Monday, August 28, 2017

The Five Biggest Movie Stars of the 1960s

We love making lists at the Cafe, so why not create one for the five biggest movie stars of the 1960s? I know...how does one define "biggest"? Is it based on boxoffice power, critical acclaim, or enduring popularity? The answer is all of the above, plus a large dose of subjectivity. But that's half the fun of making lists like this. We also enjoy reading contrasting opinions and I'm sure many of you may have different ideas about who belongs on this list.

1. Sidney Poitier - It's hard to think of an actor who had a better decade from start to finish. He earned critical raves for his powerful performances in films like A Raisin in the Sun (1961), A Patch of Blue (1965), and In the Heat of the Night (1968). He starred in two classic "feel good" movies which regularly pop up on television: To Sir With Love and Guess Who's Coming to Dinner (both 1967). Yet, his finest work may have been as a drifter who finds purpose in an unlikely place in Lilies of the Field (1963).

2. Paul Newman - The popularity of Newman's "H films" (The Hustler, Hud, Hombre, Harper) would have secured him a spot on this list. However, the 1960s also featured two of his most iconic roles as a nonconforming prisoner in Cool Hand Luke (1967) and as a charming, small-town outlaw in Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid (1969). 

3. Sean Connery - Prior to 1962, Sean Connery was a little-known Scottish actor. By the end of the decade, he was one of the biggest stars in the world. That will happen when you catapult to fame by playing the most famous secret agent in cinema history. In addition to his five James Bond films, Connery's 1960s lead roles included the well-reviewed POW drama The Hill (1965), cult favorite A Fine Madness with Joanne Woodward (1966), and Marnie (1964), perhaps Hitchcock's most underrated film (and a personal favorite).

4. Doris Day - The first half of the decade spotlighted five of of her best comedies: the superb Lover Come Back (1961) along with That Touch of Mink (1962), The Thrill of It All (1963), Move Over Darling (1963), and Send Me No Flowers (1964). Unfortunately, poor career choices (possibly attributed to her then-husband and business manager Martin Melcher) derailed her career. She even turned down the role of Mrs. Robinson in The Graduate (I love Doris, but Anne Bancroft was perfect).

5. Hayley Mills - It's easy to forget that Ms. Mills was a huge star in the 1960s, thanks to her sparkling performances in two Disney classics: Pollyanna (1960) and The Parent Trap (1961). The former earned her a special Oscar while the latter featured a Top Ten song sung by Hayley ("Let's Get Together"). She appeared in several other Disney hits while also starring in more prestigious films such as The Chalk Garden opposite Deborah Kerr and Whistle Down the Wind (which you should truly see if you haven't). Plus, she starred opposite her father John Mills in the winning sleeper The Truth About Spring (1964)--yes, another personal fave.

Honorable Mentions:  Jack Lemmon, Steve McQueen, Elizabeth Taylor, John Wayne, and Elvis Presley.

11 comments:

  1. The first four are pretty obvious, but I'll admit that I'd completely forgotten Hayley Mills even though I'm sure I saw at least a couple of her more famous movies. And even though I loved Anne Bancroft in the role, I'd love to have seen Doris Day play against type and take a shot at Mrs. Robinson.

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  2. My first thought went to Hayley Mills, probably due to my age at the time and the movies I saw. From that long ago vantage point, I probably thought the next biggest stars were Frankie and Annette.

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  3. Good list. 1 thru 3 are strong choices but I'm not sure about Doris and Hayley is a definite no. I would've elevated John Wayne and maybe Jack Lemmon. Richard Burton had a good decade too.

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  4. How nice to see Hayley Mills on this list! And quite a coincidence, too. In me and my sister's article on The Parent Trap ( posted two days ago ) we mention Hayley as being the best child actress of the 1960s. She did indeed have a great decade. I might have added Julie Andrews or James Garner to this list as well. Both were kept very busy during that time.

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  5. John Wayne in the 1960's almost certainly ranks above Mills, Doris Day, probably Sean Connery. True Grit, El Dorado, Donovan's Reef, In Harms Way, The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance, Hatari! all belong to the 1960's.

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    1. TRUE GRIT and LIBERTY VALANCE are fine films, but the others wouldn't be considered among his best work (though I have a soft spot for DONOVAN'S REEF).

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  6. I would drop Mills and Day, put in McQueen and Lemmon. McQueen, along with Newman were the two coolest guys on the screen.

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    1. I struggled with Jack Lemmon, but it seems like his best films were split between the 1950s and 1960s. If listing the biggest stars from the 1950s through the 1970s, he would definitely be in my top 5.

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  7. Hayley Mills! I wouldn't have thought to include her, but she was the biggest child star in that decade, I think. This is a great list - tough to narrow it down to only five!

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  8. Um, you missed four gentlemen who were the "entertainment phenomenon of the [20th] century": John Lennon, Paul McCartney, George Harrison, and Ringo Starr! They made two blockbuster films, A Hard Day's Night and Help!

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  9. I love your list! I am delighted you included Doris Day and Hayley Mills for this decade. Sometimes we forget about the comediens and comediennes and children when thinking of outstanding and entertaining performances. Well done, Rick!

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