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Talkin' 'Bout My Generation

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?

posted by Mister B in Film & Movies and have Comment (1)

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?

 

posted by Mister B in Film & Movies and have Comment (1)

Boomer Movie History in the Making — 1966

We all live through historic moments every day, yet it can be difficult to make that realization at the time. We boomers have lived through so many historic events that it’s difficult for us to NOT see our connection to the history as it was being made. For example, there is probably not a person who was living on the planet at the time who does not remember where they were when the Big Bopper’s plane went down; John Kennedy, Martin Luther King, Jr. and Bobby Kennedy were shot; or when Neil Armstrong first set foot on the moon.

So it came as a bit of a surprise to Mister Boomer that he was not all that aware of the historical and cultural significance the motion picture industry was making during the 1960s, and especially fifty years ago, in 1966.

The industry has always been subjected to the same laws as any other person or industry, but in addition, has self-regulated in terms of moral values. The Motion Picture Code of 1930 (Hays Code) was put together and adopted by The Association of Motion Picture Producers, Inc. and The Motion Picture Producers and Distributors of America, Inc. It detailed what would be deemed acceptable in movies from signing members. It strived to assure movies would not “lower the moral standards of those who see it,” nor would their films ridicule the law, justify revenge (in modern times) or glorify brutality, among other things. Films were already subject to the decency laws of the time.

These standards were in effect until 1966, when they were revised. Instead of explicitly banning certain types of actions, the new code suggested restraint. The pursuit of virtue and rejection of sin was still encouraged. It eliminated the outright prohibition of kissing that could be deemed “lustful,” and ultimately recommended a label of “suggested for mature audiences” be attached to certain films to let parents know a film may not be proper for their children — or for themselves, for that matter.

The first 1966 film tagged with the Mature Audiences label was Georgy Girl, only a month after the new revisions were adopted. Nowadays the film would probably be labelled a PG-13, but at the time the adult story line was considered bold and raised more than a few eyebrows. The plot tells of a young woman living with a promiscuous — and pregnant — friend. Georgy is a bit of a regular type, and doesn’t get much male attention until a friend of her father’s — a much older man than she — offers to set her up in an apartment in exchange for becoming his mistress. At the same time, the young man responsible for impregnating her roommate marries the girl and moves into their apartment. Soon he shows an interest in Georgy, too, since she is more interested in the soon-to-arrive baby than her roommate. Georgy is left with all sorts of moral reckoning. The title song of the film is probably recognizable to most boomers. The movie was nominated for four Academy Awards, and Lynn Redgrave won the Oscar for Best Actress in a Comedy or Musical. The song Georgy Girl was nominated for an Oscar, but lost to Born Free. It was released as a single by The Seekers in 1967.

Another groundbreaking film of 1966 was Michelangelo Antonioni’s Blow Up. Industry standard bearers demanded the director make cuts, but Antonioni refused. The film was released by MGM but did not have the industry seal of approval. Consequently, it was the first American film to display full-frontal female nudity.

That same year, Whose Afraid of Virginia Woolf? was the first American film release to contain profane expletives and frank sexual content. Meanwhile, Gulf & Western purchased Paramount Studios, making it the first of many multi-national conglomerates to take over a Hollywood studio.

When Otto Preminger’s Anatomy of a Murder (1959) was purchased for distribution on television in 1966, Preminger sought an injunction against Columbia Pictures Corporation and Screen Gems, Inc. to prevent them from editing the film to inject commercial air time. The court ruled that the producer had the rights to final cut and editing for theatrical releases only, and had therefore no say in the editing of a television airing.

Mister Boomer was an early teen, but nonetheless saw some of these films. His father took the kids to the drive-in movies at least once a month, when his mother had her club meetings. He completely recalls seeing Georgy Girl, but admits that at the time had no idea what was going on.

He went on to see many memorable films of 1966, both in theaters and at the drive-in. Among them:

The Silencers, the first Dean Martin James Bond spy spoof. Mister B went on to see all three of the Matt Helm films with Brother Boomer.

Batman: the Movie, where Adam West took the zaniness of the TV show to the movies. How could a boomer who loved the TV show not see this one?

Fantastic Voyage and One Million Years B.C., where Rachel Welch left an indelible mark on young Mister B’s life.

A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum, which was directed by the same Richard Lester who had earlier done A Hard Day’s Night. It made Mister B a lifelong fan of Zero Mostel and Jack Gifford.

The Good, the Bad and the Ugly with Eli Wallach immediately became among Mister B’s favorite westerns of all time, and still is.

The Sand Pebbles and Nevada Smith, both starring Steve McQueen, became instant classics in Mister B’s mind. He still recalls scenes and dialogue from those movies he saw at the local drive-in.

There were many more memorable films of 1966, including:

Born Free
Alfie
A Man for All Seasons
Fahrenheit 451
Torn Curtain
The Russians Are Coming! The Russians Are Coming!
What’s Up Tiger Lily?
The Fortune Cookie
The Glass Bottom Boat
Is Paris Burning?
Our Man Flint
Modesty Blaise

… among others

Imagine what movies might be like today were it not for these pioneering films of fifty years ago. What are your favorite movies of 1966, boomers?

posted by Mister B in Film & Movies and have Comments Off on Boomer Movie History in the Making — 1966

Boomers and Bikinis Just Went Together

July 5th marks the 70th anniversary of the introduction of the modern bikini. Though mosaics and wall paintings reveal that women wore two-piece costumes in Roman times around 300 A.D., and as far back as 1600 B.C. in Minoa, it is Louis Reard who is considered the father of the modern bikini.

The French engineer introduced his “bikini” on July 5, 1946. He named it after the atomic test of the Bikini atoll in the Marshall Islands because he expected it would generate a burst of excitement equal to the atomic test. Little did he know bikinis would play a starring role in many movies of the Boomer Generation. Many are part of the classic moments of film from the era. Here are just a few:

Brigitte Bardo: The Girl in the Bikini (1952); And God Created Woman (1956); et al
When the bikini was introduced in 1946, it did not receive a warm welcome in the fashion world, especially in the United States. Some say it was the image of Brigitte Bardo wearing bikinis in various movies through the 1950s and ’60s that changed a few minds. Although the actress took on many types of roles that showcased her acting range, she was the Sports Illustrated swimsuit model before there were SI swimsuit issues. Many boomer boys spied their first bikini as worn by Brigitte Bardo in movie magazines borrowed from their fathers’ collections.

Ursula Andress: Dr. No (1962)
When James Bond (Sean Connery) sees Ursula Andress rise from the ocean in a white bikini with a diving knife strapped to her hip, even he had to pause. The scene became so iconic that it has been repeated and parodied ever since, including Halle Berry’s reinterpretation of the scene, rising out of the ocean in an orange bikini in Die Another Day (2002).

Annette Funicello: Beach Party (1963); Bikini Beach (1964); How to Stuff a Wild Bikini (1965); et al
Beach movies hit the boomer scene from 1963 to 1968. Annette Funicello and Frankie Avalon, previously of Mouseketeer fame, were recruited to play a teenage version of the Doris Day/Rock Hudson movies … on the beach. Annette Funicello’s bikini was a two piece in name only. It was stipulated by contract with Walt Disney that she not be allowed to show her belly button, so some would say her swimwear in the movies was downright matronly. The fun thing for boomers, though, was there were no such stipulations on the other girls on the beach.

Raquel Welch: One Million Years B.C. (1967)
Technically, beauty queen Raquel Welch isn’t wearing swimwear in this movie. Rather, it was a furry animal skin two-piece that became so iconic that the still publicity shot for the movie became a best-selling poster. Mister Boomer has to admit, he was among the boys who taped the poster to his wall. The role was originally offered to Ursula Andress, but by then her salary requirements were too much for the producers.

Jane Fonda: Barbarella (1968)
Directed by  Roger Vadim, Jane Fonda’s husband at the time, Barbarella was a campy movie trip to outer space fantasyland via hallucinogenic imagery, so naturally, bikinis would would have to play a part. Mister Boomer first heard about the movie when a neighbor returning from his stint in Vietnam talked about it. It was years later when Mister B first saw the film, but Brother Boomer saw it much sooner.

Shocking to many in its day, the bikini now is commonplace poolside and on beaches around the world. It has even been named the official athletic wear for women’s professional beach volleyball. Monsieur Reard used a grand total of 30 square inches of fabric for his original creation, while today’s versions run the gamut from modernly modest to barely there. Many movies featured memorable bikini-clad women throughout the boomer years. What is your favorite bikini movie moment, boomers?

posted by Mister B in Fashion,Film & Movies,Pop Culture History,Uncategorized and have Comments Off on Boomers and Bikinis Just Went Together

Boomers Loved the Dave Clark Five

Mister Boomer recently saw a PBS documentary about the Dave Clark Five. It was filled with great nostalgic bits of their music and TV appearances on The Ed Sullivan Show and Shindig! Yet what stood out for Mister B was info he did not know: that the band starred in their very own 1965 motion picture, Having a Wild Weekend (released as Catch Us If You Can in the UK).

The incarnation of the band that hit US shores and known to American boomers — Dave Clark (drums), Mike Smith (vocals, keyboards), Denis Payton (saxophone), Rick Huxley (bass) and Lenny Davidson (lead guitar) — met while training at a gym two nights a week.

Clark had been a movie extra and stuntman, having appeared in The VIPs (starring Richard Burton and Elizabeth Taylor) and A Shot in the Dark (starring Peter Sellers). Some say his experience in movies helped give the band their theatricality in live and TV appearances.

Every boomer knows a good portion of the hit songs of the Dave Clark Five. They burst on the English scene in 1962, and over the next eight years, released an astounding 15 consecutive Top 20 US hit singles, selling more than 100 million records. In 1964, Glad All Over replaced I Want to Hold Your Hand as number one on the UK Singles chart, and they had arrived on the world stage. Boomers sang along to many of their hits, including:
Glad All Over (1964)
Bits and Pieces (1964)
Any Way You Want It (1964)
Because (1964)
Catch Us If You Can (1965)
Over and Over (1965)
…to name a few.

The band was British Invasion competition for The Beatles and Rolling Stones, but had their own sound. They were the first British Invasion band to tour the US and the second on The Ed Sullivan Show, after The Beatles. The DC5, however, appeared on Ed Sullivan 18 times — more than any other rock, pop or R&B act.

Columbia/Epic, the band’s record company at the time, wanted to strike while the iron was hot, so thought it might be a good idea to follow the successful track of A Hard Days’ Night, the 1964 Richard Lester film starring the The Beatles. Thus Catch Us If You Can was conceived in 1965 as a vehicle for the group, and John Boorman was tapped to direct it. The title song had been a monster worldwide hit for the group the year before. Later named Having a Wild Weekend for US distribution, the film was to be Boorman’s feature film-directing debut. He went on to direct the classic films Point Blank (1967), Deliverance (1972), Excalibur (1981) and Hope and Glory (1987), among others.

The band performed the soundtrack for the film, but unlike The Beatles in A Hard Days’ Night, they did not play themselves, but rather portrayed characters — stuntmen and not musicians — in the movie.

The story follows the adventures of Steve (Dave Clark), a stuntman, and Dinah (Barbara Ferris). Dinah is a famous model and TV commercial spokeswoman for a meat company as “The Butcha Girl.” They are both weary of their work situation and Steve whisks her away in his movie-set Jaguar for a well-deserved day off. Along the way Dinah pokes fun at the commercialization of her own image on a billboard, the couple run across societal “dropouts,” proto-hippies looking to drugs for escape from a changing reality, and head to an island that Dinah is looking to purchase as her own little hideaway, only to find out the island is accessible by land in low tide. Meanwhile, the marketing and PR firm behind the TV commercial that Dinah was shooting see the potential to exploit the situation and call in the police, stating Dinah was kidnapped. The chase ensues as police, marketing executives and fellow bandmate-stuntmen follow the couple through London and Britain.

While no one raved about the acting abilities of the group, the film was fairly well received as a comment on popular culture, the emptiness of consumerism and the commercialization of youth culture.

Unlike The Beatles, the DC5 didn’t go on to make additional movies, sticking to music instead. The group disbanded in 1970. Dave Clark, unlike his contemporaries, had enough business acumen to retain all the rights to the band’s songs and TV performances. As a result, there were no recordings of the band available for purchase between 1978 and 1993. Though high on the list of boomer greats, some say it was the ego and high monetary demands of Dave Clark himself that stopped the DC5 from becoming as important after their break-up as all the other bands of the British Invasion.

In 1986, Dave Clark wrote and produced a stage musical, Time. The science fiction play centered around a musician forced to defend Earth in the Court of the Universe. Narrated by Laurence Olivier, the play stared Cliff Richards, who was later replaced by David Cassidy. It was a multimedia visual tour de force which had a two-year run in London’s West End. The subsequent concept album featured Cliff Richards, Freddie Mercury, Dionne Warwick, Leo Sayer, Julian Lennon and Stevie Wonder. The album sold two million copies, with multiple hit singles.

Selected hits from the band’s heyday are now available in online stores, though TV appearance clips available for public consumption are still few and far between. Mister Boomer was there in the beginnings of the DC5, having a transistor radio of his own in 1964. He loved all of their big hits, but for years the harmonies on Because made him think it was a Beatles tune! The Dave Clark Five was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2008. Mister Boomer has to ask, what took so long?

Did you see Having a Wild Weekend and play DC5’s records over and over again, boomers?

posted by Mister B in Film & Movies,Music,Pop Culture History and have Comment (1)

Boomers Signed on The Dot and the Line

The 88th annual Academy Awards will be broadcast this weekend, so it got Mister Boomer wondering what was going on with the Oscars 50 years ago. As it turns out, 1966 was a momentous movie year for boomers. It was the first year the Academy Awards was broadcast in color; at the time many boomer households were acquiring color TVs.

The Sound of Music picked up five Oscars, including Best Picture. Many boomers have memories of seeing the picture with their families, at a drive-in or local theater. To win the Best Picture award, the film bested the now-classic films Doctor Zhivago, Ship of Fools, A Thousand Clowns and Darling.

The Best Actor category was a race among screen greats: Richard Burton (The Spy Who Came In From the Cold), Laurence Olivier (Othello), Rod Steiger and Oskar Werner (Ship of Fools), but it was Lee Marvin who took home the statue for his work in Cat Ballou.

Of particular note to Mister B was the award for Best Short Subject. A cartoon by Chuck Jones and Les Goldman, The Dot and the Line: A Romance in Lower Mathematics, won the Oscar for Best Short Subject. Every boomer knows the work of Chuck Jones. His Warner Bros. and MGM cartoons were favorites when we were young, and classics now. Boomers loved his work on Tom and Jerry, Looney Tunes, Bugs Bunny, Daffy Duck and for Mister B, especially, Road Runner cartoons, to name a few.

The Dot and the Line was inspired by Flatland: A Romance of Many Dimensions, an 1884 novella by Edwin Abbott. It was an exploration into different dimensions as well as a comment on Victorian society and culture. Jones’ The Dot and the Line is a whimsical love story about a line pining for the love of his life, a dot. The dot isn’t interested in the line, though, because “she” perceives “him” to be too rigid and stiff. Instead, she hangs out with the more impulsive squiggle. The line learns to bend itself, first into basic shapes, then mastering parabolic curves and complex mathematical forms to ultimately win over the dot when she realizes the squiggle is too impulsive and chaotic compared to the expert control of the line.

Mister B is a creative type, so he was always fascinated by the sheer beauty of every frame — each a modern painting in its own right. The cartoon pares down characters and scenery to a seemingly impossible bare minimum. Simple shapes and limited colors tell a very believable story as lines and dots acquire human characteristics.

Through the years there has been some talk that The Dot and the Line, like its Flatlands inspiration, was making a comment on culture and society. The argument goes, the rigidity of post-War America is represented by the line, the optimism for the future by the dot, and the restless aura of change by the squiggle. There is a brief musical introduction when the squiggle first appears, and it is definitely rock ‘n roll in its genre. Some say the chaotic squiggle represents the upheaval the rigid society perceived at the dawning of rock ‘n roll. In such an argument, reason, logic and trust in innovation win out over chaos.

For Mister B, an art history aficionado, the cartoon reflects what was happening in the art of the day. Abstract Expressionism had its start in pre-War Europe, but it was post-War American painters who brought it front and center to the world. Accenting gesture, emotion, freedom, individuality and expression, it embodied the elation of a new era. By the 1960s, change was in the air as a growing population, and especially boomers, began to be disillusioned with the idealized world that immediately followed the world’s second War to End All Wars. Civil Rights, women’s rights, poverty and individual freedom became rallying cries, and music reflected this movement. Art, on the other hand, went toward Minimalism, which concentrated on geometry, the depersonalization of industrial fabrication and purposeful lack of imbued emotion. The Dot and the Line bears aspects of both of those art movements in its execution, as both art movements residing side by side in the mid-60s.

Putting all the pseudo-intellectual explorations aside, The Dot and the Line should be enjoyed for what it is: a love story set in a particular space and time. For the imaginative manner in which this story was told, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences awarded it the Oscar. Another great boomer moment.

Do you recall seeing The Dot and the Line in theaters, boomers?

posted by Mister B in Film & Movies and have Comment (1)