Russell Hill is an admirer of the films released during Hollywood’s counter culture of the 1960s, in particular two key movies – Bonnie and Clyde and The Graduate.
Forty five years ago, in 1967, the world changed for many different reasons. Not only did The Beatles record their landmark album Sgt Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band to continuing critical acclaim, but London was in full swing because of the Summer of Love.
Across the Atlantic, two Hollywood films were released within five months of each other that continue to inspire filmmakers.
Hollywood cinema was completely different in 1967, compared to its Golden Age which lasted from the end of the silent era in American cinema in the late 1920s to the early 1960s.
Long gone were the dance routines that required all participants to don their finest dinner suits. Now Hollywood films had come much more to resemble fact or based on factual events.
Bonnie and Clyde is a prime example of such, especially as it painted the two violent gangsters in a positive light by basing their story on romance.
Starring Faye Dunaway and Warren Beatty, Bonnie and Clyde also showed scenes of excessive violence and a liberal attitude to sex.
The Hays Code, which governed film censorship in America at the time, forbade people to have sex onscreen if they were not married. The Bonnie and Clyde film showed the fleeting lovers without any stable ‘marriage-like’ relationship.
The Graduate was released in December 1967. It used the music of a then relatively unknown progressive folk duo called Simon and Garfunkel. They soon became renowned for their hypnotic vocal partnership and Paul Simon’s expert song writing ability.
The Graduate focuses on the extra-marital affair between a 21 year old undergraduate and a fortysomething, alcoholic married woman; their relationship leads to the break-up of two supposedly happy families.
What shocked audiences was the portrayal of a suburban world being rocked by a relationship that was previously frowned upon by The Hays Code.
Yet, forty five years on, it is still a remarkable film which strikes resonance with contemporary audiences.
The Graduate was Dustin Hoffman’s first starring role in a major film. After being cast in the role he was presented to the studio executive by director Mike Nichols. Dustin Hoffman instantly started to clean the windows because he wasn’t recognised.
Fast forward two years and Hoffman starred in Midnight Cowboy and also Straw Dogs, released in 1971.
Dustin Hoffman wasn’t the only upcoming star-to-be in The Graduate. Richard Dreyfuss (of Jaws, Close Encounters of the Third Kind and American Graffiti fame) also made a brief appearance too.
The Graduate was a springboard for many now well-known actors and it continues to inspire disenfranchised individuals.