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Mr Greenacres presents The 1960s Film Club   

In many ways the 1960s were an extraordinary decade. Out of the ashes of a drab and bankrupt post-war Britain of the late 1940s, we began to enter a new age, a ‘New Elizabethan Age’ and through the 1950s we began to rebuild the bomb sites, to become more prosperous and move away from the austerity and ration books into a world of new homes, new lifestyles, new gadgets – and new hopes and aspirations. We began to move from black and white austerity to an optimistic brave new world of technicolour. The beginning of the 1960s triggered an explosion of: music, literature, art and design, architecture, technology, cinema and fashion, often interlinked and interdependent.  Without doubt music was the most prominent, powerful and lasting part of this transformation, and in this respect the centre of the world was The Beatles, who had burst onto the scene in September 1962 with the release of their first single ’Love Me do’. They became the centre of everyone’s attention and led the music world right up until they disbanded in autumn 1969. The foundations of all types of modern music were laid in the 1960s and, most importantly, Britain led the way. Our acts dominated the world scene, even in America, where the influx of Beatles-led U.K. artists was known as ‘The British Invasion’. It would be hard to overestimate the impact, influence and lasting effect of the Beatles and 1960s music in general.   The 1960s were a remarkable and revolutionary decade, a decade of change, a change from black and white to kaleidoscopic colour. Nowhere is the visual and cultural aspect of this transition more clearly illustrated than in the corresponding evolution of British cinema. 1960 was a world away from 1970 – and nothing was the same, ever again. Even with rose coloured glasses, I think it’s time to look back, not in anger, but in wonderment. Before we begin our journey we should set out a few guidelines: We’ll almost exclusively be looking at British films and more explicitly those that capture and illustrate the essence of the times – the Swinging Sixties. We’ll also be biased towards London, which was, after all, the centre of the world back then. We won’t be looking at: period dramas, westerns, traditional musicals, war films, or anything so mainstream that it gets repeated ad infinitum on Freeview, or (with one notable exception) gets aired on BBCTV on Boxing Day. We’ll be looking for a world where everything is fab and groovy.   

SHADES OF GREY – THE KITCHEN SINK DRAMAS  It’s a funny thing – the first couple of years of any given decade seem to have more in common with the preceding years than what was to follow and this was true of the 1960s. Most British films of 1960-62 were still in black and white and were very much in the style of the late 1950s. ‘League of Gentlemen’ a crime caper starring Jack Hawkins (1960), although delightful, is typical in this respect. With many comedies such as: ‘Carry On Regardless’ (1961), ‘Dentist On the Job’ (Bob Monkhouse -1961), ‘On The Beat’ (Norman Wisdom – 1962), ‘Nurse on Wheels’ (Juliet Mills – 1963) it was simply a case of business as usual.    One new type of film that emerged in the 1960s came to be known as ‘Kitchen Sink Drama’. This was gritty social realism and would often depict angry young men, such as Tom Courtnay in ‘The Loneliness of the Long Distance Runner’ (1962), working class lifestyle and/or sordid sexual encounters, ‘Saturday Night and Sunday Morning’ with Albert Finney (1960), or ‘A Taste of Honey’ with Dora Bryan and Rita Tushingham (1961). These type of films were products of the British New Wave but the harsh realistic style depicting cramped rented accommodation, grimy pubs and working class austerity, although new, had in many ways more in common with the drab British existence of the 1950s and certainly did not depict the swinging sixties.  

   The Kitchen Sink Drama did get a bit more groovy and colourful in the mid 60s – ‘The Family Way’, 1967 starring John Mills, Hayley Mills and Hywel Bennett and with music by Paul McCartney being a case in point. By the end of the 60s the Kitchen Sink Drama had evolved – ‘Spring and Port Wine’ with James Mason, Diana Coupland and Susan George (1970) was positively groovy.    

THE SWINGING SCENE The 1960s was in a constant state of flux – everything was changing and evolving at such a speed that things such as music, fashion and even language quickly became passé, yesterday’s news. So from drab beginnings, when did England start to swing? Well ‘The Servant’ (Dirk Bogarde, Sarah Miles, Wendy Craig and James Fox) from 1963, set in London definitely has some style and cool about it (and atmospheric music from John Dankworth) and is a great film but it doesn’t really depict the swinging 60s. I couldn’t nominate a single film from 1964 that really swings – excepting perhaps ‘A Hard Day’s Night’ in a very black and white sort of way, but when we come to1965 things do start to move. ‘The Ipcress File’ with Michael Caine, has become an iconic snapshot of midsixties swinging London as has ‘The Knack’ starring Rita Tushingham, Ray Brooks, Michael Crawford, and Donal Donelly. ‘Alfie’, again starring Michael Caine and with a host of co-stars including Shelly Winters, Millicent Martin, Julia Foster, Jane Asher, Shirley Anne Field, Vivien Merchant and Eleanor Bron, although perhaps a little dated in some of its attitudes, definitely has this ’65 swing to it.     In many ways 1966 could be said to be the pinnacle of the Swinging Sixties. With Union Jacks all over the world, Carnaby Street a world famous tourist destination, England winning the World Cup, Ray Davies singing all his woes in ‘Sunny Afternoon’, and The Beatles pushing the boundaries with their proto-peppers LP, ‘Revolver’ it seemed that England really did swing. Unfortunately, and somewhat inexplicably, there were not that many swinging British movies released in 1966, one exception being, ‘Georgy Girl’ starring Lynn Redgrave and James Mason which came out in Oct 66 and really did swing.   Michelangelo Antonioni’s take on swinging London, ‘Blow Up’ (David Hemmings, Sarah Miles and Vanessa Redgrave), although finished in 66 didn’t come out in the UK until March 1967 but this tale of a London fashion photographer (said to have been loosely based on David Bailey) was so groovy that it is now regarded as an iconic snapshot of the swinging 60s.    By the time the very colourful and sometimes psychedelic ‘Summer of Love’ had passed us by, Swinging London was beginning to become a bit passé. ‘Smashing Time’ starring Rita Tushingham and Lynn Redgrave which came out in December 1967 is a wonderfully funny tale of two northern lasses who head south to find fame and fortune in London. The film takes such a humorous and irreverent look at the culture of the time it can really be regarded as a pioneering pastiche of Swinging London.   ‘Here We Go Round The Mulberry Bush’ which came out in January 1968 was set in Stevenage, Hertfordshire.  With a groovy soundtrack provided by Traffic and The Spencer Davis Group, this is the story of Jamie (played by Barry Evans) and his girlfriends (Judy Geeson, Angela Scoular, Sheila White, Adrienne Poster, Vanessa Howard and Diane Keen). Perhaps this is the movie swansong of the swinging sixties but the real star of the movie is the relatively unspoilt new town of Stevenage, built on post-war utopian ideals and beautifully photographed under the direction of Clive Donner. The Stevenage of Mulberry Bush, just like the 1960s, has long since disappeared. It has become passé, obsolete and dirty – suffocating under a deluge of indifferent redevelopment, loss of green space and influx of motor cars.  Incidentally, the term ‘The Swinging Sixties’ has now come to mean the whole decade, but this wasn’t the case at the time – the swinging sixties only referred to the period 1965-67 at the time.     

   I SPY – COLD WAR HEROES and ANTI-HEROES  The threat of nuclear war loomed large over everyone’s head throughout the 1960s and this was reflected in the literature and films of the period. We’ve already mentioned ‘The Ipcress File’ and Michael Caine was to reprise the role of Harry Palmer in ‘Funeral in Berlin’ (1966) and ‘The Billion Dollar Brain’ (1967), all written by Len Deighton. The other great spy writer of this period (in fact of any period) was John Le Carre, who created George Smiley. ‘The Deadly Affair’ (James Mason, Maximillian Schell 1966) and ‘The Looking Glass War’ (Ralph Richardson, Anthony Hopkins 1969) were both adapted from Le Carre novels. ‘The Quiller Memorandum’ (George Segal, Alec Guinesss 1966) from the novel by Adam, Hall, is also worthy of mention. The spy movie is the one of the few definable genres we’ll be looking at as it does, somehow, almost without fail capture the feel of the times.  

HA HA SAID THE CLOWN Comedy was by no means immune from the rapid evolution of 1960s style. From its 1950s style origins comedy began to change and to swing. ‘What’s New Pussycat’ (Peter O’Toole, Peter Sellers, Romy Schneider, Ursula Andress 1965) is pure mid-60s groove with a debut screenplay and performance from Woody Allen and music by Burt Bacharach (who gave Tom Jones a big hit and a lifelong theme tune). Even Norman Wisdom got groovy and colourful in ‘Press for Time’ (1966). He ended the sixties in ‘What’s Good ForThe Goose’ (1969), a sex romp with Sally Geeson and music by The Pretty Things.   ‘Casino Royale’ (Peter Sellers, David Niven, Ursula Andress 1967) was a very groovy James Bond spoof. ‘Bedazzled’ with Peter Cook, Dudley Moore and Eleanor Bron was very much of its time -1967 and ‘The Magic Christian’ with Peter Sellers and Ringo Starr could only have been made at the end of the sixties- 1969 to be precise. The remarkable Peter Sellers had successfully transitioned through all this from the 1950s Goons Show on radio, and ‘I’m All Right Jack’ (1959) to ‘There’s a Girl In My Soup’ with Goldie Hawn (1971)   

THE FOOD OF LOVE – MUSIC and the MOVIES   After Beatlemania pop music began to develop and assume importance and credibility and it wasn’t long before established cinema tunesmiths such as John Barry and John Dankworth began to be joined by the interlopers. At first the movies were more often than not primarily vehicles for the chosen  musical artist to romp around and sing a bunch of songs – ‘Summer Holiday’ and ‘The Young Ones’ with Cliff Richard, ‘Everyday’s a Holiday’ with John Leyton and Freddie and the Dreamers, and ‘Catch Us If You Can’ with The Dave Clark Five. In terms of film making, artistic performance and songs, nothing came close to The Beatles in ‘A Hard Day’s Night’ – again they (and director Richard Lester) set the bar.   Gradually, pop music began to work its way into film soundtracks, often being the catchy title tune such as; ‘Alfie’, ‘Georgy Girl’ and ‘To Sir With Love’. Mention must be made of the incredibly talented and prodigious Burt Bacharach who penned so many classic pop songs it would be impossible to list then all here. He also wrote songs and soundtracks for many movies including ‘What’s New Pussycat’ and ‘Casino Royale’ to name but two.   Pop groups also began to make cameo appearances in movies by the mid sixties – The Zombies were shown performing three songs on a TV set in a bar in ‘Bunny Lake Is Missing’ (Laurence Olivier, Noel Coward, Carol Lynley, 1965) and The Yardbirds with both Jeff Beck and Jimmy Page in the lineup are shown playing in a nightclub in ‘Blow Up’ (1966).  The Beatles still led the field and illustrated the development of the 1960s with their movies. ‘Help!’ followed on the heels of Hard Days Night in July 1965 and had clearly moved on – it was more of a movie and less of a romp and was in colour. Their self produced and directed made-for-TV film ‘Magical Mystery Tour’, first shown on Boxing Day 1967, was a bit of a curate’s egg but it was innovative and did have a top soundtrack. Although the Beatles themselves had little (apart from presenting already recorded songs) to do with ‘Yellow Submarine’ (1969) it is now regarded as a groundbreaking and very influential piece of animation. They ended the decade with hair and beards, making the documentary film ‘Let it be’. Although meant to be a fly-on-the-wall look at look at a group in action it sadly turned out to be more of a fly-on-the-wall documentary of a group breakup and both the film and the LP of the same name were to be the Beatles final hurrah.    

    In my opinion one of the best mélanges of pop music and film is Manfred Mann’s soundtrack for ‘Up The Junction’ (1968) starring Suzi Kendall and Dennis Waterman. This delightful collection of British pop songs complimented the film perfectly. Manfred Mann and Mike Hugg went on to write a jazz-rock score for ‘Venus In Furs’ (1969) after they had disbanded the pop group, and Manfred makes a cameo appearance in the movie playing in a nightclub with his band. Manfred lead singer Mike D’Abo wrote three delightfully catchy pop tunes for ‘There’s a Girl In My Soup’     There were plenty of popsters turning their hand to theme tunes in the late 1960s including the delightful but obscure ‘Entertaining Mr Sloane’ by Georgie Fame (1970) and ‘Tell The World We’re Not In’ by the Peddlers which was played over the opening credits of ‘The Gemini Twins’ (1970) which starred Judy Geeson and Martin Potter.  

KALEIDOSCOPE EYES – PSYCHEDELIA and FANTASY Although there were many popular psychedelic records released in 1967, psychedelia was never either mainstream or very popular outside of London. Many groups such as The Pink Floyd, who were the darlings of the UFO Club in London, didn’t go down very well in the provinces. Other psych groups such as Procal Harum, Tomorrow and Soft Machine also shared the same fate outside the London area. There were exceptions such as the Mothers Club in Birmingham but by and large, psychedelia became less popular the further away from London you got. Psychedelia was also a fleeting trend, emerging at the start of 1967 with the Beatles ‘Strawberry Fields Forever’ and fading away at the end of the year with ‘The Magical Mystery Tour’.  Both the Beatles and the Stones eschewed psychedelia completely in 1968 – The Beatles next release in April 1968 was ‘Lady Madonna’, a 1950s influenced piano boogie whilst the Stones set the template for the next four years with the hard rocking ‘Jumpin’ Jack Flash’ which started with the line: “I was born in a crossfire hurricane”. Of course, the commercial aspects of psychedelia lingered on for some time in both music and fashion with plenty of flower-pop being recorded and released in 68 and pink men’s shirts and paisley ties being sold in Marks and Spencers. By 1968 though, the bright colours were beginning to fade away.  Perhaps then, it’s hardly surprising that there were precious few psychedelic films made anywhere. One notable exception is ‘Wonderwall’. Released in May 1968, this psychedelic hokum stars Jane Birkin and Jack MacGowran and has beautiful multi-coloured sets designed by Dutch art collective ‘The Fool’ and came with a suitably psychedelic soundtrack by George Harrison. Many films are now labeled as ‘psychedelic’, but in truth most of them probably fit better in the ‘weird and wonderful’ category that was prevalent between 1968 and 1971.  For whatever reasons there was also a dearth of fantasy movies made in the 60s. There were plenty of fantasy TV series made: The Avengers, Dr Who, Adam Adamant, UFO, The Champions, and others, but very few films. One notable exception is the FrancoItalian production of ‘Barbarella’, starring Jane Fonda in the title role. This cult film from 1968 has achieved immortal status being now perceived as such an icon of the 60s that I have heard the name used as an adjective to describe something groovy. Speaking of groovy, this film has an adorably groovy soundtrack written by Bob Crewe and Charles Fox and performed by ‘The Glitterhouse’ (who were really session musicians and singers)…”Barbarella, psychadella, there’s a kind of cockle shell about you, Barba- rella”.                                                                                                                                                        MG 16-2-19            … … TO BE CONTINUED.  

1960s Film Club++1960s Film Club++1960s Film Club++1960s Film Club 

Fahrenheit 451

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