Timeline of Greatest Film
Milestones and Turning Points
in Film History


The Year 1968

Timeline of Greatest Film History Milestones and Turning Points
(by decade and year)
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1960, 1961, 1962, 1963, 1964, 1965, 1966, 1967, 1968, 1969

The Year 1968
Year
Event and Significance
1968
For the first time in cinematic history, the film industry submitted to a new voluntary ratings system that was developed and went into effect in late November by the MPAA (Motion Picture Association of America) - it was announced by its President Jack Valenti. The new system classified films according to their suitability for viewing by young people, in four categories: "G" for general audiences; "M" for mature audiences; "R," no one under 16 admitted without an adult guardian (later raised to under 17 years of age); and "X," no one under 17 admitted. The four criteria used in the ratings included theme, language, violence, and nudity and/or sexual content. Many parents thought films rated M contained more adult content than those that were rated R. This confusion led to its replacement in 1969 by the rating of GP (or General Public, or General Audiences, Parental Guidance Suggested). In 1970, the GP (or earlier M) rating was changed to PG: Parental Guidance Suggested, and the age limit was increased to 17. [The PG ratings category would again be revised in 1984.]
1968
Enrollment in film studies courses increased dramatically in undergraduate and graduate schools in the US. According to estimates, there were approximately 60,000 students enrolled in 1,500 film courses in 120 colleges.
1968
Roman Polanski's first Hollywood film, the shocking Satanic horror film Rosemary's Baby (1968) starred Mia Farrow as a beseiged bride who bore the Devil's child in her gothic Manhattan apartment. The title character, a new bride, was slowly dominated and sold out in a Faustian deal (with a coven) by her social-striving, aspiring actor-husband - ultimately to give birth to the Devil's child. Polanski had married 33 year-old American actress Sharon Tate early in the year 1968, who had previously co-starred in director Polanski's earlier film The Fearless Vampire Killers (1967). Ironically, the plot of the film was similarly played out a year later when Polanski's pregnant actress/wife Sharon Tate would be terrorized and murdered. In early August of 1969, Tate was stabbed to death in the cultish Manson Family massacre in Benedict Canyon (a suburb of Los Angeles).
1968
Director Norman Jewison's stylish caper-heist film The Thomas Crown Affair (1968) featured the revolutionary use of the split-screen technique to show simultaneous events. It starred the duo of Faye Dunaway as insurance investigator Vicki Anderson, and Steve McQueen as wealthy Bostonian playboy and bank heist mastermind Thomas Crown. As she stalked the title character in a cat-and-mouse game of attraction, the film's most striking sequence was a sophisticated, seductive game of chess between the flirtatious couple - portrayed as sexual foreplay.
1968
Brian De Palma's satirical draft-dodger comedy Greetings (1968), (Robert De Niro's debut film), was the first film in the US to receive the new rating of X by the MPAA - for nudity and profanity (in its original release), although it was later reduced to an R rating. The film was De Palma's second-released feature-length directorial effort, following his minor, long-lost effort titled Murder a la Mod (1968).
1968
New wife Jane Fonda (married in 1965) was directed for the third time by her French husband Roger Vadim, in an 'adult' sci-fi fantasy sex-capades comedy known as Barbarella (1968), with a screenplay by Terry Southern (edited to receive a PG rating). [Note: Fonda's two previous Vadim films were Circle of Love (1964, Fr.) (aka La Ronde), and The Game Is Over (1966, Fr.It.) (aka La Curée).] Based on the French comics by Jean-Claude Forest, it contained many sexual references, and numerous instances of Barbarella's interstellar love-making. It was most notable for Fonda's striptease during the opening title credits. The story set in the 41st century involved Barbarella's journey to a distant galaxy to save humanity.
1968
François Truffaut's psychological thriller The Bride Wore Black (1968, Fr./It.) paid homage to director Alfred Hitchcock (and also featured an ominous Bernard Herrmann score). It was based upon a novel by William Irish (aka Cornell Woolrich) who provided a number of books for Hitchcock's adaptations. The story told of widowed avenging angel Julie Kohler (Jeanne Moreau) who witnessed her groom's murder on their wedding day on the church steps, and subsequently sought revenge by tracking down and killing the five men responsible. Eventually, it was revealed that the bullet had come from a hunting rifle that was accidentally fired in a building across the street, where a group of five hunting club members were playing with the gun.
1968
The first contemporary music (rock 'n roll concert) industry film, Monterey Pop (1968), was filmed at the historic Monterey International Pop Festival in California in 1967, featuring such performers as Jimi Hendrix, The Who, The Mamas and the Papas, Janis Joplin and more. It was the precursor to Michael Wadleigh's concert documentary of the late 60s rock fest, Woodstock (1970).
1968
Director Don Siegel and actor Clint Eastwood began their explosive partnership with the action-filled police drama Coogan's Bluff (1968). Eastwood portrayed laconic, rural Arizona deputy/lawman Coogan who was dispatched to New York City to escort extradited homicidal hippie James Ringerman (Don Stroud), and then was commissioned to track down the escaped, malevolent fugitive. Siegel's and Eastwood next four collaborations would be Two Mules for Sister Sara (1970), The Beguiled (1971), the quintessential Dirty Harry (1971), and Escape from Alcatraz (1979).
1968
Stanley Kubrick's stunning epic 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968) reinvented the science fiction genre - after its premiere in April 1968. It earned four Academy Award nominations and won for Special Visual Effects. The spectacular film about the forces controlling man's evolution had the largest movie budget for special effects (to date) - more than 60%. It introduced the character of HAL, a homicidal computer that could see, speak, hear, and think like its human colleagues aboard the spaceship, and fantastic special effects of outer-space by Douglas Trumbull. Its marvelous views of space were accompanied by Strauss' "Blue Danube Waltz." The most striking images included the appearances of mysterious monoliths, and a jump-cut of thousands of years from an animal bone tossed into the air transformed into a spinning spacecraft. Its popular hallucinogenic "Star Gate" light-show sequence was viewed by many, in the late 60s, under the influence of marijuana.
1968
The flesh-eating zombie sub-genre of films was given a boost with George A. Romero's cheap, stark black and white horror flick, Night of the Living Dead (1968). Romero's debut film was an influential, milestone 'splatter' film. The ultra-low budget film was shot in grainy 35 mm black-and-white with natural lighting and hand-held cameras. It featured an unknown cast - and reinvented the genre with its crude "drawbacks" which actually improved the film since they lent a documentary feel and reality that made the film all the more horrific. While initially considered drive-in schlock, the film gained in popularity and critical respect, and raised Romero to great heights as a horror filmmaker. Romero's Dead trilogy (now totaling five) told about flesh-eating zombies who walked slowly and stiffly (due to the effects of rigor mortis), in a 'cult of the dead', who besieged a remote farmhouse and trapped the survivors (including a heroic black man) who were slowly picked off one by one.
1968
The classic science fiction film, Planet of the Apes (1968) was one of the pioneering, modern multimedia marketing blockbusters, spawning not only four sequels (and a remake in 2001, and further sequels) and two television series spinoffs, but merchandising, such as action figures. It provided solid entertainment value, created momentum for science-fiction cinema, and had an effective, politically-charged message of social commentary. Franklin Schaffner's time-travel film featured Charlton Heston as an astronaut who found himself on a strange planet ruled by intelligent apes.
1968
Director Franco Zeffirelli's beautiful modern interpretation of Shakespeare's enduring, classic yet tragic love story of "star-crossed lovers," Romeo and Juliet (1968), was filmed on location in Italy. It was the most commercially successful Shakespeare film and its most entertaining, refreshing and natural rendition ever - a passionate celebration of young love, with its two young stars, 17 year-old Leonard Whiting (as Romeo) and 15 year-old Olivia Hussey (as Juliet). Other earlier interpretations of the age-old tale were with older stars, e.g., George Cukor's Romeo and Juliet (1936) with Norma Shearer and Leslie Howard, or Renato Castellani's Romeo and Juliet (1954, It./UK) with Laurence Harvey and Susan Shentall, and Paul Czinner's balletic version of Romeo and Juliet (1966, UK) with Rudolf Nureyev and Margot Fonteyn.
1968
The German film Maedchen in Uniform (1958) (first filmed in 1931) was the only lesbian film seen publicly in the US --- until the release of Robert Aldrich's X-rated The Killing of Sister George (1968).
1968
The last film to be produced by Andy Warhol's studio known as the Factory was writer/director Paul Morrissey's controversial, avante-garde low-budget, underground experimental film Flesh (1968). It was Morrissey's first full-length feature film, and the first of a trilogy of Morrissey films produced by Andy Warhol and starring Joe Dallesandro in the initial film as a bisexual male hustler - followed by Trash (1970) and Heat (1972). The Factory was closed down after Warhol's assassination attempt in the studio building in mid-1968 by crazed radical feminist writer Valerie Solanas.
1968
Peter Bogdanovich was the first critic and film scholar to become a Hollywood writer-director, with his directorial debut for Targets (1968), made for American International Pictures. He deliberately revered past American directors in his own work which extended into the 70s.
1968
Writer Mel Brooks made his directorial feature-film debut with the satirical dark comedy The Producers (1968), starring Zero Mostel and Gene Wilder - the first of many broad film farces and comedy-parodies (e.g., Blazing Saddles (1974), Young Frankenstein (1974), etc.).
1968
The hilarious screen version of Neil Simon's Broadway hit, The Odd Couple (1968), again starred Jack Lemmon and Walter Matthau (who had appeared in the stage version). They represented two separated men: slobbish sportswriter Oscar Madison (Matthau) and OCD Felix Ungar (Lemmon) sharing the former's Manhattan apartment, who had vastly different views on cleanliness and orderliness.
1968
The Academy Awards Oscar ceremony in April of 1968 (for films made in 1967) was delayed by two days (and held on April 10th) due to Martin Luther King's assassination (on April 4th).
1968
The NYC premiere of director Sergey Bondarchuk's seven hour-long (445 minutes) War and Peace (1966, Soviet Union) was held - it was erroneously reported to be the most expensive film ever produced and with the most film extras.
1968
A number of films were seized by US Customs (Justice Department) on charges of obscenity, including the Swedish film I Am Curious - Yellow (1967, Swe.), Jack Smith's avant-garde Flaming Creatures (1968), and Pier Paolo Pasolini's Teorema (1968, It.).
1968
Although banned in Britain for 14 years due to fears of inciting youth violence, Laslo Benedek's The Wild One (1953) was finally released in the UK in 1968.
1968
Director Peter Yates' first American film, the crime thriller Bullitt (1968), starred Steve McQueen as the heroic title character Frank Bullitt, a SF detective/police lieutenant who was pursuing criminals responsible for murdering 'Johnny Ross' - a protected grand jury witness under his protection. It included the now-famous, almost 11-minute reckless chase up and down steep San Francisco streets between Bullitt's Ford Mustang and the criminals' black Dodge Charger - in which McQueen reportedly performed many of his own stunts.
1968
Writer/director John Cassavetes' Faces (1968) was the first independently-made and distributed American film to reach mainstream audiences. Cassavetes himself has been considered to be "the father of independent cinema in America." The stark and grainy look of this amateurish-looking, non-studio, ragged film about infidelity (over two hours long, and made with a hand-held camera in 16mm) was told as an improvisational character study. It was a highly-influential, low-budget independent cinema verite film that had a highly individualistic style (with unscripted and often inaudible dialogue).
1968
Katharine Hepburn became the first person to win three Academy Awards in either the Best Actor or Best Actress categories, with her win for her monumental role as the witty, strong-willed, aging Queen Eleanor of Aquitaine in The Lion in Winter (1968). Hepburn's total of eleven acting nominations also set a new record.
1968
Lionel Bart's musical version, inspired by the Charles Dickens novel "Oliver Twist" was both a British production and a big Broadway hit - as well as a Best Picture-winning film (from first-time musical director Carol Reed who won Best Director), titled Oliver! (1968, UK). It became the first modern British musical to be transferred successfully to Broadway. It told about a poorhouse orphan Oliver's (Mark Lester) travails in early 19th century London. It was the fourth musical to win the Academy Award for Best Picture in the 1960s, following the wins of West Side Story (1961), My Fair Lady (1964), and The Sound of Music (1965).
1968
Broadway actress/singer Barbra Streisand made her big-screen debut in director William Wyler's biopic Funny Girl (1968), playing the role of musical vaudevillian, Ziegfeld Follies, Broadway star and comedienne Fanny Brice - reprising her previous Broadway role. The film was famous for the opening line: "Hello gorgeous." For her performance, Streisand shared Best Actress Oscar honors with Katharine Hepburn (winning for The Lion in Winter (1968)). This was the second time in Academy history two performers had tied for an Academy Award. It was also Wyler's first musical film.
1968
US actor Albert Dekker, known for his appearances (in a career lasting over 30 years) in the horror film Dr. Cyclops (1940), the film noirs The Killers (1946) and Kiss Me Deadly (1955), and in his final film - Sam Peckinpah's western The Wild Bunch (1969), died at the age of 62. He was found naked in his own Hollywood bathroom - hanged by accidental autoerotic asphyxiation. He was bound, blindfolded, gagged and handcuffed, with sexual obscenities scrawled on his body in red lipstick.
1968
At the age of 69, Mexican-born, early silent film star actor Ramon Novarro, known as the "Latin Lover" (famous for Ben-Hur: A Tale of Christ (1925) and Mata Hari (1931)), and also an alcoholic and homosexual, was found dead in his Hollywood bedroom covered in blood - apparently, he had been tortured and then choked to death by a leaden Art Deco dildo (a present from Rudolph Valentino) - during an altercation with two male prostitute hustlers/robbers (the Ferguson brothers) who assumed he had money hidden in his house.


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