1961 Recap and Ten Favorites List

I have now watched 102 films that were released in 1961.  A complete list can be found here.  It was an average year and I had 12 films for my favorites list.   The two films I didn’t have room for are: Leon Morin, Priest and Judgement at Nuremberg.  The list is no particular order.  I had a hard time deciding whether to put The Hustler or Yojimbo in first place and used my usual tie-breaker – if I could rewatch only one of the films it would be Yojimbo.

10.  Il Posto – directed by Ermanno Olmi


9.  The Steamroller and the Violin – directed by Andrei Tarkovsky

8.  West Side Story – directed by Robert Wise and Jerome Robbins

7.  The Innocents – directed by Jack Clayton

6.  A Raisin in the Sun – directed by Daniel Petrie

5.  The End of Summer – directed by Yasujiro Ozu

4.  Through a Glass Darkly – directed by Ingmar Bergman


3. Divorce Italian Style – directed by Pietro Germi

2.  The Hustler – directed by Robert Rossen

1. Yojimbo – directed by Akira Kurasawa


The Children’s Hour

The Children’s Hour
Directed by William Wyler
Written by John Michael Hayes from the play by Lillian Hellman
The Mirisch Corporation
Repeat viewing/Netflix rental

Mrs. Lily Mortar: God will punish you.

Martha: He’s doing all right.

In which we meet a child more evil than little Rhoda in The Bad Seed.

Karen Wright (Audrey Hepburn) and Martha Dobie (Shirley MacLaine) have been friends since college.  They are now teachers and have opened a private girls school together. Karen is engaged to local doctor Joe Cardin (James Garner).  The women are saddled with Martha’s querulous, grandiose aunt Mrs. Lily Mortar (Miriam Hopkins).

The school is finally turning a profit, spurring Karen to set a wedding day with Joe.  This puts Martha in a very bad mood, one that aunt Lily proclaims is “unnatural”, along with Martha’s lack of interest men.  The argument is overheard by two of the little girls who unfortunately repeat it to the uncontrollable brat Mary.  When Mary is punished for one of her many acts of misconduct, she reports this – with embellishments – to her grandmother (Fay Bainter).

The grandmother checks out the story with aunt Lily, who has just been asked to return to New York, and she corroborates the argument with Martha.  Within days, every single student has been pulled out of school.  Although the accusation is completely untrue, things continue to go downhill for everybody concerned.

This film has held up quite nicely.  Did Wyler ever make a bad picture?  The acting is great, with MacLaine being the standout acting against type, and the story is powerful.  I got so involved I could have strangled that child if she was in the room!  Recommended if the subject matter appeals.

The Children’s Hour was nominated for Academy Awards in the categories of Best Supporting Actress (Bainter); Best Cinematography, Black-and-White; Best Costume Design, Black-and-White; and Best Sound.

Lover Come Back (1961)

Lover Come Back
Directed by Delbert Mann
Written by Stanley Shapiro and Saul Henning
7 Pictures Inc/Nob Hill Productions/Arwin Productions
First viewing/Netflix rental

Peter ‘Pete’ Ramsey: I told you sex would get you in nothing but trouble.

This is the middle film of the three early 60’s “sex comedies” that Rock Hudson and Doris Day made together.  It bears a striking resemblance to Pillow Talk but I prefer the earlier film.

Jerry Webster (Rock Hudson) is a wheeler-dealer ad man who snags clients with alcohol-fueled evenings and female companionship.  Carol Templeton is just breaking into the business and hates Jerry and all he stands for.  She finally convinces one of the women he has hired to show the client a good time to testify against Jerry before the ad council. Jerry fights back with a brilliant campaign for “VIP”, a product which has not yet been invented.  He hires Carol’s witness as the “VIP girl”.  After the spot is accidentally aired he hires a scientist to invent something to go with it.

Rock Hudson wears a beard for about half the movie

Carol attempts to steal the scientist and the product from Jerry’s agency.  Instead, she meets Jerry in his disguise.  A whole bunch of double entendres and bickering ensue.

Here, Rock Hudson’s character is a rat both the characters he plays.  I can’t understand why anyone with so much going for her would spend ten minutes with either one.  It must be his rugged good looks.  Other than that this stuff has been worked up to a winning formula in only two films.  Hudson and Day were made for each other and Tony Randall is a joy.  With Edie Adams as the VIP girl and Jack Kruschen as the scientist.

This was comic Jack Oakie’s last film.

Lover Come Back was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Writing – Screenplay and Story Written Directly for the Screen.

The Guns of Navarone (1961)

The Guns of Navarone  
Directed by J. Lee Thompson
Written by Carl Foreman from a novel by Alastair MacLean
Columbia Pictures Corp/Highroad Productions
Repeat viewing/Netflix rental

Prologue – Narrator:  In 1943, so the story goes, 2000 British soldiers lay marooned on the tiny island of Kheros, exhausted and helpless. They had exactly one week to live for in Berlin the Axis high command had determined on a show of strength in the Aegean Sea to bully neutral Turkey into coming into the war on their side. The scene of that demonstration was to be Kheros, itself of no military value, but only a few miles off the coast of Turkey. The cream of the German war machine, rested and ready, was to spearhead the attack, and the men on Kheros were doomed unless they could be evacuated before the blitz. But the only passage to and from Kheros was guarded and blocked by two great, newly designed, radar-controlled guns on the nearby island of Navarone. Guns too powerful and accurate for any allied ship then in the Aegean to challenge. Allied intelligence learned of the projected blitz only one week before the appointed date. What took place in the next six days became the legend of Navarone.

This is a solid war movie with a fantastic cast and lots of explosions.

Mallory (Gregory Peck) is a multi-lingual can-do army officer who is also a genius mountain climber.  High Command summons him and orders him to join a team to take out the guns on Navarone.  He will be assisted by the wise-cracking explosives expert Miller (David Niven), Greek resistance fighter Andrea (Anthony Quinn), Black (Stanley Baker), and fresh-faced young Greek Pappadimos (James Darren).  The mission will be commanded by Franklin (Anthony Quayle).  Unknown to any of the others, Mallory already knows Andrea well.  The Greek blames Mallory for the killing of his entire family by Germans and has vowed to kill him after the war.

The action starts right away and never really lets up.  The men suffer a storm at sea that sinks their fishing boat.  They swim to the island but almost immediately on arrival Franklin falls of a cliff and breaks his leg.  The team end up dragging him on a stretcher for the remainder of the film.  There are many encounters with Germans to dodge.  Finally, the team meets up with the resistance fighters who will help them.  They turn out to be women – Maria (Irene Pappas) and the mute Anna.

All that’s left to be determined is if, and how, the guns can be neutralized.

This is a rip-roaring sort of film with an equally stirring score.  The whole cast is pretty great but I would give the nod to Quinn if I had to choose.  My favorite scene is when he starts “acting” in an attempt to distract some Germans.  I don’t think I’ve seen so much blood and violence in an American war film to date on my journey.  An entertaining film for fans of this kind of thing.

The Guns of Navarone won the Academy Award for Best Effects, Special Effects.  It was nominated in the categories of Best Picture; Best Director; Best Writing, Screenplay Based on Material from Another Medium; Best Sound; Best Film Editing and Best Music, Scoring of a Dramatic or Comedy Picture.

Trailer – colors are vivid on the DVD