Tuesday, September 18, 2012

101 Cinematic Reasons Why I Love the ‘50s

1.     The first film I ever remember receiving was Cinderella. It is and was and will remain one of my favorite movies of all time. By far my favorite Disney.
2.     The fact that Sidney Lumet purposefully made the jury deliberation room physically smaller as shooting progressed
3.     Hitchcock’s pioneering use of the dolly zoom shot in Vertigo

4.     Jeff Jefferies blasting Thorwald with blinding camera flashes
5.     J.J. Hunsecker posting up in a bar with a rotatory phone like a badass
6.     “Madness…Madness.”
7.     The fact that All About Eve is as good as you’ve heard
8.     Same with From Here to Eternity
9.     The fact that Plan 9 from Outer Space is as bad as you’ve heard
10.  Same with Glen or Glenda
11.  The opening shot of Touch of Evil

12.  James Dean redefining acting with three perfect performances
13.  The poker cameos in Sunset Blvd.
14.  L-O-V-E on one hand, H-A-T-E on the other
15.  Cary Grant being force fed a bottle of liquor
16.  Henry Fonda throwing his matching switchblade onto the table
17.  The fact that one decade spawned all of these quotes:
18.  “Fasten your seatbelts, it's going to be a bumpy night.”
19.  “You don't understand. I coulda had class. I coulda been a contender. I coulda been somebody, instead of a bum, which is what I am.”
20.  “I'd hate to take a bite outta you. You're a cookie full of arsenic.”
21.  “Stelllaaahhhhhhh!”
22.  “Well, nobody’s perfect.”
23.  “That’ll be the day.”
24.  “You’re tearing me apart!”
25.  Gus Gus

26.  The close-enough real timeness of High Noon
27.  Jim Stark’s red leather jacket
28.  Ben Gazzara’s cold, steely performance in Anatomy of a Murder
29.  The fact that one dude is responsible for all of these:

30.  Kim Novak as Judy Barton
31.  Kim Novak as Madeleine Elster
32.  Watching James Dean in Giant, wondering if that’s what the real man would’ve looked like
33.  John Cassavetes releases his first film, Shadows, resulting in as influential a film career as I can recall
34.  The fact that the two best male acting performances I have ever seen were in movies released in 1951
35.  The first is Marlon Brando in A Streetcar Named Desire
36.  Followed by Montgomery Clift in A Place in the Sun
37.  The 32 impossibly painful (but wholly necessary) minutes that make up Night and Fog

38.  The pickpocket scenes in Pickpocket
39.  The absurd rationalization of the men in charge in Paths of Glory
40.  Cary Grant diving to avoid a crop duster
41.  Dozens of marching soldiers whistling “Colonel Bogey” in unison
42.  Every single second of Johnny Guitar, one of the most criminally under-discussed films out there

43.  “I love you. I've loved you since the first moment I saw you. I guess maybe I've even loved you before I saw you.”
44.  A very young, very badass, very lethal Jack Palance in Shane
45.  The fact that the Ben-Hur chariot race will remain forever iconic
46.  Marty. It’s just so… whimsical.
47.  “I’m the one who should be ashamed. I don’t understand my own soul.”
48.  The faultless execution of Kubrick’s The Killing. A film immeasurably ahead of its time.
49.  Same with Rashomon. So superb and advanced.
50.  June 21, 2008: My life is forever altered after watching my first Bergman.
51.  That film was The Seventh Seal, which will always and forever be the most important film I have ever seen.
52.  Now, seriously, look at this filmography:

53.  The impossible sexiness of Harriet Andersson in Summer with Monika
54.  The quirky dynamics of Smiles of a Summer Night, Bergman’s final “early film”
55.  The year 1957, in which two of cinema’s most essential films were released by the same man
56.  Those being The Seventh Seal and Wild Strawberries
57.  “All along the line, there’s nothing by cold and death and loneliness.”
58.  “I met Death today. We are playing chess.”
59.  Max von Sydow’s physical reveal in The Magician
60.  This poor bastard:

61.  Paul Newman’s performance as Brick Pollitt, which, for whatever reason, often goes unmentioned
62.  The final shot of Ace in the Hole
63.  Dean Martin as Dude
64.  The plot simplicity of Strangers on a Train
65.  The final shot of Seven Samurai. As evocative an image as I’ve ever seen.
66.  Tony Curtis as Sidney Falco: the best role of his career
67.  Burt Lancaster as J.J. Hunsecker: the best role of his career
68.  “No one tells a lie after he’s said he’s going to tell one.”
69.  This:

70.  This:

71.  And this:

72.  Leigh as Blanche, Hunter as Stella, Malden as Mitch and, of course, number 35
73.  Sinatra’s perfect performance as Private Angelo Maggio
74.  A blonde woman singing “The Faithful Hussar” for a bunch of soldiers
75.  The fact that four women were nominated for acting Oscars for All About Eve
76.  …even though none of them won.
77.  Sterling Hayden as Dix Handley
78.  As much as I hate to admit it, Gene Kelly spinning on a streetlight is just… perfect.
79.  The curtain revealing Debbie Reynolds
80.  “Your Honor, I don't think I can dignify this… creature with any more questions.”
81.  Angela Vickers – may or may not be Elizabeth Taylor’s best
82.  Every single lasting frame of Tokyo Story
83.  The composition of this shot:

84.  Giulietta Masina as Gelsomina
85.  Giulietta Masina as Cabiria
86.  The jump cut of Eva Marie Saint being pulled up off a cliff, to her being pulled into bed. That’s how you fucking edit film.
87.  Tony Curtis and Sidney Poitier chained together
88.  The bathtub corpse floating to life in Diabolique
89.  The final shot of The 400 Blows 

90.  The impeccably defined act structure of Ikiru
91.  Really, Ikiru is as fine a character study made in the ‘50s
92.  “Put 'em together and what have you got bibbidi-bobbidi bibbidi-bobbidi bibbidi-bobbidi-boo.”
93.  Hepburn and Bogart trying to get the boat freed
94.  “You’re a killer?” “Partly, I’m a cop.”
95.  The tracking trench shots in Paths of Glory 
96.  The final, epic, laborious, glorious battle of Seven Samurai
97.  “Tell mama, tell mama all.”
98.  “Shane! Come back!”
99.  “Your choice is simple: join us and live in peace, or pursue your present course and face obliteration. We shall be waiting for your answer. The decision rests with you.”
100.                 “All right, Mr. DeMille, I'm ready for my close-up.”
101.                 “They move away from the dawn in a solemn dance, away towards the dark lands, while the rain cleanses their cheeks of the salt from their tears.”

'50s Answers

2. 12 Angry Men
4. Rear Window
5. The Sweet Smell of Success
6. The Bridge on the River Kwai
12. East of Eden, Rebel Without a Cause, Giant
14. The Night of the Hunter
15. North by Northwest
16. 12 Angry Men
18. All About Eve
19. On the Waterfront
20. The Sweet Smell of Success
21. A Streetcar Named Desire
22. Some Like it Hot
23. The Searchers
24. Rebel Without a Cause
25. Cinderella
27. Rebel Without a Cause
30.-31. Vertigo
40. North by Northwest
41. The Bridge on the River Kwai
43. A Place in the Sun
47. Rashomon
57. Wild Strawberries
58. The Seventh Seal
60. Sawdust and Tinsel
61. Cat on a Hot Tin Roof
63. Rio Bravo
66.-67. The Sweet Smell of Success
68. Rashomon
69.-71. The Night of the Hunter
72. A Streetcar Named Desire
73. From Here to Eternity
74. Paths of Glory
77. The Asphalt Jungle
78.-79. Singin’ in the Rain
80. Anatomy of a Murder
81. A Place in the Sun
83. The Wages of Fear
84. La Strada
85. Nights of Cabiria
86. North by Northwest
87. The Defiant Ones
92. Cinderella
93. The African Queen
94. Touch of Evil
97. A Place in the Sun
98. Shane
99. The Day the Earth Stood Still
100. Sunset Blvd.
101. The Seventh Seal


  1. I love Gus Gus. Who cannot love Cinderella?

    Johnny Guitar, now that's a movie.

    This is a great list. The 50s were great.

    1. Thanks man! You love Cinderella? I like you even more now.

  2. Oh, what you have listed for 5, 20, 66 and 67. You know the way to a girl's heart, darling. Hell, who am I kidding? I fucking love this list.

    1. Aw thanks Anna! I thought you might like those reasons. I LOVE that movie to death.

  3. Amazing list. Made me wanna watch some Hitchcock.

  4. Ooh nice list. Shocked (and proud) how many of them I got. Esp. the quotes.

    I love all the All About Eve love. I barely remember From Here to Eternity even though I saw it last year. Odd.

    Also 78- explain.

    1. Nice!

      Okay, 78 - well, I really do not like most musicals. By far my least favorite genre (that and sci-fi). So, with that in mind, the "Singin' in the Rain" musical number in Singin' in the Rain is impossibly endearing. The fact that I don't like musicals but LOVE that scene is really saying something.

      Ya dig?

  5. The best decade of Hitchcock+one of the best early decade(Bergman)+Severn Samurai+Tokyo Story,that's already enough

  6. So I take it you kinda like 'Night of the Hunter' huh? These lists are great, it shows how much progress I'm making in watching film and how much more I need to see. Thank you.

    1. Ha, yeah man, for sure. I honestly don't think that movie is discussed enough, so I'm happy to shed some light on it, ya dig?

      Glad you like the lists, they're a lot of fun to put together!

  7. Oh, 88! It's one of the creepiest things I have ever seen. Love the list, I haven't seen many of those movies but when I'll finally go around to watching best films from 50's I'll be sure to follow the list :)

    1. That scene is soooo creepy right?! While putting this list together, I realized the '50s rocked way more than I thought. Glad you like it!

  8. Hitchcock is my favourite director and I think the 50s were probably his greatest period, with Rear Window (my favourite of his) and Vertigo. In fact, I think the 50s may be the best decade in film history, in American as well as world cinema. And Night of the Hunter is really an amazing film-I wish Charles Laughton would've directed more films. He had a great visual style that was unlike almost anything from that period.

    1. That's so cool that you dig the '50s the most. For me, it's a decade that usually gets out shadowed by the implacableness of the American '40s, and the boldness of the European '60s. But yeah, it is a strong decade through and through.

  9. "As much as I hate to admit it, Gene Kelly spinning on a streetlight is just… perfect."

    Why would you hate to admit it may I ask? I watched Singin' in the Rain for probably the 4th time last night and have settled on it being my favourite film from the 60s and before, just an absolutely perfect film with brilliant songs and a wonderful depiction of the advancements of the film industry.

    1. It's just me. I'm really not a fan of musicals at all. Can't get into 'em. So when I admit that a scene like that is fucking breathtaking, then that usually speaks VERY well for the musical. It's a great film, is all I meant. One of the few musicals I enjoy wholeheartedly.

    2. Please tell me that The Wizard of Oz is one of the other few musicals that you enjoy?

    3. The Wizard of Oz is a monumental achievement of the cinematic medium. There's no arguing that. Now, would I watch it at home for entertainment purposes? No, I would not.

      I appreciate its impact, but (most) musicals just aren't for me.

    4. Argh, you're tearing me apart Alex

    5. Ha, sorry my man. Musicals just aren't my bag.

  10. Epic post man.

    There are a few films I haven't seen, but I agree with all of the reasons from the ones I have. Especially thrilled to see 11, 12, 15, 25, 63, 73, 86, and 101. Great stuff.

    1. Thanks dude.

      I'm LOVING this Gus Gus love. Dude is the shit.

      101 man. Quote changed how I view movies.

  11. Nice, eclectic list, Alex! I love that you start out with Cinderella, it's such a lovely movie, I grew up watching all those Disney princesses and still love 'em to this day! I even still remember some of the songs, ahah. I can't believe I still haven't seen Vertigo!! Shame on me, I really need to get on that. Night of the Hunter sure have some beautifully eerie shots.

    1. Cinderella rules! I love that people love it as much as I do. Vertigo will not disappoint, I promise!

  12. The 50s have to be one of my favorite film decades ever- there are very few movies from it that I don't like. Great performances, wonderful cinematography, interesting scripts and genius direction- the 50s are the best! great list Alex!

    1. Thanks D! Glad you dig the '50s so much. They really were... bitchin', huh?

  13. You definitely put the 50s in great perspective here. I prefer the 60s-70s, but it goes to show I'm highly uneducated with the 50s so my opinion is on shaky ground.

    Very enlightening post, sir. As always.

    1. Thanks Dave! You know, I guess I didn't realize how remarkable the '50s were until I drafted this list. I still prefer the European '60s and the American '50s, but there was some good shit here, for sure.

  14. 61- I caught that film by chance on TCM whilst I was on holiday. You're right: Newman was great.

    1. Good right?! I could stand to see that one again actually.

    2. I had forgotten to say, btw, that if you think Lancaster was good in Sweet Smell you HAVE to see The Leopard. I watched it again last week and his work during the final ballroom scene is one of the saddest things I've ever seen on-screen. Its such a vivid portrait of social change and, more importantly, those it leaves behind. Enjoy :)

    3. I haven't seen it so I'll check it out right away! Thanks!