Archive for December, 2017

Television’s Very First Scandal

by admin - December 6th, 2017

Television’s Very First Scandal

By Emily Clemente

Pictured above is a contestant featured on another popular quiz show, Beat the Clock, in which he has to perform a certain task within a certain time limit, counted down on a 60-second clock

While there were several positive outcomes of the television boom, there were also setbacks that the television boom brought to light. Specific genres of television trumped others. For example, in the mid-fifties, the quiz show became one of the most popular genres of television shows. The general public found these shows to be new and thrilling. These quiz shows were developed for various reasons. Some of the quiz shows were created to provide people with entertainment, while other quiz shows offered prizes, such as large sums of money. At their most popular time, there were twenty-two game shows being simultaneously aired on different television stations. Although these game shows had similarities, they were each unique in their own way. They were all formatted differently. Some asked basic questions while others had required specific answers that came from an even broader topic. For example, some game shows asked for a list of popular tunes. There were various different game shows that became popular in the mid-fifties.

Although there were several popular quiz shows, one of the more popular ones was The $64,000 Questions. This show offered a money prize ranging in values from $64 to $64,000. Dunar claims, “$64,000 was a staggering figure in the fifties, and the fact that contestants could win it only by risking double or nothing after reaching the $32,000 level created scintillating tension, heightened by confinement in an onstage ‘isolation booth’ for the final, most lucrative questions” (Dunar 248). The success that The $64,000 Question generated sparked the production of other game shows. One game show, The $64,000 Challenge, was meant to imitate The $64,000 Question. These two particular game shows were first and second in the ratings at one point in time. These game shows became such big hits among people that, “In the summer of 1957, five of the top eight television shows were quiz shows” (Dunar 248). Despite the fact that these game shows generated great success, they also proved to be scandals.

As a result of the fact that these game shows had strong ratings, producers continued to try to improve their game shows. The producers utilized certain methods in order to keep their ratings high. The game shows required successful contestants to return weeks in a row in order to boost their winnings. By having the same guests continually star on the show, these guests received some fame. Producers also tried to have the most attractive contestants return to play on the show. Producers also utilized other methods to boost ratings. For example, some producers would ask “practice” questions that were later used on the game show when it aired. Cheating became a more common practice among contestants on the show. Dunar says, “Managers coached contestants in facial expressions and body language that heightened suspense, and fed them answers” (Dunar 249). The use of these methods by producers is why these game shows were regarded as scandals. Individuals speak to specific instances of scandal in this article. The managers and producers of these quiz shows rigged the games.

As a result of the rumors that these shows were scandals, they were investigated. Dunar states, “To many Americans, the quiz show scandal symbolized a betrayal of public trust on a grand scale, the end of an age of innocence” (Dunar 249). There were many different events that took place that changed the view that Americans had on the quiz shows. The quiz shows were first regarded as popular; however, toward the end of the decade, Americans realized that these game shows were total scandals.

Works Cited

Dunar, Andrew J. America in the Fifties. Syracuse University Press, 2006.

Tedlow, Richard S. “Intellect on Television: The Quiz Show Scandals of the 1950s.” American Quarterly. 28.4 (1976): 483-495. JSTOR. Web. 30 November 2017.

Venanzi, Katie. “An Examination of Television Quiz Show Scandals of the 1950s.” The Beat Begins: America in the 1950s, 1997,

“The $64,000 Question.” The $64,000 Question: Old Memories,

The Newport Jazz Festival

by admin - December 4th, 2017

By Elena Mouradian

Throughout the 1950s, jazz music in America became increasingly popular. The Depression, World War II, and Postwar years were responsible for creating the unique jazz sound. This sound came from the migration of African Americans to the north who blended gospel music, blues, and traditional African music (270). One of the reasons for the growth of jazz music in the 50s was due to the growing popularity of the television. The television replaced the need for radio in many households and became the most important entertainment medium. It benefited jazz musicians because instead of playing through the radio, they could appear on variety programs and specials. Specials would feature live jazz from performers such as Duke Ellington, Billie Holiday, and Miles Davis. Their appearance increased America’s desire to watch jazz musicians perform and to listen to the sound live. It paved the way for modern day jazz bars and concerts.

The First Newport Jazz Festival on July 17, 1954

In 1954, The Newport Jazz Festival was established in Newport, Rhode Island. Elaine Lorillard and Louis Lorillard believed that jazz music deserves a big festival just like other genres. They contacted jazz musician and producer George Wein to help them establish the event. The group named the event the “First Annual American Jazz Festival”. (Hevesi) It is normally held over a weekend on a lawn or outdoor location. Not only did it incorporate live jazz performances, but it also featured panel discussions.

Although the first festival had about 7,000 fans at the Newport Casino, it came with opposition for many reasons. Newport was not prepared for the large attendance and traffic that the festival brought and they also had a problem with some fans sleeping in tents. Many fans slept in tents because most of them were not from the area. The jazz festival attracted a young crowd and the majority of that crowd were black. Racist attitudes in an old upper-class community was most likely the creation of the opposition. The beginning years came with opposition, but it did not stop the festival from growing larger and larger.

Since its first event in 1954, the Newport Jazz Festival has continued to be held every summer. Many famous jazz artists have given performances that provided the spotlight and popularity that the event has gained. There were a number of notable events and performances. For example, Lester Young joining Billie Holiday onstage in 1954, Paul Gonsalves’ soloing with the help of the Duke Ellington Orchestra for 27 choruses of “Diminuendo and Crescendo in Blue” in 1956, Frank Sinatra arriving in a helicopter for his first and only time performing in 1965, and Louis Armstrong and Mahalia Jackson singing “Just a Closer Walk With Thee” for his 70th birthday tribute in 1970 (Smith).

The Newport Jazz Festival is the center of jazz. Its credibility and reputation for having great improvised music and enjoyable audience continues to attract many fans, but now they come from all demographics and ages.

Works Cited

Dunar, Andrew J. America in the Fifties. Syracuse University Press, 2006.

Hevesi, Dennis. “Started Newport Jazz Festival; Oscar Peterson Performed at 1st, in 1954.
Yearly Concert Series Began with Casual Remark.” The Gazette: B7. Nov 30 2007.
ProQuest. Web.

Ryan Belmore, July 17, 2015. “On This Day In Newport History: July 17, 1954 – First Newport Jazz Festival Held.” What’sUpNewp, 22 Aug. 2015,

Smith, Andy. “Newport Jazz Fest Highlights through the Years.” Providence Journal,, 28 July 2014,

Big Bugs

by admin - December 4th, 2017

By Katelynn Colpitts

After the war during the 1950s and early 1960s, Hollywood had a huge sci-fi boom. Films Aproduced during this time mainly revolved around “big bugs” as the main characters. A well known bug movie of the time was Them!, which was “the story of ants from the nuclear testing ranges of New Mexico, mutated to gargantuan size by long-term exposure to residual radiation” (Tsutsui 2). The film was such a hit because it was as realistic as a horror film could be at the time. Soon after its’ release, bug movies appeared more and more frequently and became more and more popular. Here you can find a list of the 25 best bug movies from the 1950s and so on. Critics and scholars have spent much of their time pondering exactly what the hidden meaning was behind all these bug movies.

Above is an image that advertises the film Them!. You can see the giant mutant ants and the military force that was used to attack the creatures in the film.

Bug films caused such an uproar because they portrayed actual scientific possibilities that people feared for. “In the case of the “big bug” films, this fear of science run amok took a unique form: nervously conflating warring arthropods and anthropoids, these films raised doubts as to which side was ultimately the graver threat to the earth and its creatures” (Bellin 3). In the 1950s pesticides were being used to fight off insects. As scientists made stronger and more advanced pesticides, the fear of big bug mutations grew. Pesticides were viewed “as a new and even deadlier form of alien invader–one that, ironically, humanity has loosed on itself in its reckless chemical war against the insects” (Bellin 4). Not only could pesticides be used to maintain insect infestations, they could also be used to poison and hurt human beings. “Chemists, entomologists, and military researchers knew that chemicals toxic to one species often killed others, so they developed similar chemicals to fight human and insect enemies” (Bellin 9).

The big bug phenomenon became so surreal because scientific advances were making the movie plots become more and more possible, which grabbed the audience’s attention. “As another influential critic put it, “The monster is the symbol of what we have to fear: it is not fear itself; it is the horror of what we have done, scientifically and militarily, to bring the world to the brink of destruction” (Tsutsui 8).

Another approach to the meaning behind the bug films is that they warned of nuclear fear. “The oldest and most esteemed critical approach to movies like Them! is that they are all about nuclear fear, the widespread anxiety about the threat of atomic annihilation that (so the story goes) gnawed at the middle-class psyche throughout the glory days of the Pax Americana” (Tsutsui 6). All in all the “big bug” movies of the 1950s serve as entertainment as well as warnings of chemical and scientific advances.

Today, viewers can enjoy the films and see how far our horror film plots have come, as well as speculate on what hidden meanings they are capturing in today’s society.

Works Cited

Tsutsui, William M. “Looking Straight at THEM! UNDERSTANDING THE BIG BUG MOVIES OF THE 1950S.” Environmental History 12.2 (2007): 237-53. ProQuest. Web. 29 Nov. 2017.

Bellin, Joshua David. “Us or them!: Silent Spring and the ‘big bug’ films of the 1950s.” Extrapolation, vol. 50, no. 1, 2009, p. 145+. General OneFile, Accessed 29 Nov. 2017.

Advances in 1950s Toys

by admin - December 4th, 2017

By Victoria Lemire

When most people think of the 1950s in America, they think of politics, the movie stars of the era, and fashion. Many times they do not think of what the common person did in their homes. What did they have for entertainment? What did the children do for fun? Children in the 1950s were ones of a baby boom generation. Considering that there was a rise of babies born in this era, there was also a rise in the production of children’s products that were produced during this time period.

With all of the soldiers coming home from the war, an explosion of babies occurred in the 1950s as these men traveled back to America to try to start their families. With the huge number of babies being born each year, there was a new market of children’s products being created each year. There was an economic boom that occurred and many more consumer goods were released that involved child care. Dunar stated that “…clothing, toys, baby furniture…, larger automobiles to transport growing families, and books on how to care for babies… [are] all reflected from the boom” (2006). Dunar credits the baby boom as the reason why there were so many new products created as well as the change from the rationing world that occurred during World War II.

Children Hula-Hooping in their Yard

With the rise in children came the invention of many new products. Some of these included toy guns, holsters, and spurs, as well as propellor hats, slinkies, silly putty, and Hula Hoops (“Fads of the 1950s”, 2001). Of all of these toys, Hula Hoops were the most popular. The concept of the Hula Hoop was introduced in 1957 by Arthur Melin and Richard Knerr. Over one hundred million hoops were sold around the world. Toy guns, holsters, and spurs were also very popular because of the recent end of the war and the popularity of western radio, television shows, and movies. With this line of advertisement came the rise of action figures that were derived from these shows. An example of this would be Roy Rogers as well as the Barbie doll (“Toys and Games”, 1999). Mattel, Inc. produced Barbie in 1959, and she was the figurehead of the company. Barbie herself has become an important part of the fashion doll market, and has been changed many times to represent the beliefs of the company.

The idea of a violent toy is thought to have originated in the 1950s with the rise of militarized toys. Many boys started buying toy weapons and different army action figures because the end of the war brought home many heroes that were made to be idolized in the eyes of young boys. These toys were the origin of the what parents are still fighting today with violent toys. The video games and toys that we have access to today are an advancement of what was being created in the 1950s. Many people credit violence among children with these toys today (“Toys and Games”, 1999).

The 1950s gave rise to a new wave of toys and enjoyment for children as the attitude of the Great Depression left the country. The United States was filled with nationalism and a love of country that resulted in the attitude of people become consumers, and the advertisement and sale of toys definitely was not excluded from this era.

Works Cited

Dunar, Andrew J. America in the Fifties. Syracuse University Press, 2006.

“Fads of the 1950s.” American Decades, edited by Judith S. Baughman, et al., vol. 6: 1950-1959, Gale, 2001, pp. 271-272. U.S. History iContext,

“Toys and Games.” Violence in America, edited by Ronald Gottesman and Richard Maxwell
Brown, Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1999. U.S. History in Context,
IC?u=mlin_c_worstate&xid=548531ae. Accessed 29 Nov. 2017. Accessed 29 Nov. 2017.

Marilyn Monroe

by admin - December 4th, 2017

By Hoang Vo

“The most widely recognized sex symbol of the fifties was Marilyn Monroe”, who was born Norma Jeane Mortensen on June 1, 1926 in Los Angeles, California (Dunar 252). Monroe’s modeling started when a journalist photographed her as part of an Army promotion, “demonstrating women’s contributions to the war effort” (Low). In 1946, Marilyn signed a contract with 20th Century Fox to begin her new career as an actor. “With an attractive figure, appealing face, and a voice and walk that exuded sex, she had multiple roles that typecast her as the dumb blond, whose innocent remarks were loaded with innuendo” (Dunar 252). Shortly after taking over the film industry, Marilyn Monroe “radiated sex on the screen”.

Marilyn Monroe quickly blended in the American culture in the 1950s. There were many things that Monroe could be remembered for, “her iconic status as a sex symbol, her marriages [to Arthur Miller and Joe DiMaggio], and even her death, which some speculate that it was not simply a case of suicide, but murder” (Low). However, Monroe embedded her iconic figure to the people after she starred in 29 films and being in many magazine covers. A scene from one of the most popular romantic comedies in the fifties, The Seven Year Itch (1955), “Monroe stood on a subway grate as the air from below lifted her dress in what became one of the most memorable film moments of the decade” (Dunar 252).

As part of being the sex symbol of the fifties, Marilyn Monroe revolutionized sex openness to the public. Prior to this time period, sex was viewed as an unappropriated act and often kept as secrets. However, Monroe and other popular sex figures in the fifties such as Hugh Hefner helped reshape the image of sex. In 1953, Hefner published his first issue of the Playboy magazine ever, and it featured a nude photo of Marilyn Monroe. Has it not been Monroe’s picture on the front cover, would the magazine find the success that it has?

“Locating Marilyn as one of many features of American popular culture would set up expectations of how we perceive her role as a celebrity, where often, news that are shocking, sensational, and popular, are what we most probably would be interested in reading and learning about, as we think about Hollywood, Marilyn, and her private life” (Low). It is not surprising that our most popular memory of Marilyn stands as an extension image of sexiness and full of sex-related symbol. As we reminisce about her and think about her contribution to the American culture, we can think of what would the conversations surround sex be like without her existence. Would we be able to discuss sex freely on a given platform, would we receive sexual education classes in schools?

It is certain that Marilyn Monroe broke the standard social norms in the fifties with the idea being that it is acceptable now to talk about sex. Monroe reformed sex from being viewed as dirty and shameful to being viewed as normal and part of life. “When we recollect her life, we perceive Marilyn as one of many symbols of American popular culture” (Low). Her beauty and intelligent image continues to inspire Americans to this day.

Works Cited

Dunar, Andrew J. America In The Fifties. Syracuse, N.Y., Syracuse University Press, 2006.

Low, Kelvin E. Y. “Memories in Context Via Cyber Reminiscing: The Case of Marilyn Monroe.” The Qualitative Report, vol. 8, no. 4, 2003, pp. 607.