“The Best Comedy of the Year!” 1960’s

Based on how long it has taken me to do the necessary research for this, my final decade-based installment about how many “great” comedies can reasonably be expected in any given year, it would be easy to assume that the concept of comedy as generational is a winner. Well…maybe. But that would ignore the fact that I have identified here several truly great film comedies which to my eyes and ears hold up no matter what age you are. Some others may depend a little more on your own context and tastes. There certainly are some comedies I have subjected myself to which have aged badly. Not even Lee Marvin and Lee J Cobb could keep my attention on In Like Flint, and if The Ladies Man really is among the best Jerry Lewis has to offer, then I’m really glad I didn’t see one of his “stinkers.” Even some of the really good movies are prisoners of the age, incorporating mildly painful pop culture references and jokes which don’t always land so many years later. Still more perfectly good films like The Graduate, Alfie, and Never on Sunday mysteriously get listed in various places as comedies, when they are clearly dramas.

But these articles are supposed to be more about the movies I do like…so let’s try to focus on those.

1959 – Some Like It Hot


How could I possibly cover film comedy year-by-year all the way back to 1960 and stop so tantalizingly close to one of the greats of the genre? Director Billy Wilder’s classic cross-dressing gangster era joke factory is so iconic and special that if you haven’t seen it yet, you should just log off now and go find it…well…read the rest of this article and then log off and go find it. If you go looking at a video store (you know, if you live in 1995 and video stores are still the thing) just ask the clerk for the movie that the American Film Institute named as the best comedy of all time…in 2000. Okay, so my scenario hits a snag there. Aside from the notoriously snappy direction of Wilder, and the screenplay by his legendary conspirator I.A.L. Diamond, Some Like it Hot boasts remarkably charming performances by some of the all-time charmers, Tony Curtis, Jack Lemmon, and Marilyn Monroe. When hapless musicians Lemmon and Curtis accidentally witness the famous St. Valentine’s Day massacre, they flee snowy Chicago for what they assume will be the friendlier haven of Florida’s beaches as part of an all-girl band. They do so as two of the less convincing women you’ll see, which just adds to the fun. The famous final last line is “Nobody’s perfect,” but Some Like it Hot is pretty darn close.

Other notable 1959 comedies- The Mouse That Roared

1960 – Make Mine Mink

This is actually the spot that I had penciled in ahead of time for another Wilder/Diamond/Lemmon team-up, The Apartment. Then I popped in my copy to give it another look and was surprised to find that it’s not very funny. Mind you, I’d already seen it many times and I count it as a favorite. Perhaps the film’s cast and promotional materials had me fooled all along, but that is one cynical workplace romance flick. I still adore it, but I was looking for something different for these articles. What I found was the criminally obscure British comedy Make Mine Mink, starring the gap-toothed wonder Terry-Thomas. The otherwise little-known state-side cast populates a modest set of flats, living little hum-drum lives until an unfortunate gift lends some excitement, and…leads to the group (Terry-Thomas as an overbearing, mildly bumbling ex-military man joining a charitable senior citizen, a mousey spinster, and a boisterous battle-axe) becoming a gang of thieves specializing in absconding with mink coats. Make Mine Mink is the kind of deceptively strong popular art that makes you think “why isn’t everything else this good? It shouldn’t be so hard!” And you’re at least half right. The truth is that comedy that is both this light and this sharp is not easy to achieve at all. The fact that they make it look easy is a testament to the quality of the artists involved. With all of the “research” I did trying to find comedies which deserved the title “best of the year,” Make Mine Mink is my big discovery. It is available through Netflix. Go get it.

Other notable 1960 comedies- The Bellboy– Thank goodness I decided to take a look at this after having such a bad experience with The Ladies Man. Jerry Lewis displays the likability, tight comic timing, and attention to detail here which made him a star. The Bellboy does manage to fizzle a little as it runs on, but there are enough real laughs to truly recommend it.

1961 – One, Two, Three


Boy, were Wilder and Diamond on a hot streak! The reverent treatment which their ’59 & ’60 offerings (Some Like it Hot The Apartment)  get from everyone including me appears to dissipate for absolutely no good reason when 1961 arrives with the comic cold war caper One, Two, Three. Maybe everybody was just tired of them by that point. Maybe the politics contained in it turned some people off. Maybe folks were disappointed not to get Jack Lemmon again. Maybe the title was hard to tell apart from the showing times in the newspaper. For whatever reason, a wildly energetic, entertaining, and hilarious comedy by a legendary director and writer which stars a very famous actor has been overlooked. The plot concerns a Coca-Cola executive played by James Cagney who has been relegated to West Berlin and must think fast when the boss’s visiting daughter suddenly marries a strident communist played by the immortal Horst Buchholz (The Magnificent Seven). One, Two, Three is fast and furious, requiring an attentive audience with nimble minds. That’s not to say that it’s overly intellectual, just that you probably don’t want to be folding laundry or doing the taxes while it’s on. If someone else in the room starts asking questions about the plot and characters early on, please pause the movie and send them out of the room. They will ruin your viewing experience.

Other notable 1961 comedies- The AbsentMinded Professor

1962 – The Music Man


Okay, so here’s where things may get a little contentious. Meredith Wilson’s The Music Man is one of the most beloved musical comedies of the American theatre. It is delightful and funny, with great hummable tunes and a black streak running through it a mile wide. But does it really belong on this list? If we open this list up to every delightful musical comedy that graced the screen in the 1960’s this could become an entirely different list. I thought long and hard and screened lots of more traditional screen comedies looking for something else to feature, but nothing else measured up to Robert Preston’s signature role. Preston’s speaking and singing voice pops off the screen at you, and he puts it to deliciously expressive use, smirking, declaring, protesting, and seducing with just the slightest tilting or drawling of a syllable. It is one of the most perfect and possessive performances ever given by an actor. His grip on the character was so strong, in fact, that Cary Grant famously turned down the role when it was time to transplant it from stage to screen, saying “nobody could do that role as well as Bob Preston.” We are all the beneficiaries of Cary Grant’s smart understanding of his own limitations. Also, Shirley Jones and Buddy Hackett are nothing to sneeze at.

That Harold Hill coulda been quite a politician if his morals weren’t too high.

Other notable 1962 comedies- That Touch of Mink Pleasant enough, and with some fun scenes, but clearly not stupendous because it couldn’t beat out a musical when I tried hard to let it.

1963 – It’s a Mad Mad Mad Mad World


It’s A Mad Mad Mad Mad World is one of the film comedies my father introduced me to when I was a kid. On my first viewing I had difficulty taking the slapstick violence lightly enough. Then I sat down to watch some Bugs Bunny and realized that what was going on with Jonathan Winters and Phils Silvers, and Buddy Hackett, and Mickey Rooney, and Terry-Thomas, and Sid Caesar, etc, etc, etc was no different than what was happening to Daffy Duck and Yosemite Sam. Once I relaxed and stopped taking it so seriously, I was able to focus on the madcap wonderfulness of it all. IAMMMMW was the original epic all-star chase comedy, and none of its imitators has been able to match its hilarity or success (it was the #2 film at the box office in 1963). Most of the top comics of the time show up, either in leads (Milton Berle, Ethel Merman) or in cameos (Don Knotts, Jerry Lewis). Spencer Tracy also has a starring role as the police captain who is tracking the greedy parade of motorists to the location of promised hidden loot. That all of this fuss is motivated by $350,000 just shows how inflation has gone over the last 50 years. But a good pratfall is timeless.

There’s also some tightly crafted spoken humor:

Other notable 1963 comedies- The Pink Panther If I was basing my choices just on the final 20 minutes of movies, this original Clouseau comedy might be at the top of the whole list. Its final stanza is as hilarious and elegantly zany as film comedy gets. Unfortunately, there’s also the mostly tedious first hour and a half which sets up that brilliant last 20 minutes. Yes, you do have to sit through it.

1964 – Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb

Instead of The Pink Panther, this is the Peter Sellers comedy which stands like a giant near, if not at, the top of the heap. Smartly satirical, serious, but hysterically funny, Dr. Strangelove is both historically important and chaotically irreverent. With documentary-like black and white scenes building to ridiculous, but honest conclusions, the movie’s visual style is not just stylistically appropriate, but does the job of set-up man for its talented cast. Peter Sellers (The Pink Panther, The Party, Being There) plays a trio of very different roles, British air officer Lionel Mandrake, who uncovers a shocking threat to the world’s safety, American President Merkin Muffley who must deal with an emotional Soviet leader, and the titular Dr. Strangelove, a comic creation who is slyly held in reserve until the proceedings are just short of getting out of hand. He originally had planned on playing bombardier pilot Major Kong, but wisely ceded the role to the hilarious Slim Pickens (Blazing Saddles). George C. Scott (Patton, The Hustler) and Sterling Hayden (The Killing, The Godfather) also contribute career-defining performances as military men with earnest, but misguided instincts. Director Stanley Kubrick initially intended the film to end with an enormous pie fight, but thankfully allowed for a more legitimate ending to the presented insanity, and created a masterpiece.

Other notable 1964 comedies- A Shot in the DarkMary Poppins (letting musicals in really does cause trouble, doesn’t it?), and The Americanization of Emily (no guffaws to be had, but this Paddy Chayefsky script is so darkly cynical and intellectually engaging, that I give it my highest recommendation as a comedy you will not laugh at)

1965 – The Great Race

7iCZddqVchGyxkmnjiSUpiR7XCMBlake Edwards’ retro auto car race comedy has its detractors, and some will point to a different comedy from the same year, Those Magnificent Men in their Flying Machines, as superior. While that film has its charms, I personally prefer the pleasures of seeing Tony Curtis, Natalie Wood, and Jack Lemmon in cartoony roles. A good friend of mine is so taken with Curtis as The Great Leslie that he has a hard time accepting him in unsympathetic parts like The Boston Strangler and Sweet Smell of Success. I don’t fully agree with him on that, but Curtis is pretty indelible as Leslie, especially as he strides through an enormous pie fight in a white outfit without getting hit. When the four-day shoot necessary for the pie fight ended, director Blake Edwards was immediately barraged with pies. Lemmon features in a pair of outlandish roles, including as the main heavy, the ridiculous mustache-twirling Professor Fate, with his sidekick Max, played by Peter Falk. He also plays the jovial tyrant of a small kingdom the competitors happen into. Much like It’s A Mad Mad Mad Mad World, The Great Race requires a suspension of the normal rules of physics and human endurance, but it’s a delightful, fluffy romp, great for a rainy day in.

Other notable 1965 comedies- nope.

1966 – The Fortune Cookie


Yes, you’re seeing this right. It’s yet another Billy Wilder movie starring Jack Lemmon. But this is the one which made Walter Matthau into a comedy star on the big screen (Lemmon had insisted on him over such stars as Frank Sinatra and Jackie Gleason). His Oscar-winning performance as unscrupulous personal injury lawyer “Whiplash Willie” led to a long distinguished career in film humor. So much so, that younger audiences tend to act puzzled when they see him in one of his dramatic or villainous roles (like in Fail-Safe or JFK). Matthau plays Jack Lemmon’s brother-in-law, who convinces him to feign a more serious injury when he is accidentally run over on the sidelines of a Cleveland Browns football game while taking footage as a camera man. The machinations Willy puts in place and counters when the insurance company smells a rat are wonderfully entertaining, with the shrewd P.I.s snooping on the pair offering plenty of fun, too. Lemmon and Matthau would go on to team up for a total of ten films together, including Neil Simon’s The Odd Couple, which Matthau had played in on Broadway and the 1993 comeback success Grumpy Old Men.

Other notable 1966 comedies- The Russians are Coming, The Russians are Coming is a cold war goof with a little of the spirit of It’s a Mad Mad Mad Mad World  and The Mouse that Roared, starring Alan Arkin and Carl Reiner. I got a very strong recommendation for Cary Grant’s last film Walk, Don’t Run, but try as I might, I could not find a copy.

1967 – How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying


How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying is another one of those deceptively charming musicals of the era that features main characters with less than pristine motivations or methods. In this case, we’re talking about J. Pierpont Finch, a backstabbing sycophant intent on quickly rising up the ranks of middle management in a Manhattan high-rise company called World-Wide Wickets (what do they make? Wickets, I guess). Finch is played by a charmingly smarmy kid with a face like a jack-o-lantern, Robert Morse. Morse can currently be seen as the senior partner of Sterling, Cooper & Partners on AMC’s Mad Men. As I’ve mentioned elsewhere, when Morse first showed up on Mad Men, it looked like stunt casting to me. There aren’t many actors with a more immediate connection to the underbelly of 1960’s business culture. While there is plenty to recommend about H2$, the absolutely unhinged performance which Morse brought from the stage to the screen is chief amongst them. He does truly bizarre things which the camera only really catches about half the time. This is almost certainly due to his lack of understanding about how to shoot a movie at the time, but somehow it only heightens the delight of watching him do his thing.

Other notable 1967 comedies- Bedazzled is far superior to the Brendan Frasier remake, but still not as great as its own reputation. I will recommend it for a couple of very funny scenes, and for one of the most black-hearted endings I’ve ever seen in a comedy.  If I was naming the best film of 1967, The Graduate might fit the bill, but I have to say that I was shocked to see so many people listing it as a comedy. Meanwhile, Neil Simon’s Barefoot in the Park starts out strong, but loses me about halfway through.

1968 – The Producers


Mel Brook’s directorial debut, The Producers, is quite simply one of the funniest movies ever made, boasting bravura comic performances by (above) Zero Mostel, Kenneth Mars, and Gene Wilder. For the uninitiated, the plot centers on a down on his luck theatre producer who pairs with his meek accountant to defraud investors by putting up a sure-fire flop, the Nazi propaganda musical “Springtime for Hitler.” Although many early reviews reacted to The Producers with the same revulsion as the audience is supposed to reserve for Franz Liebkind’s ode to the Fuhrer, the sheer energy and force of etiquette-busting and the sense that you are seeing on screen the intersection between traditional borscht belt humor and modern transgressive comedy have made it an indispensable piece of the history of American funny. Not even a badly out of date psychedelic Warhol turn by Dick Shawn can dampen proceedings, as hilarious set piece after set piece drops on our heads like they’re falling off a relentlessly bizarre conveyor belt. This is what we want out of comedy. Jokes. Lots of jokes.

Other notable 1968 comedies- Unlike other Neil Simon scripts, The Odd Couple is engaging and humorous from start to finish, with two of the great comedy stars of the time giving great performances. In most other years, it would’ve taken the prize. The Peter Sellers vehicle The Party is a very funny take on 1960s culture and will provide some good laughs.

1969 – Cactus Flower


Since he’s a big fan of Ingrid Bergman, I’ll be interested to hear Lebeau’s take on this one. For any fan of cinema, it’s hard to get the image of a young Bergman out of your mind. But leave no doubt, despite sharing the screen with the “it” girl of that particular moment, Bergman delivers one of her most wonderfully nuanced and empathetic performances in this fun little rom com. The fact that she and a young Goldie Hawn are fussing over Walter Matthau is a little hard to swallow, but the guy is one of the sharpest comedic actors I’ve ever seen, and he manages to make it work. For anyone who had the misfortune to see the Adam Sandler/Jennifer Aniston flick Just Go with It first, the premise will be familiar. A medical professional enlists his long-suffering receptionist to play the estranged wife his current love interest insists on meeting. Don’t let the missed opportunity of that movie chase you off of this one. Screenwriter I.A.L. Diamond and the expert cast have elevated what could have otherwise been a terribly tired story. Hawn’s Oscar win has been one of those which some observers have scoffed at. I am not one of those scoffing. Her remarkably immediate, expressive, and honest performance gives the movie an energy it just can’t do without. That said, check out the topper line on this scene.

Other notable 1969 comedies- Take the Money and Run This was a very close call, and on a different day, I might have chosen this early wacky Woody Allen picture with plenty of great gags. I’ll also recommend Putney Swope, not because it’s particularly funny, but because it is such an interesting document of its time with a fantastic premise. It has to be seen to be believed.

So that’s the 60’s-

I found them to be a mixed bag. There are comedic masterpieces here, but there was also a lot of terrible mediocrity. Instead of trying to wrap this series up here, I plan on doing a full ranking of the films I’ve named, with a “Mendoza line” below which the listed comedies are Not great, but maybe just decent or good. Some simple math should reflect about how many great comedies can be expected in any given year, with the statistically significant sample of about 55 years worth of funny pictures. It’s not a high number.


Posted on July 15, 2013, in Awards, Best Comedy of the Year, comedy, Movies, reviews, trailers. Bookmark the permalink. 38 Comments.

  1. You hit the nail on the head with Bedazzled; it’s good but nowhere near as good as hearing about it led me to believe. (I do love the part in the convent, though.) I’m glad you highlighted One, Two, Three and The Fortune Cookie since I feel like they’re often overlooked amongst the many other gems of Billy Wilder’s career, though for 1965 I’m surprised you only came up with one title. If the Beatles movie Help! counts, then that’s definitely among the best of that year.

    Some other comedies of the 60s that stand out for me: Bells Are Ringing (if you like musicals), The Devil’s Eye (if you like Ingmar Bergman), Lover Come Back (even better than That Touch of Mink, which I love), The World of Henry Orient (although there’s a good portion of drama in it), Batman (which I consider comedy because that’s how they treated it, tongue-in-cheek), How to Steal a Million (just a lot of fun), Play Time (I love Jacques Tati’s films) and Le Grand Amour (by the wonderful Pierre Etaix).


    • Thanks so much for your comments!
      I did consider Help! There are some funny and clever moments in it, but my overall experience when seeing it is one of disconnect between the Beatles music and the comedy in the movie. Whenever one was happening, I was sort of wishing for the other and vice versa. This makes it sound like a perfect movie, but the result was sort of bothersome for me. I know these are not popular views, but I have never courted popularity.
      Bells are Ringing is fun, but you wouldn’t believe how hard I tried to not include musicals. That’s the best explanation I can give for leaving it out.


      • I’m a Beatles fan. But I always preferred the latter-day shaggy Beatles to the ultimate boy band that first invaded America. I can appreciate those films and the impact they had on pop culture. They practically invented MTV. But I think if you weren’t there to experience Beatlemania in person, the movies lose something.


  2. So well written and fun to read. Most of these movies comprise long ago memories of everyone’s parents going crazy about them. When they showed up on TV, we were all sent to bed and the parents and their friends still went crazy over them. Going to check out a couple of these titles starting with Some Like it Hot.
    What I’m struck by: Audience attention span over the years. Who is willing today to sit through an hour and a half to get to 20 rewarding minutes? Would audiences today be able to discover South Pacific or The King and I? You can definitely see the influence of decreased attention spans over the decades, in this series. Very thought provoking. Interesting tidbit I learned, that Just Go With It wasn’t an original premise. A little disappointing, but then maybe not much today is original anyway. Evidently you aren’t a fan of that particular “remake” but to each his or her own? Finally, one glaring omission… Breakfast at Tiffany’s?


    • I appreciate your kind words, RB!
      Perhaps it is a short attention span which leads to the cheap unmotivated potty humor and fascination with idiots which permeates most of today’s comedies. Clearly, I’m no prude. I love people like Mel Brooks and Monty Python. I also started off as a big fan of Judd Apatow’s output, but somewhere along the way his influence stopped being good enough.
      Lots of great movies have been remakes. A lot of good art involves theft. Just Go With It was certainly better than many of Sandler’s movies. In fact, it was good enough that I do count it as a missed opportunity. Unfortunately, the girlfriend character, while gorgeous and sweet, was a pretty boring character and did nothing to match the legacy Goldie Hawn had established. Also, there was a little too much of that unnecessary potty humor. Send me back in time and maybe I could fix it.
      I know a lot of people love Breakfast at Tiffany’s. I’m a big fan of Audrey Hepburn, but I never found this movie very funny, and Mickey Rooney’s portrayal of the Japanese neighbor is just shameful.


  3. Bobby Dazzler

    I was disappointed that the otehr live-action Beatles film wasn’t mentioned, especially with the previous comment regarding Help! Hard Day’s Night is one of the most visually influencing film style of all 60s films. Richard Lester’s rapid cut style captures the frenetic life of the Fab Four. It has a the machine gun pace of One, Two, Three, an underated Wilder film and of all of the latterday modern comedies mentioned, Hard Day’s Night captures the a point in time during the 60s without looking dated at all. Its easily my favourite comedy of that decade (1960 to 1969)


  4. Totally agreed, Daffy, re: your comment about the ugly racism in Breakfast at Tiffany’s. There is literally no time in cinematic history where it wasn’t acceptable American marketing strategy to include racism in films. Viewed against that backdrop, in that era it was Asian, today it is anyone of Middle Eastern or Islamic descent. Each time it happens, there is a backlash of sorts and filmmakers adjust to audience expectations.
    Tiffany’s is one of my all time top ten. I had classified it as sort of the precursor to the more modern romcom. I suppose, though, you’re also right in that it isn’t really a funny movie, and even in the funny moments it’s just ripping away at your heartstrings. Even more so for inclusion of one of the most beautiful songs ever written which would have been cut from the movie because the producer didn’t like it but Hepburn stood up to him.
    And, also agree on Barefoot in the Park. It’s worth the space in my collection for those young performances by Fonda and Redford, but it loses focus somewhere in the middle and thus loses the comedy element. It does wrap things up in the end.
    i liked the Beatles movies, as a Beatles fan, but didn’t have strong feelings one way or the other about them as a movie fan.


    • Little story about “Moon River”:
      Henry Mancini wrote the tune based on having heard Hepburn sing something else reasonably well, and kept all of the notes within that range. How impressive is that? Such a lovely melody produced with that sort of self-imposed limitation!


  5. Last Friday I saw pictures being uploaded. I quickly realized they were pictures from 60’s comedies and I got excited. Glad to see the final decade covered! Great series and I look forward to the wrap-up. Would you consider giving another genre the same treatment?

    As for the comedies of the 60s, I am obviously less familiar with the films of this decade than I am the decades in which I have lived. I have actually seen quite a few of the films mentioned here. But I watched most of them a long, long time ago.

    I should really rewatch Some Like It Hot. I remember watching it in my room on a little black and white TV in my high school days. I was in the process of discovering classic cinema. At the time, I was watching everything I could starring Marilyn Monroe. I have to admit that as an actress, she left me underwhelmed. I really experienced the movie through that lens so it didn’t make much of an impression.

    The Music Man is one of my dad’s favorite movies. I have seen it in bits and pieces. I don’t think I have ever watched the whole thing from start to finish. But even watching it out of sequence, Preston’s performance stands out. I remember seeing him for the first time in the 1980’s sci fi flick, The Last Starfighter. They made such a big deal out of his involvement which I didn’t really get at the time. Now I get it.

    I saw IAMMMMW on New Year’s Eve while babysitting. It was kind of a perfect way to watch it. The kids were asleep and I had nothing but time to kill. It’s another one of my dad’s favorites, but I didn’t know that until after I saw it. I don’t know that I have the fortitude to watch the whole thing again.

    I used to love the Pink Panther movies. But I preferred the later, zanier sequels to the relatively subdued early entries in the franchise. Never understood the point of carrying on without Sellers. He was the series.

    I dare anyone to argue against Dr. Strangelove. Mary Poppins is a really good film, but I agree it isn’t quite funny enough to be a front-runner for best comedy. Julie Andrews is, of course, awesome. And I was always a big fan of Dick Van Dyke’s physical comedy in the film. But I know his accent divides some audiences. Looking forward to Saving Mr. Banks.

    The picture you posted of The Great Race has grabbed my attention. I may have to check that out.

    I don’t think I have ever seen The Fortune Cookie. If I have, I have forgotten it!

    I also never put two and two together that Burt Cooper starred in How to Succeed in Business… holy cow!

    I saw Bedazzled late one night in my college dorm room, freshman year. Neither my roommate nor myself had any idea what we were watching. We were just flipping channels and it caught our attention. I didn’t actually find out what the name of the movie was until I did some research later.

    I do think you could classify The Graduate as a comedy, though it is clearly more dramatic than comedic. I remember my extremely strict father rented it one day from the video store and compelled us to watch it with him. He had forgotten that the entire movie was about sex. He said all he remembered was the soundtrack. I was way too young to get it at the time, but it has grown on me or I have grown into it.

    The Producers has been one of my favorite movies for I don’t know how long. I taped it on TV one day back when we had a Betamax and I watched the hell out of that movie. I realize that Gene Wilder made a lot of mediocre films late in his career. But back in the day, he was brilliant.

    I went through my Ingrid Bergman period in high school. It started my junior year with a screening of Notorious at out local art house. I was already a big fan of Cary Grant and Alfred Hitchcock. But Bergman in Notorious knocked me for a loop. I chased down every one of her movies I could find. I’m pretty sure I have seen all of her Hollywood movies. I was even able to track down some of her better known foreign films. It required a lot more effort to do this sort of thing in the Blockbuster era.

    My senior year, I read her autobiography and the David Spoto-written biography. And I made a fifteen-minute video about her for the National History Day competition. Our project ranked #1 in the state. As a result, my friends and I went to DC to present our little documentary. I remember we pointed a video camera at a TV in order to get our film “clips”. It gave the footage a weird glow that sort of resembled film projection. Some of the movies had been colorized thanks to Ted Turner. So I adjusted the TV to remove the colorization.

    I didn’t actually see Cactus Flower until college. Moving to a new town meant all new video stores with new movies to check out. By then, I had seen some of her later films. So it wasn’t too distracting to see a middle-aged Bergman. Even so, it’s hard to erase the iconic image of her circa Notorious and Casablanca.

    My memories of the movie are really fuzzy. I remember being really impressed with the performances and that they elevated the movie. I think I was slightly bored with some of the rom com cliches. We have debated Hawn’s Oscar win here before. And like you, I am in the camp that appreciates her light touch. It’s the only Goldie Hawn performance that has ever impressed me.

    Man, I loved Take the Money and Run back in the day. Same as The Producers, I had a Betamax tape I watched over and over again. It was the start of a long obsession with Woody Allen. (That didn’t come out right.)


    • A great write-up, going over this list there were more classic comedies during the 60’s than I first thought. I love Terry-Thomas in It’s A Mad, Mad World and How To Murder Your Wife, but I confess I had never heard of Make Mine Mink, I’ll definitely be adding that to my must-watch list, thanks for the heads up.

      Some Like It Hot really is one of the greatest comedies of all time, I can’t recommend a watch (or re-watch) enough. When it comes to 60’s comedy, I’m a big fan of Jack Lemmon during this era, with The Apartment, Irma La Douce, How To Murder Your Wife, The Fortune Cookie, and The Odd Couple all being favorites of mine.


      • daffystardust

        Lemmon was a real treasure. His late dramatic work in films like Glengarry Glen Ross and Short Cuts just made me appreciate him even more.


    • Another way to say it is that J Pierpont Finch is the J.B. Biggley of Mad Men.

      Ah, The Last Starfighter! I went to see that movie on my very first date with a real live girl!


      • Nice. My first date came substantially later than 1984. I was a “late bloomer”.

        We went to see TLS at a sneak preview that summer. It was showing with Star Trek 3. Me, my brother and a neighborhood friend convinced our parents to drop us off. The neighbor kid’s dad dropped us off and my dad was supposed to pick us up. Neither dad could stomach sitting through 2 sci fi movies.

        TLS showed first and the crowd loved it. I was sure it would be a big hit. Our friend ate too much candy and got sick. So he called his dad to pick him up. His dad offered to drive us home as well. But hell no, I wasn’t going. I wanted to see Star Trek 3. Spock was still out there waiting to be found.

        My dad finally came and picked us up. He was very put out that we hadn’t accepted the ride back two hours earlier. The idea that I should have skipped the second feature never crossed my mind.


  6. I will never tire of watching comedic performers like Jack Lemmon. In the pre-botox era it never fails to amaze me what a gifted actor or actress could do with facial expressions alone. I also love that without a lot of action and no special effects, the scripts had to be good or there was no movie.


  7. What’s motion capture? Is that like the Polar Express technology? I sure hope that’s not the wave of the future. PE was clever and Tom Hanks did an amazing job but I prefer actual humans.. and facial expressions!


    • It is. Or Golum in LotR. Any character played by Andy Serkis really.

      I’m more than half kidding when I say that.

      But I wouldn’t be too surprised if one day in the distant future, actors become mostly irrelevant in big budget movies. It’s getting harder and harder to disnguish live action from animation.


  8. someone at work just took their kid to see “Frozen” and was pretty well amazed with the technology. my kid wants to see it too, but i miss “Some like it hot.”


    • I am not encouraged by the ads for “Frozen.” That goofy snowman is sure to irritate me throughout. It’s too bad, because the aesthetics could have otherwise been appealing.


      • Don’t believe the marketing. The snowman is barely in the movie. He doesn’t show up until more than half way through. It is really a classic fairy tale (Hans Christian Andersen’s The Snow Queen) adapted in a classic Disney musical tradition. Olaf the Snowman is no more annoying than any other Disney sidekick. I actually found him both adorable and hysterical. Yes, I came to love that little snowman and (spoilers) I was glad to see he did not melt at the end (end spoilers).

        I don’t want to oversell Frozen. But it is really, really good. Probably my favorite animated movie since Up. And the best songs since Ashman and Menken. You should go see it. Disney fan that you are, you will enjoy it.


        • I am glad to hear that. The goofy sidekick emphasis in the ads for Princess & the Frog was almost as off-putting. I was not sad when that character stopped showing up in the movie.


        • Princess and the Frog actually did suffer from sidekick-itis. The firefly was especially annoying.

          I don’t know that you’ll be as fond of Olaf as I was, but I don’t think he will ruin the movie for you.


        • Here’s Josh Gad, the voice of Olaf, explaining his character’s role.


        • Josh Gad! Just saw him in “The Internship”!!
          likeable comedy btw.


    • Funny you bring up Frozen. I intend to write about it later today time permitting.

      Frozen is the best Disney animated feature in years. Frankly, Disney Feature Animation has been kicking Pixar’s over-rated butt these last few years.

      Pixar’s last great movie was arguably Toy Story 3 in June 2010. Since then they have release Cars 2 which many consider to be the worst Pixar movie ever made, Brave which is pretty but has a barely adequate story and Monsters University which is the kind of movie you would expect Dreamworks to make.

      Disney has released a pretty stead stream of good to great movies. Arguably, they kicked off their resurgence with Princess and the Frog in 2009. It wasn’t a home run, but a solid base hit. Since then, they have built on their success with Tangled, Wreck It Ralph and Frozen.

      Frozen in particular is a triumph for the company. It can easily go toe to toe with Beauty and the Beast or any of the other animated features from Disney’s second golden age of the late 80s early 90s. It has the same heart of broadway feel as those films but with modern animation techniques.


      • I just got home from seeing Frozen and I have VERY mixed feelings about it.

        The primary story and development of the characters is excellent and so is the environmental design of Arendelle and the ice castle.

        While I liked the characters, the character artwork was not as substantial. Anna’s freckles were nice, but otherwise the characters were not visually unique enough to support their fantastic emotional lives. I kept thinking they reminded me of commercials I’ve seen for Princess Sofia. Maybe that’s my aversion to CG.

        “Let it Go” is an emotional high point, but the music overall was disappointing because it gave no sense that the characters were living some place or time other than now (after setting up the fact that they are in the initial ice working song). There were maybe 2 good melodies, and neither got fully developed into a well constructed song. Some people like this loosey-goosey theatrical style, but I am not one of those people. I usually like songs with verses and bridges and choruses.

        Olaf the snowman did in fact bother me. His song about looking forward to summer was very funny, but we could’ve gotten that in an animated short. He was otherwise completely unnecessary to the story and felt like an intrusion to me every time he was on screen. The only worse sidekicks I can think of off the top of my head are that firefly in Princess and the Frog and the gargoyles in Hunchback of Notre Dame.

        The plot twist was very well done (though I did the character math and had kind of figured it out) and I really liked the subversion of the “kiss of true love” trope.

        The Norway pavilion at EPCOT is already well themed for Frozen, so that’s a score for that park.

        I’d recommend Frozen, but I can’t call it anything close to a classic. Tangled it aint.


        • I was curious to hear your thoughts, so thanks for sharing. I was pretty sure the snowman would be a problem for you. A little surprised to hear you didn’t like the music as much as we did.

          Sophia the First is appointment TV in our house. I didn’t notice the similarities, but I suppose they are there. I don’t think you are quite being fair in the comparison though. The quality of animation is on a completely different scale.

          Most of the things that bothered you didn’t bother me at all. But I can see why they would would not sit well with you. The more I have reflected on Frozen, the more I appreciate it. I need to give it a second viewing to properly appraise it. Based on my first viewing, I like it at least as well as Tangled. And I really liked Tangled a lot.


        • the comparison with Sophia was an exaggeration, but it did go through my mind while I was watching the movie.

          My opinion of CG animation continues to be rather mixed, and the fact that most modern animated characters look like they are made of plastic is disappointing to me. I first noticed it in The Incredibles and thought that it was a sly choice, with an almost action figure quality. As it turns out, it’s just the best they can do. The more comic or exaggerated a character is, the better it reads for me in the current state of the art form.

          The modern style of music and vocals maybe would not have bothered me if they hadn’t established the nature of the setting so well with the ice farmers song.

          I was very moved by the sisters’ relationship and the different results of their isolation. So many movies fail to move me at all, so this was no small thing, I also must cop to the fact that sometimes when a film or artist sets the bar high they will end up suffering with me if they don’t then live up to it. Hunchback of Notre Dame met the same reaction.

          Perhaps a future viewing will soften my criticisms.


        • I figured that was the case with the Sophia comparison. At one point, I remember thinking something along the lines that the character designs were a little generic. They are Disney fantasy characters. Although I think the same could be said of the characters in Tangled. It crossed my mind for a fleeting second, but not enough to bother me.

          I agree about CGI. Especially that more exaggerated characters work better.

          I’m not much of a music guy. But the songs struck me as extremely catchy. It’s rare for me to remember songs after one viewing. But I remembered several songs from Frozen. Let It Go is a stand-out. But the girls have been singing For the First Time in Forever as well. And I sometimes ask the musical question “Would you like to build a snowman?”

          The movie did go the Dreamworks route of mixing modern styles with once upon a time. It’s just the way animation is done today. I can see how it would annoy, but I am accepting.

          I had the same reaction to Hunchback. On first viewing, I was mostly blown away – aside from the horrid gargoyles. They were a disaster. Now, I don’t hold it in very high regard. I don’t know if I have ever watched it all the way through a second time. I’ve caught bits and pieces. I don’t really want to sit down and watch it again.

          Perhaps a second viewing will lower my opinion of Frozen. I think it always takes at least two viewings to get a firm view of a movie. My first impression was very positive, but that could change.


  9. haha… I was going to say, whoever among us sees it first report back, but it looks like that’s going to be Lebeau 🙂


    • Took the girls on Thanksgiving while their mom cleaned. We all enjoyed it. It’s pure Disney. Definitely worth checking out if you enjoy the Disney musical style of animation.


      • Check out this article on Disney’s misleading marketing for Frozen.

        An excerpt:

        Of course, you wouldn’t know any of this based solely on the film’s shrewdly deceptive marketing campaign, which has gone out of its way to avoid even the slightest suggestion that “Frozen” is (a) a musical and (b) about princesses and queens, snowy or otherwise. The billboards show the four human principals covered in a thick frost while giving pride of place to Olaf the snowman, weirdly implying that this comic-relief figure is in fact the protagonist. Faced with that misleading image, a literal whitewash of the film’s actual content, you couldn’t begin to guess what the story’s about, or even that it takes place once upon a time.


  10. We’ll be going at some point 🙂 Thinking this will be in the theatres through December. Interested to hear the musical numbers, nothing replaces the old Disney to me, but willing to keep an open mind/ear.


  11. well, after reading (and re-reading) all these comments I watched a couple of trailers for Frozen. Resigned to the fact that I’m going to have to sit through this, although it doesn’t look there is any problem engaging with it. Really not much of a fan of modern animation. “Let it go” is not my idea of a great song… certainly not annoying, just not all that stirring, The snowman does look obviously sympathetic and cute despite being created with those ungainly exaggerated proportions, and thus I can see the irritant quotient as well. Plus the people often look crosseyed for whatever reason. Give me the Bumble and Yukon any day…for that matter, give me Warner Bros., old style Disney or the Pink panther.


  12. I’ve just come across this series in the past few days. As you say, there were some great comedies in the 1960s. I fully agree with your extending back to 1959 to take in Some Like It Hot (pure comedy gold) and with your excluding The Apartment (great movie, but not really a comedy).

    While all musicals are not comedies, The Music Man is unquestionably a great comedy. Robert Preston got the role of his life as Professor Harold Hill, and although the movie is a little bit “stagey” at times–a common issue with stage musicals being filmed–it’s a must see for Preston’s performance. There are also some other great comic moments like the “Rock Island” opening number.

    I like The Pink Panther but I agree that it has some problems–the first hour and change has far too much of David Niven romancing Claudia Cardinale, and not enough Peter Sellers. But the car chase and the final twist are classic. A Shot in the Dark, which put the focus entirely on Sellers as Clouseau and brought Burt Kwouk and Herbert Lom in as his foils, is by far the best of the Clouseau films.

    And since a few previous comments mentioned The Last Starfighter–that’s worth checking out, partly since Robert Preston is pretty much doing a riff on his Harold Hill character every time he’s onscreen.


    • Thanks for venturing into the back catalog Jestak!

      Based on writing these articles I’ve pretty much come to the conclusion that while there are definitely some obvious comedy classics that are great no matter what, a lot of comedy is generational. If I could find someone to pay me a living wage at it, I would do a huge study on thousands of subjects to try to prove this, but as it stands my current conclusions are merely anecdotal.


      • Just think of how much good we could do if someone would pay our living expenses. If anyone wants to subsidize my blogging with a six-figure salary, I’m all ears.


  13. I’m going to get the jump on the other articles in the comedy series before they’re reposted. For the 60s, there are pretty few comedies that I’ve seen and remember well enough to comment on intelligently. So I’ll knock this one out quickly before turning back to the 80s.


    The Mouse That Roared – I didn’t see the film until several years after I’d read the book. It was all right, it was faithful to the book, but I remember feeling that I didn’t get anything out of it that I hadn’t gotten from the book. The punchline was from the book. Surprise, which can be an important ingredient to comedy, was missing for me.


    The Parent Trap – I liked this one, probably not a contender for best of the year though.


    The Music Man – I’ve seen much of it on TV and liked it, but I’m not sure if I’ve seen all of it (kind of like lebeau).


    Nothing unless you count Disney’s The Sword in the Stone, which I’ve seen in recent years and was frankly disappointed by. Have to wonder what I would have thought as a kid.


    Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb – Deserves all the praise it’s gotten, a truly brilliant, classic comedy and satire.

    Mary Poppins – I only saw this for the first time in recent years, on disc. Although probably way too old to be fully enveloped by its charms, I can’t deny that it’s a great movie.

    Kissin’ Cousins – I saw this Elvis Presley vehicle on TV, and though I don’t think I saw all of it, I saw quite enough- enough to take time out from discussing the best comedies to warn people away from this awful, awful film!


    Viva Maria! – I saw this French film as a kid, and it made enough of an impression that I tracked it down as an adult. Though its charm comes from sex appeal as much as comedy, it delivers on both counts, and I enjoyed it.


    I’ll talk briefly about a couple of films I haven’t even seen!

    Walk, Don’t Run – Like you, I haven’t seen it, but I wouldn’t mind doing so. Despite your enthusiastic recommender, I don’t think it is generally held in that high regard. But even if it doesn’t have laughs, it’ll have the ravishing Samantha Eggar!

    (In fact, it was a box office disappointment whose lack of success helped turn Eggar into a 1960s “what the hell happened to…” case- her time as an It Girl following The Collector turned out to be very short.)

    What’s Up, Tiger Lily? – My father loved this movie, but I’ve only caught brief snippets while flipping through channels.


    The Graduate – I had to see this for a college course, and saw it in a room either alone (except for the videotape projectionist) or with a very small audience. Like you, I took it as a straight drama, and don’t remember laughing once. At lunch the next day, however, other students raved about what a funny movie it was. Though the humor obviously went over my head, I can see how the “you’re trying to seduce me” scene could have been funny to others. And the “one word: plastics” line, which landed with contemporary audiences, doesn’t have the same impact today, since the word “plastic” has lost most of the negative connotations it had in the 60s.


    The Impossible Years – I caught this on TV as a kid, and thought it was very funny. Some years back, I decided to see what people on the internet were saying about this forgotten gem, and found out that the prevailing sentiment is that it was a mediocre, derivative, hackneyed comedy. No idea if I would stick with my initial impression if I saw this again with adult eyes.

    Barbarella – After seeing parts on TV, I finally saw the whole thing a few years ago. It’s quite dated, as the modern taste (including mine) is for a more kick-ass, self-reliant heroine over a damsel who seduces men into saving her from distress. But although I wouldn’t call it a good movie, Jane Fonda is in her glory…


    Support Your Local Sheriff! – I liked this comedy Western, starring the always-charming James Garner.

    Liked by 1 person

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