1966 was the year that the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA) discarded the outdated Hayes code and enforced a new ratings system for new releases. It had become obvious to MPAA president Jack Valenti that the current film and cultural environment was becoming less family friendly and more emotionally and sexually intense. Although considered mild by today’s standards, major studio films such as Blow-Up and Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? ( both 1966), were among the first to feature nudity and profanity. Revised several times over the years, these rating set the standard for age restrictions at the movies. The original rating labels were as follows:
- G: General Audiences – Suggested for General Audiences – (all ages)
- M: Mature Audiences – Suggested for Mature Audiences – Parental Discretion Advised
- R: Restricted – People Under 16 Not Admitted Unless Accompanying Parent or Adult Guardian
- X: Adults Only – People Under 18 will not be Admitted (changed to 17 later that year)
The movie season from summer of 1966 (when A Little Kiss occurs) to that winter introduced a plethora of films both traditional and cutting edge. You could see how Hollywood was attempting to reach the under-30 generation with radical films, the kinds that would make Betty’s Junior League lock up their kids. Many films in 1966, even romantic comedies, were becoming edgier. The Mad Men characters are always referencing movies, I’m sure there will be a lot of water cooler chats at SCDP over these.
Here are some popular movies that premiered from June to December of 1966:
BRITISH IMPORTS The British Invasion continues, and Caraby Street rules. The first two of these were promoted as comedies, but both had dark underbellies:
ALFIE: A reckless womanizer (Michael Caine) learns that there are consequences for his actions (Hello, Don!)
GEORGY GIRL: A plain wallflower (Lynne Redgrave) tries to break out of her shell to find love, with surprising results. (Hey Peggy!)
BLOW-UP: A suave high fashion photographer (David Hemmings) uncovers a mystery which becomes a question of what is real. (I bet Harry would like this.)
FOREIGN FILMS Paging Don Draper, your weekday afternoons have just been booked. A lot of foreign love stories this year with similar names!
MASCULIN FEMININ: 15 Documentary-style French vignettes about love, sex, and the Pepsi Generation, by director Jean-Luc Goddard. (I can see Megan wanting to see this).
UN HOMME ET UNE FEMME: A widower and widow meet and discover that love can bloom again after tragedy. (This is more Don’s speed).
THE SAND PEBBLES: Sailors in the 1920’s explore the mysteries of China (Maybe Bert would convince Roger to see this with him).
THE GOOD, THE BAD, & THE UGLY: The third in the trilogy of Clint Eastwood’s spaghetti westerns by Sergio Leone. (The ultimate action movie for Don and Lane’s next outing).
FOR THE TEEN SET
THE WILD ANGELS: A precurser to Easy Rider, Peter Fonda speaks for much of the younger generation here when he makes demands for his Hell’s Angels Chapter.
BATMAN The biggest pop-phenomenon of 1966—Batman is everywhere. And you know Bobby is first in line!
And finally, from the ridiculous to the sublime, sadly, they don’t make them like this anymore:
WHO’S AFRAID OF VIRGINIA WOOLF? An unsuspecting couple are invited to what becomes a hellish dinner party with College professor George and his spiteful wife Martha.
A MAN FOR ALL SEASONS: The trials of Sir Thomas More as he opposes Henry VIII’s first divorce. The Best Picture Winner for 1966. A magnificent film, not necessarily revolutionary in its telling, but definitely inspiring for any determined to defend their beliefs and lifestyle, even at the cost of defeat.