Blue Skies in Camelot: An Alternate 60's and Beyond

Discussion in 'Alternate History Discussion: After 1900' started by President_Lincoln, Nov 29, 2017.

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  1. Unknown Member

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    IMO, it's likely; he was a heavy cigarette smoker, and lung cancer (which was believed to have been caused by his cigarette smoking) tended to be fatal in the 1960s...
     
  2. King_Arthur The Once and Present King

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    I just realised that Brian Epstein meeting Freddie Mercury could have some very interesting consequences, if you know what I'm saying;)
     
  3. BP Booker Citizen Shill

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    For a second I got Brian Epstein and Jeffery Epstein switched up and tought, man thats a little bit morbid/in bad taste
     
  4. President_Lincoln The Great Emancipator

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    That could be a really interesting way to write things! I'll have to keep that in mind, Ogrebear. :)

    Unfortunately, I have not yet had the time to read That Wacky Redhead, but I've heard some really wonderful things about it and I plan on reading it as soon as I get the chance to! :)

    As for Lucille Ball's activities at the moment ITTL... she's currently focusing on running Desilu Productions, which she did not sell to Paramount ITTL. She's also popping up from time to time in television programs and on Broadway. One prominent cameo of hers was as the President of the United Federation of Planets in the series finale of Star Trek in 1971. The decision to depict the President of the Federation as a woman was seen as a major pop cultural event and part of the increasing progress of empowered women in television. :D

    I have to agree with @Worffan101 on this one. :) Both Johnson and Bush have come out in favor of the ERA, and it has been passed through Congress for ratification or rejection by the states. ITTL there's a lot of momentum riding behind it, and I'll be sure to cover whether it's ratified or not when we get there. ;)

    Unfortunately, yes, the great Nat King Cole still passed in '65. :(

    The raid on Hampton's apartment does not occur ITTL, and he is currently serving as the National Spokesman for the Black Panther Party.

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    Indeed it could! :) I'll be sure to keep you guys updated on how Queen is doing as TTL rolls forward.
     
  5. Kaiser Julius Well-Known Member

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    Does anyone say "Sock it to me?" in 68?
     
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  6. President Earl Warren Well-Known Member

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    What is their opinion of the Chrisolm campagin? Is it "great a new left black woman is running" or " don't play by the Whitys rules,fight the power"
     
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  7. President Earl Warren Well-Known Member

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    Why did Johnson come out for it? Isn't he counting on anti ERA unions to back him up?
     
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  8. BP Booker Citizen Shill

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    Well if its gone to the states theres nothing the President can do to stop it right? Might be more of a case of "the law is the law and we'll work from there"
     
  9. President Earl Warren Well-Known Member

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    Well, as President, and especially as LBJ, he could use his influence to get state officalls aganst the ERA which could stall it in the states.
     
  10. Threadmarks: Chapter 75

    President_Lincoln The Great Emancipator

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    Chapter 75: I’ll Take You There - Elvis, Marilyn, and George Lucas

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    Above: Elvis Presley and Steve McQueen co-star in The Getaway, one of the most commercially successful; and critically panned, films of 1972.​

    Having regained his independence as an artist in 1964 with the untimely death of Colonel Tom Parker, the King of Rock N Roll had thrown off the shackles of the cheesy, awful movies his manager inflicted upon him and managed to climb his way back to the top of the charts and remain as relevant as ever in the constantly changing world of popular music. His heavier, soulful jams fit right into the late 60’s, early 70’s aesthetic that was developing around him. 1972 would be no exception and see “Burning Love”, one of his best songs yet, soar to number one and become the song of the summer. Teenage music fans joined legions of folks in their thirties who had grown up with Elvis in worshipping at his altar, and crowds at his concerts seemed one of the few places left where young and middle aged people could rock out together. It was good to be the King. In his personal life, Elvis couldn’t remember a time when he had ever been happier. No longer addicted to uppers and downers, he quieted his mind through meditation and stayed in shape through regular exercise. He even managed to earn a blackbelt in karate, an interest he picked up after a tour of Japan in 1969. Twice a month, he saw an LA shrink who had worked wonders on Marilyn Monroe, and helped Presley face his fears, self-doubt, and occasional bouts of loneliness. His marriage with Ann was subsequently stronger than ever, the two still happily wed and absolutely devoted to one another. Little Lucy Ann helped as well, her radiant presence brought the King to cloud nine whenever she was around, and encouraged him to take breaks from the road and the studio whenever he could. Nothing made him gladder than making Lucy smile, he later told his friends in the so-called “Memphis Mafia”. The record label gave Presley tremendous freedom to issue releases at his own pace, figuring that anything the King released was likely a surefire success regardless of how long he waited to put it out. This freedom enabled him to pursue unorthodox artistic directions, including recording a double album of his favorite Gospel songs backed by a full orchestra, and made work fun for him again. With all of this in mind, it’s easy in hindsight to see why Presley was reluctant to return to Hollywood at first when it came a calling for him again.


    Ann had been riding a wave of successful film roles, such as in 1971’s Carnal Knowledge opposite Jack Nicholson, when she received an offer to play the part of Carol McCoy in Steve McQueen and Sam Peckinpah’s upcoming new action flick, The Getaway. Having heard rumors that McQueen was difficult to work with, and favoring instead to find other projects for herself, Margret turned the part down. The role would eventually go to Ali McGraw, who was much in demand on the heels of her role in the commercial smash Love Story a few years before. Ann did however keep her complimentary copy of the script and upon reviewing it further thought that it might present a tremendous opportunity for her husband. Presley had previously expressed interest, even a desire to return to acting. He felt that he gave it up the first time just as he was starting to really get good at it. He refused, however to be in any more “silly stuff” and only wanted to give acting another try if it could be guaranteed that he could star in a film without having to sing in it for a change. He wanted audiences to look at him as more than just a goofball with a beautiful voice and a chiseled body. He craved to be taken seriously. Ann thought the cure for Elvis’ predicament was to have him act in something which would paint him in a totally different light than he had ever been seen before. If the audience expected one thing from him, he needed to provide them with another. What better way to drop the boring comic hero stuff than to have him play a villain? Rudy, The Getaway’s villain was a cold, ruthless killer and bank robber, who at one point in the movie has consensual sex with a woman he’s kidnapped in front of her husband and drives him to hang himself in humiliation and shame. In short, it was definitely a distinctly dark turn for the guy who once sang to a dog in a tux on The Ed Sullivan Show, but one Ann thought her husband had the charisma and motivation to pull off. Despite his reservations, namely that some of his young fans would see him and be driven to follow his character’s awful example, Ann insisted that “bad guys have fans all the time, especially the sexy ones! Besides, people can tell the difference between an actor and his part.” She kissed him deeply. “Come on, Teddy Bear.” She pouted. “Do it for me?” Elvis needed no further convincing. He called McQueen the next morning and asked if he could drive to the studio and audition for the part.


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    The film was certainly not Citizen Kane. Critics at the time felt the story was contrived, the acting of most of the cast wooden, and the action at times downright gaudy, yet Presley was spared and in fact, exonerated from the film’s mostly negative reception. Critics marveled that of all the members of the cast, it was the King who delivered the most believable, sympathetic performance, and managed to turn the dastardly Rudy into a deviously charming, even likable character. The film rode Elvis’ standout performance to a box office bonanza, earning its budget back ten times over on its way to being the 6th most successful movie of the year. Ann’s instincts about her husband’s position had been correct, and audiences could not get enough of the new, more serious Presley. It was as though he were returning to his “bad boy” image of the mid-1950’s, only now as a grown, powerful man. His status as a sex symbol was restored virtually overnight, and women across the country seemed to go through a second phase of Elvis-mania all over again. Finally, at long last, the King was conquering Hollywood. The Getaway has since received better retrospective reviews and was followed by a string of big movies for Presley including: 1973’s cult classic Walking Tall, in which the King played a former professional-wrestler turned Sheriff of a tiny Tennessee town as he employed swift justice to wipe out an illegal moonshine ring; a 1974 adaptation of The Great Gatsby which saw Presley tackle the role of the film’s enigmatic, sensitive titular hero opposite Mia Farrow’s Daisy; and the 1975 sequel Walking Tall Part 2. All in all, the 1970’s were a period of intense artistic experimentation, development, and growth for the King, and would only serve to grow his legend, adding “movie star” to his already impressive marquee of accomplishments.



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    Marilyn Monroe also maintained something of a reduced film schedule, though she never disappeared from Hollywood completely. Far from it. In fact, the late 60’s and early 70’s had been yet another fruitful period in the star’s storied career, with 1970’s Airport giving her a notch under her belt in the thriller genre. Still hoping for another big hit in the two years which followed, while also spending as much time with husband Joe and baby Percy (who was unbelievably already five years old by 1972), Monroe also filled her time campaigning for the Equal Rights Amendment, and vowed to make it her mission to get both major parties to make its ratification part of their platforms in that year’s election. In this task, she succeeded. Both President Bush and Senator Johnson spoke in favor of the E.R.A. on the campaign trail, and though it likely would not see passage until Congress reconvened after the elections, Marilyn felt glad in knowing that she had played such a pivotal role in seeing it through. Denying rumors and requests that she should seek public office in her own right, Monroe instead shifted her attention to her next big part.


    Carrying forward in the “thriller” genre that had brought her acclaim in Airport, Marilyn signed on to another such edge-of-your-seat, fingernail biter: this one an adaptation of the 1971 supernatural horror novel, The Exorcist. Adapted into a screenplay by the novel’s author, William Peter Blatty and directed by the legendary Arthur Penn, who was still riding high following the success of his New Hollywood defining Bonnie and Clyde, The Exorcist was inspired by supposedly true events surrounding the 1949 exorcism of Roland Doe. Following the plot of its source material very closely, the film follows the demonic possession of a 12 year old girl and her mother’s attempts to win her back through an exorcism conducted by two Roman Catholic priests. Monroe would star as Chris MacNeil, an actress and single mother trying to raise her daughter, Regan (played by the blooming child star Jodie Foster) in Georgetown while also starring in a film about student activism directed by her friend and associate, the alcoholic director Burke Dennings (Jack MacGowran). After playing with an ouija board and contacting a supposedly imaginary friend whom she calls Captain Howdy, Regan begins acting strangely. After several terrifying, inexpiable episodes, including Regan speaking in tongues and exhibiting supernatural strength, Chris calls on the aid of Father Lankester Merrin (Max von Sydow) and Father/Dr. Damien Karras, S.J. (Jack Nicholson) to find the root of her daughter’s affliction, and eventually, to cast out the demon possessing her…


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    Though the film would go on to be hailed one of the greatest in the history of the horror genre, its initial production was plagued with mishaps. Incidents such as Nicholson’s nine year old daughter, Jennifer being hit by a motorbike and hospitalized attracted claims that the film’s set was cursed. The complex special effects employed, as well as the nature of the filming locations, also presented severe challenges, and Penn threatened to quit the project several times, only being convinced to stay by Monroe and her devotion to what she saw as “a surefire hit”. It is no surprise to a biographer that Marilyn was attached to her role. The film’s primary psychological themes revolved around the nature of faith and the boundaries of maternal love, two things the actress had grappled with personally all her life. Scarred by memories of harsh evangelical Christianity in her difficult early childhood, and turned off of Catholicism by her husband’s oftentimes strict interpretation of its doctrines on morality, Monroe could not consider herself anything but an atheist by her mid-forties. That isn’t to say she didn’t think of herself as a spiritual person. One of the books she read with Joe in their evenings together, Henry David Thoreau’s Walden inspired in her an interest in transcendentalism, which she practiced by striving to live “simply and deliberately”, despite her wealth and fame. Whereas Thoreau found his religion in nature however, Marilyn found hers in the joys of parenting and (she hoped) setting a good example for a growing generation of young American women. Motherhood was her Gospel now, and Percy the only congregant she cared for.


    The Exorcist would eventually be released theatrically in the United States on October 31st, 1973. Initially booked in only 26 theaters across the country, that number soon exploded as the film’s popularity surged and it became a major commercial success. Critics and audiences alike proclaimed it a “triumph”, and helped it snag ten Academy-Award nominations, including Best Picture (the first ever horror film to earn that distinction) and Best Adapted Screenplay, which it went on to win. It became the highest grossing film of 1973 and one of the biggest box office smashes of all time, earning over $500 million worldwide in the wake of various re releases called for by popular demand. Following what she considered possibly the finest performance of her career, Marilyn decided to retire from acting and largely faded from the public spotlight for several years, focusing on her domestic bliss and continuing to work as an activist behind the scenes, promoting feminist causes in Hollywood and beyond.




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    1972 was also a big year for up and coming film director George Lucas, of Modesto, California. Deeply passionate about the industry, and inspired by the work of Stanley Kubrick, Arthur Penn, and the developing trends which would come to define “New Hollywood”, Lucas had nonetheless hit a bit of a rut in his burgeoning career. The year prior, he had made his directorial debut with THX 1138, a science fiction film set in a dystopian future of which Lucas was also the principal writer. The film starred Robert Duvall, was produced by the great Francis Ford Coppola and was considered “groundbreaking” and “the start of a must-watch career” by critics, but utterly flopped commercially, leaving the studio deep in the red and furious with the upstart behind it. Lucas blamed the film’s dark tone and imagery for its failure, and asked Coppola, whom he considered his mentor and role model, what he thought he should do next, to try and save his career before the studio cut him loose. “Simple.” Coppola replied. “Write a script that’ll appeal to the masses. Sometimes you have to do some mainstream, bread and circus stuff before you can make the films you really want to make.” Lucas cringed initially at the idea of abandoning his creative impulses to meet the demands of the market, but relented and then embraced the idea after giving the challenge some additional thought. Hoping eventually to return to the realm of science fiction, whose tales of Flash Gordon and adventure serials helped inspire Lucas to make movies in the first place, the director temporarily took a detour into his past and worked to create something tender, relatable, and nostalgic.


    The result was a tribute to his experiences “cruising” as a teenager in his hometown of Modesto in the early 1960’s. “Cruising” was the act of hopping in a car (preferably a hot rod) with one’s friends and driving around town aimlessly, hoping to meet and pick up girls. Lucas lamented that the activity had largely died out in the change and rapid social maturation of the mid and late 60s, and felt that it was his responsibility to document the experience for future generations to understand and celebrate. As he developed the story in his mind, Lucas decided to include his fascination with Wolfman Jack, an anonymous California DJ, on whom he had briefly considered directing a documentary during his time at USC School of Cinematic Arts. Setting the film in Modesto itself added autobiographical undertones, and the characters of Curt Henderson, John Milner, and Terry “The Toad” Fields also represented Lucas at different stages of his younger life. Curt is modeled after the director’s personality during his time in college, while Milner is based on Lucas’s teenage street-racing and junior college years. Toad meanwhile was reminiscent of Lucas’s “nerd years” as a freshman in high school, especially his “bad luck” and cluelessness when it came to dating. As the events of early 1972 unfolded, Lucas also hoped the project would help provide escape and act as release for a world-weary American audience. The director later said: “[THX] was about real things that were going on and the problems we're faced with. I realized after making THX that those problems are so real that most of us have to face those things every day, so we're in a constant state of frustration. That just makes us more depressed than we were before. So I made a film where, essentially, we can get rid of some of those frustrations, the feeling that everything seems futile. I think we all needed some escape after seeing the President gunned down the way he was.”


    After winning approval for the project, christened American Graffiti, from Coppola and the studio heads, Lucas began the long and arduous process of casting his film. Fred Roos, who had just finished working on The Godfather with Coppola, oversaw the process, and put out casting calls to actors and actresses from various high school and college drama clubs in the Southern California area. This was done because the film’s main cast primarily called for such young actors, and Lucas wanted to work with unknowns with whom he could develop his vision. Roos was a former casting director for The Andy Griffith Show and immediately recommended Ron Howard to Lucas for the part of Steve Bolander. The director agreed and the 18 year old Howard was eager to accept the role, as he believed it would help him break out of his mold as a child star. Over 100 unknown actors auditioned for the part of Curt Henderson before Mark Hamill, a drama major at Los Angeles City College, who had previously only ever played a minor role on daytime soap opera General Hospital was cast. Lucas appreciated Hamill’s authentic, thoughtful reading of the role, and was absolutely thrilled to work with him. The director also kept the young Californian in mind for another part he was cooking up in another project which would grow to be Lucas’ masterpiece, a space opera fantasy story set a long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away… Other major cast members included the debut of young Carrie Fisher as Curt’s sister and Steve’s girlfriend, Laurie Henderson (it would not be the last time that Fisher and Hamill portrayed siblings); and another unknown at the time who was then focusing on a carpentry career, Harrison Ford as the stetson-hat wearing Bob Falfa.


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    Featuring a soundtrack chuck full of classic songs from the 50s and 60s, footage full of hot rods and daring action on the streets of Modesto, and a warm-hearted story about love and the challenges of growing up, American Graffiti was an absolute smash hit. Winning widespread critical acclaim and becoming one of the highest grossing blockbusters of 1973, the film was more than enough to convince the film industry that Lucas was on his way to becoming a major player, and for his studio to feel comfortable green-lighting his next major project, one that would take nearly a decade to produce, but change the face of entertainment, and the world, forever.


    Next Time on Blue Skies in Camelot: All the Way with LBJ? Or a Thousand Points of Light?
     
  11. TC9078 Empire

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    Huh... I was kinda hoping that Lucas had gotten the rights to Flash Gordon this time 'round...
     
  12. Gerbbro John Bel Edwards Democrat

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    Well, I know which one I want. :p Though Bush wouldn't be a terrible President.
     
  13. historybuff Well-Known Member

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    Awesome. Great take on The Exorcist here, among other things. Who was the demon's voice for this version, BTW?
     
  14. Unknown Member

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    Good update. Never thought either Elvis or Marilyn would take those paths, but it somehow works ITTL...

    I see some things have stayed the same with George Lucas and some have changed; methinks Star Wars won't be released in 1977 ITTL with the hints you've dropped...

    BTW, "I'll Take You There" was sung by the Staple Singers and released in February of 1972, so congrats for continuing the pattern, @President_Lincoln, and waiting for more...
     
  15. Worffan101 Ain't done nothing if I ain't been called a Red

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    Well that was an unusual way to get the Star Wars cast together!
     
  16. BP Booker Citizen Shill

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    Its always nice when people in Alt History stories get the happy ending they never got in real life
     
  17. Ogrebear Well-Known Member

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    Very nice update. I like Elvis’ course here. Has he acted with the AltBeatles yet?

    Also I was wondering if Marilyn might turn up in Star Wars..? Esp if GL films one of the earlier versions of the script...
     
  18. Ogrebear Well-Known Member

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    If it takes a decade to make Star Wars then there is time in there for Lucus to make Flash Gordon - can we keep the Queen soundtrack though?
     
  19. John Spangler A man of wealth and taste

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    The Force is indeed strong in this young man.
     
  20. TC9078 Empire

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    Well, I mean, considering OTL Star Wars is basically a thinly-veiled Flash Gordon fanfic with names changed to avoid copyright... :p
     
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