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A Momentous Year for Films. And Me, Too.
by Jon Schuller

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The year is 1968, a mere 50 years ago. It was another nothing-short-of spectacular year for the movies. By the end of year, I had become husband to the enchanting English girl I'd met in Israel just 13 months earlier. This coming December we will celebrate our 50th wedding anniversary.

I'll risk repeating myself here but many of the pictures that premiered in 1968 are still being watched today simply because they broke the rules and became instant classics. One of my favorites is 2001-A Space Odyssey, Stanley Kubrick's journey into the future of space travel and remarkable inventions. Mr. Kubrick took the world-famous Blue Danube Waltz and put it into outer space as a musical accompaniment to humans journeying above the Earth. Portable telephones with television screens were an everyday occurrence.

A high-speed car chase, in big city traffic, debuts in 1968. Steve McQueen stars as Bullitt, a San Francisco detective, being pursued by 2 bad guys in a Dodge Charger as he weaves up and down the city's famous hills at 100-plus m.p.h. in his racing green Ford Mustang.

A delicate, down-to-earth New York woman discovers she's pregnant as her actor husband makes a deal for bigger and better roles in an exchange with some rather devilish senior citizens in Rosemary's Baby.

The Broadway stage and a famous 1940s musical lady, Fanny Brice, come to life in Funny Girl, starring the incredibly talented Barbra Streisand who reprises her immortal stage role. Omar Sharif played the gambler, Nicky Arnstein. He was criticized at the time by his native country, Egypt, for working with a Jewish woman. Bah. Humbug.

Frank Sinatra's acting talents are screened in The Detective, a realistic look at the life of Joe Leland, a veteran, relentless New York City detective. The film strove for realism on the crimes' side and the detective's personal and private life. There is a truly great cast, featuring some of 1968's best actors and actresses giving the film the look and "feel" it dramatized.

Steve McQueen portrays a millionaire businessman, Thomas Crown, who likes to have fun doing what most people consider to be crimes. He
masterminds a large Boston bank robbery that nets over $2 million. Faye Dunaway portrays Vicki Anderson, an insurance investigator who knows that Crown is behind the heist, but falls in love with him even as she gathers clues and evidence against him. The two glamorous stars are backed up by another marvelous cast of character actors that included Jack Weston and Paul Burke. The Thomas Crown Affair was big, instant hit.

One of the Broadway stage's biggest hits was Neil Simon's The Odd Couple which starred Art Carney as Felix and Walter Matthau as Oscar. Matthau reprised his Broadway role and Jack Lemmon became Felix when the movie debuted on May 2, 1968. It was so well-received that it grossed close to $45 million in its first year. The characters were well-known but the movie made them household figures around the world. Of course, they went on to television and played well there too.

Mel Brooks created characters that started out in a film and went on to become a highly successful musical thanks to Mrs. Brooks, Anne Bancroft. The Producers' pairing of Zero Mostel
and Gene Wilder was an act of comedic genius in a modern comedy of errors. Put on a Broadway show that is guaranteed to offend absolutely everyone, close the show after 1 performance and keep all the money for producing it. Only 1 catch: the offensive musical (and its odd leading man) is an overnight success and where'd all that money go, by the way?

The diversity of the movies in 1968 again shows us the range of talents in writing, directing and acting. That's what keeps films so interesting and us coming back, year after year, for more. A small sample list of famous titles should prove my point:
Bye Bye Braverman
Planet of the Apes
Will Penny
Yellow Submarine
The Heart is a Lonely Hunter
I Love You, Alice B. Toklas
The Lion in Winter
Chitty Chitty Bang Bang
The Night They Raided Minsky's
Ice Station Zebra

All are different, all are interesting, all are originals. Not easy to do that in the highly competitive world of movies. I have no doubt you have your own list of favorites that you continue to enjoy even after all these years.

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Cinema Savant
Every other Thursday

My views on an eclectic mix of films and personalties, past and present; emotional interpretations; some laughs, some cries.

Other Columns
Other columns by Jon Schuller:

How To Capture a Famous Year on Film

40 Is So Young

I Can Feel It. Can You?

Life Seems to Imitate Art

One Is All It Usually Takes Redux

All Columns

Jon Schuller
I am a former New Jersey native, living in Charlotte, N.C. for almost 29 years. I am a lifelong movie lover with lots of movie trivia knowledge and soundtracks in my CD collection. I enjoy sharing my love of films with everyone and have so many fond memories growing up in darkened movie theaters. I have been married 50 years (as of December 22, 2018) and we both share a passion for film (and each other of course).

If you have a comment, question, or suggestion, you can send a message to Jon Schuller by clicking here.

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