Now we are approaching the truly classic time in Hollywood when the studio system was in full force. However, the popularity of television made the movie industry really change how they made movies. A lot of good movies were made in the decade of the 1950s, but here are my five favorite:
5. LIMELIGHT (1952)
One of the biggest crimes against a single human being by a country was when the United States deported actor Charlie Chaplin. He was deported after he filmed Limelight. FBI director J. Edgar Hoover had it out for Chaplin since the 1920s, and decades later he got his revenge. Limelight was the last movie Chaplin ever filmed in the United States, and the movie told the story of a fading vaudeville star. This film was the most biographical film that Charlie Chaplin ever did. The story is emotional, funny, and sad - but the best part of the movie is when Chaplin appears with Buster Keaton. Chaplin and Keaton were icons of the silent screen era, and they worked well together in this film. I wish this movie would be remembered more though.
4. NORTH BY NORTHWEST (1959)
I think that by far one of the greatest directors of all time was Alfred Hitchcock. His mind was so full of these suspenseful and twisted tales. Cary Grant stars as a business man who was mistaken for someone else. Unfortunately, that someone else was involved in espionage and crime. Trying to clear his name and not get killed in the process, Grant literally travels throughout the country. On the way he tries to out run a crop dusting plane bent on killing him, and in the great Hitchcock finale he wrestles on the top of Mount Rushmore. Adding to the cast and intrigue is Eva Marie Saint in one of the greatest roles she ever made. I never thought of Saint as a sex symbol except for this movie. She played the spy that fell in love with Grant so perfectly. The movie is long but the roller coster ride of suspense is worth it.
3. SOME LIKE IT HOT (1959)
This movie is by far one of the greatest comedies of all-time. Directed by Billy Wilder, I never get tired of seeing Jack Lemmon and Tony Curtis running around as women. The movie takes place in the roaring 1920s, when liquior was outlawed, but seemingly the Mafia was not. Lemmon and Curtis witness a mob killing, so they have to go on the run. The only way to get away is if they masquarade was women - which they do in a woman's band. The cast of characters they cross paths with are equally great: big band singer (Marilyn Monroe), old millionaire (Joe E. Brown), gangster (George Raft), and old school cop (Pat O'Brien). The ending of the film with Joe E. Brown and Jack Lemmon is among the funniest moments ever caught on screen.
2. VERTIGO (1958)
Another Alfred Hitchcock film, this is one of my favorite movies he directed. The film stars James Stewart as former police detective John "Scottie" Ferguson, who has been forced into early retirement due to disabilities (vertigo and clinical depression) incurred in the line of duty. Scottie is hired as a private investigator to follow a woman, Madeleine Elster (Kim Novak) who is behaving peculiarly. The film was shot on location in San Francisco, California, and at Paramount Studios in Hollywood. It popularized the dolly zoom, an in-camera effect that distorts perspective to create disorientation, to convey Scottie's acrophobia. As a result of its use here, the effect is often referred to as "the Vertigo effect". The film received mixed reviews upon initial release, but has garnered acclaim since and is now often cited as a classic Hitchcock film and one of the defining works of his career. Attracting significant scholarly criticism, it was named the best film of all time in the 2012 Sight & Sound critics' poll. While I think Vertigo is a great film, I do not think it is the best movie of all-time. I do think that this is the best role Jimmy Stewart ever had, and it showed a great range of emotions and acting that he had.
1. THE COUNTRY GIRL (1954)
I think this choice will probably surprise people more than anyone. I do not see it on anyone's favorites list from the 1950s, and I think that is unfortunate. The movie, the story, and the casting made this really a triumph I think. The film stars Bing Crosby, in his best dramatic role, as a faded singer who has lost his career and pretty much his wife, played very plainly by Grace Kelly. Crosby is given one more chance for a comeback by a hot shot director (William Holden). Adapted by George Seaton from Clifford Odets' 1950 play of the same name, the film is about an alcoholic has-been actor struggling with the one last chance he's been given to resurrect his career. Seaton won the Academy Award for Best Writing, Adapted Screenplay and Grace Kelly won for Best Actress. During one of the most intense scenes where Bing Crosby is drunk and hung over in jail, he had his sons keep him up all through the night to make his look more realistic. Given the period of its production, the film is notable for its realistic, frank dialogue and honest treatments of the surreptitious side of alcoholism and post-divorce misogyny. I wish Bing Crosby would have made more dramas, and even though some of the subject matter is hard to watch (death of a child), I recommend this film to anyone.
Of course it is nearly impossible to do a top five list, and there are a lot of movies I would like to include. Here are some honorable mentions to the list as well: Harvey (1950), Rear Window (1954), Love Me Or Leave Me (1955), Twelve Angry Men (1957), and Paths Of Glory (1957).