Nightman’s Top Ten Films Of 1969

Greetings, Glancers! We continue my new series of posts which will detail my favourite films of every year since 1950. Why 1950? Why 10? Why anything? Check out my original post here. As with most of these lists the numbering doesn’t really matter much, though in most cases the Number 1 will be my clear favourite. As I know there are plenty of Stats Nerds out there, I’ll add in some bonus crap at the bottom but the main purpose of these posts is to keep things short. So!

10: Carry On Camping (UK)

9: The Damned (Italy/Germany)

8: They Shoot Horses Don’t They (USA)

7: Marlowe (USA)

6: Easy Rider (USA)

5: Midnight Cowboy (USA)

4: The Italian Job (UK)

3: On Her Majesty’s Secret Service (UK)

2: Butch Cassidy And The Sundance Kid (USA)

1: The Wild Bunch (USA)

How Many Of My Films Were In The Top 10 Grossing Of The Year: Four (Including the top grossing)

How Many Of My Films Were Nominated For the Best Picture Oscar: Two (Including the winner)

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Best Cast – 1969

My Nominations: The Wild Bunch. Midnight Cowboy. Anne Of The Thousand Days. Battle Of Britain. Butch Cassidy And The Cassidy Kid. The Italian Job. Marlowe. Marooned. Oh What A Lovely War. They Shoot Horses Don’t They. True Grit.

As always with this category, we have a bonanza of possibilities, and as always your personal preference may come down to the cast who give the most consistently strong performances regardless of size, or the cast which includes the most big hitters popping up in worthwhile roles.

This year we have a mixture of epics with large and varied casts, to smaller productions with a few main players. The Wild Bunch falls into the first category, a Western which sees the likes of William Holden, Ernest Borgnine, Robert Ryan, Warren Oates, and Strother Martin all giving performances which cover fury, violence, futility, despair, and camaraderie. On the flip side we have Midnight Cowboy with Dustin Hoffman and Jon Voight giving defining performances with Sylvia Miles, Bob Balaban, and Ruth White backing them. BCATSK takes this a little further with Katherine Ross holding her own alongside Robert Redford and Paul Newman – with support from Strother Martin, Cloris Leachman and others.

Anne Of The Thousand Days is another historical costume drama, so as expected you have an ensemble of classically trained actors hamming it up – Richard Burton, Genevieve Bujold, Anthony Quayle, and Irene Papas included. Battle Of Britain went all out in crafting a recognizable ensemble – Laurence Olivier, Ian McShane, Trevor Howard, Michael Caine, Robert Shaw, Susannah York, Christopher Plummer, Curt Jurgens are just a few of the familiar faces popping up in roles of varying degrees. Keeping the end up for the Brits again is Michael Caine in The Italian Job, and joining him are Noel Coward, Benny Hill, John Le Mesurier and many more.

Marlowe is a hard boiled American affair led by James Garner, but Rita Morena, Jackie Coogan, and of course Bruce Lee all appear in memorable roles. Marooned sees Richard Crenna, Gene Hackman, and James Franciscus trapped in space while Gregory Peck tries to bring them back to earth safely, while True Grit features John Wayne as a pirate cowboy. Strother Martin is there again of course, along with Kim Darby, Dennis Hopper, Robert Duvall, and Glen Campbell. They Shoot Horses Don’t They features Susannah York again, with Jane Fonda, Bruce Dern, Gig Young, Bonnie Bedalia and other dancing around and getting sweaty and stressed, while Oh What A Lovely War throws as many stars at us as possible – Miss Yorke once more (though Strother Martin is notably absent), a bunch of Redgraves, Ralph Richardson, Olivier, Maggie Smith, John Gielgud, Ian Holm etc etc. Take your pick. My winner is for the ensemble with the most meaningful performances.

My Winner: The Wild Bunch

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Let us know in the comments which film of 1969 you would choose as the winner of Best Cast, along with your reasons!

 

Best Stunt Work – 1969

My Nominations: Butch Cassidy And The Sundance Kid. The Wild Bunch. The Battle Of Britain. On Her Majesty’s Secret Service. Marlowe. The Italian Job. Downhill Racer.

BCATSK is of course known for for the cliff jump scene – impressive at the time but it has of course been surpassed many times in the decades since. There are plenty of other great stunts and action in the movie, from the gripping train introduction to the various shoot outs, fights, and even Paul Newman’s whimsical bike antics. Similarly, The Wild Bunch is filled with shoot outs, more train action, and horse falls aplenty. Battle Of Britain has all the explosions and action you would expect from a war film – a Guy Hamilton war film no less, but where it raises the game is with the exceptional aerial set pieces – some of the best you’ll ever see in terms of scale, pace, and realism. On Her Majesty’s Secret Service I have always felt to be one of the more action-lite Bond movies, but it has its fair share of stunt too – the Piz Gloria ski slope scenes are memorable. Speaking of ski stunts, Downhill Racer also has excellent snow action, though the focus is much more on realism than Bond’s fun and games. Marlowe’s nomination goes almost single-handedly to Bruce lee, whose demolition of James Garner’s office is both humourous and a sign of things to come for the Chinese star – though there is also standard gun action towards the end of the film. Finally, The Italian Job has car chases galore which have become iconic, at least in Britain.

My Winner: Battle of Britain

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Let us know in the comments which film of 1969 you think deserves the Best Stunt Work award!

 

Best Writing (Adapted) – 1969

Official Nominations: Midnight Cowboy. Anne Of The Thousand Days. Goodbye Columbus. They Shoot Horses Don’t They. Z.

As the turbulent 1960s drew to a close, filmmakers were continuing to trawl through recent and distant history’s literary works for something they could transform into a cinematic experience which modern audiences would want to see. Waldo Salt’s adaptation of Midnight Cowboy stays roughly in touch with the source material by James Leo Herlihy – keeping the tone of outsiders finding companionship where they could – it proved to be a hit with critics and movie-goers, picking up the official win. They Shoot Horses, Don’t They is a more absurd and existential take on American culture, with James Poe and Robert Thompson’s script taking the key ideas and themes of McCoy’s original but allowing room for the actors to transform the characters and for Pollack to accentuate the mania. Based on the novel by Vassilis Vassilikos, Costa Gavras and Jorge Semprun’s adaptation is just as unflinching in its rage and realism, merging dark humour with prescient political debate. Philip Roth isn’t the first name you think of when it comes to romantic comedies, but his novella Goodbye, Columbus is naturally more of a satire on the wealthy – with Arnold Schulman loosely adapting one particular facet of that collection for the screen. Finally, Anne Of The Thousand Days is adapted from Maxwell Anderson’s earlier play into an overlong and not interesting enough film by Bridget Boland, John Hale, and Richard Sokolove.

My Winner: Z

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My Nominations: Midnight Cowboy. They Shoot Horses Don’t They. Z. The Assassination Bureau. Army Of Shadows. Castle Keep.

Michael Relph and Wolf Mankowitz adapt Jack London’s (and Robert Fish’s) unfinished novel The Assassination Bureau, Ltd for the screen, moving the action to Europe and giving it a slightly more humourous tone. Joseph Kessel’s semi-fictional Army Of Shadows is an uncompromising and unsentimental view of the French Resistance, with Melville’s movie presenting events in a matter of fact way. My final personal nomination is for Castle Keep – another Sydney Pollack movie with a screenplay by Daniel Taradash and David Rayfiel. Based off William Eastlake’s novel, the film is an entertaining, thought-provoking, and ultimately surreal siege movie featuring a ragtag group of soldiers defending a castle filled with priceless art in WWII.

My Winner: Z

Let us know in the comments what your pick is for the Best Adapted Screenplay of 1969!

Best Writing (Original) – 1969

Official Nominations: Butch Cassidy And The Sundance Kid. Bob & Carol & Ted & Alice. The Damned. Easy Rider. The Wild Bunch.

William Goldman’s screenplay for BCATSD picked up the official win this year, and it’s difficult to argue against the win. The easy dialogue couple with the charm of the actors ensures that the film is quotable and doesn’t feel dated. BACATAA has a name too long to type repeatedly, but Mazursky peppers his frank script with a lot of modern humour which was a revelation for audiences at the time. Even more shocking, for the handful who saw it, was The Damned with its explicit sex and discussions on power, corruption, and politics. Easy Rider too was a revelation, with Fonda, Hopper, and Southern’s script striking a chord with America’s youth like no movie before or since with much of the dialogue being ad-libbed on the spot.

My Winner: Butch Cassidy And The Sundance Kid

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My Nominations: Butch Cassidy And The Sundance Kid. Easy Rider. The Italian Job. Medium Cool. Take The Money And Run. The Wild Bunch.

I add a few notable films to my list – The Italian Job is of course extremely quotable, Medium Cool is a timely piece and relevant today as the quest for morality and integrity within journalism rages on. Take The Money And Run is one of Woody Allen’s earliest hits, more manic than what he would later produce.

My Winner: The Italian Job

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Let us know in the comments which film of 1969 do you think has the Best Original Screenplay.

Best Visual Effects – 1969

Official Nominations: Marooned. Krakatoa, East Of Java.

Two clear nominations this year, and one obvious winner. While Marooned isn’t the quantum leap in quality that the previous year’s 2001 was, it mimicked that movie’s approach to realism with its effects. Krakatoa is an effects bonanza and due to the age of the movie it simply doesn’t hold up today – however the technical wizardry and ambition are deserving of the nomination.

My Winner: Marooned.

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My Nominations: On Her Majesty’s Secret Service. Where Eagles Dare. The Valley Of Gwangi. Marooned. Doppleganger.

Only the official winner makes it over to my list, joining a few other interesting choices. Both Where Eagles Dare and On Her Majesty’s Secret Service are action packed and therefore are filled with a variety of explosions and other more visual effects to make the action all the more realistic, while The Valley Of Gwangi is another Ray Harryhausen special, though this one is rarely discussed. Finally, Doppleganger (also known as Journey To The Far Side Of The Sun) sees some further realistic space and rocket effects from the team behind Thunderbirds. 

My Winner: Marooned

Let us know which film of 1969 you feel has the Best Visual Effects!

Best Original Song – 1969

Official Nominations: Raindrops Keep Falling On My Head – Butch Cassidy And The Sundance Kid. Come Saturday Morning – The Sterile Cuckoo. Jean – The Prime Of Miss Jean Brodie. True Grit – True Grit. What Are You Doing The Rest Of Your Life – The Happy Ending.

The winner this year is a timeless hit by Burt Bacharach and Hal Davis, one which evokes plenty of images from the movie it was written for, but one which works just as well outside of the film, even for those who aren’t aware the film exists. Charming, melancholy, and hopeful, it’s a well deserved winner. Come Saturday Morning, performed by The Sandpipers feels like a Simon & Garfunkel track, with gentle folk sounds and pleasant harmonies – acoustic guitars and flutes are prominent, and while breezy it lacks a a key hook.

Jean starts like one of those whining ballads from countless movies from previous decades, but once the verse starts it becomes something better. It does veer close to those awful ballads once the additional singing voices join, but largely stays clean, though again it lacks a hook – it also doesn’t seem to fit with the characters of Jean Brodie. True Grit also falls foul of almost striking those vintage notes, but again the vocals manage to raise the song above the unfortunate instrumentation – it’s a decent performance from Glen Campbell, Bernstein’s music is fine but once again there isn’t anything memorable. The Bergmans and Michel Legrand pick up another nomination and create another widely covered song in What Are You Doing The Rest Of Your Life – it’s a smooth ballad with sparse arrangement, an okay verse which gets worse as the music and vocals crescendo – more forgettable stuff.

My Winner: Raindrops Keep Falling On My Head.

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My Nominations: Raindrops Keep Falling On My Head – Butch Cassidy And The Sundance Kid. Change Of Habit – Change Of Habit. Ballad Of Easy Rider – Easy Rider. Wand’rin’ Star – Paint Your Wagon. Get A Bloomin’ Move On – The Italian Job. Do You Know How Christmas Trees Are Grown – On Her Majesty’s Secret Service.

Only My Winner makes it over to my list of nominations, joining one of The King’s last decent songs from one of his last movies. Change Of Habit is one of his better movie songs, funky, with a solid rock beat and strong vocal performance – no gimmicks and with a nice distorted lead guitar riff. It sounds both modern and like something you would expect to see in a late 70s US detective show. Great drums in the final section. As great as the soundtrack to Easy Rider is, most of its songs were not written for the movie and were taken from previous seminal 60s movies. Roger McGuinn’s track evokes all of the themes from the movie without the drug-haze. It has a timeless 60s folk edge, a sense of hope and freedom, and still feels powerful today.

Wand’rin’ Star from Paint Your Wagon is a strange one – it has all of the humming voices and guitars you would expect in a Spaghetti Western song, but it is given a grandiose all American twist with gorgeous strings and downbeat, growling, almost spoken vocal by Lee Marvin. Many will be put off by the vocals, but the melodies are still catchy. Adding some British groove to the mix is Get A Bloomin Move On, a painfully catchy track which I can’t love 100% because rhyming slang and Cockney accents piss me off – the song feels like a lost Beatles track with tonnes of varying, overlapping sections and a myriad of instruments and moments destined to chant at football games. Most people remember We Have All The Time In The World from On Her Majesty’s Secret Service, but I personally cannot stand that song and feel it is one of the most depressing dirges ever penned. I feel, even though it’s a little twee, that Do You Know How Christmas Trees Are Grown is the vastly superior song – it doesn’t really have anything in common with the film (aside from snow) but it’s all lovely and the main line demands you to sing along. Of course it works well as a festive standalone song.

My Winner: Raindrops Keep Falling On My Head.

Let us know in the comments what your favourite movie song of 1969 is!