Timeline of Greatest Film
Milestones and Turning Points
in Film History


The Year 1958

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 1958
Year
Event and Significance
1958
The number of drive-in theaters in the U.S. peaked near 5,000. The mania for horror and science-fiction films also peaked in the late 50s.
1958
50s B-horror film director and impresario schlockmeister William Castle, known as the "King of Ballyhoo," took his direct inspiration for promotion from trickster P.T. Barnum. Castle launched a gimmicky ad campaign for Macabre (1958) in which he promised a $1,000 Lloyds of London insurance policy for each patron who might die of fright during a screening of the film. Its taglines were: "See it with someone who can carry you home!" and “If it frightens you to death, you'll be buried free of charge!"
1958
During the filming in Spain of the Biblical epic Solomon and Sheba (1958) by veteran Hollywood director King Vidor (his last film!), one of the scenes was a strenuous, swashbuckling swordfight between 44 year-old actor Tyrone Power (in the role of Solomon) with co-star George Sanders (as Adonijah). Power suffered a fatal heart attack and died on the way to the hospital. The scenes already filmed with Power were substituted with Yul Brynner, who was brought in to finish the film. It was most noted for the sexy appearance of Italian star Gina Lollobrigida, notable as the Queen of Sheba in a controversial orgy scene.
1958
Following the success of Best Picture-winning Around the World in 80 Days (1956), producer Michael Todd (the third husband of Elizabeth Taylor) and co-developer of the Todd A-O sound system, was killed in a plane crash near Albuquerque, New Mexico on March 22, 1958. Taylor went on to 'steal' married actor Eddie Fisher (Todd's best friend) away from Debbie Reynolds. Following a quickie divorce, Fisher married Taylor the same day - May 12, 1959.
1958
The naturalistic, documentary-like cinéma verite (Fr.) technique (also called "direct cinema" (US) or "free cinema" (UK), and literally meaning 'film truth') began to spontaneously flourish in the late 50s and early 60s. It was characterized by the use of non-actors, hand-held cameras, on-location shoots, and non-intrusive filming techniques.
1958
Two of the more notable, low-budget alien-invasion and aberrant monster films were released: a man-eating gooey monster from outer space titled The Blob (1958) (with Steve McQueen in his first starring film role), and The Fly (1958).
1958
Alfred Hitchcock's tale of obsession, Vertigo (1958), was misunderstood and panned by critics when first released - it was not a box-office hit, but has since been regarded as one of the greatest films ever made. It followed a troubled man's (James Stewart) obsessive search to end his vertigo (and deaths that resulted from his 'falling in love' affliction) and became a masterful study of romantic longing, identity, voyeurism, treachery and death, female victimization and degrading manipulation, the feminine "ideal," and fatal sexual obsession for a cool-blonde heroine. One of its technological innovations was using the 'smash-zoom' (track out and zoom in simultaneously) visual effect to simulate vertigo in the main protagonist.
1958
Orson Welles' Touch of Evil (1958), with its incredible and breathtaking, three-minute, uninterrupted crane tracking shot under the opening credits, was the last of the film noirs in the classic period (from the early 40s to the late 50s). The great American film noir crime thriller, dark mystery, and cult classic was another technical masterpiece from writer-director-actor Orson Welles. It was Welles' fifth Hollywood film - and his last American film. However, it was unappreciated in its time in the US, a box-office failure, and criticized as artsy, campy, sleazy pulp-fiction trash. Universal was so unimpressed with the film that it was double-billed in movie theatres as the second B-movie film when first released, following the main feature The Female Animal (1958). But in retrospect, the low-budget film has been ranked as the classic B-movie of the silver screen.
1958
At the Brussels World's Fair (aka Expo 58), a panel of 117 international film experts/reviewers/historians from 26 countries organized by the Belgian Cinematheque voted in a poll to determine the best films of all time. Battleship Potemkin (1925, Russ.) received the most votes (100), followed by The Gold Rush (1925) and The Bicycle Thief (1948, It.) (both with 85 votes), The Passion of Joan of Arc (1928, Fr.) (with 78 votes), and The Grand Illusion (1937, Fr.) (with 72 votes). Citizen Kane (1941) was # 9 with 50 votes.
1958
The Cohn brothers (Harry and Jack), in control of Columbia Pictures since the 20s, were posthumously succeeded by Abe Schneider and Leo Jaffe. (Columbia had three successful Best Pictures in the 50s: From Here to Eternity (1953), On the Waterfront (1954), and The Bridge on the River Kwai (1957).)
1958
This year was marked with more Hollywood scandal for actress Lana Turner, known for her highly publicized affairs with men like Howard Hughes, Tyrone Power and Frank Sinatra. A small-time gangster named Johnny Stompanato, Lana Turner's lover, was fatally stabbed with a butcher knife by Turner's 14 year-old daughter, Cheryl Crane during an incident of abuse in their home in Beverly Hills. During the inquest (filmed for TV), she nearly collapsed on the stand during dramatic testimony. The killing was declared a justifiable homicide of self-defense by the coroner's jury. The scandal actually jump-started Turner's career, with her most successful film ever, Imitation of Life (1959).
1958
21 year-old Jack Nicholson made his screen debut in producer Roger Corman's low-budget juvenile delinquent drama The Cry Baby Killer (1958), as the character of Jimmy Wallace, a troubled young kid who thought he shot two innocent bystanders while trying to win back his girlfriend (Carolyn Mitchell) from a bullying mobster, and then found himself in a hostage stand-off situation in a diner's storeroom with a black cook and a baby-carrying mother.
1958
The Decks Ran Red (1958), MGM's sea-faring suspense drama, featured the first inter-racial screen kiss, between Stuart Whitman (as crew member Leroy Martin) and Dorothy Dandridge (as the cook's flirtatious wife Mahia). See Tamango (1959) in the following year for a repeat of this milestone.
1958
The Academy Award for Best Animated Short Subject was won by WB's Looney Tunes Knighty Knight Bugs (1958) marking the first (and only) time that a Bugs Bunny cartoon won an Oscar.
1958
The low-budget 'sword-and-sandal' film Hercules (1958, It.) (aka Le fatiche di Ercole), an exploitation picture, set in motion a slew of similar films imported from abroad in the 1960s. Both this film and its sequel, Hercules Unchained (1959, It.), starred beefcake and muscle-bound Steve Reeves (former body-builder Mr. Universe in 1950) as the title Greek hero character Ercole (aka Hercules). The films were major box-office hits, and Reeves went on to portray other 'sword-and-sandal' heroes in cheap Italian films, including Goliath (or Emiliano) in Goliath and the Barbarians (1959), Phillipides in Giant of Marathon (1959), Glaucus in The Last Days of Pompeii (1959), Henry Morgan in the swashbuckler Morgan, the Pirate (1960), and Karim in The Thief of Bagdad (1961).
1958
Polish director Andrzej Wajda's wartime drama Ashes and Diamonds (1958, Pol.) (aka Popiol i Diament), the third in a trilogy of films, appealed to Polish youth. It was an anti-war film about resistance members in post-war Poland who were ordered to assassinate a Communist leader.
1958
The Best Picture-winning musical Gigi (1958), directed by Vincente Minnelli, set a new Oscar record by winning nine awards. This record-breaking film with the greatest number of Oscars would hold the honor - for one year only. It remains one of the few films to win all the awards for which it had been nominated (in four or more categories), and is one of only eleven Best Picture winners in the Academy's first 82 years not to receive a single acting nomination.
1958
After pelvic-thrusting "Rock n Roller" Elvis "the King" Presley had made four films: his debut film - Fox's Love Me Tender (1956), Paramount's Loving You (1957) (his first Technicolor film), MGM's Jailhouse Rock (1957) and Paramount's King Creole (1958) (his third and last B/W film and his own favorite), he was soon inducted into the Army in 1958, and would not make another film until his release two years later (G.I. Blues (1960)).
1958
The national average ticket price for theatre admission was $.68, according to the National Association of Theatre Owners (NATO).


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