Strikers and Critics and Films…Oh My!

In 1962, a strike against New York City’s nine major newspapers literally stopped the presses for 114 days. Originating at the New York Daily News, where grievances were at a fever pitch, on December 8 workers from the New York Times, New York World-Telegram & Sun also walked out. Soon, the New York Daily Mirror, New York Herald Tribune, New York Post, Long Island Star Journal and Long Island Press also joined the strike in a show of support.

The newspapers were holding to their offer of an $8 increase per week spread over two years while the unions demanded a $38.82 increase in the same two-year period. A New York Times analysis later revealed that, before the strike was ended on March 4, 1963, the strike-affected newspapers had lost more than $100 million dollars in advertising and circulation revenues; the industry’s 19,000 employees suffered a $50 million lost in wages and benefits. A drastic decline in circulation was experienced by all nine newspapers, especially the Times and Herald Tribune after doubling their price to 10 cents a copy. Many people stopped buying newspapers; it would take the assassination of President Kennedy for them to have a return in readership.  Wikipedia

The strike is now largely forgotten. Of the nine newspapers, only the New York Times, Daily News, New York Post and Long Island Press are still in existence. Also largely forgotten is that the New York Film Critics Circle was also affected by the strike…1962, considered one of the best in film history, was the only year that the Circle didn’t present an award.

It was a notable year for movies because French New Wave films that had been sweeping Europe for years were finally released — in one big bunch — to American cineastes. New Yorkers saw Jacques Demy’s “Lola,” the dark cabaret tale that was the director’s American debut, plus two Truffaut films — “Shoot the Piano Player” and “Jules and Jim” (which will be introduced by the New York Post’s Kyle Smith!) — as well as Agnes Varda’s ode to winding Paris streets, “Cléo from 5 to 7.” Brooklyn Paper

In 2009, the Brooklyn Academy of Music hosted a retrospective: 1962: New York Film Critics Circle. It was an attempt to redress that NYFCC Award-deprived year by finally declaring what their favorite films of 1962 would’ve been. “We welcome the opportunity to learn and revise film history,” said Critics Circle Chairman Armond White, co-curator of the series.

An amazing year. Had I but known. From my (barely) teenaged perspective, the most intriguing movie of 1962 was, without a doubt, Stanley Kubrick‘s Lolita, followed by the racy-sounding Chapman Report. Mothra, the Japanese giant moth movie (double-billed with The Three Stooges in Orbit), had the most memorable TV ads. And the rat-pack Western Sergeants 3 was undeniably ring-a-ding—check it out some time, as well as Roger Corman‘s fierce bargain-basement civil rights melodrama The Intruder. As a politically minded youth, I was fascinated and appalled by Otto Preminger‘s adaptation of Advise and Consent. For anxious thrills, however, nothing could top the Cuban Missile Crisis. (Try wearing your “Hands Off Cuba!” button, mid-embargo, in the George J. Ryan Junior High schoolyard.) The Village Voice

Yes, the Cuban Missile Crisis was a great production (even better than The Three Stooges in Orbit); they don’t make them like that anymore: it was in all the papers with pictures of missile silos included. But what films did the NYFCC list as their favorites? I couldn’t find it online and gave up; but, to be honest, I decided that I wasn’t very interested in the whole affair after all.