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Archive for the ‘1960s’ Category

Paul Newman

Paul Newman (1925-2008) was a Hollywood actor and sex symbol, from the 1960s and early 1970s. He was married to Joanne Woodward for 50 years.

On this blog at the end of 2009 he was voted the eighth most gorgeous man in the world – over a year after he died at age 83!

His best films (those receiving an IMDb rating of at least 8.0):

  • 1958: Cat on a Hot Tin Roof
  • 1961: The Hustler
  • 1967: Cool Hand Luke
  • 1969: Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid
  • 1973: The Sting

The first he did with Elizabeth Taylor, the last two with Robert Redford, both Hollywood sex symbols in their own right. He is known for playing anti-heroes. He was acting almost right up to the end of his life.

His name was put up for an Oscar for best actor eight times, but only won once, for “The Color of Money” in 1987. Some say his acting got better with age – the Oscar nominations seem to bear that out.

He was born the son of a Cleveland shopkeeper. Both sides of his family come from Eastern Europe (Slovakia, Hungary, Poland). Like his father but unlike his mother he is Jewish.

In the Second World War he wanted to be a pilot and fly planes but his colour blindness prevented him. He almost fought in the battle of Okinawa but the pilot of his plane got an ear infection and they stayed back. Everyone else in their detail died in battle.

After the war he went into acting, at first on Broadway and television and then in Hollywood films. He did terribly in his first film, “The Silver Chalice” (1954), but then did well two years later in “Somebody Up There Likes Me” (1956) – a part he got through the death of James Dean. Soon he was starring opposite Elizabeth Taylor. His acting was not as good as, say, Marlon Brando’s, but his good looks made up for it.

In 1958 he starred with Joanne Woodward in “The Long Hot Summer”. That year he divorced his first wife of nine years and married Woodward. He has three children by each wife. In 1960 he and Woodward moved to Connecticut.

In 1978 his only son died of a drug overdose at age 28.

Newman was a race car driver. He came in second at Le Mans in 1979.

He used to make salad dressing as a Christmas gift. It caught on and in 1982 he started selling it under the brand name Newman’s Own. He later branched out into spaghetti sauce and popcorn. Since Newman was not interested in getting rich, he gave the profits to charity – education, health, the environment, disaster relief, etc. He joked that Newman’s Own brought in more money than his acting ever did (true).

In 1988 he started the Hole in the Wall Gang, a free summer camp in Connecticut, between New York and Boston, for children who are dying or who have spent a long time in the hospital.

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The 1967 Detroit riot

The 1967 Detroit Riot, also known as the Twelfth Street Riot or the Detroit Rebellion, was the worst American race riot of the 1960s. For five days during the Summer of Love Detroit burned. At the end 43 lay dead. In American history only the 1992 Los Angeles riot and the 1921 Tulsa riot were worse. It came less than a month after the Newark riot, which killed 25.

It took 17,000 armed men to put it down: the governor called in the National Guard and the president called in the army. Tanks rolled through the streets of Detroit.

  • Dates: July 23rd to 28th 1967
  • Deaths: 43 (33 black, 10 white)
  • Injured: 1189
  • Buildings destroyed: over 2,000
  • Property damage: $40 to $80 million (20 to 40 million crowns)

Part of what made the riot so bad was the heavy-handed approach of the Guardsmen. They shot a four-year-old girl dead, for example, when they saw her father’s lit cigarette in a darkened window.

How it started: At 12th and Clairmount on the West Side at three in the morning the police broke into an after-hours bar with a sledgehammer:  they found themselves in the middle of a party for two servicemen coming home from the Vietnam War. Now they had to arrest four times more people than expected.

It took an hour and a half to arrest everyone. In the meantime word spread and 200 onlookers gathered. One of them kept shouting at the police, “Motherfuckers! Leave my people alone!” Then people began to throw bottles and the police tried to get out fast. As the last police car pulled away the riot broke out.

Causes:

The main things that blacks in Detroit were unhappy about before the riot:

  1. Police brutality: This was the main cause given by the rioters themselves. The police force was nearly all white and nearly half were “extremely anti-Negro”. Because whites wanted the police to be “tough on crime” they refused to set up the civilian review board demanded by blacks. So the police were unaccountable: they beat people to death, shot a woman in the back, thought that ordinary women were prostitutes, called men “boy” and stopped people for no reason, arresting those who could not produce ID.
  2. Housing: The city tore down the heart of black Detroit to make way for Interstate 75 so that people from the suburbs (mainly white and middle-class) could get into the city more easily. It cut black Detroit in two. It not only destroyed businesses but a good share of what limited housing space was open to blacks, thereby worsening living conditions and making more of black Detroit into a slum.
  3. Employment: more than a sixth of black men were out of work – what whites would call hard times. The car makers were moving their plants out of the city and replacing men with machines.

After the riot the president set up the Kerner Commission, which found that America was:

moving toward two separate societies, one Black, one white –
separate and unequal.

It advised the government to pour money into helping blacks get better housing, education and employment opportunities.

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Lorraine Hansberry

Lorraine Hansberry (1930-1965) was an American writer, best known for the play, “A Raisin in the Sun” (1957). It was the first play by a black woman to appear on Broadway.

James Baldwin:

… never before, in the entire history of the American theater, had so much of the truth of black people’s lives been seen on the stage.

It is such a great play that even with a limited actor like Sean Combs playing the lead it is still powerful.

The play is about a black family that buys a house in a white suburb – something her own family did. The first two acts are kind of slow but the last act about moving day is pure, utter genius.

In 1961 it was made into a Hollywood film starring Sidney Poitier, who had played the lead on Broadway. She wrote the screenplay.

Her two other main plays are “The Sign in Sidney Brustein’s Window”, which was on Broadway in 1964 but was not a hit, and “Les Blancs”.

Some of her writings were made into an autobiography after her death, “To Be Young, Gifted and Black” (1969). James  Baldwin wrote a beautiful introduction, “Sweet Lorraine”.

Incomplete works at the time of her death:

  • “Toussant”, an opera
  • “All the Dark and Beautiful Warriors”, an autobiographical novel

She was also thinking of doing plays on Pharaoh Akhnaton, Mary Wollstonecraft and Charles Chesnutt’s “The Marrow of Tradition” (1901).

Born on Chicago’s Southside. her family moved to a white suburb when she was eight. Angry whites gathered in front of their house.  A brick was thrown through the window that narrowly missed her. The police were unwilling to protect them. Later the state supreme court ordered them out of the house.

In 1948 she went to the University of Wisconsin. There she became interested in left-wing politics and theatre, studying Ibsen and Strindberg.

In 1950 she dropped out and headed for New York. There she took courses at the New School and, for three years, wrote regularly for Paul Robeson’s Freedom. Later she taught school in Harlem and took part in protests. At one protest she met Robert Nemiroff, whom she married in 1953. In 1956 he wrote a hit song with a friend (“Cindy, Oh, Cindy”) which allowed her to become a full-time writer. She started writing “A Raisin in the Sun”.

In 1960 she wrote “The Drinking Gourd”, a television show for NBC about slavery. NBC never aired it because it was too violent and too “divisive”. But you can read it in “Lorraine Hansberry: The Collected Last Plays” (1983).

In 1962 she joined SNCC and a year later she and James Baldwin went to see Robert Kennedy, then the Attorney General, to try to get him to understand race in America. In time their words sunk in.

In 1963 she began to lose her strength: the doctors said she had pancreatic cancer. Two years later she was dead – at age 34. Over 600 came to her funeral in Harlem.

Baldwin:

Her going did not so much make me lonely as make me realize how lonely we were.

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AnAutobiographyOfAngelaDavisWritten: 1974
Read: 2009

“An Autobiography” (1974) by Angela Davis tells the story of the first 28 years of her life, from birth to her arrest, imprisonment and trial. It was edited by Toni Morrison, who had already written “The Bluest Eye” and was then working for Random House.

I got it from the library because it was out of print – but now it seems to be back in print again!

It is not as good as, say, the autobiography of Malcolm X, but it is still well worth reading.

Malcolm X was not only more important in history, his story is one of self-discovery, a search for the truth that remakes him. Like St Augustine’s “Confessions”.

Angela Davis’s life was far more straightforward: she saw how unjust American society was growing up and sought to change it by taking part in SNCC, the Black Panthers and the Communist Party. In time this landed her in prison.

The part about the trial was well written: it could have bored you to tears with all the ins and outs that trials have, but she avoided that. Best of all was the ending: even though you already knew she would win, you were still overjoyed when she does win! That is how the book ends.

The book starts two years before with her on the run from the FBI. She is arrested in New York and put in prison. Since she is to stand trial in California, she is sent back. At that point the book jumps back to fill in the first 26 years of her life and then ends with her imprisonment in California and the trial.

She writes at great length about her time in prison. It affected her powerfully, but not me: I expect prison to be terrible, so nothing she said shocked me.

The same goes for what she said about the police in Los Angeles: from living in New York I already knew how they can be. But it is nice to know that I am not just imagining it.

One of the best parts is her account of growing up in the Jim Crow South in the 1950s. It makes you see how some things have changed like night and day (like being able to walk in through the front door) while other things remain the same (like the police).

She won me over when she said she loves reading books but hates going to parties.

Another good part was her account of the Los Angeles police trying to wipe out the Black Panthers.

She lives in Los Angeles in the 1960s. There are no Jim Crow laws  there, yet in some ways the racism is worse: because the whites there know and understand blacks less they seem to regard them more like wild animals to be threatened, shot and put safely behind bars.

She says little about philosophy, which she studied for years, and little about racism in New York, where she lived during part of high school.

It is called “an” autobiography. Is she going to write another one?

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angela_davis_blogspot

Angela Davis went from Brownie to Communist, from bookworm to black revolutionary. To her it seemed natural.  To accept American society the way it is would be to accept that there is something wrong with black people.

She grew up under Jim Crow in the American South in the 1950s in Birmingham, Alabama. Her parents taught her to think for herself. The black schools in Birmingham were in terrible shape, but they did teach her black pride and black history. What she did not learn at school she made up for by reading books.

In 1959 at age 15 she won a scholarship to study at a private high school in New York: Elisabeth Irwin High School. It was where all the teachers who were too left-wing for public schools went to teach. Her school did not turn her into a communist, but it did make communism a respectable opinion.

She got another scholarship, this one to Brandeis University. She was almost the only black person there. She largely kept to herself – it was easier that way – and so she read and read, read books of French and books of philosophy – and books of French philosophy.

In 1963 she went abroad to study a year in France. She was barely in France when news hit that four black girls were killed in the bombing of a Birmingham church. She knew two of them. From growing up in Birmingham she knew bombings were used to keep blacks in line by fear and terror.

She noticed that the French saw the Algerians like how whites saw blacks back home. The Algerians were fighting a war to free themselves from French rule.

After Brandeis she studied philosophy in Germany under Theodor Adorno and then under Herbert Marcuse in San Diego in America. Of all the schools of philosophy she thought Marxism was the closest to the truth.

One summer she went to Cuba with friends, helping to cut sugar cane and seeing first-hand how communism had overturned racism.

Then back in America she saw first-hand how the Los Angeles police tried to wipe out the Black Panthers.

The police ruled the ghetto by fear and terror, not law and order. Shooting a man in the back they called “justifiable homicide”. They would break up protests by blacks, not allowing them the right of peaceful assembly. They would break into houses without a warrant and start shooting.  In the prisons it was even worse. The police and the prisons did whatever they wanted to black people –  the courts and the press did not care.

The only way to make them care was to stage mass protests. She helped to do this first as part of SNCC and then the Communist Party. She joined the Communist Party in July 1968 by paying 50 cents in dues. From her study of philosophy she found they had the best-grounded ideas and from her experience of Cuba they were the only ones who proved they could overthrow racism.

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Linda Harrison

linda40Linda Harrison (1945- ) is an American actress. She is world-famous, though not by name, for one part in one film where she spoke no lines at all: she played Nova, Charlton Heston’s girlfriend in “Planet of the Apes” (1968). She was also in “Beneath the Planet of the Apes” (1970) where she said just one word: “Taylor!”, the name of Heston’s character.

linda43I think she is one of the most beautiful white women ever. I was reminded of her when I was on Zaius Nation the other day.

She grew up in Berlin, Maryland on the Delmarva Peninsula. In the early 1960s she won a string of beauty contests in Maryland, becoming Miss Maryland in 1965 – and coming close to winning Miss USA.

In 1965 she came to New York to become a model and maybe an actress. She did a screen test for 20th Century Fox and landed a seven-year contract!

In 1966 she played a cheerleader twice on the television show “Batman” and was in a Jerry Lewis film, “Way… Way Out”.

linda04In 1967 she was in “A Guide for the Married Man”: she appears for five minutes with blonde hair but says no lines. She also became the first woman ever to play Wonder Woman for television (the show failed).

In 1968 she was in “Planet of the Apes”. Again no lines, but this time there was a good reason: her character lives in a world where apes talk and humans do not!

linda06About playing Nova she says:

I felt very intuitive that my particular personality and nature were like Nova. Automatically, I’d say that’s about 80% of the part. The director, the producer and the writer talked with me about her, and they described her as “sub-human.” We hadn’t really had an actress play “sub-human” before. Nova’s not like Raquel Welch’s character in “One Million Years B.C.” (1966). She was more primitive because of the apes’ suppression. We played it by ear and experimented. It was really a moment-to-moment thing.

The trope is Nubile Savage, kissing cousin of the Jungle Princess.

linda51In 1969 she played a regular character on the television show “Bracken’s World”, which was cancelled in the second season. About this time she made the cover of Cosmopolitan magazine and became friends with editor Helen Gurley Brown.

Also in 1969 she married Richard Zanuck, a producer whose father ran Fox. After “Bracken’s World” Harrison dropped out of sight to become a mother to two sons, Harrison and Dean. She divorced in 1978.

She later appeared in some other films, like “Airport 1975″ (1974) and “Cocoon” (1985), but nothing to top Nova.

She almost played Roy Scheider’s wife in “Jaws” (1975). Her husband produced “Jaws” and wanted her for the part, but unfortunately he was overruled by the head of Universal who put in his own wife instead.

Harrison appeared briefly in Tim Burton’s 2001 remake of “Planet of the Apes” as Woman In Cart.

These days you can still see her at science fiction conventions!

linda05linda07linda21linda22linda30linda32linda41linda50

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Forty years ago this weekend, at the height of the Vietnam War, guitar great Jimi Hendrix played the national anthem at a concert in upstate New York. He appeared Monday morning at the very end of the three-day concert when many of the 400,000 concert-goers had already left. Hendrix came on after Sha Na Na. Hendrix had made his name in America two years before at the Monterey Pop Festival. In another year and a month Hendrix would be dead. He was a shooting star across our sky.

Jimi Hendrix was not particularly anti-war at the time. In 1967 he even did a radio spot urging young men to serve in the army, as he had done in the early 1960s.

He was probably attracted to “The Star-Spangled Banner” mainly as a musical challenge to see what he could do with a well-worn piece of music that had lost its freshness. He did the same to “God Save the Queen”, “Little Drummer Boy”, “Auld Lang Syne” and “Silent Night”.

Hendrix performed “Red House” at the same concert. His E string breaks during the song but he carries on and does the rest of the song without it. “Because he is that awesome,” as my son puts it.

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