Special Events: The Profs Do the Movies

Pictures at a Revolution: Three Movies Nominated for Best Picture of 1967

By the 1960s the Hollywood in which a handful of major studio chieftains controlled virtually the entire motion picture business was dying.  Their typical products – Westerns, war movies, historical epics, and musicals – were becoming predictable and stale, especially when contrasted with the innovative films being made in Europe.  The Production Code – the system of movie censorship that was instituted in the 1930s – was on its last legs.  

Change was in the air throughout the country.  The 1950s had been a decade of coasting on the exhilaration of the victorious war years, containing the threat from the Soviet Union, and embracing post-war prosperity and our new role as leader of the free world.  The election in 1960 of John F. Kennedy clearly marked a transition to a younger generation of leaders.  In addition, the civil rights movement was underway, and by 1967 there were 500,000 American troops in Vietnam and popular resistance to the war was building.  These broader currents of change, coupled with disaffection among some in the movie industry, led to a revolution in the business.  This year’s Profs looks at that revolution through three of its most important films, all nominated for the Best Picture of 1967 Oscar. This year's program is part of the university's year-long series, "The '60s: Exploring the Limits."


In the Heat of the Night

A tough black Philadelphia police detective finds himself a suspect in the murder of a white industrialist in a 1960s Mississippi town.  The local sheriff calls the detective’s boss to confirm his credentials and is talked into taking on the detective as a partner in solving the crime.  Thus, a city-smart black cop and a white redneck sheriff are bound together in the context of seething racial animosities that gradually fade in the face of their common professionalism and good sense.  Starring Sidney Poitier and Rod Steiger, In the Heat of the Night is noted for the famous scene in which Poitier, slapped by a wealthy white land owner, slaps him right back, at that time an unprecedented action in an American film.  In the Heat of the Night was nominated for seven Oscars and won four:  Best Picture, Best Actor (Steiger), Best Screenplay (Stirling Silliphant), and Best Film Editing (Hal Ashby).

Sunday, 1:30 pm — 5:00 pm
January 20
UNCG School of Music
Cost: $15


The Graduate

A bright but callow young man returns home to Pasadena after graduating from a prestigious eastern college.  Discontented with his education, his likely future in the business world, and embarrassing parental fawning, he retreats into himself.  An impossible situation develops when the wife of his father’s business partner, Mrs. Robinson, seduces him and he subsequently falls in love with the wife’s daughter, Elaine.  This very offbeat romantic comedy won widespread popular and critical acclaim.  Directed by Mike Nichols, with an unusual and wonderful Simon and Garfunkel score, the movie stars Dustin Hoffmann in his first major role, along with Anne Bancroft and Katharine Ross.  The Graduate, a surprise hit, was nominated for seven Academy Awards and won for Best Director.

Sunday, 1:30 pm — 5:00 pm
February 17
UNCG School of Music
Cost: $15


Bonnie and Clyde

Based on the true story of Bonnie Parker and Clyde Barrow, notorious bank robbers and killers in 1930s east Texas and Louisiana, Bonnie and Clyde was an improbable success.  Many people considered the David Newman-Richard Benton screenplay unfilmable owing to its violence and sex.  But Warren Beatty bought the rights and agreed to produce and star in it.  Warner Bros. and its head, Jack Warner, thought so little of the movie that they refused at first to give it widespread distribution.  Many important critics panned it, especially because of its gorily explicit (but “poetic”) final death scene.  But audiences in select big-city theaters loved the movie, and gradually both the studio and critics came around.  Bonnie and Clyde is now considered a landmark film that broke many movie taboos and came to define the “new Hollywood.”  Directed by Arthur Penn and starring Warren Beatty, Faye Dunaway (stunning in her first starring role), and Gene Hackman, Bonnie and Clyde was nominated for eight Academy Awards and won two:  Best Supporting Actress (Estelle Parsons) and Best Cinematography (Burnett Guffey).

Sunday, 1:30 pm — 5:00 pm
March 3
UNCG School of Music
Cost: $15


Keith Cushman (Ph.D., Princeton University), Professor Emeritus of English, has written or edited seven books about D.H. Lawrence.  The recipient of two Fulbrights, he has lectured on modern English and American literature in Italy, Finland, the Czech Republic, Poland, Bulgaria, Romania, Ukraine, India, Japan, and Korea.  He is a recipient of the Alumni Research Excellence Award. 

Ron Cassell (Ph.D., University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill), Associate Professor Emeritus of History, and Fellow of the Royal Historical Society, has long had an interest in 20th century British political history and the two world wars.  He is a recipient of the Alumni Teaching Excellence Award.

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