Film Series Intro: The Summer of '62

What were you doing in the summer of '62 (providing, of course, that you were already alive back then)?

Odds are you went to the movies fairly frequently over summer vacation. This was an era when lots of folk didn’t yet have air conditioning (or, typically, just a window unit in mom and dad’s room), and movie theaters provided relief from the heat and humidity.

No doubt many bought tickets not really caring what movies they saw ... just as long as they got to spend a few hours in the coolness.

But as it turned out, 1962 was a pretty good time to be going to the movies.

That was the year David Lean’s Lawrence of Arabia (widely hailed as one of the best movies ever) was released. It also topped the year’s box office with ticket sales of $37.4 million.

Another blockbuster epic was The Longest Day, a faithful recreation of the D-Day invasion.

Disney had a hit with Hayley Mills in In Search of the Castaways, while Warners found lucre and creepiness by pairing Bette Davis and Joan Crawford in What Ever Happened to Baby Jane?

Gregory Peck won us all over in To Kill a Mockingbird and Marlon Brando gave us a curiously fey Fletcher Christian in Mutiny on the Bounty.

For fans of Westerns there was the monumental Cinerama production of How the West Was Won and one of John Ford’s late classics, The Man Who Shot Liberty Valence.

The library’s film series The Summer of '62, presented on Saturdays in July at 1:30 p.m. in the Stanley H. Durwood Film Vault of the Central Library, 14 W. 10th St., offers four movies you could have seen 50 years ago.

Admission is free. So come on in out of the heat.

The Music Man (1962) on July 7
Meredith Wilson’s Broadway musical sensation comes to the screen with Robert Preston reprising his role as turn-of-the-century con man Harold Hill, bent on selling musical instruments to the citizens of tiny River City, Iowa. Shirley Jones and Buddy Hackett co-star in this perennial “76 Trombones” favorite. Unrated. 151 minutes

That Touch of Mink (1962) on July 14
Businessman Cary Grant wants to mess around, but nice girl Doris Day is saving herself for marriage. Yes, folks, once upon a time things like this really happened. Delbert Mann directs. Unrated. 99 minutes

Ride the High Country (1962) on July 21
In the late ‘50s Sam Peckinpah was known as a TV director, but after this poetic Western hit the big screen he earned a rep as one of Hollywood’s most promising filmmakers. Two aging ex-lawmen (Joel McRae, Randolph Scott...both of whom had been Western stars in the ’30s and ‘40s) sign on to guard a shipment of gold. One is incorruptible; the other wants to steal their cargo. Unrated. 94 minutes

Birdman of Alcatraz (1962) on July 28
Burt Lancaster earned an Oscar nomination for his performance as the real-life Robert Stroud, a convicted murderer who while in prison (mostly in Leavenworth) became an expert on bird diseases. With Karl Malden and Thelma Ritter; directed by John Frankenheimer. Unrated. 147 minutes

Free parking is available at the Library District Parking Garage at 10th & Baltimore.

About the Author

Robert W. Butler is a lifelong Kansas City area resident, a graduate of Shawnee Mission East High School and the William Allen White School of Journalism at the University of Kansas. For several decades he was the movie editor of the Kansas City Star; he now writes a movie-themed blog at He joined the Library's Public Affairs team in 2012.

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