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.
Jacqueline T. Lynch is the author of Ann Blyth: Actress. Singer. Star. and Memories in Our Time - Hollywood Mirrors and Mimics the Twentieth Century. Her newspaper column on classic films, Silver Screen, Golden Memories is syndicated nationally.
As you point out, WHITE CHRISTMAS works on several levels. I love it for its musical numbers (Vera-Ellen and Danny Kaye dance divinely together) and for the comedy team of Crosby and Kaye. Too bad they didn't make more movie together! REAR WINDOW is fascinating in part because the audience identifies with nice guy James Stewart...who is a voyeur (which is a little creepy when you think about it). I also love the Stewart-Kelly relationship...how could any guy resist her charms and pluck? Enjoyed your list, Jacqueline!
More proof that great minds think alike, both of us having selected Roman Holiday and Rear Window. I'm also very fond of No Down Payment, a film that always takes me back to my roots in So. California of the 1950s. Your perspective on social/cultural/political aspects of most of the films is also very compelling.
Now, there's a spotlight program for TCM, and each one worthy to be called a "favorite."
PS: I knew it! I knew when I read your intro that It's Always Fair Weather would be there. Ha!
Hi Jacqueline-the only film on your list I've seen is Rear Window. I've been meaning to watch it again for a long time,as it's never on my list of favorite Hitchcock films, and perhaps it needs to be. All the other ones are intriguing, especially White Christmas, since I only recently watched Holiday Inn for the first time. Maybe this holiday season!
It's so much fun reading everyone's favorites. It seems that there are a few we all agree on and some unexpected inclusions from everyone.White Christmas is a film I loathed for years and now absolutely love. I love your list.
Ladies, great minds do think alike, it seems - even when CW is reading mine.
No Down Payment, now that's an interesting pick! Roman Holiday never tires and White Christmas is the pink of perfection. This really was a tough blogathon!
Great picks. It's Always Fair Weather and No Down Payment were both recent discoveries and I enjoyed them both! The musical is almost dour to begin with but winds up being a funny, delightful satire. Kelly and Charisse are great. Payment is resonant with me because as a Japanese-American I'm always fascinated when I discover early historical examples like this. The drama hits hard.
I like what you said about the 1950s appearing to be about conformity/complacency, but a lot more going on underneath. The films of that decade prove this out, as evidenced by your list. Great choices here! "No Down Payment" is new to me, and I can't wait to see it.
Metzinger gals, it really is a tough blogathon when you have to pick "favorites" or "the best." It's almost impossible.
Tynan, I'm glad you've recently discovered these films. I don't think NO DOWN PAYMENT gets a lot of play, but it's a very good film with important issues.
Rear Window rightly so has made many bloggers lists, including my own. No Down Payment definitely should be better know and a terrific look at "fitting in" and corporate America.
Ack! I think my comment disappeared. Anyway, I wanted to thank you for the introduction to No Payment Down. I hadn't heard of it before, but it sounds like another new favourite.
As for Rear Window: I am utterly fascinated by that set. Each time I see this film, I'm usually distracted by how clever it is.
REAR WINDOW seems to be a special favorite.
HEY! I love how you wove your list together. Terrific stuff. I'm just starting to read the entries and I know how much I'll enjoy reading choices I didn't mention, but that I too love. WHITE CHRISTMAS and REAR WINDOW are two examples. Enjoyable read, Jacqueline.
Once Upon a Screen
A very interesting list with some great choices. Rear Window deserves the love it gets and it only got bumped from my list by Vertigo. I've not seen No Down Payment but very interested to see it after some further research.
I've seen all of the films you've identified as favorites. I saw "No Down Payment" recently. It was a very interesting film. I enjoyed it.
I love "White Christmas." Vera-Ellen and Danny Kaye dance wonderfully together and Rosemary Clooney's singing is fantastic. Of course, Bing's singing is amazing, especially the beloved "White Christmas" song. I like Bing Crosby. I like how he always speaks in musician speak, especially in this film. When talking to Rosemary Clooney at the bar, he asks her to "bring the cow" (milk) when moving to sit down. Danny Kaye is hilarious, I wish his films were shown more often on TCM. One thing I love about this film is how the scenes and musical routines were tailored to showcase the cast's strengths. I think I watched this film 5 times last Christmas season. I may have watched it even before Thanksgiving.
"Rear Window" is fantastic. I am glad you mentioned the set. Hitchcock's courtyard set is amazing. It is probably one of the greatest sets ever assembled for a film.
Thank you, ladies. I suppose they call them favorites because they're everybody's favorites and there is something universal in them that we can all relate to and enjoy. Kayla, I don't think I've ever watched WHITE CHRISTMAS five times in one Christmas season, but I've certainly seen it many times over the years. I can remember one year I felt the urge to watch it again, and my sister remarked, "But it's only Labor Day!"
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