The End of the Hollywood Studio System
The Era of Independent, Underground Cinema
Film History of the 1960s
Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4, Part 5, Part 6
Film History by Decade
Index | Pre-1920s | 1920s | 1930s | 1940s | 1950s | 1960s
1970s | 1980s | 1990s | 2000s | 2010s
New and Old Themes in 60s Westerns:
Although westerns enjoyed a revival, many 1960s westerns were down-beat and heavy-handed, portraying the themes of the fading West and the perilous plight of the aging Westerner living off past glories. John Huston's anti-Western The Misfits (1961), based on Arthur Miller's prophetic screenplay about ex-cowboys in a modern world, starred Miller's wife Marilyn Monroe as a Reno divorcee, and Clark Gable and Montgomery Clift as mustang-horse wranglers. Poignantly, it was both Gable's and Monroe's last film - shortly after filming wrapped, each of them died (in late 1960 and in mid-1962 respectively) - with Clift following shortly thereafter in 1966.
Remarkably, the comedy western Cat Ballou (1965) with its title song performed by Nat King Cole and Stubby Kaye, brought a Best Actor Oscar to Lee Marvin (in a dual role as gun-fighting brothers), often seen on a drunken horse.
Eastwood in The "Spaghetti" Westerns:
Clint Eastwood, who played Rowdy Yates on TV's Rawhide from 1959 to 1966, would go on to greater heights in his career after starring in the first of three "The Man With No Name" entries and becoming an iconic figure. The first film was an Italian/Spanish/German co-production with European actors. Sergio Leone's entire "Dollars Trilogy" reinvented the Western with his Italian-made "spaghetti westerns," including:
Eastwood also began a decades-long collaboration with action-film director Don Siegel with his appearance as an Arizona lawman in NYC in Coogan's Bluff (1968).
Lonely Are the Brave (1962) - a Hollywood Western set in modern times, was a chase thriller about the remorseless pursuit of a fugitive, resolute loner cowboy on his horse named Whiskey by a reluctant sheriff (Walter Matthau) and by helicopters, and other mechanical means. Richard Brooks' exciting action-adventure/Western The Professionals (1966) told the turn-of-the-century story of a rugged band of mercenaries (Lee Marvin, Burt Lancaster, Robert Ryan, and Woody Strode) sent to Mexico by a wealthy rancher (Ralph Bellamy) to rescue the man's pretty wife (Claudia Cardinale) from a villainous group of bandits led by Jack Palance; in Will Penny (1967), Charlton Heston starred as an aging, poor, and illiterate cowboy in the American West who befriends a woman (Joan Hackett) and her young son; and Monte Walsh (1970), cinematographer William Fraker's directorial debut film, featured two over-the-hill Western cowpokes (Lee Marvin and Jack Palance) trying to make the transition to the new century by settling down in Arizona.
Director Sam Peckinpah produced two classic westerns at the start and end of the decade. The earlier film prefigured his other ground-breaking masterpiece in 1969:
The decade opened with one of the most popular, shoot-em-up westerns of all-time, producer/director John Sturges' The Magnificent Seven (1960), lifting the structure of another Akira Kurosawa film - the epic The Seven Samurai (1954), about the defense of a small village. It was noted for Elmer Bernstein's memorable, Oscar-nominated score. The film made stars of many of its actors, notably Steve McQueen (and the other six: Brad Dexter, Horst Buchholz, James Coburn, Robert Vaughn, Charles Bronson, and Yul Brynner). John Wayne produced, directed, and starred as Col. Davy Crockett in The Alamo (1960), a cliched, mushy, and overlong saga of patriots defending the famous fort against the Mexican Army in the struggle for Texas' independence. [The campaign to promote the film as a Best Picture nominee and Chill Wills for a Best Supporting Actor nomination was successful, foreshadowing further strong-armed tactics within the industry.]
The 50's three-screen Cinerama process presented an all-star cast (James Stewart, John Wayne, and Gregory Peck, for instance) in an overlong, epic Western How the West Was Won (1963) that followed several generations of the same family. It was directed by three greats: Henry Hathaway, John Ford, and George Marshall.
Italian director Sergio Leone's beautifully-choreographed and soundtracked, revisionist epic western Once Upon a Time in the West (1968, It.), with composer Ennio Morricone's score, mixed both violence and humor in arguably one of the greatest westerns ever made. It was a story of conflict between a land-owning ex-prostitute/widow (Claudia Cardinale) and a railroad company, with Henry Fonda in an atypical against-type role as Frank - a black-hearted, butchering villain, Charles Bronson as the mysterious and brooding Harmonica, and Jason Robards as the untameable escaped con scoundrel Cheyenne. The film's tagline proclaimed: "There were three men in her life. One to take her... one to love her... and one to kill her."
George Roy Hill's popular western Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid (1969), about two perfectly-matched outlaw-hero buddies (the dashing duo of Paul Newman as the head of the Hole-in-the-Wall gang and Robert Redford as the gun-slinging kid), perfectly reflected the mood and emotions of the time. It had both comedy ("Who are those guys?") and graphic violence in its story of unflappable western partners-in-crime who were romantically doomed to die together in Bolivia. [The success of this likeable film brought the two 'dream team' co-stars together with the same director four years later in the Best Picture/Best Director winner The Sting (1973), and set the archetype for many more buddy-hero films to come.]
Though musicals had declined by the 1960s and would decline further in the next decade, three musicals in the decade were among the screen's greatest spectacles:
Stanley Donen, known for his musicals, also produced and directed Audrey Hepburn and Albert Finney as a soul-searching married couple in the non-musical romantic comedy Two For the Road (1967). Many other musicals of the decade did extremely well:
Powerhouse singer Barbra Streisand's screen debut was in Funny Girl (1968), a reprise of her Broadway role as comedienne Fanny Brice - director William Wyler's film launched her into stardom. She tied for Best Actress (an unprecedented feat) with Katharine Hepburn for The Lion in Winter (1968). The next year, she was miscast as a matchmaking widow (who met her match with eligible 'half-millionaire' Walter Matthau) in the lavish adaptation of the popular Broadway show Hello, Dolly! (1969) directed by Gene Kelly - with Louis Armstrong presenting his rendition of the title song. At the start of the 70s, Streisand appeared in two other pictures: Vincente Minnelli's musical On A Clear Day You Can See Forever (1970) and Herbert Ross' romantic comedy The Owl and the Pussycat (1970) opposite George Segal.
Films from Disney Studios in the 60s:
Walt Disney Studios re-emerged as a triumphant box-office moneymaker and producer of a variety of expensive-to-produce, animated and likable, wholesome live-action family features during the decade, including the following:
Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4, Part 5, Part 6