We're back in our time machine with the broken dial, and this time we land in 1971.
What Was the Story?
Good old Richard Nixon was in the White House at the time, and his Watergate scandal was still a ways off. Hippie culture was everywhere, including long hair, bell-bottom jeans, flip-flops, huge sunglasses (wait... that sounds a bit like 2009). If you walked into a record store, you could buy -- on vinyl -- such gems as Marvin Gaye's "What's Going On," Led Zeppelin's fourth album, Joni Mitchell's "Blue," The Who's "Who's Next," John Lennon's "Imagine," Sly and the Family Stone's "There's a Riot Goin' On" and the Rolling Stones' "Sticky Fingers." And a young kid called Elton John released his first single, "Your Song," thus ensuring himself a future recording bland songs for movies in 2011.
People were reading John Updike's "Rabbit Redux," Jerzy Kosinski's "Being There" and William Peter Blatty's "The Exorcist." And if you read comics, you may have caught the first appearance of the creature known as Swamp Thing. "All in the Family" debuted on television, and "The Ed Sullivan Show" ended. Charles Manson was sentenced to death (the sentence was commuted), and Muhammad Ali lost to Joe Frazier. The U.S. voting age was lowered from 21 to 18. And the Vietnam War continued to rage.
Why Was 1971 Significant?
In the late 1960s, studios began to realize that they had lost touch with American audiences. Big, bloated filmmaking was no longer working, and films like 'Bonnie and Clyde,' 'The Graduate' and 'Easy Rider' had become part of a phenomenon. Hollywood decided to let the inmates run the prison for a while, and 1971 proved that this was not an entirely successful experiment. Though it resulted in some great films, not all of them made a ton of money. Films grew much edgier and flirted with stronger violence and sex. Films could be existential, and they could even have downbeat endings. Many young filmmakers broke into the business for the first time, including -- this year -- George Lucas and Steven Spielberg. It was the beginning of an uncertain, but exciting time.
People Born in 1971: (Yes... they're turning 40 this year!) Taye Diggs, Denise Richards, Peter Sarsgaard, Nathan Fillion, Ewan McGregor, Method Man, Shannen Doherty, Sofia Coppola, Paul Bettany, Mark Wahlberg, Tupac Shakur, Corey Feldman, Charlotte Gainsbourg, Justin Theroux, Carla Gugino, Chris Tucker, Amy Poehler, Jada Pinkett-Smith, Luke Wilson, Snoop Dogg, Winona Ryder, Christina Applegate, Emily Mortimer, Corey Haim, Jared Leto
People Who Died in 1971: John Dall, Harold Lloyd, Audie Murphy, Jim Morrison, Louis Armstrong, Max Steiner
Acting Debut: Morgan Freeman in 'Who Says I Can't Ride a Rainbow!' (Huh?)
Top Grossing Film: 'Fiddler on the Roof'
Other Big Hits: 'The Andromeda Strain,' 'Bedknobs and Broomsticks,' 'Big Jake,' 'Carnal Knowledge,' 'A Clockwork Orange,' 'Diamonds Are Forever,' 'Dirty Harry,' 'The French Connection,' 'Klute,' 'The Last Picture Show,' 'Shaft,' 'Summer of '42,' 'Willard'
Top Movie Stars: John Wayne, Clint Eastwood, Paul Newman, Steve McQueen, George C. Scott, Dustin Hoffman, Walter Matthau, Ali MacGraw, Sean Connery, Lee Marvin
Roger Ebert's Best Film of the Year: 'The Last Picture Show'
Gene Siskel's Best Film of the Year: 'Claire's Knee'
National Society of Film Critics' Best Picture: 'Claire's Knee'
New York Film Critics' Best Picture: 'A Clockwork Orange'
National Board of Review Best Picture: 'Macbeth'
Oscar Winner, Best Picture: 'The French Connection'
Oscar Winner, Best Director: William Friedkin, 'The French Connection'
Oscar Winner, Best Actor: Gene Hackman, 'The French Connection'
Oscar Winner, Best Actress: Jane Fonda, 'Klute'
Oscar Winner, Best Supporting Actor: Ben Johnson, 'The Last Picture Show'
Oscar Winner, Best Supporting Actress: Cloris Leachman, 'The Last Picture Show'
My Favorites: 'Two-Lane Blacktop,' 'A Clockwork Orange,' 'McCabe & Mrs. Miller,' 'The French Connection,' 'Duel,' 'The Beguiled,' 'Twitch of the Death Nerve,' 'Beware of a Holy Whore,' 'Macbeth'
Horror Films: 'The Abominable Dr. Phibes,' 'The Cat o' Nine Tails,' 'Twitch of the Death Nerve'
Sci-Fi Films: 'The Andromeda Strain,' 'A Clockwork Orange,' 'Escape from the Planet of the Apes,' 'The Omega Man,' 'THX-1138'
Westerns: 'Big Jake,' 'Duck, You Sucker,' 'The Hired Hand,' 'McCabe & Mrs. Miller'
Imports: 'Death in Venice,' 'The Emigrants,' 'Fata Morgana,' 'The Merchant of Four Seasons,' 'Murmur of the Heart' 'Trafic,' 'Two English Girls,' 'WR: Mysteries of the Organism'
The Harvard Lampoon's Ten Worst Films of the Year: 'A Clockwork Orange,' 'Carnal Knowledge,' 'Summer of '42,' 'Fiddler on the Roof,' 'The Last Movie,' 'T.R. Baskin,' 'Kotch,' 'Willard,' 'The Music Lovers,' 'Dealing'
Trivia: Ernest Tidyman was responsible for two of the year's top cop movies; he wrote the novel 'Shaft' and the screenplay for 'The French Connection.'
Trivia: Prolific German filmmaker Rainer Werner Fassbinder released four movies (at least) in 1971, all of them great: 'Beware of a Holy Whore,' 'The Merchant of Four Seasons,' 'Pioneers in Ingolstadt' and 'Whity.'