American Cinema of the 1960s: Themes and Variations

By Barry Keith Grant | Go to book overview

1967

Movies and the Specter
of Rebellion

MURRAY POMERANCE

If history, as Todd Gitlin once reflected, “could be picked up by the scruff of the neck and made to dance” (224), this was surely a choreographic year. The Super Bowl, the Monterey Pop Festival, and the American Film Institute began; Sir Francis Chichester soloed his yacht around the world; Mickey Mantle hit his 500th homer; New York's Stork Club vanished; Che Guevara was butchered by Bolivian troops on 9 October; Dr. Christiaan Barnard performed the first heart transplant in Capetown on 3 December; Israel won a six-day war, capturing the Golan Heights from Syria, the Sinai from Egypt, and the West Bank and portions of Arab Jerusalem from Jordan; and Charles de Gaulle, visiting Montreal for Expo 67, outraged English Canadians by shouting, “Vive le Québec libre!” Readers plunged into William Styron's The Confessions of Nat Turner, Sue Kaufman's The Diary of a Mad Housewife, and Ira Levin's Rosemary's Baby. Theatergoers marveled at Joe Orton's A Day in the Death of Joe Egg, Tom Stoppard's Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead, and Brendan Behan's Borstal Boy. The musically attuned bounced to “Up, Up and Away,” crooned “Ode to Billy Joe,” or, as of 1 June, dreamed along with the Beatles' Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band, arguably one of the landmark popular albums in history.

On many fronts routine was smashed as generational conflicts, antiwar protests, and race riots burgeoned. Early on Wednesday, 26 July, National Guardsmen heard shots from the vicinity of Detroit's Algiers Motel; investigating, they found ten Black males and two young white females; shortly thereafter, three of the men were brutally beaten and murdered, by forces never to be formally identified. This seemed a perfectly typical event in a summer when America's long-lived trauma of race was on everyone's mind, riots enflaming not only Detroit but 126 other cities, including Newark, Atlanta, Boston, Buffalo, Cincinnati, Tampa, Birmingham, Chicago, New York, Milwaukee, Minneapolis, New Britain, Conn., Plainfield, N.J., and Rochester, N.Y.; when it was over, seventy-seven people had

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