Friday, September 11, 2009
Mad Music (part II of VIII) - Sex and the 60's
1963. Marilyn has just died. So have Clark and Bogie. Memories of Jimmy and Jayne are still fresh in everyone's mind. Jack is a marked man, and Jackie marked for shipping. Marlon is balding, Grace is retired, Elvis is declining, and the Beatles are still a year away. It is the year of Bull Connor and 'I Have A Dream,' of the test-ban treaty and Diem's assassination, the year of John XXIII's death before Vatican II reforms are finalized, of the last Mercury satellite, of Blowin' in the Wind and Cat's Cradle, the ascendance of Koufax and the descent of the Yankees.
A cliche list like this is just a prelude to repeating the cliche 'something was in the air that year', but it remains true that a different era creates different people, and demands different icons. Television had realized that its future was in entertainment rather than education, and it was keeping movie audiences away of the theater. If the movies had to change. Just the year before, David Lean made the second-most lucrative film of the decade by going into the Arabian desert to shoot three-and-a-half hours without stars, familiar surroundings, women, or concessions to American middlebrow tastes. Lawrence of Arabia succeeded beyond measure by being everything a movie was not supposed to be.
But one thing Lawrence could never point to was the way to make movies American again. Audiences would still flock to movie palaces to see what they've never seen before, but they no longer came to see themselves. People watched versions of their own lives unfold on the Dick van Dyke and Andy Griffith Shows. And if they missed the movie stars of their childhood, they could stay up late to watch them get interviewed by Johnny Carson.
What became clear was that while The Movies were still a belove pastime, they were no longer the American church. Americans no longer felt their dreams and horrors reflected directly by what they saw on the screen, and Americans no longer looked at theirs stars as ideals to fulfil.
There was a time when