OF WINE AND ROSES opened in Hollywood in December 1962, and nationwide
in January 1963, as the NEW YORK TIMES dryly noted in its review,
'to bring post-holiday sobriety.'" Despite its "downbeat ending,"
the motion picture, adeptly directed by Blake Edwards and starring
Lee Remick and Jack Lemmon, became "a box office hit; audiences
were undeterred by its starkly realistic, increasingly mournful
tone. Unlike the hopeful conclusions of THE LOST WEEKEND and most
other liquor-soaked Hollywood movies, the film ends on a somber
note, underscored hauntingly by [Henry] Mancini's plaintive melody."
So assert film scholars Stephen Farber and Michael McClellan in
this entertaining, informative, and perceptive examination of the
movies of 1962, cinema's "greatest year."
The authors divide their study into an Introduction, ten chapters,
and an Epilogue. Their chapter titles, and topics, include "Overseas
Explosion," "New American Auteurs," "Grande Dames and a Box Office
Queen," "Calling Dr. Freud," "Black and White to Technicolor," "The
New Frontier," and "Sexual and Social Outlaws." When you consider
the incredible output of 1962, it is difficult to argue with the
authors' contention that that year was, indeed, the most impressive
in film history.
Consider these twenty-two motion pictures, all of which appeared
in '62: LAWRENCE OF ARABIA, winner of the Oscar for Best Picture;
THE LONGEST DAY; TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD; JULES AND JIM; RIDE THE
HIGH COUNTRY; THE MAN WHO SHOT LIBERTY VALANCE; ADVISE & CONSENT;
WHATEVER HAPPENED TO BABY JANE?; THE MANCHURIAN CANDIDATE; THE MIRACLE
WORKER; THE MUSIC MAN; BILLY BUDD; LOLITA; HOW THE WEST WAS WON;
BIRDMAN OF ALCATRAZ; CAPE FEAR; THAT TOUCH OF MINK; LONELY ARE THE
BRAVE; MUTINY ON THE BOUNTY; LONG DAY'S JOURNEY INTO NIGHT; SWEET
BIRD OF YOUTH; and DR. NO, the first 007 movie. What an astonishing
collection of films! (And that doesn't include a trio of profitable
Elvis features, all released in that unbelievable year: KID GALAHAD;
FOLLOW THAT DREAM; and GIRLS! GIRLS! GIRLS!, which boasted the hit
song "Return to Sender.")
Farber and McClellan do an admirable job of placing the films in
their historical context and in discussing the bevy of studio bosses,
screenwriters, producers, directors, and actors covered in this
superb study. John Wayne, for example, was exceptionally busy, appearing
in four motion pictures in 1962: THE LONGEST DAY; THE MAN WHO SHOT
LIBERTY VALANCE; HOW THE WEST WAS WON; and HATARI! Considering the
Duke, the authors archly observe: "By this time in his career, Wayne
had become a cultural icon, symbolizing the conservative all-American
cowboy-soldier hero, both on and off the screen. This was somewhat
ironic, since he had never served in the military." Evaluating Natalie
Wood, star of GYPSY, Farber and McClellan contend that "the former
child actress (MIRACLE ON 34TH STREET, 1947) and teenage star (REBEL
WITHOUT A CAUSE, 1955), was at the peak of her career in 1962. Earlier
in the year she had been Oscar nominated as best actress for SPLENDOR
IN THE GRASS (1961) and was costarring in best picture winner WEST
SIDE STORY when she was cast to play the queen of the striptease…Purportedly,
Wood and [costar Rosalind] Russell did not get along during filming,
but that tension between them ultimately worked well for the film.
Although Wood received mixed reviews, her marquee appeal solidified
the film's box office take." And Kirk Douglas, they aver, "was one
of the movie stars of the era who branched out into producing films,
many of them with a social conscience, and LONELY ARE THE BRAVE
was typical of the kind of project he favored." At the conclusion
of this memorable "modern-day western," Douglas, astride his horse,
is hit on a rainy highway by a truck hauling a load of toilets.
Farber and McClellan admit that this "dark ending may be a bit heavy-handed."
Written by Dalton Trumbo (from a novel by Edward Abbey), directed
by David Miller, and costarring Walter Matthau and Gena Rowlands,
the film addresses such topics as xenophobia, while examining "the
plight of an anachronistic man, a rugged individualist in a technological
world that would render him obsolete." Of all his motion pictures,
LONELY ARE THE BRAVE, which premiered in Houston in May 1962, was
Cinephiles will undoubtedly relish this outstanding text. The authors
make a compelling case that 1962 is truly "the greatest year at
Concluding Note: Cinema enthusiasts may be interested to know that
Rutgers University Press publishes many superb books in film studies.
Recent volumes include Aaron Baker's THE BASEBALL FILM: A CULTURAL
AND TRANSMEDIA HISTORY (2022), Steven Rybin's STELLAR TRANSFORMATIONS:
MOVIE STARS OF THE 2010s (2022), Robert P. Kolker's TRIUMPH OVER
CONTAINMENT: AMERICAN FILM IN THE 1950s (2021), and Stephen Prince's
APOCALYPSE CINEMA (2021).