Timeline of Greatest Film
Milestones and Turning Points
in Film History


The Year 1954

Timeline of Greatest Film History Milestones and Turning Points
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1950, 1951, 1952, 1953, 1954, 1955, 1956, 1957, 1958, 1959

The Year 1954
Year
Event and Significance
1954
Federico Fellini released the classic Italian film La Strada (1954, It.) (aka The Road). It won the first official Academy Award for Best Foreign-Language Film, awarded during the Academy Ceremony honoring films of 1956.
1954
Paramount Studio's first VistaVision widescreen production was director Michael Curtiz' hit film White Christmas (1954), an Irving Berlin musical.
1954
The "auteur theory" was first rudimentarily expressed by 21 year-old critic/filmmaker Francois Truffaut in his essay in the French film-review periodical Cahiers du Cinema titled "A Certain Tendency in French Cinema."
1954
Dorothy Dandridge was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Actress, the first African-American ever nominated, for her role in Carmen Jones (1954). (Ironically, in 2000, Halle Berry - the first African-American actress to ever win the Best Actress Oscar for Monster's Ball (2001), won the Emmy and the Golden Globes awards playing the title role in the critically-acclaimed HBO television movie Introducing Dorothy Dandridge (1999).)
1954
Graphic design genius Saul Bass began his legendary career (spanning over 40 years until his last film Casino (1995)) as title designer for Carmen Jones, and later gained his first major recognition for his work for The Man With the Golden Arm (1955). His revolutionary designs broke tradition by using jagged lines and bold colors to redefine title credits and poster images. He was best known for his work with Alfred Hitchcock, Otto Preminger, Stanley Kubrick - and later with Martin Scorsese.
1954
On the Waterfront (1954) nearly swept the Academy Awards with eight wins, including Best Picture, Best Actor (Marlon Brando), Best Supporting Actress (Eva Maria Saint), and Best Director (Elia Kazan). The acclaimed film was widely perceived as Kazan's response to critics of his testimony two years earlier before the House Un-American Activities Commission (HUAC). Kazan attempted to vindicate himself politically with this semi-autobiographical film - the justification of naming names ('squealing') to expose the evils of corrupt unions, and the suggestion of sympathy advocated for squealers or informers.
1954
Japan gave birth to the long-running series of Godzilla monster films with Ishiro Honda's Gojira (1954, Jp.), featuring Godzilla in his screen debut. It was soon followed by the release of Godzilla, King of the Monsters (1956), the US remake of Honda's original 1954 film.
1954
Akira Kurosawa's epic tale The Seven Samurai (1954) reinvented the western film genre. (It was remade by John Sturges as The Magnificent Seven (1960).)
1954
Dragnet from Warner Bros. was the first theatrical film based on a TV show of the same name (the then-popular B/W TV show ran from 1951-1959). Its star Jack Webb (as Sgt. Joe Friday) turned it into a feature (color) film, and served as the director.
1954
In the case of Theatre Enterprises v. Paramount Distributing (1953), the U.S. Supreme Court decided in early 1954 to uphold the right of film distributors to confine the exclusive showing of first-run engagements to downtown theaters. Motion picture producers and distributors had been charged with violating the Sherman Anti-trust laws by conspiring to restrict "first-run" pictures to downtown Baltimore theaters, thus hurting business in suburban venues. The court ruled that there was no evidence of an illegal agreement or conspiracy among independent exhibitors in Baltimore, who accounted for 63% of "first-run" exhibitions.
1954
The American Releasing Company was founded by James H. Nicholson and Hollywood lawyer Samuel Z. Arkoff -- the precursor of American International Pictures (AIP) in 1956, noted for its low-budget exploitation films and drive-in movies for the profitable teenage market. Their first film was writer/producer Roger Corman's The Fast and the Furious (1954) starring John Ireland and Dorothy Malone. The horror films of Bert Gordon, Roger Corman's series of adapted Edgar Allan Poe horror films with Vincent Price, biker and drug-related films in the 60s, the 'beach party' films of Annette Funicello and Frankie Avalon, the teenage monster film cycle (i.e., I Was a Teenage Werewolf (1957)), and the earliest films of Jack Nicholson, Robert De Niro, Francis Ford Coppola and Peter Bogdanovich (and many others) were AIP productions. Emphasis on these sensationalist sub-genres (beach party films, kung fu films, biker films, juvenile delinquency pictures, monster and horror films, women-in-prison films, etc.) would be imitated by countless other independent production companies and film-makers.
1954
British actor Sydney Greenstreet died at the age of 74, due to complications of diabetes related to his extreme weight. He was best-known for his debut film role - a portrayal of crime figure Kasper Gutman ("The Fat Man") in director John Huston's debut film, Warners' The Maltese Falcon (1941), opposite Humphrey Bogart and Peter Lorre. Over the span of their careers, Lorre and Greenstreet appeared in nine films together, including two Michael Curtiz war films: Casablanca (1942) and Passage to Marseille (1944). Both the atomic bomb ('Fat Man') and the Jabba the Hut character in Return of the Jedi (1983) were inspired by Greenstreet.
1954
The adult-themed Animal Farm (1954), an allegorical tale based on George Orwell's 1945 satirical political novel, was the first animated color feature film made in England.
1954, 1956
Two film adaptations of author George Orwell's cautionary novels, the UK's first animated feature film Animal Farm (1954) and director Michael Anderson's film noirish 1984 (1956), starring Edmond O'Brien, Jan Sterling, and Michael Redgrave, were altered. It was revealed in the late 1990s that the CIA was partly responsible for modifying or softening Orwell's message in both films during the European post-war era, to make the tone of each film more overtly anti-Communist. Both works were changed to include more upbeat endings. [Ironically, the same distortions were made by MCA-Universal Studios for Terry Gilliam's version of Brazil (1985) - another film about a futuristic totalitarian society.]


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