1950s List Discussion and Suggestions (Lists Project Vol. 3)

An ongoing survey of the Criterion Forum membership to create lists of the best films of each decade and genre.
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1950s List Discussion and Suggestions (Lists Project Vol. 3)

#1 Post by swo17 » Tue Feb 28, 2012 4:04 pm

VOTING CLOSED. RESULTS CAN BE FOUND HERE.

If you are reading this sentence, you are eligible to participate in our forum's latest decades lists project exploring the films of the 1950s. If you know anyone adventurous enough--on or off the forum--that you think would also enjoy participating, feel free to invite them as well.

Please PM me your list of what you believe are the top 50 films from the decade toward the end of the project. You may feel that you could compile a list of 50 favorite films from this period much earlier than the deadline, but it's still highly recommended that you engage in the discussions here. Don't keep your favorites a secret, and always be open to suggestions from others!


THE RULES

1) Each individual list is to comprise no more or less than 50 films, ranked in your order of preference (with no ties). If you haven't yet seen 50 films from the decade that you think are genuinely great (or even if you have), please take advantage of the resources listed below and participate in the ongoing discussions to find films that you can be proud to put on your list.
2) Any feature film, documentary, experimental film, short film, TV miniseries, TV movie, or TV special released in the 1950s (1950-1959) is eligible.
3) The date given on IMDb is the relevant date for determining eligibility, even when it's clearly wrong (unless a special case is made below). If the film is not on IMDb and you say it was released during the 1950s, I'll take your word for it.
4) Multi-part films released separately (e.g. Eisenstein's Ivans) count as one film. Each entry in a trilogy (e.g. Ray's Apus) counts as a separate film.
5) For portmanteau films with multiple directors, each of the individual segments and the film as a whole are all separately eligible.

We might occasionally need to make an exception to rule 3 or 4. If you are seriously considering including a film on your list that you have a question about in this regard, bring it up in this thread and we'll iron it out.

For more details about rules and procedures, please refer here.


ELIGIBILITY – REMINDERS / SPECIAL CASES

Teleplays, such as those featured in Criterion's Golden Age of Television set, the TV version of 12 Angry Men, or Tragedy in a Temporary Town, are eligible.

Ivan the Terrible, Part 2 is ineligible, as we grouped it with Part 1 and included the pair in our 1940s project.

Len Lye's Tal Farlow is incorrectly listed on IMDb as a 1950s film. It will not be eligible until the 1980s project.

Konrad Wolf's Sun Seekers is eligible as a 1950s film, even though IMDb lists it as a '70s film (it was banned from release for 14 years).

The following multi-part films count as one film for purposes of this project (this is just a reminder, not an exhaustive list): The Tiger of Eschnapur/The Indian Tomb, The Human Condition (eligible as a whole for the '50s, even though the last part came out in the '60s)

The following films may be cited as 1950s releases in some places, but are 1960s on IMDb, and so are not eligible for this list: Une histoire d'eau, Window Water Baby Moving, The Brain That Wouldn't Die, Cruel Story of Youth, Le Trou, Together (Mazzetti), The Nightingale's Prayer, The Savage Eye, Letter Never Sent, Eyes Without a Face, Breathless, A la Mode, The Virgin Spring, Kapò, The Testament of Orpheus, The End of Summer, The Overcoat

The following films are cited as 1950s films on IMDb, and so are eligible for this list, regardless of what anyone else might say: Gun Crazy, Orpheus, The Flowers of St. Francis, Stromboli, Stage Fright, The Gunfighter, To Joy, Anticipation of the Night, Jazz on a Summer’s Day, Distant Journey, A Man Walks in the City, The Great War, Side Street, The Law, Le Signe du lion, The Wayward Girl, Shadows


RESOURCES

Past Forum Discussions
Discussion from the Forum's Prior 1950s Project
Defending of Sad Pandas from the Forum's Prior 1950s Project
'50s List Project: Seminal Secondary Sources
Discussion from the Forum's Noir List Project
Discussion from the Forum's Western List Project
Discussion from the Forum's Musicals List Project
Discussion from the Forum's Horror List Project
The Alternate Oscars: Best Picture 1927-1968
100 Russian and Eastern European Classics
Tex Avery DVD availability in R1

Forum Discussions of International DVDs
African / Bulgarian / Chinese / Cuban / Czech / Dutch / Finnish / German / Hungarian / Norwegian / Polish / Romanian / South American / Swedish / Turkish / Ukrainian / Yugoslavian

Forum Discussions of Filmmakers Active During the 1950s
Robert Aldrich / Michelangelo Antonioni / Ingmar Bergman / Budd Boetticher / Robert Bresson / Luis Buñuel / Frank Capra / Claude Chabrol / Charles Chaplin / Henri-Georges Clouzot / George Cukor / Jules Dassin / Delmer Daves / Vittorio De Sica / André de Toth / Carl Theodor Dreyer / Federico Fellini / John Ford / Georges Franju / Samuel Fuller / Jean-Luc Godard / Jean Grémillon / Wojciech Has / Howard Hawks / Monte Hellman / Alfred Hitchcock / John Huston / Shôhei Imamura / Henry King / John Krish / Stanley Kubrick / Akira Kurosawa / Fritz Lang / David Lean / Joseph Losey / Sidney Lumet / Alexander Mackendrick / Louis Malle / Joseph L. Mankiewicz / Anthony Mann / Jean-Pierre Melville / Vincente Minnelli / Kenji Mizoguchi / Andrzej Munk / Mikio Naruse / Max Ophüls / Yasujirô Ozu / Roman Polanski / Michael Powell / Otto Preminger / Richard Quine / Nicholas Ray / Satyajit Ray / Alain Resnais / Jean Renoir / Roberto Rossellini / Don Siegel / Robert Siodmak / Douglas Sirk / Josef von Sternberg / George Stevens / John Sturges / Andrei Tarkovsky / Frank Tashlin / Jacques Tati / Jacques Tourneur / François Truffaut / Gustav Ucicky / José Val del Omar / Agnès Varda / Luchino Visconti / Andrzej Wajda / Raoul Walsh / Orson Welles / William A. Wellman / Billy Wilder / Fred Zinnemann

Forum Discussions of 1950s Films
All About Eve / Anticipation of the Night / Il bidone / The Big Sky / The 5000 Fingers of Dr. T / Friendly Persuasion / Hell Drivers / The Hound of the Baskervilles / The Hunchback of Notre Dame / Imitation of Life / Mandy / Men in War / Mesa of Lost Women / My Son John / The Naked and the Dead / Othello / Pillow Talk / Plan 9 from Outer Space / Rebel Without a Cause / Summer Stock / Sunset Blvd. / The Thief / The Wide Blue Road

Additionally, any '50s film available from Criterion or MoC will have its own thread, which you can find in the linked indices.

Guides Within This Thread
Mr. Sausage on Kurosawa
domino harvey on Astruc, Chabrol, DeMille, Donen, Hawks, Hitchcock, Kazan, Logan, Mankiewicz, Ray, Ritt, Sidney, Walters, Wilder, and Wyler, Cromwell, Ford, and Stevens, Anthony, Frank & Panama, Daniel Mann, and Preminger, Capra, Delbert Mann, Minnelli, and Zinnemann, Fuller, Kramer, and Lang, Huston, Lupino, and Anthony Mann
Michael Kerpan on Japan: Part 1 / Part 2
Minkin on Abbott and Costello
Shrew on China
zedz on 1950s Experimental Films on DVD
the preacher on Spain, Mexico, Argentina, and Venezuela

External Resources
A list of films from the 1950s appearing on They Shoot Pictures, Don't They's Top 1000 or Doubling the Canon lists
Cahiers du cinéma's Top 10s from the 1950s

Recommended Reading
The Genius of the System: Hollywood Filmmaking in the Studio Era, Thomas Schatz
The Fifties, David Halberstam
Movie Love in the 50s, James Harvey
Laughing Hysterically: American Screen Comedy of the 1950s, Ed Sikov


FORUM MEMBER SPOTLIGHTS

Is there a film you love that you fear is under most people's radar? Try shining a light on it! To inaugurate a film into the spotlight section, just follow these three simple steps:

1. Make a post about the film discussing why you find it so exceptional.
2. Clearly indicate that you wish the film to be one of your spotlight titles.
3. Direct others to where the film can be found.

I'll keep track of all the spotlight titles here so that they can be easily referenced. You're welcome to have more than one spotlight title, but try not to have too many more, so it's manageable for everyone to be able to see them all.

Everyone is strongly encouraged to give each of these films the same chance that you would hope others would give your own spotlight titles.

The Elephant Will Never Forget (John Krish) (knives)
Three Little Bops (Friz Freleng) (knives)
A Kiss Before Dying (Gerd Oswald) (domino harvey)
Detective Story (William Wyler) (domino harvey)
Flowing (Mikio Naruse) (puxzkkx)
Free Radicals (Len Lye) (zedz)
Rhythm (Len Lye) (zedz)
There's Always Tomorrow (Douglas Sirk) (zedz)
Park Row (Samuel Fuller) (Shrew)
La notte brava (Mauro Bolognini) (Dylan)
O Drakos (Nikos Koundouros) (Calvin)
Give a Girl a Break (Stanley Donen) (swo17)
Furrows (José Antonio Nieves Conde) (the preacher)
N.Y., N.Y. (Francis Thompson) (swo17)
Secret People (Thorold Dickinson) (Sloper)
Wienerinnen (Kurt Steinwendner) (Tommaso)
Domenica d'Agosto (Luciano Emmer) (Tommaso)
Momma Don't Allow (Karel Reisz & Tony Richardson) (Wu.Qinghua)
There's No Peace Under the Olive Tree (Giuseppe de Santis) (Wu.Qinghua)
Salt of the Earth (Herbert Biberman) (Wu.Qinghua)

AWAITING FURTHER SUGGESTIONS


BEST EDITIONS

As you all well know, not all DVDs are created equal--poor transfers, wrong aspect ratios, and other issues can often mar the most readily available releases of certain films, and DVD Beaver and other sites aren't always that helpful in pointing out preferable alternatives. If you find yourself in this boat for a particular title, this is the section for you.

If there's a film for which you are seeking the best edition, let me know and I'll list it here. By the same token, if you have a suggestion for what the best edition is of a film listed here, or if you would like to take the initiative to recommend a certain edition of a film not yet listed here, let me know that as well. Hopefully we can answer each other's questions and come up with something of a comprehensive guide for the other than obvious cases.

Buñuel's Los olvidados: knives' rec, Michael Kerpan's rec
Buñuel's El: Michael Kerpan's rec
Buñuel's The Criminal Life of Archibaldo de la Cruz: Michael Kerpan's rec
Buñuel's Nazarin: Michael Kerpan's rec
Buñuel's Wuthering Heights: Michael Kerpan's rec
Fellini's Nights of Cabiria (other than the OOP Criterion): Feego's rec
Lye's Color Cry, Rhythm, and Free Radicals: swo17's rec
Rossellini's Voyage to Italy?
Welles' Othello: matrixschmatrix's rec

AWAITING FURTHER SUGGESTIONS


DESPERATELY SEEKING SO AND SO

Is there a film you're dying to see but you've exhausted all possible avenues for finding it and still come up short? List it here and perhaps some kind soul will be able to direct you to a copy by PM. Please limit listings here to only a few films that you're most desperate to see.

knives is looking for: the films of Kinuyo Tanaka


Resources compiled by swo17, Tommaso, domino harvey, Jean-Luc Garbo

***Please PM me if you have any suggestions for additions to/deletions from this first post.***
Last edited by swo17 on Mon Sep 17, 2012 4:38 pm, edited 75 times in total.

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Re: 1950s List Discussion and Suggestions

#2 Post by knives » Tue Feb 28, 2012 4:55 pm

This UK version of Los Olividados is the best version available to english speaking audiences. I'll do a short write up later of the films I've seen in preparation for this list but until then spotlights.

The Elephant Will Never Forget (Krish)--Not the most obscure film of the decade, but I still figure this might help. An amazingly emotional film that never comments or humanizes it's subjects yet ties them to humanity in such a manner as to create that a feeling of it being humans destroyed all the same.

Three Little Bops--Easily the best thing Freleng did with this music based cartoon that's visually inventive, hilarious, and just sounds great.

Also I won't spotlight it since it's a very known quantity, but I'm throwing it out there that I'm going to be voting for Glen or Glenda? and I hope someone else does too.

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Re: 1950s List Discussion and Suggestions

#3 Post by matrixschmatrix » Tue Feb 28, 2012 5:17 pm

Is there a good edition of Nights of Cabiria besides the Criterion anywhere? I've actually got that one, but I want to recommend it as strongly as possible and recommending an expensive out of print one seems untenable.

Also, pending something better, I'm going to second the Beaver's recommendation of this release of Othello- it's still the Beatrice Welles version, but it's cheaper than the R1 and it's got subs.

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Re: 1950s List Discussion and Suggestions

#4 Post by Michael Kerpan » Tue Feb 28, 2012 5:30 pm

Bunuel's Los olvidados: (English subs, was NTSC, I'd be surprised if this has been changed, despite the PAL designation)

Bunuel's Archibaldo & El: (Good English subs)

Bunuel's Wuthering Heights

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Re: 1950s List Discussion and Suggestions

#5 Post by Feego » Tue Feb 28, 2012 6:15 pm

matrixschmatrix wrote:Is there a good edition of Nights of Cabiria besides the Criterion anywhere?
The R2 Optimum uses the same source as the Criterion and it's pretty cheap.

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Re: 1950s List Discussion and Suggestions

#6 Post by puxzkkx » Tue Feb 28, 2012 6:34 pm

This is a decade list I will probably be able to take part in!

I'd like to nominate as my 'spotlight film' Mikio Naruse's Flowing from 1956. It is an ensemble piece that examines the last days of a geisha house. Naruse refracts his commentary on the evanescence of pre-war culture onto a catalogue of characters played by a who's who of Japanese female acting (Isuzu Yamada, Kinuyo Tanaka, Haruko Sugimura, Hideko Takamine, Sumiko Kurishima, Mariko Okada et al). The roving camera and clever use of space contribute to the mood, at the same time charming and amusing and unspeakably sad. I love Naruse and have seen quite a few of his films but this is my favourite. The ensemble acting in this is some of the best ever - Tanaka and Sugimura especially are standouts - and this film proves that Naruse was just as keyed in to the maelstrom of changes in Japanese society at the time as Ozu or Ichikawa were. It is available via Masters of Cinema (although I saw it online).

Other underseen films from the decade that I enjoy and would recommend:

Bergman's Summer Interlude and A Lesson in Love are my sentimental favourites from his 1950s catalogue. The former is his first real 'mood piece' in my opinion, nostalgising on the loss of youth and wondering about its possible reclamation. Maj-Britt Nilsson's performance should be better known and respected - she had an innate sensitivity and presence unlike any other Bergman lead, but it was never at the expense of technique. She made three films with Bergman and was excellent in all of them, but this is a tour-de-force for her.

The second film is a 'sad comedy' in the vein of Lubitsch where Bergman explores psychology with a lighter touch. That light touch still has a bitter and sad edge - apart from a misjudged ending this is certainly on par with some of Lubitsch's best. The story of a husband and wife attempting to reconnect is very funny but tinged with the tragedy of a failed relationship. Dahlbeck and Bjornstrand are brilliant - I've heard them compared to Tracy and Hepburn and the comparison is apt. I think this one is really underrated, I'd consider it a better comedy than 'Smiles of a Summer Night'.

Curzio Malaparte's The Forbidden Christ is a cry of anguish for Italy's wartime losses. Truly bravura in its use of camera movement (there is a shot in a pivotal scene near the end that had me stunned) and reaching an incredible level of intensity, it is nonetheless a bit didactic with regards to its politically unsubtle deconstruction of the 'vengeance' drive. That could turn some people off but this is still a powerful film, the only one that the novelist Malaparte (who created his last name by swapping out the 'Bon' in 'Bonaparte') ever made.

Claude Autant-Lara's The Red Inn is a very funny and interestingly subversive satire of religion. Two monks stop at a roadside inn and soon are sharing their lodgings with a group of upper-crusts. When the older monk takes the confession of the innkeepers he learns that they make a habit of killing their guests and stealing their money. Knowing this, he tries to warn the other guests without breaking the sacred vow of confidentiality.

Alexander Mackendrick made a very touching family drama called Mandy that surpasses pre-kitchen-sink British household pictures with its unique and sensitive exploration of the hopes and expectations involved in having a child. Child actress Mandy Miller is extraordinary as the title character, who is deaf.

Another excellent Naruse - Older Brother, Younger Sister, which I wrote about here.

The Hungarian director Fabri Zoltan made two excellent pictures from this decade, Merry-Go-Round and Sweet Anna. The former is a rural drama that first appears to be checking the boxes in the much-mined 'young lovers against the world' playbook. About halfway through, though, it begins to simmer with a steadily mounting intensity rooted in its depiction of the generational and political divides that create unspoken tensions in its farm town setting.

The latter is another piece that sort of 'fakes you out' with relatively sober drama before really revealing its hand as a piece of class-concerned political incendiary. Torocsik Mari (who is phenomenal) plays a rube-ish maid from the country who takes a job as a maid for an upper-class family, who proceed to abuse her to the point of mental breakdown. Its portrait of victim-aggressor anticipates films like 'Rosemary's Baby' and especially 'Repulsion'. There's a dream sequence in this which is worth watching the film for alone.

One of Shohei Imamura's first films, Endless Desire, is a magnificent spoof-noir detailing the quest of a band of robbers to steal from a shop's coffers but tunneling into it from below. The film is not the heaviest movie ever but it has real bite and is very funny, with some intruiging editing rhythms that give the film itself more and more of a claustrophobic feel the deeper our antiheroes go underground. An actress called Misako Watanabe, who I haven't seen in anything else, gives a delicious performance as the feral femme fatale who joins the group with hazy intentions.

Ben Maddow, Sidney Meyers and Joseph Strick (of 'Ulysses' infamy) made over the course of about a decade the docudrama The Savage Eye, which is on one hand an urban-anthropology document unlike anything you've seen before, capturing LA's 1950s streetlife with a truly savage (but beautiful) eye, and on the other hand a somewhat annoying relic of modish late-50s existentialism (with Gary Merrill doing a recherche voiceover as 'the Poet'!). The two parts of the film - drama and doc (which were shot separately, years apart) - mesh well at the beginning while the cracks begin to show later on. But this is still worth a look for the bravura of its photography and its sheer uniqueness, and it becomes a quality work through sheer chutzpah. Barbara Baxley stars in the drama segments and contributes to the voiceover - she is excellent, never superficial or over-the-top but able to infuse the slightest gestures and expressions with a meaning that helps illuminate her character. She was a great character actress who never really got her due, but this film stands, also, as a testament to her talents.

And of course I will be voting for some of the usual suspects - Nights of Cabiria, Kiss Me Deadly, A Man Escaped, Diary of a Country Priest, Floating Weeds, Tokyo Story, The 400 Blows and The Cranes Are Flying are all among my favourite films ever.

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Re: 1950s List Discussion and Suggestions

#7 Post by Michael Kerpan » Tue Feb 28, 2012 6:40 pm

Also -- this subbed version of Bunuel's Nazarin.

There is a R1 DVD with Nazarin and Illusion Travels by Streetcar Travels (a delightful film, by the way) that is NOT subbed (and listings usually do not mention this inconvenient fact.

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Re: 1950s List Discussion and Suggestions

#8 Post by puxzkkx » Tue Feb 28, 2012 6:51 pm

A few films with incorrect IMDb dates that would provide eligibility problems:

Henry Barakat’s The Nightingale’s Prayer is a 1959 film listed as 1960.

The aforementioned The Savage Eye is a 1959 film listed as 1960.

Edith Carlmar’s The Wayward Girl is a 1959 film listed as 1960.

Alfred Radok’s Distant Journey is a 1949 film listed as 1950.

Marcello Pagliero’s A Man Walks in the City is a 1949 film listed as 1950.

There are many of these mistakes on IMDb, especially with relatively obscure non-English-language films. A quick Google search and a judging of consensus amongst several different websites should give you a good answer if you are suspicious.

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Re: 1950s List Discussion and Suggestions

#9 Post by domino harvey » Tue Feb 28, 2012 6:52 pm

Doesn't matter: If I couldn't vote for Gun Crazy despite my empirical evidence that it screened in 1949 in New York City, you're not going to have much luck either.

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Re: 1950s List Discussion and Suggestions

#10 Post by swo17 » Tue Feb 28, 2012 6:57 pm

Yeah, just to be clear, we go off of IMDb date unless an exception is made in the first post, and I'm not going to make exceptions when the difference is only a few years. If you have empirical evidence that IMDb is wrong, submit it to IMDb, and if they change it to put your film in the '50s, it will then become eligible.

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Re: 1950s List Discussion and Suggestions

#11 Post by Mr Sausage » Tue Feb 28, 2012 7:06 pm

This is the decade where Kurosawa really starts pumping out masterpieces. He starts out with the solid, overtly moral Scandal (1950) before releasing his first defining work, Rashomon (1950), which, not so much interested in questions of truth and falsehood, questions instead the nature of reality. The Idiot (1951), his adaptation of Dostoevsky's novel, is compromised and therefore flawed, especially in its first half, but is filled with striking scenes and beautiful filmmaking. An interesting failure. Ikiru (1952) is a sensitive and acutely felt meditation on death, especially for a 42 year old. It's a movie you would more expect from someone much older. He followed with what is, I think, his greatest movie, Seven Samurai (1954), and then made the complex and tragic family drama, I Live in Fear (1955), which doesn't get nearly enough attention despite being a great movie. Kurosawa dug deeper into the tragic, negative emotions he unearthed in his previous film and came up with Throne of Blood (1957), a Shakespeare adaptation all the more magnificent for abandoning Shakespeare's language and setting without loss. Kurosawa started to come out from under the pessimistic weight of his previous two films with The Lower Depths (1957), a tragi-comedy about the poor and downtrodden, and then made an outright comedy--and a masterful one at that--in The Hidden Fortress (1958).

An incredibly creative stretch for any director.

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Re: 1950s List Discussion and Suggestions

#12 Post by swo17 » Tue Feb 28, 2012 7:18 pm

Mr Sausage wrote:the complex and tragic family drama, I Live in Fear (1955), which doesn't get nearly enough attention despite being a great movie.
I'll need to revisit many of his films from this decade, but I do remember this one being one of his best. I also love Throne of Blood, though I can't remember how much of that is because of the actual film vs. the Criterion cover art.

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Re: 1950s List Discussion and Suggestions

#13 Post by domino harvey » Tue Feb 28, 2012 7:48 pm

Round One of my Auteur Guides, walking tours through the entire decades' output of a given auteur. Only directors for which I've seen every feature will be discussed by me in these guides, meaning some great and important directors like Delmer Daves, Richard Quine, and Frank Tashlin won't be covered, due to my inability to track down at least one of their films. I rarely hold the majority opinion and I don't pretend that the thoughts I offer below reflect the general consensus (though I try to be forthright when I go way off the beaten path), but at the very least they're educated appraisals placed within the totality of the auteur's output. Titles in RED are strongly recommended.


ALEXANDRE ASTRUC

Le rideau cramoisi (1952) No commercial release
Les Mauvaises rencontres (1955) No commercial release
Une vie (1958) No commercial release

French film theorist turned filmmaker Astruc was incredibly popular with the Young Turks at Cahiers, and his mark can be seen readily in the films of those we all probably know better. Utilizing the same juvenile passions of youth, romantic and otherwise, that Godard et al responded to so fervently, Astruc's films are more Delmer Daves than Proto-New Wave, however. Le rideau cramoisi (1952) is shot silent and tells the simple story of a forbidden love affair between comely Anouk Aimee and the Napoleonic soldier camping on her estate. The passions are clear, even if the constant French narration isn't, thanks to the only existent circulating copy of the film being dubbed in Russian. It's easy to follow on a visual level, but there's obviously a layer removed without access to the narration. Les Mauvaises rencontres (1955), easily my favorite of Astruc's three films this decade, uses accusatory police tactics against women to heighten the emotional distress, but in a very arch and droll fashion. Much less enjoyable is Une vie (1958), though it is generally considered Astruc's masterpiece. This Maria Schell-fronted Guy de Maupassant adaptation doesn't strike me as anything particularly special, though, as the same sexual politics and motivators that drove Astruc's earlier films do their business here, but to diminishing returns.


CLAUDE CHABROL

Le beau Serge (1958) R1 Criterion Blu-ray
Les cousins (1959) R1 Criterion Blu-ray
À double tour (1959) R1 Kino

I feel like I've talked about sister films Le beau Serge (1958) and Les cousins (1959) to death, so I'll just chime in again that the first remains interesting only in relation to the superior and gleefully cruel second film. Le beau Serge does feature the first appearance of Chabrol's least-talked about muse, even if he did borrow her from Truffaut, Bernadette Lafont, who appears in four out of Chabrol's first five films (and shows up now and again in Chabrol's later works). Lafont is there again in À double tour (1959), notable more perhaps for being Chabrol's first of many Hitchcock riffs than for its own merits, but it is a slight but enjoyable distraction.


CECIL B DEMILLE

the Greatest Show on Earth (1952) R1 Paramount (OOP)
the Ten Commandments (1956) R1 Paramount Blu-ray

I can't speak for much of his career up to these final two films, but I was shocked with how entertaining and enjoyable DeMille's twin 50s releases were. Far from the embarrassment its made out to be, the Greatest Show on Earth (1952) gives the viewer their money's worth and stands as the best of the circus-based films that were so popular this decade (small praise, I know). Even better is the Ten Commandments (1956), so much more than that Easter tradition its become-- it's actually a fun flick that, counter to the seriousness of its presentation, has a real sense of humor and play.


STANLEY DONEN

Royal Wedding (1951) R1 Warners
Love is Better Than Ever (1952) R1 Warner Archives
Singin' in the Rain (1952) R1 Warners (OOP)
Fearless Fagan (1952) No commercial release
Give a Girl a Break (1953) R1 Warner Archives
Seven Brides For Seven Brothers (1954) R1 Warners
Deep in My Heart (1954) R1 Warners
It's Always Fair Weather (1955) R1 Warners
Funny Face (1957) R1 Paramount
the Pajama Game (1957) R1 Warners
Kiss Them For Me (1957) R1 Fox
Indiscreet (1958) R2 Universal (only anamorphic release)
Damn Yankees! (1958) R1 Warners (OOP)

Donen strikes out solo with Royal Wedding (1951), and despite at least one well-known number, I think "strike out" is the imperative here. The title Love is Better Than Ever (1952) too is proven false, as this generic dance instructor rom com seems to exist solely to give Elizabeth Taylor (and probably Donen) something to do while hanging around the studio waiting for bigger projects. And they don't come much bigger than Singin' in the Rain (1952, with Gene Kelly), which you may have heard of. Fearless Fagan (1952) proves that a short running time doesn't mean it won't still feel long. Remarkably stupid film about a man who gets drafted and tries to sneak his lion into the training barracks. For fans of carrying on (and on) in vaguely defined wooded sets only.

Donen's first great solo film, Give a Girl a Break (1953) puts together a lot of the b-string MGM players and let's them go to town in this giddy, candy-colored wish fulfillment. Several showstoppers, including the Champions' aggressive rooftop dance and the tricksy film-reversal number. I once made the claim that Seven Brides For Seven Brothers (1954) was only beloved by those who don't watch many musicals. I will admit my statement was proven wrong by its strong showing on our Musicals List, so I'll only offer this rejoinder: my claim may have been false, but it should be true. YMMV, &c.

As far as musical biopics go, Deep in My Heart (1954) is far from the worst, even if it has few real pleasures. Jose Ferrer, doing his best SZ "Cuddles" Sakall impression ("Vat you vant me to vite music for?"), pantomimes Sigmund Romberg for a couple hours while some MGM contract stars pop up here and there for mostly worthless musical interludes (the Cyd Charisse Desert Song number being the exception in that it's pretty good). Has exactly one interesting sequence in which Ferrer manically performs an entire Al Jolson musical single-handed, but the crazed energy and looseness is absent on either side of the sequence. Exuberance abounds, however, in It's Always Fair Weather (1955, with Gene Kelly), Donen and Kelly's quasi-sequel to On the Town that tackles deeper emotional territory and comes out as close to an equal to that masterpiece as one can probably ever get. Funny Face (1957) has its ardent admirers, but it's a film I've long struggled with due to its rather unattractive anti-intellectual bent. Still, there are times when it dares to win me over and I'd much rather sit through this than Audrey Hepburn's other dreadful musical. Speaking of problematic musicals, the Pajama Game (1957) relies on poor location shooting to wreck the fantastical artifice once omnipresent in the genre-- your tolerance of such things will accordingly improve your experience with this and Damn Yankees!

Donen's strongest non-musical of the decade is Kiss Them For Me (1957), one of the few good military-themed comedies that sprung up post-Teahouse of the August Moon. Featuring a whip-fast pace that places it at-odds with the era's glossier indulgences, this vicious, mean-spirited, and rather dark comedy features an uncharacteristically unlikeable central performance from Cary Grant, who's reckless and entertaining assholishness manifests itself as self-righteousness even when it's closer to self-interest. Grant's charming screen presence makes the pill of his character go down smooth enough, but it's really a thing of beauty to watch him dare the audience to reconsider what "Cary Grant" even means. The film gets away with its shockingly negative stance on the "heroism" of WWII thanks to a last-minute reversal that's about as convincing as Jayne Mansfield playing a welder. The light-spirited infidelity of Indiscreet (1958) also manages to "break" the rules thanks to a third act revelation, but this bit of fluff reteaming Grant and Ingrid Bergman was hardly in danger of disturbing anyone's moral compass. Worth seeing, perhaps, for Bergman's truly hideous wardrobe-- perhaps the worst costume design of the decade. Rounding out the decade, Damn Yankees! (1958, with George Abbott) makes a couple mistakes in transferring its source from the stage to the screen, and somehow none of them are star Tab Hunter! The biggest problem, of course, is Gwen Verdon as the "irresistible" Lola. Verdon is too old and not particularly attractive, factors which could be excuse sitting twenty rows back from the stage, but the screen is far less forgiving. But Ray Walston is quite good (as he usually is during this period) and has the right devilish smarm. Features better use of location-shooting than the Pajama Game, particularly the dugout number, but we're still seeing the end of an era.


HOWARD HAWKS

the Thing From Another World (cr. to Christian Nyby 1951) R1 Fox
the Big Sky (1952) R2 Edition Montparnasse, LP Box version (for longer director's cut)
Monkey Business (1952) R1 Fox
O. Henry's Full House (sgmt. "the Random of Red Chief" 1952) R1 Fox
Gentlemen Prefer Blondes (1953) R1 Fox
Land of the Pharaohs (1955) R1 Warners (OOP)
Rio Bravo (1959) R1 Warners Blu-ray

Hawks dominated my prior two decades lists, but if he makes my 50s list at all, I'll be shocked. Even if I can't flatly recommend any of the titles, the worst Hawks film manages to be at the very least entertaining, so you can't really go wrong with this decades' worth of offerings. Also, be warned that I hold the minority opinion on most of these. The Thing From Another World (cr. to Christian Nyby 1951), Rivette's favorite Hawks film (even if the name in the credits says otherwise), is a good idea in search of a proper execution, as this one is the closest Hawks comes this decade to dullness. Better is the Big Sky (1952), especially in its extended version, probably Hawks' finest film of the decade, even if it does fall victim to a series of "What ifs" based on the original cast's dissolution. Monkey Business (1952), Hawks' worst film, is a woefully unfunny infantilism "comedy" that wastes a game cast on just awful material. Speaking of awful, how 'bout O. Henry, that cheap provocateur whose crummy twists attempt to mask the worthlessness of the prose preceding? Fox shoehorned a bevy of its finest contract stars and directors into O. Henry's Full House (sgmt. "the Random of Red Chief" 1952) to fittingly middling results. Fox even brings in Steinbeck to make some less than convincing pleas for the author's worthiness, which are laughable at best. The non-Hawks segments are pretty bad, with Jean Negulesco's faring the "best' due to his loose and vibrant energy, but it's hard to blame Henry King for being saddled with the unfilmable dreck of "the Gift of the Magi." Hawks' Oscar Levant-starring (!) "the Random of Red Chief," while not being particularly funny or well-made, looks like true Hawksian genius when stacked up against its portmanteau brethren. Most consider Gentlemen Prefer Blondes (1953) an example of true Hawksian genius, I will concede, but I've never cared for the film (though it is responsible for some of the finest scholarship on Hawks). Land of the Pharaohs (1955) is a jolly period trifle make giddily enjoyable by Joan Collins' scheming seductress. And finally we have Rio Bravo (1959), everyone's favorite western apparently. Not mine, though, as this signals the start of Hawks' supra-laze period, and your enjoyment will fall with your affinity for such things. As a response to High Noon, I side with Hawks, but I'd side with Fancy Pants against High Noon too, so


ALFRED HITCHCOCK

Stage Fright (1950) R1 Warners
Strangers on a Train (1951) R1 Warners
I Confess (1953) R1 Warners
Dial 'M' for Murder (1954) R1 Warners
Rear Window (1954) R1 Universal
To Catch a Thief (1955) R1 Paramount Blu-ray
the Trouble With Harry (1955) R1 Universal
the Man Who Knew Too Much (1956) R1 Universal
the Wrong Man (1956) R1 Warners
Vertigo (1958) R1 Universal
North by Northwest (1959) R1 Warners Blu-ray

As I said in the 40s run-through, Hitchcock is so good that it's easy to take for granted and overlook just how effortlessly he produced many, many great films this decade. As a result, you really can't afford to miss any of his films-- certainly not Stage Fright (1950), Hitchcock's brilliant Brit thriller that hinges on a very unusual reveal that hopefully hasn't been spoiled for anyone beforehand. It's hard to spoil such a well-crafted and clever thriller like Strangers on a Train (1951), which from the shoes up is as masterful as its reputation allows. I Confess (1953) is one of the lesser-seen of Hitchcock's efforts this decade (though it was especially popular at Cahiers-- take that how you will!), but it's a fine film with some unusual accoutrements on the usual effort. Dial 'M' For Murder (1954), widely considered one of the most artistically successful of the 50's 3-D film craze, works splendidly on the traditional 2-D plane, as Hitchcock refuses to open-up the stage-bound story, causing a wonderful claustrophobia trapping the viewers with the victims. Essential in every way. The prosceniums of Rear Window (1954) paint the small with grandeur in a way that will preview the path Hollywood cinema will take in the next decade, as does To Catch a Thief (1955) paint a portrait of the filmed vacations that will grow more prevalent as Cinemascope takes over (though it's of course in VistaVision). The Trouble With Harry (1956) is that the film looks like it was shot for TV, and the Man Who Knew Too Much (1956) still didn't know enough not to cast Doris Day in the lead. There's been a resurgence in support for the Wrong Man (1957) lately, and while I don't begrudge it fans, it's on the lower end of this decade's offerings for me. Vertigo (1958) is Vertigo, impervious to criticism as all great works of art are-- I'm gradually coming to grips with this. And finally, North by Northwest (1959) is some kind of miracle: a film everyone likes. Even you. Especially you.


ELIA KAZAN

Panic in the Streets (1950) R1 Fox
A Streetcar Named Desire (1951) R1 Warners Blu-ray
Viva Zapata! (1952) R1 Fox (Kazan box only)
Man on a Tightrope (1953) R1 Fox (Kazan box only)
On the Waterfront (1954) R1 Sony
East of Eden (1955) R1 Warners
Baby Doll (1956) R1 Warners
A Face in the Crowd (1957) R1 Warners

Anyone on the fence about Kazan's worthiness in light of his political activities can go take a long walk off a short pier. Though his cowardice was made public, many many many of the artists we enjoy had similar political failings, and when art as impressive as Panic in the Streets (1950 doesn't even rank amongst the best Kazan has to offer this decade, you know it's time to forgive and forget. The relentless forward momentum of Panic in the Streets's thrillride is screeched to a halt in A Streetcar Named Desire (1951), Kazan's overrated Tennessee Williams adaptation that's notable only for Brando's electrifying performance that somehow managed to be the only one from the film in the four acting categories to not win-- how that's not the lead in every "Oscar's Biggest Mistakes" column, I'll never know. Brando's back in Viva Zapata! (1952), a relentlessly entertaining mess about the revolutionary leader. Still messy but not so entertaining is Man on a Tightrope (1953), a surprisingly humorless circus film. Too much is made of On the Waterfront's politics, but this stridently anti-Communist pamphlet strikes me as far more blatant and groan-inducing. But On the Waterfront (1954) still isn't that good, though. East of Eden (1955) throws out most of Steinbeck's book, and just as well-- some lovely images in this, Kazan's first widescreen film, and he earned another Oscar nom because every1 <3ed him then. Baby Doll (1956) is as close to a fullstop masterpiece as they come, and it's one of my very favorite films to teach, as it is always so warmly received and leaves the kids with so much to talk about-- like how they, along with anyone else watching, are going to Hell for viewing the pic (courtesy of the Catholic Church). Three of the decade's best performances conveniently located together in one easy to digest form. Finally, A Face in the Crowd (1957) is a vicious satire of popularity and acidic attack not only on Hollywood but those who enjoy the facade. The full-throated cynicism on display here makes the film especially modern, and it's sadly never been any less relevant than now.


JOSHUA LOGAN

Picnic (1955) R1 Sony / Twilight Time Blu-ray
Bus Stop (1956) R1 Fox
Sayonara (1957) R1 MGM (OOP)
South Pacific (1958) R1 Fox Blu-ray

Master of the 'Scope Broadway adaptations, Logan's first and best film of the decade, Picnic (1955), gives a soapy sheen to the small town depicted, and fans of William Holden's bare chest will be amply rewarded. Bus Stop (1956) had quite a reputation back in the day, popular with the public and critics of all walks-- the Cahiers writers loved it, and even Von Sternberg expressed his admiration. I can't say it holds up for me, personally, but it's the sort of failed Oscar bait (Sorry Marilyn Monroe, the Academy was never ever gonna nominate you) that's hard to hold a grudge against. Easy to fucking hate is Sayonara (1957), a total piece of shit from start to finish. So much to hate I'll just focus on the "M"s: Marlon Brando's accent, Miscegenation, Ricardo Montalban in yellowface, Money wasted, and Moral Lessons. Rounding out the decade is South Pacific (1958), yet another Rogers and Hammerstein adaptation, and those words in that order will tell you how much or how little you'll enjoy this.


JOSEPH L MANKIEWICZ

No Way Out (1950) R1 Fox
All About Eve (1950) R1 Fox Blu-ray
People Will Talk (1951) R1 Fox
5 Fingers (1952) R2 Optimum
Julius Caesar (1953) R1 Warners
the Barefoot Contessa (1954) R1 MGM
Guys and Dolls (1955) R1 MGM (OOP)
the Quiet American (1958) R1 MGM (OOP)
Suddenly, Last Summer (1959) R1 Columbia

For a decade that brought so much greatness from the man, Mankiewicz stumbles out of the gate with No Way Out (1950), a tiresome social problem pic that discards Mank's standard verbosity for hamhandedness. All About Eve (1950) is exactly as good or better than you've heard/remember. People Will Talk (1951) is kind of fascinating, as it is the cleverest stupid film you'll ever see. So much verbal wit wasted on such an asinine plot! Next to Eve, Mankiewicz's best of the decade is handily 5 Fingers (1952), a killer riff on Mankiewicz's eternal preoccupation with self-confidence that tells a wartime spy story with a tone not of suspense or chastisement but awed respect. Highly recommended. Mankiewicz even does the impossible this decade: he makes a good Shakespeare adaptation, and of one of the true masterpieces too, Julius Caesar (1953). Mank takes another bite of the Eve apple with the Barefoot Contessa (1954), and despite diminishing returns, it's still a gleefully entertaining pic, and it netted everyone's favorite schlub Edmond O'Brien an Oscar. Guys and Dolls (1955) should have netted Jean Simmons an Oscar for her rendition of "If I Were a Bell" alone, but stunningly she wasn't even nominated. This is one of the best musicals, underline, full-stop. As for the Quiet American (1958), just stop. Suddenly, Last Summer (1959) tops off a great decade with another winner, though, as Mankiewicz, with Gore Vidal's assistance, salvages a lesser Tennessee Williams work and transforms it into a powerful three-pronged actor's workshop. A revelatory film.


NICHOLAS RAY

In a Lonely Place (1950) R1 Sony
Born to Be Bad (1950) R2 Odeon
Flying Leathernecks (1951) R1 Warners
On Dangerous Ground (1952) R1 Warners
Macao (1952, with Josef von Sternberg) R1 Warners
the Lusty Men (1952) No commercial release
Johnny Guitar (1954) R2
Run for Cover (1955) No commercial release
Rebel Without a Cause (1955) R1 Warners
Hot Blood (1956) R2 Sony
Bigger Than Life (1956) R1 Criterion Blu-ray
the True Story of Jesse James (1957) R1 Fox (OOP)
Bitter Victory (1957) R1 Sony
Wind Across the Everglades (1958) R2 Warners Spain
Party Girl (1958) R1 Warner Archives

Without equivocation, the Fifties are the decade of Nicholas Ray. Ever fascinated with how humans group and interact within these closed-off settings, Ray takes us into the zeitgeist of the decade, the fears, the dreams, the hopes, the denials, the reality, the fantasy. Ray is not just the cinema, as Godard famously opined, he's the world. In a Lonely Place (1950) needs little praise from me, but the overlooked Born to Be Bad (1950 merits twice the praise of the more well-known release. Screamingly funny and witty, Born to Be Bad delights in every acid-tongued thing that falls out of these characters' mouths, and with rare zeal. Fontaine's hardly to blame for her machinations, Ray tells us, whether we want to admit it or not is our problem. Flying Leathernecks (1951) shouldn't be ours, though. The one truly indefensible Ray film, this benefits from the mindset that it's not a Ray film at all. Macao (1952, w. Josef von Sternberg) too is of mutt heritage, but at least the end result is a giddily entertaining trifle. On Dangerous Ground (1952) finds Ray player Robert Ryan struggling with his inner demons and the titular characters of the Lusty Men (1952) exhibiting their outwardly, both to stellar and impressive results. The Lusty Men in particular strikes me as the kind of film perhaps only Nicholas Ray could have made. Ray's first two westerns, Johnny Guitar (1954) and Run For Cover (1955) have their fans, especially the former, and while I enjoy both immensely for what they are, when stacked against both other westerns and other Ray films, they just don't make the cut. No such worries for Rebel Without a Cause (1955). I don't know the exact order of my list yet, but the only thing I can say with surety is that this will be my Number One. Nothing else could possibly be a more perfect summation of the decade and what it meant than Rebel WIthout a Cause, and you can read more of my thoughts here. Hot Blood (1956) takes us into the colorful world of gypsies and while it's not Ray's best, it is another film that could only have come from Ray. Bigger Than Life (1956) is not quite as good as Tiny Furniture, but what is? The True Story of Jesse James (1957) (Rivette's favorite Ray film!) is a stunning failure, especially considering the time-honored tradition of its plot and Ray's use of his young stars. Bitter Victory (1957), Wind Across the Everglades (1958), and Party Girl (1958) all show men driven to violence by passion and obsession, perhaps mirroring Ray's own personal issues this decade. None rank with his best, but all impart interesting perspectives on worlds different than the norm, and that's truly Ray's gift to the film world.


MARTIN RITT

Edge of the City (1957) R1 Warners
No Down Payment (1957) No commercial release
the Long, Hot Summer (1958) R1 Fox
the Black Orchid (1958) R1 Paramount / Lionsgate (OOP)
the Sound and the Fury (1959) No commercial release

Ritt's auteurial habit of socially conscious films filtered through heightened emotions started early with Edge of the City (1957), an inert racial tolerance problem film with Sidney Poitier stuck doing his nth rendition of Black Christ (here literally) in "heterosexual" league with John Cassavetes' dockworker. There'd be no reason to talk about Ritt at all were he not rescued and nurtured by producer extraordinaire Jerry Wald for his next two films.

While not the best film of the decade, No Down Payment (1957) is certainly one of the most important for understanding the mindset of suburban America in the 1950s and all its hidden ills. Particularly illustrative in tandem with some of the most famous writing about the era, such as the Lonely Crowd, the Man in the Gray Flannel Suit (itself adapted in part into a bizarro masterpiece) and David Halberstam's excellent (I dare say required reading for this project) the Fifties. Ritt indulges in Wald's melodramatic flourishes while wrangling his top-shelf cast, including Joanne Woodward as a dimbulb soldier's wife and Tony Randall (in a brilliant bit of casting) as a drunkard car salesman who in the film's best scene tries to pathetically sell his wife Sheree North on a juvenile investment scheme. Ritt prefers extended sequences and often structures his films like plays, and this film in particular hits the grace notes that Ritt's best work allows. The Long Hot Summer (1958) is almost nothing but right notes, grace and otherwise, and what a collection! Joanne Woodward and Paul Newman's first and best film together, this loose adaptation of some Faulkner short stories cranks up Ritt and Wald's melodramatics til the whole thing bursts so vibrantly with erotic tension that it's no surprise the film begins and ends with massive fires. A film I could be deserted with.

The Black Orchid (1958) is the kind of gentle little film that's easy to get overlooked in a project like this, but Ritt's warm and immensely likable presentation of Sophia Loren and Anthony Quinn's romancing widowers makes it appointment viewing-- assuming clearing the schedule is possible. If clearing a room is more your style, get ahold (somehow) of a copy of Ritt's disastrous (and that's being generous) adaptation of the Sound and the Fury (1959). Featuring every possible miscast imaginable (Joanne Woodward as a young teen, Yul Brenner as the marble-mouthed "passionate" southerner lead-- did someone lose a fucking bet?) coupled with a total mismanagement of the material, this is a strong contender, when the talent involved and potential for a better product is fully considered, for the worst film ever made.


GEORGE SIDNEY

Key to the City (1950) No commercial release
Annie Get Your Gun (1950) R1 Warners
Show Boat (1951) R1 Turner (OOP)
Scaramouche (1952) R1 Warners (OOP)
Young Bess (1953) R1 Warner Archives
Kiss Me Kate (1953) R1 Warners
Jupiter's Darling (1955) No commercial release
the Eddy Duchin Story (1956) R1 Sony
Jeanne Eagels (1957) R1 Sony
Pal Joey (1957) R1 Sony / Twilight Time Blu-ray

While he made his share of rotten films (many this decade), Sidney's constant showmanship and expert use of chaos and sentiment shines bright in much of his work, as it does in the charming Key to the City (1950), a delightful lark of a romantic comedy about love-smitten mayors (!) that surprisingly reteams Clark Gable with Loretta Young (post-scandal!) to great results. Highly recommended. Annie Get Your Gun (1950) and Show Boat (1951) are two of the most seminal musicals of the decade, but only the former deserves it, and even then it's not as spectacular as its pedigree might suggest.

If there's a more entertaining film than Scaramouche (1952) made this decade, I assure you that you're mistaken and meant to think of Scaramouche. One of the greatest if not the greatest swashbucklers of all time, this exciting comic adventure climaxes with what is generally regarded to be the finest sword fight in all of cinema. Hard to get ahold of now that Warners has placed it OOP, it's absolutely worth tracking down at any cost. Not worth even half that fuss is Young Bess (1953), a mostly by the numbers affair that threatens to be a Prestige pic (and still is, in a fashion) before it turns Jean Simmons' Queen Elizabeth into a pouty lovestruck teen.

Sidney's next two musicals, Kiss Me Kate (1953) and Jupiter's Darling (1955), have my vote as of now, and while the former is not surprising given its continued relevance, I feel I probably have to defend my love for Jupiter's Darling, Esther Williams' best and most underrated film. Transporting Williams and Howard Keel and the Champions to a leftover Ancient Rome set (and in tandem casting George Sanders as a pathetic cuckold of an emperor) is so audacious that the film works almost on a dare. Great numbers, tricky sexual politics, real grandeur-- why has this been buried (Unless that opening song about how great slavery is has ruffled some feathers on the road to release)?

Sidney rounds out the decade with a trio of Kim Novak starrers. It's well established that I don't think much of Novak on any level of movie stardom, but I've enjoyed some of her films in the past and I'm always looking for more to say that about. No such luck with the Eddy Duchin Story (1956), a rather confused biopic that is more concerned with easy melodrama than music. Jeanne Eagels (1957) is particularly frustrating film because for the first act or so it's pretty good, until… oh God… Sidney lets Novak "Go Big" as an alcoholic stage actress in what amounts to truly one of the single worst performances I've ever seen ever ever ever. Like, I was getting angryand talking to the TV-level of bad. I may not be a fan to begin with, but I certainly didn't think she had this in her. Enjoy at your own peril. And finally, Pal Joey (1957), where Novak and Rita Hayworth throw themselves at Frank Sinatra's arch-dick for no good reason other than that Frank Sinatra is the star. Just listen to one of Sinatra's Nelson Riddle albums instead and save yourself.


CHARLES WALTERS

Summer Stock (1950) R1 Warners
Three Guys Named Mike (1951) Public Domain
Texas Carnival (1951) R1 Warner Archives
the Belle of New York (1952) R1 Warners
Lili (1953) No commercial release
Dangerous When Wet (1953) R1 Warners
Torch Song (1953) R1 Warners
Easy to Love (1953) R1 Warners
the Glass Slipper (1955) No commercial release
the Tender Trap (1955) R1 Warners (OOP)
High Society (1956) R1 Warners
Don't Go Near the Water (1957) R1 Warner Archives
Ask Any Girl (1959) No commercial release

Charles Walters has one of the most uneven decades, though your mileage may vary with which are the highs and which are the lows. Summer Stock (1950), to my eyes one of the weakest of Garland's "Let's put on a show!" outings, has its fervent supporters. No one's probably going out on a limb (wing?) for Three Guys Named Mike (1951) though, as this shockingly dull feature-length ad for American Airlines, uh, I mean "comedy" about an airline stewardess is devoid of laughs, timing, even plot. I suspect Walters was dragged screaming behind the camera for this one. Much better and also starring Howard Keel is Texas Carnival (1951), a frothy and fun Esther Williams vehicle that fares better than most. The Belle of New York (1952) finds Fred Astaire competing with the laws of physics, but to little avail. Walters' best of the decade, and one of my favorite films of all time, is the charming and heartbreaking Lili (1953), which you can read more than you'd ever want to about here. And then we hit a bit of a downslide: Dangerous When Wet (1953) fails to spark as much amusement as Walters' last Esther Williams flick; Torch Song (1953) is a slight Joan Crawford as Queen Bitch exercise; Easy to Love (1953) is easier to forget; the Glass Slipper (1955) a mostly lacking attempt to recreate the magic of Lili via the same starlet, screenwriter and of course director-- Caron was never cuter, but you wouldn't hit dat film.

The Tender Trap (1955) is the first of several of Walters' entries in that goddawful late-50s genre of "Adult" Pictures-- two hours of Debbie Reynolds hitting on Frank Sinatra, vom. I've never been a fan of the Philadelphia Story, but I'd sit through it for 24 hours straight before I'd rewatch the ill-advised musical remake High Society (1956), which has a single saving grace (GET IT) in Grace Kelly's gorgeous wardrobe. I'd kill for even that level of base praise for Don't Go Near the Water (1957). The Teahouse of the August Moon brought many military comedies in the wake of its success, but I've never seen one this bad on all levels. I actually paid money to see a proper 'Scope release of this-- please don't make my mistake.

However, by the end of the decade, a saving grace in adult entertainment in the late 50s / early 60s, the Sex Comedy, was in its infancy, and Ask Any Girl (1959) is one of the first and best examples. Featuring a typically hilarious Shirley MacLaine as the husband-hunting career gal, this is kind of a comedy version of Negulesco's the Best of Everything, and if nothing else viewing the pic will allow you to scratch "See David Niven take a flying leap and tackle Rod Taylor" off your Bucket List. Highly recommended, especially for fans of the genre.


BILLY WILDER

Sunset Blvd (1950) R1 Paramount (OOP)
Ace in the Hole (1951) R1 Criterion
Stalag 17 (1953) R1 Paramount (OOP)
Sabrina (1954) R1 Paramount
the Seven Year Itch (1955) R1 Fox
the Spirit of St. Louis (1957) R1 Warners
Love in the Afternoon (1957) R1 Warners
Witness for the Prosecution (1957) R1 MGM
Some Like it Hot (1959) R1 MGM Blu-ray

I think I've documented in-depth my initial viewings of all of these films in the Wilder thread, so I'm going to cheat and just say read through that, if you're so inclined.


WILLIAM WYLER

Detective Story (1951) R1 Paramount (OOP)
Carrie (1952) R1 Paramount (OOP)
Roman Holiday (1953) R1 Paramount
the Desperate Hours (1955) R1 Paramount (OOP)
Friendly Persuasion (1956) R1 Warners
the Big Country (1958) R1 MGM Blu-ray
Ben-Hur (1959) R1 Warners Blu-ray

A pretty great decade for Wyler begins with his career-best Detective Story (1951), a stunning stage-bound play adaptation featuring Kirk Douglas' best performance (the only reason he wasn't Oscar nominated was he was up for the Bad and the Beautiful the same year) as a smoldering keg of male ego pushed over the edge by a shocking revelation half-way through the film. To say anything more would be criminal, but at the very least this is one of the greatest acts of misdirections I can think of, and the eventual theme of the picture is not immediately apparent at the outset. Great Oscar-nommed perfs from Eleanor Parker and Lee Grant as the much-needed comic relief. Carrie (1952) finds Wyler doing his period-thing, as he's done before and will do again. A successful man throwing his life away over his infatuation Jennifer Jones… nah, not familiar at all. Roman Holiday (1953), while a bit creaky in its first half, does eventually sway the viewer with Hepburn's charms. One's enjoyment is directly relational to tolerance/affinity for the gamine at the helm. The Desperate Hours (1955) doesn't have much cachet with critics or fans, though I'm not sure why-- this is a crackerjack thriller with some of the best actors of the decade, Bogart and Arthur Kennedy. What more could you ask for? The most shocking thing about Friendly Persuasion (1956) is that it breaks the Wyler Time Period Rule (Modern Films = Good, Period Films = Bad) by being worthwhile. But the pacifism angle of the Quakers here is worked to better degree by Gregory Peck in the Big Country (1958), a very impressive and star-studded Western which does the anti-violence screed better than any other similar liberal Western I can think of. And rounding out the decade is Ben-Hur (1959), one of the least involving "Sandals and Swords" entries, and inexplicably one of the most enduring.


PSHEW! I need a breather. Round Two will be posted soon and will include Joseph Anthony, John Cromwell, John Ford, Melvin Frank & Norman Panama, John Huston, Anthony Mann, Daniel Mann, Vincente Minnelli, Otto Preminger, Mark Robson, George Stevens, and Fred Zinnemann (plus more, possibly-- but those are the ones I have completed as of right now)
Last edited by domino harvey on Tue Feb 28, 2012 8:49 pm, edited 10 times in total.

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colinr0380
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Re: 1950s List Discussion and Suggestions

#14 Post by colinr0380 » Tue Feb 28, 2012 7:57 pm

domino harvey wrote:CLAUDE CHABROL

Le beau Serge (1958) R1 Criterion Blu-ray
Les cousins (1959) R1 Criterion Blu-ray
À double tour (1959) R1 Kino

I feel like I've talked about sister films Le beau Serge (1958) and Les cousins (1959) to death, so I'll just chime in again that the first remains interesting only in relation to the superior and gleefully cruel second film. Le beau Serge does feature the first appearance of Chabrol's least-talked about muse, even if he did borrow her from Truffaut, Bernadette Lafont, who appears in four out of Chabrol first five films (and shows up now and again in Chabrol's later works). Lafont is there again in À double tour (1959), notable more perhaps for being Chabrol's first of many Hitchcock riffs than for its own merits, is a slight but enjoyable distraction.
À double tour has coincidentally been the subject of a recent blog post at Only The Cinema

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domino harvey
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Re: 1950s List Discussion and Suggestions

#15 Post by domino harvey » Tue Feb 28, 2012 7:59 pm

Ha, and sure enough, there's Lafont!

I made this a while ago, I think we can all agree it's uncanny:

Image

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Re: 1950s List Discussion and Suggestions

#16 Post by knives » Tue Feb 28, 2012 8:17 pm

Thanks for that. I'm really shocked at how Hawks went from being arguably the best American director alive to such a sorry state in the '50s. Really only Gentlemen Prefer Blondes proved enjoyable and good for me though I have a soft spot for The Big Sky. I've never understood the love Rio Bravo gets as it comes across as a completely unfunny sitcom that's an hour too long (though I believe I'm the only man to love Rio Lobo so I'm likely insane). Though Monkey Business is a far easier punching bag. Thanks for the Wyler write up too. I doubt I'll be voting for any of them, but I've enjoyed all three I've seen from this decade.

I'm curious if you could go more in depth on The Quiet American because I'm not so sure how much my opinion was influenced by the book. There's a lot I do like, but it's politics and themes seem out of wack also. A really curious state. There's an in print version of Guys and Dolls by the way for those who don't have it in a perfectly fine Sinatra set. Am I correct in understanding that 5 Fingers is going to be released by Twilight Time sometime soon?

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Re: 1950s List Discussion and Suggestions

#17 Post by puxzkkx » Tue Feb 28, 2012 8:23 pm

Great post domino. I have a lot of blind spots there and will try to catch up on them.

I do agree wholeheartedly about Stage Fright. It is very underrated - hilarious and playful but with an acidic edge that comes out especially in the climactic reveal. Alastair Sim is great.

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Re: 1950s List Discussion and Suggestions

#18 Post by domino harvey » Tue Feb 28, 2012 8:24 pm

knives wrote:I'm curious if you could go more in depth on The Quiet American because I'm not so sure how much my opinion was influenced by the book. There's a lot I do like, but it's politics and themes seem out of wack also. A really curious state. There's an in print version of Guys and Dolls by the way for those who don't have it in a perfectly fine Sinatra set. Am I correct in understanding that 5 Fingers is going to be released by Twilight Time sometime soon?
I haven't read the book, so my objections to the Quiet American aren't political (as they often are, I notice, when it comes to negative responses), but just that it's a confusing and surprisingly unentertaining effort from Mank, one that was perhaps hampered by the CIA's involvement, but it's not like the agency foisted Audie Murphy on him! The in-print Guys and Dolls and the one in the set is actually non-anamorphic, the anamorphic reissue (with the grey stencil cover ala West Side Story) IS OOP. Go figure-- hopefully there's a Blu-ray coming soon. And yes, Twilight Time is releasing 5 Fingers eventually (maybe not even by the end of the year), but the Mason set is pretty cheap and this is essential

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Re: 1950s List Discussion and Suggestions

#19 Post by knives » Tue Feb 28, 2012 8:30 pm

It's definitely because I have a high tolerance for bad performances, but I enjoyed Murphy quite a bit. The plotting seems a bit rote, but I guess I found it to have a slight charm.

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Re: 1950s List Discussion and Suggestions

#20 Post by Murdoch » Tue Feb 28, 2012 8:31 pm

I'll put my support behind Walters' Lili as well. A splendid delight of infinite pleasure, although I may be overselling it by just a bit. Regardless, it's worth seeking out for all the reasons domino highlights and it's commercial unavailability is a shame. I've had "Hi Lili, Hi Lo" stuck in my head for months now and I never want to forget it.

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Re: 1950s List Discussion and Suggestions

#21 Post by domino harvey » Tue Feb 28, 2012 8:32 pm

knives wrote:It's definitely because I have a high tolerance for bad performances, but I enjoyed Murphy quite a bit. The plotting seems a bit rote, but I guess I found it to have a slight charm.
If it makes you feel any better, Godard named it the Best Film of 1958, and this was well after his fellow Cahiers writers had given up on Mankiewicz

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Re: 1950s List Discussion and Suggestions

#22 Post by knives » Tue Feb 28, 2012 8:36 pm

Worse company to be in for sure. If I'm airing my dirty laundry (before I post all of that laundry) I also found Kazan's Man on a Tightrope enjoyable even if it's politics were odd to phrase it politely. The central stuff amongst the father and daughter was really strong and breathed new life into old types. It's not amongst his best, but I'd call it fourth or fifth for the decade for him.

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Re: 1950s List Discussion and Suggestions

#23 Post by domino harvey » Tue Feb 28, 2012 8:42 pm

knives wrote:Worse company to be in for sure. If I'm airing my dirty laundry (before I post all of that laundry) I also found Kazan's Man on a Tightrope enjoyable even if it's politics were odd to phrase it politely. The central stuff amongst the father and daughter was really strong and breathed new life into old types. It's not amongst his best, but I'd call it fourth or fifth for the decade for him.
It's just so joyless (except for that bizarre extended trailer fight), but it's unsurprisingly a well-made film given that Kazan was in his prime this decade.

If you liked Terry Moore as the daughter, be sure you see some of her great eligible films this decade: Her Oscar-nommed turn in Come Back, Little Sheba (more on this when I write up Daniel Mann) and especially Two of a Kind, a film which has charmed everyone I've forced to watch it. Her good girl character is the kookiest and most memorable in all of noir, and yet I was the only one to vote for it in the Noir list! Criminal!

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Re: 1950s List Discussion and Suggestions

#24 Post by knives » Tue Feb 28, 2012 8:51 pm

I'll be sure to check out those two.

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Re: 1950s List Discussion and Suggestions

#25 Post by matrixschmatrix » Tue Feb 28, 2012 8:56 pm

knives wrote:It's definitely because I have a high tolerance for bad performances, but I enjoyed Murphy quite a bit. The plotting seems a bit rote, but I guess I found it to have a slight charm.
Have you seen the more recent Quiet American, with Brendan Fraser and Michael Caine? I enjoyed that one a lot, so it's hard to picture a CIA sponsored 50's version that wouldn't be an abomination.

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