History of the World According to the Movies: Part 80 – 1960s America


Hair is a 1979 musical film pertaining to the hippie movement of the 1960s. Here is a picture which approximate of how the free-loving, drug-experimenting, peace-loving, anti-establishment, and psychedelic rock listening hippies is seen in Hollywood. Sure they’re seen as colorful renegades but actual photos of them may leave you disappointed in some respect. Yet, where would 1960s America be without them?

The 1960s is an interesting time period in the world in which everything seem to go through a rapid change. Of course, the storminess of the sixties was bound to happen sooner or later since the tensions during the Post-WWII era were about to come out in the open. In the US you have civil rights movements and protests galore with hippies and psychedelic rock music. You also have some big hairdos that were heavily reinforced by styling products as well as Mad Men style workplace ethic. Yet, American music would face competition from the British invasion that was led by the Beatles. Let’s just say a lot of stuff happens in this decade that is unforgettable. Yet, in movies set in this decade, you either have the beehives and pillboxes, mop tops and miniskirts with go-go boots, or hippies. Yeah, it’s crazy all right. Yet, you also have memorable figures like John F. Kennedy, Lyndon B. Johnson, and others. But with the groovy exterior you had things like the Cold War, the Vietnam War, and social civil unrest which came with social reform movements like the fight for civil rights. Still, since the 1960s have such a profound effect on the pop culture landscape, we’re going to remember them for a long time.

1960s America often serves as a background in many films set in this time. A lot of defining moments in this time would include the height of Cold War hysteria, the Space Race, the Civil Rights Movement, and the Vietnam War. There was also an explosion of discontent among the masses since  protest movements erupted across the country. Apparently people had something to be angry about whether it was war, sexism, racism, working conditions, limited rights, or what not. Then there were assassinations of John F. Kennedy, Robert F. Kennedy, and Martin Luther King. On the cultural side, rock and roll was rising while the Hollywood studio system fell into decline to its final nail in the coffin. In fact, much of the old long held facets of the American establishment would fall into decline such as racial segregation and disenfranchisement that had been going on since the 1890s thanks to the Civil Rights Movement. Yet, while the 1960s has a profound effect on the American cultural ethos, plenty of movies set at the time do have their share of inaccuracies which I shall list accordingly.

John F. Kennedy:

John F. Kennedy’s presidency was known as Camelot during his administration. (It wasn’t referred to as Camelot until a week after his assassination with the publication of Theodore H. White’s interview with Jacqueline Kennedy in Life magazine.)

John F. Kennedy was alive in December 1964. (He’d been dead a year by this point yet Simon Birch features a report of him giving a speech. The journalist was probably using a Ouija board. I mean Lyndon B. Johnson was elected to his own term that year.)

John F. Kennedy was a physically fit and healthy man. (He was in frail health all his life and was in constant pain that he had to spend half of the day in bed as well as tried to relieve it through painkillers like novocaine and amphetamines. He suffered from Addison’s disease, back problems, APS-2, STDs {obviously}, fevers, and abdominal pain. Heck, he couldn’t obtain life insurance. Yet, for a man in his condition, he had lived far longer than even the most optimistic doctors at the time would’ve anticipated. Kennedy lied about his health to get into navy during WWII {though he served heroically} and received last rites four times by the Catholic Church. Kennedy would lie about his health his whole life but he was determined to live every minute he had {yet most people in public life did at the time}.)

John F. Kennedy and the CIA didn’t get along. (Unlike what JFK suggests, he may have tried to blame the CIA for the failure of the Bay of Pigs invasion but he knew it was his fault. Yet, most of what Kennedy said about the CIA is pretty glowing. When asked about whether the CIA was conducting any unauthorized activity in South Vietnam, Kennedy said, “I think that while the CIA may have made mistakes, as we all do, on different occasions, and has had many successes which may go unheralded, in my opinion in this case it is unfair to charge them as they have been charged. I think they have done a good job.” There were also people with CIA connections in the Warren Commission, too.)

John F. Kennedy was still alive in December 1963. (Contrary to Forrest Gump, he was already assassinated by this point. Thus, Forrest should’ve never met JFK because the All-American team members were announced in December.)

Robert F. Kennedy:

Robert F. Kennedy’s speech “On the Mindless Menace of Violence” was delivered in Indianapolis on April 5, 1968. (It was delivered twice. First, it was given in Indianapolis on the previous day but it was later presented as a recorded at the City Club in Cleveland. Though you wouldn’t know it from Bobby.)

The FBI was involved with Robert F. Kennedy’s assassination. (They most likely were not unlike what Nixon suggests.)

Robert F. Kennedy announced his intention to run for president in 1967. (He didn’t announce his intention to run until March 1968.)

Robert F. Kennedy was an upper class twit. (He was upper class but he wasn’t a twit as portrayed in Hoffa. Also, his personal class war with Jimmy Hoffa during the late 1950s was seen as dynamite material. When Kennedy published his book The Enemy Within, he sent Hoffa a signed copy with an inscription: “To Jimmy, I’m sending you this book so you won’t have to use union funds to buy one. Bobby.”)

Robert F. Kennedy was guarded by the Secret Service during his run for president in 1968. (If he had Secret Service protection at the time, chances are he may not have been assassinated and American history might’ve gone on very differently. It was only after Kennedy’s assassination that presidential hopefuls were entitled to Secret Service detail.)

Eugene Allen:

Eugene Allen had two sons. One became a Black Panther while the other died in Vietnam. (Contrary to The Butler, he actually had one son who went to Vietnam but he survived, worked for the State Department, and is still alive today. Oh, and his wife wasn’t a drunk who had an affair.)

Lyndon B. Johnson:

President Lyndon B. Johnson was a pawn of the establishment. (Most LBJ portrayals would show him as this except that he signed a lot of civil rights legislation, started his Great Society that included things like Medicare, declared War on Poverty, signed some environmental legislation and others. Yet, he gets a bad rap for escalating the Vietnam War, which is something he may not have done if it weren’t for the political pressure to do something after the Gulf of Tonkin incident. And trying to get much of this legislation passed wasn’t always in his best political interests either. So he was more than just a mere pawn. Also, he was a pretty astute politician who knew how to get things done.)

Lyndon B. Johnson was a colorful figure. (Movies tend to skim over somethings about him. Incidences include holding a dog by the ears, showing his appendicitis scar, eating his food quickly and taking the food of those who haven’t even finished yet, conducting meetings on the toilet, and waving his penis {which he affectionately called “Jumbo”} at the White House Press Corps to intimidate them. He also peed on one of his Secret Servicemen, had a phone installed in the White House bathroom and frequently told the person on the other end where he was, had an amphibious car he liked to drive into a lake and scream about the breaks failing in the the company of guests, and sent Pope Paul VI a bust of himself, not the pontiff. He also did something known as “the Johnson treatment” when he leaned really close to a politician through an effective combination of cajolery, browbeating, and outright intimidation that august body has ever seen. And then, LBJ would escalate to kicking the guy with his steel-toed boots that left many people’s shins bleeding. He’s also said to have even more lovers than John F. Kennedy but it perhaps helped that “Jumbo” lived up to its name. Not to mention, he’d swear a lot. Yet, he did have a heart though, since he was the one to comfort Rose Kennedy when JFK was shot as well as marched in Kennedy’s funeral procession when he was told not to by the Secret Service. And he didn’t care for the Kennedys either nor did they like him. Let’s just say doing a miniseries on his presidency would be pretty entertaining, indeed.)

Richard Nixon:

Richard Nixon was a bad public speaker. (Contrary to the Oliver Stone film, Nixon was a decisive and confident speaker which explains why he was able to convince so many people to vote for him in 1968.)

Edie Sedgwick:

Edie Sedgwick and the Velvet Underground’s Nico didn’t get along. (Contrary to Factory Girl, they were friends. Edie warned Nico about Andy Warhol’s behavior and Nico was upset when Edie died.)

Jimmy Hoffa:

Mob boss Carol d’Allesandro ordered the hit of Jimmy Hoffa. (The mob boss in Hoffa is fictional. Yet, FBI did suspect Anthony “Tony Pro” Provenzano and Anthony “Tony Jack” Giacalone for ordering the hit. They were the ones who arranged to meet him at a suburban restaurant in Detroit’s Bloomfield section called the Machus Red Fox. Yet, unlike in the movie, Hoffa went alone.)
Jimmy Hoffa was murdered in a parking lot in front of the Machus Red Fox. (If he was, then we probably would’ve known what happened to him since the Red Fox was busy the night Hoffa disappeared. The toughest mob hitmen wouldn’t have risked shooting him in plain view of shoppers, diners, and restaurant staff. Not only that, but one witness claimed seeing a car drive away with Hoffa and three men in it. It was very likely he was killed in another location. Still, Hoffa’s body has ever been found.)


3 point lines existed in 1964. (They weren’t introduced until 1971.)

College football teams traveled to away games by bus in the 1960s. (By the 1960s they were traveling by plane. Also, no college team in a Division I. school could fit in a single bus. Hell, when my high school football team traveled, I don’t think they could fit in a whole school bus either.)

Ring card girls were used in boxing fights during the 1960s. (Not until the late 1970s at Caesar’s Palace.)

Sportscaster Howard Cosell wore a toupee in the 1960s. (Contrary to Ali, he wore a come over, not a toupee. He’d start wearing hairpieces in the early 1970s.)

Rubin Carter:

Boxer Rubin Carter beat his white opponent Joey Giardello to a pulp but lost the middle weight title fight of 1964 because of blatantly racist judges. (Contrary to The Hurricane, Carter lost the fight so badly that the real Giardello sued the filmmakers over that scene and got a nice settlement from it. Even Carter admitted that Giardello’s win was well deserved though he performed well until the last round.)

Rubin Carter left the military with full honors and was a model citizen. (Unlike what The Hurricane implies, Carter was actually court-martialed four times for various behavioral and disciplinary offenses and was eventually discharged as “unfit for military service.” Also, the film conveniently leaves out that he was convicted for assault and armed robbery at 14 {his fourth juvenile offense} and was already a savage street fighter an gang leader then. By 22, he was convicted of three brutal street muggings and the detective who arrested him on that case was black. His murder accusation wasn’t just based on racial profiling {which can’t really be proven}, wrongfully convicted or not since he was no model citizen whatsoever. Also, unlike his Denzel Washington portrayal, he was only 5’8.”)

Rubin Carter was at the height of his boxing career when he was arrested for murder. (Unlike what The Hurricane suggests, Carter’s boxing career was on a downhill slide. Out of his last 14 fights, he lost 6 and tied 1. A middleweight contender for champion of the world, not in the least.)

Rubin Carter and John Artis were convicted by an all-white jury. (Contrary to The Hurricane, the second jury had two blacks and it still convicted them. The first jury included one black guy but his name wasn’t drawn in the final deliberations.)

Rubin Carter and John Artis were arrested right after the robbery and murders at the Lafayette Grill. (Contrary to The Hurricane, they were arrested a few months later as a case was built against them.)

Rubin Carter and John Artis were wrongfully convicted for the Lafayette Grill Murders. (There was enough evidence to convict Carter twice {both times set aside due to procedural errors by the prosecution that had failed to turn in some evidence and thus didn’t give him a fair trial}. He actually miserably failed a lie detector test and refused to take it a second time. At his second trial, it was revealed that several witnesses who provided Carter’s alibi admitted they had been asked to lie for him. He was almost convicted a third time, but the judge figured it wasn’t worth it since 22 years had passed and all the people were either dead or ridiculously old. Sure Carter was released in 1988 but he was never exonerated. Oh, and contrary to the movie, Carter knew Artis reasonably well by that night of the murders. Let’s just say when we’re talking about racial injustice in the criminal justice system, Rubin Carter doesn’t make a good mascot. And Bob Dylan wrote a song for this guy?)

Rubin Carter and John Artis were convicted on the word of Bello and Bradley who were thieves and liars and the surviving shooting victim said that Carter didn’t do it. (Contrary to The Hurricane or the Bob Dylan song, it’s more complicated. Sure Bello and Bradley were thieves, but Bello’s testimony helped police tracked down Carter’s car minutes after the crime. Other evidence linked Carter to the crime as well. As for the shooting survivor, well, Willie Marins said at Carter’s trial that he didn’t know him and Artis were the killers.)

Rubin Carter and John Artis had rock solid alibis for the time of the Lafayette Grill murders. (Unlike in The Hurricane, they had at least several, depending on the source material. Let’s just say having several different alibis doesn’t help your case.)

Rubin Carter was stopped by police because he was driving while black. (Unlike in The Hurricane, the cops were specifically looking for Carter and his car because it matched the description given by the two eyewitnesses. Oh, and did I mention, he was in the back seat when they found him?)

Rubin Carter was a civil rights activist prior to his arrest. (There’s no evidence he was an activist.)

Muhammad Ali:

Muhammad Ali’s association with the Nation of Islam didn’t have much to do with his life. (If he didn’t join the Nation of Islam, his draft refusal wouldn’t have been so much a big deal {then again, maybe it would}. I mean the guy changed his name from Cassius Clay when he joined that organization which was known for its violence {though he’d later become a Sunni Muslim like his friend Malcolm X. But Ali’s beliefs on violence were in line with the Nation of Islam’s teachings}. Still, what treatment Muhammad Ali received in refusing was pretty disproportionate, yet his stance against the Vietnam War made it easier for other black people to speak out against it, including Martin Luther King.)

Muhammad Ali played little role in Malcolm X’s life. (These guys were good friends and it was Malcolm X who helped introduce Ali to the Nation of Islam but Ali is nowhere to be seen in Malcolm X while Malcolm X is only seen for a few minutes in Ali.)

Ernie Davis:

Ernie Davis was introduced to the Cleveland Browns in the full Browns uniform. (Contrary to The Express, he was introduced wearing what many men would wear to a board meeting. Also, he wasn’t part of the Browns’ roster then so the coach wouldn’t allow it.)

Ernie Davis had a stuttering problem which he overcame by saying grace at the table and reading the Bible aloud at night. (Yes, he had a serious stuttering problem but he overcame as he got older by reading aloud school books and sports books, never the Bible. Also, he was raised by his grandparents and did move in with his mom at 12. However, unlike in The Express, his uncle’s name wasn’t Will Jr. but Chuck.)

Ernie Davis was a football star in Syracuse University. (Yes, but The Express leaves out that he also excelled in baseball in basketball in high school. And while he played in football during his time in college, he also played varsity basketball as well. Also, in 1961, he was name by Sports Illustrated as one of college sports’ all-around athletes. Still, sports biopics are notorious for omitting stuff about their subjects’ accomplishments in other sports. I mean you’ll never see movies that talk about Lou Gehrig being a fullback at Columbia University and had gone there on a football scholarship. Nor would you see that Jackie Robinson excelled in football, track, and basketball alongside baseball in high school and college as well as served in the military as an officer during WWII {where he refused to move to the back of the bus} and the fact that his brother was an Olympic silver medalist in the 1936 games.)

Ernie Davis was a relative unknown until his college years. (Contrary to The Express, in his senior year in high school, Davis received more than 50 scholarship offers. High school athletes with those kind of offers aren’t mere unknowns, even in the 1960s.)

Ernie Davis was a saint. (Though he’s depicted like this in The Express, that’s probably not a realistic portrayal. However, at least he refused to play with the Redskins.)

Crime and Law Enforcement:

John Artis was about to attend college on an athletic scholarship when he was arrested for the Lafayette Grill murders. (Contrary to what The Hurricane suggests, he was arrested in October 1966 and had been out of high school for two years before then and wasn’t attending college then. There’s no evidence he enrolled at a college or had any college scholarship. In fact, he had been drafted into the Army.)

Gangster Bumpy Johnson died during the winter of 1968 at an appliance store. (Contrary to American Gangster, he died in New York during the summer. Also, he died while eating at a restaurant of a heart attack. Yet, while the real Frank Lucas said he was there, his widow said he died in the arms of a childhood friend.)

Frank Lucas was Bumpy Johnson’s driver for 15 years. (Though it’s seen in American Gangster, Mayme Johnson may admit that Lucas drove her husband a few times but Bumpy didn’t really see him anything more than someone he may have allowed to carry his coat. Also, Bumpy had been out of prison for five years prior to his 1968 death that leaves a possible window of 5 years in which Lucas could be his driver.)

Miranda rights were being read in the spring 1966. (They wouldn’t start being read to criminals until months later.)

Frank Abagnale:

Frank Abagnale’s dad was shady as hell. (Contrary to Catch Me if You Can, Frank Sr. wasn’t a hustler but he was among his son’s first victims. Frank Abagnale began his criminal life with petty scams involving his dad’s credit card, racking up thousands on a spending spree before his old man got the bill. This is probably why he ran away from home.)

Frank Abagnale pretended to be a French substitute teacher at his new high school. (The real Abagnale said he never pulled this scam.)

Frank Abagnale was driven into a life of crime because of his parents’ divorce. (Contrary to Catch Me if You Can, the real Abagnale said this in his 1981 memoirs, “If I wanted to lay down a baby con, I could say I was the product of a broken home. But I’d only be bum-rapping my parents.” According to him, his real motive for pulling scams was for sex and money. Yes, he was just a horny teenage boy who wanted to get laid and only continued because he was good at it.)

For years Frank Abagnale was chased by FBI agent Carl Hanratty who caught him in France. (While Abagnale was friends with an agent named Joe Shea, they didn’t bond until after his capture. In fact, Shea had no idea he was a teenager until Abagnale was caught. Not to mention, there were several FBI agents chasing him but he didn’t have a Batman/Joker relationship with any of them and certainly didn’t call them at Christmas since he didn’t want them to know where he was. Interestingly, Abagnale is currently a CEO at his own security consulting company.)

Frank Abagnale was able to be convincing in his roles without having to do much work. (Of course, he did a lot more effort into researching his roles than what was shown in Catch Me if You Can. He also read medical texts and periodicals.)

Frank Abagnale escaped from a VC10 jetliner by removing the toilet and climbing down beneath it, eventually fleeing through the hatch from the tarmac. (Abagnale claims this in his 1981 memoirs but airline experts say that such an escape would’ve been impossible.)

Frank Abagnale was an only child. (He was one of four children in his family but none of his siblings became con artists.)

Frank Abagnale was caught in a French warehouse during a terse standoff between him and the FBI. (Contrary to Catch Me if You Can, Abagnale wasn’t captured by cunning FBI work. In France, he was recognized by his ex-girlfriend of an Air France stewardess who notified the police. After spending time in a French jail, he spent a year in a Swedish jail until a judge helped him get repatriated in the US. His final arrest was in New York when he was recognized by two detectives after walking past their car.)

The Boston Strangler:

There were 13 Boston Strangler victims. (He killed 11 as far as we know. One victim died of a heart attack while the other was beaten to death which doesn’t really match the Strangler’s pattern.)

Albert De Salvo suffered from a multiple personality disorder and committed the murders in a psychotic state. (Contrary to the Tony Curtis movie, there’s no evidence he was never suspected of having such disorder. Yet, if he had any kind of mental disorder, he may have been a sociopath for he did have a criminal record at a young age and torture animals as a kid.)

Albert De Salvo was the Boston Strangler. (Well, contrary to the Tony Curtis film. it’s been disputed for a long time. However, he may have killed at least one. Yet, he was never tried or convicted on any of the murders {he was actually sentenced for a series of rapes and unrelated robbery charges}. Also, until recently though De Salvo confessed, there was initially no evidence to substantiate his claims.)

The Boston Strangler murdered pretty young women. (All but 4 of the murders involved women over 50.)


Chicago’s NBC Tower was around during the 1960s. (It first opened in 1989.)

FedEx was around in 1964. (It didn’t start operations until 1973.)

1960s hippies wore tie-dyed clothing and colorful costumes. (Many of the 1960s photographs had them in fairly drab clothing such as sweaters and jeans. Also, tie dye didn’t become stylish until the 1970s.)

Most protests that took place in the 1960s revolved around Vietnam and Civil Rights. (There were also protests pertaining to free speech and other things. Take your pick.)

Most protestors of the 1960s were mentally ill, academically weak, rebelling against their parents’ values and/or demonstrating out of concern for themselves. (A lot of college student protestors were from upper to middle class families and did rather well in school and not all of them were rebelling against their parents. As for young protestors in the Civil Rights movement, many black students probably protested with their parents.)

Laura Bush voted for LBJ in 1964. (Unlike what W. suggests, she didn’t because she was 18 and the voting age at the time was 21 and would remain so until 1972.)

The National Weather Service was around during 1967. (It was the Weather Bureau then but it didn’t become the National Weather Service until late 1970.)

Minnesota school buses in the 1960s were painted yellow and black. (Along with Nebraska, they were the only states that had orange and black school buses.)

Helen Gahagan Douglas was still a Congresswoman in 1963. (She left Congress in 1951 and didn’t run in 1950 because she ran for Senator. She lost to Richard M. Nixon who he referred to as “pink down to her underwear.”)

Bra burning stories were around in 1967. (The first story was released in 1968. Also, though the Women’s Movement was active in the 1960s and 1970s, most feminists didn’t burn their bras.)

The Mount Sutro Tower was around in 1962. (It was built in the 1970s.)

Truman Capote’s Black & White Ball took place in 1967. (It took place in 1966.)

Had John F. Kennedy lived, he would’ve pulled out of Vietnam before the affair went out of control while Lyndon Baines Johnson was a warmonger. (This is what Oliver Stone believes. Yet, RFK has admitted that his brother probably would never have pulled out of Vietnam. Also, Johnson escalated the war as part of a political deal with conservative factions to get his social agenda passed. Not to mention, the Gulf of Tonkin incident sent a nationwide outcry for American action that put political pressure on Johnson. Still, Johnson’s reasons for escalating the war were political. His personal opinion would be summed up here, “I don’t think it’s worth fighting for, and I don’t think that we can get out. It just the biggest damn mess I ever saw.”)

John F. Kennedy and Richard M. Nixon were enemies. (Actually despite running for president against each other, they were buddies for 14 years and they saw themselves as political centrists as well as served in the Navy. However, it ended when they ran against each other though, unsurprisingly. Still, politics does make strange bedfellows. Jack and Bobby were friends with Joe McCarthy, too, though more so for Bobby. Yet, they weren’t so keen on Adlai Stevenson.)

Chauncey Eskridge was at the hotel where Martin Luther King Jr. was shot during the man’s assassination. (I think Eskridge is a fictional character from Ali but I’m not sure.)