1960s: Film and Theater
1960s: Film and Theater
Moviemaking remained in a slump at the start of the 1960s. Moviemakers struggled to come up with successful strategies to combat the rising popularity of television, which kept former movie viewers at home. One strategy was to make big-budget spectacles that TV producers simply could not make. Cleopatra, released in 1963, starring Elizabeth Taylor (1932–) and Richard Burton (1925–1984), was just such a film. It cost $37 million to make and included lavish sets and exotic filming locations. Filmgoers loved such movies, but there were only so many that could be made each year.
Moviemakers also attracted audiences by making another kind of movie that could not air on TV—movies that contained sex, violence, or unconventional behavior. Comedies like The Apartment (1960) and Kiss Me, Stupid (1964), dramas like The Graduate (1967) or Bonnie and Clyde (1967), and adventure pictures like the James Bond films Dr. No and Goldfinger (1964)— all had content that was deemed too "mature" for TV.
Mature content soon became one of the film industry's biggest problems, as groups like the Catholic Legion of Decency publicized their ratings of movies that were deemed unacceptable. In 1968, the Motion Picture Association of America started a voluntary rating system that is still in use. The system included the ratings G (general audiences), M (mature; later changed to GP, then PG), R (restricted), and X (no one under 18 admitted). (PG-13 was added in 1984.) In 1969, the film Midnight Cowboy won the Academy Award for best picture despite an X rating that was given to the film for its homosexual content. (Years later, Midnight Cowboy was reclassified with an R rating.)
Despite these limitations, filmmakers produced some of history's best known films in the decade, including the science-fiction films Planet of the Apes (1968) and 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968) and the horror film Psycho (1960). Another popular film was West Side Story (1961), adapted from the popular Broadway play of the same name. A thriving American-theater culture provided several other plays that made it to the big screen, including Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf? (1962; filmed in 1966) by Edward Albee (1928–) and The Odd Couple (1965; filmed in 1968 and made into a television series in 1970) by Neil Simon (1927–). Hair (1968; filmed in 1978) became the first rock-and-roll musical.