50 Years Ago This Week – John Schlesinger’s Darling

On August 3, 1965 Darling hit the big screen.  It was a huge commercial success and took home Academy Awards for actress and screenplay—but it is one of those “you had to be there” movies; no need to track it down if you haven’t seen it.  (Borderline scandalous at the time, both MGM and Columbia passed on the American distribution rights.)  A morality tale of the swinging European jet set, it is of interest to us at Mid Century Cinema as a stepping stone towards the New Hollywood. In style and substance Darling looks back, and a bit behind the curve, towards the turn of the sixties “we have it all but our lives are meaningless” ennui of La Dolce Vita and several Antonioni classics.  But it also anticipates some of the themes that would characterize Antonioni’s landmark Blow-Up, which would be released the following year, and more notably also points the way towards the ambition of New Hollywood films to use sexuality as a vehicle for exploring interpersonal conflict.

Darling also boasts an impressive company. The male leads are Laurence Harvey (outstanding in The Manchurian Candidate of course, but also look for him in WUSA and as that deaf chess master in Colombo—love the ending), and the impeccable, precise Dirk Bogarde (our favorites include Victim, Accident, and Providence).  And of particular interest here, the presence of Director John Schlesinger and star Julie Christie establish Darling as gesturing towards the Seventies Film.  Schlesinger, of course, would go on to direct Midnight Cowboy, as well as the underappreciated Sunday Bloody Sunday (and the oozing with seventies chops Marathon Man); Christie would be a featured player in four major productions of the New Hollywood era: Petulia, McCabe and Mrs. Miller, Don’t Look Now, and Shampoo.

A potpourri of items also caught our attention for this week.  On July 31(A month before Dylan’s chaotic concert at the same venue), Woody Allen, fresh off a two week run at the Bitter End, killed during a 30 minute set at Forest Hills—and then went back out to keep the crowd cool as the promoters scrambled to find a replacement for jazz legend Stan Getz, whose plane from Japan was delayed.  In other news of interest to the movie generation, a small hint that dissent about the Vietnam war might be brewing could be seen when the House of Representatives voted 393-1 (props to New York Republican Harry Smith) to crack down on “beatniks,” assorted college agitators (and their abetting professors) who were burning their draft cards, “demonstrating their contempt for the United States and our resistance to communist takeovers.”  Finally, Everett Sloane ended his life on August 6.  Sloane, menacing as the heavy going toe-to-toe with Humphrey Bogart in The Enforcer (1951), is best and properly remembered as one of Orson Welles’ Mercury Players on stage, screen and radio, most memorably in his first three film roles: Mr. Bernstein in Citizen Kane, Kopeikin in Journey into Fear, and Arthur Bannister in The Lady from Shanghai, perhaps his greatest performance.