The Diamond Jubilee is only just over a week away and our cinematic time machine has whizzed us forward from 1952 to 1977, the year of the Queen’s Silver Jubilee. And it’s a very different Great Britain to the one we saw 25 years ago.
The population was now over 56 million, and television had taken off to such an extent that 25 million households had licenses for colour sets, which cost them £18 each. Black and white TVs were rapidly on their way out: only 16,000 licenses were sold for them during the year. The Morecambe and Wise Christmas Show attracted an audience of 28 million. A young lad called William Hague addressed the Conservative Party conference in Blackpool while, in sport, Virginia Wade won the women’s singles title at Wimbledon and Red Rum triumphed at the Grand National for the third time.
At the cinema, the rise of television meant the number of screens in the UK had declined significantly, with just over 1,500 open in 1977 – a third of those open in 1952. The average cost of a ticket had rocketed in 25 years, by over 170% to £1.39.
It was a good year for comedies, like Annie Hall, The Goodbye Girl and Smokey And The Bandit. Two of science fiction’s biggest, Star Wars and Close Encounters Of The Third Kind, both made lasting impressions, while the other major films of the year were Julia, Saturday Night Fever and The Turning Point.
Sylvester Stallone’s Rocky slugged its way to winning the Oscars for Best Picture and Best Director this year, while Sydney Lumet’s Network nearly swept the board on the acting front: Peter Finch, who died earlier in the year, was Best Actor and became the first actor ever to receive a posthumous Oscar, Faye Dunaway was Best Actress and Beatrice Straight Best Supporting Actress. Best Supporting Actor went to Jason Robards in All The President’s Men.
Making their first appearances in the world this year were Michael Fassbender (2 April), Tom Hardy (15 September) and Maggie Gyllenhaal (16 November). Sigourney Weaver made her screen debut with a small part in Annie Hall and Ridley Scott sat in the director’s chair for the first time on The Duellists, which also marked Pete Postlethwaite’s arrival on screen. The year also marked the start of one of cinema’s most illustrious careers: Meryl Streep appeared in a small role in Julia. Her TV debut came the following year with Holocaust, the same year as the release of her next film, The Deer Hunter. The rest, as they say, is history.
1977’s roll of honour included some very big names. We said good bye to Howard Hawks, Elvis Presley, Charlie Chaplin, Bing Crosby, Groucho Marx, Joan Crawford and Peter Finch.
In the third and final part of this series, we enter the 21st century, arriving in 2002, the year of the Golden Jubilee. It’s all about sequels and the return of Roman Polanski.
This article can now be downloaded as a podcast from http://www.cyberears.com/index.php/Show/audio/5984