Dedications: My four late friends Rory, Stan, Bryan, Jeff - shine on you crazy diamonds, they would have blogged too. Then theres Garry from Brisbane, Franco in Milan, Mike now in S.F. / my '60s-'80s gang: Ned & Joseph in Ireland; in England: Frank, Des, Guy, Clive, Joe & Joe, Ian, Ivan, Nick, David, Les, Stewart, the 3 Michaels / Catriona, Sally, Monica, Jean, Ella, Anne, Candie / and now: Daryl in N.Y., Jerry, John, Colin, Martin and Donal.

Wednesday, 27 November 2013

1963 - it was 50 years ago today ...

1963 is surely a pivotal year of the 1960s in terms of popular culture, politics and the shift in attitudes that would define the decade. It was also a key year in world events: the assassination of President Kennedy – I was 17 and playing my new Beatles records on my record player in the bedroom in Ireland, when my mother burst in to announce the news on the radio.
It was also the year of the Profumo scandal in England, which also filled the newspapers, and the start of Beatlemania with their first number one and that first album which we played all the time. It was also that year of Martin Luther King’s “I have a dream” speech, the opening of England’s National Theatre, and the debut of DOCTOR WHO ! as well as the hit TV series THAT WAS THE WEEK THAT WAS ensuring that satire was firmly on the map. 
And the movies – yes, there were some ground-breaking movies too, that we are still seeing and experiencing 50 years later – like Losey’s THE SERVANT, which I saw back on the big screen this year, with co-stars James Fox, Sarah Miles and Wendy Craig present to discuss it, after a gap of 50 years – how often does that happen? Hitch’s THE BIRDS continues to fascinate too, and is aired all the time – and the rare THE VICTORS had a tv outing last week ….

It was a transition year for me from my teenage years in Ireland to arriving in London in April 1964 when I was 18 and began catching up with all those movies (like LA DOLCE VITA which I could not see in Ireland). In 1963 though I was still, at 17, a “small town boy” – like Billy Liar I suppose.  Here is a dozen from 1963, all 50 years old now! – a key year in that transition from old Hollywood to new, and that developing British and European cinema. [Below: Tippi's Mattel Barbie BIRDS doll, complete with the green suit and pecking birds!]
1963's key movies now include Hitch and Tippi and the ever-fascinating THE BIRDS, Visconti’s sumptuous THE LEOPARD, above, Losey’s breakthrough with THE SERVANT – Bogarde’s best role to then too; the film of BILLY LIAR (it was a also a book I loved, and a play) introducing us to Tom Courtenay and Julie Christie – the swinging 60s arrived with her walking around those Northern streets! And I love its affectionate portrait of suburban life.  THE LEOPARD, THE SERVANT and BILLY LIAR now have a new lease of life as are out on Blu-Ray, as per previous posts on them - see Christie, Bogarde, Losey, Visconti labels.

Glossy enduring entertainment too with Audrey dressed by Givenchy in CHARADE and Capucine by Balmain in THE PINK PANTHER delirious fashion treats as well as fabulous movies, art cinema favourites LE FEU FOLLET and BAY OF ANGELS showing Malle and Demy at their best; THE VICTORS that grim anti-war tract with its raft of rising European actresses (Schneider, Moreau, Mercouri etc), and Neame’s I COULD GO ON SINGING – Judy almost playing herself, with Bogarde again – I had the soundtrack album, as I did for CLEOPATRA and that stunning entry into Rome. (I actually did not see that until its general release in 1964 and it certainly was worth the wait). LAWRENCE OF ARABIA was also packing them in during its initial run. In that pre-video world one had to see it on the biggest screen possible.

Back to THE BIRDS and that lovely interplay between Mitch Brenner and Melanie Daniels, as the tension slowly builds; and she looking so soigne in the birdshop, dialling the telephone with her pencil. Hitch makes sure here that she has all the right accessories: the suit, the hair, the gloves, the handbag, the lovebirds... and then there is Annie Hayworth (Pleshette) at Bodega Bay, and that very complicated mother Lydia (Tandy), and then that first gull attacks ....

Other 1963 classics that live on: THE GREAT ESCAPE, FROM RUSSIA WITH LOVE, Julie Harris and Claire Bloom excelled in THE HAUNTING, LORD OF THE FLIES, HUD, TOM JONES (film of the year), Rattigan ran up a little treat for the Burtons and Co in THE V.I.P.s, another Bronston spectacular 55 DAYS AT PEKING, and that amusing Doris comedy THE THRILL OF IT ALL!. Another one I did not catch until London in ’64 was Bergman’s controversial THE SILENCE… and BYE BYE BIRDIE, a recent discovery as per recent post on that!

A vintage year then for a movie-mad teenager with those "Films & Filming" magazines (where I would work for a year in the '70s) and as related before - see label, I had my own personal ad ["boy 17 seeks penfriends male or female under 21...!"] in its May 63 issue [this was before the internet and Facebook] and had replies from all over the world, and I am still in touch with one of them, who is now in San Francisco !
Then there were my first records: that first Beatles album, Francoise Hardy, Peggy Lee, soundtracks of WEST SIDE STORY, SOUTH PACIFIC and the Broadway cast MY FAIR LADY.
Actors of the year: Dirk Bogarde / Maurice Ronet. Actress: Jeanne Moreau / Julie Christie.
Directors: Joseph Losey, Luchino Visconti, Louis Malle, Jacques Demy.
See labels for more on all of these mentioned and those key films ..

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