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Movies in the 1960s

Dressed in a pair of white Levis you’re driving around London in an MGB with David Hemmings and one of the Redgrave girls, shaking your stuff to The Yardbirds, making your way to the next photo session with Jane Birkin and Nanette Newman in white PVC go-go boots.

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Meanwhile, Jane Asher is at home cleaning the lino and Dennis Waterman is delivering furniture in a large Arran sweater and a fishtail parka . . . The REAL Swinging Sixties as seen in the movies.

Oh, behave baby, indeed.

The American cinema industry found itself in crisis in the Sixties. Television had destroyed its old confidence and had stolen its traditional audience.

Television was cheap, accessible, and quick to produce. Film making was comparatively slow and cumbersome, and very expensive.

So Hollywood bounced back by spending ever more money. Ben-Hur won 11 Oscars in 1960 and set the pattern for much of the decade. Epics that followed included El CidLawrence of Arabia and Cleopatra.

More humbly, the British film industry kept going with a series of anti-hero films (Saturday Night and Sunday MorningThis Sporting LifeAlfie), but was shaken if not stirred when Bond came along.

Darryl F Zanuck gambled on recouping the losses he had suffered over Cleopatra with profits he hoped to make with The Sound Of Music. He won. Many believe Alfred Hitchcock lost his touch but he certainly made his money with PsychoThe Birds and Marnie.

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Towards the end of the decade, Hollywood abandoned history and entered new alien worlds with 2001: A Space Odyssey and Planet of the Apes.

A new wave of British film-making had begun with Look Back In Anger (1959), followed by Saturday Night and Sunday Morning (1960), A Taste of Honey (1961) and This Sporting Life (1963).

These raw working-class drama’s transformed British cinema. New British stars emerged – Julie Christie in Darling (1965), Michael Caine in Alfie (1966), Rita Tushingham (who reigned supreme as the archetypal Sixties ‘bird’) and Sean Connery as the immortal James Bond.

The first Bond film was Dr No (1962) and as the sixties progressed, our appetite for all things James Bond-related continued to flourish – As From Russia With Love (1963) and Goldfinger (1964) were released, the Colgate Palmolive company made plenty of cash marketing 007 grooming products for men.

But with no new Bond film for 1966, Hollywood had to make do with The Silencers (starring Dean Martin as Matt Helm, pictured below), and Our Man Flint, a stylish spy spoof starring James Coburn (and reputedly Mike Myers’ inspiration for Austin Powers).

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The Carry On series of movies began in 1958 with Carry On Sergeant and kept the British laughing for 28 films – although by the time of Carry On Camping in 1968 the formula of old jokes and sexual innuendo was looking rather tired.

Meanwhile, if The Ghost in the Invisible Bikini marked the last gasp of the Beach Movie genreThe Wild Angels was the first of many low-budget films to exploit the “sex, drugs and motorcycles” formula successfully.

In the film’s most memorable sequence, Peter Fonda’s bike gang holds a raucous wake for deceased compadre Bruce Dern, whose last words were “I just want to get high, man”. The Wild Angels also helped solidify Nancy Sinatra‘s standing as the year’s tough-cookie sex symbol, but even Nancy’s boots were no match for the fur bikini sported by Raquel Welch in One Million Years BC; though dull in the extreme, the prehistoric cave opera did plenty of box-office business thanks to Raquel’s considerable . . .er . . . charms.

The underground film sex symbol of the year had to be Edie Sedgwick – the doe-eyed blonde whose performance enlivened Andy Warhol‘s otherwise interminable Chelsea Girls, while the two most popular musicals starred Julie Andrews – the supercalifragilisticexpialidocious Mary Poppins (1964) and The Sound Of Music (1965).

This is by no means an attempt at an exhaustive listing of movies from the 60s. It is a recollection of some of the movies which are either personal favourites or which are particularly representative of the era (without necessarily being critically acclaimed).