Timeline of Greatest Film
Milestones and Turning Points
in Film History


The Year 1955

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 1955
Year
Event and Significance
1955
The Todd-AO widescreen process (with 65-mm (or 70-mm) wide film) was successfully introduced with director Fred Zinnemann's landmark musical Oklahoma! (1955). Also released in a CinemaScope version, it was the first of the Rodgers & Hammerstein operettas. It was also the first Broadway show to integrate the music, songs and dances as an essential part of the story and character development.
1955
James Dean was featured in his first major role and film, director Elia Kazan's East of Eden (1955), an updated re-telling of the Biblical story of rival brothers - Cain and Abel and a paradise lost. Dean played the role of the unappreciated son Cal (representing Cain) who vied against his dull, stuffy brother Aron (representing Abel) for the affections of their father. The maligned Cain character, representing the unlikeable and outcast Kazan himself (for naming names before the HUAC Committee in 1952), became the hero of the film.
1955
Tragically, James Dean -- the prototype of a rebellious adolescent -- was killed in a car accident at age 24, driving his new 550 Porsche Spyder. On September 30, 1955, his car collided with a 1950 Ford at 5:45 p.m. at the intersection of Routes 466 and 41 near Cholame, California. He had appeared in only three films: East of Eden (1955), Rebel Without a Cause (1955), and Giant (1956) - released posthumously. Both of his Best Actor Oscar nominations - for East of Eden (1955) and Giant - were also given posthumously. He was the first actor to receive a posthumous Academy Award nomination for Best Actor and remains the only person to have two posthumous acting nominations.
1955
Movie studios opened their vaults for television rentals and sales. RKO Radio Pictures sold its film library to TV. RKO's King Kong (1933) was first televised in the US in 1956.
1955
The first feature animation in CinemaScope, Walt Disney's Lady and the Tramp (1955), was released in the US. It also marked Disney's first full-length cartoon based on an original story rather than an established classic.
1955
Walt Disney opened his first theme park, Disneyland ("the happiest place on Earth") in a former orange grove in Anaheim, California, in July 1955, at a cost of $17 million. Another Disney first was the ABC-TV debut of The Mickey Mouse Club on October 3, 1955.
1955
Blackboard Jungle (1955) was the first film to feature a rock-'n'-roll song, "Rock-Around-The-Clock." (sung by Bill Haley and His Comets during the opening credits). It was the first major Hollywood film to use R&R on its soundtrack. It inspired the next year's popular R&R film, Rock Around the Clock (1956).
1955
United Artists withdrew from the Motion Pictures Association of American (previously named the MPPDA) when it refused to issue a Production Code seal to its controversial film about drug addiction, director Otto Preminger's The Man With the Golden Arm (1955), starring Frank Sinatra. The film's success helped to loosen restrictions on such films. The code was amended to permit portrayals of prostitution and abortion as well as light profanity (the use of the words 'hell' and 'damn').
1955
The International Confederation of Art House Cinemas (CICAE - Confédération Internationale des Cinémas D’Art et Essai) was founded in Wiesbaden, Germany, to promote the diversity and visibility of all types of cinema. [An art house is a theater dedicated to the exhibition of films for a specialized audience, either classic revivals or new releases, frequently foreign or independently produced domestic films.]
1955
A Kansas State Supreme Court upheld the Kansas Board of Review of Motion Picture's decision to ban producer/director Otto Preminger's controversial The Moon is Blue (1953). (Three states, Maryland, Ohio, and Kansas had banned the film.) The state's censorship board had used current state censorship laws to ban the film and release it without a seal of approval (for its comedic depictions of "illicit sex and seduction," virginity and chastity). In late 1955 in the case of Holmby Productions v. Vaughn, the US Supreme Court unanimously overturned the ruling of the Kansas Supreme Court, ruling it as unconstitutional. The film's court victory was one more indication that the influence of the Production Code was weakening.
1955
The modest Best Picture-winning sleeper film Marty (1955) was the first award-winning film (awarded in 1956) to be adapted from a dramatic televised play broadcast earlier. It was also the second Best Picture Oscar-winning film to also win the top prize (known as the Golden Palm (Palme d'Or)) at Cannes, and the shortest Best Picture winner (at 91 minutes). The promotional campaign for the film was more expensive than the film itself ($400,000 vs. $343,000) -- a Hollywood first. Tactics included offering 16mm prints of the film for viewing by Academy members - the pioneering forerunner of sending out videotape (or DVD) screeners many years later.
1955
The first atonal score for a narrative, feature-length Hollywood commercial film was in Vincente Minnelli's and MGM's The Cobweb (1955) - Leonard Rosenman's avant-garde soundtrack was perfectly suited for the film's private psychiatric clinic setting.
1955
Indian director Satyajit Ray's first film, the low-budget, coming-of-age tale Pather Panchali (1955, India) (aka The Song of the Road, or The Lament of the Path), was the first of an "Apu Trilogy" followed by Aparajito (1956) (aka The Unvanquished) and Apur Sansar (1959) (aka The World of Apu). It realistically portrayed low-class poverty in India through the eyes of its adolescent protagonist Apu (Subir Banerjee). It was the first Indian film to receive major critical attention internationally.
1955
The iconic 52-foot high The Seven Year Itch (1955) cut-out shot of Marilyn Monroe's hiked-up white skirt billowing up as she stood over a sidewalk subway grating was located in front of Loew's State Theater in Times Square (NYC), for the film's premiere. Because of complaints of indecency, the original image was replaced with a less provocative one.
1955
Italy's Anna Magnani won the Best Actress Oscar for her performance as a widowed Italian/Sicilian seamstress and husband-obsessed Serafina Delle Rose in The Rose Tattoo (1955). It was her first Hollywood-made film and first English-speaking role. She also was the first Italian (and first Italian woman) to win an Oscar for Best Actress.


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