June 8, 2011

All Things 1962

The new movie X-Men: First Class is set in the year 1962, with a vengeance. It's so 1962ish that after awhile I started wondering about stuff from 1962 that wasn't in the movie: "Hey, how come there aren't any astronauts in this movie? What's more 1962y than astronauts?"

It got me thinking about how it gets easier to figure out what is redolent of a particular year the farther away in time you get. If you started out making a movie about 2011, you'd miss lots of stuff that people in a half century will consider iconic about 2011.

For example, in First Class, one of the mutants designs the Mach 3 SR-71 Blackbird, which they then fly to the West Indies where the U.S. and Soviet navies are squaring off during the Cuban Missile Crisis. Indeed, the SR-71 first flew in 1962, but you couldn't have put it in a movie in 1962 because it was top secret (and it wasn't even called the SR-71 until 1964 -- the early version that began flying in 1962 was called the A-12). When an A-12 crashed in 1963 in Utah, the only witnesses, a passing family, were both threatened and paid $25,000 each by the CIA.

Michael Fassbender plays one of the leads, Magneto, in the mode of Sean Connery, who became a star in 1962 with Dr. No. But James McAvoy plays Professor X, who was famously bald in the earlier/later movies. But McAvoy plays him with a full head of shaggy hair. Why? Because 1962 is now in the history books as the year of the first Beatles single, Love Me Do, so it makes sense for a movie made in 2011 to make a nod to the Beatles. From the perspective of 2011 the historical importance of cute British boys with shaggy hair seems obvious. But it didn't seem obvious in 1962, when Love Me Do, which is a pretty awful song, only reached #17 on the British pop charts.

45 comments:

Anonymous said...

I just wonder how many of the actors and creative staff of the movie actually have a first hand reliable memory of 1962?

Steve Sailer said...

Director Matthew Vaughn no doubt watched his ex-father (X-Dad?) Robert Vaughn's performance as Napoleon Solo in 1964's TV show The Man from U.N.C.L.E.

glib, facile n snarky said...

"So, from the perspective of 2011 the historical importance of cute British boys with shaggy hair seems obvious. But it didn't seem obvious in 1962, when Love Me Do, which is a pretty awful song, only reached #17 on the British pop charts."

Something off about the whole thing, that number, the creepiness of shaggy hair on anyone from the Beatles to Justin Bieber, ew. Then there's your confusion about the cuteness of Beatles. Any woman would tell you that only Paul was hot. Women in 1962 were just mad for fame. That's all.

Redolent is from the Latin. Sailer mostly uses good ol' Anglo Saxon words despite his background. The vowels in words derived from Latin tend to slow things down a bit, sort of like a drawl which of course the yank or wanker Sailer doesn't have.

You can't imagine how disappointed people would be if they were to discover the agents they'd come to believe had the super powers of X-men were mostly space cadets waitin' around for something important to happen then muddling through no better or worse than any other poor slob.

Your secret's safe with me, however, due to the fact no one would believe the truth if they heard it from me. Imagine all the 00 dweebs skulking about.

glib n snarky said...

Now that you've mentioned the British, I'm thinking I should mimic a posh accent like someone else around here frequently does. I think of it as channeling Higgins (from Magnum PI for you too young and foreign to get the ref).

Jeff Burton said...

Second posts on this pathetic movie? My first reaction on seeing that you'd reviewed it was "must've been for the money." I was forced by my teenage sons to see it (fortunately in a dollar theater, which thanks to Bernanke is now a $3 theater). You struggled mightily to draw some larger meaning out of it, but the film forcefully reminded me of nothing so important as the execrable "GI Joe". I lost count of the times, at particularly dramatic moments, when the talentless cast of X-Kids would line up like children in an elementary school play. Infuriatingly puerile.

Anonymous said...

When I think I 1962, I always think of "The Right Stuff".

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ak1n6qQS3_A

Although I wasn't born until 1964, all the pictures of my parents from that era, along with that movie, seems to convey the mood and tenor of the times. Very astronauty.


Captain Tripps

Carol said...

BTW thanks for the tip on Mildred Pierce. I never would have thought to look for that one..great LA stuff.

DCThrowback said...

Te-Nahisi Coates offers a slightly different take on the use of the year 1962 in his thoughts on "X-Men: First Class".

Anonymous said...

I follow the movie's writers on Twitter. One of them is a former military contractor and fairly obviously a conservative. The other is a history nut who's pretty clearly an iSteve reader, given how he tweets on obscure subjects shortly after they appear here, the way Yglesias and Brooks do with political topics.

Zarathustra said...

one of the mutants designs the Mach 3 SR-71 Blackbird

In reality, that mutant's name was Clarence Leonard "Kelly" Johnson.

As a member and first team leader of the Lockheed Skunk Works, Johnson worked for more than four decades and is said to have been an "organizing genius". He played a leading role in the design of over forty aircraft, including several that were honored with the prestigious Collier Trophy, acquiring a reputation as one of the most talented and prolific aircraft design engineers in the history of aviation. In 2003, as part of its commemoration of the 100th anniversary of the Wright Brothers' flight, Aviation Week & Space Technology ranked Johnson 8th on its list of the top 100 "most important, most interesting, and most influential people" in the first century of aerospace.

Even his upbringing is X-Men like - he came out of nowhereville, USA> He grew up in a small MI mining town ashamed of his poverty, vowing he would escape, and constantly teased. A mutant genius that came from a place no one would've pointed to on a map and probably felt somewhat alien among humans growing up.

Again, the premise of X-Men seems lifted directly from Nietzsche's Ubermensch. It's all about the struggles of the rare individual to overcome made possible by his exceptional talents and character. The overmen/X-men are not such simply based upon some broad common group membership like various supremacists wish and project. Again, the vast majority of any group is populated with unremarkable individuals.

The the very diverse origins, types and powers of X-Men show them to come from the whole spectrum of humanity as emphasized by individuals like Kelly Johnson and Robert Noyce. The mutant basis for such powers reinforce fundamentally random process by which such powers arise without denying such powers can be higher frequency in some populations.

X-Men have a bond due to their unusual powers which give them unusual life experiences and perspectives that also alienate them from most humanity. Similarly , extremely intelligent individuals generally seem to bond more with each other on this trait than any ethno, religious, cultural or nationalistic factor. Perhaps this is why cognitive elites are unconcerned and even promote the dissolution of such traditional human bonds.

Hollywood (and many here) wishfully distort and deny the Nietzschean basis of X-Men for obvious political, economic and moral reasons. Most people are not equipped to deal with the unvarnished randomness, purposeless and unfairness of human existence and instinctively react vehemently against them (cf iSteve).

Costar Rose Burn offers the typical superficial, mass marketing PC interpretation that X-Men appeals to anyone who is a minority or feels ostracized.

Anonymous said...

"What's more 1962y than astronauts?"

puhleezz, astronauts are like so outdated.

Martin said...

True. Nietzsche always said that he wrote for the future and that dates will one day be reckoned B. N. and A. N.

Tony Danton said...

The public events of 1962 were, in chronological order, the JFK Birthday Gala, the death of Marilyn Monroe, and the Cuban Missile Crisis.


IOW, it was all about the Kennedys.

No one gave a squat about the Beatles until right before the JFK assassination and they were not Big until 1964. Barbra Streisand was considered The Next Big Thing, her and folk music generally.(She was a show tune singer, not a folkie, but fit in with that sensibility in the mind of the press.)

The second to the last MM film, "Let's Make Love" is set in the year it was made, 1961, and it accurately depicts the trendy things of the previous year. It isn't a terribly good film in terms of plot or acting but it is a beautiful window into the world before Vietnam, modern rock and the couunterculture.

The only event not discussed in the movie was the Francis Gary Powers incident. Interestingly, the Powers family and Van Cliburn, lambasted in the movie, met on the flights to Moscow both made frequently.

Thursday said...

Does anyone else think that almost all of the early Beatles material is just terrible?

Traveller said...

"the SR-71 first flew in 1962, but you couldn't have put it in a movie in 1962 because it was top secret (and it wasn't even called the SR-71 until 1964 -- the early version that began flying in 1962 was called the A-12)"

(let's count people today who knows it as SR-71 vs A-12)

Yes this is an incredible mistake for Hollywood. This obliterates other microscopic poetic licenses like, for example, a black Thor.

Next time you ask if your articles are boring, remember this paragraph.

Anonymous said...

"Te-Nahisi Coates offers a slightly different take on the use of the year 1962 in his thoughts on "X-Men: First Class"."

Black guy is upset that other people don't constantly harp on black oppression 24/7.

In other news, dog bites man.

Racial IQ gap still 1 standard deviation. See, e.g., above.

Anonymous said...

"No one gave a squat about the Beatles until right before the JFK assassination and they were not Big until 1964"

Which is exactly what Steve said! People in 1962 could not understand the important things happening in that year, because their importance was only obvious later.

Happy

to

help

Carol said...

"Does anyone else think that almost all of the early Beatles material is just terrible?"

After eating it up at the time, I am pretty much done with it all, and rock/pop in general. I can't believe all the fellow boomers that cling to 60s music.

There is a universe of music out there to enjoy before one dies.

Steve Sailer said...

"I follow the movie's writers on Twitter. One of them is a former military contractor and fairly obviously a conservative. The other is a history nut who's pretty clearly an iSteve reader, given how he tweets on obscure subjects shortly after they appear here, the way Yglesias and Brooks do with political topics."

While watching the movie, I thought it wasn't unlikely that Yuri Slezkine's 2004 book "The Jewish Century" was influencing it.

paul is ... said...

"Then there's your confusion about the cuteness of Beatles. Any woman would tell you that only Paul was hot. Women in 1962 were just mad for fame. That's all.'"

Actually Paul Was Dead. So he was cold and was the walrus. If this sentence means anything to you, you are a child of the 60s.

speaking as someone who recalls countless conversations and emotional opinions on just this vital topic, Paul was NOT the only "hot" one (and they didn't use "hot" unless maybe the person was behaving like a lustful dog; that word is very 90s.) Paul was cute. I personally didn't care for him until I re-saw some of his old picutures and videos decades later, and realized how gob-smackingly gorgeous he was then. But Paul was preferred in England, while in America there were an inexplicable large minority who went for Ringo big time. a very pretty friend was captured on local tv screaming "Ringo" at a Beatles gig, just days before her wedding. And as far as looks, George was not considered entirely uncompetitive with Paul, believe it or not, and some of their "arty" photos were hard tell apart. He actually aged the best too, until he died pretty young. My favorite was witty John who everybody thought was "tough"--a common descriptive of approval that had nothing much to do with macho and more to do with a male who just seemed sure of himself, and quick with pithy words.
Words we used to describe male and female appeal were more varied than seem to be around today, and much was conveyed with voice inflexion.
The word "hot" strikes me as strangely repulsive and vulgar referring to some form of beauty, but I guess that's the idea. As I said--it used to be used to evoke the idea of someone controlled entirely by incandescent biological urges.

Steve Sailer said...

"Any woman would tell you that only Paul was hot."

I dunno about that, but actor James McAvoy definitely is reminiscent of McCartney in his likability.

Steve Sailer said...

Lennon had a masterful wit. Ringo was witty, too.

Fred said...

"Does anyone else think that almost all of the early Beatles material is just terrible?"

Yes.

"Black guy is upset that other people don't constantly harp on black oppression 24/7.

In other news, dog bites man.

Racial IQ gap still 1 standard deviation. See, e.g., above."


Ta-Nehisi Coates seems to have a pretty high IQ. He's also a gifted writer. But he spends a lot more time thinking about black history pre-Civil Rights than post.

He hasn't wrapped his mind around the IQ gap though, which ironically, makes him a meritocrat. He had little sympathy for the black firefighters in New Haven who didn't score high enough on the test.

gfs said...

"The word "hot" strikes me as strangely repulsive and vulgar referring to some form of beauty, but I guess that's the idea. As I said--it used to be used to evoke the idea of someone controlled entirely by incandescent biological urges."

"Lennon had a masterful wit. Ringo was witty, too."

Sorry, I wasn't really aware of culture until the mid 70s. By then drugs, sex and creating cults had made all but Paul look scary. I think the White Album came out about this time along with accusations of backward masking. Imagine how much more appealing the lyrics and looks of Paul McCartney and Wings to a very young girl. And what good is it to age well if you are scary, Paul, Ringo and certainly had he lived, John.

You guys who must be in your 50s or 60s are scaring me now with this lingering Beatle fanaticism. If only you'd stopped with "I wanna hold your hand". No doubt you would've been into Marilyn Manson had you been born 10 years after me.

David said...

Was it always the case that young screenwriters, who have not lived through the events of the costume pictures they write, are as carelessly ananchronistic as today's are? Did 1940s screenwriters, for instance, while doing a picture set in the Gay '90s, merely do the equivalent of dropping names found in the encyclopedia (YouTube, today)?

Probably. It still irks, though, doesn't it?

Haven't seen the movie, but from your column I feel as if I had. "Hm, 1962... like, you know, what was going on then?... Well, there was the Beatles, and beehive 'dos... and racial discrimination... and astronauts... I've got a story! MLK tries to be an astronaut, soundtrack by the Beatles!... Won't work? Uh, well, I'll think of something eventually..." Tap, tap, tap goes the keyboard.

These movies rarely resonate with oldsters who were there, unless those oldsters' only clue is the countless Time- or Newsweek-magazine retrospectives, replacing their memories with the "collective memory" we're all supposed to possess.

travis said...

But it didn't seem obvious in 1962, when Love Me Do, which is a pretty awful song, only reached #17 on the British pop charts.

George Lucas used Where were you in '62? as the tagline for American Graffiti, which is the definitive movie about popular culture in 1962. There are several characters wearing slicked-back hairdos, in the style associated with the '50's, but not one with a mop top because, as you have suggested, the Beatles were not yet a sensation. The movie is full of music, mostly rock & roll, and all of it American. In the documentary that comes with the DVD, Lucas talks about the pre-British Invasion America very wistfully.

Why the producers of X-Men are so obsessed with the era, I haven't a clue, since they probably look upon that time as the end of the Dark Ages.

jody said...

per your previous post steve:

in 1962, a woman could not take a cell phone video of a man who raped her then robbed her. but in 2011 she can.

http://abcnews.go.com/Technology/wireStory?id=13800608

http://blogs.sfweekly.com/thesnitch/2011/06/woman_videos_rape_west_oakland.php

Has to be said...

"If you started out making a movie about 2011, you'd miss lots of stuff that people in a half century will consider iconic about 2011."

You won't miss it. Your 2011 movie couldn't help but be redolent of 2011. However, you won't know which of the stuff utterly mundane to you will be iconic in 2061.

It's fun to speculate though. Here is my incomplete list:

- The look of cars.
- Cell phones, DVDs, flat computer screens on desks, and any other kinds of short-lived technology.
- The food we eat, most likely the organic craze.
- Global warming fears. Oh, sorry, this is really 2004, not 2011.

Murphy's life said...

"Most people are not equipped to deal with the unvarnished randomness, purposeless and unfairness of human existence and instinctively react vehemently against them (cf iSteve)."

"Similarly , extremely intelligent individuals generally seem to bond more with each other on this trait than any ethno, religious, cultural or nationalistic factor. Perhaps this is why cognitive elites are unconcerned and even promote the dissolution of such traditional human bonds."

Fascinating, Zarathustra. These two ideas though unconnected to each other in your comment get to the heart of why I come here. You cognitive elites are trying to impose an order on the rest of us which indicates you aren't any happier with random, purposeless existence than the rest of us. I assert that in the process of ordering the world in the way that benefits cognitive elites, you/they have made my life much more random, purposeless and unfair than it would've been without a certain type of meddling. Furthermore, I think it was done more out of spite than in a true attempt to improve society.

jody said...

doh. should have just posted the CNN link of that rape story, with the video of the guy:

http://www.cnn.com/2011/CRIME/06/09/california.sexual.assault.video/

anyway back to 1962 itself. this was just about the time that missiles were good enough that the era of the superbomber was ending, and the missile silo/submarine era of the cold war started.

i noticed in the x-men movie, a lot of missiles were launched from the decks of those US and soviet navy ships. i'm not an expert on naval matters but i do know about missiles, and i don't think the ships had those kinds of missiles in 1962. the US did not have a surface-to-surface missile until the harpoon in 1977. i did check wiki and the soviets had one in 1958, so maybe that scene in the movie where the soviets destroy their own freighter was technically possible.

that incoming volley meant to kill all the mutants on the beachhead, would probably have been 90% cannon shells, in 1962. instead it appeared to be potrayed as mostly missiles.

Steve Sailer said...

Right, why wouldn't you use 16 inch battleship guns?

Svigor said...

Perhaps this is why cognitive elites are unconcerned and even promote the dissolution of such traditional human bonds

The most "cognitively elite" country in the world, by far, is China. And the Chinese seem to have no interest whatsoever in the dissolution of traditional human bonds, on the contrary, they seem positioned opposite American policy.

Same goes for the Japanese, another "cognitively elite" population.

Ditto for Israel.

So maybe you should reevaluate the "cognitive elites" and their thinking, because it does not square with your characterization.

Get Off My Lawn! said...

Cute young guys, British or otherwise, did not have shaggy hair in 1962 unless they were beatniks. Even beatniks' hair was what we today would call short; it just wasn't crew cut or carefully groomed with Vitalis, as nearly all nice young men's hair was.

Based on the trailers, the movie struck me as being filled with really stupid, pointless anachronisms. I hate that. It's so easy to find out what people in 1962 really looked like, how they talked and dressed and thought. A few dollars on eBay will buy you a stack of vintage Life magazines, from which you will learn everything you need to know to create a reasonably accurate version of the early '60s. Why be wrong when you can get it right?

Anonymous said...

"The most "cognitively elite" country in the world, by far, is China"

......most cognitively elite? The phrase doesn't make sense. You don't know what the cognitive elite is.

Steve Sailer said...

J.S.

Thanks for the comment about the screenwriter's tweet.

Steve

paul is said...

"You guys who must be in your 50s or 60s are scaring me now with this lingering Beatle fanaticism. "

No lingering "fanaticism." At least not for me. Just remembering a topic that was extremely the-air-you-breath for about 4 years in adolescence. I don't think about it much, nor do I listen to 60s music, though there were some "hits" that remain matchless. The music was more uniting in those days because there were only a few places where you got it--the Top 40.
I read that the music you are most exposed to between the ages of 14 and 18 is the music that will always affect you most and will even bring back some of the behavior you exhibited at that age. One researcher saw her parents get lovey-dovey when they heard the big band music of the 40s and early 50s, that was popular when they were teenagers. Nothing else made them like that apparently.
But when you think about the "evolution" of so much popular "music" of the 90s, that's what scares me--the future of those who were adolescents circa 1992.

Mr. Anon said...

It seems to me that there are some things of our day that are quite common - even iconic - that won't be widely known about. I'm thinking specifically of one of the scourges of our age - tattoos. I see lots of people in the non-celluloid world with them - even grannies (well, I guess they are in the celluloid world - anyway, you know what I mean), but I don't see many on TV or in the movies. Granted I don't see much TV, and mostly only watch older movies. But still...... Am I in error in thinking this?

Anonymous said...

Uhh, as regards 1962, how about the movies themselves?

Here is the IMDB Top 10 for 1962:


1. The Longest Day (1962)

2. To Kill a Mockingbird (1962)

3. Lolita (1962)

4. Lawrence of Arabia (1962)

5. Dr. No (1962)

6. The Manchurian Candidate (1962)

7. The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance (1962)

8. How the West Was Won (1962)

9. What Ever Happened to Baby Jane? (1962)

10. The Exterminating Angel (1962)


And there are lots of other very famous movies in The Top 50.

Personally speaking, Liberty Valance is probably my all-time favorite movie, and I'd argue that 1962 was the high-water mark of American cinema [rivalled only by 1939].

In that respect, I think that 1962 was one of the final years of normalcy in the culture - certainly by 1970, it was becoming pretty clear that modernity would be an unmitigated disaster.

Jim O said...

"I read that the music you are most exposed to between the ages of 14 and 18 is the music that will always affect you most. . ."

Demonstrably true. Ask a person - anyone - to name the 3 or 4 year period when popular music was at its zenith. Almost invariably, you will be able to tell that person his or her approximate age simply by assuming that those were your interviewee's high school years.

Anonymous said...

And there are lots of other very famous movies in The Top 50.

Sorry - here is the correct link to The 1962 Top 50.

Anonymous said...

One other thing about the 1939/1962 dichotomy: In 1939, you've got the 32 y.o. John Wayne starring in Stage Coach, and the 31 y.o. Jimmy Stewart starring in Mr Smith; then you fast forward 23 years, to 1962 - Wayne is now 55 y.o., Stewart is 54 y.o. - and you've got them starring together in Liberty Valance and How the West Was Won.

Sigh.

They just don't make 'em like that anymore.

They. Just. Don't.

Truth said...

"I should mimic a posh accent like someone else around here frequently does"

You can hear it?

Svigor said...

"The most "cognitively elite" country in the world, by far, is China"

......most cognitively elite? The phrase doesn't make sense. You don't know what the cognitive elite is.


Yes I do. It's a prop used by high IQ groups in their attempts to justify why my home should be theirs.

Get Off My Lawn! said...

Ask a person - anyone - to name the 3 or 4 year period when popular music was at its zenith. Almost invariably, you will be able to tell that person his or her approximate age simply by assuming that those were your interviewee's high school years.

Not me. I was in HS from 1971-1974, which is probably close to the nadir of popular music.

If I could pick any three-year period, I'd probably go for 1938-1941. If forced to choose from the RnR era, I'd probably say 1964-1966 ... and you can leave out the Beatles. They had some good songs, but they've become too sanctified. I'm especially mystified by the large number of young people - that is people who were born 10 or more years after the Beatles broke up - who seem to love the moptops from Liverpool.

TGGP said...

Steve Landsburg has a post on whether anyone would realize how big a deal the Beatles and their genre would be in 1963, in contrast to his focus on mathematics where revolutions are immediately obvious to those paying attention.