Timeline of Greatest Film
Milestones and Turning Points
in Film History


The Year 1953

Timeline of Greatest Film History Milestones and Turning Points
(by decade and year)
Introduction | Pre-1900s | 1900s | 1910s | 1920s | 1930s | 1940s | 1950s
1960s | 1970s | 1980s | 1990s | 2000s | 2010s
1950, 1951, 1952, 1953, 1954, 1955, 1956, 1957, 1958, 1959

The Year 1953
Year
Event and Significance
1953
In further warfare against television and rival 3-D movies, Hollywood developed wide-screen processes, such as 20th Century Fox's anamorphic CinemaScope, first seen in Henry Koster's Biblical sword-and-sandal epic The Robe (1953). The groundbreaking film was introduced by the studio's head Spyros Skouras, and helped to save the movie industry from the onslaught of its major competitor - television. CinemaScope was one of the first successful widescreen processes.
1953
Otto Preminger's The Moon Is Blue (1953), used the then-forbidden word "virgin" (and others such as "seduce" and "pregnant") - this deliberately violated the Motion Picture Production Code and led to picket lines. It was the first studio-produced film from Hollywood that was released without an approved code seal from the Production Code Administration - deliberately as a test case. It proved to be a major hit film (grossing $6 million) despite its lack of a seal of approval.
1953
Japanese director Yasujiro Ozu's classic family drama Tokyo Story (1953, Jp.) (aka Tokyo Monogatari), the best film of his entire career, illustrated how changing times in Japan had severed the virtue of honoring one's parents.
1953
Following the lead of James Stewart a few year earlier, seven-year contracts with actors were replaced by single-picture or multi-picture contracts.
1953
William Holden won his only lead actor Oscar for his performance as cynical, anti-social American POW Sgt. J.J. Sefton in a German camp (thought to be a stoolie by the other prisoners) in Billy Wilder's gripping WWII drama Stalag 17 (1953).
1953
Actress Ida Lupino (one of the few female directors of her era) directed the thrilling, noirish B-film drama The Hitch-Hiker (1953) -- the most successful film in her career. It was the story, based on a true-life account, of a cold-blooded, sadistic, psychotic mass murderer and kidnapper (William Talman). Its release during the height of the McCarthy "Red Scare" era reflected US paranoia about strangers.
1953
Director George Stevens' mythic western Shane (1953) was released - it was the second film of his "American trilogy," positioned between A Place in the Sun (1951) and Giant (1956). It was nominated for five Oscars (Best Picture, Best Supporting Actor - Brandon de Wilde, Best Supporting Actor - Jack Palance, Best Director, and Best Screenplay). It won the Oscar for Best Color Cinematography.
1953
Buena Vista Distribution Company was formed by Roy O Disney to act as Disney's film distributor.
1953
In the "True Life Adventure" series (a collection of live-action films), Disney Studios released its first feature length film, The Living Desert (1953).
1953
The first animated cartoon short filmed in 3-D, Walt Disney's Technicolored Melody (1953), was premiered.
1953
1953 was the first year that the Academy Awards ceremony (honoring films released in 1952) were televised (on March 19, 1953), on black and white NBC-TV, with Bob Hope as host (in Hollywood at the RKO Pantages Theater) and Conrad Nagel (in New York at the NBC International Theatre). It was the first ceremony to be held simultaneously in two locations. It resulted in the largest single audience to date in TV's five-year commercial history - estimated to be 43 million. The show was telecast throughout the US and Canada. Hollywood had to admit and succumb to the competing pressures from the burgeoning home entertainment medium.
1953
Columbia Pictures was the first major studio to release a 3-D movie - Man in the Dark (1953), their first 3-D feature. It was a remake of the noirish The Man Who Lived Twice (1936). The studio was attempting to capitalize on the growing fascination with 3-D.
1953
Warner Bros' first 3-D film, the horror classic House of Wax (1953), by director Andre de Toth, was the first full-length color 3-D film produced and released by a major US studio - it was also the first 3-D film with a stereo soundtrack. Ironically, the director was blind in one eye and could not experience the 3-D effects of the film. The feature also launched the horror film career of Vincent Price with his first major starring horror role - he portrayed horribly disfigured sculptor Prof. Henry Jarrod. Following Columbia, Warners was the second major studio to release a 3-D film.
1953
Although MGM's Kiss Me Kate (1953) was often noted as the first stereo-optic 3-D musical - in full Technicolor, it could be argued that Paramount's Those Redheads From Seattle (1953) with Rhonda Fleming was first by about a month.
1953
Hugh Hefner published the first issue of Playboy magazine in December 1953 (although the issue was undated), selling for 50 cents. It featured emerging starlet Marilyn Monroe on the cover and as the first centerfold model (although her picture had been taken specifically for a calendar in 1949 and not for the magazine). Monroe had already appeared in a number of films, notably The Asphalt Jungle (1950), All About Eve (1950), Monkey Business (1952), Clash By Night (1952), Don't Bother to Knock (1952), Niagara (1953), Gentlemen Prefer Blondes (1953), and How to Marry a Millionaire (1953).
1953
The landmark film of 50s rebellion, The Wild One (1953), by director Laslo Benedek and producer Stanley Kramer, was the first feature film to examine outlaw motorcycle gang violence in America. Marlon Brando portrayed a stunning, brooding, nomadic character - a delinquent archetype - in one of his central and early roles, popularizing the sale of black leather jackets and motorcycles after the film's release.
1953
Two classic, alien-invasion science-fiction films reflected Cold War tensions, the Red Scare and paranoid anxiety - typical of many 50s decade films: William Cameron Menzies' Invaders from Mars, and Jack Arnold's It Came From Outer Space -- also made in 3-D. The best of these films arrived a few years later: Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1956).
1953
To promote the launch of the B-movie The Beast From 20,000 Fathoms (1953), Warner Brothers ran an expensive $200,000 publicity campaign aimed at teens, including heavily advertising it on TV and radio. It was one of the first films to exploit the medium of television (that was ironically taking away business from movie theaters) and to employ a theatre booking strategy of launching the film in a large number of theaters. The strategy worked, and the film became the sleeper hit of 1953 - creating a whole sub-genre of atomic age, giant monster action films.
1953
Out of work due to concert flops, in debt due to back taxes, suffering from a recent divorce scandal (after an affair with future wife - actress Ava Gardner), and recently losing his voice, Frank Sinatra was interested in playing the role of Pvt. Angelo Maggio in From Here to Eternity (1953). He was eventually signed by Columbia to play at a cut-rate of $1,000 a week ($8,000 total), far below what he had been paid at MGM (reportedly $150,000/film) before he was dropped. His wife Ava Gardner, friends with Columbia's studio chief Harry Cohn, helped him to get an audition. The way in which Frank Sinatra was cast in the 1953 film - as depicted in The Godfather (1972) film with the help of the Mob's influence - was only a legend. After Sinatra would go on to win the Best Supporting Actor Oscar for his performance, his career was resurrected and revitalized.
1953
The provocative film, From Here to Eternity (1953), was based on James Jones' hefty, 859-page smoldering 1951 novel of the same name. Its sprawling and complex story-line about Army life with its bold and explicit script (with strong language, violence and raw sexual content) was at first considered unsuitable (and unfilmable) for the screen. The ground-breaking film's subjects (ill-suited for television) included prostitution, adultery, military injustice, corruption and violence, alcohol abuse, and murder. The film went on to win eight Academy Award Oscars (from thirteen nominations), awarded in 1954, including Best Picture and Best Director. It was the first film to tie the long-standing record of eight Academy Awards set by Gone with the Wind (1939).
1953
Director Henri-Georges Clouzot's suspenseful thriller The Wages of Fear (aka Le Salaire De La Peur, Fr/It) established the director's reputation as the "French Hitchcock" with its tension-filled tale of the death-defying truck driving of nitroglycerine across treacherous terrain in Central America.
1953
Director William Wyler's delightful, captivating fairy-tale romance Roman Holiday (1953), shot entirely on location in Rome, starred captivating but under-experienced British (Belgium-born) actress Audrey Hepburn in her first American film. She previously had only bit roles in a few obscure European films in the late 40s and early 50s. She won the Best Actress Oscar for her role as runaway Princess Ann. This performance led to a decades-long popular career until her last film in 1989.
1953, 1954
Walt Disney achieved a milestone in the 1954 awards ceremony - as the individual with the most Oscar wins (4) in a single year. He won the award in four awards categories: Best Cartoon Short Subject: Toot, Whistle, Plunk and Boom (1953), Best Documentary Short Subject: The Alaskan Eskimo (1953), Best Documentary Feature: The Living Desert (1953), and Best Two-Reel Short Subject: Bear Country (1953).


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