Some say that the Golden Age of Hollywood was the best and that the 1950s marked the “Fall of the Studio System.” Life Magazine even called the 1950s the “horrible decade” at the time, which seems silly now that we look back at the era. There were many timeless classics that were released between 1950 and 1959, many of which we still quote to this day. Here are five timeless classics from 1950s Hollywood that, if you haven’t seen, you’ll be sure to love.
Jimmy Stewart was perhaps the biggest name in Hollywood during this era and he starred in many classic films that are still heralded to this day. Among his best work was “Vertigo”, one of his team-ups with director Alfred Hitchcock. The two collaborated on four films together, and most critics are split on whether it was “Vertigo” or “Rear Window” that ended up being the best of the best.
“Vertigo” does have a lot of memorable moments and follows the story of Stewart’s character John ‘Scottie’ Ferguson, a police officer who develops a fear of heights after seeing one of his fellow officers fall off of a building. The story taps into the psyche of fear and is played beautifully by Stewart with an ending that won’t soon be forgotten thanks to actress Kim Novak.
Singin’ in the Rain
Musicals are still popular today, but back in the 1950s, they were all the rage. Out of the many musicals from the era, the one that has withstood the test of time more than any other is “Singin’ in the Rain” starring the legendary Gene Kelly. The rest of the cast is amazing, as well, including Debbie Reynolds and Donald O’Connor.
Despite not making as much money as you might think, “Singin’ in the Rain” became a classic over the years thanks to television airings and eventually VHS releases. Many started to memorize the words from the soundtrack, including the titular song as well as “Good Morning”, “Make ‘Em Laugh” and “Moses Supposes”. Almost everyone in real life, too, has had their own little parody of ‘Singin’ in the Rain” when the weather allows it.
12 Angry Men
“12 Angry Men” was originally written for television, but the story ended up being so good that Henry Fonda and Reginald Rose adapted it to the big screen, too. Fonda also stars in the film where a jury is trying to decide the fate of a teenage boy who was charged with murder. If you enjoy intense dramas where the scene doesn’t change, then “12 Angry Men” is the one for you. There are a lot of memorable lines and moments with amazing pacing throughout.
Fonda’s character is the only one at the beginning who votes ‘not guilty’ in the jury and spends almost the entire film convincing everyone else to vote alongside him. Eventually, everyone starts to see things his way as there is a lot of reasonable doubt surrounding the crime. The movie brilliantly captures tha ability of one calm person being able to hold back an entire group of people with a mob mentality.
Billy Wilder’s 1950 film “Sunset Boulevard” is one of those films that Hollywood loves because it gives a good glimpse into the inner workings of the film industry. What most people will remember about “Sunset Boulevard” is the performance of Gloria Swanson, who plays former silent-film actress Norma Desmond.
Norma is trying to make her return to the big screen after vocals have been introduced to films, and won’t accept that her 15 minutes of fame have expired. She tries to get in touch with famous director Cecil B. DeMille, which helps to create the intensely famous final line from Norma, “All right, Mr. DeMille, I’m ready for my close-up.”
The Bridge on the River Kwai
Like musicals, war films were extremely popular during the 1950s, and “The Bridge on the River Kwai” may have been the best of the bunch. Directed by David Lean, this film stars A-lister William Holden alongside Jack Hawkins and Alec Guinness. Guinness, of course, would go on to play Obi-Wan Kenobi in the original “Star Wars” films.
The three men play prisoners of World War II in the early 1940s and the film shows the helplessness that one can feel during that time. “The Bridge on the River Kwai” was a massive hit when it was first released, costing nearly $3 million to make while pulling in well over $30 million in box office sales. For context, that would be a $30 million budget and $325 million revenue in modern times.