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Movies in the 1950s

” I coulda had class. I coulda been a contender” – Hollywood fought against the new medium of television with bigger stars and bigger budgets – all in glorious CinemaScope.

asphaltjungle_011Hollywood faced a major problem in the 1950s. The industry feared and despised Television but it could not ignore it. Box office receipts were hit badly and Sam Goldwyn summed the situation up thus; “Why should people go and pay money to see bad films when they can stay at home and see bad television for nothing?”

At first the studios tried to fight back – by forbidding their contract players to appear on TV – but with little effect. After all, TV did not need movie stars – It made its own. Hollywood’s final solution was ‘the gimmick’. The first idea was to make it easier to see films, which led to a craze of building drive-in cinemas. Then it started to make movies bigger, if not better . . .

CinemaScope (a wide-screen process using a single lens) was pioneered by 20th Century Fox in 1953 with the biblical epic, The Robe. During the decade, Hollywood also introduced stereophonic sound and (with less success) 3-D.

Hollywood studios eventually realised they were not going to beat Television so they had to find a way of living alongside it, and by 1958 every major studio had sold its entire pre-1948 output to TV companies.

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The 1950s was a period of great transition for the British film industry. In the previous decade, British movie makers had held their own on the world stage and had developed a very British visual style. But in the 50s they experienced difficulties coming to terms with American innovations such as CinemaScope, Eastmancolor and VistaAvision.

This is by no means an attempt at an exhaustive listing of movies from the 50s.

It is a recollection of some of the movies which are either personal favourites, or which are particularly representative of the era (without necessarily being critically acclaimed).