New Constellations: Movie Stars of the 1960s

New Constellations: Movie Stars of the 1960s

New Constellations: Movie Stars of the 1960s

New Constellations: Movie Stars of the 1960s


American culture changed radically over the course of the 1960s, and the culture of Hollywood was no exception. The film industry began the decade confidently churning out epic spectacles and lavish musicals, but became flummoxed as new aesthetics and modes of production emerged, and low-budget youth pictures like Easy Rider became commercial hits.

New Constellations: Movie Stars of the 1960s tells the story of the final glory days of the studio system and changing conceptions of stardom, considering such Hollywood icons as Elizabeth Taylor and Paul Newman alongside such hallmarks of youth culture as Mia Farrow and Dustin Hoffman. Others, like Sidney Poitier and Peter Sellers, took advantage of the developing independent and international film markets to craft truly groundbreaking screen personae. And some were simply "famous for being famous," with celebrities like Zsa Zsa Gabor and Edie Sedgwick paving the way for today's reality stars.


Pamela Robertson Wojcik

Conventional (and often nostalgic) views of the American sixties tend to portray the decade as one of unique change, a decade in which ideologies, morality, culture, and politics were all upended and radically transformed. in line with this view, the decade is sometimes characterized through a series of displacements in which the Man in the Grey Flannel Suit is replaced by the hippie, the housewife superseded by the feminist, the martini supplanted by lsd and marijuana, Sinatra unseated by the Beatles, Dylan, and the Doors, and so on. the sense of the sixties as uniquely unsettling has a time-capsule familiarity signaled through famous events of the decade—the Bay of Pigs in 1961; the Cuban missile crisis in 1962; the March on Washington and the assassination of John F. Kennedy, both in 1963; the British Invasion beginning in 1964; passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965; 1967’s Summer of Love; the litany of crisis-events in 1968, including the assassinations of Martin Luther King Jr. and Robert Kennedy, the Tet offensive, the My Lai Massacre, police attacks on the Black Panthers, the violence at the Democratic National Convention in Chicago, the Prague Spring, and the events of May 1968 in France; and the banner events of 1969: Woodstock, Stonewall, and Apollo 11.

Of course, the sixties did witness deep social unrest and a tumult of political and cultural activity. Sixties politics comprised anti–Vietnam War protests, the civil rights movement, Black Power and the Black Panthers, student movements, the New Left, a rising women’s liberation movement, emergent gay liberation, and sprouting environmentalism. Culturally, the sixties stands out for developing a new counterculture represented by hippies, drugs, psychedelia, and charismatic singer-songwriters working in rock, folk, and protest genres; through painting and underground news papers, comics, and films; in festivals, clubs, movie theaters, and more.

However, while the leftist and countercultural elements of the sixties are certainly key to the decade, they do not fully characterize it. the decade . . .

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