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The year is 1963. The studios are churning out westerns, war movies, prudish sex comedies and overblown historical epics, but audiences whose interests have been piqued by an influx of innovative films from abroad are hungering for something more, something new. At Esquire, two young writers hatch a plan to create a movie treatment that they hope will attract the director Fran?ois Truffaut: the story of the gangsters Bonnie Parker and Clyde Barrow. Mike Nichols, an improvisatory comedian turned neophyte theater director, gets his hands on an obscure first novel called The Graduate and wonders if he's ready to make the jump to Hollywood. Warren Beatty, just 26 years old and struggling through a series of flops after the success of Splendor in the Grass, decides to take his career into his own hands, but can't seem to settle on his next move. Dustin Hoffman, sleeping on friends' floors and scrounging for temp work in New York, struggles just to get an off-Broadway audition. Sidney Poitier, after two dozen movies, still yearns for something that seems completely unattainable: a good role. And 20th Century Fox, on the brink of financial catastrophe, puts all its hopes in a genre-the family musical-that will revitalize the company and then nearly destroy it again.
Pictures at a Revolution tracks five movies-the milestones Bonnie and Clyde and The Graduate, the popular hits Guess Who's Coming To Dinner and In the Heat of the Night, and the big-budget disaster Doctor Dolittle-on their five-year journey to Oscar night in the spring of 1968. It follows their fortunes through the last days of the studio system and the first sparks of a cultural upheaval that would launch maverick new stars and directors, topple more than one industry titan from his pedestal, and redefine what American movies could be. In 1967, moviegoers witnessed the arrival of taboo-shattering sex and violence on screen, the debuts of Dustin Hoffman and Faye Dunaway, the return of Katharine Hepburn and the poignant farewell of Spencer Tracy, the audacious risks taken by Warren Beatty, Arthur Penn, Mike Nichols and Norman Jewison, and Hollywood's agonized attempt to grapple with an incendiary moment in American race relations, with results that would change Sidney Poitier's career forever.