Welcome to Hollywood, 1966.
A week in 50-year-old movie news.
Let’s do a little Hollywood time-traveling, shall we?
Since we couldn’t get our hands on Doc Brown’s DeLorean, we thought we’d do the next best thing and tap into the world’s greatest movie library to show you what life was like in the movie industry during a random week in history.
Here’s what was happening way back in the week of April 18, 1966.
An Oscar Winner Boards A Plane With Dr. Seuss…
Oh, the places you’ll go!
A couple days after winning an Oscar for the animated short The Dot and the Line: A Romance in Lower Mathematics, Chuck Jones and Les Goldman got on a plane with Theodore Geisel (Dr. Seuss) to fly to New York City where they planned to meet with MGM executives to pitch (the eventual classic) How the Grinch Stole Christmas and Horton Hears A Who.
On that trip, Jones and Goldman also met with composers and lyricists for musical numbers for The Phantom Toolbooth, a feature-length live action/animated film written by The Dot… writer Norman Juster.
“The Graduate” Finds Its Screenwriters
Buck Henry was hired to co-write The Graduate with Calder Willingham this week.
Henry was coming off a hit in 1965 with Get Smart, the TV series he co-created and co-wrote with comedy legend Mel Brooks. The Graduate, directed by Mike Nichols, would become Henry’s first U.S. movie screenplay.
Willingham had also collaborated with genius, having written Stanley Kubrick’s Paths of Glory (1957) and the battle scenes of Spartacus (1960), among other scripts.
Henry went on to work with Nichols again when he wrote the George C. Scott thriller The Day of the Dolphin. He also penned two Barbra Streisand films in the ’70s and later he hosted Saturday Night Live ten times.
Winnie The Pooh Travels Across The Pond
Everybody’s favorite pants-less bear starred in his first short Winnie the Pooh and the Honey Tree. Originally paired in February with the Dean Jones live action Disney feature The Ugly Dachshund; the mellow Winnie graced the screens in the United Kingdom for the first time in April.
Featuring songs by the Sherman Brothers (best known for their work on Mary Poppins (great behind-the-scenes story about that here) and Chitty Chitty Bang Bang), this short was the only Pooh production to be released under the innovative eye of Walt Disney, as the animator passed away in December of 1966.
“Doctor Zhivago” Tops The Box Office (Again) While “The Chase” Struggles Despite All-Star Cast
In its 17th weekend of release Doctor Zhivago returned to the #1 spot at the box office — for the fifth time this year —knocking The Singing Nun out of the top spot.
Zhivago’s box office surge was in part due to its 10 Oscar nominations (and five wins) and it went on to hold the top spot at the box office for another five weeks.
While Zhivago was scoring at the box office, the star-studded The Chase was officially becoming a major box office disappointment. The film, directed by Arthur Penn who had previously helmed the Oscar-winning The Miracle Worker, had a cast that included Marlon Brando, Jane Fonda, Robert Redford and Angie Dickinson, but struggled to find an audience.
“They had already finished eight reels, scored and everything, and it was not a good cut,” Penn told Cineaste magazine. “They left out some of the best material, including some of Brando’s unique improvisations.”
Penn bounced back the next year when he directed the classic Bonnie and Clyde.
Meanwhile, In Japan…
Across the sea in Japan, Daiei Film released its second Gamera feature, Gamera vs. Barugon. It was the first time audiences were able to enjoy the fire-breathing, flying, fighting giant turtle in color.
When the film opened in the U.S. it was edited, elongated, and retitled War of the Monsters. Decades later it was subjected to wisecracks on the “Mystery Science Theater 3000” TV series.
Sally Field Is A “New Girl In Town”
Nineteen-year-old Sally Field, who would one day become a two-time Oscar-winner (Best Actress statuettes were in her future for Norma Rae in 1980 and Places in the Heart in 1985), was introduced to magazine readers as “a fresh-faced, All-American miss” shortly after her starring role on ABC’s “Gidget” was cancelled after one year.
Her “current plans are getting an apartment of her own. That doesn’t make her parents too happy…” says the blurb.
Elvis Lands A Role
Elvis Presley was cast in Too Big For Texas which was later re-titled Clambake — except in Japan, where it was called Blue Miami.
Clambake is about a handsome rich man who switches places with a water skiing instructor to see if he can find love instead of shallow gold-diggers. There turned out to be very little gold in the box office for Clambake, a film the studio tried to open small in order to build word-of mouth.
It didn’t work.
Presley had starred in nearly two dozen films before signing on for this one and would only appear in six more after Clambake, never returning to the silver screen again after his MGM contract ended with Change of Habit in 1969.
Instead, The King focused on his music career, primarily in Las Vegas, which abruptly ended when he died in 1977.
The Case Of The Bad Blood Pressure Test?
An actor named Joe Cowan announced plans to sue Walter Mirisch’s production company for dropping him from the film version of How To Succeed In Business Without Trying.
Cowan was the star of the Broadway version of the show and claimed in a $57,000 lawsuit that Mirisch fired him from the movie based on a faulty blood pressure report.
The actor, who had never appeared in a film, claimed he had undergone a physical in New York but was asked to take another one in Hollywood once he arrived. Cowan said in New York his blood pressure was 132, but when the Hollywood “insurance company” doctor tested him it registered at 185 to 190.
Cowan, 53, claimed a few days later he returned to the insurance company doctor and it had dropped 25 points and then a few days after that it dropped again to what would be normal for a man of his age.
Mirisch went on to produce the film without Cowan.