This week, we at Pearl Modern have decided to focus on the year 1961, because it was an exceptional year and now, fifty years later, it is fascinating to see just how many classic films, performances, songs and fashions were produced in this one year alone. We unfortunately were not yet alive to partake of the cultural riches of this amazing year, but through digging, we have unearthed some timeless gems.
Below is a photograph of Princess Grace of Monaco and President John F. Kennedy during a visit to the White House, May 24, 1961 taken by UPI staffer James Altherton.
This was the beginning of a new era. The inauguration of John Kennedy ushered in a new optimism and Jackie Kennedy brought a new kind of glamour to the American spotlight that was classically elegant, yet fresh and easygoing, even at times cutting edge, with the early designs of Oleg Cassini.
The excitement in the air was palpable. Abstract expressionism was moving into Pop Art, with Roy Lichtenstein making his first Pop paintings using cartoon imagery, laying the groundwork for a sea change in how we see the world.
Many influential books were published in 1961, including such classics as Joseph Heller's "Catch-22" and two personal favorites, J.D. Salinger's "Franny and Zooey" and Roald Dahl's "James and the Giant Peach". The members of the Beat Generation were producing some of their best works. William S. Burroughs, after shocking the world in 1959 with "Naked Lunch" went on to write "The Soft Machine" in 1961.
Below is a photo of William S. Burroughs in Tangier, Morocco taken by Allen Ginsburg in 1961.
Some of the most memorable and stylish films were released in 1961. Warren Beatty and Natalie Wood starred in "Splendor in the Grass". Charlton Heston and Sophia Loren starred in "El Cid" and Natalie Wood starred in the timeless classic "West Side Story".
The one film from this year that set the fashion world aflutter had to be Federico Fellini's "La Dolce Vita".
Marcello Mastroianni and Anita Ekberg were stunningly sexy in this film as seen below in stills from the movie.
Below is a great song from 1961 by Julie London entitled Evenin' played over a video from Federico Fellini's later film "8 1/2" from 1963.
Another great Italian film from 1961 with incredible cinematography and a phenomenal cast is Michelangelo Antonioni's "La Notte". Marcello Mastroianni is again the epitome of suave alongside the brilliant Jeanne Moreau and Monica Vitti. Below is the original trailer for the film.
Below is a wonderful video of the great Brazilian jazz Samba and Bossa Nova singer Sylvia Telles performing Antonio Carlos Jobim's "Demais" in 1961.
Audrey Hepburn was one of the reigning darlings of cinema in 1961. This is the year that "Breakfast at Tiffany's" was released. Below is a terrific photo from 1961 of her looking charming and chic in a straw hat.
Fashion was in love with glamour in '61. Women dressed for evening in glittering gowns, furs and elaborate jewelry. This was also the early beginnings of a more mod look and it is very exciting to see how a new creativity was being born.
Below is an advertisement for Lindner Fur Salon of Switzerland, who specialized in designer furs from such couturiers as Christian Dior. This advertisement appeared in Du Kulturelle Monatsschrift, Winter, 1961.
Below is a photo from 1961 of a beautiful young woman in a fur coat standing in front of a sleek MG convertible. We are not sure whether she is a model or the lucky lady of the house. She looks very much like January Jones as Betty Draper on "Mad Men" or a young Martha Stewart during her modeling days.
Below are a few high fashion images from issues of Bazaar Magazine from 1961.
Below is a photograph of Margot McKendry and China Machado with members of the French press - dressed by Lanvin-Castillo and Heim, Paris 1961 taken by Richard Avedon.
1961 was a stellar year for French films. Jean-Luc Godard directed the classic Nouvelle Vague film "Une Femme Est Une Femme" or "A Woman Is A Woman", starring Jean-Claude Brialy, Jean-Paul Belmondo and the ravishing Anna Karina.
Below is an incredibly well-styled photo of the actress Anna Karina from 1961.
Below is another musical interlude from 1961, Françoise Hardy singing "Oh Oh Chéri".
In 1961, John Huston directed "The Misfits" starring Marilyn Monroe, Montgomery Clift and Clark Gable. This would be Clark Gable's last film. Below is a photo of Clark Gable taken on the set.
Below is a photograph of Marilyn Monroe as a sultry cowgirl from "The Misfits".
In a highlight from another great film from '61, the great John Cassavetes directed musical superstar Bobby Darin and Stella Stevens in "Too Late Blues".
Next is a trailer for the film narrated by John Cassavetes.
Here we have a wonderful montage of stills from "Mad Men" with musical accompaniment by Gene Pitney, performing "A Town Without Pity" from 1961.
1961 marked the infamous comeback concert and recording of the legendary Judy Garland "Live at Carnegie Hall". In closing, we present you with a video montage and song selection by this queen of stage and screen.