Welcome to 1950s Hollywood – an extraordinary decade, full of big-budget films and never-before-seen genres.
Click start to play today’s Crossword, where you can name actors and memorable movies from the era.
By the 1950s, televisions were in almost every home in the US. So, filmmakers had to pull out all the stops to compete with the new technology – they responded with bigger, better productions. Musicals and epic sagas were introduced in this decade, and older genres, like westerns, melodramas and film noir, matured and thrived.
While the end of World War II was a recent memory, Americans approached the 1950s with hope – economic prosperity was theirs for the taking, and anything seemed possible. The era also saw a burgeoning civil rights movement, and threats on the horizon in terms of the Cold War, the Red Scare and the threat of the atom bomb.
Hollywood in the 1950s captured the changing tides both within and outside the country. Here are a few classics from the period, if you would like to give them a watch:
1. Sunset Boulevard (1950)
A film noir like no other, this Gloria Swanson and William Holden-starrer is a story of two people locked in a dangerous spiral of deception and desire. The film captures a Hollywood caught between its past and its future and is still a gripping watch, over 70 years later.
2. The Day the Earth Stood Still (1951)
Science fiction, as a genre, swept screens around the US in the 1950s, because it was one of the best ways to capture the many tensions that were brewing in the country at the time. The Day the Earth Stood Still, for instance, is about an alien that visits Earth, with the ultimatum that all of the planet’s people must find a way towards peace, or they will be eliminated. It expressed Americans’ deep fear about the atomic bomb, a threat that remained in people’s minds throughout the decade.
3. Singin’ in the Rain (1952)
The decade was a golden age for the musical, and the American studio MGM takes a lot of the credit for it. In this classic, Gene Kelly and Debbie Reynolds enthrall audiences with fabulous song and dance numbers, taking advantage of the newly introduced sound in motion picture technology. Like so many other musicals in the decade, the film captured the transcendent magic of Hollywood, something you would appreciate even today.
4. Rear Window (1954)
American director Alfred Hitchcock created unforgettable films in this decade, the foremost of which was Rear Window. The film takes the issue of voyeurism and turns it into a thriller, with Jimmy Stewart playing the lead role. Stewart is a man bored in his apartment after a leg injury, who occupies his time spying on his neighbours. In the process, he witnesses what he believes to be a murder, and things quickly go out of control from there.
5. Ben-Hur (1959)
It’s the epic to end all epics. Based on the hugely popular novel of the same name, the film sees Charlton Heston giving the best performance of his career as the titular character. The film smashed the box office and swept the Academy Award, and retains its place in history books as an epic to remember.