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The Underrated Fifties


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>If both the '30s and '50s are "underrated", what decades are "overrated"? The '40s and '60s?

 

I think they're all underrated, especially by the new generation of movie-goers who have very little knowledge about what came before.

 

Think of all the classic books that people do not even read anymore and know anything about at all. And that may happen with some highly regarded classic films, too.

 

Edited by: TopBilled on Jan 9, 2014 4:59 PM for clarity

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finance, the 1970s are the overrated decade of American films. According to me, that is. Some critics I respect think that the post-studio director's cinema of the 1970s is the best in American film history. Certainly, there were new freedoms. For a brief time some directors could make the films they wanted and try new techniques.

 

I find some of the new cinematography very unattractive and even dysfunctional, as I mentioned in a thread on *Klute*. Unlike the admirers of the 70s, I don't take the new directors at their own valuation. Yes, they tried new things--but how good are the results?

 

That being said, there are still forgotten films of the 70s that need to be mentioned, and "The Underrated Seventies" is a totally valid concept.

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Here's my top ten for 1957:

 

1. 12 Angry Men

2. The Seventh Seal

3. Throne of Blood

4. Wild Strawberries

5. The Nights of Cabiria

6. The Sweet Smell of Success

7. Letter from Siberia

8. The Snow Queen

9. Paths of Glory

10. White Nights

 

With The Incredible Shrinking Man as runner-up. Admittedly I'm not a big fan of Hollywood this year, with only three movies from the United States.

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PATHS OF GLORY is a wonderfully made film, and I feel it should air more often. Usually I am not a fan of Kubrick (thinking he is vastly overrated). But with this offering, he deftly combines action with satire and the result is cinematic perfection. The performances of the leads and the supporting cast couldn't be better.

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For those of you who think that 1950 was one of the greatest years in the studio era, I am right there with you. Excellent films in a variety of genres and styles.

 

Top 10 for 1950:

 

1. All About Eve

2. Sunset Boulevard

3. The Asphalt Jungle

4. In a Lonely Place

5. The Furies

6. Three Came Home

7. Wagon Master

8. The Breaking Point

9. Stars in My Crown

10. Panic in the Streets

 

Honorable mention: Madeleine, Two Flags West, Rio Grande, So Long at the Fair, No Way Out, Adam?s Rib, Night and the City, Harvey, King Solomon?s Mines, Where the Sidewalk Ends, Three Little Words, The Damned Don?t Cry, No Man of Her Own

 

Need to see: The Men, Mister 880, The House by the River

Underrated: Three Came Home, The Breaking Point, Madeleine, Two Flags West

Overrated: Father of the Bride, Cyrano de Bergerac

 

Best Actor: William Holden, Sunset Boulevard. Honorable mention to Humphrey Bogart (In a Lonely Place) and John Garfield (The Breaking Point).

Best Actress: Bette Davis, All About Eve over Gloria Swanson (Sunset Boulevard) and Gloria Grahame (In a Lonely Place).

Best Supporting Actor: Sam Jaffe, The Asphalt Jungle over George Sanders (All About Eve).

Best Supporting Actress: Judith Anderson, The Furies.

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I had the impression that 1951 represented a falling off from 1950, but 1951 has an impressive list of films, too.

 

Top 10 of 1951:

 

1. Cry, the Beloved Country

2. Strangers on a Train

3. Westward the Women

4. Decision Before Dawn

5. The African Queen

6. On Dangerous Ground

7. An American in Paris

8. The Browning Version

9. Pandora and the Flying Dutchman

10. Ace in the Hole

 

Honorable mention: A Streetcar Named Desire, A Place in the Sun, A Christmas Carol, The Model and the Marriage Broker, He Ran All the Way, The House on Telegraph Hill, The Steel Helmet, The Tall Target, Teresa, Try and Get Me

 

Need to see: The First Legion, M, The Thirteenth Letter, Thunder on the Hill

Underrated: Decision Before Dawn, Pandora and the Flying Dutchman, Teresa, Try and Get Me

 

The variety of Oscar-worthy choices for Best Actor and Best Actress is staggering, despite the greatness of Marlon Brando and Vivien Leigh in Streetcar.

 

Best Actor: Marlon Brando (A Streetcar Named Desire) over Robert Ryan (On Dangerous Ground), Michael Redgrave (The Browning Version), Montgomery Clift (A Place in the Sun), Alastair Sim (A Christmas Carol), Robert Walker (Strangers on a Train), John Garfield (He Ran All the Way), Kirk Douglas (Ace in the Hole), Canada Lee (Cry, the Beloved Country), and Humphrey Bogart (The African Queen). Wow! Is there a stronger year for leading actors?

 

Best Actress: Ida Lupino (On Dangerous Ground) over Vivien Leigh (A Streetcar Named Desire), Thelma Ritter (The Model and the Marriage Broker), Katharine Hepburn (The African Queen), and Pier Angeli (Teresa). Again, wow.

 

Best Supporting Actor: Oskar Werner, Decision Before Dawn. You could argue that Werner, third-billed behind Gary Merrill and Richard Basehart, has more screen time and thus belongs in the Best Actor category, which would make that even stronger. You might also argue that Robert Walker belongs here because Farley Granger has more screen time, but to me, Bruno feels like a starring role of equal importance. Lloyd Bridges makes a memorable villain in Try and Get Me. Karl Malden in Streetcar isn?t too shabby, either.

 

Best Supporting Actress: Patricia Collinge, Teresa or Hildegard Knef, Decision Before Dawn. Now an obvious solution is to move Thelma Ritter to the Supporting Actress category and give that woman the Oscar she deserved for some picture or other, and she?s second-billed to Jeanne Crain, but the marriage broker feels like a lead role. Kim Hunter is a fine Stella in Streetcar.

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For 1940-1960 I would select 1943 as the weakest year. I don't know the early 30s well enough, although I haven't been impressed by a lot of films from the earliest two or three years of sound.

 

If you extend through the end of the studio era (1967 is as good a date as any to start the next phase), 1962 is one of the great years and 1963 not so much.

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While you people are doing this, what was the worst year for film in the period 1930-1960?

 

I've yet to list 1960, or 1936 through 1939, but I can't imagine that any of those years would be remotely as bad as 1943. The highlight of that year was probably the usual assortment of Donald Duck and Warner Brothers cartoons.

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>what was the worst year for film in the period 1930-1960?

 

I don't think any year was the worst. They were all good. Even when Hollywood seemed to hit a bit of a creative lull, there were some fine British productions or independent filmmaking efforts to divert viewers' attention. There are gems in each year of the sound era, all the way up to the present.

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I'll agree that I don't think there was a worst year per say, although from participating in these 30s, 40s and 50s lists, I'd have to say that the first few years of "talkies" seem the weakest. Though, I don't know if I can fairly say that as I haven't seen a ton of movies from that time period. From the ones I have seen, it seems that there were a few years of transition where they were still trying to figure out what silent film stars would be able to transition successfully from silent to sound.

 

I think film really began to hit its stride in 1934-1936 when a lot of the major players in classic Hollywood cinema made their debuts (Hepburn, Grant, Gable, Tracy, Davis, Flynn, De Havilland, Bogart, etc.)

 

Aside from the classic 1939, I really enjoy the films that were produced during WWII, whether the film directly dealt with the war itself, or whether the war was just in the background, I think that some of Hollywood's most interesting films emerged during this time period.

 

I think the 60s and 70s didn't provide many beloved films for me. I like a lot of the earlier 60s movies; but that's probably because they were still coming out of the 50s so there was still that 50s mentality; heading toward the 70s with the hippy movement and the increased backlash against Vietnam, films started taking a more serious and realistic look and I'm not a big fan. The films of the 70s starting getting more timely, intense, graphic, and they just don't provide the escape that I like movies to provide.

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Here is my list for 1950 (in no particular order):

 

SUNSET BLVD: Led by Gloria Swanson's performance, grand, baroque, and exceedingly moving, this is a film for the ages, with its cynicism on its sleeve.

 

YOUNG MAN WITH A HORN: Intense drama with Kirk Douglas as a trumpet player, Lauren Bacall and Doris Day as the women in his life.

 

NO WAY OUT: Harrowing account of racial strife, with an outstandong casf including Richard Widmark, Linda Darnell and Sidney Poitier. Directed by Joseph L. Mankiewicz.

 

ALL ABOUT EVE: Written and directed by Mankiewicz, this backstage look has a dream cast and great writing.

 

PANIC IN THE STREETS: Taut drama of a potential plague in New

 

 

 

Orleans. Another strong cast.

 

WHERE THE SIDEWALK ENDS: Director Otto Preminger agsin scores with Dana Andrews and Gene Tierney in this noir of a brutal police officer.

 

THE ASPHALT JUNGLE: A crime caper that set the bar for those that followed. Great cast and direction.

 

THE GUNFIGHTER: precursor to HIGH NOON, with Gregoty Peck giving a subdued, if iconic performance.

 

TWO FLAGS WEST: Unusual subject matter in western of confederate soldiers as war prisoners given amnesty to fight Native.Americans on the southwestern frontier.

 

THE JACKPOT: Comical story of the aforementioned winner's life unraveling. James Stewart is the lucky stiff.

 

CAGED: The best.ever womens prison drama, with an amazing casf led bh Eleanor Parker.

 

THE FURIES: Barbara Stanwyck clashing with patriarch Walter Huston, with an outstanding cast for support.in this western.

 

 

BROKEN ARROW: James Stewart.in love with native.American Debra.Paget, in a film dealing with the issue more sensitively than most.

 

NIGHT AND THE CITY: Richard Widmark and Gene Tierney dealing with all sorts of characters in the London underworld.

 

THREE CAME HOME: Wome in a ww2 prison camp, and the brutal treatment they suffered. Claudette Colbert is excellent.

 

A LIFE OF HER OWN: Surprisingly intelligent and adult story of the fate.of aging fashion models. Lana Turner stars in her first movie in nearly two years. Ann Dvorak is very moving in a featured role.

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I'm curious why you think 1943 was so bad AndyM? Agree it's not the best year, but it is the year of Casablanca, The More The Merrier, Human Comedy, Heaven Can Wait, For Whom The Bell Tolls (although I have not seen that one in years).

 

Two reasons, one subjective and one objective.

 

*Subjectively* (emphasis added), I lean towards "realistic" movies, best embodied in pre-code drama, film noir, and dramas with a strong social or psychological bent. It also means that for instance, I find most foreign war movies far more "real" than most of their American counterparts, especially those produced during WWII itself. And it's not that I don't like a small number of musicals or a large number of comedies, but my personal bar for those genres is much higher than it would be for the genres I'm much more attuned to.

 

*Objectively,* it's all relative, and while there were a few good movies that came out that year, when you look at all the other years we've been discussing on these three threads devoted to the 30's, 40's, and 50's, it's rather clear that 1943 is far and away the "worst" of them all by almost any standard, even if one's subjective tastes are entirely different than mine.* This isn't Lake Wobegon, and not all years are above average.

 

*Okay, if American war movies that passed through wartime censorship is your favored cup of tea, I suppose that there might be worse years. But by any other standard, 1943 movies are in the same general league as the 1962 Mets.

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Thanks. Appreciate your taking the time to write, but man, the "62 Mets analogy" hit me right in the stomach, ha.

 

Sorry, if I'd known you were a Mets fan I'd have said the 1972 Phillies, on the days that Steve Carlton wasn't pitching. ;)

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Haven't read through the thread, but don't think the 50's would be underrated for film work.

 

Anyway, I love some 1950's films...such as:

 

On the Waterfront

From Here to Eternity

12 Angry Men

Streetcar Named Desire

East of Eden

Blackboard Jungle

Sunset Boulevard

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What a thread! For those of us who answer to "Boomers" or came in on the tail end of whatever generation came before the 50's and 60's are our coming of age time. Every year has a least two films I love and when we get to 1957, when I really started following films as a potential profession, the memories come flooding back.

 

Most of my favorites have already been listed. I might have a few more to list later.

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To add notes about a few more films Arturo didn't mention. More evidence that 1950 was one of the special years.

 

IN A LONELY PLACE: Humphrey Bogart and Gloria Grahame in top form in this brooding noir directed by Nicholas Ray. Is the screenwriter played by Bogart a killer or a flawed but redeemable good guy? Gloria had better find out quickly.

 

THE BREAKING POINT: Based on the same novel as TO HAVE AND HAVE NOT, but almost as different in story as it is in tone. John Garfield and Patricia Neal at their best, directed by Michael Curtiz.

 

STARS IN MY CROWN: Joel McCrea plays a young minister in a tough town after the Civil War. A good slice of Americana. Sharp direction by Jacques Tourneur.

 

MADELEINE: David Lean's least-known film. Ann Todd stars in this account of an actual poisoning in Edinburgh in the Victorian era. On first viewing the ending probably won't be satisfying, but this film improves on second viewing, with many great directorial touches.

 

RIO GRANDE: Part of John Ford's cavlary trilogy, with John Wayne and Maureen O'Hara.

 

SO LONG AT THE FAIR: Jean Simmons' brother disappears at the Paris Exposition, and no one except Dirk Bogarde even believes the brother existed. Why the cover-up, and how?

 

KING SOLOMON'S MINES: In this year, this movie should not have been nominated for Best Picture, but with Stewart Granger and Deborah Kerr, it's a fun adventure movie.

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My overall top 12 movies of the 50's, with foreign titles excluded:

 

1. All About Eve (1950)

2. Vertigo (1958)

3. A Star Is Born (1954)

4. Time Limit (1957)

5. On The Waterfront (1954)

6. The Bad and the Beautiful (1952)

7. House of Bamboo (1955)

8. The Asphalt Jungle (1950)

9. Witness For The Prosecution (1957)

10. Kiss Me Deadly (1955)

11. Sudden Fear (1952)

12. The Big Heat (1953)

 

Best of the rest (alphabetical order): Anna Lucasta (1959) Cry Danger (1951); Dial M For Murder (1954); Executive Suite (1954); Footsteps in the Fog (1955); The Light Touch (1952); The Night Holds Terror (1955); Three Came Home (1950); Trial (1955); While The City Sleeps (1956); The Young Philadelphians (1959)

 

Most underrated movie of the decade: Time Limit. The court martial hearing's denouement makes the whole setup and finale in The Caine Mutiny seem like a simplistic first grade cartoon by comparison.

 

Best actor: James Stewart (Vertigo); Marlon Brando (On the Waterfront); Kirk Douglas (The Bad and the Beautiful)

Best actress: Bette Davis (All About Eve); Judy Garland (A Star Is Born); Kim Novak (Vertigo)

Best supporting actor: George Sanders (All About Eve)

Best supporting actress: Gloria Grahame (The Big Heat)

 

The 1950's were a transitional decade, but IMO its best movies stack up equally to those of any other ten year period. In fact, overall it may be the best decade of them all.

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