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Vintage '70 - Marinate in it!

The Supporting Actress Smackdown 1970 Edition arrives in three weeks (we've moved the date to May 13th) so as we approach and you vote (hint hint), let's talk context in movies and entertainment... 

Great Big Box Office Hits: When it comes to box office, there are a lot of competing sources about what films were massive hits prior to the internet era when tracking success became such a cultural activity. But all sources basically agree that there were five true behemoths at the movies in 1970. The top four were the tearjerker Love Story, the all-star disaster flick Airport, the Altman comedy MASH, and the war drama Patton (remarkably they made up 80% of the Best Picture list... though prior to the 1980s it's always worth reiterating that the public had much more Oscary taste in their movies -- it was public taste that changed, not really the Oscar aesthetic... contrary to much of the grousing you here online about Oscar shunning hits and preferring underseen critical darlings). The fifth consensus smash hit was the Dustin Hoffman Christmas release Little Big Man which scored only 1 nomination from the Academy for Chief Dan George in Supporting Actor; he was the first Native American to score an Oscar nomination in any category!

Chief Dan George in "Little Big Man"Beyond that quintet the details about which films were big hits gets fuzzier though various sources also list some, though never all, of these movies:  Ryan's Daughter, Tora! Tora! Tora!, Chariots of the Gods, The Aristocrats, Joe, Beneath the Planet of the Apes, the documentary Woodstock, and the musical On a Clear Day You Can See Forever.

Oscar's Best Picture Nominees: Airport (10 noms / 1 win), Five Easy Pieces (4 nominations),  Love Story (7 noms / 1 win), MASH (5 noms / 1 win), and Patton (10 noms / 7 wins). Our theory as to what was just outside the Best Picture shortlist plus more '70 goodies follow...

What would have been nominated Oscar had the 5-10 nominee rule that they have now, with shortlist size determined by the size of each film's voting block? (The system has so far always delivered either 8 or 9 nominees despite mathematically anywhere from 5 to 10 being possible). Women in Love (which received key marquee nods and critical support) and Ryan's Daughter (4 nominations and public enthusiasm) surely would have also been nominated for a 7 wide Best Picture race. Beyond those two films 1970 is a lot harder to call. If there were 8 to 10 nominees who knows. Woodstock won the most nominations ever given to a documentary feature (three) and it was also a hit with the public but Oscar has still never nominated a documentary for Best Picture so there must be a subconscious unwillingness to do so. The craft categories liked the war picture Tora! Tora! Tora! and the now-forgotten family musical Scrooge and the actors branch clearly liked both I Never Sang For My Father and The Great White Hope so perhaps one of those five might have snuck in? But overall 1970 enthusiasms seemed very concentrated on the four blockbusters plus Five Easy Pieces

Films That Endured in Some Way That Did Not Win Oscars and Weren't Box Office Smashes Either: Myra Breckenridge, Catch-22, Beyond the Valley of the Dolls, Kelly's Heroes, The Conformist, Boys in the Band, The Bird With the Crystal Plumage, Zabriskie Point, The Owl and the Pussycat, Trog, and Performance

Nathaniel's Top Ten of 1970
To be honest I don't really have one. This is one of my biggest blank spot years. Even the films I like from this year I dont have clear memories of (I saw Women in Love when I was way too young for it in the 1980s), don't truly love (big Altman fan but MASH, is more of a "like"), or I love them more for their historical value or genre personality than for actual quality (Boys in the Band, Aristocrats, Bloody Mama, On a Clear Day You Can See Forever).


Oh but wait we're not done with the listing...

Magazine Covers for Context:


Frequent cover stars were Raquel Welch, Jane Fonda, and Dennis Hopper. On television "The Mod Squad" made multiple covers. There were also a lot of handwringing cover stories on racial and gender politics across multiple magazine as well as the occasional Oscar controversy side stories (Modern Screen hilariously proclaimed that the Oscars might end in 1970 (!) and TV Guide wondered if you could "buy" an Oscar). It's amazing sometimes to realize how unchanging and cyclical culture and culture wars are. We fight the same fights repeatedly, even as the language around the eternal issues shifts and (some of) the famous faces change.

Mix Tape (Huge-Ass Hits of '70): "Bridge Over Troubled Water," Simon & Garfunkel (which would win the Grammy for Album, Record, and Song of the Year in March of 1971); "(They Long To Be) Close To You," The Carpenters (who would win the Grammy for Best New Artist in 1971); "Aint No Mountain High Enough," Diana Ross; "I'll Be There" and "ABC," The Jackson 5; "Signed Sealed Delivered," Stevie Wonder; "Let It Be," The Beatles

Music: Janis Joplin died. Both the Beatles and Simon & Garfunkel broke up, despite having huge years in 1970. Meanwhile future hit-making bands Aerosmith, ELO, and Jefferson Starship formed.

TV: PBS begins broadcasting; "All My Children" begins its multi-decade run on ABC; "The Mary Tyler Moore Show," "The Partridge Family," and "Josie and the Pussycats" all debut; beloved sitcoms "The Flying Nun," "Get Smart," and "I Dream of Jeannie" reach the end of their runs. "Marcus Welby MD" takes its first and only win in Outstanding Drama Series at the Emmys... but the # of doctor/hospital shows to have won that prize in Emmy's 70 years is surely way way too long.

Other Arts: "Applause," the musical adaptation of All About Eve was the Tony winner for Best Musical (with Lauren Bacall taking the Tony in the Bette Davis role) and "Borstal Boy" won Best Play; Famous novels debuting in 1970 included James Dickey's "Deliverance," which was quickly made into a hit movie, and Larry Niven's "Ringworld" which won the Nebula; Famous children's or YA books published that year included "Are You There God? It's Me, Margaret" by Judy Blume, Roald Dahl's "Fantastic Mr Fox," and Maurice Sendak's "In the Night Kitchen"; Gary Trudeau's popular comic strip Doonesbury debuts in US papers; Andy Warhol debuted several new pieces including "Silver Car Crash" which sold a few years ago for a new Warhol record of "$105.4 million; In comic books, "Silver Surfer" lost his monthly book while "Green Lantern" starts having to share his with "Green Arrow" plus the iconic supporting characters J Jonah Jameson and Agent Nick Fury, and the villain The Vulture made their debuts in The Amazing Spider-Man; Astro Boy became the first manga to go to animated series in Japan.

Tarita, Cheyenne, and Marlon BrandoNatalie Wood and Natasha

Spawn of Celebrity (Born in 70)
Cheyenne Brando, born to actor Marlon Brando and model Tarita Terlipaia who met on Mutiny on the Bounty (1962). Mick Jagger and Marsha Hunt welcomed Karis Hunt Jagger into the world (the first of Jagger's many children). And Natalie Wood had the first of her two children Natasha Gregson Wagner (the father was Natalie's second husband Richard Gregson but they quickly divorced and Natalie remarried first husband Robert Wagner shortly before Natasha turned two). 

Vintage '70 (Stars and Film Artists Born in 70)
Oscar Winners: Jennifer Connelly (A Beautiful Mind), Matt Damon (Good Will Hunting), Geoffrey Fletcher (Precious screenwriter), Martin McDonagh (Six Shooter), Paolo Sorrentino (The Great Beauty), and Rachel Weisz (The Constant Gardener)

Oscar Nominated Actors: Minnie Driver (Good Will Hunting), Ethan Hawke (Training Day, Before Sunset, Before Midnight, and Boyhood), Taraji P Henson (The Curious Case of Benjamin Button), Queen Latifah (Chicago), Melissa McCarthy (Bridesmaids), and Uma Thurman (Pulp Fiction)

Still More Actors: Mädchen Amick, Anthony Anderson, Julie Bowen, Lara Flynn Boyle, Bobby Cannavale, Charisma Carpenter, Ben Chaplin, Michaël Cohen (aka Emmanuelle Béart's ex-husband), Clifton Collins Jr, Nikolaj Coster-Waldau, Anne-Marie Duff, Raúl Esparza, Joseph Fiennes, Will Forte, Heather Graham, Tony Hale, Regina Hall, Jason Butler Harner, Byung-Hun Lee, Ken Leung, Matthew Lillard, Nia Long, Audra McDonald, Niecy Nash, Nick Offerman, Barry Pepper, Martha Plimpton, Michael Rapaport, Tom Everett Scott, Ione Skye, Sarah Silverman, Aisha Tyler, Skeet Ulrich, Vince Vaughn, Constance Zimmer;

Divas: Naomi Campbell and Mariah Carey

Musicians: Beck, DMX, Debbie Gibson, and Glen Hansard

RIP: River Phoenix (actor), Tommy Page (musician), and Tim Hetherington (director/cinematographer) 

Vintage '70 (Behind the Scenes)
Writers and/or Directors: John August, Paul Thomas Anderson, Jamie Babbit, Zoe Cassavetes, Stephen Chbosky, Tina Fey, Geoffrey Fletcher, Bart Freundlich (aka Julianne Moore's husband), Alex Garland, Christophe Honoré, Zhangke Jia, Malcolm D Lee, Theodore Melfi, Christopher Nolan, Mark and Michael Polish, Nicolas Winding Refn, Matt Ross, Anthony Russo, Shinsuke Sato, M. Night Shyamalan, Kevin Smith, Apichatpong "Joe" Weerasethakul, Mike White, and Alice Wu

Craftsmen: Michael Barrett (cinematographer), Christopher Blauvelt (cinematographer), Chung-hoon Chong (cinematographer), Corrine Clark (casting), Pau Costa (visual effects), Dean DeBlois (animation biggie), David Hutchison (stunts), Grant Imahara (visual effects), Steve Jablonsky (composer), Karin Justman (stunts), Henry Kingi Jr (stunts), Harvey Lowry (special effects makeup), Trevor Morris (composer), Atli Örvarsson (composer), Adrian Rigby (makeup), Lawrence Sher (cinematographer), MoinGenndy Tartakovsky (animation biggie), Freddy Waff (production designer), Tricia Wood (casting), and Haris Zambarloukos (cinematographer).

Showtune to Go: Dusty Springfield doing "Knowing When to Leave" from Promises Promises on a Burt Bacharach TV special in 1970. Hey wasn't Dusty supposed to get a biopic? I can't remember who was rumored at one point to be playing her. Anyone?


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Reader Comments (27)

Phew - thanks for the smackdown extension, teach!

I've got to say, I'd love to read something somewhere someday about '70's supporting actor list. It's a bit of a weird group of performances no one talks about (Chief Dan George being the exception) in movies no one talks about, but includes a young Gene Hackman AND a Bea Arthur comedy!

Dusty deserves a biopic, dammit!

April 23, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterMike in Canada

Weren't Kristen Chenoweth and Nicole Kidman rumored to be playing Dusty?

April 23, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterSoSue

What I would give to have seen Bacall in APPLAUSE and Hepburn in COCO on Broadway.

April 23, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterAndrew Carden

I haven't seen some of the big movies of that year (eg Love Story) nor all the arty ones (The Confession), and it does seem like a weird year, a kind of transition year.

Of those I have seen:
The Conformist (young Jean Louis Trintignant)
Women in Love (glorious Glenda)
The Railway Children (from the book by E. Nesbit)
The Wild Child (thoughtful Truffaut)
Bed and Board (frivolous Truffaut)
The Ballad of Cable Hogue (Peckinpah/ Jason Robards)
Catch-22 (a perfect Alan Arkin)
Goin' Down the Road (sad and influential)
On A Clear Day You Can See Forever (Cecil Beaton costumes!)
Sunflower (Loren/ Mastroianni. Heartbreaking tearjerker)

April 23, 2018 | Unregistered Commenteradri

Congrats on this exhaustive article! As I've mentioned before in a different post, I recently viewed Five Easy Pieces -which I had absolutely loved upon its release- and it was a major disappointment. Too amateurish, awfull cinematography. As to the acting, in some scenes it seemed they printed the rehearsal, not a "final" scene.
This exprience has stopped me from revisiting many films from that era. Particularly The Graduate and Midnight Cowboy.

April 23, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterMarcos

I'd be curious for a more in-depth look at MASH. I have to say, I didn't love it. I barely even liked it. It's not really my kind of movie overall (just don't care about a bunch of good-ol'-boy pranksters with no real character arcs) and the misogyny directed at Kellerman was hard to take.

April 23, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterDJDeeJay

DJDeeJay: I've always been afraid to watch MASH because I love Altman so much, and it wasn't much better than I thought it would be. It's like a MAD magazine spoof of a movie.

April 23, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterMike in Canada

I heard a rumor about 12 years back that Ang Lee was supposed to direct a Dusty biopic starring Charlize Theron. I was so psyched for that!

April 23, 2018 | Unregistered Commenterbrookesboy

PS. I love the song Knowing When to Leave. Chill-inducing.

April 23, 2018 | Unregistered Commenterbrookesboy

The Conformist is so above all those movies that it's impossible to make a fair comparision. Knowing that they were very open in the 60's and 70's to foreign movies, I can't believe Storaro didn't get a nomination in Cinematography. It's his best work, probably.

April 23, 2018 | Unregistered Commentercal roth

Can I complain that Faye Dunaway and Viveca Lindfors were left out for Actress and Supporting Actress in the excellent Puzzle of a Downfall Child,if you like Shue in LLV this i think is where they got the idea for her to camera monologues.

April 23, 2018 | Unregistered Commentermarkgordonuk

Jacques Demy’s DONKEY SKIN
George Kuchar’s PAGAN RHAPSODY
Freddie Francis’ TROG
Ken Russell’s WOMEN IN LOVE (If considered 1970)

As much as I desperately wanted to love it, unfortunately, I found it very boring; but an important film to consider for the year is Barbara Loden’s WANDA

April 23, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterRoger

Could we do a "Cast This" for the inevitable remake of "Love Story"?

April 23, 2018 | Unregistered Commenterforever1267

Oh God. 10 nominations for "Airport."

April 23, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterJimmy

Unlike today, the Oscar movies were hits/smash hits and the blockbusters were award-worthy, since the beginning. Simple like that.

April 23, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterMelchiades

Thanks so much for this...brings back many fond memories for I grew up in that era.

April 23, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterJans

Let me (hopefully) speak for everyone at TFE, who not only like but love Elisabeth Shue in LLV. One of *the* best Oscar-caliber performances of its/any year.

Among the enduring, unmentioned films of 1970 has to be Altman’s *other* movie of that year: Brewster McCloud. Not only did it introduce Bud Cort, who went on to cult-immortality (the very next year) in Harold & Maude, but it also (blessedly) introduced us to arguably the ‘70s actress discovery (no offense, Meryl): Shelley Duvall, who was working behind a makeup counter (?) at a Houston-area Foley’s dept. store! The world is round, people.

April 23, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterMareko

This was also the year of "Company" - not Sondheim's first musical, but a staggeringly influential piece of work nonetheless.

1970 feels more part of the 60s in terms of AMPAS/movies than the 70s - especially in comparison to 1971/72.

April 23, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterArkaan

Great article!

Lots of terrific films and of course several very bad ones as well-Love Story-UGH!, Trog-Poor Joan to end on such a note but she wasn’t the only screen goddess to close out her career this year in shabby fashion-Veronica Lake made the even more abysmal Flesh Fest.

In a wider Best Picture field I’m positive Five Easy Pieces would make it and Ryan’s Daughter which is everything the Academy in those days venerated. Surely Little Big Man and maybe Howard Hawks’s final film Rio Lobo though its critical profile has grown over the years, it wasn’t that well received on release. Also more than likely Women in Love and Tora, Tora, Tora.

My top 10 for the year alphabetically:

Airport-I know it’s often disparaged but I love it in all its overblown, big budget, star-studded glory. 10 Oscar nominations is a bit much though.
The Ballad of Cable Hogue
The Bird with the Crystal Plumage
The Confession
On a Clear Day You Can See Forever
Rio Lobo
7 Plus Seven-Second in the ongoing series by Michael Apted wherein he returns to a group of English children every seven years to see how they’ve grown. If you’ve never seen them I can’t recommend them highly enough! 56 Up came out a few years ago and I can’t wait for 63 Up in 2021.
Tell Me You Love Me, Junie Moon

Others I’d recommend-Elvis: That’s the Way It Is, Gimme Shelter, The Go-Between, I Never Sang for My Father, I Walk the Line, The Kremlin Letter, Little Big Man, Lovers and Other Strangers, Loving, The Out-of-Towners, Patton, Ryan's Daughter, Scrooge, The Strawberry Statement, A Severed Head, Sometimes a Great Notion, There Was a Crooked Man…

Some others of note but not necessarily recommended:
Diary of a Mad Housewife-Unpleasant film full of hateful people but Carrie Snodgrass was nominated for Best Actress and she’s the sole redeeming feature of the movie.

Performance-VERY strange film which fittingly enough stars Mick Jagger as a rock star intrigued with a fugitive thug.

Quackser Fortune Has a Cousin in the Bronx-Oddball romance with Gene Hackman as a Dublin peddler of horse manure who falls for American student Margot Kidder.

Something for Everyone-Another offbeat film with a somewhat unhinged Angela Lansbury as a countess and Michael York as her user of a butler. I didn’t care for it but it’s a love it or hate it kind of picture.

Tora, Tora, Tora-Impressive, meticulously made film of the attack on Pearl Harbor is star packed and endless.

There was a lot of great television that year as well:

PBS’s The Six Wives of Henry VIII (one episode devoted to each wife and a brilliant Keith Michell as Henry)

My Sweet Charlie-Patty Duke won the Emmy for her performance (and made an infamously unfocused acceptance speech-years later she explained she was in a manic phase at the time)

Santa Claus is Coming to Town-With a Claymation Fred Astaire!

Also-The Andersonville Trial, The Brotherhood of the Bell, The House on Greenapple Road, How Awful About Allan, The Man Who Wanted to Live Forever.

April 23, 2018 | Unregistered Commenterjoel6

Amen to the appreciation of Donkey Skin!

K. Chen would have been good as Dusty Springfield, but who now?

April 23, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterCash

Scrooge is a perennial Christmas watch in my house- 1970 was my parents first yet in college and they saw it as one of their first dates, and it was a tradition ever since. My dad has since passed but the tradition lives on... tho TBH I don’t love Albert Finney’s Ebenezer- too charicature... there is no Scrooge but Michael Caine.

April 23, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterBilly

My Top 10 from 1970 Oscar-eligible films are The Passion of Anna (Bergman at least won a special award), Adalen 31, Performance, The Confession, Ryan's Daughter, The Honeymoon Killers, Vixen (Russ Meyer's masterpiece!), Burn!, The Hawaiians, Five Easy Pieces.

Ryan's Daughter is the film I have most radically re-evaluated. When I first saw it I thought it was one of the most boring, most overblown films I'd ever seen. It seemed like watching a glacier recede in real time.The That was the general perception at the time, and this was so disheartening to David Lean that he almost gave up completely. He needed 14 years before he made his next film (A Passage to India). But after re-seeing it recently, I realize how wrong wrong wrong I was. This is a brilliant exploration of the world the way Rosie (the main chacter) sees and experiences it. Her sexual awakening is magnificently portrayed by Lean and Sarah Miles, whose exquisite performance should have won her an Oscar.

Once again, I want to recommend the website It has all the eligibility lists for every year.

April 23, 2018 | Unregistered Commenterken s

i vaguely recall an adele as dusty rumour from several years ago

have you ever done a 'boys in the band' analysis/appreciation on the site? it'd be timely as the broadway revival is now in rehearsals

April 24, 2018 | Unregistered Commenterpar

I remember watching Little Big Man in school and everyone laughed at Little Horse, the obviously gay character but for me it was almost a form of representation. I realize now he was meant to be a two-spirit. My little gay heart hurt when he sadly tells Little Big Man "I could be your wife".

April 24, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterJakey

Loved discovering so many of the movies that you mentioned from 1970. Back then I was going to see films all the time and my youthful appreciation grew and grew.

Anyhow, thanks for mentioning "The Owl and the Pussycat" and "On a Clear Day". Unimaginable today that we would have TWO Barbra Streisand films in ONE year.
Pussycat has an amazing BJS comic performance that is just about as good as WUD. Barbra was glorious in those early days when she would cut loose with full abandonment. Comic genius for sure. George Segal was excellent and they worked well together. It was her first non singing role. For those who have not seen it, please search for it. However some references in the film are terribly dated and not PC. That is the 70's for ya.

The scrumptious On a Clear Day is a hot mess. The art direction and costumes are brilliant as is Barbra's singing. Her goofy Daisy and elegant Melinda are well defined and have great contrast. The chemistry with Yves Montand is not there and sorry to say the film need to be hip and contemporary and Minnelli was not able to bring that off. Roadshow musicals were dead in 1970.

Actually today is Barbra's 76th Birthday and no matter what non fans feel her legend is secure as a genuine movie star. It is just too bad that she came in with a bang in 1968 and it looks like she is going out with a whimper...

April 24, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterGay Senior

Marcos - Don't skip The Graduate because of Five Easy Pieces....It's a Mike Nichols masterpiece.
The Criterion blu ray is gorgeous.

April 24, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterRosa Moline

If the current cinema world is CGI mode and the 50s one is oil painting, the 70s is totally polaroid.

May 1, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterSamuel

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