Films 1950s

This page contains links to all the films I have reviewed from the era when Hollywood was shifting into colour and epics. Big-scale historical dramas and Arthur Freed musicals are all the rage. Elsewhere Greats like Ozo, Kurosawa, Fellini, Bergman and Clouzot were in their pomp.

1950

All About Eve – Best Picture winning drama about theatrical feuds, full of biting witty dialogue and huge fun.Director: Joseph L. Mankiewicz
Cast: Bette Davis, Anne Baxter, George Sanders
The Asphalt Jungle – one of the best small-scale “man with a plan” heist thrillers, with crooks falling outDirector: John Huston
Cast: Sterling Hayden, Louis Calhern, Sam Jaffe, Jean Hagen
Born YesterdayPygmalion-like comedy, as a Gangster’s moll learns about culture from an earnest journalistDirector: George Cukor
Cast: Judy Holliday, Broderick Crawford, William Holden
In a Lonely Place – Hollywood murder mystery, as a screenwriter is suspected of killing a waitressDirector: Nicholas Ray
Cast: Humphrey Bogart, Gloria Grahame, Frank Lovejoy
The Men – Brando makes his film debut in this earnest but realistic drama about paraplegic war veteransDirector: Fred Zinnemann
Cast: Marlon Brando, Teresa Wright, Everett Sloane
Orphée – a poet falls in love with Death in this magic realism masterpieceDirector: Jean Cocteau
Cast: Jean Marais, François Périer, María Casares
Panic in the Streets – a cop has to stop a deadly plague being unleashed in this exciting realist dramaDirector: Elia Kazan
Cast: Richard Widmark, Paul Douglas, Barbara bel Geddes
Rashomon – everyone has a different story for what happened in the forest in this multi-narrative classicDirector: Akira Kurosawa
Cast: Toshiro Mifune, Machiko Kyō, Masayuki Mori
Rio Grande – by-the-numbers cavalry Western from Ford (literally done under contract so he could make another film)Director: John Ford
Cast: John Wayne, Maureen O’Hara, Victor McLaglen
Sunset Boulevard – absolutely brilliant dark Hollywood drama murder mysteryDirector: Billy Wilder
Cast: Gloria Swanson, William Holden, Erich von Stroheim

1951

Ace in the Hole – sharply bitter journalism satire, as an ambitious reporter exploits an accident for his own careerDirector: Billy Wilder
Cast: Kirk Douglas, Jan Sterling, Robert Arthur
The African Queen – a working class sailor and a missionary sail down a jungle river and fall in loveDirector: John Huston
Cast: Humphrey Bogart, Katharine Hepburn, Robert Morley
An American in Paris – romance, Gershwin and dancing in this gorgeous Best Picture winning musicalDirector: Vincente Minnelli
Cast: Gene Kelly, Leslie Caron, Oscar Levant, Nina Foch
The Desert Fox – admiring biopic of the original ‘Good German’ Field Marshal RommelDirector: Henry Hathaway
Cast: James Mason, Jessica Tandy, William Reynolds
Quo Vadis – one of the first Roman epics, lots of Christian talk even more action and sexDirector: Mervyn LeRoy
Cast: Robert Taylor, Deborah Kerr, Peter Ustinov
Summer Interlude – a ballerina processes terrible memories in this early Bergman that establishes all his themesDirector: Ingmar Bergman
Cast: Maj-Britt Nilsson, Birger Malmsten, Alf Kjellin

1952

The Greatest Show on Earth – the film whose reputation the Best Picture Oscar destroyed, silly love triangles in a CircusDirector: Cecil B DeMille
Cast: Charlton Heston, Cornel Wilde, Betty Hutton
High Noon – brilliant against-the-clock western, as a sheriff does the best to get ready for the gang riding into town to kill himDirector: Fred Zinnemann
Cast: Gary Cooper, Grace Kelly, Thomas Mitchell
Ivanhoe – big, silly swashbuckler based on Walter ScottDirector: Richard Thorpe
Cast: Robert Taylor, Elizabeth Taylor, Joan Fontaine
Moulin Rouge – handsomely made biopic of Toulouse-LautrecDirector: John Huston
Cast: José Ferrer, Zsa Zsa Gabor, Suzanne Flon
Singin in the Rain – the definitive Hollywood old-school musical with the most famous dance sequence of all timeDirector: Stanley Donen, Gene Kelly
Cast: Gene Kelly, Debbie Reynolds, Donald O’Connor
The Sound Barrier – an obsessed engineer risks his son-in-law’s life to break the sound barrierDirector: David Lean
Cast: Ann Todd, Ralph Richardson, Nigel Patrick

1953

Beat the Devil – slightly surreal conmen drama set in Africa, the sort of bizarre film that becomes a cult favouriteDirector: John Huston
Cast: Humphrey Bogart, Jennifer Jones, Robert Morley
The Big Heat – an obsessed cop takes on gangsters no matter what in Lang’s superb critique of AmericaDirector: Fritz Lang
Cast: Glenn Ford, Gloria Grahame, Lee Marvin
The Cruel Sea – in WW2 a naval captain deals with the unbearable burden of commandDirector: Charles Frend
Cast: Jack Hawkins, Donald Sinden, John Stratten
From Here to Eternity – Best Picture winning Pearl Harbor drama, as soldiers struggle against the system in late 1941Director: Fred Zinneman
Cast: Burt Lancaster, Montgomery Clift, Deborah Kerr
Julius Caesar – traditional version of the Shakespeare play, with Brando showing modern actors can do the BardDirector: Joseph L. Mankiewicz
Cast: James Mason, Marlon Brando, John Gielgud
Pickup on South Street – a thief picks the wrong pocket in this spy thrillerDirector: Samuel Fuller
Cast: Richard Widmark, Jean Peters, Thelma Ritter
The Robe – quaintly rubbish Christian Roman Epic that concentrates on the cinemascopeDirector: Henry Koster
Cast: Richard Burton, Jean Simmons, Victor Mature
Shane – brilliant western: a gunslinger finds its difficult to hang up your guns when black hats dominate your adopted homeDirector: George Stevens
Cast: Alan Ladd, Jean Arthur, Van Heflin
Stalag 17 – in a POW camp, a fixer is a suspected Nazi stoolie and has to prove his innocenceDirector: Billy Wilder
Cast: William Holden, Don Taylor, Otto Preminger
Tokyo Story – a retired couple are ignored by their children in one of the greatest, and simplest, films ever madeDirector: Yasujirō Ozu
Cast: Chishū Ryū, Chieko Higashiyama, Setsuko Hara
The Wages of Fear – penniless workers have to drive explosive chemicals over dangerous terrain in this gripping thrillerDirector: Henri-Georges Clouzot
Cast: Yves Montard, Charles Vanel, Folco Lilli

1954

The Barefoot Contessa – cynicism abounds in this curious semi-satire about a nobody who becomes a Hollywood starDirector: Joseph L. Mankiewicz
Cast: Humphrey Bogart, Ava Gardner, Edmond O’Brien
On the Waterfront – Best Picture winning whistle-blower drama, a wonderful film with some of the greatest scenes in historyDirector: Elia Kazan
Cast: Marlon Brando, Eva Maria Saint, Karl Malden
A Star is Born – long but rewarding version of the story of a fading star and his talented wife, with brilliant performancesDirector: George Cukor
Cast: Judy Garland, James Mason, Jack Carson

1955

The Dam Busters – iconic WW2 bombing raid film with bouncing bombs, a classic score and unfortunately named dogDirector: Michael Anderson
Cast: Michael Redgrave, Richard Todd, Ursula Jeans
Les Diabloques – his mistress and his wife murder a cruel schoolmaster. Can they cover their guilt?Director: Henri-Georges Clouzot
Cast: Simeone Signoret, Véra Clouzot, Charles Vanel
Marty – a shy butcher falls in love in this gentle Best Picture winner, adapted from a TV playDirector: Delbert Mann
Cast: Ernest Borgnine, Betsy Blair, Esther Minciotti
Picnic – a sexy new arrival in town leads to no end of trouble bubbling to the surface, in this dry Broadway adaptationDirector: Joshua Logan
Cast: William Holden, Kim Novak, Rosalind Russell
Rififi – small-time crooks try a big score in this absolutely brilliant French film noir, one of the greatest ever madeDirector: Jules Dassin
Cast: Jean Servais, Carl Möhner, Robert Manuel
Smiles of a Summer Night – romantic complications come to a head one long night in Bergman’s comedy of mannersDirector: Ingmar Bergman
Cast: Eva Dahlbeck, Gunnar Björnstrand, Ulla Jacobsson
To Catch a Thief – Cary Grant is the retired thief falsely accused of a new crime in his luscious but middle-road HitchcockDirector: Alfred Hitchcock
Cast: Cary Grant, Grace Kelly, Jessie Royce Landis

1956

Around the World in 80 Days – Best Picture winning global trip based on the novel, with a star face around every cornerDirector: Michael Anderson
Cast: David Niven, Cantinflas, Shirley MacLaine
Bad Day at Black Rock – a one armed WW2 veteran arrives in town to find the killer of his friend, a Japanese businessman. Brilliant.Director: John Sturges
Cast: Spencer Tracy, Robert Ryan, Anne Francis
Moby Dick – uniquely filmed adaptation of the American novel, with some brave casting and a wonderful sense of the seaDirector: John Huston
Cast: Gregory Peck, Leo Genn, Richard Baseheart
Reach for the Sky – the life story of Douglas Bader, who overcame losing his legs to fly for Britain during WW2Director: Lewis Gilbert
Cast: Kenneth More, Muriel Pavlow, Lyndon Brook
The Searchers – Ford’s masterpiece, a racist cowboy searches to find (and kill?) his kidnapped niece who has gone nativeDirector: John Ford
Cast: John Wayne, Jeffrey Hunter, Vera Miles
The Ten Commandments – DeMille’s swan song, the biggest, campiest, most famous Biblical epic of them allDirector: Cecil B DeMille
Cast: Charlton Heston, Yul Brynner, Anne Baxter
23 Paces to Baker Street – despite the title, this murder mystery about a blind man has nothing to do with Sherlock HolmesDirector: Henry Hathaway
Cast: Van Johnson, Vera Miles, Cecil Parker

1957

The Bridge on the River Kwai – Best Picture winner: a British POW misguidedly builds a bridge for Japanese captorsDirector: David Lean
Cast: Alec Guinness, William Holden, Jack Hawkins
Paths of Glory – after a doomed attack, a WW1 French colonel is ordered to choose three to be tried for cowardiceDirector: Stanley Kubrick
Cast: Kirk Douglas, Ralph Meeker, Adolphe Menjou
Peyton Place – murder and (off-screen) sex but definitely no cuss words in this ridiculous but entertaining soapy dramaDirector: Mark Robson
Cast: Lana Turner, Diane Varsi, Hope Lange
Sayonara – self-important and dull anti-racism film about American GIs overcoming prejudice to marry Japanese womenDirector: Joshua Logan
Cast: Marlon Brando, Miika Taka, Red Buttons
The Seventh Seal – most influential arthouse film ever made? A medieval knight plays chess with Death for his soul. Great film.Director: Ingmar Bergman
Cast: Max von Sydow, Bengt Ekerot, Gunnar Björnstrand
Sweet Smell of Success – a vicious newspaper columnist exploits a desperate PR man in this brilliant acidic comedyDirector: Alexander Mackendrick
Cast: Burt Lancaster, Tony Curtis, Susan Harrison
12 Angry Men – a single juror tries to win over the rest in one of the greatest trial dramas ever madeDirector: Sidney Lumet
Cast: Henry Fonda, Lee J Cobb, Ed Begley
Wild Strawberries – an aged doctor reflects on life and loss in Bergman’s surprisingly optimistic road-trip movieDirector: Ingmar Bergman
Cast: Victor Sjöström, Bibi Andersson, Ingrid Thulin
Witness for the Prosecution – Agatha Christie courtroom drama adaptation, with one of the best twists everDirector: Billy Wilder
Cast: Charles Laughton, Marlene Dietrich, Tyrone Power

1958

The Big Country – a stranger arrives finds himself in the middle of a feud in this large scale, hugely entertaining WesternDirector: William Wyler
Cast: Gregory Peck, Charlton Heston, Burl Ives
Gigi – dated Best Picture winning musical about a 19th century French girl training to become a courtesan. Director: Vincente Minnelli
Cast: Leslie Caron, Louis Jourdain, Maurice Chevalier
The Last Hurrah – a mayor runs for another term in this political drama that has no idea what it thinks about anythingDirector: John Ford
Cast: Spencer Tracy, Jeffrey Hunter, Dianne Foster
The Magician – a troupe of magicians are questioned by rationalists: fascinating meditation on performanceDirector: Ingmar Bergman
Cast: Max von Sydow, Ingrid Thulin, Gunnar Björnstrand
Touch of Evil – late Welles masterpiece about a corrupt cop in a Southern border-town, dealing with murder and mayhemDirector: Orson Welles
Cast: Charlton Heston, Janet Leigh, Orson Welles
Vertigo – a detective has fear of heights and obsession with the woman he’s hired to follow. One of the greatest films ever.Director: Alfred Hitchcock
Cast: James Stewart, Kim Novak, Barbara bel Geddes
The Vikings – swashbuckler about a Viking prince and a Saxon slave with a mysterious backgroundDirector: Richard Fleischer
Cast: Kirk Douglas, Tony Curtis, Janet Leigh

1959

Anatomy of a Murder – brilliantly cynical courtroom drama about lawyers who will use almost any trick to get the result they needDirector: Otto Preminger
Cast: James Stewart, George C Scott, Lee Remick
Ben-Hur – massive Best Picture winning epic about a Jewish prince at the time of Jesus. An average film, right place at the right timeDirector: Wiliam Wyler
Cast: Charlton Heston, Stephen Boyd, Hara Hayeet
The Diary of Anne Frank – rather dry and stagy adaptation of the famous diary, with all the passion strained outDirector: George Stevens
Cast: Anne Perkins, Joseph Schildkraut, Shelley Winters
The Four Hundred Blows – adults can’t see the artistic heart of a young tearaway in this marvellous coming-of-age taleDirector: François Truffaut
Cast: Jean-Pierre Léaud, Albert Rémy, Claire Maurier
The Hound of the Baskervilles – Hammer Horror version of the most famous Sherlock Holmes story of all timeDirector: Terence Fisher
Cast: Peter Cushing, Christopher Lee, André Morell
North by Northwest – simply the best of all of Hitchcock’s US adventures: Grant is mistaken for a spy and goes on the runDirector: Alfred Hitchcock
Cast: Cary Grant, Eva Marie Saint, James Mason
The Nun’s Story – biography of a Belgian nun in the first half of the twentieth century, quiet but movingDirector: Fred Zinnemann
Cast: Audrey Hepburn, Peter Finch, Edith Evans
Odds Against Tomorrow – a foolproof plan falls apart as robbers fall out over racial tensionsDirector: Robert Wise
Cast: Harry Belafonte, Robert Ryan, Ed Begley
Rio Bravo – a sheriff and his mates shoot the breeze while waiting for a gang to ride into town in this response to High NoonDirector: Howard Hawks
Cast: John Wayne, Dean Martin, Ricky Nelson
Room at the Top – a chippy social climber has to choose between love and his career in this classic kitchen-sink dramaDirector: Jack Clayton
Cast: Simeone Signoret, Laurence Harvey, Heather Sears
Some Like It Hot – musicians on the run from Prohibition disguise themselves as women – mayhem ensues.Director: Billy Wilder
Cast: Tony Curtis, Jack Lemmon, Marilyn Monroe