25 internautes sur 25 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile
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1939 may have been Hollywood's high watermark for classic filmmaking, but 1967 was ostensibly the year Hollywood grew up, the turning point when the old guard faced off with the new mavericks in dominating not only the year's box office but also the year-end critical accolades. Entertainment Weekly columnist Mark Harris cleverly and incisively looks at the five diverse films that made up the Best Picture Oscar race that year and dissects each one from development to the Oscar ceremony the following spring - The Graduate, Bonnie and Clyde, Guess Who's Coming to Dinner, Doctor Dolittle, and the eventual winner, In the Heat of the Night. His meticulous research feels thorough, lending a surprisingly cohesive picture of an industry in flux between the aging, out-of-touch moguls unable to forecast film-going tastes and the revolutionary novices, influenced by the European New Wave, abandoning a studio system in collapse.
Instead of tracing these films individually, the author looks more holistically at the middle of the decade when a diverse array of people concurrently faced a multitude of challenges in getting their pictures made. Many have been interviewed extensively for the book, and it becomes readily apparent why these five films epitomize the revolution when you see who the directors behind them. Mike Nichols and Arthur Penn, who directed "The Graduate" and "Bonnie and Clyde" respectively, were relative neophytes who challenged studio thinking with their groundbreaking films. On the other side of the spectrum were two veterans - Stanley Kramer, who reunited legendary icons Spencer Tracy and Katharine Hepburn in their final pairing, the superficially controversial "Guess Who's Coming to Dinner?"; and Richard Fleischer, who tried to replicate the success of My Fair Lady and The Sound of Music, with his big-budget disaster, "Doctor Dolittle". In between them was Norman Jewison, a studio journeyman with aspirations to become a more serious director. He found his opportunity with the racially-charged crime drama, "In the Heat of the Night", which among the five movies, best represented a balance between the two ends of the filmmaking spectrum.
Other key figures dominate Harris' narrative, such as screenwriters Robert Benton, David Newman and Robert Towne, who turned "Bonnie and Clyde" from a conventional gangster picture into an incisive character study that fluidly alternated laughs with visceral moments of violence. Obviously, actor-producer Warren Beatty figures prominently with that seminal film, especially in removing Clyde's bisexual orientation from the script and in casting his co-star, which became a Scarlett-level search among Hollywood's hottest actresses at the time. Natalie Wood, Jane Fonda, Tuesday Weld and even Beatty's sister Shirley MacLaine were under serious consideration before a relatively inexperienced Faye Dunaway landed her breakthrough role. Fleischer, producer Arthur P. Jacobs and an especially irascible Rex Harrison could not help but be weighed down by all the setbacks that befell "Doctor Dolittle" from uncooperative animals to wrong-headed studio thinking resulting in an overly grandiose 2 ½-hour epic presented with fanfare in road-show engagements.
Casting on "The Graduate" turned out to be one of the biggest challenges as the original choices for Mrs. Robinson and Benjamin Braddock were, believe it or not, Doris Day and Robert Redford. While curious in hindsight, it was fortunate that Nichols and producer Lawrence Turman finally selected Anne Bancroft and a then-unknown Dustin Hoffman for the roles. Tracy's frail health was the ongoing concern during the production of "Guess Who's Coming to Dinner", as Kramer was able to maneuver around studio concerns over a movie about a pending interracial marriage. Intriguingly, Sidney Poitier turns out to be an important figure in three of the five films. He stars in "In the Heat of the Night" and "Guess Who's Coming to Dinner", and he was also being lured to play a minor role in "Doctor Dolittle" until it became apparent that ongoing production delays eliminated this possibility. An unexpected box office draw at a time when racial tensions were escalating, Poitier turned into a lightning rod for both whites and blacks in terms of what was expected of him as a role model.
Old gossip and silver screen trivia are not Harris' priorities here as he provides a thoughtful overview of the industry from a business and societal standpoint. He vividly shows a country engrossed in racial tensions and agitation over the war in Vietnam. The author also brings to light the antiquated censorship tool of the Production Code. Nonetheless, it's the focus on the fascinating personalities involved that makes the book a must-read for cinema-philes. A prime example is his detailed description of a 1965 Fourth of July party hosted by Fonda and her husband-to-be Roger Vadim. Old and new Hollywood were in attendance and holding court in their respective corners, as her father Henry and Gene Kelly were mingling with the likes of Beatty and Dennis Hopper. Toying with Mussorgsky's famous multi-piece piano suite, Pictures at an Exhibition, to come up with the book's apt title, Harris has done a superb job of showing how movies are a true reflection of our cultural history.
15 internautes sur 17 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile
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Mr. Harris has taken the five Best Picture nominees for the 1967 Oscars and pin-point that year as the fall of the studios. Two films dealt with racism ("Guess Who's Is Coming To Dinner," and "In the Heat of the Night") in very differnet ways, one with sexuality and changing morals ("The Graduate"), another with amoral violence ("Bonnie and Cycle") while the last picture attempted to be another Hollywood musical ("Dr. Dolittle.") This was the year that independent film-making and European influences reached a critical mass against the static studio machine.
Ironically Sidney Poitier was shut out for a Best Actor Oscar with three brilliant performances, two of them in the Best Picture category. These little tidbits are found in the book that follows the five movies from pre-production to the Oscar. The narrative is quite readable and the behind the scenes stories are interesting and amusing. Mr. Harris should pick out other landmark years and repeat the process. This book is a must for any movie fan.
17 internautes sur 20 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile
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I am a bit of Hollywood history buff and it is wonderful having a number of books on the subject out right now (check out Misfits Country). In this well written and excellently researched book the author takes the reader back to 1967 and analyzes the five nominees for best picture and there reflection and effects on society in at that momentous time of change. The Movies are: "The Graduate (40th Anniversary Collector's Edition)," "Guess Who's Coming to Dinner (40th Anniversary Edition)," "Bonnie and Clyde," "In the Heat of the Night (40th Anniversary Collector's Edition)" and "Doctor Dolittle." Aside from being a great walk down memory lane it is also full of insightful social commentary. The sixties were a special time of social change and the movies and the movies of that decade reflected and effected this change on so many levels. I would love to see the author expand on this in another book that might take on the best movies of the decade. And do try Misfits Country an excellent read that is a behind the scenes look at the making of the classic movie The Misfits!
9 internautes sur 10 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile
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This is a very impressive book. Great concept, great research, all very well woven together to create an engrossing picture of an industry and a period which are sometimes unfathomable to the layman. As an industry veteran, and as someone who was marginally involved in some of the movies discussed here, I congratulate Mr. Harris on a job well done.
HOWEVER: I am appalled a the sloppiness of the CD reading. Did anyone listen to it? Mr. Harris? Was there a producer? The numerous mis-pronunciations of names and places really made listening a very difficult experience:
The Mad Woman of Shiloh?
And on and on. Numerous egregious errors. If only the reader had done his homework. And if only someone had listened to the finished product. Shameful - particularly because the reader has a very appealing voice and delivery.
6 internautes sur 6 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile
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Mark Harris has written what is sure to be considered a masterwork of film analysis...tracking the five films nominated for the 1967 Best Picture Oscar from infancy to (in at least a couple cases) infamy. With access to many of the actual players (Warren Beatty, Dustin Hoffman, Mike Nichols, Dick Zanuck, etc), Harris creates a credible, highly entertaining book chock full of information not necessarily known before to the general public (Truffaut AND Godard were on the cusp of directing Bonnie & Clyde...in New Jersey!)
Surely anyone interested in what was going on culturally & politically in the late 60s would find the book informative. It's a well thought-out blend of both.