The “Cold War” continued to chill the air in both hemispheres during the 1950s, while an array of former colonies forged new identities and created a non–aligned force dubbed, by the Marxist writer Frantz Fanon, the “Third World ”. As the decade began, however, the Cold War suddenly heated up on the peninsula of Korea when the Soviet–equipped North Korean People's Army crossed the 38th parallel and invaded the Republic of South Korea . Lead by the U.S., the United Nations reacted by sending a multi–national force to repel the North Korean Army in what was nominally called a “police action”. The Korean War had started, and Dwight D. Eisenhower would be elected President in 1952 by promising to end it.
In the U.S. the Communist “Red Scare” was in full flower. Alger Hiss, a former State Department official, was convicted of perjury for denying he had once spied for the Soviet Union. Ethel and Julius Rosenberg were convicted of organizing an international Soviet spy ring. Guy Burgess and Donald MacLean, officials at Britain's embassy in Washington, escaped to Moscow when it was discovered they were Soviet spies. Then, when U.S. Senator Joseph McCarthy claimed that he had a list of 205 Communists who had infiltrated the State Department, he became an unstoppable anti–Communist crusader using his Senate committees to accuse, harass and often destroy many innocent people. (It wouldn't be until 1954 that the Senate would censure McCarthy and end his Communist witch–hunt.) Meanwhile, in televised hearings, the Senate Crime Investigating Committee, chaired by Senator Estes Kefauver, began exposing America's criminal underbelly and inaugurated what would become known as “electronic journalism”.
As the “Arms Race” escalated, the threat of a nuclear Armageddon became part of everyday life. The Soviet Union tested their own atomic bomb in 1950, and during the next few years both the U.S. and the Soviet Union developed and repeatedly tested the even more powerful hydrogen bomb. It didn't take long for the hydrogen bomb tests to create a huge demand for underground fallout shelters and, along with the American family's mass migration to the suburbs, these shelters came to symbolize the decade.
The ‘50s were the decade of the American Civil Rights Movement; the merging of the American Federation of Labor (AFL) and the Congress of Industrial Organizations (CIO) into a labor superpower; the authorization by Congress of a massive 40,000 mile interstate highway system; and the launching by the Soviet Union of the first space satellite, Sputnik, which shifted the “Space Race” into high gear . This was also the decade when the structure of DNA was discovered; when the Salk vaccine proved to be effective against Polio; when the Census Bureau utilized the first computer to use magnetic tape instead of punch cards; when Fidel Castro assumed power in Cuba; and when white–collar workers outnumbered blue–collared workers for the first time in U.S. history. On the lighter side, this ten year span also gave us Elvis Presley, Rock ‘n' Roll, and the Motown sound; the “I Love Lucy” TV show and Ed Sullivan; beatniks; McDonald's; hula–hoops; the Barbie doll; Disneyland, Davy Crockett and the Mickey Mouse Club.
For the motion picture industry, this would be the decade of changing technology and competition from television. While the “studio system” fought for survival, foreign films, independent production companies and freelance movie stars undermined the very foundation and power of the old Hollywood studios. By the end of the decade, business executives and accountants had replaced the Hollywood “Movie Moguls”, and virtually all of the early motion picture pioneers had faded away.
History of Motion Pictures
Picture Show Man Articles
During a reception in his honor, Joseph L. Mankiewicz, the president of the Screen Director's Guild, violently denounces the current policy of “blacklisting”, as well as Cecil B. DeMille's demand that members of the Screen Directors' Guild swear an oath of loyalty.
Both Gene Autry and Groucho Marx have signed to do television series.
RKO has yielded to the U.S. Department of Justice and formed a separate company to manage its cinemas.
The U.S. now has 11,300 traditional movie theaters, and 4,700 drive–in movie theaters.
According to a poll of exhibitors by Quigley Publications, Betty Grable is the top female box–office star, and John Wayne is the top male star.
Paramount releases Billy Wilder's “Sunset Boulevard”. Starring Gloria Swanson and William Holden, the film wins three Academy Awards and revives the film career of Silent Film star Gloria Swanson.
RKO releases Walt Disney's “Treasure Island” starring Robert Newton and Bobby Driscoll. This is the Disney studio's first all–live action feature.
20th Century–Fox releases “All About Eve”, starring Bette Davis and George Sanders. The film is nominated for 14 Academy Awards, the most for any film up to that time, and wins six including the Oscar for “Best Motion Picture”.
Acetate/Safety film, made from cellulose triacetate, has replaced the highly inflammable nitrate film as the standard for 35mm film production, distribution and film preservation.
Roy Rogers receives a temporary injunction preventing the sale of his Republic features to television. He claims that the advertisements shown during the commercial breaks in his films would suggest he was endorsing the products.
The House Un–American Activities Committee conducts its second set of congressional hearings into the motion picture industry. If witnesses refuse to testify based on the Constitution's Fifth Amendment guarantee against self–incrimination, they are blacklisted by the industry and refused any type of employment.
Screen Gems, the television production subsidiary of Columbia Pictures that had been producing commercials, will now begin producing television series.
Larry Parks, star of the hit movies “The Jolson Story” and “Jolson Sings Again”, has admitted to the House Un–American Activities Committee that he was a member of the Communist Party from 1941 to 1945.
New restrictions have been announced in the Production Code. Any reference to venereal disease, abortion or drugs is forbidden.
Time, Inc., has decided to suspend production of “The March of Time” newsreels that had begun in 1935.
The Screen Actors Guild has begun negotiations for royalties and residuals from the TV broadcast of films in which its members appear. They are willing to cede all rights to films made before August, 1948, in return for an agreement that the studios contract with them for royalties accruing from the sale of features to television made after 1948.
Akira Kurosawa's film “Rashomon” is released. It wins a special Academy Award for “Outstanding Foreign Language Film”, which reinvigorates the Japanese film industry and opens up new markets for Japanese films.
20th Century–Fox releases the Robert Wise film “The Day the Earth Stood Still”, starring Michael Rennie and Patricia Neal. This science fiction film presented an adult theme in a serious manner, and is often credited with prompting the surge in sci–fi movie production during this decade.
Warner Bros. releases Elia Kazan's film “A Streetcar Named Desire”. Starring Marlon Brando, Vivien Leigh, Kim Hunter and Karl Malden, it is the first motion picture to win three Academy Awards for acting.
John Huston's film “The African Queen” is released starring Humphrey Bogart and Katharine Hepburn. Bogart wins his first and only Academy Award for his performance.
MGM releases “Quo Vadis?” starring Robert Taylor and Deborah Kerr. The movie was filmed at the Italian Cinecittà studios, and it helped to establish a trend in which Hollywood often found it less costly to make its pictures overseas.
MGM releases “An American in Paris” starring Gene Kelly, Oscar Levant, Nina Foch and Leslie Caron. It wins six Academy Awards including the Oscar for “Best Motion Picture”. This is only the third musical to win the “Best Motion Picture” award up to this time.
Howard Hughes announces the temporary closure of RKO Studios to facilitate the dismissal of close to 100 employees suspected of having Communist sympathies.
The actor, John Wayne, calls the movie “High Noon”, “The most un–American thing I've ever seen in my whole life.” Wayne, Charlton Heston, Marlon Brando and Gregory Peck all turned down the leading role in the film.
After admitting that he had been a member of the Communist Party from 1934 to 1936, Elia Kazan denounces 15 of his former colleagues to the House Un–American Activities Committee (HUAC).
The new projection system known as Cinerama is introduced in specially constructed theaters. After using a special camera that shoots three separate rolls of film simultaneously, allowing it to encompass a 146° view that approximates the view of human vision, the system then uses three separate projectors to project the films onto a wide curved screen. The screen envelopes the audience on three sides and provides a unique viewing experience that seems to draw the spectator into the movie. (A fourth roll of film provides seven–track stereophonic sound.)
Using Edwin Land's Polaroid process, first patented in 1928, the ‘Natural Vision' Corporation applies polarization to the motion picture “Bwana Devil”. By wearing special polarized glasses, depth is added to the motion picture and viewers can see the movie in three dimensions instead of two. The effect is startling, and 3–D films become wildly popular for a year or two until the novelty wears off.
U.S. movie attendance drops to 51 million per week, from a 1948 high of 90 million. Warner Bros. and 20th Century–Fox announce that they will cease making “B” movies.
The actor James Stewart is among the first to share in his film's profits when he signs to be in “Bend of the River”.
United Artists releases “Bwana Devil” starring Robert Stack and Barbara Britton. This was the first film to use the ‘Natural Vision' Corporation's 3–D process.
Stanley Kramer releases “High Noon”. Directed by Fred Zinnemann, and starring Gary Cooper and Grace Kelly, the movie is nominated for seven Academy Awards, winning four. Liberals claim the film is a metaphor for the American public's failure to unite against McCarthyism.
Republic releases John Ford's “The Quiet Man” starring John Wayne and Maureen O'Hara. The film wins two Academy Awards, including John Ford's fourth Oscar for “Best Director”.
MGM releases Arthur Freed's “Singing in the Rain” starring Gene Kelly, Donald O'Connor, and Debbie Reynolds. Pauline Kael, writing for the New Yorker magazine in 1975, will declare this to be “probably the most enjoyable of all American movie musicals.” Although nominated for two Academy Awards, it doesn't win either.
Paramount releases Cecil B. de Mille's film “The Greatest Show on Earth” starring Charlton Heston, James Stewart, and Betty Hutton. The movie is nominated for five Academy Awards, winning two including the Oscar for “Best Motion Picture”.
The Academy Award ceremony is broadcast on television for the first time. The show draws the largest single audience in television's five–year commercial history.
After holding a public demonstration of its new widescreen process called “CinemaScope”, 20th Century–Fox announces that all of its future films will be shot using this new process. The studio recently bought up the rights to the special anamorphic lenses, used to produce the widescreen image, from their French inventor Henri Chrétien. Using these special lenses, a widescreen image is compressed onto standard 35mm–wide film and then, when it is projected onto the screen through another anamorphic lens, uncompressed back to its original widescreen image. Fox insists that theaters showing its CinemaScope pictures also install stereophonic sound equipment.
Warner Bros. announces that it will close down its operations for ninety days so it can ascertain which screen format (standard 1.33:1, 3–D, CinemaScope, or something else) to use in making its future movies.
MGM, United Artists, Columbia Pictures, and Disney officially commit to filming their future widescreen movies using the Fox CinemaScope process. Paramount decides to develop its own widescreen process because it considers CinemaScope's widescreen aspect ratio to be too extreme, with not enough height.
After failing to develop its own widescreen anamorphic lenses, Warner Bros. signs a contract with 20th Century–Fox to use Fox's CinemaScope process.
According to a report prepared for the Screen Actors Guild, movie production is at an “all–time low”. The preoccupation with new, expensive film technologies, and an increase in overseas production, were blamed for the slump.
Monogram Studios is renamed Allied Artists.
The success of “The Moon is Blue”, even without the Production Code's seal of approval, is beginning to generate questions about the Production Code's relevance.
The Library of Congress has issued two supplementary volumes of its Catalogue of Copyright Entries. All films registered for copyright from 1894 to 1949 are listed. The complete publication now lists over 76,000 films.
Paramount releases “Shane” starring Alan Ladd and Jean Arthur. Although this film had been shot in the standard aspect ratio of 1.33:1, Paramount suggested that theaters crop the top and bottom of the film and project it using a wide–angle lens, thus creating an ersatz widescreen image with an aspect ratio of 1.66:1.
20th Century–Fox releases “The Robe” starring Richard Burton, Victor Mature, and Jean Simmons. This was the first film shot in CinemaScope, although Fox secretly shot it also in 3–D in case the 3–D format became the new standard. Within one year this film will have world–wide gross receipts totaling over $29.5 million. The Academy presents the studio with a special statuette “in recognition of their imagination, showmanship and foresight in introducing the revolutionary process known as CinemaScope.”
Paramount releases William Wyler's “Roman Holiday” starring Gregory Peck and Audrey Hepburn. The film wins three Academy Awards including the “Best Actress” Oscar for Audrey Hepburn in her first starring role.
Otto Preminger releases “The Moon Is Blue”, starring Maggie McNamara, William Holden and David Niven. This film is released without the Production Code's Seal of Approval. Even without the seal, however, the film grosses over $3.5 million and reaches #15 on Variety's list of top 50 grossing films for 1953.
Columbia releases “From Here to Eternity” starring Burt Lancaster, Frank Sinatra, and Deborah Kerr. The film wins eight Academy Awards including the Oscar for “Best Motion Picture”, tying “Gone With the Wind” for number of Oscars won.
Paramount introduces its own “big–screen” process that they claim is better than CinemaScope because it is more flexible and produces much better image resolution. Called “VistaVision”, this process does not shoot the film through an anamorphic lens, but rather produces a wide–area negative by exposing standard 35mm film horizontally, thus producing an image that is two frames wide. The film is then projected using standard projectors that employ a special lens to rotate the image 90º. By using different lenses, the aspect ratio of the projected image can be made to range from 1.33:1 to 2:1, thereby adjusting the projected image to the size of the theater's screen. Paramount did not insist that theaters install stereophonic sound equipment in order to show VistaVision.
There are now 3,500 theaters capable of showing CinemaScope motion pictures.
Joseph Breen retires as director of the Production Code Administration after 20 years. Geoffrey Shurlock is appointed to replace him, and soon afterwards the Production Code is amended to allow miscegenation, liquor and some profane words in future Hollywood productions.
Walt Disney has terminated his distribution agreement with RKO. All of his films in the future will be distributed by his own subsidiary, Buena Vista.
The Screen Actors Guild has sent a letter to the Immigration Bureau urging a “stricter application” of regulations governing “alien actors coming into this country to take supporting or even minor roles in movies being made here.”
Dorothy Dandridge is nominated for “Best Actress” by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences for her performance in the 20th Century–Fox movie, “Carmen Jones”. She is the first Black actress to be nominated in this category.
Howard Hughes has acquired all stock in RKO, becoming the first sole owner of a studio.
Warner Bros. releases “Them” starring Edmund Gwenn and James Whitmore. This is among the first “atomic monster” movies to be made during this decade, and it remains one of the best.
Federico Fellini's film “La Strada” is released in Italy. Starring his wife Giulietta Masina, along with Richard Basehart, and Anthony Quinn, the movie wins the first Academy Award for “Best Foreign Language Film” when the category in introduced in 1956.
Warner Bros. releases Alfred Hitchcock's “Dial M For Murder”, starring Grace Kelly and Ray Milland. Although the film was shot in 3–D, it was never released in that format.
Columbia releases “The Wild One” starring Marlon Brando and Lee Marvin. Along with next year's “Rebel Without a Cause”, this film seems to capture the sense of alienation, suspicion of authority, and intolerance of hypocrisy felt by many young people during this decade.
Paramount releases “White Christmas” starring Bing Crosby, Danny Kaye, and Rosemary Clooney. This is the first film to be shot in Paramount's widescreen process called VistaVision.
Columbia releases “On the Waterfront” starring Marlon Brando, Lee J. Cobb, and Eva Marie Saint. The movie wins eight Academy Awards, including the Oscar for “Best Motion Picture”.
Most studios have switched from using Technicolor's three–strip color process to using Eastman Kodak's “Eastman Color” negative film stock. Kodak's single–strip color negative film can be used in any camera, and processed and printed by conventional means.
Attempting to match and surpass Cinerama, Mike Todd and American Optical introduce a new widescreen process called “Todd–AO”. Using 65mm–wide film stock for shooting, and a 70mm print for projecting (which allows six magnetic soundtracks), the Todd–AO process achieves the same sharpness and resolution of pre–widescreen movies but on a deeply curved 52 X 26 foot screen. The process also shoots and projects the movie at 30–frames per second, instead of the standard 24–frames per second, eliminating flicker and improving image resolution. Although never shown outside of a few hundred specially equipped theaters, Todd–AO establishes itself as the premier widescreen process for prestige films. (In order to reduce and print the images onto standard 35mm film stock, so they could be shown in conventional theaters, Todd–AO movies were filmed at two different speeds – 30 and 24 frames per second.)
20th Century–Fox has opposed the filming of “Rebel Without A Cause” in black and white, having decided that, for reasons of prestige, all films shot in CinemaScope must be in color. The film's director, Nicholas Ray, has been forced to interrupt shooting at Warner Bros. and begin again using Eastman Color film.
General Teleradio, Inc., which has just purchased the assets of RKO, has sold the studio's library of 740 features and 1,100 shorts to the C&C Television Corporation.
The NBC television network televised the new British movie, “The Constant Husband”. This is the first time that a feature–length film has premiered on TV in the U.S. before reaching theaters.
Having just completed filming the movie “Giant” , James Dean dies in an automobile accident at the age of 24. Although his film “Rebel Without a Cause” has not been released yet, his first film “East of Eden” made him an overnight sensation.
According to the Motion Picture Herald's annual referendum among cinema staff, the most popular star at the box–office is James Stewart.
Charlie Chaplin has sold his share of United Artists to the studio. Mary Pickford tries to buy Chaplin's share, but is outbid by Samuel Goldwyn.
Universal–International releases “Foxfire”, starring Jane Russell and Jeff Chandler. This was the last Hollywood film to use Technicolor's three–strip cameras.
The Magna Theatre Corporation releases the film version of Broadway's hit musical “Oklahoma”. Starring Gordon MacRae, Rod Steiger, and Shirley Jones, this was the first film made using the Todd–AO widescreen process. It is a huge commercial success.
Allied Artists releases the sci–fi film “Invasion of the Body Snatchers” starring Kevin McCarthy and Dana Wynter. Focusing on forced conformity, paranoia, and fear of those around us, the film is seen by some as an anti–Communist “better dead than Red” commentary, and by others as a condemnation of McCarthyism.
20th Century–Fox releases “The Seven Year Itch” starring Tom Ewell and Marilyn Monroe. The film produces one of the most famous shots of Monroe when she stands over a subway grating as an updraft of air from a passing train billows her white dress.
United Artists releases “Night of the Hunter” starring Robert Mitchum and Shelley Winters. This is the first and only film to be directed by the famous actor, Charles Laughton. Pauline Kael, writing for the New Yorker in 1968, would call it “one of the most frightening movies ever made.”
Warner Bros. releases Elia Kazan's film “East of Eden” starring James Dean, Raymond Massey, and Julie Harris. James Dean, in his first starring role, will become the first actor ever to be posthumously nominated for an Academy Award.
Warner Bros. releases “Rebel Without a Cause” starring James Dean and Natalie Wood. Dean's portrayal of youthful alienation, rebelliousness, and frustration with hypocrisy, casts him as the prototype of the fifties rebel. This movie, along with last year's “The Wild One” starring Marlon Brando, came to symbolize the disaffection and angst felt by many young people during this decade.
United Artists releases “Marty” starring Ernest Borgnine, Betsy Blair, and Esther Minciotti. Based on Paddy Chayefsky's television play, the film wins four Academy Awards including the Oscar for “Best Motion Picture”. Never before has the motion picture industry been so complimentary to its archenemy, TV.
Screen Gems, Columbia Pictures' television subsidiary, has begun to release its pre–1948 feature films to TV.
Harry and Albert Warner are selling their holdings in Warner Bros. to a group of investors headed by the First National Bank of Boston. Jack Warner, however, is holding on to his stock, and he remains the largest individual shareholder in the company.
Although the actor, Yul Brynner, has appeared in only one film before this year, during 1956 he is starring in three: “The King and I”, “The Ten Commandments”, and “Anastasia”. He wins the “Best Actor” Oscar for his performance as the irascible King of Siam in “The King and I”, a role he made famous on Broadway.
The Production Code has undergone a major rewrite. All remaining taboos have been lifted except for nudity, sexual perversion, and venereal disease. Geoffrey Shurlock, the director of the Production Code Administration, said that from now on it would be “the treatment that counts”. (In 1966 the Production Code would finally be scrapped, replaced by a voluntary rating system.)
For the first time, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences will award a separate Oscar for “Best Foreign Language Film”. In the past, this was not a separate category, but an honorary award with no nominations.
Although the screenplay for the new Allied Artist film “Friendly Persuasion” has been nominated for an Academy Award, the screenwriter, Michael Wilson, is not listed in the film's credits and he will not be eligible to receive the award if it wins. Wilson refused to testify in front of the House Un–American Activities Committee in 1951, and because of this, according to a clause in the Screen Writers Guild's contracts, studios can omit his name from a film's credits. The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, put in the position of possibly conferring its highest honor on someone whose name does not appear in the screen credits, revises its bylaws so that the achievement itself can be eligible for nomination even if the specific writer is ineligible. (These new bylaws were repealed in 1959.)
"The Wizard of Oz" (1939) is shown for the first time on network television. It is the first film to be shown annually on TV.
20th Century–Fox releases “Love Me Tender” starring Richard Egan, Debra Paget, and Elvis Presley. This is Elvis Presley's first movie role.
The King Brothers release “The Brave One” starring Michel Ray and Rodolfo Hoyos. The screenplay, which wins the Academy Award for “Best Motion Picture Story”, is credited to Robert Rich. Robert Rich, however, turns out to be a pseudonym for the blacklisted writer, Dalton Trumbo.
20th Century–Fox releases “Anastasia” starring Yul Brynner, Ingrid Bergman, and Helen Hayes. This film marks the return of Ingrid Bergman after being exiled to Europe for years due to her “immoral” behavior, i.e., having an affair while married. She wins the “Best Actress” Oscar for her performance.
United Artists releases “Around the World in 80 Days” starring David Niven, Cantinflas, Robert Newton, Shirley MacLaine, Charles Boyer, and a host of other stars. Produced by Michael Todd (who had never made a movie before), and filmed in the 70mm widescreen process called Todd–AO, the film wins five Academy Awards, including the Oscar for “Best Motion Picture”.
Humphrey Bogart dies after a long battle with throat cancer. He was 58 years old.
20th Century–Fox claims that there are now 46,544 CinemaScope installations around the world, with 17,644 in the U.S. and Canada alone. (There are a total of 20,971 movie theaters in the U.S.)
There are currently 6,000 drive–in movie theaters in the U.S. Many are equipped with children's playgrounds, large cafeterias, and an “all weather” theater for those who prefer to sit indoors in bad weather.
The House Un–American Activities Committee (HUAC) has found the playwright, Arthur Miller, guilty of Contempt of Congress for refusing to reveal the names of members of a literary circle suspected of Communist affiliations.
The RKO studios have been sold to Desilu, the television production company founded by Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz, stars of the famous “I Love Lucy” TV series.
This is the 30th year for the Academy Awards and the voting rules have changed. Instead of allowing industry guilds, industry unions, and Academy members to all have votes for the Academy's award nominations, both nominations and final selections will now only be in the hands of Academy members.
United Artists releases “Twelve Angry Men” starring Henry Fonda, Lee J. Cobb, E.G. Marshall, Jack Warden and Ed Begley. Based on a television play, the film served to establish a number of television talents in Hollywood, including its director, Sidney Lumet.
Roger Vadim's French film “And God Created Woman” is released starring Brigitte Bardot and Curt Jurgens. Earning over $4 million in the U.S., this film becomes an important box–office breakthrough for foreign movies, creating a demand for foreign films that had not existed before.
United Artists releases Stanley Kubrick's “Paths of Glory” starring Kirk Douglas, Adolphe Menjou, and George Macready. The film is set in France during World War I, and is considered to be one of Hollywood's most powerful anti–militarist movies.
Columbia releases David Lean's “The Bridge on the River Kwai” starring Alec Guinness, William Holden and Sessue Hayakawa. The film wins seven Academy Awards including the Oscar for “Best Motion Picture”. Once again, Michael Wilson is not given credit for helping to write the Oscar winning screenplay because he is officially blacklisted.
Paramount has sold the television rights for its pre–1948 film catalogue (750 movies) to the Music Corporation of America (MCA). The price is said to have been $50 million.
The U.S. Supreme Court has ruled against 23 victims of the blacklist who instituted proceedings against the studios that had suspended them. The decision ratifies the suspensions.
Mike Todd, producer of “Around the World in 80 Days” and promoter of the widescreen Todd–AO process, has died at the age of 50 in a plane crash. His wife, actress Elizabeth Taylor, had been persuaded not to accompany him on the flight because she was sick with a flu virus.
Independent production companies are making over 65% of Hollywood's movies.
Robert Gottschalk introduces an anamorphic projection lens that is compatible with all widescreen formats, and an anamorphic camera lens that dramatically reduces distortion when filming extreme close–ups. The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences awards these “Panavision” lenses a Class II Technical Award. By 1968 even 20th Century–Fox adopts the Panavision lens for its widescreen productions.
The popular actor, Tyrone Power, has died at the age of 45 of a massive heart attack while filming a swordfight for the movie “Solomon and Sheba”.
The Paris press is describing a group of young, unknown French filmmakers, who are producing their first films in a burst of creative energy, as Nouvelle Vague (literally “New Wave”). These new filmmakers have reignited French cinema and gained worldwide attention with their use of unorthodox editing techniques that intentionally break the narrative flow of their films.
Paramount has made its studios available to independent producers.
For the first time in the history of American motion pictures, the major Hollywood studios earned more abroad than domestically.
“Room at the Top” is released in London. The movie reflects the “angry young men” generation that had arrived on the British stage and in British literature in 1956.
Universal–International releases “Touch of Evil”, a film written, directed and starring Orson Welles. Also starring Charlton Heston and Janet Leigh, this movie is considered by many to be the last great film noir of the “classic” period.
Columbia releases “The Seventh Voyage of Sinbad” starring Kerwin Mathews and Kathryn Grant. The movie provides a stunning Technicolor showcase for the stop–motion “Dynamation” special effects of Ray Harryhausen. (The final cost of the film was a mere $650,000.)
MGM releases Vincente Minnelli's “Gigi” starring Maurice Chevalier, Louis Jourdan, and Leslie Caron. With a musical score by Alan Jay Lerner and Frederick Loewe, the movie sets a record by winning nine Academy Awards (all the awards for which it was nominated), including the Oscar for “Best Motion Picture”. However, it did not receive any acting nominations for any of its cast members, although Maurice Chevalier was given an honorary award for his contributions to the entertainment world.
The Motion Picture Association of America has repealed its 1957 ruling that forbids persons sympathetic to Communism, or those who refused to give evidence to the House Un–American Activities Committee (HUAC), from being nominated for an Academy Award.
Succumbing to a life of alcohol and drugs, the actor Errol Flynn dies at the age of 50.
Elizabeth Taylor's films have been banned in Egypt following her fund–raising for Israel.
Janus Films has become a successful foreign film distributor in the U.S., in part by handling the films of Ingmar Bergman.
In an effort to compete with television, the average U.S. movie ticket price has declined from $.53 in 1950 to $.51 in 1959.
The famous director, Cecil B. de Mille, has died at the age of 78. Having directed his first film in 1914, and his last in 1956, de Mille's career spanned almost the entire history of motion pictures. Perhaps best known for his biblical epics, his final film “The Ten Commandments” was nominated for seven Academy Awards.
Universal releases the romantic comedy, “Pillow Talk”, starring Rock Hudson, Tony Randall, and Doris Day. The film was nominated for five Academy Awards, and the Hudson–Day partnership proved to be so successful that they went on to make a number of similar movies together.
The British film “Room at the Top” is released starring Laurence Harvey and Simone Signoret. Simone Signoret wins the Oscar for “Best Actress”, becoming the first actress to win the Academy Award for a performance in a foreign–made film.
Columbia releases Otto Preminger's “Anatomy of a Murder” starring James Stewart, Ben Gazzara, George C.Scott and Lee Remick. Although nominated for seven Academy Awards, the film is most notable for repeatedly using such “daring” words as “panties” and “contraception”, and for giving George C. Scott his first major film role.
MGM releases William Wyler's “Ben–Hur” starring Charlton Heston, Jack Hawkins, and Stephen Boyd. The movie wins a record eleven Academy Awards, including the Oscar for “Best Motion Picture”.
The Screen Writers Guild has called for a strike. It is demanding that its members receive a percentage of the television rights for films.
The “King of Hollywood”, Clark Gable, has died at the age of 60 after suffering a heart attack. Gable had just finished filming John Huston's film “The Misfits”, and had recently learned that his wife, Kay Spreckels, was pregnant and that he would be a father for the first time.
Universal–International, and Columbia Pictures, have defeated the government's lawsuit charging them with price–fixing on films sold to television.
The Screen Actors' Guild of America is demanding a raise in minimum salaries as well as a share in TV residuals.
Dalton Trumbo, author of the screenplays for “Exodus” and “Spartacus”, is the first blacklisted writer to receive screen credit under his own name.
The “Hollywood Walk of Fame” has been inaugurated. The sidewalk is studded with bronze stars celebrating actors, directors, and other entertainment personalities.
Robert Gottschalk, the founder and president of the Panavision Corporation, has introduced a variable prismatic lens that enables Panavision's 35mm anamorphic process to considerably reduce the distortion inherent in all of the other competing widescreen processes.
Most movies are now exhibited in the “standard widescreen” aspect ratio of 1.85:1 in the U.S., and 1.66:1 in Europe.
Federico Fellini's Italian film “La Dolce Vita” is released starring Marcello Mastroianni, Anita Ekberg, and Anouk Aimée. Fellini wins the “Golden Palm” at the Cannes Film Festival, and is nominated for an Academy Award. The film, however, causes scandal and division among critics, audiences and churchmen in its native Italy and throughout Catholic Europe.
Universal–International releases Stanley Kubrick's “Spartacus” starring Kirk Douglas, Laurence Olivier, Charles Laughton, Tony Curtis, Jean Simmons and Peter Ustinov. The movie is nominated for five Academy Awards and wins three.
Alfred Hitchcock releases his film “Psycho” starring Anthony Perkins, John Gavin, and Janet Leigh. Made for very little money by a TV crew, Hitchcock called this “my first horror film”. The film was enormously successful, and is now considered a classic.
United Artists releases Billy Wilder's “The Apartment” starring Jack Lemmon, Fred MacMurray, and Shirley MacLaine. The movie wins five Academy Awards including the Oscar for “Best Motion Picture”.