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A 20th Century Fox Retrospective Scrapbook: 1959


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1959  began with Roger Corman's I Mobster....

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Alaska Package was a little quickie.

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Clifton Webb was a suspected bigamist in The Remarkable Mr. Pennypacker....

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The Sad Horse was another remodeling of the tale of a boy and his horse.

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The Little Savage was a tale of pirates.

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While Lone Texan was a little Western.

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The Sheriff of Fractured Jaw was something bigger, a western spoof coproduction between the US and England

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And then a masterpiece in the form of The Diary of Anne Frank, a brilliant, heartbreaking film

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The Sound and the Fury was Faulkner to film, but this film wasn't as big as the book in popularity.

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Richard Todd turned to noir in Intent to Kill.

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Meanwhile Compulsion was a much praised take on the Leopold and Loeb case.

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And Warlock was a much praised all star Western

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Smiley Gets a Gun was a sequel to the hit family film

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Don Murray and Lee Remick were then deployed to the West in These Thousand Hills.

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Susan Hayward played a widow who married Stephen Boyd in Woman Obsessed. Complications ensued in a pretty good film overall.

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here Come the Jets took on the Air Force.

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Women are Week was a French import with Alain Delon

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Bing Crosby returned to being a priest in Say One for Me, while Debbie Reynolds played an entertainer.

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David Hedison was The Son of Robin Hood.

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Sci-Fi horror was in store in The Alligator People.

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And again in The Return of the Fly

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Holiday for Lovers had Clifton Webb and Jane Wyman as a couple headed for South America to protect their daughter's morals. Not bad.

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A minister took to the West in Miracle of the Hills

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Carol Lyndley was a pregnant teenager in Blue Denim.

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A Private's Affair consisted of soldiers, music, comedy, and romance.

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Fred MacMurray hit The Oregon Trail.

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The Blue Angel gained a little known remake.

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Five Gates to Hell was adventure directed by a writer, James Clavel

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Leslie Caron and Henry Fonda were an item in The Man Who Understood Women.

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The best of Everything was a fascinating soap opera, extremely well-acted by the entire cast.

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Don Siegel directed Fabian and Carol Lynley in Hound-Dog Man (no, not Elvis)

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Gregory Peck played F. Scott Fitzgerald in Beloved Infidel, but the best moments were often given to Deborah Kerr, radiant here as Sheilah Graham.

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Journey to the Center of the Earth is a perennial Sci-Fi favorite.

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And the war film Blood and Steel closed the decade.

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If the 50s were strange for Fox, the 60s would be a roller coaster: from near bankruptcy to riches and back again before regaining their footing in the 70s.

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I think 1959 was a bit more consistent than the previous year, in terms of quality and entertainment. The B films weren't nearly as pedestrian. 

Here's my top 10:

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1. WARLOCK. A solid western with excellent production values and a stellar cast. Led by Edward Dmytryk's skilled direction.

2. THE DIARY OF ANNE FRANK. Oscar winner for Best Picture and one of George Stevens' more commendable efforts.

3. WOMAN OBSESSED. I like this film very much. Set in rural Canada, it costars Susan Hayward and Stephen Boyd whose acting styles don't exactly mesh. But the unevenness between them adds to the story's main conflict.

4. COMPULSION. One of Fox's most socially progressive films from this era. There's an impassioned courtroom speech about doing away with the death penalty. Covers the same story as ROPE, but it's much more engaging and less gimmicky than Hitchcock's version. 

5. BLUE DENIM. An interesting time capsule about the consequences of teen sex. Carol Lynley and Brandon deWilde are memorable. But I think Macdonald Carey gives the best performance as the boy's father.

6. THE BEST OF EVERYTHING. Young leads take center stage, but seasoned pros Joan Crawford and Brian Aherne really own the picture. 

7. THE REMARKABLE MR. PENNYPACKER. A funny treatise on bigamy. The cast is a dream. Charles Coburn plays Clifton Webb's father!

8. JOURNEY TO THE CENTER OF THE EARTH. Decent entertainment. Cast is uniformly excellent.

9. THE SHERIFF OF FRACTURED JAW. Jolly good western farce. Unusual casting works to the story's advantage.

10. THESE THOUSAND HILLS. Western with predictable outcome, but the top-notch cast and scenery help make it enjoyable.

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What I've seen and how I rated them:

8/10

  • The Diary of Anne Frank

7/10

  • Warlock

6/10

  • The Best of Everything
  • Blue Denim
  • Compulsion
  • I, Mobster
  • Journey to the Center of the Earth
  • The Sheriff of Fractured Jaw

5/10

  • Beloved Infidel
  • Return of the Fly
  • The Sound and the Fury

4/10

  • The Man Who Understood Women
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I'd love for TCM to show These Thousand Hills. Excellent performances by Don Murray and Lee Remick. Warlock has great cinematography, and where else can you find Anthony Quinn with a crush on Henry Fonda? I'll have to check out Woman Obsessed.

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Thanks again for keeping this project going.

Journey to the Center of the Earth has always been a huge favorite of mine, but I'm not much of a fan of that poster. It doesn't do justice to this magical film. (And did Pat Boone really get top billing over James Mason???) Yes, the giant mushrooms are about as real as the big plastic flowers Dorothy sees when she steps out the door into Oz, but none of that has ever mattered to me when I see this movie. 

I really like Say One For Me with Bing Crosby, Debbie Reynolds and Robert Wagner (also Ray Walston in a good role). Frank Tashlin had a pretty hot streak going at Fox in the mid-to-late 50's and this was part of that, in my opinion. Try to find it in anything but pan-and-scan, though. Bing had a really good Christmas song in it which apparently didn't catch the public's attention but should have.

The Best of Everything is practically the stylistic blueprint for Mad Men, the AMC series. It's deluxe in every way, including some very hot young talent. Love it.

I chuckled at the poster for Fabian's Hound Dog Man. He's supposed to be a farm boy, but on the poster he's all suited-up in one of his signature plunging neck/big collar teen idol looks, like he's on American Bandstand. I always liked him, though. I never felt like there was much phony about him as an actor, though he was totally prefab as a recording artist/performer.

All things considered, I was surprised how many forgettable films there were that year from Fox.

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Since we're done with the 50s, I thought I would re-list my top films for each year if that's okay. I went back and looked at the previous threads for this project and see I did not comment much about Fox's output for 1950. Clearly an oversight on my part! 

1. THE GUNFIGHTER (1950)
2. I'D CLIMB THE HIGHEST MOUNTAIN (1951)
3. DEADLINE U.S.A (1952)
4. MAN ON A TIGHTROPE (1953)
5. BROKEN LANCE (1954)
6. THE TALL MEN (1955)
7. ANASTASIA (1956)
8. HEAVEN KNOWS MR. ALLISON (1957)
9. THE INN OF THE SIXTH HAPPINESS (1958)
10. WARLOCK (1959)

I was most impressed with the studio's westerns from this decade.

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