Wealth of Goodies

Wealth of Goodies

The decade 1970–80, saw a wealth of excellent Hollywood films; the hippie cult; the bike rides; musicals; and the emergence of the Hollywood...

The decade 1970–80, saw a wealth of excellent Hollywood films; the hippie cult; the bike rides; musicals; and the emergence of the Hollywood icon Francis Ford Coppola and more

Ervell E Menezes

Never thought picking Hollywood classics from the past would be such a hard task. Not only did I drop some good films of 1969 like ‘The Russians are Coming, the Russians are Coming’ and ‘The Heart is a Lonely Hunter’ both with my favourite actor Alan Arkin in it (caught up with him on ‘The Sea Goddess’ yacht off Cannes in 1989) but also got stuck in 1970 for my Best Five, there being a wealth of excellent films that year. That’s when I started my Ten Best which got the readers waiting anxiously for them to see how well their lists tallied.

Not sure how long this subject will last as the effort is back-breaking, poring through old scrapbooks and faded cuttings but Google is a great help though some titles are missing.

So, let’s start with ‘The Rain People’ which is today a lesser known film about a disillusioned but pregnant housewife looking for pastures anew on the highway. Finding the first James Caan, a man with a dubious past, the second Robert Duvall a highway patrolman but is still in a quandary whether to return to her husband. It is also part of the hippie cult and its strong influence.

Shirley Knight plays the lead role and does an excellent job at that though it was her only claim to fame. It also marks the emergence of Hollywood icon Francis Ford Coppola who gave evidence of his talent in that debut film. Then came others like ‘The Godfather,’ ‘Apocalypse Now.’ The rest, as they say, is now history. His daughter Sofia (‘Lost in Translation’) later joined in the family business.

Next comes ‘The Graduate’ and none can contest that. This daring social drama of a young graduate being seduced by the wife of his dad’s business partner is just unbeatable. And in the hands of director Mike Nichols it is as fluid as ever abetted by stellar performances by both newcomer Dustin Hoffman and Anne Bancroft, not necessarily in that order. That the graduate later falls in love with her daughter (Katherine Ross) further complicates the issue.

The three songs by Paul Simon and Art Garfunkel are outstanding – Mrs Robinson, ‘The Sound of Silence’and ‘Scarborough Fair’ and popular to this very day. The seduction scene is done with élan with excellent camera angles and the nervous Hoffman framed by Bancroft arm. Qudos to cinematographer Robert Surtees for embellishing this truly iconic movie.

The third place goes to ‘Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid,’ a delightful romantic comedy of two bank robbers and their exploits. Directed by George Roy Hill and having two leading stars of the time Paul Newman and Robert Redford in it gives it a further fillip. The lady is Katherine Ross of ‘The Graduate’ who will be remembered for her song ‘Raindrops Are Falling on my Head’ sitting on the bar of a bicycle ridden by Newman.

That Roy Hill also had the two top stars in his next film ‘The Sting’ further endeared them to audiences as also the scene where the two of them jump off a ravine to a river down, down below. That it has been repeated in a number of Hollywood and Bollywood movies only reiterates its popularity. Robert Goldman’s screenplay witty, full of spoofs, is simply scintillating and not surprisingly picked the Best Original Screenplay Oscar that year.

Next comes ‘Easy Rider’ by Dennis Hopper that is now a cult film. It is about two drop-outs Peter Fonda and Dennis Hopper who get onto motorcycles and ride across America, picking up the third Jack Nicholson, who clucks like a chicken and sits on the pillion of one of their bikes aided by an excellent screenplay by Hopper, Fonda and Terry Southern it is a colourful ride, shades of the picaro or scamp hero with a modern twist. It was also Nicholson’s debut and he went on to become one of Hollywood’s biggest stars.

Loved by hippies and bikers alike it drew huge audiences to become a cult film followed by ‘Mad Max’ and other road movies. May be Hopper did not repeat his success but Fonda and Nicholson went on to become Hollywood icons. The pacing is good and so is the editing, so there’s never a dull moment ---- a classic in every sense of the word.

The last place must go to Bob Fosse’s ‘Sweet Charity,’ a revue-type musical taken from Federico Fellini’s ‘Night of Cabirra’ and though some critics felt the setting in New York did not work, I thought it was a great entertainer.

The screenplay is by Neil Simon and in his ‘Rewrites’ he speaks fondly of how he enjoyed working with Fosse and his wife Gwen Verdon and how both of them thought as one. The music is great and so is the choreography. As for Shirley MacLaine in the lead as street-walker named Charity she is able to tightrope walk betwixt humour and pathos, a role quite different from “Can Can” which is light and breezy. Veteran Richardo Montalban underplays the male lead to give space to the versatile MacLean in one of her most memorable performances to date.

Bob Fosse went on to helm some of the best musicals in Hollywood like ‘Cabaret’ and ‘All That Jazz.’ He also did the score for ‘The Godfather’ and ‘Lenny’ before he died in 1987.

And though our Best Five is complete we’ve had to leave out a number of first-rate films like ‘The Big Bounce’ (Leigh Taylor-Young once again playing a hippie). ‘The Sand Pebbles,’ all about gunboat diplomacy. It is during the shooting of this film that Sir Richard Attenborough promised Candice Bergen a role in ‘Gandhi’ and kept the promise. Then there is ‘The Stranger,’ based on a Albert Camus novel ‘The Outsider’ with Marcello Mastroianni and Anna Karina in the lead roles and ‘The Thomas Crown Affair,’ where cinematographer Tom Priestly pans the camera all of 360 degrees. This was repeated in ‘Love Story.’ So much for the glut of good films in 1970.

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