The Best Years Of Their Lives
A century, or a half, later, these films and people have us in their embrace
  • Shootin’ Crooked
    Oct 26, 2017

    Shootin’ Crooked

    Arthur Penn’s Bonnie and Clyde (1967), starring Warren Beatty and Faye Dun­away as the eponymous sweetheart criminals, broke old shackles, set standards in presenting sex and violence and influenced generations (watch Rob­ert Alt­man’s Thieves Like Us, 1974). But the film’s power lies in how its gun-cra­­­zed bloodiness is mitigated by the vul­­nerability around the deadly duo.
  • In Raag Kirwani
    Oct 26, 2017

    In Raag Kirwani

    Two years before his fam­ous appearance in Wood­stock, Ravi Shankar was easily the most famous Indian musician in the West. Indeed, the album from the landmark concert at Monterey in 1967 still hasn’t lost its lustre. That same year finds the handsome sitarist on a London street, instrument in hand, with the confident gait of someone at the pinnacle of his art.
    Photograph by Getty Images
  • Utterly Sparkling
    Oct 26, 2017

    Utterly Sparkling

    Toothpastes drawing their credibility from aproned dentists are not new. Even in 1917, Colgate was exhorting us relentlessly. And 50 years ago appeared a personage who’s a signpost of our natio­nal life. The Amul girl, with her passion for butter and news, is a treasure.
  • He’s All Shook Up
    Oct 26, 2017

    He’s All Shook Up

    When Elvis married 21-year-old Priscilla Ann Beaulieu, millions of teenage girls’ idle dreams died a tim­ely death. Still years away from that white jumpsuit and hat, this was still the clean boyish popstar who lurched from hit to hit and lit the brig­htest lights. The top wedding of the year, the couple separated five years later.
    Photograph by Getty Images
  • Bejewelled Prettiness
    Oct 26, 2017

    Bejewelled Prettiness

    This is the cap that spawned a thousand imitations way back in 1967 (thank god they didn’t take to wearing flowers). Jewel Thief, though, wins for wholesome entertainment—songs by S.D. Burman, a script that’s a suspe­nseful comic caper, Dev Anand, Vyja­yanthimala’s screen presence and, on top of it all, the foursome of Tanuja, Helen, Faryal and Anju Mahendru.
  • Girl On A Water-Ski
    Oct 26, 2017

    Girl On A Water-Ski

    Going by how hilariously newsworthy it still is when an Indian actress dons a bikini, consider the furore that greeted An Evening In Paris 50 years back, with Sharmila Tagore thus attired! Good music, typical hum­our, Shammi Kapoor, and the City of Light itself made this a hit.
  • Learning At The Giant’s Feet
    Oct 26, 2017

    Learning At The Giant’s Feet

    A great mathematician, philosopher and essayist, Bertrand Russell touched most lives as a lifelong pacifist through the bloody 20th century. So when Rajendra Kumar’s Indian student in Aman (1967) wants to head to Hiroshima to help with relief work, he turns to Russell for inspiration. In the film, his first, the 97-year-old spoke about his belief in peace and non-violence at the height of the Cold War.
  • How The Bride Was Won
    Oct 26, 2017

    How The Bride Was Won

    Like Godard’s Breathless, Mike Nichols’s The Gra­d­u­ate refuses to age at 50. It’s a grim picture, with Mrs Robinson (the peerless Anne Ban­croft) and Benj­amin (Dus­tin Hof­f­man) spr­eading soot with their lust. Yet, a light, sun-­dapp­led bre­­eze blows: Hoff­­­man’s babyface, Katharine Ross’s golden loveliness, Simon & Garfunkel’s music, the Alfa Romeo chewing up roads.... And that last busride.
  • Pout Like An Egyptian
    Oct 26, 2017

    Pout Like An Egyptian

    Strauss’s Salome might have been an inspiration, but a century back, Theda Bara’s sex app­eal in Cleopatra carried the day, making it the year’s highest grossing movie. Drawing from Rider Haggard and Shakespeare, it used thousands of extras, lavish costumes and sets, not to mention Theda’s inexhaustible oomph. Sadly, only fragments survive.
  • A Warm Gun Across The Universe
    Oct 26, 2017

    A Warm Gun Across The Universe

    Maharishi Mahesh Yogi’s ashram in Rishikesh is where the Beatles let their hair down. That was in 1968; in 1967 (above) came the first meeting in London. Curious about meditation, they were drawn to him instantly. You smiling? The Fab Four credited The White Album to meditation.
  • In Fuji’s Shadow
    Oct 26, 2017

    In Fuji’s Shadow

    Phileas Fogg did it in 80 days, but did he survive on $8? That is what the indefatigable Raj Kapoor achieved in Around The World—India’s first 70 mm film, which was shot around the world. Our int­r­e­pid traveller gets stuck in Tokyo, from where it’s a mad adventure.
  • His Growing Star
    Oct 26, 2017

    His Growing Star

    Before he took dictators and world events by the scruff of the neck, Charlie Chaplin cemented his turn as the tramp. In The Adven­t­­urer (1917), he plays a runaway convict and cha­rms all with exquisite pantomime.
  • For Pip And Joe
    Oct 26, 2017

    For Pip And Joe

    The drama of Great Exp­ectations proved irresistible to Messrs Vignola and West a hundred years back. How was Jack Pickford, brother of silent-era bea­uty Mary Pickford, as Pip? We might never find out.
  • Dance Like Her
    Oct 26, 2017

    Dance Like Her

    A ‘Javanese princess of priestly Indian birth’ she was not, but her ethereal beauty and sensual way of living, loving and dancing captivated aristocratic France and lent her a mystical aura. Yet, with Europe plunging into war in 1914, Mata Hari refused to turn patriot or stop her cosmopolitan liais­ons. Ripe for the picking, she was shot as a spy in 1917, and lives on as a tragic figure, and through Garbo’s impersonation of her.
    Photograph by Getty Images


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