Boomers Saw Great Movies Win Oscars

It’s time for the Academy Awards once again. This year’s crop of nominated films is an eclectic bunch consisting of historical drama, fantasy, forbidden love and a large dose of social commentary. Much the same can be said of the Academy Awards of fifty years ago. The awards ceremony in 1968 honored the stellar films and performances from movies released in 1967. While movies then and now reflect the times, the 40th annual Academy Awards, scheduled for Monday, April 8, 1968, were postponed for two days due to the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. on April 4.

The nominees for Best Picture were:
Bonnie and Clyde
Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner
In Cold Blood
In the Heat of the Night
The Graduate

The irony of the situation was that two of the films — now ground-breaking classics — dealt with racial prejudice and were made just three years after the enacting of Civil Rights legislation. Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner told the story of a white woman bringing her African-American fiancé home to meet her parents. This year’s nominee, Get Out, tells a similar story. While both were billed as comedy/dramas, both deal with the same subject fifty years apart.

Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner starred Sydney Poitier, who was the first African-American Oscar winner in 1964 (for his performance in Lilies of the Field). The movie was directed by Stanley Kramer, and starred (in addition to Poitier), Spencer Tracy (in his last film role), Katharine Hepburn and her daughter, Katharine Houghton, as Poitier’s love interest. The film was released just six months after the historic Loving V. Virginia decision by the U.S. Supreme Court that ruled that the states that banned marriage between individuals of different races was a constitutional violation of the 14th Amendment. Up to that point, interracial marriage remained illegal in 17 states.

Likewise, In the Heat of the Night took the issue of racial prejudice head-on. Sydney Poitier starred in this picture (in two nominated films in the same year!) with Rod Steiger. Poitier played the role of a Philadelphia police detective, who, while waiting for a train in Mississippi, is mistakenly arrested for the murder of a wealthy Chicago businessman. During his interrogation, Poitier reveals to Police Chief Rod Steiger that he is a detective. When Steiger calls his captain for verification, the Philadelphia captain tells Steiger that Poitier is his best detective, and suggests he keep him there to assist in the murder investigation. The town and Police Chief fiercely distrust strangers, and the tension between the characters is what one might expect from a Southern town in that time. But Poitier demands respect when at one point he utters the now-famous phrase, “They call me Mister Tibbs!” By the end of the film, Steiger’s character has grown to respect Poitier’s abilities in solving the case.

A glance through the nominees in the acting, cinematography and costuming categories show the depth of talent displayed in the movies released in 1967. Other than the Best Picture nominees, there was Best Supporting Actor George Kennedy for Cool Hand Luke; Art Direction and costuming awards went to John Truscott for Camelot, plus Set Direction along with Edward Carrere and John Brown; Best Original Musical Score went to Elmer Bernstein for Thoroughly Modern Millie and the Best Directing Oscar went to Mike Nichols for The Graduate.

Mister Boomer must confess that he only saw two of the films nominated in various categories at the movies fifty years ago: In the Heat of the Night and Cool Hand Luke. As near as Mister B can recall, he saw them at a drive-in with his dad, sister and brother. When his mother had her women’s card night, his dad took the kids to the drive-in to get them out of the house. Mister B saw many of the classic movies of the ’60s this way. As a young teen, Cool Hand Luke in particular made quite an impression on Mister B; he logs it as one of his all-time favorite movies.

At various times in subsequent years, Mister Boomer has seen all of the films on TV that were nominated in the most popular categories fifty years ago. He recalls watching Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner, Bonnie and Clyde, Camelot and The Graduate in particular. This year there are nine films nominated for Best Picture; in 1968, there were six. Then as now, they are filled with memorable lines of dialogue from quotable scripts, unforgettable scenes and performances, and musical classics that are valued today and will be fifty years from now.

Did you go to the movies to see any of the best pictures featured at the 1968 Academy Awards, boomers?

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?