Tuesday, November 2, 2010

1960's Fashion & Film, by DA

MGM Costume Department, on the left in the 1930's and on the right in the 1950's. The 60's were the last era to re-use and modify the enormous amount of costumes stockpiled by the studio as they were all auctioned off by the 1970's.


With president Kennedy, the people started reaching for the moon turning a futuristic corner, though the studios stayed stuck in the mosaic golden age due to the competition with free entertainment of TV at home.

In the 1960’s big budget musicals flopped. Costumes designers won awards though the audience couldn’t care less. The preferred more thematically complex dramas like to kill a mocking bird. The public wanted innovation and relevance in an industry that had one stale. Wanting modern subjects studio production executives decided to keep costumes to the past. There was no more creating but buying from local stores. Costume design went of life support.

Art directors and cinematographers got more fancy titles like director of photography and production designer. The costumer became an assistant job and not a creative job with the small budgets, and was rarely credited in the 1960’s.

This “ugly film” era being influential to Hollywood. Style and grunge gave inspiration to grungy nonfiction films called cinema verite. In the Depression period it gave a dark mood to the nation. Therefore happy endings were rare, thought he audience rejected Hollywood’s films, which represented this. Is connotation of artificiality became no longer fashionable in stories, setting or cloths.

This budget reducing and downsizing productions worked to the advantage of a new style of story telling. Blending purchased, rented and manufactured modern cloths, costume designers yielded a more naturalistic result. With time, the characters started to look more like the audience rather than stars.

The new generation of film actors snubbed the old Hollywood glamour. Big hair and jewelry suddenly considered inconsistent with being taken seriously as an actor. Hippie chic and modish understatement prevailed. Even photography suffered from the reactionary anti glamour sentiment among serious film actors.

Following the closure of the Hays Office changed on screen sexuality. Actors and costumes were finally liberated from the interface of the censors.

Studios had entered the 1960s at a crossroad. Uncertain about the future and suffering through the identity crises that came from being absorbed by multinational media conglomerates. The studios and their production slates slipped along for years and the classic Hollywood studio factory collapsed.

Easy Rider, 1969


The Pranksters were a small group but influential, they popularized LSD and defined the day-glo, grab-bag, costume party look during the 1960’s. The Angels were the notorious outlaw motorcycle gang. The Angel Unchained is a group of a hippie commune that enlists a biker gang to defend them against rednecks.

‘Exploitation films’ is a term which indicates a specific economic niche in the Hollywood system. There are significant points in which Biker Films appear to go beyond their exploitation niche, mixing and sharing personnel. For example as a revisionist genre film: Bonnie and Clyde 1967, and as a Hollywood art film: Easy Rider 1969.

Biker Films share some aspects with foreign influenced, anti heroic, anti established New Hollywood films of the era such as characterization, theme and structure. In this cross-fertilization there is a shifting trend in the youth market that moved the exploitation film to expand its aesthetic vocabulary and disruption in censorship standards and mainstream audience taste that enabled prestige films to much of the sex and violence appeal from the exploitation field.

The article addresses some of the problems posed by the Biker Film’s position in the film industry and in general culture of late 1960’s. For example how changing patterns in American society, general film practice, and the composition of the film audience contributed to the rise of the Biker Film cycle at a point in history and shaped the contradictory form of films themselves.

The author gives a preview of the origins of the Biker Films, and an evolution of the outlaw motorcycle gangs with their associated images and meanings in media. Images like the motorcyclist driving down Main Street, the screaming virgin being dragged and the last being the image of the biker funeral. He goes on describing how it is hard not to distinguish Biker Funerals by their military style.

The Biker Film Cycle produced 35 films between 1966 and 1971. Classifying these films were either the protagonist was a biker or a non-biker. It is when the protagonist is members of a biker gang that more complex identification-schemes occur- the protagonist participates with his gang struggling against civilian world (hypocrisy and injustice).

Biker films give a huge emphasis on the image and spend so much time on them in the films, riding, and riding, with their girls holding on, hair in the air, highways. The seem to be done for people who done care about the plot but instead love seeing big guys on motorcycles, knuckles colliding with noses and women treated like dirt. The films have a detached quality with their anti romantic tone and character identification- differentiating them from the narrative tightness and romantic lyricism of their progenitor. Biker Films can be summarized as an anti-romantic exploitation film that is less a linear narrative then a series of unconnected vignettes showing a lifestyle.


From the lte 1950’s to the mid 1960’s there was a wave of Surfing Films in the US, such as Gidget and Beach Party. These films appealed to the a youthful market.

Beach Films were different, it changed from the dramatic stories of drugs, sex and rock and roll. Those films featured kids having a good time liking dates rather than drugs and crushes rather than crime- they were “good-kids.” These films was evidence of superficiality, their attempt to offer reassuring conformity as an escape from the troubled social problems at the time. It existed as a kind of historical time wrap- summer, sun always shinning and the surf is always up- to social and political issues never seemed upon the beach. There subtext is reassurance and escapism.

The author tries to explain the audiences of such film being conformist cultural dupes, and how teenage views could identify with such “sexless and predictable” films. He goes on about how viewing these movies in terms of reactionary reassurance was to ignore the very doing of these films- the contradictions of what was going on as the time. It gives too much credence to the power and pleasure of conformity. The elements of sexual cultural and ideological differences can never be “normalized.”

Beach Films subordinate the surfing scene and culture to bourgeois notions of work, sexual morality, and monogamous relationships. The beach’s atmosphere is a vacation, a summer fling before adulthood- it is represented as a place of freedom, where the responsibilities of work, school, marriage are put aside to playful hedonism of partying, surfing, sexuality, and flings. The appeal of these films is focused on difference of the other.

The idea of Surf Bum is taken from the notions of the Beatnik as a free spirited nonconformist. Though the idea of surfing films didn’t only adopt the beatnik lifestyle but also the rock and roll and teen pop music culture which attract teenage audiences.

Beach movies both drew the appeal of idol singing stars made into movie stars, and added to it. Those movies are much like Elvis’s films just softer without the rebellion, and nonconformity because they were promoting this image of a “clean teen.” A major element of their appeal was their combination of music and dance, the image of sexuality and freedom as well.

Surf music is based on electric guitars, heavy fuzzed tones and echo box effects. Which became popular in 1962 and was presented as a matter of “fun”- wild surf, wild bikinis wild dancing, becomes a question to as whether or not its an image of “clean” maybe just thrill seeking- wildness and freedom. This appeal is very much connected to the exotic appeal of the non western cultures, “others.”

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