Thursday, March 19, 2009

Thursday Thirteen #69: Favorite Movies/TV Shows Set In the 1950s or 1960s

For this week's T13, I decided to go back in time cinematically and feature some of my favorite films/TV shows set in the 1950s or 1960s.

To cut down on comments along the lines of "you forgot (fill in the blank"), if a movie/TV show isn't listed below, it's due to at least one of the following:

1. I've never seen it
2. There are only 13 spots
3. Saw it and thought it sucked

For this list, I chose to select only fictional stories that didn't focus specifically on an historic event. That means no movies like "Ray" or "Platoon". However, feel free to list any of your favorite "period pieces" in the comments section.

1. American Dreams- Set in Philly during the mid 1960s, this NBC drama (which ran from 2002-2005) drove me crazy at times with its numerous chronological errors. However, I cut it some slack because they at least tried to get the look of the period correct and handled social issues (civil rights, the changing role of women in American society, etc.) in a realistic manner.

2. American Graffiti- Even if you've never gone car cruising on a warm Saturday night in 1962, this movie makes you feel like you have. Not only that, but its soundtrack (with a lineup of classic tunes by such artists as Chuck Berry, Del Shannon, and Bill Haley & his Comets) set the standard for all subsequent period films.

3. Cooley High- A group of black teens in 1964 get into various misadventures, all to the sounds of classic Motown.

4. Down With Love- A colorful homage to the Doris Day/Rock Hudson "sex comedies" of the early 60s, I saw this film courtesy of some movie passes that I won. I'm grateful because I likely wouldn't have seen it otherwise.

5. The Five Heartbeats- This drama, which traces the ups and downs of an R&B group, stars Robert Townsend, Leon, and Michael Wright. It also contains a memorable scene that hopefully serves as a lesson to any recording artist: don't get in the face of a ruthless record label owner and demand to know about your royalties.

6. Grease- Even though most of the performers playing teenagers in the movie looked like they were ready for their 10-year high school reunion (at the very least), Grease is still a lot of fun.

7. Hairspray (1988)- Set in Philly during the dance craze era of the early 60s, this John Waters movie is filled with classic quotes ("Ooh papa tooney, we got a looney") and an eclectic cast that includes Ricki Lake, Ruth Brown, Debbie Harry, and Sonny Bono.

8. Mad Men- This AMC drama about the advertising world portrays the early 1960s in all its politically incorrect glory. You can practically taste the booze and smell the tobacco smoke when watching this show.

9. National Lampoon's Animal House- This party on celluloid probably did more to boost college enrollment than any guidance counselor could ever hope to do. Toga! Toga! Toga! Toga!

10. Sparkle- This drama about a fictional sibling girl group stars Irene Cara in the title role and features an outstanding soundtrack courtesy of the legendary Curtis Mayfield.

11. Stand By Me- Thanks to this coming of age film set in 1959, I've always wanted to play mailbox baseball.

12. The Wanderers- Set amid the youth gang culture of New York in the early 60s, this increasingly obscure movie is worth seeking out. Along with The Wanderers, other gangs in the film include the aptly named Fordham Baldies, The Del Bombers, and The Wongs, whose motto is short and to the point... "Don't Fuck with the Wongs"

13. The Wonder Years- I know that it spills over into the early 70s, but this comedy-drama about the maturation of Kevin Arnold was too good not to include.

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Cindy said...

LOVED, LOVED, LOVED American Dreams and missed it terribly when it went off air! Great list! Wonder YEars was awesome too--one of my all-time favs and I agree with you about the cast of Grease!

Lori said...

Ive seen a few of those:) Stand by me is a classic!!! Happy TT. Great list.

JohnH985 said...

Finally someone else that saw and liked The Wanderers! I love that movie but whenever I mention it everyone looks at me like I'm crazy. No one has ever seen it. I first saw it on late night tv, back before a million cable channels and finally got a tape of it years later. Watching that movie got me to search out the book which lead me to Richard Price, who is an excellent author.

Some other good choices too, but I'm just thrilled by the Wanderers.

Alice Audrey said...

I was starting to think I'm too sheltered until I got to Grease.

Adelle Laudan said...

I've see a few of them. Some, like National Lampoon and Grease, numerous times. Happy T13!

DrillerAA said...

There is some great stuff on this list. The Wonder Yeas was wonderful.
American Grafitti..I lived that film.

Have a great T13

marcia@joyismygoal said...

Out of all those I have only seen 3 but I loved the Wonder years

Hootin' Anni said...

I remember daughter watched most.

My thirteen is posted. Come visit and view some of my favorite personal photos I took of them....Clydesdales that is. Happy Thursday.

Randilin said...

I'm surprised the warriors didn't make the list.

Chameleon said...

Ah, nostalgia! I saw American Graffiti when it came out and it made me want to go back in time to live it. The others are all great, too... for someone with no pop culture creds at all, I've seen a surprising lot of them. I'm up at Everyday Tarot and Coffee Break. Hope to see you there!

Journeywoman said...

I enjoyed American Dreams, and Wonder Years. I love Mad men, but seriously, no M*A*S*H? Seriously?

Anonymous said...

What a whimiscal, wonderful list.

Like Squid? Check some out:

PopArtDiva aka Brat in the Hat said...

I loved American Dreams and was disappointed when it was cancelled. Down With Love was a great farce on the Doris Day RockHudson/whoever movies of the sixties. Stand By Me is one of my favorite movies - it's my top of the Stephen King adaptations. Wonder Years was just plain great.

I decided to go with something topical this week - not retro - can you believe it? But it's been on my mind as well as the entire countries so my TT this week is:

Thirteen Ways to get your money back from those bailed out bank burglars!

Happy TT Malcolm!

On a limb with Claudia said...

Gosh, I haven't seen a bunch of these. I had to stop watching Mad Men because it reminded me of my grandfather and his friends so much. Creeped me out - weird dreams and all!

Hey, thanks for allowing name/url - I appreciate it!

All Rileyed Up said...

Awesome list!!! Richard Dreyfuss in American Grafitti is all time.

Janet said...

Loved Stand By Me :-)

An Eerie Tapestry said...

Some great choices (especially Mad Men, Stand By Me and The Wonder Years). If I'd have made such a list, I'd have included "I Wanna Hold Your Hand" and "Happy Days", hopefully you haven't seen these or ran out of spots rather than considering them suckworthy.

Zenmomma said...

I LOVE Mad Men! The picture painted of America in the 60's is priceless.

pjazzypar said...

All of these are favorites of mine. Especially Sparkle.

Celticlibrarian said...

Grease! I must have seen that film (and Grease 2) over 200 times. I blame my sister's obsession with the films. We'll just ignore the fact that to this day I follow the word "Grease" with "is the word" in my head every time I encounter it.

Nicholas said...

MadMen, Stand by Me and The Wonder years were all excellent. I haven't seen any of the others.

Malcolm said...

Cindy: I was really disappointed when "American Dreams" was cancelled. It was one of the few first-run series in recent years that I followed consistently.

I remember finding out as a kid that at the time of "Grease", Olivia Newton-John was almost 30 and Stockard Channing was 34! A few years ago on a VH-1 special about "Grease", the actress who played Jan (who was about 31 at the time of the movie) said that she was prematurely gray and had to dye her hair for the role.

Lori: "Stand By Me" sure is a classic. Thanks for visiting.

JohnH985: One of the best parts of blogging about pop culture is when a post generates "finally, someone else who saw..." type comments. The first time I saw "The Wanderers" is in the early 80s either on HBO or Cinemax. I must have watched it a dozen times. I too later bought it on tape. When I find time, I'll check my closet and see if it's in one of several boxes.

One thing that surprised when I watched "The Wanderers" again in the late 90s was learning that Alan Rosenberg was in it. He's probably best known for his role as Eli Levinson on "Civil Wars" and later "L.A. Law" and for playing one of Cybill Shepherd's ex-husbands on her sitcom. However, his first movie role was as "Turkey" (the Wanderer who shaved his head and joined the Fordham Baldies). Here is the link to his imdb profile:

Alice Audrey: If you get the chance, you should check out some of the movies and TV shows on this list that you haven't seen. Thanks for visiting. :-)

Adelle: If I combined the number of times I've seen some of these movies, it would be in the triple digits! lol

Driller AA: Often when I hear songs that were in American Graffit (such as "Runaway" and "Johnny B. Goode"), I can't help but think of the movie.

Marcia: I hope that the music rights issues surrounding "The Wonder Years" can be worked out because that would be worth owning on DVD. The only time it appeared on DVD was on a couple of "best of" sets... without the original music. :-(

Hootin' Anni: Thanks for visiting. I will return the favor later this weekend.

Randilin: The "Warriors" didn't make the list because it wasn't a period film. Although the book "The Warriors" was set in 1965, the film version was set in what was the present when it was made (1979).

Chameleon: Although I have seen "American Graffiti" countless times, I would still like to view it someday on the big screen. That would be cool!

Journeywoman: In case you missed the intro for this T13 post, I said that I was listing only fictional stories that didn't focus specifically on an historic event. Since "M*A*S*H" was about the Korean War, it wasn't included on my list.

Full Body T: Thanks

Pop Art Diva: I see you have a new alias (Brat In the Hat). I like that.

I was hoping that "American Dreams" would have lasted because I wanted to see them deal with such events as the assassinations of MLK and RFK, Woodstock and the 1969 moon landing. Something else that disappointed me is that viewers didn't get to find out what happened to the characters later in life. Oh well, I guess that's why fan fiction was created.

On A Limb: Your comments about "Mad Men" cracked me up. As I told an earlier commenter, you should check out some of the movies/shows on this list that you missed... if you get a chance.

All Rileyed Up: It's amazing that "Jaws" was only two years after "American Graffiti" because Richard Dreyfus looks so young in AG.

Janet: Until I caught part of "Stand By Me" while channel surfing a few months ago, it had been awhile since I had seen it. I may have to get this on DVD someday.

An Eerie Tapestry: I have to get back into "Mad Men" (unfortunately, I missed all of the latest season).

I came this close to including "I Wanna Hold Your Hand" on this list. That was a really fun movie that doesn't get a lot of play these days. As for "Happy Days", it verges into the "suckworthy" category. Although I think the first few seasons were really good, but it jumped the you-know-what around the 4th season. Many of the characters started wearing clothes/hairstyles that didn't become popular until the late 70s/early 80s. Plus,I feel the show went overboard with its increasing focus on The Fonz.

ZenMomma: I like how "Mad Men" doesn't try to put modern sensibilities into its early 60s setting.

Pjazzy: Ah, "Sparkle". "Can't you see? Sister can't fly on only one wing..."

Celtic Librarian: I do the "Grease is the word" thing myself sometimes.

Nicholas: One of my favorite lines from "Stand By Me" is "Now he said, "Sic'em, Boy", but what I heard was, "Chopper, sic balls!"

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