Time is so strange. For a couple of reasons, I’m suggesting today that you use some available technology and watch a few movies that were released in 1969, which was a wonderful year for theatergoers and also 45 years ago right now.
But, time is an odd concept to grasp because me asking you to do that is like somebody in 1969 being asked to go back and watch a movie made in 1924. And who would have done THAT?
Time is a funny thing.
So, you’ll have to trust me here; 1969 had some game.
A couple of weeks ago, my uncle called to tell me a Butch Cassidy and Sundance Kid documentary was moments from airing on public television. It was a 12-seconds conversation as he was hurrying to hang up and watch and I was almost pulling a muscle reaching to turn on the television set. Me and Uncle Bill are big Butch and Sundance fans.
If you get a chance to go to American Experience on the PBS web site, you will not be disappointed with just about anything you watch. The documentary Uncle Bill and I wept with joy over while watching on TV is batting leadoff on there now. It will tell you of one of the West’s greatest legends, of a holdup of the San Miguel Valley Bank in Telluride, Colo., on June 24, 1889, of the birth of the Pinkerton National Detective Agency, and of the deaths of Butch and Sundance down Argentina/Bolivia way.
Naturally, that led my mind to “Butch Cassidy and The Sundance Kid,” the hottest movie of 1969, both my favorite Western and favorite movie of alltime. Research proved that it had plenty of company in the “timeless” department.
“Midnight Cowboy” won the Oscar for Best Picture: it was X-rated. I wouldn’t be today. It could probably run on network television, uncut. I am a bigger fan of “The Wild Bunch,” which was originally X-rated. (The rating was dropped to an R; they must have agreed to cut the Ernest Borgnine topless scene.)
On Westerns alone, 1969 is a Hall of Fame movie year. There’s also the vastly underrated “Support Your Local Sheriff” with James Garner and the classic “True Grit,” which gave us one of the most memorable characters in American cinema in U.S. Deputy Marshal Rooster Cogburn as played by John Wayne. It has to make your all-time Top 10 Westerns List -- if you can get past Glen Campbell being in this movie. Without his guitar.
“Anne of The Thousand Days” is not normally my cup of tea but this movie and “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?” (from 1966, before my real movie-going days) proved to me that Richard Burton was more than just Liz Taylor’s boy toy. Rascal can act up a storm.
“They Shoot Horses, Don’t They?” is a short novel I’m reading at home now. While it sounds like a Western, it’s not. It’s about dance marathon, and it stars Jane Fonda before she started exercising or acting odd, but after she started being pretty.
“Paint Your Wagon” is different and unexpected and good. “Hello, Dolly!” was a smash, with Walter Matthau as a bonus. “Easy Rider” is a low-budget classic. And watch “The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie” if you want to see Maggie Smith of today’s “Downton Abbey” when she was just developing her fastball. (Watch “Murder By Death” or “California Suite” to see her in her prime – which she is still in at age 79: they make her look older for “Downton.”)
“The Trouble With Girls” is Elvis’ final movie; it came out in 1969 right before “Charro!,” which starred Elvis and Ina Balin, and I have to assume that the exclamation point in the movie’s title was more because of Ina than for Elvis, even though Elvis was the king and all that. Speaking of exclamation points, a pre-Bob Newhart Suzanne Pleshette starred in “If It’s Tuesday, This Must Be Belgium,” which you should see, and Raquel Welch starred in “100 Rifles,” which you can probably skip as it falls several rifles, cannons and tons of TNT short of being good, not counting the movie poster. Exclamation Point.
Remember, we are no longer at the mercy of cable TV, as wonderful as the movie channels are. Because of Netflix and ITunes and the like, we can actually watch these movies most any time we please. It will take you a few months to get through 1969 alone. I plan to try, as soon as somebody teaches me how to work any of the electronic devices required. For some of us, it is, in a lot of ways, still 1969.