Pop Culture in Review for the Year 1961

Pop Culture refers to different types of cultural and social practices followed by a large group of people which influences the mindset and thinking of others as well. It includes a range of different types of subjects such as film, fashion, television, cyberculture, technology, and news as well.

The year 1961 is considered important for the many different changes in the pop culture that impacted the world. Find out more about pop culture in 1961 in the article below.


  • West Side Story

Probably one of the most significant events of the pop culture of 1961 includes the film, West Side Story. It was an American musical romantic film starring Natalie Wood, Richard Beymer, Rita Moreno, George Chakiris, and Russ Tamblyn as well. The film’s background is from the adaption of the 1957 Broadway musical which was also introduced by the same name. The film was directed by the famous Robert Wise and Jerome Robbins.

The screenplay of the movie was by Ernest Lehman. The reason for the success of this film was that it got appreciation from many critics and viewers. It was the highest grossing film in the United States in 1961. The budget for the film was $6 million while it made a huge sum at the box office worth $44 million. It was nominated for 11 academy awards of which it won 10.

  • The Hustler

The Hustler was just a pure classic in the American film industry and was directed by RobbertRossen. In 1959, the novel was published which was written by Walter Tevis by the same name. The story revolves around Paul Newman who, in the film, took the role of “Fast” Eddie Felson. Fast had the desire of going on to professional hustling and having high stakes wagering as well.

The film has a reputation for being quite exploratory as it considered the winning and losing aspect of sports while the lead role character got major awards as well. Of the budget of $2.12 million, the film made almost four times in the box office leading to a total earning of $7.6 million.


  • Biggest Hit Singles

In 1961, there were more than 50 new bands that were created while the music industry all over the world including the USA was being promoted. Amongst the top singles of 1961 include Stand by Me by Ben E King, Runaway by Del Shannon, Let’s Twist Again by Chubby Checker, Surrender by Elvis Presley, and Blue Moon by The Marcels. All these top hit singles were from American musicians.

  • Increase in Music Production Houses

In 1961, there was a rising trend of production houses displaying their new music at the different types of theatres. New production houses were constantly being opened because of the high investment opportunities in the sector. Among few of the most popular ones was the Broadway Production which opened in New York and had more than 700 productions

Broadway Production was able to attain multiple contracts because of constantly being involved with the musical theatre sector.  Some of the performances under the Broadway Production includes Carnival, Donnybrook, How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying, Kwamina, and Milk and Honey.


  • Space and Astronomy

The year 1961 was one of the most important ones for space and astronomy. On May 5th, 1961, Alan B. Shephard Junior made the first suborbital flight by an American which lasted for 15 minutes and 22 seconds. This was done because Moscow’s Major Yuri A. Gagarin became the first man on earth to orbit around earth. Later Virgil I. Grissom made the second successful attempt on July 21, 1961. The time for this flight was 15 minutes and 37 seconds after which the spacecraft Liberty Bell 7 sank on touchdown.

In 1960, NASA tested different types of women as well for becoming astronauts. Out of 25 women, 13 passed the test on becoming a part of the Mercury 7 program.

A Chimpanzee named Ham was also tested on a test flight to space in on January 31, 1961.

  • Intrauterine device was created

The Intrauterine Device was created in 1961 which was basically a contraceptive for women. Jack Lipples was the guy behind this invention. This device was a huge step to control birth and spread further awareness on population control as well. The model was adapted from the earlier similar invention that was created in the 1800s.


  • Baseball Grows in America

The year 1961 was influential for baseball as the American League expanded up to 10 teams which now also included the team of Los Angeles Angels as well as New Washington Senators. Moreover, the league schedule was also increased from 154 to 162 games. On January 16th, Mickey Mantle became the highest paid player for baseball as he signed a contract providing him $75000 per season.

Furthermore, the World Series was held as well in the times of cold political war. The New York Yankees won it at 4 against 1 with the Cincinnati Reds.  Whitey Ford was awarded the MVP of the baseball league.

  • F1 Deaths

The Italian grand prix was held this year. However, just like last year 1961, there was one death on track in 1961 when Wolfgang Von Trips died in a crash that took place on track.

  • Golf Championships

Golf as a sport was one of the most played ones in the year 1961 with Gary Player winning the Master Tournament and becoming the first international golfer to do so. Ryder’s Cup matches were held where the United States team won against British on a score of 14 ½ against 9 ½. The U.S Open was won by Gene Littler while the PGA Championship was won by Jerry Barber. Gary Player was also the highest paid player of the era earning more than $64,500.

The golf league for women was also interesting for the year. Mickey Wright, an American professional golfer, became the first and only one to date to achieve three major championships in the year. She won the LPGA Championship, the U.S. Women’s Open, and the Titleholders Championship. Her total achievements of 13 still stand on second.


  • Changing Fashion

In 1961, fashion changes were on peak and the fashion was being quite experimental at this time. People were more focused on how the youth is dressing up themselves and followed that. For the youth, the fashion was mainly influenced by designers. The newer kind of dresses included miniskirts, culottes, and hats as well. The new kind of PVC Clothing was also introduced but was a terrible idea and failed later.

Sheath Dresses also gained importance in 1961 and were worn in the different formal events. The use of gloves (both; netted and other) were also being used by women in their formal clothing.


  • The Avengers

Rated 8.2 on imdb, The Avengers was the top film of the year 1961. The series was nominated for 4 times on Primetime Emmys and won BAFTA Awards in the year 2000. It was mainly focused on action and crime while some element of comedy was involved in it as well. The stars for this show included Patrick Macnee, Ian Hendry, Honor Blackman, Julie Stevens, Diana Rigg, Linda Thorson, and Patrick Newell.

A total of 161 episodes were held between 1961 and 1969 with a per episode running time of 50 minutes each.

  • The Mike Douglas Show

The Mike Douglas Show had its debut in 1961 and it continued for the next 20 years. The focal person Mike Douglas had this show for inviting over different types of local guests for serious interviews while he also conducted some musical performances and a mix of light banter with the guests. It is still considered as one of the best shows in the American history.

The show was moved to Philadelphia after it went into national syndication five years after its beginning. The program was distributed on televisions by Westhouse Broadcasting, which was also one of the main ones in the United States. It is one of the longest shows with more than 4000 episodes.

  • Wide World of Sports

The American TV Program of Wide World of Sports was initiated in 1961 with the aim to cover all the major sports played in America. Initially, the program was hosted by Jim McKay after which it was continued by succession hosts as well. There were 37 seasons and more than 1000 episodes that were 90 minutes each.

Although, the tv program was quite successful in the start and covered many events as well. However, 40 years later, the program had started to lose events and faced external pressures due to which it became linked to ESPN in 2006.


  • World Wildlife Fund was Established

The World Wildlife Federation was established in the year 1961 with an aim and purpose to protect different types of endangered animals and propose saving wildlife. It also works on preserving the human impact on the wildlife environment such as restricting people and the governments to build settlements on animal habitats. The idea for the fund was initially proposed by Victor Stolan and the organization was founded on 11th September 1961.

The organization was established with the help of a formal contract in the form of “Morges Manifesto” which was basically a commitment from the management of the organization to only assist worthy organizations in saving the world’s wildlife. As of now, it has become the largest conservation organization with more than 5 million people supporting the cause. The Panda Symbol was chosen for the organization because of Pandas being one of the most endangered animals on earth.

  • S Broke Diplomatic Relations with Cuba

On January 3rd, 1961, the United States broke all diplomatic relations with Cuba because the Cuban Government was nationalizing the properties owned by American citizens constantly. Moreover, the cold war was at peak and Cuban forces were not in the favor of America. Cuba also started more trade with the USSR rather than the USA. All these reasons contributed significantly to breaking relations with the US.

However, on April 27th, 1961, 1200 US-Sponsored Castro exiles tried to invade Cuba on the Bay of Pigs. The furious fight lasted for some time after which all the Castro exiles were either killed or captured by Cuban forces as refugees.

The diplomatic relations between the United States of America and Cuba restored in the year 2015.

  • Vietnam War

The cold war was at peak and so was the issue of the Vietnam war. In 1960, only 900 generals were posted by the USA to South Vietnam while in 1961, the number of generals rose to 2000 and further increased as well. U.S Military advisers in South Vietnam were a major threat for many as the increasing number was ultimately resulting in a possible threat of major war.


  • New Dances

In 1961, cultural and social events were going on their peak and so was the culture of dance. The dances of 1961 included Chubby Checker, Rock N Roll, and Hungarian Dance as well. The dance culture was formerly practiced in different types of events such as the beginning of sporting events, marriage functions, and day to day parties and there were dances in the clubs as well.


The pop culture impact on society has always been high. It is the pop culture of a certain time or place which creates the long road to the changing perspectives, mindsets, and behaviors of people living within a society. Based on the highlights of pop culture in 1961, it can be concluded that the year 1961 was full of interesting events.

Related posts: