lee, Rudy Vallee

… and lots of other movies, including Don Knotts releases and Godzilla movies that most boomers will recall seeing on TV if not at the movies.

Mister Boomer still prefers seeing a movie in a theater as opposed to on TV– and don’t even think about him viewing one on a tablet or phone. He is one boomer who likes his movies the old-fashioned way. Now, when are we going to get a year with such stellar stories and performances like we did in 1967?

What were your favorite movies from 1967, boomers?

 

Boomers Both Feared and Laughed at Russia

Spying and hacking and meddling … oh my! Russia is in the news again, but that is nothing new to boomers. We lived with practically daily news about the country and people we were told were our biggest adversaries.

There are famous stories of General George Patton advocating war with Russia at the end of World War II. His rationale was that it was inevitable that we would face the country some day, and at that point we had troops and equipment available in the area already. Fortunately cooler heads prevailed, but just four years after the end of the war, the first salvo of the Cold War was hurled when the Soviet Union tested their first nuclear bomb.

We tended to use the terms “Russia” and “Soviet Union” interchangeably, though there was a difference. Russia was and is a country in and of itself, but the U.S.S.R. (Union of Soviet Socialist Republics) was a collection of Country/States that comprised the Soviet Union, until its dissolution in 1991. The U.S.S.R. was under the control of the Communist Party, headquartered in Moscow, Russia.

Once the Soviets became the second state to possess nuclear capability, fear spread across the U.S. Boomers recall the Duck and Cover government educational film (1951) and the craze of people building home fallout shelters (See: Signs of the Times: Fallout Shelter Signs Were A Common Sight for Boomers). In the beginning we were told we’d survive a nuclear attack if we were at school, simply by sliding under our school desks. At home, we could survive indefinitely inside shelters that were either pre-made and installed, or custom made by the homeowner. These shelters were stocked with water, canned goods and everything a family might need to remain locked away underground until nuclear fallout clouds might dissipate. Information at the time thought that might not take more than a month — at least that is what the government was saying aloud.

Soon after the Soviets’ first nuclear test, the country was gripped by McCarthyism, named after Senator Joseph McCarthy (R-Wisconsin) and the congressional hearings he chaired on the possible infiltration of Communists into the U.S. (1950-54). His first inquiries concerned the loyalty of government employees, then he targeted the film and TV industry.
The same year McCarthy began his “Red Scare,” the U.S. entered the Korean conflict, ostensibly to stop the spread of Communism.

Soviet Premier Nikita Khrushchev said in a speech in 1956 that he felt the Communist system would outlast the western Capitalism system by saying, “We will bury you.” He repeated the phrase at the United Nations in 1960, pounding his fists and ultimately, his shoe, on his desk. The line elicited front page news for the American press. The Cuban Missile Crisis in 1962 added more fuel to the fire of nuclear fear (See: Boomer History: The Cuban Missile Crisis).

Meanwhile, the film and TV industry was busy doing what people always do to their adversaries — demonize and make fun of them. Some of the most popular movies and TV shows referenced the Soviet Union in an adversarial role. Most, however, may have made allusions to Russian spies and meddling, but the foes were more often super villains from international crime syndicates as opposed to state operators. Here are a few of Mister B’s Cold War favorites:

James Bond — The first James Bond film was released in 1962. The books, authored by Ian Fleming, did plot U.S. and Soviet spies against each other on occasion, but the movies seldom did. In From Russia with Love (1963), James Bond “must” seduce a beautiful Russian agent in order to acquire a decoder device. In You Only Live Twice (1967) super-villain Blofeld is capturing Soviet and American satellites in an effort to start a war between the two countries. In The Spy Who Loved Me (1977), British and Russian submarines are being hijacked, so the two countries’ governments combine forces to investigate. Heading into the 1980s and ’90s, the Soviets and British (and by proxy, Americans) appear in an adversarial role in several Bond films, but that is out of the range of the prime boomer years, so Mister B will leave that for your own research.

Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb (1964) – This movie set up a “what if” scenario of a rogue American general intent on starting a war between our two countries. In the movie, the U.S. President reaches out to the Soviet Ambassador to try to explain the situation and brings him into the top-secret War Room in the process. There, the Ambassador, skeptical of U.S. motives, is busy taking pictures of his surroundings. The satire showed the absurdity of our mutual distrust in the face of total annihilation.

Fail-Safe (1964) – Like Dr. Strangelove before it, this film creates a scenario where a nuclear exchange between the two countries is frighteningly close at hand. In this film, though, American bombers are accidentally sent to destroy Moscow due to electrical and computer malfunctions. The U.S. asks the Soviet Union for help in averting a worldwide crisis. Unlike Dr. Strangelove, this was serious drama. Mister Boomer had read the book in school before the movie was made.

The Russians Are Coming! The Russians Are Coming! (1966) – When a Soviet submarine accidentally runs aground off the coast of a small New England town, members of the crew realize they have no choice but to go ashore and seek help to free their vessel. Reflecting the paranoia of the day, townspeople mistake the small boat as a Russian invasion force. Merriment ensues.

Boris Badenov and Natasha Fatale – Cartoon characters on Rocky and His Friends and The Bullwinkle Show (1959-64), these spies and dastardly do-no-gooders were actually from Pottsylvania, despite their obvious Russian names. Their superior was known as Fearless Leader. Boris’s name is a play on the name of Boris Godunov, a 19th century Russian tsar who instituted a spy system to protect his power from internal and external enemies. Boris Badenov proclaimed himself the “world’s greatest nogoodnik,” another reference to the Russian language.

Much taller than Boris, Natasha Fatale was his partner and evidently the brains of the operation. She appeared to hold some affection for Boris and often saved him from his own misdoings. Like Boris, she spoke in a broken English reminiscent of a Slavic-Russian accent.

Spy TV Shows — A series of TV shows cropped up in the early ’60s that used the Cold War as backdrop, but again, seldom mentioned Russia and the Soviet Union by name — although there were instances where the two countries worked together to thwart a common enemy. Among them were The Man from U.N.C.L.E. (1964-68),  I Spy (1965-68), The Avengers (1966-69), Mission: Impossible (1966-73), The Prisoner (1967-68), and Get Smart (1965-70). All of them used at least some humor in their scripts.

What memorable laugh or fear-stricken book, film or TV show about the Russians do you remember, Boomers? (For further Mister B insight, see: Laughing Through the Cold War)