Significant Political and Cultural Events this Month:
JFK (President Kennedy) decides to break with Frank Sinatra after Attorney General Robert Kennedy gave his brother a report on Sinatra’s association with members of the Mafia. Democrat Sinatra is so angered by the slight that he becomes a supporter of Republican administrations thereafter. (2) Actress Marilyn Monroe is found dead at her home in Los Angeles. The official death report lists an overdose of sleeping pills and chloral hydrate, and the cause as “probable suicide.” The last great creation of the studio star system was 36. (5) Jamaica wins independence from the UK after centuries of colonial rule.(6) Ringo Starr replaces Pete Best as the drummer of the fledgling British pop band, the Beatles (16). The 24th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, outlawing the poll tax, is sent to the states for ratification, which would be achieved in March, 1964 (27). Communist China agrees to send armaments to North Vietnam as a prelude to the Vietnam War that would engulf the United States later in the decade (27). The Supremes record tracks for their first album “Meet the Supremes.” (30) The Motown r&b girl group would not achieve major chart success for two more years, triggering their nickname at the Detroit recording studio, the ‘no-hit Supremes.’ All that changes dramatically in the summer of 1964.
On the Pop Music Charts:
Neil Sedaka claims the #1 spot for the month on the Billboard Singles Hot 100, with one of his signature tunes, Breaking Up is Hard To Do, for two weeks at the summit. He ends the 4 week reign of Bobby Vinton’s Roses are Red at the top. Little Eva, Carole King’s former employee, also enjoys one apex week with King’s composition, The Loco Motion. Other hit makers and their peak chart positions include Bobby Darin with Things ((3), Ray Stevens‘ novelty hit Ahab, the Arab (5), Barbara Lynn and You’ll Lose a Good Thing (8), Dion with Little Diane (8), and TV star Richard Chamberlain with the Theme from Dr. Kildare (10).
The soundtrack to the hit movie Hatari reaches #4 on the Billboard Albums Top 40 during a nine month run on the charts. The Henry Mancini score features the bouncy tune, “Baby Elephant Walk,” also covered by numerous instrumental artists. Two entries make their debuts this month and rank among the year’s biggest hits: the soundtrack of the film version of Meredith Willson’s Broadway musical, The Music Man, climbing to #2 and holding that position for 6 weeks. Tony Bennett sees what would become his signature song, I Left My Heart in San Francisco, peak at #19 as a single, but the the same named album reaches #3 during an astounding 83 week, certified-gold run. The single goes on to be named the Grammy-winning Record of the Year.
At the Movies:
The Music Man leads the August box office parade, as the feel good film stays at the summit throughout the final months of summer. Brisk business keeps holdover hits West Side Story, That Touch of Mink, Lolita, El Cid, and Hatari in the top ten, while newcomer family fare Five Weeks in a Balloon, Elvis Presley‘s vehicle Kid Galahad, the dubbed Italian adventure The Trojan Horse with muscleman Steve “Hercules” Reeves, and Roger Corman‘s latest episode of his Edgar Allan Poe adaptations, Tales of Terror, lure crowds to the drive-ins. The Cinerama spectacular The Wonderful World of the Brothers Grimm opens in select roadshow runs to boffo biz. Although not exactly a critical favorite, the gimmick of the first narrative feature in the eye-popping format is enough to pack those expensively-equipped theaters.
In limited and specialized release, prestige drama Birdman of Alcatraz impresses the critics before conquering the Venice Film Festival. Boccaccio 70 and Oscar-winning documentary The Sky Above—the Mud Below both continue their crowd-pleasing runs in the art houses.