MOVIE CLASSICS: 1950’S (PART 2)

Let’s continue to look at the vintage films that Hollywood had to offer in the 1950’s.

REAR WINDOW (1954)

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This suspense thriller is considered to be Hitchcock’s finest film, and one of the greatest films ever made.  No wonder the director got his famous nickname as the Master of Suspense.  A tour de force of both acting and filmmaking, this masterpiece plays on the subject of voyeurism, and how people are happy to look outside to view other people’s problems instead of looking inside at their own.  Being a photographer, you’ll need a keen eye.  So when peeping tom James Stewart is cooped up in his apartment after breaking his leg, he uses his camera lens to bring a man whom he thinks has murdered his wife to justice.  With glamorous girlfriend Grace Kelly by his side, the ‘Love Thy Neighbour’ sentiment is thrown out the window (quite literally at the end) as they begin to unravel the mystery that lies just over the courtyard of the apartment complex.  Not only does the film never leave the perspective of the apartment that Stewart is confined to, we always have a view of the other apartments through his eyes and lenses.  Built in a Paramount studios lot, this impressive set cost a whopping $728,000.  Major bucks in those days.  Telling little stories of their own, the most heartbreaking of all is ‘Miss Lonely Hearts’ longing for companionship, even attempting suicide had it not been for ‘The Songwriter’ across the way.  If you have to take anything away from this film, just remember if a murderer is coming towards you, just have an old-fashioned camera handy and just lash them with a bright bulb until the police arrive!!

REBEL WITHOUT A CAUSE (1955)

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Looking at youth today, it seems the world hasn’t changed a bit.  Just replace the leather jackets, Chevrolet’s and hair smothered in gel in the fifties, to the present day with trousers pulled down to the ankles, shaved heads and mopeds. A different image but look deeper, and you’ll still see the same teenage angst and unstable side of life growing up, either trying to fit in, or simply not backing down from a fight after being called chicken.  From the opening shot of the still-relevant Rebel Without A Cause, with our leading boy lying on the street tucking a dancing monkey to sleep with sirens blaring, you already know that Jimbo is troubled.  Letting his anger out by drinking and punching desks, he hopes to turn a new leaf when he moves to Los Angeles.  When he comes across big bully Buzz and his girlfriend Judy, his plan to be a better man is put on hold.  As his tires are slashed, the inner rage starts to build and accepts a dangerous drag race that ends disastrously.  Not only does he now try to save himself from his anger, he must try to help Judy, his bickering parents, and a disturbed student Plato.  A superb piece of storytelling that showcases the troubles of teenage life.  A boy who is trapped in the middle of parents where the father won’t stand up to the mother or for himself.  A girl who dresses in racy attire to convince her father that she is not a little girl anymore.  And a child, whose father abandoned him and rarely sees his mother, resorts to shooting puppies to crave any attention.  While the main focus is on the minors themselves, the lives they lead is a direct consequence to the parents who simply have not done enough to protect their offspring.  Oozing coolness in a red jacket, it’s no wonder James Dean was a cultural icon, who sadly passed away before the release of his greatest film.  “You’re tearing me apart!!” That’s how you do it, Tommy Wiseau.

THE LADYKILLERS (1955)

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Who’d have thought a sweet old lady could unwittingly outwit five master burglars?  Posing as amateur musicians, they temporarily stay round Mrs. Wilberforce’s lopsided abode to plot the robbery that will make them mega rich and also use their landlady as the carrier.  This being a black comedy, things don’t go according to plan, when she accidentally finds out about the scheme, they now must decide what to do with their innocent sixth accomplice.  Along with Alec Guiness’s devilish turn as the big toothed leader, the films boasts a perfect ensemble cast.  Peter Sellers, Herbert Lom, Cecil Parker and Danny Green make up the petty thieves.  Even future Carry On regular Kenneth Connor and comedian Frankie Howerd, who also starred in two of the raunchy film series, make hilarious cameo appearances.  A very rare scoring of 100% approval rating on Rotten Tomatoes, a website that collects reviews from critics, only cements this films legacy as one of the funniest films ever made.

12 ANGRY MEN (1957)

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All it takes is a healthy discussion to try to get a kid off death row.  That’s the point of view from one man who single-handedly turns the opinions of eleven others on jury duty who believe a murder was committed.  Dressed in a white suit, the guardian angel that is Henry Fonda casts considerable doubt over not only the case, but over the personal lives of the men he hopes will see things more clearly.  As the temperature rises in the small room, so do the tempers.  Adapted from the stage, the vast majority of the film is set in one sweaty set.  It’s also worth noting that no names are given to us right until the last few seconds.  But why do you need names? Plus they don’t know each other, so why should they care?  A compelling drama which unravels the idea that different personalities will eventually, after being broken down and exposed, can prevent a young boy going to jail.  Another rare 100% on Rotten Tomatoes, this film could be shown in a hundred years time, and still not lose any of its magic.  Yes, it’s possible.

SOME LIKE IT HOT (1959)

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Considered by many as the greatest comedy ever made.  Not only that, but the six-time Academy Award nominated classic is also regarded as one of the greatest films of all time.  Desperate down and out jazz players accidentally witness a mob murder and flee to Florida.  Not only do they try to lay low, they try some stockings and lipstick and go undercover to stay alive.  Along struts the luscious Marilyn ‘boo-doo-be-doo’ Monroe, and the men in drag decide to postpone their ‘diet’ and flirt their way into the singer’s arms, all while trying to hide their identities in hilarious fashion. Ahead of its time, with so many double entendres and dabbling (quite a bit) with sexuality, it also has some superb one liners. From “look how she moves, it’s like Jell-O on springs” to the very last words of the film, and the most famous quote in movie history: “well, nobody’s perfect.”

Do you agree with the list?

What else should be considered a classic from this decade?

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Next blog post: Ten Movie Classics of the 1960’s

By George Millard

 

 

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