In Select Theatres May 25, 2012
1965: The Year of MOONRISE KINGDOM


Wes Anderson’s MOONRISE KINGDOM takes place in the summer of 1965 on the island of New Penzance. Like the island, the time is both real and a product of Anderson’s imagination. It was a time of hope and change, a time when old-fashioned values prevailed but the feeling of revolution was in the air. It was a time when two kids could run away and fall in love, and that was a good thing. As producer Jeremy Dawson points out, “This story is Wes’ take on 1965. From my perspective, his previous movies always existed in a time that you couldn’t quite place, mixing past and present.” Since Wes Anderson provides an imaginative slice of 1965, we wanted to give a sense of what was happening elsewhere in that year.

The Facts of 1965 Life

What was life like in 1965? For one thing, everything was a whole lot cheaper.  Gas was about $0.31 a gallon, and a brand new car could be had for between $2,000 and $3,000. (And the hot wheels were Stingrays, Mustangs, Barracudas and Dodge Chargers.)  If you were in the market for a new house, the average price was about $13,000. And a loaf of bread was less than a quarter. Then, of course, people made much less. The average yearly salary was $13,600. The news was filled with stories of the Vietnam War and of the various protests against it. The streets were also filled with marches for civil rights. On February 1, Dr. Martin Luther King and some 2,600 other protesters were arrested in Selma, AL. Three weeks later, on February 21, Malcolm X was assassinated. And, in August, simmering discontentment over racial discrimination boiled over into the Watts race riots. 

Movies in 1965

Julie Andrews in The Sound of Music; Peter Sellers in What’s New Pussycat?

The big news in movies in 1965 was The Sound of Music, which opened in the spring, rolling out over the next year to become (at that time) the highest grossing film of all time and going on to win five Oscars, including Best Picture. While Julie Andrews was singing in the Alps, Jane Fonda was slinging guns in the sexy western comedy Cat Ballou (for which Lee Marvin won his single Oscar). For a crazier time, one could catch Peter Sellers and Peter O’Toole in the Woody Allen-scripted zany sex romp What’s New Pussycat? If you were more in the mood for thrills, there was the Michael Caine espionage thriller The Ipcress File and the Frank Sinatra World War II adventure Von Ryan’s Express. The youngsters went in packs to see Help!, the Beatles' follow-up to their earlier musical adventure, A Hard Day's Night. For the highbrow crowd, Jean-Luc Godard’s Alphaville opened in France in May, coming to the U.S. a few months later.

Music in 1965

In 1965, the airwaves belonged to The Rolling Stones and The Beatles, with their songs “(I Can't Get No) Satisfaction” and “Yesterday,” respectively, at the top of the charts. Most people bought albums, which at about $4.50 for a stereo LP, weren’t cheap. Other topliners were The Byrds, Sonny & Cher, and Herman’s Hermits. In country music, Roger Miller’s The Return of Roger Miller, with the hit “King of the Road,” was a runaway success. And John Coltrane released A Love Supreme, one of the greatest jazz albums of all time. Rock concerts changed in 1965. On August 15, The Beatles created the modern stadium concert when they filled up New York City’s Shea Stadium with hordes of screaming fans. Others screamed (mostly in dismay) when folk singer Bob Dylan went electric at the Newport Folk Festival in July. And in San Francisco, a newly formed band called The Grateful Dead played their first concert. In the same year, the diva Maria Callas made her grand exit, singing her last opera, Tosca, at the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden.

Television in 1965

If you turned on the TV during the summer of 1965, undoubtedly you would have confronted reruns. And more than likely you would be watching them on a black and white TV. Although 1965 marked the year that many shows started to be made in color. In fact, NBC’s morning news show Today started broadcasting in color. The hit shows were the western Bonanza, the supernatural sitcom Bewitched, the army comedy Gomer Pyle U.S.M.C., the thriller The Fugitive, and the Southland satire The Beverly Hillbillies. 1965 was a big year for launching high concept sitcoms, like Get Smart, F Troop, Hogan's Heroes, I Dream of Jeannie and Lost in Space. It also marked the end of an era as Edward R. Murrow (immortalized in the film Good Night, and Good Luck) died. Specials were popular that year, with Barbra Streisand’s My Name is Barbra being a big night. Come December, Charles M. Schulz brought his comic strip to the little screen for the special A Charlie Brown Christmas.

Books in 1965

In 1965, Up The Down Staircase, Bel Kaufman’s tale of an English teacher trying to keep her head together in an inner-city high school, started the summer at the top of the bestseller list. By July, The Source, James Michener’s novel about the establishment of Israel, took over the number one spot. Other popular novels that summer were Saul Bellow’s National Book Award winner Herzog, Arthur Hailey’s sprawling page-turner Hotel, and John le Carré’s espionage work The Looking Glass War. The Autobiography of Malcolm X came out just after the author's assassination. Also published – two years after her death – was Sylvia Plath’s classic final book of poetry, Ariel. Frank Herbert’s sci-fi adventure Dune kicked off the Dune saga, and quickly became one of the most successful science fiction novels of all time.

Theater in 1965

The hot ticket on Broadway in 1965 was Neil’s Simon’s The Odd Couple. Directed by a young Mike Nicholls and starring Walter Matthau as Oscar Madison and Art Carney as Felix Ungar, the play went on to become a film and TV series.  Another big comedy in 1965 was Abe Burrows’ Cactus Flower with Lauren Bacall, Brenda Vaccaro and Barry Nelson, which was also later adapted into a film. In musicals, Broadway saw the opening of On a Clear Day You Can See Forever, Man of La Mancha and Do I Hear a Waltz? But the big winner at the Tonys – winning in nine categories, including Best Musical –– was Fiddler on the Roof, which had actually opened in 1964. Joe Orton’s Entertaining Mr. Sloane, which was a critical darling when it opened in London in 1964, proved less popular and entertaining in America, closing after only 13 performances. 

Fashion in 1965

Yves Saint Laurent’s Mondrian dress; Director Arthur Penn in Playboy 1965 Fashion spread; Mary Quant’s mini dress, next to a Mini Cooper. 

Women’s fashion was bright, modern and very hopeful in 1965. The most notable new look was Yves Saint Laurent’s Mondrian dress, which boldly deployed the Dutch painter’s geometric shapes to give fashion a smart new style. In London, British fashion designer Mary Quant, extending – or rather subtracting  –– a look developed by French designer André Courrèges, created the miniskirt. (The name came from Quant’s love for her car, a Mini.)  But as skirts were going short in some places, others were donning the full-length “granny dress.” The mod look stayed popular with abstract, colorful geometric shapes as patterns. For men, the look turned more casual and comfortable. In its fashion spread for 1965, Playboy gave some choice notes: “Trousers with a country flair will be the big direction;” “V-Neck pullover is the standard of the [sweater] field;” for ties, “bold paisleys on light ground” make it big; “The strangle hold of the buttondown collar…is gradually being loosened.”

Art in 1965

Top left, clockwise: Bridget Riley’s 1964 “Current,” St. Louis Arch; Roy Lichtenstein’s “Big Painting #6”

The big terms for art in 1965 were pop and op.  At New York’s Museum of Modern Art, the very popular exhibition “The Responsive Eye”, with work by artists like Victor Vasarely, Richard Anuszkiewicz, and Bridget Riley, introduced the newly emerging field of op art to the general public. The show was covered by new CBS journalist Mike Wallace with the claim that “now a whole movement in modern art has come into focus that will not stay in focus.”  Elsewhere the field of pop art expanded its scope. Roy Lichtenstein, who started his pop art career focusing on comic strips, turned his eye to the field of painting with “Big Painting #6.” On the West Coast, the Los Angeles Country Art Museum (LACMA) moved to its current location on Wilshire Blvd. In St. Louis, the famous Gateway Arch was finally finished.


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