[1963: Both Dr. No and "Puff the Magic Dragon" are hits this year. Free Reed T-shirt to anyone who can explain why.]
Dr. No was the first film version of the James Bond series. As to why it was a hit, well, it had sex and violence, always a plus for U.S. audiences, and the plot revolved around a planned attack on the manned space flight program, which loomed large in the popular mind at the time, especially since the U.S. was lagging in the space race. The spy-counter-spy motif hit a chord because of its cold war overtones, although SPECTER consisted of more or less independent terrorists. The hero was handsome and the women were beautiful. The handsome hero got beat up a lot, which no doubt had an unconscious sadomasochistic appeal. On the other hand, he also got laid a lot, which the audience probably figured was adequate compensation. “Puff the Magic Dragon” was a celebration of childhood innocence and the mourning of its loss, though not in any sinister way, just as part of the growing-up process. It came at a time when the war in Vietnam had begun to take on the nature of a sinister loss of national innocence, or, should I say, the dispelling of the myth of such innocence, which of course never existed except on TV programs of the 1950s. Many people imagined that the song contained veiled references to smoking marijuana (paper, puff, dragon=draggin'), though the singers and the song writers consistently denied any such allusion. Nevertheless, the perception that it was about the use of an illegal drug must have helped make it popular with certain audiences. For a full discussion, visit this site.