Movies of a Lifetime – What a Wonderful Year It Was


Now this is a YEAR!!!  It’s 1956; I’m 12 and seeing movies that I still watch regularly at 75.  This year is so packed with great movies that any five of them could be the best offerings for a single year in modern movie going.

Let’s start with the Westerns and War:  The Searchers with John Wayne with all of its themes of revenge and racism.  Giant – The last of the James Dean films, part western part romance and all of the undercurrent themes of corporate greed, prejudice and empowered women.  The gentle and funny but still powerful, Friendly Persuasion filled the screen as the battles of North and South meets Quaker pacifism.  Seven Men from Now with an aging Randolph Scott and a young Lee Marvin.  Again the theme is revenge but this time mixed with theft and possible marital infidelity.  The year was topped off with the ultimate War and Peace.

Elvis first hits the screen to the sound of female screams in Love Me Tender.  Is it a western, a romance, or almost a musical? It isn’t a great movie but it is definitely loved.    On my wall there is the poster for what remains one of my favorite films The Man Who Never Was starring Clifton Webb and a spectacular Gloria Grahame that I still watch regularly.  The video has disappeared from Amazon in all forms and I suspect it is because it is being remade as Operation Mincemeat starring Colin Firth in the Clifton Webb role.

As if the Western and War genres weren’t dramatic enough, the style of Action, Romance, and Drama in this year gave us a biblical extravaganza in The Ten Commandments, Helen of Troy, Lust for Life, and Robie the Robot featured in the science fiction film Forbidden Planet, a retelling of Shakespeare’s The Tempest.  Then throw in  Written on the WindSomebody Up There Likes Me, Bus Stop, Anastasia (Ingrid Bergman, Best Actress) and Moby Dick.

For Romance, Comedy and Musicals it was a spectacular year:  The Girl Can’t Help It, Teahouse of the August Moon, The Rainmaker, Bus Stop, Around The World in 80 Days (Best Picture), The King and I (Yul Brynner Best Actor), Carousel, and my favorite of the year a musical remake of The Philadelphia Story:  High Society.   High Society is something of a culture shock today.  Was there ever a time so innocent, that a man considered an inebriated woman should just be put safely to bed without being molested?

For the musical selection the comedic duet of Frank Sinatra and Bing Crosby from High Society.



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Movies of A Lifetime – Another Very Good Year

We are now up to 1955 and I’m eleven years old and seeing about four movies every weekend (Remember the double bill).  The deal with my mother was that I got her Friday night tips for my allowance and movie money for Saturday and Sunday.

The Musical & Cartoon genres were represented by Lady & The Tramp, Guys & Dolls, Oklahoma, It’s Always Fair Weather, and Love Me Or Leave Me.

There was lots of comedy and romance with The Seven Year Itch, To Catch a Thief, The Trouble With Harry, The Court Jester, The Tender Trap, and Artists and Models.

The real heavy hitters were the dramas.  There are great ones that remain classics to this day.  For the first time movie goers saw James Dean in major movies with Rebel Without A Cause and East of Eden.  His death in September made him a legend.  In addition, you get Marty (Borgnine’s well deserved Oscar), The Man With The Golden Arm, Picnic, and Mr. Rogers are just a few in a truly hard hitting year.

This was also my first introduction to foreign films and subtitles with Ingemar Bergman’s Smiles of A Summer Night that eventually became the a musical with Sondheim’s A Little Night Music.

With so many musicals and theme songs to choose from, it’s hard pick, so I’ll go with two both of which come from dramas not musicals:  The Theme From Picnic and Doris Day in one of her best dramatic/musical roles as Ruth Etting in Love Me or Leave me with Ten Cents A Dance.

Vocal version by the McGuire Sisters


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Movies of a Lifetime – 1954

This decade is the home of so many incredible movies that will be on the 100 best films for ages and 1954 is no different.  Marilyn is in with two more:  “River of No Return” and “There’s No Business like Show Business”.  Among the other musicals:  “Brigadoon”, “The Glenn Miller Story”, “White Christmas”, “Seven Brides for Seven Brothers”, and best of all “A Star Is Born”.

The Dramas on offer were equally great:  “Rear Window”, “On The Waterfront”, “Dial M For Murder”, “The Caine Mutiny”, “The High and The Mighty”, and “The Bridges at Toko-Ri” but the comedies and romances we some of the bet ever with:  “Carmen Jones”, “Three Coins In The Fountain”, “The Barefoot Contessa”, “Magnificent Obsession”, “The Last Time I Saw Paris”, and my favorite choice “Sabrina”.

They never should have attempted a remake because this version is simply perfect.   It stars an effervescent Audrey Hepburn in the title role with Humphry Bogart and William Holden vying for her attentions.  Courtesy of Wikipedia

Sabrina Fairchild is the young daughter of the Larrabee family’s chauffeur , Thomas, and has been in love with David Larrabee all her life. David is a three-times-married playboy who has never paid attention to Sabrina because to him she was still a child. Eavesdropping on a party at the Larrabee mansion, as she has often done before, Sabrina notices David enticing yet another woman. Distraught, she leaves her father a suicide note and starts every car in the garage so as to kill herself. Instead she is interrupted by David’s older brother, Linus, who escorts her back to her quarters above the garage… More

All in all a magnificent year.  Now to draw on Marilyn for something extra



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Movies of A Lifetime – More Great Fifties

1953 was a very musical year, but my son would never forgive me if I didn’t give Gentlemen Prefer Blonds first place.  Still she had lots and lots of tune filled company:  The Band Wagon, Calamity Jane, Kiss Me Kate, and Call Me Madam.  Still Marilyn was keeping herself company in comedy and dramatic roles all in the same year:  How To Marry A Millionaire and Niagara.

Again, some of the best films in several genres are still watched today or drawn upon for remakes.  Waves crashed in From Here to Eternity.  A statue almost ate a hand in Roman Holiday.  Every one still wants Shane to come back.  Science fiction and horror got a work out with The War of the Worlds, House of Wax, It Came from Outer Space, The Hitchhiker,  and The Beast from 20,000 Fathoms.

In what seems terribly innocent and silly today, The Moon is Blue, caused a stir due to its comedic and light treatment of illicit sex and seduction.  Preminger defied the Breen office and kept all the tongue in cheek risque fun.

Today’s musical possibility is a difficult choice.  Marilyn with “Diamonds Are a Girls Best Friend”, “The Life That Late I led” or “Brush Up Your Shakespeare” from Kiss Me Kate, or possibly “Secret Love” from Calamity Jane.  Instead it will be the never to be equaled dance sequence to “Dancing In The Dark”  between Fred Astaire and Cyd Charisse from The Band Wagon and the comic “You’re Just In Love duet between Ethel Merman and Donald O’Connor from Call Me Madam.

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Movies of a Lifetime – Oh My

1952 – Age 8 –  presents a major problem as it seems to be the year when I started taking motion pictures seriously and saw all of the ones named in this year in the theater .  Three of my favorite movies that I still watch to this day, every chance I get from three different genres of film.  See IMDb Best Movies of 1952.

Singing in the Rain – probably the greatest musical ever made
High Noon – The classic western with a major twist (Gary Cooper best Actor)
The Quiet Man – Probably John Wayne’s greatest role

You can just name your favorite from those three while I get on with the honorable mentions that were just as good depending on taste:

Moulin Rouge (Jose Ferrer nominated best actor), Come Back Little Sheba (Shirley Booth taking home the golden statue), Hans Christian Anderson as only Danny Kaye could have created, and Disney’s live Robin Hood (I fell in love with Richard Todd and have never changed my mind about the perfect look for a man).

There were a host of others that might be your favorite among these films.  It truly was a great year.  How the Greatest Show on Earth won best picture is totally irrational except the vote must have been split between High Noon and The Quiet Man.

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