pictures at a revolution


On July 4, 1965, Jane Fonda and her husband-to-be, Roger Vadim, had a party in their oceanfront home in Malibu and brought together, probably for the first time, old Hollywood and what would come to be known as the new Hollywood. Henry Fonda roasted a pig on one side of the house while the Byrds, hired by his son, Peter, played on the other. The guest list ran from William Wyler and Sam Spiegel to the then barely employed Jack Nicholson and Dennis Hopper. Lucky attendees might have glimpsed Sidney Poitier and Gene Kelly instructing Vadim’s little girl in tap-dancing, or Darryl Zanuck and George Cukor staring dumbstruck at a barefoot hippie nursing her baby.

The surreal wonder of American culture at such a pivot point permeates Mark Harris’s “Pictures at a Revolution: Five Movies and the Birth of the New Hollywood,” which focuses on the nominees for the Academy Award for best picture of 1967: “Bonnie and Clyde,” “The Graduate,” “Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner,” “In the Heat of the Night” (the eventual winner) and “Doctor Dolittle.” Yes, you read that last title correctly. For Harris, a columnist at Entertainment Weekly, that array is not just a historical “collage of the American psyche” but also well beyond diverse, “almost self-contradictory”; a movie like “The Graduate” was seemingly designed to demolish the values on display in “Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner.” The generational divide could not have been starker, and the central issue was what an American movie was supposed to be.

more from the NY Times Book Review here.