Mark Harris’s Pictures at a Revolution: Five Movies and the Birth of the New Hollywood tells the story of the five films nominated for Best Picture of 1967 at that year’s Academy Awards: Bonnie and Clyde, Doctor Dolittle, The Graduate, Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner, and In the Heat of the Night. This book was recommended on a recent episode of the This Had Oscar Buzz podcast, so I decided to check it out, despite the fact that I had only seen one of the movies featured.
This was an informative and enjoyable book and I would recommend it for anyone interested in the Oscars or the process of how films are made. The book proceeds in mostly chronological order, shifting back and forth among the five films as they move through the processes of script writing, casting, filming, and marketing. It was especially fun to read about the challenging process of filming Doctor Dolittle (and its subsequent flopping at the box office), given the also-disastrous 2019 version had just been released at the time I was reading.
The book discusses the ways in which these five films represented a shift away from traditional Hollywood pictures (represented by Doctor Dolittle and Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner) and a new approach to cinema that was influenced by French New Wave films and more focused on the director as auteur (represented by Bonnie and Clyde and The Graduate). There are also lots of interesting tidbits, like the fact that Faye Dunaway almost wasn’t cast in Bonnie and Clyde because no one thought she was pretty enough (!) and that most of In the Heat of the Night was filmed in Indiana because Sidney Poitier refused to travel south of the Mason-Dixon line (rightfully so, as stories included in the book make clear).