Flicker Of Change

Mark Harris’ account of the making of the five “Best Picture” nominees from 1967 is an epic tale of art, business and character. The films represent old Hollywood’s formulaic approach and devotion to past success (Doctor Dolittle), it’s frustrations in attempts at relevance (Guess Who’s Coming To Dinner), the obstacles it faced in coming up with something truly innovative (Bonnie and Clyde, The Graduate) and its successes it spite of itself (In the Heat of the Night). Slow to respond to the desires of its audiences and resistant to new ideas and faces, Hollywood of the 1960s is portrayed as a giant dragged screaming into the future (has anything changed?). Richard Fleischer, Stanley Kramer and other established, mainstream directors give ground to progressives Arthur Penn and Norman Jewison and others weaned on the French New Wave while upstart theater director Mike Nichols challenges them all. Harris’ narrative is masterfully woven from subject and theme as well as the colorful threads of the various principals. The book can be enjoyed simply for it personalities: a persistent yet insecure Warren Beatty, the fearful, self-conscious and beautiful Faye Dunaway, Rex Harrison’s drunken self-obsession, the perseverance of Dustin Hoffman, Sidney Poitier’s dilemma as the only major black film star, Katherine Hepburn’s mothering of Spencer Tracy, Tracy’s alcoholism and physical decline. Its backdrop is the uneasy alliance between creativity and commerce, America’s racial struggles and a society ready to change and not sure how to go about it. Part cultural study, part juicy gossip, Pictures is a must for those interested in the past and future of cinema. And aren’t we all?—Cabbage Rabbit

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