Timeline of Greatest Film
Milestones and Turning Points
in Film History


The Year 1959

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 1959
Year
Event and Significance
1959
The French "New Wave" (La Nouvelle Vague) movement (dubbed with the term in 1959) was marked by the works of forerunner Roger Vadim, and by the release of former Cahiers du Cinema critic and director Claude Chabrol's Le Beau Serge (1958, Fr.) (Bitter Reunion), generally considered (but debatedly) the first "New Wave" feature film. It was followed shortly by director Francois Truffaut's feature film debut - the semi-autobiographical Les Quatre Cents Coups (1959, Fr.) (The 400 Blows) and Jean-Luc Godard's A Bout de Souffle (1960, Fr.) (Breathless). These inexpensive films of the late 50s were typified by the use of the jump cut, the hand-held camera, natural lighting, non-linear storytelling, on-location shootings, and loose, improvised direction and editing. Other French "New Wave" releases in 1959 included Marcel Camus' Black Orpheus (1959, Braz/Fr.), Claude Chabrol's Les Cousins (1959, Fr.) (The Cousins), and Alain Resnais' Hiroshima Mon Amour (1959, Fr.) (Hiroshima My Love). The innovative film movement would last until the mid-1960s and remain an important influence on later film-making (i.e., the works of John Cassavetes, Quentin Tarantino, and others).
1959
The Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences (AMPAS) modified its bylaws from 1957, and abandoned its practice of denying eligibility for Oscar nominations or consideration to anyone who admitted Communist Party membership or refused to testify before the House Committee on Un-American Activities (HUAC) - in other words, artists who were blacklisted.
1959
The chariot race sequence in director William Wyler's Best Picture-winning, wide-screen Technicolor epic blockbuster Ben-Hur (1959) set the standard for all subsequent action sequences. The Biblical epic was the first film to win eleven Oscars (it lost only in the Screenplay category), breaking the record of 8 Oscar wins originally set first by Gone With the Wind (1939) and 9 Oscar wins set a year earlier by Gigi (1958). The spectacle of the film was designed to lure audiences away from their televisions.
1959
In Compulsion (1959), the closing court case argument against capital punishment (the death penalty) by Clarence Darrow-like attorney Jonathan Wilk (Orson Welles) was a 10 minute long eloquent speech - it is considered the longest true monologue in film history. He was attempting to save two rich young law student-turned-thrill-killers Artie Straus and Judd Steiner (Bradford Dillman and Dean Stockwell) in their court trial.
1959
After over 25 years of creating low-budget shorts, the comic team of The Three Stooges, known for farces and physical slapstick, made their last (190th) film. It was Columbia's short Sappy Bull Fighters (1959) - a cheap low-budget remake of their own earlier film, What's the Matador? (1942)
1959
Walt Disney's Sleeping Beauty (1959), shot in Technirama, was the second animated feature shot in widescreen, and the most expensive animated film to date (at $6 million). It earned an Oscar nomination for Best Scoring of a Musical Picture.
1959
Doris Day and Rock Hudson were paired for the first time in the romantic comedy Pillow Talk (1959). Due to the film's success, the acting duo also appeared together in two 'sequels': Lover Come Back (1961), and Send Me No Flowers (1964).
1959
During the first few weeks of the making of the historical epic Spartacus (1960), producer/actor Kirk Douglas fired veteran western films director Anthony Mann and replaced him with 31 year-old Stanley Kubrick, who was known for only three completed feature films at the time: the film noir Killer's Kiss (1955), The Killing (1956), and the war film Paths of Glory (1957) (starring Kirk Douglas). Kubrick was recognized as a major directorial talent, and Anthony Mann would go on to prove himself with the making of another epic, El Cid (1961).
1959
Marlon Brando became the first actor to be paid $1 million for a single film role when he signed on to appear in the screen-adaptation of Tennessee Williams' "Orpheus Descending." The film was retitled The Fugitive Kind (1959).
1959
Soviet leader Premier Nikita Khrushchev visited Hollywood during a good-will tour. After visiting the 20th Century Fox set during the filming of Can-Can (1960), featuring Frank Sinatra, Shirley MacLaine, Maurice Chevalier and Louis Jourdan, Khrushchev declared that the saucy, skirt-lifting and backside-displaying dancing of long-legged actress Juliet Prowse (in her film debut) was "immoral." His statements implied that he thought American's culture of "freedom" was "pornographic" ("It is the culture of a surfeited and depraved people"). The major result of his comment was that Prowse's career took off, and in her personal life, she was soon associated with Frank Sinatra and Elvis Presley.
1959
50s B-horror film director and impresario schlockmeister William Castle created the Percepto format for The Tingler (1959). It consisted of installing small electric motors under the theatre seats and shocking viewers with a mini-jolt of buzzing vibration when Vincent Price appeared on screen or when blood-curdling screams were desired.
1959
Aroma-Rama, an experimental, short-lived scenting system developed by inventor Charles Weiss, was introduced to add over 50 scents to Carlo Lizzani's Italian documentary film about Red China titled Behind the Great Wall (narrated by Chet Huntley), by filtering 'Oriental' aromas into the auditorium through the air-conditioning system. The following year, a competing process was called Smell-O-Vision.
1959
Tamango (1959), Hal Roach's film about a slave ship voyage en route to Cuba from Africa, was noted as having the second inter-racial screen kiss, between slave ship Captain John Reiker (Curt Jurgens) and his slave mistress/concubine Aiche (Dorothy Dandridge). The film was initially banned due to its inter-racial romance.
1959
In October of this year, violet-eyed, buxom Elizabeth Taylor made history when she secured a contract with 20th Century Fox in October 1959 to star in Cleopatra (1963) - she simultaneously became the highest-paid performer in the history of Hollywood at $1 million, the first Hollywood star to receive the monumental sum for a single picture.
1959
Romantic swashbuckler star of the 30s and 40s Errol Flynn, died young at the age of 50 of a heart attack. His best loved films were Captain Blood (1935) - his first starring role, The Charge of the Light Brigade (1936), The Adventures of Robin Hood (1938), The Dawn Patrol (1938), Dodge City (1939), The Sea Hawk (1940), and The Adventures of Don Juan (1948). His eight film association with frequent co-star Olivia de Havilland stretched from 1935 to 1941. His last major film was the semi-documentary Cuban Rebel Girls (1959) filmed on location in Cuba.
1959
Screenwriter and director Preston Sturges, responsible for writing (and directing) some of the best comedy farces of the early 1940s (Christmas in July (1940), Sullivan's Travels (1941), The Lady Eve (1941), The Palm Beach Story (1942), The Miracle of Morgan's Creek (1944), and Hail the Conquering Hero (1944) - amongst others), died at the age of 60. His sole Oscar win (Best Original Screenplay) was for The Great McGinty (1940) - the film that launched his career as writer/director, although he was nominated two other times for the same Oscar in 1944 for The Miracle of Morgan's Creek (1944) and Hail the Conquering Hero (1944).
1959
The Clutter family (four individuals) was murdered in Holcomb, Kansas on November 15, 1959, inspiring Truman Capote's 1966, best-selling non-fiction crime novel In Cold Blood that was later adapted for the screen as In Cold Blood (1967) by writer/director Richard Brooks and starring Robert Blake.


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