To pick five favorite films is akin to limiting oneself to only a few items on a buffet when you really want to eat everything. So I won't suggest these are my only favorites, but I chose them because they represent something about that "mid-century" decade known for conformity and perhaps complacency, when really a lot more was going on under the surface, even though two of them are musicals, and two feature the loveliest new faces of the decade who would come to be icons--Audrey Hepburn and Grace Kelly.
Even in a delightful romantic comedy, Roman Holiday (1953) here, we get a glimpse of post-war Europe, of Rome, "The Eternal City" that had suffered under a fascist dictator, had endured the chaos and destruction of war in its villages, and yet mustered that, now tired, elegance of its monarchal past (and called out some real-life royals to play bit parts and wear their jewels). To the mix, we add a spritely modern princess who must balance her "untouchable" grace with a mission to "improve trade relations," and an American journalist whose cynicism takes a dive when his mission turns from exposing her to protecting her.
We linger on the post-war world again, this time in the U.S., with our next two films. First, White Christmas (1954) here, and then It's Always Fair Weather (1955) here. White Christmas, a lighthearted musical, still conveys home truths about the postwar world and the adjustment of veterans--even after a decade--to fit in with civilian life. This, and in It's Always Fair Weather show the comradeship of service buddies who find themselves husbands and fathers, trudging toward a new battle of finding fulfillment and success in an ever-stranger new world. They are no longer the young, innocent, and carefree recruits who gambled their lives on a better world. They won--the war and their own survival in it--but are they in a better world?
The theme is carried further with No Down Payment (1957) here, where the ex-servicemen grapple with suburbia and new frontiers of corporate opportunity and enslavement, of fitting in and never fitting in, and losing precious time.
Rear Window (1954) here shows another ex-vet whose once exciting life (as James Stewart and former Air Corps buddy Wendell Corey reminisce) has been reduced to four walls and a peek at his neighbors--and the sinister world he discovers there. I also like it because it's glamorous, sexy, and has one of the best sets in the movies.
Have a look at the other great blogs participating in 5 Favorite Films of the 1950s Blogathon celebrating National Classic Movie Day.
Ann Blyth: Actress. Singer. Star.Memories in Our Time - Hollywood Mirrors and Mimics the Twentieth Century. Her newspaper column on classic films, Silver Screen, Golden Memories is syndicated nationally.