I have now watched 100 films that were released in 1960. A complete list can be found here. It was a great year and I have 17 films for my favorites list. This may be the first year that the Best Picture winner is also my very favorite film of the year. Excellent films I didn’t have room for are: The Bad Sleep Well; Wild River; Shoot the Piano Player; The Virgin Spring; Inherit the Wind; Two Women; and Late Autumn. The list is no particular order, though I can’t think of anything that would move The Apartment out of the top slot!
I am having a family medical emergency (not my own) so it may be awhile until I start 1961.
10. The Naked Island – directed by Kineto Shindo
9. Psycho – directed by Alfred Hitchcock
8. Peeping Tom – directed by Michael Powell
7. Purple Noon – directed by Rene Clement
6. Le Trou – directed by Jacques Becker
5. Rocco and His Brothers – Luchino Visconti
4. L’Avventura – directed by Michelangelo Antonioni
3. When a Woman Ascends the Stairs – directed by Mikio Naruse
2. La Dolce Vita – directed by Federico Fellini
- The Apartment – directed by Billy Wilder
The Goddess (Devi)
Directed by Satyajit Ray
Written by Satyajit Ray; story by Prabhat Kumar Mukherjee
The idea that women are innately gentle is a fantasy, and a historically recent one. Kali, the Hindu goddess of destruction, is depicted as wreathed in male human skulls; the cruel entertainments of the Romans drew audiences as female as they were male; Boudicca led her British troops bloodily into battle. Naomi Wolf
I’m still pondering the meaning of this beautiful but strange film.
Doyamoyee and Umaprasad (played by Shamila Tagore and Soumitra Chaterjee of Apu Sansar) have been married three years and still seem like newlyweds. They live with his father (Chhabi Biswas, The Music Room), a wealthy devotee of Kali, Hindu goddess of destruction, creation, time and power. Umaprasad is a Christian. Doyamoyee is apparently Hindu. Umaprasad’s married brother also lives at home. His small son is devoted to his aunt.
Umaprasad must return to Calcutta to study for his English exams which will complete his education. They discuss moving away, perhaps abroad, after he passes. Neither know how Umaprasad’s father will live without his daughter-in-law.
While Umaprasad is away, his father has a dream that Doyamoyee is the incarnation of Kali. He begins to host devotions to Doyamoyee as if she were the goddess, to which the confused young woman passively assents. The poor begin to show up with their ailing relatives seeking cures. Umaprasad rushes home. I don’t want to spoil the rest of the plot.
I thought Ray left it to the audience’s imagination as to what many of the characters actually believed as to the divinity of the wife. The very ending also seemed ambiguous to me as well. I watched the ending twice and still could not make up my own mind. If anyone has seen this film, I would love to discuss it. As always with Ray, the imagery is very striking. The print available on FilmStruck didn’t do it justice. Recommended to lovers of religious/psychological mysteries.
Sunrise at Campobello
Directed by Vincent J. Donehue
Written by Dore Schary
Dore Schary Productions
First viewing/YouTube rental
Franklin Delano Roosevelt: Caution, my friend, is the refuge of cowards.
Ralph Bellamy is fantastic in this solid bio-pic about FDR’s battle with polio.
It is 1921. Franklin (Bellamy) and Eleanor Roosevelt (Greer Garson) are enjoying an idyllic summer vacation with their five children on Campobello island. Franklin feels a bit puny. By morning he cannot walk. His close friend and political advisor Louis Howe (Hume Cronyn) comes to help out while the doctors puzzle over his condition. Soon enough, infantile paralysis (polio) is diagnosed. FDR’s prognosis is uncertain. Howe and Eleanor nurse him tenderly
Before long, things are complicated enormously by the arrival of Franklin’s mother Sarah, who is the very definition of a stubborn, “difficult” person. Sarah detests the asthmatic Howe, whom she constantly refers to as a “vulgar little man” and so, in truth, do most of FDR’s children. It is Howe, however, that gives FDR the will to carry on by holding out the carrot of a political future. Sarah would rather have him retire permanently to the family home at Hyde Park.
Eleanor is the “heart” of the family and gives FDR loving support. She becomes a political asset when she reluctantly takes over speech-making duties. The rest of the film follows FDR’s efforts to recover leading up to the 20 steps he must take to reach the platform where he is to deliver the Democratic Convention speech nominating Al Smith. The rest is history. With Jean Hagen as FDR’s secretary.
Garson snagged the Oscar nomination but a dental prosthesis was not sufficient to make the gorgeous redhead resemble Eleanor Roosevelt in the slightest and her speech patterns also seemed off. Bellamy on the other hand is absolutely believable and was robbed at Oscar time. Hume Cronyn is fantastic as well. Recommended if the subject matter appeals.
Sunrise at Campobello was nominated for Academy Awards in the categories of Best Actress; Best Art Direction-Set Decoration, Color; Best Costume Design, Color; and Best Sound.
The Devil’s Eye (Djävulens öga)
Directed by Ingmar Bergman
Written by Ingmar Bergman from a radio play by Bergman and Oluf Bang
Satan: No punishment is too severe for those who love.
Bergman balances out the torment of 1960’s The Virgin Spring with this little comedy.
The film is bookended with commentary from Bergman regular Gunnar Björnstrand. He tells us of the Nordic legend that when a woman is chaste the devil gets a stye in his eye.
We arrive in a sort of 18th Century hell where Satan’s eye is really hurting. He decides to enlist Don Juan to remedy the situation. The Don has been suffering for centuries with a special torment where the object of his desire disappears just as he is about to have her. Satan’s plan will allow him fulfillment for his 24 hours on earth.
Don Juan and his servant Pablo arrive in the modern day at the home of a simple and kindly parson (Nils Poppe). The parson’s daughter (Bibi Andersson), the virgin in question, is about to marry. She is madly in love with her fiancé but not quite as innocent as she seems. The parson’s wife is terminally bored and seems to be a good candidate for Pablo’s advances. Will Satan’s plan succeed?
This was a light and fun watch but no masterpiece. Bergman and cinematograper Gunnar Fischer did create some stunning visuals.
The River Fuefuki
Directed by Keisuki Kinoshita
Written by Keisuki Kinoshita from a novel by Shichiru Fukazawa
You cannot step into the same river twice. Heraclitus
Kinoshita was certainly an uneven director. I thought this anti-war film was up there with his brilliant The Ballad of Narayama.
It is a time of chaos and factional warfare among warlords and their samurai. The hot-headed son of a simple farming family goes off to the war and makes a name for himself by catching an enemy general. Grandpa congratulates himself for encouraging the boy to go to war. Dad wasn’t so sure it was a good idea. Dad, however, is honored by being asked to bury the afterbirth of the Lord’s son. Grandpa insists on going himself and is killed for defiling the ground with his blood when he injures himself with the shovel.
The war goes on for generations. Bloodlust hits at random among the offspring. A non-combatant and his wife (Hideko Takamine) remain farmers as they grow old. They are unable to prevent sons from going off to the war. The samurai sons chastise them for ingratitude to the Lord. It seems more like the Lord has been ungrateful to them.
This movie was shot in black and white and then hand-tinted, much like an old silent movie. Some of the frames are selectively colored with masks and others are solidly tinted. Some of the war scenes are shown via a montage of stills. The unusual technique works out surprisingly well.
The story is moving through its sad climax. Takamine spends most of the film as a very old lady, disappearing into a character completely different than the one she played in When A Woman Ascends the Stairs the same year. She is one of the great actresses. Recommended.
Trailer – no subtitles but you can see the way Kinoshita melds black and white with color
Bells Are Ringing
Directed by Vincente Minnelli
Written by Betty Comden and Adolph Green from their musical play
First viewing?/Amazon Instant
Now you’re here, now I know just where I’m going /No more doubt or fears I’ve found my way/ For love came just in time /You found me just in time/ And changed my lonely life that lucky day – “Just in Time”, Lyrics by Betty Comden and Adolph Green
Back before cell phones, back before voice mail, and back before answering machines, there were human beings picking up our missed calls at something called an answering service. This musical about an operator at a such a service made me happy.
Ella (Judy Holliday) works as an operator at Susanswerphone. She brightens up her life and the lives of the customers by adopting different identities and helping them solve their many problems. She is in love with one of the customers, a playwright named Jeffrey Moss (Dean Martin). She interacts with him using the character of an old lady named “Mom”.
Jeffrey’s writing partner just left him. It looks like writer’s block, drinking and women are about to put him on skid row. Ella must resort to intervening in person to save him. In the meantime, investigators suspect that Susanswerphone is a front for a “lonely hearts club” and spy on Ella’s every move. Finally, a bookie is actually using Sue’s as a front. With Jean Stapleton as Sue, Eddie Foy Jr. as the bookie, Frank Gorshin as a method actor, and Fred Clark as a producer.
Everything about the plot other than the romance is pretty stupid. Its roots in a stage play are evident. However, the romance is magical and the songs are great. I enjoyed every minute.
This was Judy Holliday’s final film. She spent most of her career on stage and died in 1965 at age 43 of breast cancer. It was also Minnelli and Freed’s last MGM musical.
Home from the Hill
Directed by Vincente Minnelli
Written by Harriet Frank Jr. and Irving Ravetch from a novel by William Humphrey
Sol C. Siegel Productions
First viewing/Netflix rental
Capt. Wade Hunnicutt: …Kind of man that walks around with nothing in his pockets, no identification because everyone knows who you are. No cash because anyone in town would be happy to lend you anything you need. No keys ’cause you don’t keep a lock on a single thing you own. And no watch because time waits on you.
1960 has been heavy on dysfunctional family melodramas. They are wearing out their welcome with me. Which is to say I might have liked this more on another day.
Wade Hunnicutt (Robert Mitchum) is the leading light in his little corner of the American South. He is also a notorious womanizer, concentrating principally on other men’s wives. As the story begins, Wade is out game hunting and is wounded by a jealous husband. Wade’s behavior has also meant estrangement from his wife Hannah (Eleanor Parker). Hannah long ago agreed to continue to share a house with Wade, only on condition that their only son Theron (George Hamilton) would be “hers”.
Theron has grown to be a shy and sensitive young man and Wade renegs on his agreement. He thinks that dangerous wild boar hunting will make a man of his son. He sends out Theron under the tutelage of his rough and ready illegitimate son Rafe (George Peppard). Wade has never really acknowledged his paternity though the whole town knows it.
As Theron mans up, he casts his eye on pretty Libby Halsted. He sends Rafe to ask her to a party and she agrees. When Theron shows up to take her, though, her father (Everette Sloan) erupts in a blind rage and forbids Theron to see his daughter or even enter his door. Later Libby begins to see Theron on the sly and they become lovers.
I will stop my plot summary here but suffice it to say that all of this sets up many heated, dramatic arguments among the various family members and a climactic tragedy.
I never really cared about the fates of anyone in this movie. One of the problems was that both Hamilton and Peppard are pretty bland. Another is the cliched dialogue and situations. Real people just don’t behave like this.
Conspiracy of Hearts
Directed by Ralph Thomas
Screenplay by Robert Presnell, Jr.; story by Adrian Scott
The Rank Organization
German Soldier: Mother of God: I’ve killed a nun!
This is a well-made non-graphic Holocaust story.
Mother Katherine (Lili Palmer) heads a convent in Italy. She is passionate about saving the Jewish children interned in a nearby concentration camp. The convent is part of a network that has the aim of smuggling the children to Palestine. Most of the sisters share their superior’s view and go out on nightly rescue missions. Unbeknownst to them, these are aided by the blind eye of the Italian commandant of the camp. He is in love with his childhood sweetheart, who is now a beautiful young novice.
Things change for the worse when Mussolini is deposed and the Nazis take over military operations in Italy. Colonel Horsten is determined to stop the escapes as well as wipe out all partisan opposition in the area. Some of the nuns and a priest counsel against defying the Germans but mother Katherine courageously perseveres. With George Coulouris in a sympathetic role as a partisan.
There are some movies I just don’t have a lot to say about. There is nothing wrong with this movie and I happily watched it. It was exactly what I expected to be like from the plot summary. I don’t know that it will stay in my memory for long.
Montage of stills – music is NOT from the film
Directed by Walter Lang
Written by Dorothy Kingsley and Charles Lederer from a musical comedy by Abe Burrows
Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation/Suffolk-Cummings Productions
Repeat viewing/Netflix rental
So goodbye, dear, and Amen/
Here’s hoping we meet now and then/
It was great fun/
But it was just one of those things – lyrics by Cole Porter
There are a lot of nice Cole Porter standards and some glorious dancing in this but the script could have been tightened considerably.
Simone Pistache (Shirley MacLaine) owns and performs at a nightclub in Montmarte which sometimes features the illegal can-can. Her sometime boyfriend Francois Dumais (Frank Sinatra) is a lawyer who can often fix things with the police and avoid a fine and closing of the establishment. New by-the-book judge Philipe Forrestier is determined to enforce the law and visits with the intention of conducting a raid. His attitude changes a bit when he falls for Simone.
The two men vie for Simone’s affections. Francois is a bit of a womanizer and has no intention of marrying. Philipe proposes in short order. It looks like the couple is looking at a happily ever after ending until Francois throws a spanner in the works by getting Simone drunk at a high society part intended to introduce her to Philipe’s friends. When she sobers up, she is determined to get revenge. With Maurice Chevalier as another judge, Juliet Prowse as a saucy dancer, and Marcel Dalio as the head waiter.
What should be a good musical is dragged out by an overlong script and by the “Adam and Eve Ballet” which brings the action to a screeching halt for several minutes. I remember enjoying this when I was a young musical fanatic. Not so much anymore though that final can-can almost made everything worthwhile.
Can-Can was nominated for Academy Awards in the categories of Best Costume Design, Color and Best Music, Scoring of a Musical Picture.
Blood and Roses (Et mourir de plaisir)
Directed by Roger Vadim
Written by Roger Vadim and Roger Vailland; original story by Claude Brule and Claude Martin; novel by Sheridan Le Fanu
Documento Film/Films EGE
The strength of the vampire is that people will not believe in him. Garrett Fort
The erotic meets the supernatural in this story of a beautiful female vampire and her equally attractive female victims.
The ancestors of Carmilla De Karnstein (Annette Vadim) were reputed to be vampires in the 18th Century. When Carmilla’s cousin Leopoldo (Mel Ferrer) gets engaged to Georgia (Elsa Martinelli), she becomes jealous and something snaps within her. Suddenly her very presence begins to frighten the horses. Next things we know a maid is found dead …
Vadim had found his new muse in then wife Annette Vadim, who bears a remarkable resemblance to Brigitte Bardot. The brunette Martinelli looks equally luscious. The movie is nicely atmospheric and contains a few really striking shots in a dream sequence. Folks looking for real scares should look elsewhere but I kind of liked it.
Trailer (the color was much more vivid in the version I watched on YouTube)