Boomers Say Good-Bye to Two More Influencers

This week two icons of the boomer era passed away: Doris Day and Peggy Lipton. Both of these women recorded albums and both of them were actresses, but the two could hardly be more different. The contrast between them happens to illustrate the evolution of the Boomer Generation from the 1950s into the 1960s.

Doris Day
Though she started singing at an early age, Mary Ann Von Kappelhoff wanted to be a dancer. Her training would come in handy years later, on the silver screen. Nonetheless, she began singing at 15, which lead to her first record contract in 1947. Singing with several Big Bands, Doris Day became popular with servicemen during WWII and later, Korea.

She had a bona fide hit with Sentimental Journey in 1945, recording with Les Brown and His Band Of Renown. The song became a symbol for servicemen returning home. Her first foray into acting came in 1948 in the film, Embraceable You.

In the early 1950s, she starred in a series of musicals, in which she acquired the wholesome image of the girl next door. She attempted to jettison her image by accepting grittier, dramatic roles, including starring opposite Jimmy Stewart in Alfred Hitchcock’s The Man Who Knew Too Much in 1956. Her last film was With Six You Get Eggroll (1968).

While her acting career took off, she never stopped singing and recording. One of her biggest hits, Que Sera Sera, released in 1956, was used in the movie Please Don’t Eat the Daisies (1960) and The Glass Bottom Boat (1966). In 1968, it became her theme song for The Doris Day Show (1968-73) on TV.

Her real life was anything but the perfect world of the wholesome girl she portrayed on screen. She married four times, and in her autobiography stated that there was never any intention of projecting any image at all, by either herself or her publicist.

Peggy Lipton
While Doris Day began her singing career at age 15, Peggy Lipton started modeling at the same age. Her first acting job came at age 19, and she soon appeared on a variety of TV shows, including The John Forsythe Show (1965), Bewitched (1965) and The Virginian (1966).

Most boomers, however, will remember Peggy Lipton for the TV show that catapulted her to popular fame: The Mod Squad (1968-73), in which three young, groovy outsiders became undercover agents for the police. Ironically airing the same years as The Doris Day Show, Mod Squad, was one of the earliest shows to have a multiracial cast (tagline, “One white, one black, one blonde”) and one of the first TV shows to depict the counterculture that was growing among boomers. As a result, she became a fashion icon with her flower child image: long, straight blonde hair and bell bottom pants. Capitalizing on her TV fame, she released her first album of mostly covers in 1968, from which she had a hit single with Donovan’s Wear Your Love Like Heaven. She released a second album in 1970.

Ms. Lipton married music producer-legend Quincy Jones in 1974 and they divorced in 1990.

In later years, boomers saw her in a variety of movies and TV appearances. Most notably, she came back as a regular character in David Lynch’s Twin Peaks (1989-91). In Angie Tribeca (2017), she played the role of the mother to the show’s title star, her real-life daughter with Quincy Jones, Rashida Jones.

As far as Mister Boomer was concerned, Doris Day was more for his parents’ generation. Granted, she was a terrific singer and actress of that time, but Mister B much preferred Peggy Lipton in The Mod Squad. Mister B did not hear any of Peggy Lipton’s records in his earlier years. She was definitely better on screen than on record.

What memories do you have about Doris Day and Peggy Lipton, boomers?

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 fiancĂ© 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?