Movies of the 1950s

by admin - November 19th, 2013

One of the things many people picture when they think about the 1950s is teenagers attending drive in movies each week. It turns out that during this decade going to the movies, whether it was at a drive in or an actual theater, was not as popular as it had previously been. McCarthyism played a major role in the lack of movie attendance. “The most publicized assault, and the most difficult to counter because it set workers within the industry against one another, came from allegations of Communist influence in the industry” (Dunar 250.) After beginning to blacklist anyone who they thought to have any communist involvement, executives began only creating movies that they found to be safe and not corrupting to the general public. This meant that many independent films were being made rather than ones directed by well known production companies. This hurt revenue by decreasing about one third from $1.4 billion to $951 million dollars during this decade (Dunar 250.)

As the numbers continued to decline, Hollywood came up with the idea to create very expensive films called blockbusters to draw more attention to coming to the movies. These movies are some that are still very popular today almost sixty years later so it must have made quite an impact. Some include The Ten Commandments, Around the World in 80 Days, and Ben-Hur (Dunar 251.)The need for more movie attendance also created genres that had not previously been used. Movies that had racy plotlines were always big sellers. Just like the book, the movie Peyton Place pushed the limits of movies from the past and was very well received for doing so. Actresses who were known as sex symbols such as Marilyn Monroe (pictured above) began starring many movies, such as Gentlemen Prefer Blondes, to entice more viewers. Movies such as Rebel without a Cause were made for teenagers to show all of the rebellion and nonconformist views they were struggling with in this time period. It attracted all of the young girls by using James Dean as the bad boy. Science fiction was probably one of the most well received genres brought about in the 1950s. Some popular ones included The Blob, The Day the Earth Stood Still, and Them (Dunar 254). The current threats that were going on involving nuclear war was what sparked such an interest in these movies. Each one involves the world in danger whether it is coming from outer space or things on Earth. The movies almost seemed to give them a comfort that although bad things can happen, there is always a way out of a situation.

Like I mentioned earlier McCarthyism and the threat of spies caused this lack of attending movies. Many anti-communist films were made to show the country’s patriotism. They were usually low budget and didn’t have the best plot lines, but they were making a statement. Just a few of these films include I was a Communist for the FBI and My Son John. Critics were not very pleased with these movies. Stephen J. Whitfield described them by saying they “treated the Stars and Stripes with contempt. They were rude, humorless, and cruel to animals” (Dunar 253). So as you can see from all of this, movies were not as popular during the 1950s as it may have seemed. They did make a great effort however and came up with movies that will always be known as classics.

— Courtney M.

4 Responses to “Movies of the 1950s”

  1. Amanda Priest says:

    I liked this blog post because it revealed many things that I did not know about the status of movies in the 1950s. I did not realize that the popularity of movies were declining during this time. I figured that with new technology being established, movies would be more popular than ever. I also think it is interesting that talented actresses, such as Marilyn Monroe, were required to play in roles that did not highlight their level of talent. I think that if the movie industry were doing better during this time period, the famous actors and actresses in the fifties could have made much more substantial work.

  2. Erin Rice says:

    I agree with Amanda that it is interesting how actors and actresses were “required to play in roles that did not highlight their level of talent.” Directors in the fifties were more concerned about whether or not they were to be blacklisted rather than making an insightful film. Today, I think a lot of directors still do the same– with the use of special effects and popular actors, the plot line of most films today are somewhat shallow because audiences are still drawn in by the appearance of the film based on trailers. I think the idea of a blockbuster film still greatly influences the film industry today.

  3. Janelle Platt says:

    I like this blog post because it highlights the information that the modern society of 2013 does not probably know. For example, many people assume that the fifties was a time when teens were hanging out at the drive in and movie theater- this blog post disproves that assumption. It also surprised me to read that directors focused their movies around not being the target of anti-communists instead of creating movies for the enjoyment of the public. The focus that directors had for their films highlights the point that the public was living during a tense time period for the United States

  4. Alex Derian says:

    I like this blog post because it goes against the way that we perceive the fifties and how everyone exaggerates the greatness of it. I always pictured the movies to be packed, especially at the drive-ins, but this post goes against that vision with evidence. I also think it’s interesting how much communism affected the general population, making it such a big scare.