Favorite Comedies: The 50’s

For me, the 1950’s can be considered as one of the best decades in film. With films like Sunset Blvd, From Here to Eternity, North by Northwest, Strangers on a Train, All About Eve, Rear Window (Hitchcock again!), On the Waterfront, Touch of Evil, High Noon, and so many others how could it not be? However, with the introduction of television in more and more American homes during this decade comedy seemed to have hit  a bump in the road.  There were not as many comedies, and they generally were not as funny as in the past.   Of course, there were exceptions, Some Like it Hot is one of the greatest sound comedies. One thing that you will notice is  that some of the films on the list are  musical comedies. A style that at this point in time, television still could not emulate.

The previous entries in this series can be found here. Continue reading

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Over-Exposed (1956)

Over4As a photographer, I found this film more interesting than it arguably deserves to be. The photography studio, the darkroom, the Rolleiflex camera that Lila Crane’s mentor gives her as a gift is all nicely detailed. As part Columbia’s Bad Girls of Film Noir, the film’s inclusion in volume two is questionable. The first thing to point out this is not a film noir.  Columbia’s long arm of credibility was at work including this in the box set. And compared to Night Editor, another film in the package that stars Janis Carter as one of the most evil femme fatale’s to ever grace the screen, making Lila Crane look like miss goody two shoes. Continue reading

Storm Warning (1951) Stuart Heisler

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Storm Warning is not a perfect film, however, more than 60 years after its release, it still has the power and social significance to resonate with us today. Ronald Reagan reveals shades of the politician he would become later, and both Ginger Rogers and Doris Day in her first dramatic role, are admirable in the roles of sisters caught in a doomed triangle. Continue reading

Murder by Contract (1958) Irving Learner

Murder-by-Contract-1In a 1993 interview with The New York Times, Martin Scorsese talks about the influence Murder by Contract had on the then teenager. “It’s an example of an American B-movie that is 100 times better than the film it played with on a double bill.” He then went on to explain, “The film it was playing with when I saw it was ‘The Journey,’ by Anatole Litvak, with Yul Brynner. That film had nice color, but when ‘Murder by Contract’ came on the screen, it was surprising and lean and purposeful, and not like anything my friends and I had seen. Afterward, we talked about it on the street for days. When I saw it again years later, I was overwhelmed by the severity of the style, which was dictated by the budget.” Scorsese later said in the interview how he put a clip from the film in ‘Mean Streets, ‘ but he had to remove it out of the final cut of the film because it was too long. Continue reading

Gunfight at the O.K. Corral (1957) John Sturges

gunfight-jpgOne of the earliest films depicting Wyatt Earp, Doc Holiday and the gunfight at the OK Corral was a 1932 work called Law and Order. While the character’s names were changed, the film told the tale, fictitious as it was, of the infamous Tombstone shootout. Since the making of that film there have been numerous others detailing, correctly or incorrectly, generally more the latter, the story of the battle between the Earp Brothers and the Clanton’s’ at the OK Corral. In 1939, there was Frontier Marshal with Randolph Scott as Earp and Cesar Romero as Doc Holiday. According to Jon Tuska in his 1976 tomb on the Western film (The Filming of the West), it was this script that was given to John Ford and was used as the basis for his My Darling Clementine. Continue reading

In a Lonely Place ( 1950) Nicholas Ray

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Nicholas Ray’s films were filled with anti-heroes. Characters who were disillusioned with life. Outsiders in a system they could not or would not fit into or accept. Protagonist Dix Steele fits the mole perfectly. For Humphrey Bogart, playing Dix, was a stretch. This was not the typical Bogart character we were used to seeing. Whether on the right or wrong side of the law, Bogart’s characters were generally calm, cool and in control (The Maltese Falcon, Casablanca). As Dix, we are watching the flip side. A man who is always on edge: cynical, moody and ready to explode at the slightest moment. As a screenwriter, like Joe Gillis in Sunset Blvd., he knew where on the Hollywood pecking order he stood…way down at the bottom. He despised the Hollywood machine, considering most in the industry hacks or as he says, “popcorn salesmen.” Continue reading

The Day the Earth Stood Still (1951) Robert Wise

dayIf we don’t stop killing each other we will be exterminated. That’s the message given by one of the greatest science fiction films ever made. World War II ended with the dropping of a couple of devastating nuclear bombs over two Japanese cities, Hiroshima and Nagasaki, killing more than 129,000 people. Over the next few months, more than another 120,000 people would die due to burns, radiation poisoning and other after effects of the bomb. The bombing ended the war at a high cost. And while it ended the war, it was just the beginning of a new era in warfare. Ever since, along with Russia’s own testing of a nuclear bomb in 1949, the fear of nuclear war has hung over us like a massive mushroom cloud. In the world of science fiction, films like The Incredible Shrinking Man, Godzilla and The Beast from 20,000 Fathoms to name a few, have used these fears to demonstrate what our future may be. In 1951, came an early entry in the field. It remains to this day one of the best. Robert Wise’s The Day the Earth Stood Still warns us that if we don’t stop killing each other, we may not have a future. It won’t be just giant genetically modified monsters we’ll have to worry about.  Continue reading