6 Times The Academy Got It Right: The 1960s


The 1960s were a time of turmoil for both America and the Academy.  The decade started with optimism and it ended with chaos.  In order to keep up with the films coming in from Europe, Hollywood finally abandoned the Production Code but Hollywood also tried to keep alive the old fashioned spectacle that proved profitable in the 40s and the 50s.  The Academy often found itself torn between honoring the new wave of filmmakers and acknowledging some of the most overdone productions to ever come out of the major studios.

It was a crazy decade and it’s one that continues to fascinate cultural historians.  Here are 6 things that Hollywood got right in the 60s.

  1. Dr. Strangelove: Or How I Learned To Stop Worrying And Love The Bomb is nominated for Best Picture

In the 40s and the 50s, it would have been unthinkable to nominate a film like Dr. Strangelove.  And, even in 1964, it was a controversial nomination.  That said, Dr. Strangelove had held up in a way that many other films released that year have not.  It’s the dark satire by which all other dark satires are judged.  That it lost to My Fair Lady is a disappointing fact but that it was nominated at all is a bit of a miracle.

2. Mike Nichols wins Best Director for 1967’s The Graduate

It’s kind of amazing to think that The Graduate competed for Best Picture with Dr. Doolittle.  Of course, they both lost to the well-intentioned In The Heat of the Night.  Still, Mike Nichols changed the face of American cinema with his direction of The Graduate.  The Academy made the right decision when they honored him.

3. Julie Christie wins Best Actress for 1965’s Darling

For many, the 1960s were defined by the British invasion and that was true when it came to the movies as well.  Julie Christie was the forefront of that invasion and she certainly deserved her Oscar for her amazing lead performance in Darling.  In Darling, Christie was everything that was chic about Britain during the first half of the 60s.  Reportedly, Christie was also considered for a role in Thunderball, which was itself a part of the British invasion.  When she either turned down or was turned down for the latest Bond film (the specifics depend on who you ask), she did Darling and won her Oscar.

4. Michael Caine Is Nominated For Best Actor For 1966’s Alfie

While Julie Christie represented everything chic about the UK, Caine represented the working class.  He became a star with Alfie and he also earned the first of his many Oscar nominations for his performance in that film.  His nominated heralded the arrival of a new type of star.

5. Jack Nicholson Is Nominated For Best Supporting Actor in 1969’s Easy Rider

After spending a decade toiling in Hollywood and getting nowhere, Nicholson was on the verge of retiring from acting when agreed, at the last minute, to replace Rip Torn in Easy Rider.  Nicholson not only became a star but he also received his first Oscar nomination.  Much as with Caine, Nicholson’s nomination heralded the arrival of a new cinematic age.

6. Midnight Cowboy Wins Best Picture Of 1969

You can debate whether or not Midnight Cowboy was truly the best film of the year but, by honoring it, the Academy finally choose a side in the culture war that it had spent a decade trying to avoid.

Up Next: The 70s!

Midnight Cowboy (1969; D; John Schlesinger)

2 responses to “6 Times The Academy Got It Right: The 1960s

  1. Pingback: Lisa Marie’s Week In Review: 3/21/22 — 3/27/22 | Through the Shattered Lens

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