Timeline of Greatest Film
Milestones and Turning Points
in Film History


The Year 1951

Timeline of Greatest Film History Milestones and Turning Points
(by decade and year)
Introduction | Pre-1900s | 1900s | 1910s | 1920s | 1930s | 1940s | 1950s
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1950, 1951, 1952, 1953, 1954, 1955, 1956, 1957, 1958, 1959

The Year 1951
Year
Event and Significance
1951
Legendary film critic and theorist Andre Bazin established the influential and distinguished French film journal Cahiers du Cinéma (literally 'cinema notebooks'), arguably the most influential film magazine in film history. Future filmmakers and critics, such as Jean-Luc Godard, Eric Rohmer, Francois Truffaut, Claude Chabrol, and Jacques Rivette contributed to the publication, advocating the auteur theory and proposing the use of more individualistic styles. Their ideas and writing gave rise to the French New Wave (Nouvelle Vague) by the end of the decade, and brought respectability to the idea of film as a legitimate field of study.
1951
An American in Paris (1951) was only the third musical to win Best Picture. The two previous winners were: The Broadway Melody (1929) and The Great Ziegfeld (1936). The film was also the first to win a Golden Globe award for Best Motion Picture (comedy or musical) - a newly-created category - in the 1952 awards ceremony.
1951
The Motion Pictures Production Code specifically prohibited films dealing with abortion or narcotics.
1951
HUAC opened a second round of hearings in Hollywood to investigate communism in the film industry, leading to the blacklisting of 212 individuals actively working in Hollywood at this time.
1951
Indebted United Artists was sold to a syndicate headed by two New York entertainment lawyers, Arthur Krim and Robert Benjamin.
1951
Marking the decline of the old Hollywood studio system, this was the first year in which the Best Picture Oscar was given to the film's producers rather than to the studio that released the film.
1951
To combat the threat of television, the Cohn brothers (of Columbia Pictures) founded a television production company subsidiary named Screen Gems.
1951
The first pay-per-view movie system (dubbed phonevision) on television was tested in 300 Chicago households by the Zenith Radio Corporation. Families could send phone signals to decode the movies for $1 each, and 2,600 movies were ordered during the four-week test. There were three movie choices: the musical comedy April Showers (1948), starring Jack Carson and Ann Sothern, the Bing Crosby comedy Welcome Stranger (1947), and director Mervyn LeRoy's romantic war drama Homecoming (1948) starring Clark Gable, Anne Baxter and Lana Turner.
1951
Christian Nyby's The Thing (1951) (aka The Thing From Another World), (ghost-directed by Howard Hawks), one of the earliest examples of an alien invader film, featured filmdom's first space monster.
1951
One of the most thoughtful science-fiction films ever made, Robert E. Wise's allegorical The Day the Earth Stood Still (1951), was released, featuring the most famous phrase in sci-fi history -- "Gort, Klaatu barada niktu" -- as well as stunning, state-of-the-art visual effects and a Bernard Herrmann score. The classic cult film was also the first of many 50's Cold War-inspired science-fiction films, and featured the first modern robot, the silver giant Gort.
1951
Aging motion picture mogul-executive Louis B. Mayer was forced to resign in 1951 after 27 years as the head of MGM Studios that he had founded. Nick Schenck, president of Loew's, Inc. which controlled MGM, was given an ultimatum by Mayer after another of his heated battles with newly-appointed and younger production chief Dore Schary (an ex-RKO production chief): "It's either me or Schary" - and Schenck chose Schary. Mayer's resignation followed continued disagreements with his eventual successor Schary over cost-cutting and the issue of creating socially-relevant pictures. Mayer was at the helm of MGM during the making of some of the greatest films ever - and for creating the star system when the studio had "more stars than there are in heaven."
1951
MGM's lavish, big-budget, Technicolor historical epic Quo Vadis (1951) was released, starring Robert Taylor, Deborah Kerr, and Peter Ustinov. It was filmed on location in Italy with a cast of thousands, in the pre-Cinemascope era. According to sources, it set the record for the number of costumes used (32,000) in a single film. This film also marked Sophia Loren's film debut -- in a bit part as a slave.
1951
A Streetcar Named Desire (1951) was the first film ever to win three Acting Oscars. Vivien Leigh, Karl Malden, and Kim Hunter succeeded and were presented with awards, although 27 year-old Marlon Brando lost in the Best Actor category (for his second film performance - he had debuted a year earlier in The Men) to long-deserving Humphrey Bogart for The African Queen (1951). In 1952 during the awards ceremony, Bogart was presented with his first-and only Academy Award for his role as gin-loving Queen skipper Charlie Allnut. Bogart's win in 1951 was an upset, since it denied the predicted clean-sweep for the cast of A Streetcar Named Desire (1951), and a much-deserved Oscar for Brando. Many interpreted Bogart's win as a payback award, and as a "career" Oscar (since he had been passed over for major film nominations or wins).
1951
The powerful social drama and romance from director/producer George Stevens, A Place in the Sun (1951), emphasized the wide gap between the frivolous rich and the downtrodden, outsider poor, and how fate heavy-handedly could control life. Paramount Studios removed the name of actress Anne Revere (in the role of Mrs. Hannah Eastman, Montgomery Clift's Salvation Army mother) from the film's publicity, due to the fact that she had refused to testify and cooperate with the House Un-American Activities Committee (HUAC) - another victim of Hollywood's infamous blacklist of 300 names. She would not reappear in another film until 1970's Tell Me That You Love Me, Junie Moon.
1951
Japanese director Akira Kurosawa's masterpiece Rashomon (1950, Jp.) premiered in the US in 1951, after being shown at the Venice Film Festival. It was a crime mystery regarding a rape and husband's murder, told in flashback with the contradictory viewpoints of four witnesses. The remarkable film introduced American audiences to Japanese cinema and caused a wave of interest.
1951
Disney's feature animated film Alice in Wonderland (1951), the studio's thirteenth animated classic, failed at the box-office, offsetting its profits from the previous year's successful full-length animation Cinderella (1950).
1951
Two major future Hollywood musicals opened on Broadway in 1951: (March 29, 1951) - the Rodgers and Hammerstein musical The King and I, starring Yul Brynner (later reprising his role on film in The King and I (1956)), and (November 24, 1951) - the play Gigi, starring relatively unknown actress Audrey Hepburn. The MGM feature film - director Vincente Minnelli's Gigi (1958) would later go on to win Best Picture, with Leslie Caron in the lead role.
1951
MGM's Technicolored film remake of the Kern-Hammerstein musical play Show Boat - the most financially successful of three film versions, premiered at the Egyptian Theater in Los Angeles on July 17, 1951, and went into wide-release on September 24, 1951. It starred Howard Keel, Ava Gardner, and Kathryn Grayson.


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