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1950s - Part 1 - The Greek Aristotle was the first to observe and describe how he saw a light after-effect: a persistent...


1950s - Part 1



Year



Event and Significance



1950

Hollywood began to develop ways to counteract free television's gains by the increasing use of color, and by introducing wide-screen films (i.e., CinemaScope, Techniscope, Cinerama, VistaVision, etc.) and gimmicks (i.e., 3-D viewing with cardboard glasses, Smell-O-Vision, etc.).

Early 1950s

Film theater attendance drastically declined due to the rise of television.

1950

John Howard Lawson and Dalton Trumbo were imprisoned and the eight remaining members of the Hollywood Ten were convicted of contempt of Congress.

1950

Japanese director Akira Kurosawa released Rashomon.

1950

Studio control of stars further eroded when James Stewart signed a precedent-setting independent (or free-lance) contract to share in the box-office profits (45% of the net profits) of the Anthony Mann western Winchester '73, and for the film version of the stage comedy Harvey. In fact, for all his Universal Studios films (including Bend of the River (1952)

,

and The Far Country (1954)), Stewart took no salary in exchange for a large cut of the profits -- a very lucrative deal. As a result, he earned increasingly high salaries, became a pioneer of the percentage deal (a performer accepted a reduced or non-existent salary in exchange for a percentage of the box office profits), and was the industry's top box-office star by mid-decade. For Winchester '73 alone, Stewart earned $600,000.

1950

The career of former silent star Gloria Swanson (nominated and lost for Best Actress) was revitalized with the release of Billy Wilder's black comedy Sunset Boulevard. It was nominated for eleven Academy Awards and won three - for Story and Screenplay, B/W Art Direction/Set Decoration, and Best Score. Swanson was nominated for Best Actress (and lost). Wilder's film was controversial for its unflinching look at the Hollywood studio system and its politics, and for its casting of former and current Hollywood legends as themselves to add a touch of reality (Cecil B. DeMille, Hedda Hopper, Buster Keaton, Anna Q. Nilsson, H.B. Warner, Ray Evans, Jay Livingston) or a close facsimile (Erich von Stroheim).

1950

The melodramatic, sordid underbelly of theater show biz with dozens of quotable lines, producer Darryl F. Zanuck's All About Eve, earned a then-unmatched record of 14 Academy Award nominations and won six, including Best Picture (Zanuck), Best Director (Joseph L. Mankiewicz), and Best Supporting Actor (George Sanders). Although widely considered to be Bette Davis' best film role as the petulant, angry aging diva Margo Channing -- who uttered one of the most famous lines in film history ("Fasten your seatbelts - it's going to be a bumpy night!") -- she, along with co-star Anne Baxter in the title role of Eve Harrington cancelled each other out and lost Best Actress honors to Judy Holliday in Born Yesterday. Thelma Ritter and Celeste Holm were also nominated in supporting roles, giving All About Eve a record four female acting nominations.

1950

James Dean participated in a Pepsi-Cola commercial - his first acting job (paying $30) that launched his career.

1950

King's Solomon's Mines was the first MGM film in the talkie era made without a musical score.

1950-1952

Animator Jay Ward, working with Alexander Anderson, Jr (whose idea was first turned down at Terrytoon Studios), created the immensely-popular animated, serialized NBC-TV show Crusader Rabbit, through their new company Television Arts Productions. It was the first American animated series produced especially for television. The show originally aired from 1950 -1952 and also had a color version in 1957, with both Lucille Bliss and GeGe Pearson providing the voice of the Don Quixote-like title character. It told about knight-in-armor Crusader Rabbit and his tiger companion Rags, combatting nemesis Dudley Nightshade, with episodes ending in a cliffhanger.

1951

Legendary film critic and theorist Andre Bazin established the influential and distinguished Cahiers du Cinéma (literally 'cinema notebooks'), arguably the most influential film magazine in film history. Future filmmakers and critics, such as Jean-Luc Godard, Eric Rohmer, Francois Truffaut, Claude Chabrol, and Jacques Rivette contributed to the publication, advocating the auteur theory and proposing the use of more individualistic styles. Their ideas and writing gave rise to the French New Wave (Nouvelle Vague) by the end of the decade, and brought respectability to the idea of film as a legitimate field of study.

1951

The Motion Pictures Production Code specifically prohibited films dealing with abortion or narcotics.

1951

HUAC opened a second round of hearings in Hollywood to investigate communism in the film industry, leading to the blacklisting of 212 individuals actively working in Hollywood at this time.

1951

Indebted United Artists was sold to a syndicate headed by two New York entertainment lawyers, Arthur Krim and Robert Benjamin.

1951

Marking the decline of the old Hollywood studio system, this was the first year in which the Best Picture Oscar was given to the film's producers rather than to the studio that released the film.

1951

To combat the threat of television, the Cohn brothers (of Columbia Pictures) founded a television production company subsidiary named Screen Gems.

1951

Christian Nyby's The Thing, (ghost-directed by Howard Hawks), one of the earliest examples of an alien invader film, featured filmdom's first space monster.

1951

One of the most thoughtful science-fiction films ever made, Robert E. Wise's allegorical The Day the Earth Stood Still, was released, featuring the most famous phrase in sci-fi history -- "Gort, Klaatu barada niktu" -- as well as stunning, state-of-the-art visual effects and a Bernard Herrmann score. The classic cult film was also the first of many 50's Cold War-inspired science-fiction films, and featured the first modern robot, the silver giant Gort.

1951

MGM's lavish, big-budget, Technicolor historical epic Quo Vadis was released, starring Robert Taylor, Deborah Kerr, and Peter Ustinov. It was filmed on location in Italy with a cast of thousands, in the pre-Cinemascope era. According to sources, it set the record for the number of costumes used (32,000) in a single film. This film also marked Sophia Loren's film debut -- in a bit part as a slave.

1951

A Streetcar Named Desire was the first film ever to win three Acting Oscars. Vivien Leigh, Karl Malden, and Kim Hunter succeeded and were presented with awards, although Marlon Brando lost in the Best Actor category to Humphrey Bogart for The African Queen.

1951

Disney's Alice in Wonderland failed at the box-office, offsetting its profits from the previous year's successful full-length animation Cinderella (1950).

1952

To avoid losing the battle with television, Hollywood counterattacked with 3-D films. The first feature-length 3-D sound film released was Bwana Devil, inspiring a flood of other quickly (and often cheaply made), but sometimes successful 3-D features, such as Robot Monster (1953), It Came From Outer Space (1953), and House of Wax (1953). [The first feature-length 3-D film was The Power of Love (1922).]

1952

Paramount's wrap-around, big-screen Cinerama debuted - a break-through technique that required three cameras, three projectors, interlocking, semi-curved (at 146 degrees) screens, and four-track stereo sound. A travelogue of the world's vacation spots, with a thrilling roller-coaster ride was shown in This Is Cinerama - it premiered as the first Cinerama film shown to the public. Paramount's wrap-around, big-screen Cinerama was the first real widescreen feature film format.

1952

Universal International was sold to Decca Records.

1952

Although generally considered the greatest screen musical of all time, Singin\' in the Rain had only two Oscar nominations (without a win) -- Best Score and Best Supporting Actress (Jean Hagen).

1952

The first film to win a Golden Globe award for Best Motion Picture (comedy or musical) - a newly-created category - was An American in Paris (1951), in the 1952 awards ceremony.

1953

In further warfare against television and rival 3-D movies, Hollywood developed wide-screen processes, such as 20th Century Fox's anamorphic CinemaScope, first seen in Henry Koster's Biblical sword-and-sandal epic The Robe.

1953

Otto Preminger's The Moon Is Blue, used the then-forbidden word "virgin" - this deliberately violated the Motion Picture Production Code and led to picket lines. It was the first studio-produced film from Hollywood that was released without an approved code seal from the Production Code Administration - deliberately as a test case. It proved to be a major hit film (grossing $6 million) despite its lack of a seal of approval.

1953

The Academy Awards were televised for the first time - (on March 19, 1953), on black and white NBC-TV.

1953

Japanese director Yasujiro Ozu's classic family drama Tokyo Story (aka Tokyo Monogatari, Jp.), the best film of his entire career, illustrated how changing times in Japan had severed the virtue of honoring one's parents.

1953

Following the lead of James Stewart a few year earlier, seven-year contracts with actors were replaced by single-picture or multi-picture contracts.

1953

Actress Ida Lupino (one of the few female directors of her era) directed the thrilling, noirish B-film drama The Hitch-Hiker -- the most successful film in her career. It was the story, based on a true-life account, of a cold-blooded, sadistic, psychotic mass murderer and kidnapper (William Talman). Its release during the height of the McCarthy "Red Scare" era reflected US paranoia about strangers.

1953

Director George Stevens' mythic western Shane was released - it was the second film of his "American trilogy," positioned between A Place in the Sun (1951) and Giant (1956). It was nominated for five Oscars (Best Picture, Best Supporting Actor - Brandon de Wilde, Best Supporting Actor - Jack Palance, Best Director, and Best Screenplay). It won the Oscar for Best Color Cinematography.

1953

Buena Vista Distribution Company was formed to act as Disney's film distributor.

1953

The first animated 3-D cartoon in Technicolor, Melody, was premiered.

1953

Warner Bros' first 3-D film, the horror classic House of Wax, by director Andre de Toth, was the first 3-D film released with a stereo soundtrack. It also effectively launched the horror film career of Vincent Price, who portrayed horribly disfigured sculptor Prof. Henry Jarrod.

1953

Although MGM's Kiss Me Kate was often noted as the first stereo-optic 3-D musical - in full Technicolor, it could be argued that Paramount's Those Redheads From Seattle (1953) with Rhonda Fleming was first by about a month.

1953

Two classic, alien-invasion science-fiction films reflected Cold War tensions, the Red Scare and paranoid anxiety - typical of many 50s decade films: William Cameron Menzies' Invaders from Mars, and Jack Arnold's It Came From Outer Space -- also made in 3-D. The best of these films arrived a few years later: Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1956).

1953

To promote the launch of the B-movie The Beast From 20,000 Fathoms, Warner Brothers ran an expensive $200,000 publicity campaign aimed at teens, including heavily advertising it on TV and radio. It was one of the first films to exploit the medium of television (that was ironically taking away business from movie theaters) and to employ a theatre booking strategy of launching the film in a large number of theaters. The strategy worked, and the film became the sleeper hit of 1953 - creating a whole sub-genre of atomic age, giant monster action films.

1953

The provocative film, From Here to Eternity (1953), was based on James Jones' hefty, 859-page smoldering 1951 novel of the same name. Its sprawling and complex story-line about Army life with its bold and explicit script (with strong language, violence and raw sexual content) was at first considered unsuitable (and unfilmable) for the screen. The ground-breaking film's subjects (ill-suited for television) included prostitution, adultery, military injustice, corruption and violence, alcohol abuse, and murder.

1953

Director Henri-Georges Clouzot's suspenseful thriller The Wages of Fear (aka Le Salaire De La Peur, Fr/It) established the director's reputation as the "French Hitchcock" with its tension-filled tale of the death-defying truck driving of nitroglycerine across treacherous terrain in Central America.

1953, 1954

Walt Disney achieved a milestone in the 1954 awards ceremony - as the individual with the most Oscar wins (4) in a single year. He won the award in four awards categories: Best Cartoon Short Subject: Toot, Whistle, Plunk and Boom (1953), Best Documentary Short Subject: The Alaskan Eskimo (1953), Best Documentary Feature: The Living Desert (1953), and Best Two-Reel Short Subject: Bear Country (1953).

1954

Federico Fellini released the classic Italian film La Strada (aka The Road, It.). It won the first official Academy Award for Best Foreign-Language Film, awarded in 1956.

1954

Paramount Studio's first VistaVision widescreen production was director Michael Curtiz' hit film White Christmas, an Irving Berlin musical.

1954

The adult-themed Animal Farm (1954), an allegorical tale based on George Orwell's 1945 satirical political novel, was the first animated color feature film made in England.

1954

Dorothy Dandridge was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Actress, the first African-American ever nominated, for her role in Carmen Jones. (Ironically, in 2000, Halle Berry - the first African-American actress to ever win the Best Actress Oscar for Monster's Ball (2001), won the Emmy and the Golden Globes awards playing the title role in the critically-acclaimed HBO television movie Introducing Dorothy Dandridge (1999).)

1954

Graphic design genius Saul Bass began his legendary career (spanning over 40 years until his last film Casino (1995)) as title designer for Carmen Jones, and later gained his first major recognition for his work for The Man With the Golden Arm (1955). His revolutionary work broke tradition by using jagged lines and bold designs to redefine title credits and poster images. He was best known for his work with Alfred Hitchcock, Otto Preminger, Stanley Kubrick - and later with Martin Scorsese.

1954

On the Waterfront nearly swept the Academy Awards with eight wins, including Best Picture, Best Actor (Marlon Brando), Best Supporting Actress (Eva Maria Saint), and Best Director (Elia Kazan).

1954

Japan gave birth to the long-running series of Godzilla monster films with Ishiro Honda's Gojira, featuring Godzilla in his screen debut.

1954

Akira Kurosawa's epic tale Seven Samurai reinvented the western film genre. (It was remade by John Sturges as The Magnificent Seven (1960).)

1954

Dragnet from Warner Bros. was the first theatrical film based on a TV show of the same name (the then-popular B/W TV show ran from 1951-1959). Its star Jack Webb (as Sgt. Joe Friday) turned it into a feature (color) film, and served as the director.

1954

The American Releasing Company was founded by James H. Nicholson and Hollywood lawyer Samuel Z. Arkoff -- the precursor of American International Pictures (AIP) in 1956, noted for its low-budget exploitation films and drive-in movies for the profitable teenage market. Their first film was writer/producer Roger Corman's The Fast and the Furious (1954) starring John Ireland and Dorothy Malone. The horror films of Bert Gordon, Roger Corman's series of adapted Edgar Allan Poe horror films with Vincent Price, biker and drug-related films in the 60s, the 'beach party' films of Annette Funicello and Frankie Avalon, the teenage monster film cycle (i.e., I Was a Teenage Werewolf (1957)), and the earliest films of Jack Nicholson, Robert De Niro, Francis Ford Coppola and Peter Bogdanovich (and many others) were AIP productions. Emphasis on these sensationalist sub-genres (beach party films, kung fu films, biker films, juvenile delinquency pictures, monster and horror films, women-in-prison films, etc.) would be imitated by countless other independent production companies and film-makers.
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